• Hi Guest !

    Welcome to the new 500Eboard forum, post-migration to XenForo. Please feel free to do the following:

    1) Explore, click, tweak your settings, enjoy

    2) Check out the new "skins" link at the bottom left of the main page, to change the look and feel (color scheme/graphics) of the forum to your preference

    3) Let me know of any errors you find. I am hard at work in the coming days and weeks to get things tweaked correctly, and I know there are plenty of small tweaks. Feel free to post in the "XenForo Migration" thread anything you find, or have questions about.

Wheel Alignment Recommendation

I am due for a wheel alignment. From reading past threads many recommend using a dealer for this work. I am in the Bay Area and was going to use Custom Alignment in Mountain View. They are a highly regarded independent shop. Is there anything peculiar to a '94 E500 they may not be aware of?
 

IslandMon

Member
I have always gone to dealer and ensured they were using the temporary “spreader bar” for lack of exact term, and associated procedure listed in the FSM.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

maw1124

E500E Enthusiast
They should be fine. I've never heard special mention made of mine. Looks like a good shop. My car hasn't seen a dealer in 20years and 3 owners. All the invoices are from German Cars of Sarasota, except for specialty audio work and TireRack.

maw

P.S. Reading this thread has been an education. I never knew that thing was called a “spreader bar”, or why they always had someone sit in the car, although I could tell what both were meant to do. I know that they know that most of the time only a driver is in my car. I was always more fascinated with the Hunter machine and tire plates. :doh:
 
Last edited:

gsxr

.036 Hoonigan™, E500E Boffin
Staff member
If you go anywhere besides the dealer, ask if they use a spreader bar when aligning old Mercedes, as IslandMon said. I'd also ask if they verify the steering box is centered as well (they SHOULD do this, there are marks on the box itself). If they don't know what you're talking about, I'd go elsewhere. If you go to the dealer, ask the tech who will do the work the same questions - don't ask the service advisor.

Also, check the price at both places... if there's not a significant savings, why not go to the dealer?

Finally, request a printout that shows before & after data.

:strawberry:
 

luckymike

Member
The spreader bar preloads the wheels to simulate the road force that pushes the tires out as you drive. You'll get a more accurate toe measurement with it.

I've just found a shop in San Carlos that is willing to use my spreader bar. I was surprised to learn they also load the seats with weight to simulate driver and passenger.

I'll try to report back after my car is done. Having the 560SEL aligned.
 

gsxr

.036 Hoonigan™, E500E Boffin
Staff member
Luckymike is correct. The factory specs assume the front wheels are pre-loaded with the spreader bar. If the spreader bar is not used, the toe setting will NOT be correct per factory specs. Very experienced alignment guys can compensate for this and do it right without the bar, but guys like this are rapidly going extinct. Loading the seats with weights is almost unheard of, that's awesome.

On a related note - make sure you have ALL suspension & steering issues sorted out before getting the alignment, and ride height as well. With dealer alignments pushing $150-$200 now, even higher in some areas, you don't want to end up having it re-done in the near future after another part is replaced. I especially like to replace all the front stuff at the same time (tie rod assemblies, drag link, idler arm if play is over 0.5mm, struts/mounts, yadda x3) so I can forget about it for many years.

:3gears:
 

Jlaa

Active member
The spreader bar preloads the wheels to simulate the road force that pushes the tires out as you drive. You'll get a more accurate toe measurement with it.

I've just found a shop in San Carlos that is willing to use my spreader bar. I was surprised to learn they also load the seats with weight to simulate driver and passenger.

I'll try to report back after my car is done. Having the 560SEL aligned.
luckymike,

What shop in San Carlos are you having an alignment done? Curious - perhaps I will visit that place.
My regular place (which is a full service place --- not an alignment specialist) uses a spreader bar, but doesn't simulate driver / passenger weight.

Thanks.
 

jftu105

Active member
To be honest, the spreader bar and simulated weight are not as critical as people might think. The alignment tolerance is a range of acceptable parameters. Within the tolerance, the car will stay straight, aligned with a spreader bar or not. The final judgement is really about actual driving test. After the alignment, take it to the highway and try it out. Remember that the highway might be tilted, not simulated by the spreader bar. Over time, pay attention to the tire wear.

In short, the spreader bar and the simulated weight are not the Necessary condition of alignment; i.e., it is wrong to say "No spreader bar/simulated weight, no proper alignment!"

jftu105
 

northNH

Member
FWIW My local alignment guy has been doing MBz since the '70s, knows his stuff...

He says spreader bar ONLY allows his changes to toe to respond (i.e. move) more quickly as the wheels are under outward pressure when adjusting tie rod length.
He has proven to me with his alignment machine readouts there is no difference in end point with his bar vs. no-bar technique i.e. no difference in readout after bar is removed, remeasured, and compared...

BTW In Dallas there (still?) used to be a 3rd generation Moroccan alignment guy so experienced that he could get most cars into spec by eye with a ruler...Toe, caster, camber, he'd quickly set 'em and then check 'em with his machine...With his DNA he hardly ever needed to make changes once his eye was satisfied.

Both laugh(ed) at the added weight on the seats...
 

luckymike

Member
luckymike,

What shop in San Carlos are you having an alignment done? Curious - perhaps I will visit that place.
My regular place (which is a full service place --- not an alignment specialist) uses a spreader bar, but doesn't simulate driver / passenger weight.

Thanks.
Jlaa,

It's called Family Auto Clinic. http://facbelmont.com/ The place doesn't make a great first impression but they're willing to work with me on the alignment so I'm hoping they'll become a go to for that service.
 

luckymike

Member
FWIW My local alignment guy has been doing MBz since the '70s, knows his stuff...

He says spreader bar ONLY allows his changes to toe to respond (i.e. move) more quickly as the wheels are under outward pressure when adjusting tie rod length.
He has proven to me with his alignment machine readouts there is no difference in end point with his bar vs. no-bar technique i.e. no difference in readout after bar is removed, remeasured, and compared...

BTW In Dallas there (still?) used to be a 3rd generation Moroccan alignment guy so experienced that he could get most cars into spec by eye with a ruler...Toe, caster, camber, he'd quickly set 'em and then check 'em with his machine...With his DNA he hardly ever needed to make changes once his eye was satisfied.

Both laugh(ed) at the added weight on the seats...
Yeah, you'll see strong opinions on spreader bars and weights. I like to follow the manual whenever possible and this shop looks like my chance to do so. We'll see.

I do know I'm tired of replacing tires prematurely. Hoping this alignment will be the answer.
 

gsxr

.036 Hoonigan™, E500E Boffin
Staff member
It's the difference between "close enough" and "done right". Whatever floats your boat, go for it.

In most cases we're talking what - fifty bucks difference? And how much do tires cost if they wear prematurely? It gets close to "penny wise, pound foolish". I've yet to have the dealer screw up an alignment, btw. It helps that my dealer has a fantastic tech who normally does the alignments on my cars.

:grouphug:
 

jftu105

Active member
From kinematic point of view, as correctly pointed out by northNH, the spreader bar applies a outward force, which at most causes an minute elastic deformation, as long as the lower control arm and the tie rods have no play. This elastic deformation should be insignificant because the linkages are strong.

As for the added weight, it would sink a the car body lower, which theoretically could change the camber angle. But the actual camber is affected by the road condition too. It all comes back to the alignment tolerance, within a range in which the car will run just fine. With the spreader bar and the added weight, you will set the alignement at some point within the tolerance. Without them, you still set it at some point within the tolerance.

The alignment of my four E320, 1994-5, are fine, most of them were aligned by myself using DIY measurements. They stay straight, showing no eneven wear. No spreader bar and added weight in my DIY, of course.

One severe alignment I experienced and professional alignment failed to cure was due to the tire's cone shape. A bad sample from Goodyear tires (which kills my interest in getting Goodyear in the future). Due to the tire is not cylindrical, it causes the tire to steer to one side. No alignment could cure it and the technician did not catch the problem. I found it by moving the tire to the other side and the alignment problem changed side. The tire was nearly new. Who would have thought it was due to the tire? The spreader and added weight would not address bad tire situations.
FWIW My local alignment guy has been doing MBz since the '70s, knows his stuff...

He says spreader bar ONLY allows his changes to toe to respond (i.e. move) more quickly as the wheels are under outward pressure when adjusting tie rod length.
He has proven to me with his alignment machine readouts there is no difference in end point with his bar vs. no-bar technique i.e. no difference in readout after bar is removed, remeasured, and compared...

BTW In Dallas there (still?) used to be a 3rd generation Moroccan alignment guy so experienced that he could get most cars into spec by eye with a ruler...Toe, caster, camber, he'd quickly set 'em and then check 'em with his machine...With his DNA he hardly ever needed to make changes once his eye was satisfied.

Both laugh(ed) at the added weight on the seats...
 

gerryvz

Site Honcho
Staff member
Bad tires out of the box have caused a lot of problems for many folks over the years!

Personally, I've just resigned to take my cars into the "stealership" for alignments. That way I know it's done right, with the correct equipment, and by trained people who know who to do it. And if something is bad, you can get them to stand behind the work.

It's probably more expensive than going to an indy or alignment shop, but you can get deals and coupons from "stealers" that can reduce the price to a more manageable level. Also, often you get what you pay for.

Only thing I ever go to a "stealer" for, though.

Cheers,
Gerry
 

sheward

Active member
I have also had a couple new tire issues through the years with my trucks. It's hard to consider a new product is at fault but it does happen. You usually figure it out after everything else has been tried. You may even convince a tech initially with the statement "these are brand new Michelin/Bridgestone etc. tires."
The book method is usually the best method however I always listen to old school wisdom where occasionally an experienced tech may know how to tweak the adjustments to help a car stay centered on more heavily crowned roads. I can imagine a difference where most driving is done in the left lane of a multi lane highway (Yes!) vs. mostly rural two lane backroads. I believe there may be some art to the science in this area. The problem is in finding someone experienced. Nothing much more aggravating than a nice driving car that won't.

drew

drew
 

samiam44

Active member
I think what ppl are missing on the spreader bar is the geometry of the steering. Most cars, the steering linkage is infront of the axis of the wheel so the links trail. The MBs were behind the axis, so they push the alignment. So, it is natural to toe out slightly at speed. FYI, I've watched many alignments- it's all computerized and cookbook these days. Yes, you can absolutely do things by eye, level, etc. But things are inter-related and if you "whole sale the suspension and steering" it can be hard to set it up. If it's just one component affected or a slight adjustment- it's pretty easy.

I monitor tire wear and check suspension regularly.
 

luckymike

Member
Well, can't recommend Family Auto Clinic.

The tech had agreed during my pre-visit to use my toe-in spreader bar and the agreement was that I'd show him how.

When I showed up for the appt, he was visibly uneasy. But he proudly showed me pictures on his phone of all the very nice cars he had aligned and I thought we were building some rapport. As he was installing the wheel laser sensors, I asked about the seeming redundancy of locking the brake pedal in addition to using the parking brake and was very surprised by his response to that question. "Do you want me to align your car or not?" "The computer said to." Wow. It really came out of the blue. He followed with "I don't think it's going to work out." It was clear that he was uneasy doing anything new. He's young and I suspect is very capable of following the instructions the computer gives him but I wonder if he's unfamiliar with the 'why' and is therefore lacking in confidence.

Anyway, I didn't push it. If he really didn't want to align my car, I sure didn't want him working it so I apologized for wasting his time and left.

The search for an alignment shop continues...
 
Last edited:

sheward

Active member
There is only one reason for becoming defensive when asked questions. Disappointing to see the amount of folks insecure in their knowledge and unwilling to learn anything. He turned away free help at his own venue.

drew
 

gerryvz

Site Honcho
Staff member
There is only one reason for becoming defensive when asked questions. Disappointing to see the amount of folks insecure in their knowledge and unwilling to learn anything. He turned away free help at his own venue.

drew
It was for the best for all parties. Talk to El Roy Spencer in the Burl, and see who he recommends.

Or just go to Oracle Autobahn Motors in Redwood Shores and have them do it.
 

luckymike

Member
It was for the best for all parties. Talk to El Roy Spencer in the Burl, and see who he recommends.

Or just go to Oracle Autobahn Motors in Redwood Shores and have them do it.
Many, many bad stories about Autobahn Motors service. None of them alignment related, though, so they might be a possibility.

I'll probably visit or give Roy a call one of these days.
 

gerryvz

Site Honcho
Staff member
IMHO it's difficult to F up an alignment, and if a stealership messes it up, you can complain until they make it right. I've no knowledge or connection to Autobahn Motors other than passing by it when I go to my company's HQ (next door to it) on my monthly trip there.
 
To close the loop on this thread I ended up using Mercedes of Marin. Their alignment guy has been doing this for 21 years and he did use a spreader bar on the front wheels. When I picked up the car he came out and went through all the settings with me. Cost was $189.00. I think they did a great job and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again for an alignment.

My loaner car was a new E300 sedan. Sure is a lot of plastic in those new cars.
 

kiev

Active member
To close the loop on this thread I ended up using Mercedes of Marin. Their alignment guy has been doing this for 21 years and he did use a spreader bar on the front wheels. When I picked up the car he came out and went through all the settings with me. Cost was $189.00. I think they did a great job and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again for an alignment.

My loaner car was a new E300 sedan. Sure is a lot of plastic in those new cars.
with a starting price of $50k for e300. $26k in 1990 dollars. In 1990 base price for e300 was $46k. MB went down market big time
 

msq

Active member
If you go anywhere besides the dealer, ask if they use a spreader bar when aligning old Mercedes, as IslandMon said. I'd also ask if they verify the steering box is centered as well (they SHOULD do this, there are marks on the box itself). If they don't know what you're talking about, I'd go elsewhere. If you go to the dealer, ask the tech who will do the work the same questions - don't ask the service advisor.

Also, check the price at both places... if there's not a significant savings, why not go to the dealer?

Finally, request a printout that shows before & after data.

:strawberry:
This explains what went wrong with the alignment on my '95 E320 Cab last year (it is in storage now). I drove it home and the steering wheel was "off" (i.e. had to keep it turned it maybe 10 - 20 degrees to keep the wheels straight). I bet they did not make sure steering box was centered. I drove home thinking "rookie mistake, I haven't seen anyone do this in 20 years". It was a tire shop that did this while I was getting new tires. In any case, I will be bringing it to the dealer when it comes out of storage. I have a great MB/BMW independent near me who I have used for years but I think I'll have the dealer fix the tire shops mess-up.
 

Jlaa

Active member
To close the loop on this thread I ended up using Mercedes of Marin. Their alignment guy has been doing this for 21 years and he did use a spreader bar on the front wheels. When I picked up the car he came out and went through all the settings with me. Cost was $189.00. I think they did a great job and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again for an alignment.

My loaner car was a new E300 sedan. Sure is a lot of plastic in those new cars.
Bill, thanks for closing the loop. May I ask you to share the name of the alignment guy at MB of Marin? Danke.
 
I believe his name is Mark. He is the only tech there who does alignments. If you go I recommend Eliseo as a service advisor. I felt very good about Mark’s competence after he came out and went over all the numbers with me. I didn’t expect this.
 

gsxr

.036 Hoonigan™, E500E Boffin
Staff member
He is the only tech there who does alignments. ... I felt very good about Mark’s competence after he came out and went over all the numbers with me.
This is a sign of a really good tech, when they talk to the customer directly to discuss the results (instead of letting the service advisor handle it). ^^^

Hopefully he doesn't retire anytime soon!!

:deniro:
 

emerydc8

Active member
The dealer tech I use occasionally in Tucson is like that. His corner is always filled with older cars. I got the impression that he enjoys talking to other people who like and work on these cars and he mentioned that there are younger guys in the shop who really don't care to work on them because it requires more effort to troubleshoot. With regard to the 722.3xx transmissions, he said no one else in the shop really knows how to rebuild them and he wasn't sure what they'd do when he retires.
 
Top