1996 Buick Park Avenue 4-Wheel Alignment


#1

I had all 4 struts replaced on my '96 Park Avenue and had a 4-wheel alignment done too. The alignment data came back with red areas that the shop said were “non-adjustable” They are:

LF Camber 2.0 degrees
RF Camber minus 1.1 degrees
LR Camber .7 degrees
LR Toe minus .20 degrees
RR Camber .5 degrees
Rear Total Toe minus .17 degrees
Rear Thrust Angle minus .12 degrees

The hand-written note on the diagnostic page says, “everything in red non-adjustable, may not drive straight”.

I understand caster and camber but have no idea how far out of specification these numbers are. The car has only 80k on the clock and I plan to keep it a while. Thanks for any feedback.


#2

what shop did you take it to?

A good shop will tell you what needs to be repaired so the alignment can be brought back.

A while back, I bought 4 new tires from a chain store, and had the alignment checked. They said the rear alignment was out and they could’t fix it. I refused to pay for the alignment and took it to a local shop that fixed it. But at least the chain store admitted that they didn’t have the tools to fix it.


#3

The shop that replaced the struts sent the car out for the alignment. I’m not sure where it went but I trusted the shop that sent it out.


#4

On my Corolla I think the toe on each rear wheel is adjustable, but maybe that’s not the case w/your Buick. In any event, certain angles in any car’s suspension system are designed-in to the parts, and not adjustable. Those parts can get bent though, in the course of driving, like running over a pothole at speed. The only way to change them back is to either bend the part (which might not be safe) or install a replacement part.

Edit: The wheels and tire sizes are the same as the car came equipped with from the factory, right?


#5
LF Camber 2.0 degrees RF Camber minus 1.1 degrees

Those look like NASCAR specs. Does the car want to turn left? (Seriously.)


#6

Replacement struts usually have elongated lower bolt holes to allow for camber adjustment. The guy performing the alignment may have been relying on the adjustment procedure shown on the alignment screen and didn’t realize the replacement struts were adjustable.

Ideally the technician replacing the struts should be the one to perform the alignment.


#7

First EVERYTHING is adjustable. The fact that the factory didn’t provide adjustability just means that the alignment shop has to do something extra - like an eccentric bolt, or a camber plate or a shim. The shop you went to is either too lazy or isn’t willing to spend the money to try to do the whole job correctly.


#8

I realize its quite a bit older but when they did a 4 wheel alignment on my 86 Buick they said they just had to add a shim kit.


#9

There’s some haziness on some of the specs I looked up as one site shows something different than another.

However, when the range on camber starts getting into 2 degrees either positive or negative I feel there’s a problem.
On cars with fixed caster and camber and if either is out of range by a fair amount or vastly different from one side to the other then something may be worn or bent.

Not all cars with fixed caster or camber have kits available to alter those specs.
That gets into the area then of whether the customer is prepared to pay additionally for the kits and installation; if available.

The rear camber doesn’t sound too bad; the front has an issue or two.


#10

If no kits are available, shims can be made or bolt holes elongated wit a grinder, As Capri Races said, everything is adjustable.

Of course extra work means extra money, but the customer should be told his options, or told that your operation can’t do his alignment. There is no excuse for giving him back his car with the alignment all screwed up and charging him for the privilege.


#11

The real problem here is the alignment shop. Everything is adjustable as others have already stated.


#12

Thanks for all the replies. I am going to contact the shop that performed the alignment.


#13

Was this a chain operation like Pep boys, or an independent?


#14

Since I’m at odds a bit (go figure…) with some here I pose these questions. Have any of you actualy done alignments and/or modified things to make it work?

If the camber is out substantially (meaning a degree or more) then why in the world would one consider artificially changing the camber with a kit if the fault is due to a bent control arm, worn ball joints, worn wheel bearings, etc?

In the past there has been comments about slotting strut tower holes to alter caster and camber which then allows the top of the strut to move back and forth for caster or side to side for camber.

Are you not aware those slots you create are on a flat surface and do not prescribe an arc? Alter the caster and you move the camber, alter the camber and you change ride height, etc, etc, etc.

There’s also the issue of liability. Some shops will alter nothing simply because if they do and something happen later they may receive the blame; and a court summons.

So what happens if a camber kit is installed and a month or so later a ball joint snaps which leads to the deaths of the car’s occupants?

I’m not trying to be combative; only pointing out there are issues involved and the shop should not automatically get the blame.
What the shop SHOULD do is explain all of this up front.


#15

The shop that installed the struts was independent but subbed the alignment job out to ???. I am not trying to assign blame to anyone, just trying to figure out something I know little about and how to remedy the issue. Thanks for the replies.


#16

At 80K on the clock…I’ll assign blame for you. Others may disagree but your Buick is not worn out and telling you it’s not fixable sends out a big red flag to me. I just went through the same thing about 2 years ago with my wife’s Chevy Blazer. I took it in for an alignment after having a new set of tires installed. It drove worse after they got through with it. I took it to another shop that spent 90 minutes correcting the botched alignment job. I later found out that they let a greenhorn try his hand at aligning the Blazer. The shop closed up a few weeks after that debacle and it’s as it should be. You either perform the work correctly the first time…or close your doors forever. I suspect that was what happened to you and I would take it to another shop for a second opinion.


#17

I have a hard time believing it can’t be corrected too. I am going to contact the shop that installed the struts and subbed the alignment. I paid nearly $1200.00 for the complete job.


#18

Everything can be corrected, it’s just that your basic alignment involves checking angles and turning a nut and bolt a few threads. Anything that is still out of spec after doing the basic factory adjustments will require substantially more financial input than a loss-leader $89.95 alignment.

Unless Shop A gave Shop B carte blanche to correct all angles as necessary, a “toe-and-go” alignment is all you’re going to get.

I also agree with OK4450 above about some things. First, I see some pretty skewed alignment readings here, how did the car drive before the strut replacement and how does it drive after?

The parts needed to correct caster and camber issues can range from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars. Shop B may not have been authorized to do so.

I also am not a fan of installing correction kits or slotting out mounting holes. If an alignment angle can not be brought into spec because of a bent control arm for example, the remedy is not an adjuster kit, it’s replacing the bent arm.


#19

The car drove fine before the alignment but bounced way too much. That’s what initiated the strut replacement, and that problem is now corrected. The car seems to drive OK now, but does tend to pull to the left. I have had good luck with Shop A but don’t even know who Shop B is.


#20

Since the car got a sublet alignment this means the shop that replaced the struts is no position to authorize anything other than a basic alignment.

Near as I can find out the camber should be a shade positive to 0. The LF has way too much + camber and the RF too much negative. A car will usually pull towards the side with the most positive camber so that could be why your car is suffering this problem.

While not true in all case, excessive negative camber can be due to worn ball joints or wheel bearings and excessive positive camber can be due to something like a curb strike which may make the wheel that was struck have a tendency to kneel under and tilt th top out; ergo, too much positive.

Suspension can settle in over time on any car and create differences in the alignment but when the numbers start getting a fair amount off I have to suspect something is worn, bent, or both.