HELP! Alignment Issue!

Hey guys, about a month ago I changed my clutch. Being a small car I had to drop the subframe. I had help from 3 professional mechanic friends. We put everything back together right.

I bought 4 brand spanking new tires the other day. I decided I better get an alignment before they wear bad. I took it to TireBarn today. The guy told me that they were running three hours behind. So they finally got to it supposedly and then I got a call… Your subframe is not on right and we can’t align your tires.

I didn’t believe it! I thought they were too lazy to look at it…

The guy told me my car was dog tracking was because my SAI angle is -2.21 due to the subframe not being put in right.

I called 3 shops and they all told me the subframe was ok.
Talked to 4 of our mechanics at my school they all said it was good.

So, I’m asking this because I found a lot of threads saying that the bad SAI angle is due to a rear end problem, not a front end problem, that could include bushings or collision or______. Anyways. I’m wondering your opinions. The car has never been crashed.

The results:

Left Front: Right Front:

Camber 0.1 (Green) Camber -0. 7 (Red)

Caster: 2.6 (Green) Caster 2.5 (Green)

Toe: .17 (Red) Toe .18 (Red)

Left Rear: Right Rear:

Camber -.07 (Green) Camber: -1.3 (Green)

Toe: .68 (Red) Toe: .68 (Red)

Are you sure they didn’t say that “dogtracking” is due to a rear end problem?? That IS caused by a rear end problem.

SAI is the Steering Angle Inclination. It’s basically the angle of the axis around which your steering knuckle rotates. Your camber angle and your caster angle combined affect the SAI.

My recommendation? Forget Tire Barn. Go to one of the mechanics that told you your subframe is okay. Or, better yet, when is your school teaching alignments? Keep your copy of the shop[ order and alignment printout in case the tire warranty is contingent upon an alignment. Keeping copies of shop orders is a good practice to get into anyway.

Is the only actual measurement of the subframe alignment the one done by the Tire Barn alignment staff? If so, they most assuredly could be correct, you have a subframe problem, since none of the other “experts” did a measurement. It’s not something you can do just by eyeballing.

If I ran into this problem I’d take the car to another alignment shop, and see if they agree with the first.

SAI is steering axis inclination, that is a FRONT dimension. If the alignment guy said the SAI being out is a rear problem, leave him and find another alignment guy, THAT one doesn’t know his SAI from his thrust angle. Likely what he said was the SAI was -2.21 DIFFERENT from side to side. That number should be about 13.8 degrees depending on what year Kia Spectra you own. You don’t say.

Read up on SAI and what it is here; Axis Inclination
Did you SEE anything about rear suspensions? No, you didn’t.

Based on what you show for current alignment, I’d guess the front subframe is shifted too far right giving too much negative camber on the right front and too little on the left. Loosening the subframe and getting out the prypars and evenly shifting it over, if it moves (and I suspect it will) should correct the SAI and the camber at the front. You will have to fix the rear camber, and toe though. -0.07 looks to be too little for this car and it is too far from -1.3 to get the car to drive straight anyway.

Damn, damn, damn, I said it wrong! It’s steering AXIS inclination, not steering ANGLE inclination! I claim senility!
Excellent post, Mustangman.

Hey all thank you so much for the responses. I guess I will take it to another shop for a guess, and then take it to a shop for a subframe alignment. How much will that run me? I changed the clutch because I couldnt afford to take it somewhere hahaha, well I also wanted to learn. Before that I had done basic brakes, rotations, oil changes, alternators and thats about it! Took me 19 hours to change the clutch but I stuck with it!

I’d try the “subframe shifting” technique suggested by Mustangman. Then I’d bring it to an alignment shop. Besides, I doubt of a typical alignment shop is going to want to risk trying to adjust the subframe.

What type of cost are we looking at? Do you guys know?

I was assuming you can shift the subframe yourself. A shop would be reluctant because if any problems than cropped up on the powertrain they’d be afraid to be blamed. Shops are sometimes reluctant to redo the work of nonprofessionals, because they never know what will happen. But it’s free to ask. Be open and honest up front and they might take the chance. It’ll probably add an hour’s shop time.

The alignment? A four wheel alignment usually runs about $100+/-, but it’s all labor and that varies regionally… and even shop-to-shop.

I have a 4 wheel alignment for $56 but I was talking about the frame.

I thought I shifted it right the first time… But evidently not. The shop said they would do it but couldnt give me a quote of course.

Outstanding. Let us know how you make out. We do care.

I have never asked for additional labor to adjust a subframe but I have worked with some techs that want a an extra 1/2 hour labor. It depends on the shop, if a tech is only getting paid 0.5 to 1.0 hour for an alignment he may not be willing do do anything other than the normal adjustments.

I suspect for what Tire Barn charges for an alignment the tech isn’t going to move a subframe.

Take your car to a shop that does suspension repairs and alignments.

Nevada that’s what I’m doing. I’m just trying to get an estimate.

I don’t understand how the three shops that you called and the four mechanic’s at the school could say the sub frame was ok without looking at it.

I’d forget Tire barn and find a good independent alignment shop that will inspect it.
An alignment machine is only as good as the tech running it.


Adjusting the subframe could be little more than 1/2 hour to an hour’s worth of work at best. The bolts are usually easy to reach because they are used to bolt the entire engine and suspension to the body when they assemble the car.

You did the clutch yourself so you should know how easy it is to get to the bolts. If you thought they were easy, they were. So 1/2 to an hours shop labor.

The tech needs to loosen the bolts just a little, letting it hang and pry against the subframe and body with a big prybar moving it over. Then tighten the thing back down. You can check camber angles close enough on a level garage floor with an angle finder app on your phone to see if its time to hit the alignment rack.

Mustangman, my SAI is -2.21 degrees so I think it must be time.

I never trust shops. I feel like they stand there and look at my cars hail damage and have a smoke before working on it to drive the cost up. THe shop i really trust is booked for 6 weeks (they are a wonderful shop)! The first shop I called said they would take 1 hour to look at it, and 6 hours for the total repair…

It was super easy to get the subframe off, but I didn’t know if they had to remove all engine mounts and stuff. I did of course because I needed to get to the tranny.

Thanks so much for the help!

Sometimes a shop that is booked weeks in advanced will still allow you to drop off the vehicle in their parking area anyway. They have to work on the scheduled customer’s cars first of course. But if a part for one of those cars doesn’t arrive on schedule, they’ll often have some unexpected free time and will work your car into the rotation. The downside is that it may take some time, weeks perhaps, before you will get your car back.

I supported the car with jack stands under the frame rails and did notice the subframe/ body droop about 3/4-1" when I lowered jack. I don’t think the unibody structure likes that sort of situation. Removing the subframe is a pain for sure.

Next time you lower a subframe…even just loosening it, spray paint the bolts and that should give you a marker to realign the subframe when you’re done. Or use a light colored marker and mark around the bolt and washer.