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Old 05-21-2012, 06:39 PM   #1
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Wandering, sway bars, alignment, ride height, oh my!!

With all the threads going on with poor handling coaches, I figured I would start another one with my latest update. I have an appointment this Thursday with a shop called "Laser Alignment Trucks". Talked to the shop and they reassured me they have the proper equipment and can provide a before and after printout. For those that have not followed my previous threads, my coach wanders a bit and handles very poorly in any type of light wind. I've played with my ride height, and tire pressure to all extremes with no significant difference. Have had 3 previous alignments as well but with shops that could not provide a before and after printout. Hopefully this is the one. My coach has the koni adjustable shocks (from previous owner) roadmaster sway bars (i installed) and safe t plus (previous owner). Sway bars made no difference in highway driving. Still get wander and pushed by slight wind. Steering wander is typically improved with increase in castor. Not for all circumstances but some. Wouldn't adjusting the ride height affect castor as well? Here are my dilemmas and concerns considering I've been through so many repairs and adjustments:

1. I've been given 3 different ride heights. One in my manual, one from Monaco tech support, and 1 from source engineering. I've tried all three and everything in between without much of an improvement. What ride height should I use? The height given by Source Engineering seems to show the most level coach. Monacos height seems tail and nose high.
2. My manual has the alignment specs. When I had my first alignment at Freightliner they did not ask for the specs. When I had my second and 3rd alignment I gave the specs to the shop. Should I give this shop the specs or let them do their thing? I can't Imagine many people provide the specs.
3. Will this work or another ghost hunt. My wife says no.
4. Should I ask the shop for anything else? I plan on being at the shop the entire time instead of drop of only.
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Old 05-21-2012, 06:58 PM   #2
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crah......When tehy did my 2 axle alignment, he used his own specs determined by the axle manufacturer.

Just for the heck of it, no drinking before the next test drive
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:05 PM   #3
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Can you get a price guarantee that they will be able to fix your problem? Offer them a "shameless bribe" like if you fix this wondering problem I have... I will let all my friends know and you will have more business. deSanford
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:11 PM   #4
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If all else fails you should phone Can-Am RV Centre (London, Ontario-Canada).They are the top of the line experts on Rv towing.
There is a lot of People from the States that travel all the way to London. But they are willing to help you over the phone (FREE) with your problem. They can give you advice, no problem.
Andy Thomson (Owner) writes for the RVlifestyle Magazine.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:40 PM   #5
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Regarding the specs they use (whose/where they came from), I think that might be a fair question when dropping it off?

Regarding height, at least the rear height, I think I might be attracted to the one the left the driveshaft closest to level? Then maybe base the front one on what the rear leaves you with. That's just me though...

Very best of luck!

Watching closely.....
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Old 05-21-2012, 08:03 PM   #6
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Have you looked into Safe-T-Plus stabilizers that are getting popular. I have though of getting one myself. Should correct your wandering problems. They can be installed and adjusted by owners saving a bunch of labor charges.

Might do a search on it to see how owners like it.

They also have a web site
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Old 05-21-2012, 08:56 PM   #7
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I posted a picture of mine today under "my Monaco improvement photos". (Safe T Plus). deSanford
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Old 05-21-2012, 09:12 PM   #8
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As a fellow frustrated owner of a 'wandering' coach, I can only sympathize.

Regarding your question, I can only think that the best shop would be the one that is very familiar with doing alignments on your particular brand of coach.

My Dad bought a new 1970 Chev car. It wandered all over the road. He had the alignment done many times. Finally he took it to an old Chev alignment man. He claimed that the problem was that all the alignment men were trying to use the specs. He said that these cars wanted to be set up like an old wagon, and he proceeded to do it that way.

The car steered like a dream after that.

My opinion only is that I don't think any steering stabilizer will solve the wandering problem. It may tighten the handling so it is possible to keep a tighter control on the handling, but it won't solve the problem. At least, that is my experience.
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Old 05-21-2012, 09:56 PM   #9
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Crah, A suggestion...if you have alignment specs...ask the repair shop to see their specs and compare. Discuss the specs and how they will effect the driveability if the specs differ.
If you go in and tell them: "Align to these specs I provide"...and that is have NO recourse after the fact about driveability due to them using your specs.
Ask about a print out and if they do print outs of "before" and "after"....get both...

Also ask about "caster" settings and your problem...see what they think of maxing the caster. Caster is directional stability.

I know your fed up with this problem, but remember the next repair shop just might be the 1 to fix the problem. Let them suggest a repair plan, discuss it with them and go from there. There is nothing worse than a customer coming to a repair shop and directing the facility of how to do their job.
Good luck!
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:19 PM   #10
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I'm like Crah. I don't want to spend a bunch of money adding parts that don't do anything, change anything or aren't needed.
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:55 PM   #11
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I'll try to respond to all in 1 post.
Diplomat Don-As always thanks for your previous experiences. I'll lay off the booze
deSanford-I will really talk to the shop and pick their brain and give them a full run down of my past history of problems and repairs.
Hennink-Ontario is pretty far away, but nice to know there is a good shop way up there. I have quite a few more years before I can retire. I believe Josam's in Florida is another highly recommended shop.
ahicks-I will be there during the entire alignment so I'll pick their brains. Thanks for your take on the ride height. Makes sense.
greystroke-I had the Safe T Plus on the coach for a year. I took it off about a month or so ago. Made no difference at all.
jimkate-I follow your threads on this matter as well. Finding that good shop seems to be the common problem. I think many owners have gone through the alignment that made no measureable difference. I agree with you on the steering stabalizers. I think they help in other circumstances. My Safe T Plus made no difference.
sc3283-I am specifically looking for the before and after printouts which this shops says they can do. I will really try to work with this shop to find a solutions.
dogpatch-I'm with you on just throwing parts at it. That's why I've held off on buying new tires as mine are in good shape and appears to be wearing fine. I will still change them as a last resort for the steer tires anyways.

Thanks all for the comments and I will keep everyone updated. I am having the alignment done on Thursday, and then departing on fairly long drive on Friday for the Memorial Day weekend. I will not have cell or internet service where I'm going, but will be able to give everyone an update next Tuesday.
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Old 05-21-2012, 11:12 PM   #12
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Caster is self-centering and too much contributes to phase lag in steering. Toe in creates straight line stability while toe out creates instability (quicker response to turn-in).

When I got my beaver it had 15 degrees of caster - so much that the shop couldn't fix it in the time allotted by my appointment, I had to bring it back. What the excessive caster was doing was making my directional changes significantly lag the stimuli I was trying to correct for - "chasing my tail".

After taking the excessive caster out and putting on a saf-t-plus (which provides a significant centering force from the two springs) the majority of my wander went away.

I have a 30'DP which doesn't have enough weight on the nose and is susceptible to weathervaning. What I've learned with race cars is the manufacturer's specs are just a starting point. Everything else is what works for you. There are no disasters here except for tire wear.

In your case I'd reduce caster and add toe. As far as wind is concerned, the higher the coach is the worse off you are, so lowering the coach might be a good start. to get more weight on the nose, lower the front or raise the rear. Since these are solid axles, playing around with ride height doesn't affect the alignment and can be adjusted in your driveway via the air bag linkage. Just measure and take good notes so you can go back to the beginning.

Sway bars - well on a vehicle with solid axles and air bags, I'm not sure they are doing much for you. their job is to resist the roll and put weight on the uphill side, but there's no compliance in the suspension, and the air bags are trying to compensate anyway. I'm not saying they don't work, but they induce other characteristics. I'd take one of the links off and try to get it right again with alignment and ride height, and add the bar later.

By the way, a front bar induces oversteer and a rear bar induces understeer, all things being equal. When you do an alignment, especially with corner weights, you need to disconnect the sway bar. when you hook it up at the end, it should not be pre-loaded. If it is, either the bar is bent or something is very wrong.
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Old 05-22-2012, 05:20 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by crah View Post
...... That's why I've held off on buying new tires as mine are in good shape and appears to be wearing fine. I will still change them as a last resort for the steer tires anyways.

I am still thinking the steer tires may be your problem. I would go with a 275 if it will work on your rim. I once traded a dually truck for a brand new dually truck. Same brand, just went to a newer model. The old truck drove like a dream but the new one wandered and drove me crazy. I took it back and they said the alignment was to spec. Long story short, after a few weeks it stopped wandering. My guess is it was the front tires and they finally wore to a good track. Don't forget to check the torque on the front wheel bearings.

I almost forgot. If your rear tires have much flex in the side wall that will cause a tremendous affect on the front. The heavy engine out back will move from side to side causing a force to be applied to the front. You will have to compensate by moving the steering back and force which just makes things worse as that force gets transmitted back to the rear and here we go again. I do remember you said your tires had a lot of sidewall flex.

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Old 05-22-2012, 08:47 AM   #14
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Excellent post. I understand what you are saying, but there are a bunch of NASCAR people here. You need to translate your handling terms to "Push" and "Loose" (heh-heh).

I know that some solid front axle coaches only use leaf springs for axle location and wonder if a panhard (track) bar would help the wandering issues. Adding one sure worked wonders on the back of my GM P-32 chassis. And, I also wonder if some of the wandering is caused by bump steer?. This can occur on both independent and solid front suspension. correct?

Originally Posted by VanDiemen23 View Post
...By the way, a front bar induces oversteer and a rear bar induces understeer, all things being equal....
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