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I am in a bit of a conundrum, have read numerous posts (including yours) and thought maybe you might be able to help, if you have time. I have an elementary knowledge of alignment and components, am ok with a wrench, understand geometry completely (Diamond method you presented makes perfect sense to me), but am limited with shop and tools. Although, I have gotten my tractor back to the shop with a screw driver and a vice grip when the ball joint broke in the field, but that is a different story.

A bit of history on my truck. Original owner, 158k miles, New XFR 0* ball joints, new tie rod ends, newer DSS steering stabilizer (source automotive), New gen 3 track bar upgrade w/ pitman arm (source Automotive). There are no other non-OEM components, other than the air filter, and an amsoil bypass oil filter system. Power steering is right on the money, no chatter, whining or vibration in the steering column when turning. This truck has NEVER worn tires uneven. The tires are commercial, e rated, standard stock size tires. Have used the same brand tires since the original OEM's were worn out. I generally get 25k to 35k out of a set of tires, but I never let them get down to the indicators, I live in snow and ice country. This truck has been used as general duty. Occasional (less than 10% of total milage) gooseneck, 5th wheel, bumper pull trailers, or bed loads; ALWAYS below recommended maximum weights, verified by total and axle weights at the co-op or WHP stations.

Now the problem. I installed the track bar and pitman arm upgrade when the OEM track bar bushings wore out. I had a local shop replace the ball joints and tie rod ends as they were worn as well, and they sent it to an alignment shop. When I got the truck back it drifted (not a real pull, but not entirely correct, and definitely more than before the work was done) to the right, even on a flat surface. I was told that the only way it could be fixed was to change out the upper ball joints with offsets and it was as close as it was going to get. Understanding geometry, but not the components involved, this seemed awkwardly incorrect. Seemingly, if the geometry was initially correct, and the worn components were replaced, it should return to the original OEM geometric orientation. Or at least my level of logic and understanding led me to believe that. Unfortunately, I allowed the drift to continue thinking the alignment shop had at least produced an acceptable balance in the system and the drift to the right was just road camber or the the typical performance of a truck getting a bit longer in the tooth. Additionally, the alignment spec sheet did not make it to the repair shop from the alignment shop so I have no idea what he did, or more accurately, what the results of his alignment produced. Eventually, the right side of the passenger tire soon began to show wear, seemingly a camber issue based on my understanding. I took the truck to an alignment shop in Denver, which seemed to make the pull lessen a bit. They said they would email me the alignment report.

Fast forward a few weeks to yesterday. I loaded some steers onto a stock trailer to take to market, about a 100 mile round trip, there was a heavy wind, which I thought was causing an significant increase in the pull to the right. However, when I removed the trailer, the pull did not lessen and now there is wear on the indside of the drivers side tire. I'm not certain if it matters, but while backing the trailer up to the chute (uphill) to unload the steer's, the back tires chattered quite excessively. To the point that I had to engage 4WD which helped back up, but did not really reduce the chatter. in addition, there is also now a bit of a low frequency vibration at highway speed. The steering wheel is now at 45*left when driving as would be expected, but the steering remains tight, and the truck does not wander. When I let the steering wheel go, the truck goes right immediately. I called the Alignment shop in Denver today and had them email me the report, and there is no Caster, Toe, Cross Caster, Cross Camber, Total Toe for the front, and no thrust angle for the rear, and all the 'actual' and 'before' values that are listed are all the same, so I have no reference data upon which I am able to at least begin a diagnosis. I can email you the report if it might help.

I know there is no magic bullet, but having been laid off in october, things are a bit tight financially. I know I have to get an alignment, but my only option here in Wyoming is the guy who said it could not be done without new offset ball joints. I would like to have a better understanding, or at least have a bit of diagnosis prior to going to an alignment or frame shop.

Now the question (finally) - I have not yet replaced my control arm bushings, but have checked them and they seem loose. Is it possible, or probable that the upgrades to the rest of the system, and old control arm bushings have caused the increased right pull and tire wear experienced when the stock trailer was hooked up?

Are there any other components you feel may be causing this particular issue? Are there any questions I should be asking alignment shops to 'test' their knowledge?

Any advice or reference you may be able to provide would be greatly appreciated.

 

 



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1 hour ago, Wyododge said:
 

I am in a bit of a conundrum, have read numerous posts (including yours) and thought maybe you might be able to help, if you have time. I have an elementary knowledge of alignment and components, am ok with a wrench, understand geometry completely (Diamond method you presented makes perfect sense to me), but am limited with shop and tools. Although, I have gotten my tractor back to the shop with a screw driver and a vice grip when the ball joint broke in the field, but that is a different story.

Welcome to the forums, Wyododge!  Trust you'll find some useful answers and make friends here...

A bit of history on my truck. Original owner, 158k miles, New XFR 0* ball joints, new tie rod ends, newer DSS steering stabilizer (source automotive), New gen 3 track bar upgrade w/ pitman arm (Source Automotive). There are no other non-OEM components, other than the air filter, and an amsoil bypass oil filter system. Power steering is right on the money, no chatter, whining or vibration in the steering column when turning. This truck has NEVER worn tires uneven. The tires are commercial, e rated, standard stock size tires. Have used the same brand tires since the original OEM's were worn out. I generally get 25k to 35k out of a set of tires, but I never let them get down to the indicators, I live in snow and ice country. This truck has been used as general duty. Occasional (less than 10% of total mileage) gooseneck, 5th wheel, bumper pull trailers, or bed loads; ALWAYS below recommended maximum weights, verified by total and axle weights at the co-op or WHP stations.

Sounds like you take good care of your truck...We're at 150K with our '05 Ram 3500 4x4.  (See the recent post with the new shell in place and summer detailing.)...Pays to take care of equipment, and you're certainly trying!

Now the problem. I installed the track bar and pitman arm upgrade when the OEM track bar bushings wore out. I had a local shop replace the ball joints and tie rod ends as they were worn as well, and they sent it to an alignment shop. When I got the truck back it drifted (not a real pull, but not entirely correct, and definitely more than before the work was done) to the right, even on a flat surface. I was told that the only way it could be fixed was to change out the upper ball joints with offsets and it was as close as it was going to get. Understanding geometry, but not the components involved, this seemed awkwardly incorrect. Seemingly, if the geometry was initially correct, and the worn components were replaced, it should return to the original OEM geometric orientation. Or at least my level of logic and understanding led me to believe that.

I agree that, normally, simply changing parts should not have created a pull.  In looking over your upgrades, the only way a pull could occur after this work was if the 0-degree ball-joints or Gen 3 track bar upgrade with a new pitman arm had different dimensions than the OE parts you replaced.  For example, if the track bar and bushings set the axle slightly right or left at static vehicle height, this could cause a drift.  In essence, a 4-wheel alignment should confirm whether the front axle is offset left or right—my quick diamond test is useful here for a ballpark sense...

Unfortunately, I allowed the drift to continue thinking the alignment shop had at least produced an acceptable balance in the system and the drift to the right was just road camber or the the typical performance of a truck getting a bit longer in the tooth. Additionally, the alignment spec sheet did not make it to the repair shop from the alignment shop so I have no idea what he did, or more accurately, what the results of his alignment produced. Eventually, the right side of the passenger tire soon began to show wear, seemingly a camber issue based on my understanding. I took the truck to an alignment shop in Denver, which seemed to make the pull lessen a bit. They said they would email me the alignment report.

If only wearing at the right side tire (outside), this would be camber as you suspect.  Both sides wearing like this would likely be toe.  Camber on a beam axle is only adjustable with an offset ball-joint or bending the axle tubes, and bending tubes is not recommended.  An offset ball-joint stud is the better remedy if error is minor.  Make sure the unit bearing/wheel hubs are not worn; wear here would usually be the inside of the tire from leaning or negative camber.  You're describing positive camber wear.

Fast forward a few weeks to yesterday. I loaded some steers onto a stock trailer to take to market, about a 100 mile round trip, there was a heavy wind, which I thought was causing an significant increase in the pull to the right. However, when I removed the trailer, the pull did not lessen and now there is wear on the inside of the driver's side tire.

Again, if on one side only and on the inside, this is possibly a worn unit/hub bearing set.  With the truck raised and safely supported off the floor, grip the tire at 12-6 position and rock it to determine hub bearing play.  This may require a second person to observe movement from the inside/axle view.

I'm not certain if it matters, but while backing the trailer up to the chute (uphill) to unload the steer's, the back tires chattered quite excessively. To the point that I had to engage 4WD which helped back up, but did not really reduce the chatter. in addition, there is also now a bit of a low frequency vibration at highway speed.

When the ball-joints were replaced, if the front wheel hubs and axle shafts were removed to access the knuckle, it's possible a steering knuckle U-joint became hyper-extended and damaged.  Or the axle shaft(s) steering joints could be binding, which would cause a variety of steering and vibration issues.  Or the axle shaft end nut(s) are not secure.  Or a steering knuckle U-joint is failing and either vibrating or binding during rotation.  Some possibilities...

The steering wheel is now at 45*left when driving as would be expected, but the steering remains tight, and the truck does not wander. When I let the steering wheel go, the truck goes right immediately. I called the Alignment shop in Denver today and had them email me the report, and there is no Caster, Toe, Cross Caster, Cross Camber, Total Toe for the front, and no thrust angle for the rear, and all the 'actual' and 'before' values that are listed are all the same, so I have no reference data upon which I am able to at least begin a diagnosis. I can email you the report if it might help.

If the aftermarket track bar is adjustable for length, check for front axle lateral misalignment and also whether the track bar is binding or has misaligned joints end-to-end.  

I know there is no magic bullet, but having been laid off in october, things are a bit tight financially. I know I have to get an alignment, but my only option here in Wyoming is the guy who said it could not be done without new offset ball joints. I would like to have a better understanding, or at least have a bit of diagnosis prior to going to an alignment or frame shop.

If the new 0-degree ball-joints have been installed properly, and if the caster and camber read correct and within specification, new offsets joints would accomplish little. There are some who, like my friend and colleague who changed a right side upper ball-joint with a Specialty Products offset type to alter the cross-caster on a brand new Ram 4x4 truck to suit his "must go straight regardless of road camber" standards, simply cannot tolerate a normal right drift on a cambered road.  Your description, however, goes way beyond that expectation if the truck pulls right on perfectly flat surfaces.

Now the question (finally) - I have not yet replaced my control arm bushings, but have checked them and they seem loose. Is it possible, or probable that the upgrades to the rest of the system, and old control arm bushings have caused the increased right pull and tire wear experienced when the stock trailer was hooked up?

Worn control/link arm bushings could allow axle shift fore-and-aft.  This could cock the axle and make the truck either "dog track" (lateral shift) or pull/steer in one direction or the other if the axle is twisted.  This should show up on a 4-wheel alignment or even my simple diamond/square test.  It is possible that the taut (new) track bar, ball-joints and tie-rod ends make the control/link arm bushings show their wear more glaringly.  Before spending your needed money, though, I would hang the truck on a hoist with the front and rear axles drooping and jog the axle from various angles, along with other components, to see how much actual slop exists at the axle and link arms. 

Are there any other components you feel may be causing this particular issue? Are there any questions I should be asking alignment shops to 'test' their knowledge?

For the shop, it comes down to confirming basics:  four-wheel/thrust alignment, toe, caster and cross caster, camber and steering axis inclination on turning.  (Steering axis inclination will help confirm a bent knuckle or spindle.)  If competent, the shop can readily rule out a variety of alignment-related troubles.  Beyond this, I'd be looking for wear or irregular movement at the axle shaft joints, hub bearings, axle shaft end play (loose nuts) knuckle joints or track bar.  

You did not mention whether the worn tires were left in their original positions or replaced.  As a point of interest, a right pull, or left pull for that matter, can be the result of a tire "radial pull".  Before a wear pattern occurs, swapping the front tires left-to-right can often cure a radial pull (either a right or left pull).  However, camber error tire wear symptom(s) are not tire related and more likely due to ball-joint/knuckle or wheel hub/unit bearing issues.  Wear at either the inside or outside of both tires is usually toe-set wheel misalignment.

Any advice or reference you may be able to provide would be greatly appreciated.

Work through these issues and possibilities, we can go from there.

 


Trust this encourages some useful follow-up.  It's mechanical, and there's always a fix.  We can go further with more information...Keep us informed!

Moses
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Thank You moses, am learning as I go.

I do my best to take care of my truck, but she does have some age to her. Many dings and nicks, but a good friend tells me that gives her character. Mechanically I believe her to be quite sound though and we have taken great care to ensure her fluids are well maintained and joints well lubricated. This is actually the first truck I ever bought, and I have told many, I will probably be buried in it (although I suspect my wife may have a different idea about that).

I did check the wheel bearings (per one of your other posts). There is an absolute minute amount of movement on the passenger side, maybe 1/32" If I really muscle the pull/push I can make a slight sound, but I would not consider it to indicate trouble (this will be further investigated though). The driver side has no movement. 

I am not certain why, but I am really hesitant to add off set ball joints (probably because I spent $50 each for the new ones I have now), but it seems to me that it simply adds an additional variable that must be factored to arrive at a well calculated outcome. They should not be needed unless something is wrong, and this truck has never had anything abrupt happen to either axle or their supporting members. 

I have placed wrenches and pryers on every gap, bolt, bar, rod, etc. that I can find. Had the wife turn the wheels under power, and manually. Surprisingly, even with the worn control arm bushings, everything looked great. Operation was smooth, no pops or grunts, not even a whine from the power steering.

The control arms will be in tomorrow, luckily I spent the better part of the last 30 years as a carpenter so I am going to get out my tape measure. I guess I am young enough to appreciate computers, but old enough to not trust them. There is almost nothing in the world that can not be solved with a notebook, calculator, pencil and a tape measure, at least not in my world!

The front tires are still on the truck, It has been in the driveway since I got back from the processors. I have good tires on the back which will be rotated with the control arm installation. I am going to get some measurements when they are all off, seemingly removes a great deal of obstacles in the measurement process.

Once I get the control arms replaced, my caster and toe in set, and tires rotated, I will follow up. The new control arm bushings should reveal any other weaknesses in the system, at least that is what I am counting on. 

BTW, is ¼" total toe a good place to start? manual states 1*, I can get out a protractor, but I really like my tape measure better...

 

Thanks Again sir, you really have a great site!

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Glad the info is helpful, see my comments below, Wyododge.  Pay particular attention to the highlighted comments on steering linkage:

16 hours ago, Wyododge said:

I do my best to take care of my truck, but she does have some age to her. Many dings and nicks, but a good friend tells me that gives her character. Mechanically I believe her to be quite sound though and we have taken great care to ensure her fluids are well maintained and joints well lubricated. This is actually the first truck I ever bought, and I have told many, I will probably be buried in it (although I suspect my wife may have a different idea about that).

Actually, my wife is on board with our keeping the '05 Ram indefinitely.  I do all the maintenance, any repairs and upgrades.  Can see working with this Cummins powered truck for a very long time.  Have all the factory manuals, enough specialty tools and the experience to know this is a keeper.  The 48RE transmission is in my sights for a bench rebuild with upgrades somewhere before the 5.9L Cummins needs anything major.  At 150K miles, however, the 48RE still shifts as new.  Driving with the powertrain in mind always helps.

I did check the wheel bearings (per one of your other posts). There is an absolute minute amount of movement on the passenger side, maybe 1/32" If I really muscle the pull/push I can make a slight sound, but I would not consider it to indicate trouble (this will be further investigated though). The driver side has no movement.

Worth checking...This is a wear point at some stage. 

I am not certain why, but I am really hesitant to add off set ball joints (probably because I spent $50 each for the new ones I have now), but it seems to me that it simply adds an additional variable that must be factored to arrive at a well calculated outcome. They should not be needed unless something is wrong, and this truck has never had anything abrupt happen to either axle or their supporting members.

Agreed...I couldn't see my friend's point about wanting perfect straight ahead steer or "zero pull/drift" on normally cambered roads.  (What happens when the road reverses camber?)  If tires wear normally and pull or drift is within norms, I would leave well enough alone.  In your case, there was a distinct and objectionable pull plus odd tire wear.

I have placed wrenches and pryers on every gap, bolt, bar, rod, etc. that I can find. Had the wife turn the wheels under power, and manually. Surprisingly, even with the worn control arm bushings, everything looked great. Operation was smooth, no pops or grunts, not even a whine from the power steering.

Sounds good...

The control arms will be in tomorrow, luckily I spent the better part of the last 30 years as a carpenter so I am going to get out my tape measure. I guess I am young enough to appreciate computers, but old enough to not trust them. There is almost nothing in the world that can not be solved with a notebook, calculator, pencil and a tape measure, at least not in my world!

If there is distinct wear at the control/link arms bushings, replacement is practical.

The front tires are still on the truck, It has been in the driveway since I got back from the processors. I have good tires on the back which will be rotated with the control arm installation. I am going to get some measurements when they are all off, seemingly removes a great deal of obstacles in the measurement process.

Pay particular attention to the track bar and pitman arm, plus any other new parts you added.  See my earlier comments about the aftermarket track bar alignment and adjustment if it's adjustable for length; this controls the axle position laterally.  As for the pitman arm, is it a "dropped" arm?  If so, and if the chassis is not lifted, this could create a distinct problem with the steering linkage alignment and alter the toe-set as the chassis rises and sets.  A modified/dropped pitman arm would relocate the steering linkage at the driver's side and change the toe and toe measurement as the steering linkage moves with the chassis movement or while steering in either direction.  (Toe settings and steering linkage would not follow the OE angles as the wheels turn and the axle moves or tilts.)  This could cause irregular tire wear, pull, drift and possible one-sided (fluctuating) toe irregularity and tire wear.  STEERING LINKAGE PLANE MISALIGNMENT OR THE WRONG STEERING LINKAGE CONFIGURATION COULD CREATE THE ODD TIRE WEAR AND DRIFT YOU'VE EXPERIENCED!  Compare the aftermarket pitman arm with the OE arm.  See if there is a drop or center-to-center length difference between these arms.

Once I get the control arms replaced, my caster and toe in set, and tires rotated, I will follow up. The new control arm bushings should reveal any other weaknesses in the system, at least that is what I am counting on.

Since the truck is relatively stock, this is restorative.  Do you travel washboard roads a lot?   

BTW, is ¼" total toe a good place to start? manual states 1*, I can get out a protractor, but I really like my tape measure better...

1/4" total sounds like too much.  Do the math on converting degrees to inches or find an inch toe measurement.  Especially with radial tires, 1/4" toe-in total would be excessive.

Thanks Again sir, you really have a great site!

You're welcome, Wyododge...Thanks for joining our discussions!

Moses

 

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I did some looking, and discovered I have misspoken about the upgrades. The pitman arm is stock, The track bar conversion kit, is simply some bracketing which allows the installation of the gen 3 track bar. The geometry is not changed, simply the diameter of the track bar and bushings on both sides.

I was able to get the alignment report following the steering upgrade. The shop increased the caster on one side to 'minimize' the right hand drift, which is apparently the most current, albeit incorrect procedure. He was then ready to install off-set ball joints to fix the camber differential. Maybe I am way off, but it seems more prudent to just set the caster as specified by Dodge alignment procedures, and be done with it. I went ahead and set the caster full forward (max negative caster), and set the total toe right at 5/32", at the outer most edge of the rim (bounced the front end several times to get it there). I found numerous references regarding toe-in between ⅛" & ¼", this may need to be revisited, once I sit down and actually calculate what it should be at the rim edge.

Test drive went perfect, or at least as expected. The Highways here have quite a bit of camber to reduce freeze damage in the winter, when driving down the middle, she held very true. I will be taking a 500 mile trip in the next few days, have mic'd my tread so it will be interesting to see how things go. Took her up to 80 MPH, no vibration or shimmy, steering is very tight and return to zero is as expected. Acceleration proved just as stable.

It seems, after all of this, the truck was not properly adjusted to begin with (twice). Once everything was brought to where it should be, and in accordance with the design, all is well (go figure). 

I guess the big lesson here, and there are many, is to understand what shops are doing to your vehicle, If you don't understand, ASK MOSES!!

Now to bigger and better things.. runoff is down, caddis are hatching, time to get into the greatest and least populated fly fishing streams in the world!

 

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Wyododge...Factory calls for 4-degrees positive caster, I run up to 7-degrees positive caster, currently around 5-degrees positive caster with the lift kit.  (Negative caster places the upper ball-joints further forward than the lower ones.  Positive caster moves the upper ball-joint rearward of the lower ball-joint.  Which way did you go here?)  We typically set a beam front axle at positive caster.

Here is a PDF of the factory specs for our Gen 3 Ram trucks:

2005 Dodge Ram Alignment Specs.pdf

With steering linkage and other parts in top shape, I set my Ram's toe around 1/8" total toe-in, measured at the tread surface (around the tire center line) of my 34.6" diameter (over-sized) tires.  My tire wear is nil, steering very stable.  I use turn plates and unload (like your bounce to relieve thrust load) the truck's front end before setting toe.  See factory specs in the PDF.  There are toe degrees to inch calculators online, here's one:  https://robrobinette.com/ConvertToeInchesToDegrees.htm.  Simplifies the math.

Can I join you at fly fishing?  We have a friend, small world, who works with your state's fish and game department, she's an avid fly fisher!  So am I when time permits, the only way to fish.  You know what they say about a bad day of fishing...!  

Glad your truck is rolling in time for the hatch.

Moses

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On June 28, 2016 at 10:01 AM, Moses Ludel said:

Typo Moses... - to + caster... Sorry bout that.

Thanks for the link, but I kinda like trig. I can't remember the exact decimal I came up with, but you are right on the money with ⅛" total toe-in.

I actually set up strings outside of the truck, verifying parallels along the frame and at common points on the center of the rims. It took a while, but I was able to get the strings close enough that I took all my measurements from the inside line of the string. It was remarkably similar to stringing up a foundation actually. I had an old square plastic bucket that I cut four plates out of, and squeezed some high temp grease in between. Once I got everything square, I jacked up each front tire and placed the plates underneath the tires. The plates were only ⅛" total so I didn't see any need to shim the back tires. Other than the mess from the grease squeezing out, it worked quite well and the price was right! They say necessity is the mother of invention, but I believe this time it was just plain old desperation...

10 hours ago, Moses Ludel said:

Can I join you at fly fishing?  We have a friend, small world, who works with your state's fish and game department, she's an avid fly fisher!  So am I when time permits, the only way to fish.  You know what they say about a bad day of fishing...!  

 

Private message on it's way... I have a super secret squirrel fishing location for you!

 

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Resourceful alignment job there, Wyododge!  Glad you're full positive on the caster and all's well with the truck's handling.  This confirms that your truck, or mine for that matter, always does best when work is restorative and to factory specification.

As for your tools, I've done precision front end work on an electronic beam four-wheel alignment rack (truck dealership work), and I've set toe with a tape measure alongside a 4x4 trail.  My small shop/home alignment equipment has grown to include a pair of Fastrax gauges from Specialty Products plus $110 for a pair of Gil Smith trackside turn plates.  (These metal plates hold the grease a tad better than sandwiched plastic.  Ram trucks are front heavy, especially a 3500 with the 5.9L Cummins!) 

Check out the TJ Wrangler alignment with the Fastrax system.  If you do a half-dozen alignments at your home shop, you've paid for these tools:

http://www.4wdmechanix.com/moses-ludels-4wd-mechanix-magazine-jeep-service-tools-equipment/

http://www.4wdmechanix.com/HD-Video-TJ-Wrangler-Wheel-Alignment-Basics?r=1

Specialty Products suggests that you can use plastic bags to simulate turning plates, but I prefer unloading the front wheels/tires (actually jacking the axle beam up and then letting the wheels/tires back down gently onto the turn plates).  I allow the wheels to rest on the plates without bind while doing the alignment.  I'm getting very good results.  Sounds like you did, too!  

When it comes down to it, strings in diamond, a tape measure for toe and a spirit level for camber can do a lot in the right hands.  The rest is math!

Moses

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