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Old 12-18-2011, 03:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
IronButt
 
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Vehicle Alignment

Grab a drink (coffee and Baileys here), I've been wrenching again.

I was following the OL yesterday and I observed what I thought I saw when the FXR was on the lift. The rear wheel is tilted,vertical alignment, top side to the right.

When I was assembling the MC I replaced the Cleve-blocks with spherical bearings. I replaced the rear vibration isolators with new OEM style isolators. As well as a new front donut and all new turn buckles.I followed the instructions in the FSM as far as assembly goes. Specifically tightening the inner to the motor and trans before tightening the motor mounts. Because everything was new and assembled with absolutely no effort as far as alignment goes I didn't go thru the FSM's alignment process, just a machinist's eye ball.

This AM I decide to take a look at the alignment so I put the bike on my lift and removed the fuel tank. Then I took my carpenters level and put it across the two frame rails just forward of the cross member. I grabbed a scissor jack and leveled the frame rails across the bike. Then I took the level to the rear of the bike and using 123 blocks and an old piece of gasket I leveled the bubble. Now I have the frame level and I have a level surface at the rear to reference to. I put a carpenters square on the level and checked the rotor for perpendicularity to the level. Sho nuff it's not square. The sissy stripe was off center as well. I removed the chin spoiler and loosened the center donut bolt and both donut the frame bolts.

At this point the FSM does not work any more as it only tells you to unfasten the top turnbuckle to adjust the vehicle horizontal alignment, (front to back). It only mentions in a diagram that the top turnbuckle adjusts the vertical alignment and the front one adjusts the horizontal. No mention of vertical adjustment procedures.I moved the top turnbuckle and didn't get the reaction I was looking for at the disc. I decided at that point to remove the front turnbuckle. I was able to see a a lot more movement then. Now my problem was measuring the squareness of the disc.

All the blocks and shims, the level and the square all moving independently just offered too much variation to my measurements. Everything has to be square as well as level and that is what was wrong with this set-up. My neighbor had wandered over by now and offered the use of his Black and Decker laser level I was expecting a laser pointer and had no idea what he was up to.

The laser level shoots a beam that is flat, a straight line that I could orient vertically. I put it on my camera tripod, adjusted the bubble levels on the laser to be true to the world and aimed it at the edge of the rotor from the rear. VOILA a straight edge to adjust to. I adjusted the top turnbuckle until the laser line was straight with the edge break on the rotor, tightened the turnbucle jamnuts, tightened the front donut, and the donut to frame bolts. When I went to reassemble the front turnbuckle the bolt didn't line up with the frame. I adjusted the turnbuckle to the right length and tightened it down.

I wonder did I just alter the horizontal alignment?

I don't have any idea how the FSM expects me to have two nearly seven foot long straight edges that I can run below the frame rails and get two contact points on each tire/rim. The biggest problem is holding the bike, on the lift the front wheel clamp is in the way of a straight edge (if I had one). and on a jack the jack would be in the way. Plus the handlebars have to be dead straight. How have the rest of y'all measured the horizontal alignment???

For now I am gonna ride test it, when it's not raining in the "Valley of the Sun", see if it'll go down the road straight, get behind the OL and see if it tracks straight. If not I think I'll try to rig up a laser pointer this time. Maybe I can figure out how to measure from the beam to the front rim.

I'd really like to know how others have set up their alignment.The rear wheel being off center to the frame but the front and rear tires having to be in alignment confuses me. WTF is their an offset in the frame somewhere?

Thanks for taking the time to read all this I hope I didn't babble too much.Your experience and input is appreciated.

Keep the rubber side down
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2003 103" Electraglide Std
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115,000 miles and counting

1958 Rigid Panhead "Ape Hanger"
Suicide, 74" SU mechanical brakes.
been mine 30+ years

1986 FXRD O.L.'s ride
mostly stock 80" Evo 5 speed
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1947 EL Bobber
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Old 12-18-2011, 03:29 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Have you seen the 'glide pro' alignment video ? Tried it several times on each of 4 different bikes. I figured if the set up and measurements are repeatable, I would trust the method. Takes time to get it just right.

In the end, we felt only one of the four needed adjustment, and it was minor. That bike was then set up and measured 3 more, separate times.

I say it works, but it does take very good levels, ( 3 digitals is best ). Takes patience and practice, but hey, it's winter, right ?
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Old 12-18-2011, 03:48 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Hey Scott

You're gonna drive yourself crazy trying to get all those planes to line up on a FXR. I went thru the same frustrations you did last time I aligned my FXR4. The rear wheel is not in the center of the frame to begin with and all the OEM spacers are in place correctly. On my bike the two cleve blocks had somewhat different off centeredness so measuring the axle to pivot was the only way to get the rear axle parallel to the swing arm pivot. This is the FSM way to do that anyway. To make a long story short, I don't believe it is possible to get everything square and in line on a rubber mounted Harley frame using the FSM system. Still when all was said and done the front wheel tracked inline with the rear. I checked that with a 6' carpenters level and another long straight edge.

I remember reading a thread about the rear wheel centering thing a while back and all kinds of guys swore that their rear wheels were either in the center of the frames or weren't. I mean, you know.....Harleys! Strange beasts.
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Old 12-18-2011, 04:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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sidenote... the method I used and posted above does not require that either wheel be centered . The idea is always to get the eng/trans/rear parallel with the front wheel.
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Old 12-19-2011, 07:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justbill301 View Post
Have you seen the 'glide pro' alignment video ?
No I had not, Thank you very much for the tip. I haven't watched it all the way thru yet. I will when I get some jacks made to level the bike, and spring for some digital protractors and laser levels.

If someone would have told me 30 years ago someday I would be using lasers to align the wheels on a Harley I'd have told them they were on drugs. But then again we probably were.
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2003 103" Electraglide Std
All Screaming Eagle except for exhaust
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1958 Rigid Panhead "Ape Hanger"
Suicide, 74" SU mechanical brakes.
been mine 30+ years

1986 FXRD O.L.'s ride
mostly stock 80" Evo 5 speed
Pro-Street/Touring

1947 EL Bobber
The perpetual project. I'll get back to it when the Pan is fixed again
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Old 12-19-2011, 08:44 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Seems too complicated?

Maybe I am reading too much into it but your description seems rather complicated. Looking at your stable of bikes I am sure you have some skills or you couldn't keep them running especially your older iron. I have been a fan of FXR's since 1988 when I first went to work in a SoCal dealership. I probably did 15 or 20 vehicle alignments on FXR's and Rubbermount FL's a year. So here goes what should be a little simpler.

1. Elevate bike just enough to take the weight off the suspension front and rear.

2. Take 2 straight edges. I like to use square aluminum tubing it is relatively cheap and as long as it's eyeball straight it'll work. Use a couple of big C clamps or bungees and attach the straight edges to each side of the rear wheel. Note: sometimes blocking these from the bottom helps cause if you over clamp the rails you will distort them.

3. Make sure the front wheel is straight (torqueing down the triple clamp so the front end stays in place helps at this point) put your inclinometer on the rear disc and then the front disc. The manual says they should be the same within 2 degrees. If they are good then great if not then adjust the top link accordingly. Leveling the frame doesn't hurt but it really isn't needed. If the wheels are in vertical alignment then the frame has to match unless something seriously F'd up at the swingarm (I have seen it happen).

4. Using a ruler measure from the edge of the front tire to the inside of the straight edges on both sides if the front wheel. If it is not centered then loosen the lock nuts on the link and adjust until centered.

5. Check all the fasteners you loosened during the adjustment and torque the lock nuts on the links and that's it, your done, GO FOR A RIDE!


The FXR is a pretty forgiving machine and the vehicle alignment isn't something that is measured in thousanths of an inch. In my experience if you get the verticle within one or two degrees and the horizontal centered within and eighth of an inch you will be good to go. The swingarm rubber mounts are specific to each side and I have seen those mixed up and cause the swigarm to be a little cocked in the frame and this will make you crazy till you figure it out. That is why I suggest checking vertical alignment first. I am running solid brass (bronze?) bushings in the swingarm on my current FXR and I really like them over the oem silicone filled cleveblocks. There a several good upgrades for the FXR swingarm and replacing the cleveblocks with something solid is one of the best I have found. If I had a monster motor or was building a high speed FXR for The Salt then I would want things more precise and would add drag links to both sides of the swingarm or at least another link at the bottom of the trans.
Hope this helped. Ain't it great to live where we can ride pretty much all year round.

SEEYAROUND!
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Last edited by johnrides; 12-19-2011 at 08:56 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:32 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PanScott View Post
No I had not, Thank you very much for the tip. I haven't watched it all the way thru yet. I will when I get some jacks made to level the bike, and spring for some digital protractors and laser levels.

If someone would have told me 30 years ago someday I would be using lasers to align the wheels on a Harley I'd have told them they were on drugs. But then again we probably were.
AGREED..... But I just wanted to see how it worked out. Maybe too complicated for some... for us, the conversation got started regarding motor swap and initial line up. Makes sense to me, so I posted it... do what you will with it. good luck.
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Old 12-20-2011, 05:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Well fellows I rode it to the gas station, I've been working fuel delivery issues. I managed to get it to pull to theleft. I am relatively sure the vertical is pretty close so the horizontal must be outta whack.

I guess I'll HAVE to take my truck to work, sounds like I need to go to Industrial Metal Supply http://www.industrialmetalsupply.com.../Phoenix-Metal.

I'll start with Johnride's method if I need to do better I'll invest in tools later. I can see how you could check ALL the geometry using some jacks, a digital protractor or two, and some cheap ass laser levels.

and ya John, If I ever spot an FXR around I'm checking it out probably will see ya around. T.B.F.S end of July ???

Thanks again fellow's
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