X5 – Tracking – Getting It Straight

When I test drove the X5, the only niggle that concerned me was that the steering wheel was slightly off centre when going straight. I knew the car had been standing and I could see that the tyre pressures weren’t right, yet I knew I’d need new rear tyres and factored a four wheel alignment into the overall transaction.

Naturally I didn’t factor in the plethora of issues I was going to face. This turned into a familiar sight:

As I bought it, the car was aligned like this.

So of the eight possible adjustments, two were within acceptable parameters. At that point I asked that just the front was aligned; new rear tyres were on order and I needed to do some miles in the interim. I was told that the track rod ends were extremely tight, but they could be moved. So I left that day with the front straight, but the rear all over the place, awaiting new tyres.

When I had the rear tyres fitted, I was advised that the rear left toe adjustment bolt was seized solid, that the front right camber bolt wouldn’t shift, and that the rear camber adjustments were already at their minimum negative camber point. The alignment then looked like this:

That rear toe and thrust angle wasn’t acceptable to me, especially on new tyres, so I trundled off to my trusted independent garage, Field’s Car Centre, to task them with replacing all seized parts.

Having booked the car in I then chose to move the goalposts considerably by fitting spacers and lowering the car, substantially changing camber angles all round.

Chris at Field’s took a keen interest (as ever) in my latest acquisition, and had pre-ordered all manner of bolts and bushes in anticipation of the rear arms being in a proper state. His team decompressed the air suspension and checked it all over thoroughly. As it happens, both rose bushes were in good shape, so the bulk of the job there was to free up and replace all rear toe and camber adjustment points. The front tie rods and camber bolts were also freed up and lubricated.

While the X5 was there, I had the auxiliary drive belt, tensioner and idler pulley all replaced, as they were making a right racket when cold and damp and were clearly on their way out. Nice new belt shown below!

Following all this work, the folks at Field’s took the X5 back to my local laser alignment place, so I was able to collect the X5 completely straight and sorted on Christmas Eve.

The whole job did come to an annoying pre-Christmas ยฃ480, but I’m really pleased to know that everything is as it should be. Yes, the rear camber looks to be excessive, and the front camber is only just within limits, but that’s due to the car’s new stance.

What’s important to me is that the toe, steer and thrust angles are bang on the money, so I’m pleased to have finally got this old van running as it should. Plus, negative camber looks cool!