Anyone heard of rim offset affecting alignment? - Mercedes Benz SLK Forum

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#1 Old 11-13-2012
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Anyone heard of rim offset affecting alignment?

I had my car aligned at the dealer a week ago on my stock (summer) rims. Car drove perfectly following the initial alignment. Few days later I installed my winter rims and tires on that car. Now my alignment is pretty clearly out of whack again.
My winter setup was brand new last year and has about 5000km on it. Before installing this year I had the winter wheels roadforce balanced (because I accidentally knocked a weight off in storage). The winter rims are aftermarket alloys which are not staggered like my stock rims. Most notably, the rear offset on the winter rims is different to the point where the wheel visibly sits further inwards.
I called up my MB dealer and told them I wanted the alignment looked at again since I just had it done and it was out again. The shop foreman came out and drove the car, he acknowledged that it felt like the alignment was out, but said the cause was the fact that the winter rims had a different offset, which has affected the alignment so he wouldn't do anything to help me.

So, I accepted his diagnoses and figured that I'd have to source some OE rims to use as winters instead. However, I've been doing some reading and I cannot understand how a change in the rim offset can affect the alignment??

Has anyone else experienced anything similar???
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#2 Old 11-13-2012
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My understanding, any time you replace wheels, most recommend a new wheel alignment. I change wheels on my cars often, and only get a alignment when the car pulls one side or the other, or there's uneven tire wear.
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#3 Old 11-14-2012
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MB and especially the SLK has a lot of camber and toe in, even on the rears. So it's quite possible, though I'm a bit surprised (what do you have on size wise).

Tongue in cheek - that'll teach you for running it in the winter! (sour grapes, ours was parked this morning...)


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#4 Old 11-14-2012
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offset only affects the distance the wheel sits from the hub. the greater the offset the nearer the hub. I am surprised that an MB mechanic says that is whats caused it on the basis that regardless of how many mm a wheel sits in or out from the hub it will still be parallel to the hub.

Once the toe in/out is set, the face of the hub would follow the same direction. The hub face of a wheel would have to be totally parallel to the rim otherwise the wheel would wobble as though it was buckled

To the best of my knowledge the only way offset could affect wheel alignment would be if it were spaced way out from the hub to cause the camber to be affected by imposing extra strain on the suspension. ( law of the lever)
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#5 Old 11-14-2012
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Thanks for the feedback guys - keep it coming. I might actually print this for reference next time I deal with MB.

I really didn't want to do this, but it looks like i have to now....On the weekend I am going to re-install my summer wheels. IF the MB tech is correct, then I would expect my alignment to go back to the "perfection" I had before installing the winters. If that does not happen, I'll take it right back to MB and see what the tech has to say.
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#6 Old 11-14-2012
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Changing one set of alloys with another will most often put your wheel alignment out !
Especially going from originall to aftermarket wheels!

Plus you have diff tyres on which can make the car behave / drive diff
Ie pull to one side or just drive diff / handling !

No two alloys are made exactly the same especially cheap aftermarket alloys that fit 70 diff cars with 6+ diff bolt holes

Not saying you have these !

Allingment was done with your originall alloys to your car you then change to other make ones and it will / can read diff on laser alignment equipment .

Hence the garage was correct on his answer as the tracking was performed on the first set of wheels .
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#7 Old 11-14-2012
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^ Glad someone has some support for what MB says. Honestly, I think I'd rather it turn out to be the rims beause then at least I have a culprit i can deal with.

The rims themselves are MB replica rims ("cheap"), they have only one set of bolt holes (the correct ones for my car). But they do use shorter lug bolts, and obviously have a different offset.
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#8 Old 11-14-2012
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toe in/out is adjusted by attaching a laser to the rim. If it varied between wheels ,that would indicate the rim was either buckled or was running out of true with the hub. In that case no amount of tracking would cure it. oe in/out is a variation on a parallel line fore and aft. Offset i.e. moving a wheel in or out should not alter the parallel alignment asit does not alter the direction of the wheel
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#9 Old 11-17-2012
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So, it continues....

Spent the morning swaping wheels around:

Test 1: Stock summers on the rear, winters on the front.
Result: No change, steering wheel still sits crooked towards the right and still vibrates on the highway.

Test 2: Stock summers all the way around:
Result: Some change, vibration is gone, BUT steering wheels is still crooked towards the right, although maybe a little less than it was before.

I also confirmed some of the specs:
Summers (stocks):
Front - 16x7 with an ET (offset) of 37mm
Rear - 16x8 with an ET of 30mm

Winters (aftermarket):
All 4 - 16x7 with an ET of 35mm

I've currently got the summers on the car and I am going to go back to the dealer on Monday, **** blazing, to make them re-do the alignment until the steering wheel sits straight.

Then, I am not sure what I am going to do:
- Do I put the winters back on and try again?
-Should I try to get the winters roadforce balanced again?
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#10 Old 11-17-2012
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It's curious... what caused the steering wheel to be out of alignment. I'm assuming it was straight before you put on the snows?


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#11 Old 11-17-2012
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Well, I know it was crooked BEFORE the initial alignment. After that alignment I thought it was straight.....But I cannot for the life of me figure out what would have caused it to move. So maybe it was out of alignment the whole time and I didn't notice. I didn't drive the car much that week (maybe 200kms), and I was having other issues with it (intermittent BAS/ESP and flickering headlight) that I was paying attention to, so maybe I simply missed the fact that the wheel wasn't straight until I swapped the wheels the following weekend.

BTW; I did get the other issues resolved...Replace the brake switch and swapped the headlight bulbs around (not sure why that worked - but I'll take it!)
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#12 Old 11-19-2012
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Geometry is our friend

I have seen this problem in the past because tire shops will sell anything people are willing to buy, even if it makes a car perform worse. Offset wheels are some of the worst offenders for this.

If one were to take your entire front spindle assembly off the car and cut it in half down the middle (don't try this at home) you would see that the wheel bearings are roller bearings set at an angle to the race...bearing surface...and if you were to draw an "X" along the line from the inside bearing to the outside bearing you would discover the center of that "X", with proper offset, will be in the center of the tire. The center of the tire needs to be in the center of the load shared by the inner and outer wheel bearings. If you change the location of the center of the wheel, you would want to change the location of the center of the bearing. In an ideal world you would be able to scribe a line at this midpoint and base your alignment upon that mark. The angle described in a technical spec, like toe-in, refers to the angle developed between these center points, pivoting on the ball joints/struts.

One degree measured at six inches is going to produce a differet spindle angle than one degree measured at six and one half inches.

There are mechanical limitations to this, not the least of which finding a perfect set of lines to align with. To find perfect center for the line above, you need to measure eactly halfway up the tire, or draw a line through the center of the axle. Now you have a line going "front & back" as well as "side to side" and in a perfect world you could set the left and right wheels exactly on a horizontal line left to right, find center, and start to alighn. But your wheels don't point straight up down due to camber & castor issue that provide handing charactaristics. As the wheel turns left or right these are accented.

Now if you take off the stock offset wheel and put on one with a greater offset, suddenly the angle at the center of the wheel...or edge, measured with a laser...is greater because it is farther from the ball joints, where the steering pivots, than the edge of the stock offset wheel. The farther you move the edge of the wheel out, the farther out of alignment you get...in three directions!!!!!!

When the 170s were built, the magazines whined about the recirculating ball steering but in this case it works to your advantage....and I hate rack & pinion steering...but what you need to do is get the car over a pit or in the air sitting on the wheels and get the steering arms aligned so that the wheel is center ..."Center Loaded"... and then you can start to get the suspension set back to normal. It has to be done with the weight of the car on the wheels, not in the air. There are turntables that you can put under the wheels that provide you with some of the angles you need.

Get rid of the aftermarket wheels and get it set back to stock...you will be much happier!
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#13 Old 11-20-2012
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^^Sounds like someone knows their stuff!.

So I got the car back from MB last night. Mb won't admit that they messed up the initial alignment, BUT they did make some adjustments and now the car is drivining nice, straight and vibration free....on stock rims w/ summers.

Now that I know my alignment is correct (at least with stock rims), I am going to get my winters re-balanced (roadforce) and re-install. Hopefully that will produce some acceptable results. If not, I'll bite the bullet and pickup another set of stock rims for it.
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#14 Old 11-20-2012
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I'm no expert, but I do my own alignments and I change wheels a lot. Summers, winters, race... yeah. I get tired of changing wheels all the time. Of course, not so much on the SLK, and I did just learn how important the lenghth of those bolts is when I put on our winter set up. So, my comments are more general observations on the issue than car specific. Though it's worth noting- sounds like our winter set up is like yours - no stagger to get skinnier winter tires in the rear.

My Celica gets the most attention just because I'm trying to make it go through parking lots around cones really fast. Street wheels for that car are 14x7 -9. Most of the time, that's what's on the car when I do an alignment. The race wheels are 15x10 -13. That's a pretty good difference. But think about it- camber, caster, toe- I don't see any way any of those can be changed by changing the wheel. Shoot, some people do alignments on hub stands - no wheels on the car at all.

Will the wheels change some things? Sure, in my case, going to the wide wheels makes a big difference in scrub radius, (about 1.3" if the on line calculators are right) but there's nothing I can do about it. Having said that, I've never noticed any unusual handling as a result. A change that significant is probably not a good idea for a street car since it will load the wheel bearings differently (not a big deal on an autocross car - the wheel bearings are almost *always* loaded a LOT). But I can't see how any of the settings that can be adjusted will change by changing wheels, and the kind of difference you're talking about is likely to be much smaller than that and likely to have even less consequence since you're talking about the rear.

I've actually taken measurements on my E Stock MR2 with the 15" summer tires and the 14" race tires. It's set up with -2.8 camber, +5 caster and about 1/8" toe out. Swap to the race tires and it's still -2.8, +5 and 1/8" out.

As I said, I'm no expert, and what I have to learn probably out-weighs what I know by a good bit. That's just my thoughts on it. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who sees something here that I'm missing.

(edit) Oh, just one more thing. The guy I bought the winter wheels and tires from seemed to know his stuff. He used them on his SLK for one year. He said that the non-stagger is what MB recomend for winter tires. I haven't confirmed that anywhere but wouldn't be surprised. Every time I've looked, manufacturers recomend a little skinnier tire for winter.
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#15 Old 11-20-2012
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Originally Posted by Krisanie View Post
The angle described in a technical spec, like toe-in, refers to the angle developed between these center points, pivoting on the ball joints/struts.
I'm very interested in what you're saying but I don't think I follow. Let's look at toe in since it's what you used in your example. So, say I have the car on the factory wheels and put it on some toe plates. I get everything set how I want it - let's say 1/16" toe in. If I now change to wheels that are completely different- offset, diamater, width, the space between the front and rear of the tires will change, but difference won't (if measured at the same distance from center). The wheels, any of them, will still be true to the hubs so the agles stay the same. The toe plates will still be at the same angle as they were before, won't they?

I'm just thinking back to what I said before - you can measure all of this with the car on hub stands. Adding wheels doesn't change any of the angles.

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#16 Old 11-20-2012
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Thanks for breaking that down into basic terms for my Eddie. A lot of this discussion is way over my head, but regarding the OE recommended winter tire size, my owners manual specifies 16x7 ET 37 (stock front rims) on all 4 during the winter.....My aftermarket winters are 16x7 ET 35.
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#17 Old 11-20-2012
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Originally Posted by Firm View Post
Thanks for breaking that down into basic terms for my Eddie. A lot of this discussion is way over my head, but regarding the OE recommended winter tire size, my owners manual specifies 16x7 ET 37 (stock front rims) on all 4 during the winter.....My aftermarket winters are 16x7 ET 35.
Reiterating that I am no expert, that’s going to be near as makes no difference to the recommended wheel.

Unless something is bent or otherwise damaged, I’m reasonably sure that the wheels are not your problem.

(edit) Ha, I just looked up the wheels we have. Same offset. Do you have these MSW wheels for your winter tires?



We were lucky enough to get ours on our local craigslist with good winter tires and hubcentric adapters for less than the wheels alone would cost new. They look innocuous enough on the car and get the job done. They're on the list of wheels Tire Rack recomends for winter on our cars.
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#18 Old 11-20-2012
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Thanks for the input man. Like I said above, I am gunna try it on winters again this weekend and see if it's any different. If it starts vibrating again I'll take the wheels in for another roadforce balancing; I am kinda leaning towards the tires as a possible culprit?

My rims are MB replica rims....Got them from some local place, but got a really awesome deal on the wheel/tire package....Just wish they'd run properly.

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#19 Old 11-20-2012
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Oooh, those look a lot nicer than mine!
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