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44.3a Syncro Alignment

Wheel Alignment - Syncro
Year(s):  1986 -1991
Model/Type:  Syncro (2.1L)

From:  Derek Drew

Symptom(s):  Out of alignment, Uneven tire wear

Dear Friends,

The VW service manual for the Vanagon was updated in 1990 to include a
different method for calculating the proper alignment specs for the Syncro
Vanagon. Owners of the earlier service manuals for the vanagon will miss
these new specs. The specs are contained on page 44.3a of the service
manual. If your manual does not contain this page and these specs, you will
not have the updated information on how to correctly align your syncro.

If you rely on someone else to select the proper specs for the Vanagon
Syncro, you have a problem as well. This is because the company that makes
almost all alignment machines in the country, the Hunter company, put in
the wrong specs for the front of the Vanagon Syncro. I actually located the
clerk in Hunter who misinterpreted a symbol in the Vanagon repair
microfiche and who admitted he made a mistake. Over time--a very long
time--he said he would try to get the specs on the Hunter machines
corrected, but he admitted that in the mean time repair mechanics around
the country would be setting the Vanagon Syncros in their shop to the
improper alignment specs.

I recalculated all values and came up with the following specs, which are
proper for the Camper model. If you don't have the camper model, you should
obtain page 44.3a of the service manual and perform your own calculations
as your specs will be slightly less aggressive than these due to the
lighter weight of your vehicle.

If you take your Vanagon Syncro into an alignment shop and say, "give me an
alignment," there is a 5% chance you will get a proper alignment, and a 95%
chance the mechanic will use either:

a) the faulty specs in many Hunter alignment machines or b) the earlier,
easier to figure,alignment specs used before page 44.3a was issued. As a
matter of fact, the guy at the Hunter alignment company told me that the
methodology in page 44.3a was too difficult to input into the standard
format of the Hunter alignment machine computer systems, and so the proper
procedure would never appear on those machines. The proper procedure
involves measuring the ride height of the vehicle and calculating the
proper alignment spec based on that. The measurement is taken by measuring
the distance between the wheelwell and the center of the wheel.

Once you are able to obtain the proper specs, there is another problem in
forcing your mechanic to follow your specs and not those in the Hunter
machines. You have to tell the mechanic that the vehicle has been modified
or make up some story or he will simply ignore your specs and use those in
the machine. One way to force the mechanic to be honest is to insist on a
print out from the Hunter machine showing your actual alignment specs after
the operation. You can then compare these specs to those you provide him to
check whether he has done the job right.

The alignment is difficult enough on a Vanagon Syncro that there is a
strong possibility the mechanic will use either, a) the hunter specs, or b)
your specs, whichever he is able to achieve first, unless you beat him up
to not do so.

The following specs should be read with a proportional font text reader in
order for the columns to line up correctly. Again, the following is for the
camper model, or other very heavy model vanagons. The rest of you will have
to make up your own chart after consultiing page 44.3a.

The material in this document is copywrite 1994 by Derek Drew, 487 Columbus
Ave. #3R, New York, NY 10024 (212)-580-4459. It may be reproduced and
redistributed for any non-commercial purpose provided proper credit is
given to the author. Contact the author for permission to reproduce in a
commercial work.

Before giving you the specs, a disussion of how to lift the van is in
order. Since I regularly drive my Vanagon Syncro Camper on rough terrible
roads and bash the underside, I have undertaken to lift it a bit. I lifted
it about 1" by buying BF Goodrich Radial All-Terrain tires, in light truck
size 27 x 8.50 for the 14" alloy rims. (I love these bigger tires, and they
provide excellent handling because the sidewalls are relatively stiff, but
they kill the performance of the motor due to their effect on the gearing.
You will feel like you are in a 1970s era bus again, but I feel the
tradeoff is well worth it for my application).

Another method I used to raise the van is to raise the rear end. I did this
as follows: in between the rear springs and the body of the vehicle there
is a small doughnut sized wedge of about 3/4 inch thickness. I went to the
dealer and bought a pile of these little wedges and put 2 or 3 more
on each side of the rear of the vehicle. I am still puzzling over how to
lift the front of the vehicle so right now it tilts down at the front a
bit. Any ideas on how to easily lift the front of a Syncro Vanagon, guys?



[Proper specifications for camper are NOT INCLUDED on Hunter machines. Use
the following.]

Alignments MUST be performed in the following order to avoid one adjustment
from changing other adjustments:

1st Castor
2nd Camber
3rd Toe

SPECIFICATIONS -- 30-40% laden

Left Front Right Front
-------------------- -----------------------
Min Max. Min. Max.
-------------------- -----------------------
-0.27 +0.40 Camber -0.27 +0.40

+3.8 +4.4 Caster +3.8 +4.4

-0.033 +0.033 Toe -0.033 +0.033
(-0.017") (+0.017") Toe (inches) (-0.017") (+0.017")

Min. Max.
Cross Camber 0 0.3
Cross Caster 0 0.5
Total Toe -0.07 +0.07
Toe in inches: (-0.033") (+0.033")
Setback 0 0.5

Left Rear Right Rear
-------------------- -----------------------
Min. Max. Min. Max.
-------------------- -----------------------
-0.67 0.00 Camber -0.67 0.00

-0.08 +0.26 Toe (each) -0.08" +0.26
(-0.04") +(0.13") (in inches) (-0.04") +(0.13")
Min. Max.
----------------- FINAL
Cross Camber 0 0.3 This page
Total Toe -0.16 +0.52 based on
total toe in inches: (-0.08") +(0.26") measurement
Thrust angle -0.10 +0.10 page 44.3a


Notes on calculations (for your own use/reference)

1. Calculating front camber spec:

Notes: The front camber spec for the regular Vanagon
peaks in the middle and then comes back down.
However, for the Syncro the spec seems to drop
directly. My figure should probably be centered
around zero. Thus:

+5' +- 20' is a good compromise
Range in degrees is 0.7*.

This translates into:

+0.0825* +/-0.334

This translates into:

+0.4165 -0.2515

2. Calculating the front castor spec:

Set arbitrarily at halfway between published spec
and halfway point.

3. Calculating the rear camber spec:

Empty Full
+0.25 Max -0.50
-0.25 Nominal -1.17*
-0.42 Min. -1.84

Has a 0.67* spread.

So, set this at -0.00 max.
-0.67 min.

4. Calculating the rear toe spec:

Empty Full


Premise: The empty non-camper syncro weighs in at between
3,641 and 4,000 lbs. depending on the model. The max weight
is 5512. The halfway point is therefore between 4577 and
4894 lbs.

My vehicle weighs in at about the halfway point, since I
weigh 4680 empty. Being conservative, I will produce a set
of alignment specs for a vehicle 33% laden.


TOTAL Front Axel Rear Axel

Syncro Camper

GVWR 5512 2866 3042
Empty 3950
Actual 4620? 2310? 2310?
Pub. curb R&T 4000 1972 2028
Pub. curb C&D 4000
Extrapo camper 4350

Non-Syncro Camper

Empty 3960
Full 5280
Cargo weight 1320

Non-Camper Syncro 2.1 litre

Empty 3661 (3689) 1793 1867
Observed empty 4045 (4109) 1982 2063
Cargo weight 1929
Implied GVWR* 5590

(*meaning empty + cargo)

Non-Syncro, Non-Camper

Empty 3670

Road and Track states that Syncro adds 330 lbs to the 3670
non syncro Vanagon and the camper adds 350 lbs as well.


Degrees Minutes Inches
0.01* = 0.6' = 0.005"
0.0165* = 1' = 0.00825"
0.025* = 1.5' = 0.0125"
0.05* = 3' = 0.025"
0.10* = 6' = 0.05"
0.167* = 10' = 0.0825"
0.25* = 15' = 0.125"
0.5* = 30' = 0.25"
0.75* = 45' = 0.375"
1* = 60' = 0.50"

Degrees devided by 2 = inches
2* = 1.00"
3* = 1.50"
4* = 2.00"
5* = 2.50"

Inches to Minutes
1.00" = 15'

Derek Drew
487 Columbus Ave. #3R
New York, NY 10024

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