I like simple, especially at the racetrack where things are often anything but simple. If I can create a system to make things easier for me when crucial moments in the paddock are complicated, then I’m all about implementing that new system. We have covered Smart Racing Products alignment tools here on Toolshed Engineer in the past: “Build Your Own Magnetic Alignment Guide,” “Alignment Tools and Tips,” and “String Alignment,” but the more I use the tools, the more shop hacks I have created to make things quick, smooth and fast to help get our racecar setup done right. I love aligning my own car because to me it is “free speed.” It doesn’t cost anything to align my car, but I get massive dividends on lap times with the correct alignment.

What I like about Smart Strings and Smart Camber tools are their portability. I am a racer on the go. My garage may be at the Circuit of the Americas. It might be at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, or it might be in Pittsburgh for the 2023 NASA Championships. I need to be able to throw my tools in a bag, toss that bag in a trailer and that trailer’s contents into a garage anywhere in the country. No matter where I am, I want the ability to align my car with the ease and precision I enjoy in the comfort of my own shop, Double Nickel Nine Motorsports — the place where I have all my toys.

What I found was that while I was in the comforts of our own shop I had access to things that weren’t always available while on the road. I have made great efforts to pay attention to these small details and the minor tools I often use and ensure I buy a second set of those tools or double up on things that I need while we are traveling the country racing. Some of these tools or things may cost less than $20, but they can save tons of time or ensure things are more accurate which are certainly worth whatever they cost. Here is an example of one of those simple $20 items that help make us successful whether it is at our shop or halfway across the country.

A common aluminum straight edge is 48 inches long, which is much longer than we need for aligning cars, and it is also too long to fit in our alignment bag. We lined this one up in our vice at the halfway mark in preparation to cut.

When we use our Smart Strings tools, we want to measure all of our wheel alignments from the hub height for accuracy. Now, as you set up your strings as they hang from the front and rear of your racecar to create an outer rectangle to measure the true alignment of your car. Now, you can eyeball the height — not recommended. You can guess — really not recommended — or you can measure, which is highly recommended. While you are measuring, you can use a steel tape measure which is wobbly, inaccurate and hard to work with vertically or you can use a simple hard yard stick, like a large aluminum ruler.

Sure, we all have fancy cordless power tools, but not everything needs a massive power tool for success. There is accuracy and cleanliness in the cut of a simple hand saw.

While doing alignments at our shop, we always grabbed the handy aluminum straight edge ruler to measure what the hub height of our racecar was. On a 1990 Acura Integra, that is 11 and 3/4 inches from the ground. Then we measured the Smart String poles to ensure they were also at the exact same height after we hung them off the front and the back of our racecar. It takes a few minutes to get the poles lined up perfectly level with each end at the exact center of the hub height. We use our long ruler to get things setup at exactly 11 3/4 inches all around.

After a few minutes of cutting, we had this 48-inch ruler chopped down to 24 inches per side, give or take a few millimeters.

When we aren’t at our shop, we have had to make do with another method to help us get the string pole heights just right. This is when I realized we needed to keep our handy big ruler inside our Smart Strings kit bag. The only problem was our bag wasn’t long enough for our 48-inch ruler. Good news! I have saws and I don’t mind cutting brand new stuff.

Because we are going to handle this tool often, we didn’t want the rough edge of the aluminum to cut someone’s hand after we shortened it with a hack saw. Some quick work with a belt sander got things nice and smooth and safe.

We have two separate sets of Smart Strings, one for the shop and one for the trailer. I picked up a new 48 inch aluminum ruler from Ace hardware for less than $20 and cut it in half so it would fit in our Smart Strings storage bags. Once it was cut into two 24-inch pieces I put the rough ends into a belt sander to get things smooth.

Because cutting metal deletes material and because the belt sander also takes away material our two 24 inch rulers were around 23 and 7/8 inches. One end of the ruler wasn’t exactly starting at zero. To ensure we measured accurately each time we labeled the ruler “TOP” so we would use the other end on the ground each time.

After we had cut the ruler in half and sanded both pieces smooth, we realized our rulers, which have inch measurements on each side, increasing in numbers on different sides of the ruler, were no longer exactly 24 inches. This wasn’t a problem for us, however because each of the rulers had a true “zero” side and a “not exactly 24 inches side” we decided to get out the ol’ Brother P-Touch label maker and label the non-zero side “TOP” to help us easily remember to use the bottom of the ruler on the ground for ongoing consistent measurements.

Here you can see our finished product measuring the height of our hub. The ruler is tall enough that we can handle it without having to bend over too far and it is small enough that it fits in our Smart Strings bag.

Once the ruler was cut, smoothed out and labeled it was time to test it out on our Honda Challenge car and see if it worked well and fit well inside our alignment kit bag. The goal here was to make an easy to use tool and make it easy to travel. What we found was a success. The ruler worked great for measuring hub height and the string pole height and easily fit inside the “go” bag.

Here you can see with have the Smart Strings pole height exactly at 11 and 3/4 inches, the same height as the center of our hub. This was thanks to our new handy and portable ruler.

This was a Toolshed Engineer win. A simple project, less than $20, that made us better and more efficient at the track. And now I’ll never have to say again, “Where is that ruler?” That’s worth way more than twenty bucks to me.

Here you can see our bag of alignment tricks. All of these things fit inside our Smart Strings kit bag so we don’t forget anything: Smart Strings tools, a steering wheel lock, a steering wheel bubble leveler, magnetic alignment guides, caps for our hubs to measure distance to the strings, an easy to read small ruler with millimeters for taking measurements from the strings to the wheels, and extra easy to see green string for alignment, and last but not least our large ruler that now fits inside the bag.

Rob Krider is a four-time NASA Honda Challenge 4 National Champion and the author of the novel, “Cadet Blues.”

Images courtesy of Rob Krider and Rob Krider

Join the Discussion