hi, i'm after opinions on tracking/alignment as well as specific experiences. As well as any thoughts on what i have had from company's providing laser alignment.

I'll start by saying last month i took my car to Elite in rainham,essex. As my rear passenger tyre was wearing extremely badly on the inside edge. My local friendly mechanic checked it over and said my rear axle was bent a little causing this but that i should get the alignment looked at as it maybe possible they could correct it or at least offer advice. I then took it to elite (had used them before and they seemed good). Told them i believed my tyres on the rear were worn so they had a look and advised me that the front was out a little but the rear near side was a problem. he showed me a print out of how it sat and the angles. To overcome this, the manager said "I've spoken to our fitter and he recommends the rear offside wheel, should be shimmed" I asked him why put shims on this wheel when the wear is mainly on the other one. "Doing this will give a more even wear" was his reply.

i thought to myself it was a strange suggestion but i thought let them do it as they surely know what they are talking about, afterall i'm not a car mechanic. I watched the young lads that got to work on my car. They had some puzzled expressions on their faces and even started shimming the rear near side then was told by a more senior fitter to do the other one. About half hour later the manager approached me and told me that the bolts on the stub axle (OR SPINDLEY BIT AS HE CALLED IT) had been sheered off and this was due to the age of the car. I was really taken aback by this as it sounded ominous. he then went onto explain sometimes this happens and theres nothing they can do to prevent it. The car would be safe to drive but i'd need a new stub axle, which he priced up at about £130 inc labour. I said id have to get back to him on that. The fitter went on to align the front wheels and strangely enough the rear wheels that had been out, were now straight. I was very confused!!! i thought to myself if the print out now shows the rear wheels are straight after aligning the front then why bother shimming it?

i left that place disgusted and about £30 down. I told my local mechanic what had happend and he asked me what tools they used to remove the bolts on the stub axle. air drill! apparently this is not a good thing to use.

today i had a mobile tyre fitter chap come out to me, and he fitted new tyres, balanced them. Also checked tracking using laser guages and found my front was about 7mm out. ALARM BELLS!!! how can it be out so much when elite had done the alignment just a month before. i hadnt hit any curbs or gone over any big bumps. Mobile tyre chap then told me that he can adjust it by the track rod arm, and went on to show me how he did it. However he was very concerned to find that the nut on the driver side track rod arm bit, was very badly "mullered" as he put it. And i felt it and then compared it to the other side and it was very rough. he managed to undo the bolt using a stilson and then aligned the front and even had some strange device stuck under my steering wheel. His closing statement was the rear now pointed in the same direction as the front. The steering wheel is now centred properly whereas before it was off centre slightly.

I'm not sure tho if i still need a new rear axle fitted? i went and bought one from a breakers yard for £60 with 3 month guarantee froma ford breaker, and its in my garage as thought id need it to get fitted.

your thoughts on my experiences? is this normal what i've been told?
what was the strange device put on my steering wheel.
who can i trust?

the car in question is an escort mk7. it is 8 years old now.