The axle shaft shouldn't matter. The inner cv joint is called a "plunge joint" because the shaft can move in and out of it to change length as it turns and the suspension goes up and down.
From the tire wear, it sounds like you have a toe problem affecting both and a camber problem on the right side. Remember, tires want to roll in the direction they're leaning so besides being in specs for good tread wear, they have to be nearly equal side-to-side so their pulls counteract each other and the car goes straight. If the right tire is leaning out too much on top, that will make the car pull right when you let go of the steering wheel, and it will add to the toe wear.
The camber will typically change with the new lower control arm because no two are ever exactly alike. You can't really blame that on the aftermarket manufacturer. That can happen with original parts too. It's why we have to align cars when those parts are replaced.
I would like it if you could list the numbers from the alignment printout when the car is done. Most computers record and print the "before" readings from when the mechanic goes through the setup procedure, and it records and prints the "after" readings when he tells it he's done making adjustments. The manufacturer's specs will be listed too. I can interpret those numbers to explain the tire wear and pull.
There's one more primary angle that will be listed called "caster". It has very little or no effect on tire wear but it does have a big affect on pulling on rear-wheel-drive vehicles. I don't know why but it rarely causes a pull on front-wheel-drive cars even when it's off by a lot. Of main concern is it is the same on both sides. Think of a teeter totter. You want both people to be of the same weight but most importantly, they have to be the same distance from the pivot. Their distance from the pivot doesn't matter; it just has to be the same.
There's at least five ways to describe how caster does its thing. I went through one description with my students on Monday, then a different one on Tuesday. By Thursday, everyone understood the angle and by then all the descriptions made sense. Basically WHAT it does is causes the wheels to want to come back to straight ahead when you let go of the steering wheel after going around a corner. You can think of it as the rake of a fork on a bicycle or motorcycle. The fork goes forward as it goes down. It doesn't go straight down. On a bicycle that's what allows you to ride no-handed. It's your weight that pushes the wheel straight ahead. On a car, since the pivots, (the ball joints or upper strut mount) are off to the side of the wheel, caster makes the wheel want to flop in or turn in toward the center of the car. Like that teeter totter, when the caster on both wheels is the same, they both want to turn in equally hard. It's when you connect the steering linkage between them that they counteract each other and stay straight.
More than likely caster is not adjustable on your car and that's okay since it's not going to cause a problem, but it is nice to see what you have. I had a Chrysler LeBaron convertible that was crashed into a parked truck at 50 mph, then rebuilt and I aligned it. Found 3.00 degrees difference in caster side-to-side but the car drove perfectly straight. 3.00 degrees difference on a heavy rear-wheel-drive car would just about tug the steering wheel out of your hand.
Here's a tidbit you might find interesting when you look for a shop and mechanic to do the alignment. All alignment computers I'm familiar with can be set by the mechanic to display caster and camber to either one or two places after the decimal point. I always set mine to display two places, such as 3.25 degrees. Many mechanics set theirs to display 3.2 because it makes for faster alignments when they don't have to be so picky. What I found on the many Chryslers I aligned when I worked for a very nice dealership was they almost all called for 0.30 degrees camber meaning the tires were tipped out on top an amount too small to see, but it made for perfect tire wear. What I found though was they needed exactly 0.06 degrees more on the left wheel than on the right one to make up for "road crown". That's the tilt to the right of the roadway so rain runs off. The 0.06 degrees higher on the left provided a barely negligible pull to the left to offset the effects of that road crown. A full 1.00 degree was too much in many cases so I had to be very precise. If the computer was set to read to tenths of a degree, there could be 0.34 on the right, rounded off and displayed as 0.3 degrees, and there could be 0.36 on the left, rounded off and displayed as 0.4 degrees. The actual 0.02 degrees isn't enough difference to offset road crown but the 0.1 degree difference displayed would be too much difference. The bottom line is it may not be that critical for your car, and the proof is in the end result in how the car drives and wears tires. That's due in great part to the mechanic's experience and his familiarity with his computer. The only reason for even bringing it up is that given the opportunity to see the computer or the mechanic in action, you can tell if he values speed or accuracy more. With old heavy cars of the '70s and early '80s, some old alignment equipment measured caster and camber to 1/16 degree accuracy and that was plenty sufficient for those cars. Today's cars can be measured to the hundredth of a degree. Sneezing next to the car changes some readings!
Also, don't panic if you see some numbers that are out of specs after he's done with the alignment. All specs include a tolerance. A typical camber spec for my Chryslers would have been 0.30 plus or minus 0.25 degrees. There's a couple of issues here. First of all, at the allowable limits of 0.05 and 0.55 degrees, there is going to be noticeable uneven tire wear by the time the tires are worn out so no mechanic would leave them close to those limits. The reason for publishing such a high tolerance is as long as the numbers fall within that range, the manufacturer will pay to have it checked if it's under warranty but they will not pay to have it adjusted. You're expected to leave it alone. It is rare to have a car new enough to still be in warranty and to have the alignment off that little. Normally there would be a worn part, then the manufacturer WOULD pay for everything including necessary adjustments.
For those of us who understand that tighter tolerances are needed for good tire wear, there is a button on the computer to "reduce tolerances". On a typical car that will change the plus or minus 0.25 degrees to plus or minus perhaps 0.10 degrees or even 0.08 degrees. There's only two times that is noteworthy. One is on the computer screen during the alignment. For quick reference from a distance, numbers in the acceptable range are highlighted in green and numbers out of specs are highlighted in red. That's just to let the mechanic see at a glance when the adjustment is getting close. The second time it shows up is on the printout that you get. The mechanic may have hit the "reduce tolerance" button for more accuracy but that could make one or two readings fall outside those new tighter limits. The problem is that on some computers you only get one shot at pressing that button. You can reduce the tolerance but there is no button to go back to "expand tolerance". To do that he has to go through the entire setup procedure again which takes a long time so they just leave it as it is. THAT'S why you might find some measurements that appear to be not set to specs, so don't panic or complain over that until I see the actual numbers.
For reference, 0.00 degrees camber means the wheel is perfectly straight up and down. That is usually not desirable for best wear. If you could imagine a wheel laying flat on its side, that would be 90 degrees. Cars that call for a real lot of camber might call for 0.75 or even 1.00 degree. That is barely enough to see but it is what the manufacturer found to result in the best tire wear. Ford has always been the notable exception. Their Escorts and Tempos from the '80s called for over 2 1/2 degrees on the front and very high negative on the rear. Those tires looked like they didn't know which way to go. Ford tricked a lot of people into buying those "killer cars" because they rode much smoother than other small cars because they were riding on just the edges of the tires. What they didn't want you to know until after you bought it was they shredded front tires in as little as 15,000 miles. The aftermarket industry came up with a fix to stand the rear wheels up straighter but due to the design of the front struts, there was no way to fix the horrendous front camber and tire wear. Many tire stores refused to include a warranty on replacement tires for those cars because they knew they couldn't solve the problem.
As a side note, the proper camber setting tilts the spindle and places the vehicle's weight right in the center of the wheel bearing. On rear-wheel-drive cars and trucks it puts the weight right over the larger inner bearing. The smaller outer one is just to hold the wheel straight. This is one of the many things people mess up when they lower cars or put lift kits in trucks.
Other angles I can explain include steering axis inclination and thrust angle. Those are considered secondary angles and do not affect tire wear or handling directly. They are merely indicators that something else is wrong that needs to be looked into. Camber and toe will be measured on the rear wheels too. If there's no objectionable wear on those tires, expect that no adjustments will be made on the rear. Thrust angle is the direction the two rear tires, taken as a whole, are steering. As long as it's not too high, all that is necessary is the two front wheels must be adjusted so they're perfectly parallel to the rear ones to make the steering wheel straight. The computer takes that into account when it shows the mechanic where to set the toe for the front ones.
I'm sorry for getting so long-winded again, but if you get the opportunity to watch the alignment being done, you'll have an idea of what's taking place. As for keyboard problems, I have o go back now and pu in all the "t"s that my compuer forgo!
Thursday, May 31st, 2012 AT 5:09 AM