Adjusting Wheel Alignment
Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated March 30, 2012)
Properly adjusting wheel alignment is a fairly important task that every vehicle owner should make sure is done periodically. When you notice that your alignment is off, you basically have two different options. The first is to pay someone else to do the work for you, while the second is to do the work yourself. If you feel comfortable enough doing your own car repairs, you can easily save yourself at least $100 on this job. However, if you are not sure of your skills, don't hesitate to take the job to a professional, it is vital that this be done correctly or you can end up making the situation worse.
- Jack stands
- Tape measure
- At least thirty feet of string or rope
- Open-ended wrenches
- Complete ratchet set
- Marker (bright color)
- Pocket knife
- Do some research. To start, you need to do a little bit of research into your model of car. What you are looking for is the proper toe setting (or angle of tires) that your vehicle should have. This can be found in the owners' manual, or in repair guides for that specific vehicle. If you don't have the information on hand, you can easily find it at your local library or with a quick search online.
- Check the wheel stability. Once you have the necessary information, it is time to check the stability of the wheels. Do this by raising the car up onto the jack stands, and very carefully shaking the wheel. If it moves at all then it will need to be tightened. Do so by simply adjusting the components (such as the tire rod, shocks, etc.). Be very careful when you do this because if you shake the vehicle too much you can have it slip off the jack stands.
- Mark the tire's circumference. Use either a pocket knife or a bright colored marker and begin to mark the circumference of the tire. You can use the knife to lightly score the tire, more like lightly discolor than anything else, or you can use the marker to do the same job. Hold the marker (or knife) in place at the bottom of the wheel, at the edge of the tire tread, and then spin the tire. Repeat this for each of the tires.
- Lower and move the car. Carefully lower the car down from the jack stands, and then ensure that it is in place by pushing down on the fender two or three times. Place the car into neutral, and loosen the steering wheel (make sure that the tires are still pointed straight though). Push the car either forward or backward at least 10 feet without touching the steering wheel, and then place the car back into gear and go and get your string or tape measure.
- Take some measurements and compare. Using either a tape measure or some string and then take some measurements. Line the measuring tool level up between the marks on the front of each tire. Write down the measurement, and then repeat it again to double check. Repeat the process for the back tires as well. These measurements are what are used to get the toe setting for the vehicle. If the measurements for the front are smaller, then that means you have a "toe in" situation, where as if it is larger you have the opposite.
- Adjust the toe setting as required. Reference the recommended settings, and compare them to your measurements. If they do not match up, make some adjustments by loosening the lock nuts on the ends of the tire rod. With the tie rod loosened, you can turn the rod to either increase or decrease the measurements so that they are within recommended parameters.
- Tighten and repeat as necessary. Tighten up the lock nuts, and then repeat the steps five and six as often as necessary until you have reached the proper toe setting.