How to Adjust Your Car's Wheel Alignment

by Contributor

When you're driving along a straight and level road, your car should track straight as well. If it doesn't, your car is out of alignment. Proper alignment prolongs the life of your tires and makes for better handling and easier steering. Three things affect wheel alignment: caster, camber and toe. Caster is the angle the wheel pivots on. Camber describes how vertical the wheel is in relation to the ground. Toe is how "pigeon-toed" the wheels are. If your car's caster or camber is off, you must have this fixed by a professional. If the trouble is with the toe, however, it's possible to adjust it yourself.

Look up the proper toe setting for your car. You can find this information in the manufacturer's manual and certain repair guides. Look for these online or at the library.

Check the stability of the wheel components by jacking up the car and placing it on jack stands. Shake each wheel firmly to see if it is loose, and adjust the components appropriately if so.

Use the tip of a pocketknife to mark each tire's circumference. From underneath the tire, put the pocketknife against the tire, hold it in one place and spin the tire.

Take the car off the jack stands and lower it to the ground.

Let the car settle by pushing down on the fender several times.

Put the car in neutral.

Loosen up the steering wheel, but keep the tires pointed straight.

Push the car forward 10 feet or more without holding onto the steering wheel.

Take a measurement of the distance between the line marks on the front of each of the tires. Line up your measuring tape (or use a piece of string) at the same height on each side level with the spindle.

Take the same measurement of the distance between the lines on the backs of each tire.

Note the difference between the two measurements to get the toe setting. If the front measurement is smaller, then the value represents a "toe-in" measurement, and vice versa.

Adjust the toe to the recommended setting by loosening the lock nuts on the ends of the tie rod and turning the rod to either lengthen or shorten it.

Tighten the lock nuts.

Repeat steps 9 to 11 to check if your car's toe setting is correct.

Tips

  • check You'll need the help of a friend for measuring and probably for pushing the car.
  • check Make sure you adjust the tie rod equally on each side so that the steering wheel stays centered.

Warning

  • close On some cars, you cannot adjust certain aspects of the wheel for alignment. If the wheel is misaligned, it may be because of a structural problem that needs repair.

Items you will need

About the Author

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