Do it Yourself Wheel Alignment

by Tyler Lacoma

Wheel alignment refers to the position of a vehicle's wheels in relation to each other and to the body of the vehicle. These alignment measurements are important and affect how a vehicle drives and handles. While some types of alignment can be adjusted at home, other types are mores suited to the technical instruments and alterations of a professional garage.

Toe In and Materials Needed

Toe is the easiest type of alignment to check and fix at home. Toe refers to the relation of a pair of wheels to one another--how far apart both sides of the wheel are to one another. Most cars have front wheels that are pointed slightly toward one another, which gives a slight load on the wheel bearings and affects driving in a certain way. You can choose to stay with this slight inward turn or to make the tires parallel when adjusting. Camber--the setting of the wheels closer together at the bottom than at the top--can also be checked, but camber should generally be changed by a professional mechanic. To begin, you will need a level space, a friend to help, a note card, a reliable tape measure and a piece of chalk or similar tool to mark the tires. Check your manual and see what kind of toe system you have and how it is adjusted. Most cars have toe lines, bars or bolts that are adjustable with cam wrenches or similar tools, but you should look to see how to adjust toe in and out, since the exact process differs from car to car.

Wheel Alignment Process

Park the car on the level surface and choose the pair of wheels you want to adjust. Use the note card to mark a spot on the rim of each tire. It is important that these lines are the exact same height on both tires and are in the same place on the back of the tires. With a friend's help measure the difference from one line to the other using the tape measure, making sure that your measurements are precise. Roll your car forward until the lines are on the front of the tires, exactly the same height from the ground as before. Measure them again. If the two distances are equal then your tires are parallel and you have no toe problems. If you need to adjust them, make your adjustments and then measure again to make sure the angles are those you want. There are tools designed specifically to mark toe position and recommend angles but you will pay more for these.

About the Author

Tyler Lacoma has worked as a writer and editor for several years after graduating from George Fox University with a degree in business management and writing/literature. He works on business and technology topics for clients such as Obsessable, EBSCO, Drop.io, The TAC Group, Anaxos, Dynamic Page Solutions and others, specializing in ecology, marketing and modern trends.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera tires on water image by JoLin from Fotolia.com