While you could take your vehicle to a mechanic to have the alignment done, it’s also possible to do it yourself at home with the right tools and some know-how.
How To Do A Wheel Alignment At HomeTo adjust the toe alignment, here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
- Park on a level surface.
- Measure the distance between the center of the front tires at the front and back of the tires.
- Loosen the tie rod end and make small adjustments until the front and back tire distances are equal.
- Repeat this process on the other side.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps to do a wheel alignment at home. We’ll cover everything from the necessary tools and equipment to safety precautions to take before starting to step-by-step guides for checking and adjusting the toe, camber, and caster angles on your vehicle.
It should be noted that the alignment process for each vehicle varies a bit. Some cars and trucks will not have the ability to adjust all alignment angles or may require shims or other unique requirements.
You will also want to locate a copy of your vehicle’s alignment instructions and specs, so you know how much adjustment to make and if there are any special needs.
Let’s take a closer look.
Brief Overview Of Camber, Caster, & Toe
When it comes to wheel alignment, there are three main factors to consider: camber, caster, and toe.
Ultimately, these 3 alignment angles are pretty simple once you understand them. And understanding them will help make the job of aligning your wheels easier to understand. We’re not going to get in the weeds, though.
Here’s a brief overview of what each of these terms means:
Camber refers to the angle of the wheels in relation to the ground when viewed from the front or rear of the vehicle. If the wheels are tilted outward at the top, this is called positive camber. If they’re tilted inward at the top, this is called negative camber. Proper camber ensures that the tire makes complete contact with the road surface and can help prevent uneven tire wear.
Proper caster helps ensure the wheels are stable and won’t wobble or shake while driving. Caster refers to the angle of the steering axis when viewed from the side of the vehicle. Positive caster means that the steering axis is tilted back towards the rear of the vehicle, while negative caster means that it’s tilted towards the front of the car or truck.
Toe refers to the angle of the wheels in relation to each other when viewed from above. If the wheels point inward towards each other, this is called toe-in. This is called toe-out if they’re pointing outward away from each other. Proper toe helps ensure the vehicle tracks straight and true and can prevent premature tire wear.
Necessary Tools And Equipment
The first thing you’ll need to do is gather the necessary tools and equipment.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Cardboard: You’ll want 4 pieces of cardboard large enough for your front tires to rest on. You’ll need 2 pieces for each front wheel. These will allow your front wheels to pivot easily.
- Tape Measure: A tape measure is essential for measuring the distances between various points on your vehicle.
- Camber/Caster Gauge: A camber/caster gauge is a tool that measures the angle of your vehicle’s wheels and steering axis in relation to vertical.
- Wrenches: You’ll need a set of wrenches to adjust various parts of your vehicle, including the tie rod ends and upper control arms. The types you’ll need depend upon the sizes of the nuts and bolts unique to your car or truck.
- Jack and Jack Stands: In case you need to remove a wheel to more easily make alignment adjustments.
- Level Surface: Working on a level surface is important to ensure accurate measurements and proper adjustments.
- Friend Or Family Member: While not exactly a tool or piece of equipment, having a friend or family member to help you out can be incredibly useful when doing a wheel alignment at home.
This Magnetic Camber/Caster Gauge Sticks To Your Brake Rotor
Safety is always the number one priority when it comes to working on your vehicle, and doing a wheel alignment at home is no exception.
Here are some important safety precautions to keep in mind before you get started:
- Wear Proper Clothing: Wear comfortable clothing that won’t get in the way while you work, and avoid loose-fitting clothing that could get caught on moving parts.
- Use Jack Stands: If you need to remove a wheel to access suspension components to make adjustments, you may need to jack up your car or truck. Never rely solely on a jack to support your vehicle. Always use jack stands in addition to the jack to keep your vehicle safely elevated.
- Follow Instructions Carefully: Read and follow your specific vehicle and wheel alignment process instructions.
- Don’t Rush: Take your time and work carefully to avoid making mistakes that could be dangerous or costly.
How To Check Camber And Caster
If you want to adjust your vehicle’s camber and caster angles, it’s important to note that this can be a bit more complicated than adjusting the toe alignment. That being said, it’s still possible to do it yourself with the right tools and some know-how.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to adjusting the camber and caster angles on your vehicle:
- Park your car or truck on a level surface and make sure the tires are properly inflated.
- Use a camber/caster gauge to measure your vehicle’s current camber and caster angles. You can find these gauges at most auto parts stores.
- Loosen the upper strut mount bolts with a wrench to adjust the camber angle. Use shims to adjust the camber angle as needed. Be sure to adjust both sides of the vehicle equally to ensure that the alignment is symmetrical.
- Loosen the lower control arm bolts with a wrench to adjust the caster angle. Move the control arm forward or backward to adjust the caster angle. Again, be sure to adjust both sides of the vehicle equally.
- Once you’ve made your adjustments, tighten the bolts back up with a wrench. Check to make sure that the camber and caster angles are still within the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Take your vehicle for a test drive to ensure that the alignment feels good and that there is no pulling to one side or the other. If necessary, make further adjustments as needed.
Turn Plates Can Help Make Adjusting Toe Easier By Allowing The Wheels to Pivot Easily and Measure Angles
How to Check Toe Alignment
To check the toe alignment, here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
- Start by parking your vehicle on a level surface and ensuring the tires are properly inflated. Do not place your car or truck on jack stands when taking measurements. The suspension needs to be “loaded” for proper alignment.
- Next, measure the distance between the center of the front tires at the front and back of the tires. This will give you an idea of whether the toe is out of alignment.
- If the distance between the front of the tires is greater than the distance between the back of the tires, the toe is said to be “toe-out.” If the distance between the back of the tires is greater than the distance between the front of the tires, the toe is said to be “toe-in.”
- To adjust the toe alignment, loosen the tie rod end and make small adjustments until the front and back tire distances are equal. Be sure to tighten the tie rod end back up once you’ve made the adjustment.
- Repeat this process on the other side of the vehicle, and then take your vehicle for a test drive to ensure that the alignment feels good and that there is no pulling to one side or the other.
Toe Plates Can Make Measuring Between Different Tires More Accurate And Easier To Do
What To Look For When Checking Toe Alignment
There are a few things you’ll want to look out for to ensure that you get accurate results:
- Measuring Distances: When measuring the distances between the front and back of your tires, be sure to measure from the same points on each tire. This will help ensure that your measurements are consistent and accurate.
- Adjustment Increments: When adjusting the toe alignment, make small adjustments at a time. This will help you fine-tune the alignment and prevent over-correcting.
- Symmetry: When making adjustments to one side of the vehicle, be sure to make the same adjustments to the other side. This will help ensure the alignment is symmetrical and your vehicle drives straight and true.
- Test Drive: Once you’ve made your adjustments, take your vehicle for a test drive to ensure that the alignment feels good and that there is no pulling to one side or the other. If you notice any issues, make further adjustments as needed.
Tips For Doing A Wheel Alignment At Home
There are a few tips and tricks that can help make doing a wheel alignment at home go smoothly.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Be sure to have all the necessary tools and equipment before you start. This includes a jack and jack stands, a wrench set, a camber/caster gauge (if you’re adjusting camber and caster angles), and a tape measure (if you’re adjusting toe alignment).
- Take your time and be patient. Adjusting the alignment on your vehicle can be a bit tricky, so it’s important to take your time and make small adjustments to get it just right.
- Follow the manufacturer’s specifications. Each vehicle has specific alignment specifications set by the manufacturer, so be sure to follow these when making adjustments to your vehicle’s alignment.
Below are some links you may find helpful when learning about tires
We’ve covered the necessary tools and equipment, safety precautions to take, and step-by-step guides for checking and adjusting the toe, camber, and caster angles.
While it’s possible to do a wheel alignment at home, it’s important to remember that it’s a delicate process that requires precision and attention to detail. If you’re unsure about any of the steps or don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, it’s always best to take your vehicle to a professional mechanic for assistance.
With the right tools and a little patience, you can get your vehicle driving straight and true again.
Good luck and happy motoring.