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How to Perform Wheel Alignment by Yourself

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How to Perform Wheel Alignment by Yourself

Created on: 2018-11-19

Learn how to perform a wheel alignment by yourself with this helpful video from 1A Auto!

  1. step 1 :Alignment Toe Measurement
    • Work on a flat, level surface
    • Set all tire pressures to specification
    • Position the tires on two sheets of cardboard for easier turning
    • Stretch a string between two jack stands, chairs, etc beyond the length of the vehicle
    • Position the string at the wheel center height
    • Measure the distance from string to wheel center at the front and rear wheel to square the string
    • Or, measure the distance between driver and passenger side strings at the front and rear if your vehicle does not have a square track width
    • Measure the distance from the string to the wheel rim at common points at the front and back of the wheel rim
    • The difference of the two measurements is the toe setting
  2. step 2 :Adjusting the Toe Setting
    • Turn the wheel completely left or right to access the tie rod, this will vary by vehicle
    • Mark the current orientation of the inner and outer tie rod
    • Loosen the jam nut
    • Turn the inner tie rod in 1/4 turn increments, as needed
    • The direction of turn will depend both on tie rod location in relation to the steering axis, and the direction of the needed adjustment
    • Tighten the jam nut
    • Straighten the wheels
    • Measure the alignment again
    • Continue adjustment as necessary

Tools needed for replacement

  • General Tools

    Measuring Tape

    Jack Stands

    Cardboard

  • Materials, Fluids, and Supplies

    Wire or String

  • Pliers, Cutters & misc Wrenches

    Locking Pliers

  • Wrenches - Metric

    Complete Metric Wrench Set

Hi. I'm Mike from 1A Auto. We've been selling auto parts for over 30 years.

What's up, guys? I'm Andy from 1A Auto. Today I'm going to show you a couple different tricks and techniques on how to adjust your alignment temporarily before you can get to a repair shop. In case you did any kind of front end repair, this'll get you by for a little while. As always, if you need parts for your vehicle, click the link in the description, and head over to 1AAuto.com.

All right, so we're checking out this vehicle, and we found the outside edge of this driver's tire is excessively worn. The alignment on this vehicle is off a little bit, so we're going to see if we can adjust it to improve it.

All right. Before we start, you're going to want to make sure you're on a flat, level surface. You're going to want to make sure all your tire pressures are accurate. I'm going to take two pieces of cardboard per side so that I can sit the front tires on and they'll be able to swivel back and forth a little bit easier. I'll set those right there, and we'll do the same for the other side.

All right. Just going to back the car up a little bit so it's centered on the cardboard, then I'm going to take the steering wheel, I'm just going to go back and forth with it. Try to get a center with the steering wheel. Get it as close as you can to center. That should be good right there. Shut the vehicle off.

All right, so we took a piece of string, we wrapped it between two step-stools. You could use a milk crate. You could use a jack stand. We want it fairly far apart. What I prefer is when I'm near the tire to be able to move the string in or out, so about arm's distance from where the tire is is helpful.

I want the string about to the center height of the tire. On this vehicle, it's a little bit more than a foot, so we're going to do that. We're going to do that for both sides. To set this up, you're going to get this pretty close to the tire. I want to try to get it, with a tape measure, about an inch from the center cap or something common on the wheel. Move it a little bit closer. All right, so that's about an inch right there. I'm going to do the same for the back one.

Make sure that string is tight, and you want to make sure it's not touching anything. You can get it as close to the car, but just make sure it doesn't touch. That looks pretty good right there.

And then, we're going to do the same on the other side, but for this side, we want to get about an inch from the center there, and the same on this one, about an inch. This is about 1 1/4, so we're going to move this one back a little bit. Try to get it closer. That looks pretty good.

And then, before we make any adjustments or anything, we're going to measure in between these two strings. Put the tape measure there, and we're at about 66 inches right here. Then we'll check the front one. It's about 67 in the front, so we're just going to move the back out a little bit to square it up a little more. Oops. That's about 67, so that's good right there.

Now we can come to the front of the vehicle. I'm going to measure the back side of the rim. That is about 1 1/8. So, that's 1 1/8 of an inch, and the front is a little bit more. That's about 1 3/16 of an inch in the front. And then we can do the same for the other side.

What we want is we want the front of the tire going in about 1/16 from the back, so at this point we would want to adjust the back side tie rod. We would want it to be loosened up so that it pushes the front of the tire out on this vehicle. Different vehicles are going to have different adjustments, but at least that would get us close. That's about 1 1/4, and that's 1 1/4. Yeah, 1 1/4, and the front one is toed in about 1 3/4, which this is almost 1/2 inch in, which is way too far, so this has to be adjusted.

To be able to adjust that right front wheel, I have to turn the steering wheel all the way to the left. So, I'll just turn the key on, turn the wheel all the way to the left, then I can access the tie rods.

All right, so we're going to adjust the right front tie rod in. If you come underneath here, I'm just going to take a marker just to mark where this is before we start in case we decide to go back to scratch. Now I'm going to loosen up this nut right here. I'm going to use a 21mm wrench. Obviously, this would be different for different vehicles.

Loosen this up. Now, because this was toed in about 1/2 inch, what I'm going to do is I want to tighten up this tie rod, so I'm going to take some pliers, and I'm going to turn this like this. I like to start with about quarter turns, so that's about a quarter turn. Although, this was pretty far off, so I'll go a little bit more. Then we're just going to snug this up. You could leave this loose and check it, but it's not going to be as close. A little bit easier if you just snug it up. You can tighten it down later. All right.

Now I'm going to turn the wheel back to straight, and then just shake the wheel back and forth. Just make sure it's even in the middle. You can even start it up. Just make sure it's pretty accurate, and that's good.

So, rechecking this, it's about an inch on the back side of the wheel, and about 1 3/8 on the front side of the wheel, so we did move it a little bit. We'd like to have moved it a little bit more, so I think I'm going to loosen it up and then turn it a full turn and see where we're at after that. All right, that's about a full turn.

All right. So after tightening that, your tie rod, a whole turn, we're at about an inch, a little bit, about 1 1/8 on the back side of the wheel, and about 1 1/4 on the front side of the wheel, which actually isn't too bad. You could get it a little bit closer.

That's one way to adjust your alignment and get it close so you can go down the road, not burn your tires out quite so bad, but you still want to go to a shop and have it aligned.

I'm going to show you another method of how to check the front alignment just to get it close. Use a tape measure. You're going to have a partner on the other side underneath the vehicle. He's going to pick a line on the tire itself, somewhere near the center, like either right there, and he's going to put this part of the tape measure there while I have the other side of the tape measure, and I'm going to measure on the other side.

I'm going to turn the wheels straight first. All right, so my friend is over there on the other side, and he picked one of the lines. He's close to the center, and I'm going to look at this line right here. So we're at about 59 1/8. That's on the back side of the tire. You want to make sure the tape measure's not bowing or anything in the middle. It's a straight sight.

Now we're going to check on the front side of the tire, so let go. Sorry, Mike. Now that I'm on the front side of the tire, and my buddy is in that same groove from the front side, and the same groove on this side is about 1 1/16, which is actually pretty good. So, the difference between the back and the front is about 1/16. It could be a little bit tighter, but that's going to at least get us by.

Before we performed this alignment, the steering wheel had to be like this going down the road to go straight, so we're going to drive it around and see how it goes now. All right, so now we're going down the road straight, and as you can see, the steering wheel is straight, so we significantly improved this vehicle's alignment. It'll get us by a little bit longer before we get to the repair shop.

We set this vehicle up the same as we did the Ford Focus. We put the string, and we had performed some front end repairs. The suspension has been replaced on this vehicle, so we were going to just check it out and see how accurate this vehicle is. Take my tape measure. Now, this vehicle's already set up.

I'm about 1 1/2 on the back side, and then about 1 1/2 on the front side of the wheel, which is good. The closer you are to the same from the front to back, it's going to be better. We should still have this aligned after. Here, we're 1 1/4 on the front, and 1 1/4 on the back, so these wheels are going down the road straight. We know at least we're not going to burn the tires out driving this down the road.

Thanks for watching. Visit us at 1AAuto.com for quality auto parts, fast and free shipping, and the best customer service in the industry.

Tools needed for replacement:

    General Tools

  • Measuring Tape
  • Jack Stands
  • Cardboard

  • Materials, Fluids, and Supplies

  • Wire or String

  • Pliers, Cutters & misc Wrenches

  • Locking Pliers

  • Wrenches - Metric

  • Complete Metric Wrench Set


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