If you're searching for “how to do an alignment without the machine?” here's how an alignment is done:
- Measure the tires pressure
- Check the suspension system
- Review the vehicles owner’s manual
- Measure the toe
- Check the chamber
- Correct the toe measurement
- Test drive your car
For vehicles to operate properly, the suspension system must be at the proper configuration to ensure the road's right tire contact. However, over time of use, this configuration might shift slightly from the original configuration, and that's where the vehicle alignment comes in handy.
The vehicle's alignments refer to the mechanical procedure that helps bring back the suspension system to its original configuration. This procedure involves correcting the position of both axles and wheels to make sure that the tires are connecting to the road properly. Vehicle alignment also ensures that all tires are aligned together.
Fixing the vehicle's alignment is not a very simple job, and it requires a certain level of mechanical skill sets. However, it's not impossible to learn how to fix your own vehicle's alignment. Thus, this article provides you with all you need to know about aligning without the machine.
Can I do an alignment myself?
Before we dive into the details about how to do an alignment without the machine, let's step back and answer the question: Can I align myself?
In general, it's possible to do your own alignment at home. However, you will need the necessary toolsets.
Keep in mind that fixing the alignment is not a simple job and requires a certain mechanical skill set. Thus, if you don't feel that you have this skill set, you better leave it to the professionals and consult a mechanic to do the alignment for you.
This way, you don't have to worry about introducing some major problems that could cost you thousands of dollars down the road. This is because most DIYs do not work the first time, which means that you better not have your expensive car as your experiment if this is your first time doing vehicle alignment. After all, the outcomes are not guaranteed.
How to do an alignment without the machine?
It's important to make sure that your vehicle's alignment is done properly to expand the lifetime of your suspension system and the entire vehicle. By following these steps, you should be able to perform your own vehicle alignment at home without needing a mechanic or an advanced machine:
- Take important measurements
Vehicle alignment starts with several important measurements that you need to take before starting the alignment. Unfortunately, some of these measurements might be the culprit causing alignment issues.
Measure the tire pressure
If the tire pressure is not at the proper level, it can significantly affect the alignment, and no matter how much you try to fix it, things are not going to be aligned because not all tires have the same inflation.
Review your vehicles owner’s manual
After measuring the tire pressure, the next step is to review the vehicle's owner’s manual. The manual should provide detailed guidance about some standard numbers to target when performing the vehicle alignment. For example, the manual will tell you what's the best caster camber and your vehicle. Don't worry; we will cover those in detail as we move along with the vehicle alignment.
Inspect the suspension system
Then, you need to make sure that the suspension system is in good condition as well. A low suspension system can also impact your vehicle's overall alignment, and no matter how much time and effort you put, things are not going to align properly.
To check the suspension system, lift your vehicle using a Jack stand and try moving the wheels up and down and notice for any movement. If the wheels did not move, then your suspension system is in good condition. However, if the wheels were loose, you need to take care of any worn components and replace it immediately before performing the alignment.
- Measure your vehicles toe
Once you confirm that the suspension system and the tires are in good condition, you can go ahead and start with the alignment process.
The first thing you need to know is the proper toe measurement. Toe Measurement inspects the distance between the wheels and reviews how close they are together. Check with your vehicle's owner’s manual to see the ideal toe distance for your vehicle. Make sure to address this problem first thing because it's usually the biggest issue causing improper alignment.
Here is how you can measure your vehicles toe:
- Start by drawing a white line around the tire's circumference and have a friend turn the tire one whole turn to draw the line.
- To make sure that the tires are straight, you need to perform a couple of steps. First, push on your vehicle down to allow the car to settle. Then, finally, push the car forward and allow the tires to rotate at least for 10 feet while ensuring that the steering is unlocked.
- Measure the distance between the two front tires using a string and having an assistant.
- Repeat the same process to measure the distance between the two back tires.
- Once you have two distances, you can subtract them to determine how bad the alignment is and how big the difference is between the front and back distances.
- If you found that the distance between the front wheels is smaller than the distance between the back wheels, your vehicle is in a toe-in situation. If it's the opposite, then your car is in the toe-out situation.
- Measure your vehicle's camber
Once you measure the toe, the next step is to measure the camper. The camper indicates the vertical angle of the wheels. In other words, your wheels should not be tilted to any side when you look at them head-on.
If the wheels are closer together from the top, then your car has a negative camber. On the other hand, if the wheels are closer together from the bottom, your car has a positive camber.
Here's what you need to do to measure at the camper:
- Create a measuring triangle using cardboard paper. You want to make sure that the triangle has a 90-degree angle.
- Put the triangle on the ground and make sure that the 90-degree angle is placed against the wheels
- Determine the distance between the wheel and the triangle using a ruler
- Repeat the same measurement on the other three wheels
- By now, you should be able to determine whether your car has a negative or a positive chamber
- Correct your vehicles toe
The final step in fixing your vehicle's alignment is to correct the toe. To do so, you need to follow these steps:
- Find the connection between the wheels and the steering system or what's known as the tie rod end. This rod usually comes in an L shape but, if you find it hard to locate the tie rod end, you'd better refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual, which provides you with some pictures and more detailed guidance.
- Using a range, loosen out the nuts at the end of the tie rod. Usually, these might not be a little stubborn if you haven't done an alignment for a long time. Thus, we recommend that you used a WD40 and lubricated it slightly so you can take it out easily.
- Now you can go ahead and correct the vehicle's toe by performing the right adjustments. The adjustment depends heavily on your vehicle's steering system type. For example, if you have a car with a linkage system, you will usually find some adjusting sleeves that you can use. On the other hand, if your steering system has a rack and pinion, you can use the rod itself to perform the adjustments.
- Make sure that the adjustment is made evenly among all wheels. In other words, you want to divide the measurement you're trying to fix by two among the two wheels.
- After performing the right adjustments, ensure that you check the toe measurement again to ensure that you achieved the right alignment. Keep in mind that the alignment might be an iterative process, which means that you might go back and forth to adjust the wheels until they achieve the ideal situation.
- Perform a quick test drive. Once you're done adjusting and aligning your vehicle, you need to go ahead and test drives the vehicle to see if there are any indications that the alignment was not done properly. Usually, you want to keep an eye for any vibration coming from the suspension system, and you also want to ensure that the vehicle does not lean to one side more than the other. Finally, with proper alignment, your car should drive straight without touching the steering wheel.
How much should I pay for an alignment?
If you're planning to perform a front wheel alignment, it should cost you somewhere between $65 and $100. However, there are some and then at shops who might provide you with a lifetime alignment for a package of $200.
Thus, we recommend that you check your long-term goals and keep an eye for any sales or discounts in your area because there are many of those when it comes to your vehicle's alignment.
Who has the cheapest alignment?
If you're not comfortable performing your own vehicle's alignments, it's smart and wise to shop for an alignment at some of the larger facilities. But, again, price is one of the biggest drivers for selecting the best facility.
In general, Walmart provides one of the lowest car alignment prices. For example, if you're planning to perform a front wheel alignment at Walmart, it might cost you around $50. On the other hand, the four-wheel alignment might cost you about $80.00.
Some other people prefer to get the vehicle alignment done at sears auto centers, which costs about $75 for the center wheel alignment, while they provide you with a one-year alignment plan for about $95.
Should I get an alignment with new tires?
Not necessarily. Alignment is not a must when it comes to changing your vehicle's tires. However, many automotive experts recommend that you check the alignment to ensure that it's in good condition because a bad alignment can prematurely damage the new tires, which is the last thing you want to deal with.
How do I know if I need an alignment or balance?
Many symptoms are indicating that your vehicle is due for an alliance. We've discussed this in detail in another article. But, in general, you will notice that we are among old tires at weird uneven, and you might notice some vibration in the steering wheel as you're driving your vehicle.
Also, your vehicle will not drive straight if you do not hold the steering wheel, and it might lean to one side more than the other.
Having the right vehicle alignment is crucial to maintain the lifetime of your car. What's important is to review the vehicle's alignment and fix it whenever needed to prevent damaging some of the major components like the suspension system.
This article provided you with a step-by-step procedure for aligning yourself at home without needing a machine or a professional mechanic.
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