Since poor wheel or tire alignment can reduce fuel efficiency, make the tires work against each other, accelerate tire wear, obstruct braking ability, and place strain on suspension components, experts recommend addressing the issue as soon as possible. Dealing with the issue early on will not only save you from lots of stress and expensive repairs, but it will also save you, your and your passengers from danger.
As per the study, delaying to resolve your tire alignment problem can lead to repairs that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Not everyone has a budget set aside for repairs, that’s why we listed down the steps to doing your own tire alignment. Read on to know more.
Do It Yourself wheel alignment tools? – Doing Your Own Tire Alignment
Before you begin the realignment process, you should gather all the necessary tools first. Here they are:
- A spool of string
- Camber gauge
- 13mm wrench
- 24mm wrench or adjustable wrench
- Control arm shims
- Four jack stands (in case you intend on doing all four tires at the same time)
How can I align my car myself?
After gathering the tools, you now have to determine the angle of adjustment needed to realign your wheels or tires. One of the most common ways to do that is what we call the “STRING METHOD.” More often than not, the toe track of the vehicle’s front and rear will have different settings.
Before you start doing some adjustments, ensure to check your vehicle’s exact measurements. Most of the time, the front wheels are a bit further out than the rear wheels. When you are measuring, what you are trying to see is whether the distances are the same on both sides. When you are measuring, you are looking to see whether the distances are the same on both sides.
- If you plan on doing all four tires at the same time, place the 4 tire jack stands right below the jacking points.
- Use the tape measure to ensure that the tire jacks are 4-6 inches from your vehicle and are lined up perfectly with each other.
- Take your string and tie a length of it a few feet longer than the wheelbase of your vehicle to two jacks. Place the string center to the hubcaps. Ensure that your vehicle is completely boxed in by a line of string and that the string is pulsed tight.
- With your tape measure, determine the distance between the string and each of the tires. It is ideal to use millimeters for this since this is the measurement that your vehicle automaker will use.
The adjustments that you will be doing should be determined based on the differences between the front and the rear tracks. If you find that the front track is further out than the rear (the front tracks are closer to the string), decrease the track to make it even. If you find the front track is closer in than the rear (farther away from the string), increase the track.
HOW TO ADJUST YOUR WHEEL’S TOE ALIGNMENT
Step 1: Find the radius arms under and behind the rear wheels.
Step 2: Remember the location of the clamps. You will have to return the clamps to this position afterward.
Step 3: You should loosen the clamps that are holding the arm in place.
Step 4: Twisting the arm will adjust the toe in or out. With a bit of testing, you should be able to determine which direction is necessary for your vehicle. Carefully twist the arm in whichever direction, either in or out, that is needed to achieve the distance from the string that you need.
Step 5: Do the same for the other rear tire if necessary.
Step 6: Find the tie rods to adjust the front. They are a bit easier to see and reach.
Step 7: Take a mental note of the clamps’ location on the tie rod.
Step 8: Loosen the clamps. You can adjust the tie rod the same way as the radius arm, but turning the center point to move the tires.
Step 9: Since the front wheels are measured together, you only need to adjust one side. Make sure to measure after each turn to ensure precision.
Factors affecting wheel alignment
Theoretically, all four wheels should be at a 90° angle to the ground and parallel to each other. After a sharp impact with a curb or when the vehicle starts pulling to one side, almost all drivers suspect that the wheels might be out of alignment. Vibration, odd handling characteristics, and irregular tire wear are other signs.
The three factors that influence alignment are toe angle, camber, and caster. The first two can effortlessly be checked at home.
- Toe Angle – Doing Your Own Tire Alignment
It is the most often required alignment adjustment. The toe angle also causes the fastest tire wear. It is the straight-ahead position of the tires. Imagine walking with the toes on your feet inward, this would be considered toe-in. If your feet are perfectly straight, that is considered zero toe. If your feet are pointed outward, that would be toe-out. The toe angle can be set on the front and rear of most vehicles and it usually sets fairly close to zero.
- Camber Angle
It is an angle that is set which you can see when looking at some vehicles. Camber is the tilt of the tire’s top according to how it sits on the road. When you are looking at a tire and its top appears to lean towards the engine, that would be considered negative camber. If the tire’s top leans outward or away from the vehicle, then that is considered positive camber.
Camber angle is usually set close to straight up and down which would give you zero camber. This angle can be set on the front and the rear of almost all vehicles. When this is not in the specification, it will cause the tire’s outer edge (positive camber) or the tire’s inner edge (negative camber) to wear faster than the rest of the tread.
- Caster Angle
It is the angle at which the front suspension is positioned with regard to the vertical position. The caster angle is only set on the vehicle’s front suspension. This angle must be measured with the right alignment equipment since this cannot be seen by the eye. On most vehicles, this angle is set in a positive manner which aids in vehicle stability and steering at higher speeds. Caster angle does not usually affect tire wear.
Do I need a 2 or 4 wheel alignment? – Know About Doing Your Own Tire Alignment
Every automaker designates standard angles for the alignment, specified in degrees. If you are a sports or high-performance car driver, your mechanic may be able to improve handling and tire performance by aligning your suspension. However, this alignment may still cause uneven tire wear.
Your vehicle’s suspension will determine the type of alignment you will receive. A four-wheel alignment can be received by all-wheel-drive vehicles or front-wheel drive vehicles with adjustable rear or independent suspensions. In this case, for all four wheels to be aligned and form a rectangle, parallel to one another and perpendicular to the ground, both axles have to be properly aligned.
Unless you have an all-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle, you will most likely require a front-end alignment, in which only the front-axle components are adjusted or a thrust-angle alignment. Thrust angle refers to the angle that a vehicle’s rear wheels point relative to the vehicle’s center. In such an alignment, for the rear wheels and axle to be parallel with the front axle and perpendicular to the vehicle’s center, they are realigned.
How do I know when my car needs an alignment?
It can be really difficult to keep up with all the required maintenance and repairs due to all the advances in vehicle technology and performance. Proper wheel alignment is one of the most important factors to be mindful of in keeping your vehicle driving safely and smoothly. Sadly, it is one of the most ignored.
A lot of drivers deal with the signs and symptoms of bad wheel alignment. And most of the time, they are unaware that it is an easy fix. Here’s a list of the most common signs your vehicle requires an alignment. Arranged in no particular order:
- Your vehicle pulls to one side – Doing Your Own Tire Alignment
The vehicle pull is most easily detected while driving straight down a level road. The most common misconception relating to vehicle pull is that the vehicle should drive perfectly straight even with your hands off the steering wheel. This would be accurate in a perfect world, however, in the real world, this is not the case, because all roads have some degree of crowning which brings about a slight pull to one side.
It is very dangerous to completely remove your hands from the steering wheel. Instead, with very little effort on the steering wheel, the vehicle should drive straight ahead. Once you notice your vehicle pulls to one side, it is time to have your alignment examined and corrected, which typically corrects the vehicle pull and improves overall drivability.
- The handling feels unstable when driving
If the steering in your vehicle feels slightly unstable or loose, one of the possible reasons is poor wheel alignment. This can be detected as the vehicle may feel very loose and sloppy around corners, or wandering across the road when driving. If you notice any or all of these symptoms, you should have the alignment checked and corrected if needed.
- Your steering wheel is not centered – Doing Your Own Tire Alignment
Your steering wheel should be sitting close to perfectly straight when you are driving straight down a flat and level road. Depending on the crown of the road, there is usually a small amount of discrepancy allowed. But overall, the wheel should be sitting centered and straight, and your vehicle emblem in the steering wheel’s center should appear level to you.
It is time to have an alignment performed if the wheel is off-center by more than a few degrees in either direction. By doing so, it will return your steering wheel to the center and may also improve the overall drivability.
- You notice uneven or abnormal tire wear in certain spots
Tire wear patterns can provide lots of information about the condition of a vehicle. Tire wear pattern can be used by a qualified technician to make educated guesses regarding suspension condition, tire pressures, and alignment issues. Wear on only the inner or outer edges of tires can point out a problem with the camber adjustment.
Scalloping or feathering of the tires often reveals a problem with the toe adjustment. Tire wear is most often detected by a mechanic while performing an inspection during a service or a tire rotation. Proper alignment significantly increases the life of your tires, so you should have an alignment performed on your vehicle if you notice any abnormal tire wear patterns.
Your steering wheel does not return to center – Doing Your Own Tire Alignment
The steering wheel should automatically begin to return to the center on its own as you keep driving after completing a turn. Naturally, you have to keep your hands on the wheel to help it achieve this quicker and maintain control of the vehicle. However, if your steering wheel does not even attempt to move back to the center, then it is enough indication that your alignment is off. Have an alignment check carried out, and a full alignment performed if needed.
How much does it cost to fix car alignment?
When having an alignment done, for a two-wheel alignment, expect the alignment cost to be around $50 to $75. Expect to pay double for a four-wheel alignment. A lot of shops recommend getting a tire rotation at the same time, which means moving tires from front to back and side to side. Consequently, it promotes an even tire wear pattern.
Tire alignment can be easily overlooked. However, it can cause too much harm to you and your vehicle in the long run so you have to address it as soon as possible. With this guide, you should be able to effortlessly fix the problem on your own.