Ignoring the need for an alignment can end up costing car owners hundreds of dollars. It can even result in a dangerous blowout while driving.
A front end alignment adjusts the angle of the front tires on a vehicle. This ensures even wear of the tires and proper handling performance.
Knowing how to do a wheel alignment can save auto owners time and money from taking it to a shop. Use this handy guide to get the job done.
Do You Need a Front End Alignment?
A car needs a front end alignment if the wear on the tires is uneven. Another obvious sign is if the car pulls to one side or a shaking steering wheel.
DIY Front End Alignment
The first step is to check the air pressure in all four tires. Tires that are not at the right pressure can be the cause of the lack of performance.
Once the tires are at the right pressure check to see if the steering issues are still present. If they are gone, problem solved! If not, continue with the next step.
Check the Specs
Look to the car’s repair manual for the vehicle’s camber, toe, and caster measurements. You will use these numbers later in the process.
Check the Front Suspension
The next step in a DIY car alignment is to check the suspension. If it is loose or worn out this will cause performance problems.
Jack the front end of the car up on a flat surface. Try to shake each front tire both vertically and horizontally.
If the tire doesn’t move, then all is well. If the tire moves, take the vehicle to a professional for repair.
Measure the Toe
Toe is the measurement of how much the front edge of the tires points inward. While the vehicle is on jacks draw a chalk line down the center of the tire all the way around.
Lower the car and roll it a bit to get the tires straight. Then use a wire or string to measure the distance between the chalk lines on the front and back of the tire.
If the front measurement is smaller the tires are toe in. If the front measurement is wider, the tires are toe out.
Measure the Camber
Camber is the vertical angle of the tires. Cut a right triangle out of cardboard and place the 90-degree corner on the ground at the base of the tire.
Measure the gap between the tire and the cardboard. If the camber is off from the repair manual, you should take it to a professional.
Adjust Your Toe
Loosen the nuts on the tie rods. Adjust the tie rods to the desired amount of change.
Remember to adjust each rod 1/2 of the total adjustment. Once adjusted, retighten the nuts on the tie rod.
Get Your Home Alignment done
By knowing how to do a front end alignment vehicle owners can maintain their own car. A clear sign of a needed alignment is uneven tire wear and pulled steering.
Start by checking the tire pressure and suspension. If these are not the problem, then an alignment is the next step.
To do an alignment, measure and adjust the toe. This means adjusting the tie rod connected to each tire.
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