Conducting a DIY car wheel alignment can be a very useful skill for any car enthusiast. Although the paragraphs below provide basic guidelines for a DIY wheel alignment using string or a tape measure, it is important to note that a job like this is best done with the aid of a car manual, such as those provided by Haynes. These manuals offer comprehensive instructions and technical data to help you perform car repairs like a pro.
Without further delay, let’s look at the basics of DIY wheel alignment and explore two methods for checking and adjusting the alignment at home.
Signs Your Car or Truck Needs a Wheel Alignment
Before looking into the process of wheel alignment, it's important to identify signs that indicate your car or truck might be out of alignment. Look out for the following indications:
- Worn Treads: If the outside tread of any tire is nearly bald, it suggests that the alignment is off.
- Crooked Steering Wheel: When your steering wheel is centered but appears crooked, it is an indication of misalignment.
- Vehicle Pulling: If your vehicle tends to pull to one side of the road when driving straight, it is likely due to alignment issues.
First Method: DIY Alignment with String
Please note: After completing the DIY wheel alignment, it is recommended to take your car to a professional shop for a comprehensive alignment.
- Check Tire Pressure (PSI): Begin by measuring and confirming the accuracy of the tire pressure (PSI) in each tire.
- Prepare Cardboard Placement: Behind the worn tire and the opposing tire on the other side, stack and position two pieces of cardboard. Back up the car until the tire is centered on the cardboard.
- Center the Steering Wheel: Turn the steering wheel back and forth to align it as closely as possible to the center position.
- Secure String Between Step Stools: Take a piece of string and securely fasten it between two step stools, ensuring they are within reach of the tires.
- Position String and Measure: Ensure that the string is at the center height of the tire on both sides, approximately one inch from the center cap. The string should be taut without touching any part of the car.
- Measure and Adjust String Distance: Measure the distance between the step stools at the front and rear. Make necessary adjustments until the measurements match.
- Check Alignment with Tape Measure: Using a tape measure, measure the distance between the back of the rim and the string, as well as the distance between the front of the rim and the string. The front of the tire should be approximately 1/16th of an inch closer to the rear.
- Adjust the Tie Rod: Turn the steering wheel all the way to the left to adjust the right front wheel. Mark the position of the front tie rod end. Loosen the nut and turn the tie rod a quarter turn using pliers. Finally, tighten the nut.
- Center the Steering Wheel and Recheck: Turn the steering wheel to the center position to straighten out the tire. Measure the position of the wheel and adjust the tie rod as necessary, possibly with a full turn.
Second Method: Checking Alignment with a Tape Measure
If you prefer an alternative method to check the front alignment, you can use a tape measure.
- Pick Reference Lines on Tires: Choose a line on the back of the tire near the center, and have an assistant pick a corresponding line on the other side.
- Measure Distance Between Tires: Using a tape measure, have your partner measure the distance between the two lines, both at the back and front of the tire.
- Compare Measurements: Record the measurements and ensure that the distance between the back and front of the tire is approximately 1/16th of an inch.
Before You Attempt a DIY Automotive Repair, Turn to Haynes for a Manual
Performing a DIY car wheel alignment can be a rewarding experience for car enthusiasts. But it is important to have access to a comprehensive car manual, like those provided by Haynes, for detailed instructions and technical guidance. Haynes Manuals carries a wide selection of practical lifestyle manuals covering various areas of interest, including cars and motorcycles. To explore our impressive collection of car manuals and receive professional assistance, contact Haynes now.