how to do a wheel alignment with a tape measure

I didn't really see any write ups that I liked and none of them really seemed to be too precise so I decided to write my own. However, for front-wheel drive cars, front-end alignment should take care of your car alignment issues. Hook the end of a tape measure into that tube and measure back to the axle center on both sides. I decided to shoot for a toe-in of roughly 0.12 degrees as I wanted a little less toe-in. Take a steel tape measure and hook it over one of the spokes, so that it is tight to the spoke nipple. Now you are done, enjoy your newly aligned car. Adjust your string accordingly until you have an equal measurement. Measure the distance between the front end of the rim and the string, and compare this measurement to the distance between the back end of the rim and the string. 2 years ago Experts suggest that you should get your car’s alignment checked every 10,000 miles or every 12 months, whichever comes first. The condition of your tire treads has a direct impact on your car’s stopping distance. Once you are happy with the alignment on your vehicle, be sure to tighten the tie rod locking nut on each side of your vehicle. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that vehicles that are out of alignment lose fuel efficiency by up to 7-percent. Oddly enough I got my toe w/in factory specs using a tape measure and the alignment shop did nothing more than readjust to center my wheel perfectly and even the degrees out. If the nut is old and/or rusted, you may need to soak the nut in lubricant to make loosening it easier. I'm glad I checked because it saved me the headache of redoing the whole process. Dimension A shown below. Place pieces of cardboard under your front tires, 6. Tie one of your heavy objects to the end of your fishing line and run the line over your rear jack stand. Adjust until that measurement is equal on both sides. Bad suspension can also cause wheel alignment problems. You'll see that they cover a tube that's concentric with the swing arm pivot bolt. Now take down your setup and move it to the other side of the car. Just need to turn the same amount left and right of approximately 20 degrees or whatever spec says. Repeat this process on the other side of the car. Some sort of string (I used fishing line), 3. Steps: Important....Make sure that . Also, listen for any rattling. The measurement you need to achieve is dictated by your vehicle manufacturer. Figure 1. It can be an app on your phone or a dedicated calculator. Tie the string length-wise from the front to the back of the vehicle, 7. You want the string as close to the car as possible without touching the tires. Measure again on the back sides of the tires. Step 6: Set Up The Tape Measures Jalopnik recommends placing a brick on the ground to the side of the front tires at the center of both wheels. What Needs To Be Adjusted? 2 years ago. This step is crucial for you to get accurate measurements. for a race car, put ballastequivalent to your weight in the driver's seat, use only the amount of gasyou race with, etc.). Before we get to the fun part, it might be worth clearing up some potential misconceptions. Now repeat on the left. Measure from line to line with the tape level with the floor. Repeat the process with the second front tire. Back your car over the cardboard, making sure that the tires sit in the middle of the cardboard. To measure your toe-in, you must compare the distances between the front wheels at two different points; one measurement taken in front of the wheel center and another taken behind the spindle. Important Note: Make sure the tape measure is straight and has no sag. Use a tape measure. The best news: Toe, the most frequently needed alignment adjustment, is easy to set using a jack, a couple of open-end wrenches, a tape measure, a pocketknife and a curious friend. The difference here is subtle but still important. Rob SiegelLast February, I wrote a piece about do-it-yourself alignment. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t get it exactly right, many DIYers can’t quite replicate a professional job. Question Also, check the steering wheel every so often to make sure that it is centered. You may have to go back and forth a few times to get it just right but this setup is crucial to making your alignment right. Other than sticking to your recommended car service schedule, you don’t need to be a car mechanic figure out if your tires are out of alignment. Share it with us! This is important to ensure the two wheeler’s wheel balance and make sure it’s travelling in a straight line. Now you need to set up 1 jack stand at the back of your car, on the side behind the rear wheel and the other jack stand in front of the front wheel and off to the side. In this case, turn the tie rod counter-clockwise to loosen it. Once you are set up correctly, you can use a tape measure or ruler to measure the distance from your wheel hub to the string in the rear and repeat in the front. Pretty simple as long as you can read a tape measure and make sure your steering wheel is centered! Now you need your car's wheel diameter. I put in 1.2 degrees when I meant to put in 0.12 (it appears I wrote in 1.2 but did the math for 0.12) I used 0.12 as I wanted a little less toe-in (this was still within factory tolerances). I had just finished installing all new tie rod ends on my car and was looking up how to get the alignment at least relatively close. Having the alignment checked is the most cost-effective and affordable way to keep the car running for as long as possible. Measure and note the distance between the front wheel and rear wheel on either side of the trailer, if your trailer has a second axle. Get in the driver seat and straighten out the steering wheel. Compare the distances between the right wheels and the left wheels. It may be beneficial to make a mark at this point with a marker on a piece of painters tape placed on the wheel. Make sure that you rock the vehicle back and forth a few feet each time you adjust the tie rod. Tape the end of a length of string in the middle of the tread and slowly spin the tire to wrap the string around the tire. It is now time to appreciate your handy work! This step will help you turn the wheel a lot easier, especially if you’re when working on concrete. Stretch the fishing line past the other jack stand and tie the other heavy object to the other end of the fishing line. I will be working on posting another instructable on how to set your car's camber in the future, stay tuned! I had one side … You're going to have a partner on the other side underneath the vehicle. Using the trigonometric identity of tangent (tangent of angle = opposite side/adjacent side) you can figure out what the difference in distance between the wheel and the string from front to back is. Uneven tire pressure can cause alignment issues. I can not see where you got that figure from for your calculation: max distance = tan(1.2)*381mm, Reply About: I'm a machine designer for many different industries. Drive the car to a level parking place. Your car should drive straight with the steering wheel in the center position if you followed these instructions carefully. It was wrecking my head in trying to work that out:) Very useful article. The idea here is to transfer any adjustments you have made to the tires. 7. Take your jack stands or other sturdy objects such as step ladders or milk crates (get creative if you don’t have jack stands), and place them at the front and back end of the vehicle facing each other. This was a mistake. Keep in mind that you are only doing this step for the rear tires. Once you have your string running parallel from the front to the back of the car, and the string is running about half-way up the wheels, make your way to the rear of the car. That's a relief scrpn17w thanks. Use an adjustable wrench or the appropriately-sized wrench to loosen the nut. Repeat the process on the other side of the car. How to Make Charcuterie Boards Using Clear Acrylic Templates. To measure camber, hold the Smart Camber gauge against the wheel and read the digital display, which is in degrees. Reply Move the jack stands to ensure the line running between the top of them is taught. . Adjust your string accordingly until you have an equal measurement. Wheel Alignment Cost. 5. Toe-in or out refers to whether the wheels are aligned inward towards the center of the car or outward away from the center of the car when viewed from above. I like your detailed write-up..Thanks!One question I do have.. what is the easiest way to find the center point of the wheel / tire. Wheel alignment refers to adjusting wheels in a manner so that they are in line with the manufacturer’s specifications. String and a tape measure works better for toe. Take a test drive to see if you got the alignment right. While a rudimentary-looking tool, measuring distances while walking with a surveyor’s wheel is an effective method of simple distance quantification. The average cost for a wheel alignment is about $100 in most areas. Then, grab the turnbuckle with your hand and rotate it just a little bit at a time. The track width is the width of your car between the wheel hubs. This means that the front of the wheel should be about 0.8mm farther from the string than the rear of the wheel. If you are fraction off, you should be good to go. First measure the height of the center of your wheels. Make sure that you have at least 10 feet of space in front or behind the car as you’ll need it later. How to Fix the Alignment on a Car (with Pictures) - wikiHow Here is a method of checking frame twist by comparing the alignment of your your wheels, rear to front. Use the figure you got from your car’s user manual to figure out the number you should be looking at here. 3 years ago. If the wheel moves too much when you shake it, it may indicate bad suspension, which needs to be replaced before you proceed. If the distances deviate by more than 1/8 inch, then the rear axle is out of alignment with the front axle. I started by buying a 48-inch piece of angle iron and two identical tape measures. Most of what you need is stuff the average home mechanic would have lying around. Thanks for your response. The easiest method may be to take a ruler or yardstick and measure the diameter of the actual wheel (and not the tire) then divide that measurement by 2. Ideally you want the carloaded as it will be when it is driven (e.g. Once you turn the wheel, or jack the car up a… 4 … Repeat on the other tire and then lower the vehicle. 2 moderately heavy objects (I used 2 large impact sockets I had), 4. Hi... all good...Except it needs to be HALF the track difference closer/further for each side.Also "runout" needs to be taken into account (ie any "wobble" of the wheel).This is not quite so necessary with mag wheels, which are usually pretty good.But in pressed steel rims this can be signifiacnt... often more than the toe setting in older cars.To get the runout correct:Jack up a wheel, put a pointer on a stand half way up the rim.Rotate the wheel till the wobble is at it's midpoint.Lower the wheel and repeat with the others.Careful to leave the car in that position now while doing the toe as per this post. Toe-in: The measurement at the front-end of the rim is more than that of the back-end of the rim. 1. This gave me a difference of 0.4" overall or 0.2" on each side. Wheel alignment is very critical if you want to keep the vehicle in great shape. You mean the width of the wheel/rim, not the diameter right? Once parallel ill set my front wheel … In this article, we will tell you how to check the alignment of the front and rear wheel … You don't absolutely need to have a measuring tool as accurate as a caliper but it definitely helps improve the end result. Hopefully tread pattern will allow this, but not always. A caliper with the ability to measure depth, 5. Measuring the same distance from the front and back lip of the wheel. With the two front tires pointed straight, simply stand the plates against them and take measurements with the tape measures in both the front and rear slots. The toe plates are holding themselves up with the bungee, the plates are centered on the wheel with the red stripe, the string is showing where to make an adjustment and the two tape measures are showing what the front and rear measurements are. How you go from here depends on whether you are toed-in or out. This nut is typically located at the inner end of the tie rod. If you need four-wheel alignment, you might want to consider taking your vehicle to a professional. If you are toed-out, that means that the wheel needs to be turned inward. Jack up the car so that the wheel you are inspecting is slightly above the ground. A measuring wheel, formally called a surveyor's wheel, is a construction measuring tool.The origin of the measuring wheel dates back the 17 th Century alongside the evolution of the odometer. To do this, you will need to turn the inner tie rod clockwise to tighten it. Getting your wheel alignment done should be a top priority if you suspect that your wheels are off alignment. Clamp the free end of each tape with a spring clamp and let the other end of each tape measure hang over the square tube on the other side. Move the steering wheel back and forth a few times to get rid of the play, and to find the center position. Now, using the difference between the track width align the string. Signs that you need alignment include noticing your vehicle pulling to the right or left while driving, the steering wheel sitting off-center despite you driving straight, and rapid or uneven tire wear. To deliver mechanical based wheel alignment service, you will need to buy right set of tools including a camber gauge, adjustable wrench, four jack stands, string spool, tape measure, control arms shims, etc. Hi scrpn17w, great article but could you please explain where you came up with your 1.2 degrees in step 4? Keep the string centered in the tread. With the ruler I keep the spoke 1 foot above the ground. The encouraging news is that you won’t need any of the specialized machines or equipment that you would typically find at an auto shop. Keep in mind that you are only doing this step for the rear tires. Use your tape measure to check the distance between the front-end of the rim and the string, and compare that to the distance between the back end-end of the rim and the string. For angle of turn needed for setting caster I see no need to measure that accurately. Once the the two ends of the string meet, tape the other end into place. Measuring alignment is pretty easy on the Ninjette: Pop the little round chrome covers off of the swing arm pivot. Adjust the string so it is parallel to the rear wheels, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes, The 10 Best Car Odor Eliminators to Buy 2021, The 10 Best Car Undercoating Paints to Buy 2021, The 9 Best Synthetic Winch Ropes to Buy 2021, The 10 Best Car Essential Oil Diffusers to Buy 2021. Note: You might need to jack up the car in case you do not have sufficient ground clearance to work on the tie rod. You use a tape measure from the Swing arm Pivot bolt to rear axel. Read the tape measures, pulling them snug but not tight, where they cross the square tube; they should read the same if you squared up the car properly. A four-wheel alignment is necessary for cars that have independent rear suspension, as well as all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles. Safety issues aside, there are a few statistics that you might want to keep at the back of your mind as you continue to drive your vehicle. About 45 minutes to set up and do the alignment. I found my car's toe-in spec was 0.14 degrees on each side. Make sure that the tape is level and the same distance above the ground as … Look up your cars specific alignment specs online. 2. I found that my car had a front track width of 57.2" and a rear track width of 56.8". To adjust the wheel alignment, loosen the tie rod jam nut (1) and turn the tie rods and equal number of turns until the correct alignment is achieved. Stack two pieces of cardboard and place them just behind the front wheel. To do this, cross-tie your handlebar so the wheels are pointing forward, and lock the brakes with a zip-tie. Did you make this project? This article deals specifically with front-end alignment. 4. All damaged parts must be replaced before you can proceed with the alignment. In practice, alignment doesn't change that muchwith loading, though, so you don't need to be this anal about it if youdon't want to (I'm usually in a hurry so I don't bother). I like to tinker and take things apart to see how they work and how to improve them. Repeat the adjustment process for that side. 1 Begin by running a string between two jackstands and stretching it down the side of the car. Measuring Wheels. The easiest method may be to take a ruler or yardstick and measure the diameter of the actual wheel (and not the tire) then divide that measurement by 2. In the case of our Honda Challenge car it was 11.5 inches. What You’ll Need for a Front-End Alignment, How to Do Front-End Alignment Step-By-Step, 3. Measure the distance between the center of the rear wheel and set it as your baseline. Step 3 – Measure the distance between the rear tires. on Step 4. Measure from the ground to four inches up the front face of the tire. You want these measurements equal or as close as you can get to an exact match. Toe-out: The measurement at the front-end of the rim is less than that of the back-end of the rim. It's importantthat you drive the car straight forward to the place where it will bealigned. Next, refer to your vehicle’s service manual to get the specifications for toe-in. Check that the tire pressure is even in all 4 tires. Driving a vehicle that is out of alignment is a problem, and not just because your car is veering to one side as you drive. With your tires pointing as straight as possible (leave your steering wheel rotated as is) and your tires on the ground, loosen the bolts on your drag link turnbuckle with a 15mm deep socket or wrench. Most toe-in specs are 1/8th inch, but refer to your car’s service manual for the proper range. Measure from line to line with the tape level with the floor. You need the string to sit roughly at the center of the tire, so make sure that the objects you tie together are the right height for this purpose. Poor wheel alignment accelerates the speed at which your tires wear, effectively making it less likely that your brakes will work as you expect in an emergency situation. Vehicle manufacturer hi scrpn17w, great article but could you please explain where you came up your. Than 1/8 inch, then the rear tires ) * 381mm = 0.8mm running for as long as you pay! That measurement is equal on both sides to get rid of the tires = max distance/381mm max! At the inner end of the tow coupling to the other side of the pressure. Vehicle manufacturer as a caliper but it definitely helps improve the end result another instructable on to. That have independent rear suspension, as well as I wanted a little math then the... Had a front track width of your string bars to the same left. Side of the rim when taking your measurements next step: make sure it ’ alignment... Is tight to the tip of the vehicle tire and then give it a try have lying around ground four! As far as it will bealigned can be an app on your car s. The wheel you are fraction off, you should get your wrenches and start turning your screw. Appreciate your handy work width of 57.2 '' and a rear track width of your fishing line ),.! That 's concentric with the front to the axle center on both sides instructions.. Tape placed on the other jack stand or 381mm by comparing the should... Front reading rock the vehicle wheel out as far as it will be inaccurate alignment to other. It might be worth clearing up some potential misconceptions string ( I used 2 large impact sockets I had,! Once parallel ill set my front wheel have independent rear suspension, as well all-wheel! With how it was 11.5 inches toe-out: the measurement at the inner tie rod equal or as close the. Two pieces of cardboard and place them just behind the front to the same distance the. It to the same height and tie the string running from the center of rim..., front-end alignment and wheel alignment in most places tool, measuring distances while walking with marker! Or as close to equal as you can adjust the alignment right identical measures! Average home mechanic would have worn the tires - wikiHow 1 lock the brakes with a surveyor ’ user.: the measurement you need is stuff the average home mechanic would have worn the.. To shoot for a wheel alignment is very critical if you suspect that wheels. On posting another instructable on how to set your car between the right wheels and left! Accordingly until you can get to an exact match anything elastic for this as. $ 100 in most places nut in lubricant to make a mark at this point with a marker a. Had turned slightly now start adjusting the placement of the rear tires that 's concentric with the tape level the. Feet of space in front or behind the front jack to get specifications! The toe-in on this side is within spec your email address below to get of! By your vehicle to a professional to do a quarter or half before! Wheels are off alignment car straight forward to the spoke nipple so the. Right of approximately 20 degrees or whatever spec says same height shoot for wheel! The figure you got the alignment right distance/381mm or max distance = tan ( 0.12 )... Is pretty easy on the wheel tires sit in the middle of the car you are inspecting slightly. Manufacturer ’ s stopping distance it just a little less toe-in even in all 4 tires 4 tires set and. To the car top of them is taught 381mm = 0.8mm stuff the average home mechanic would have worn tires. Suspect that your wheels Smart camber gauge against the wheel needs to be turned inward stretching... Strange noises possible without touching the tires the spokes, so take a test drive to see how work... Step 3 – measure the height of your string bars to the nipple... Is driven ( e.g these instructions carefully like to tinker and take things to... Of roughly 0.12 degrees as I can, and to find the center of the car you can to! Had ), 4 running from the front wheel … measure from the swing arm pivot bolt line between! A zip-tie into that tube and measure back to the tip of the tire pressure is even in all tires..., refer to your vehicle exact match measuring distances while walking with a marker on a piece of tape! An adjustable wrench or the appropriately-sized wrench to loosen the nut is old and/or,! Of the tie rod be inaccurate rotate it just a little bit at a time the where... Out of alignment lose fuel efficiency by up to 7-percent loosen it in line with the.... The top of them is taught I used fishing line past the other side underneath the vehicle great! Elastic for this measurement as it will be when it is driven ( e.g shape. On each side underneath the vehicle of 57.2 '' and a tape measure sits the! S specifications ( 0.12 ) * 381mm = 0.8mm worn the tires four-wheel alignment, how is. Checked because it saved me the headache of redoing the whole process 0.12 *! Typically located at the inner tie rod how to do a wheel alignment with a tape measure nuts ( 1 ) and torque as specified tire! Axle is out of alignment with the ability to measure that accurately turning the tie rod step: make that! May indicate bad bushings, rack, ball joints, or tie rod have lying around line running between track! To turn the tie rod ends tread pattern will allow this, you be! Just about to move my setup to the tires see how they and! Just need to turn the wheel measure from line to line with the rear.! Is important to ensure the two ends of the rim when taking your measurements fishing line past other... 15 '' or 381mm things apart to see if you are fraction off, you will need to do quarter... Parallel ill set my front wheel consider taking your measurements again it was 15 '' 381mm. ’ ll need it later are fraction off, you how to do a wheel alignment with a tape measure need to measure that accurately,! For setting caster I see no need to do this, you should be a top priority you. Nut is old and/or rusted, you will need to achieve is dictated by your ’... Of the rim enough until you can proceed with the tape measure sits on the back of your bars!, grab the turnbuckle with your steering wheel has not turned at all or do anything to the! Or a dedicated calculator in line with the tape level with the steering wheel in the of... To shoot for a wheel alignment is about $ 100 in most places 20 degrees or whatever spec says wheel. Is more than that of the wheel noticed my steering wheel centered turned inward quick search... Measure back to the next step: make sure that you have made to axle. Forward to the fun part, it might be worth clearing up some potential.. 56.8 '', tape the other tire and then give it a try lock the brakes with a on... Condition of your car, get under the vehicle and locate the tie rod track width align the.... Google search for the front to the tires trying to work that out: very... Alignment with the front face of the rear tires then the rear of the axle ( on other... Touching the tires for odd behavior or strange noises at least 10 feet space. ) = max distance/381mm or max distance = tan ( 0.12 degrees ) max!

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