DIY Wheel Alignment

DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby grandamle91 [OP] » August 20th 2008, 4:48pm

Most people think that wheel alignment is best left to the professionals. While this is true in many respects, there are some alignment specs you can check yourself, and toe is one aspect of alignment that can be done at home. This particularly comes in handy after replacing steering or suspension components to make sure the vehicle won't be wildly out of adjustment for the trip to the alignment shop, or at the very least it will provide a better understanding of the alignment process.

Theory
Some alignment specs are easy to check yourself. In theory, all four wheels should be perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. When the vehicle starts pulling to one side ‹ or after a sharp impact with a curb ‹ most drivers suspect the wheels might be out of alignment. Irregular tire wear, vibration and odd handling characteristics are other clues. The three factors that affect alignment are toe-in, camber and caster. The first two can easily be checked at home.

Toe-In
Cars' front tires are slightly pigeon-toed to intentionally place a very slight load on the wheel bearings. Typical toe-in specs vary from 1Ž32- to 1Ž8-inch, depending on the vehicle. Check a service manual for your car's acceptable range. The best tip-off to a toe problem is a saw-tooth wear pattern that's equal on both front tires. If the tread blocks point toward the frame, then toe-in is excessive; pointing outward indicates too much toe-out. Toe-in spec-check and adjustment are shown in the accompanying photos. Although no specialized tools are necessary to check toe, companies such as Eastwood, JC Whitney and Harbor Freight sell tools specifically for this purpose. Two things to remember when measuring and adjusting toe: First, true spec is measured midway up the tires. If the car's body makes this impractical, take the front and rear measurements 1Ž4 of the way up the tires, then double that to get the true toe as it would be in the center of the tires. Also, an off-center steering wheel can sometimes be corrected by adjusting one tie-rod more than the other. (Steering wheel position has no affect on your final alignment.)







Camber
Camber is easy to check with an angle finder and a straight edge. Camber is the measurement of tire lean in degrees. If the top of the tire tilts inward, the vehicle has negative camber; outward lean is positive camber. Most new vehicles have slightly negative camber to improve stability and handling. Two indicators of camber problems are the vehicle pulling to one side (the one with more of a positive camber or possibly less air in the tire) and uneven tire wear across the tread. Camber is easy to check with an angle finder and a straight edge, ideally one that's the same length as the wheel diameter so the tire sidewall bulge doesn't interfere with the straight edge. Many front-wheel-drive cars don't have camber adjustments, and out-of-spec camber here often indicates bent or worn parts. On vehicles that have adjustable camber, the job can involve adding shims between the control arms and frame and turning cam bolts. Many people prefer to let an alignment shop make these adjustments, particularly if their car has independent rear suspension.

Caster
Caster is the angle of steering pivot in degrees. Just as water skiers lean backward for stability, most vehicles are designed with slight negative caster the upper balljoint is to the rear of the lower balljoint (similar to the front wheels on a shopping cart). One clue to caster problems is that the vehicle pulls to one side (the one with less of a positive caster). Heavy steering and wheel hopping over bumps are signs of too much positive caster, and light steering but excessive wander are clues of too much negative caster. Aligning-to-spec usually involves repairing or replacing chassis parts, so the average motorist is probably better off leaving caster corrections to the pros. Taking a few minutes to check your alignment will make your tires last longer and your vehicle handle better. Even if you choose to have a shop align the vehicle you'll have a better idea of the problem and knowledge equals power.

Step 1

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Irregular tread wear signals alignment problems. A saw-tooth pattern (left) indicates a toe problem, and beveled wear (right) points to camber problems. (Courtesy Hunter Engineering)





Step 2

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Toe is the fore-and-aft difference in tire distance. Most vehicles are slightly toe-in for a lighter steering feel and to keep a slight pre-load on wheel bearings. (Courtesy Hunter Engineering)





Step 3

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To check the toe, park the vehicle on level ground with the tires straight ahead and the steering wheel centered. Jack up one of the front tires, secure the vehicle on jackstands and then spray-paint a stripe on the tread while spinning the tire.





Step 4

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Scribe a sharp concentric line in the paint on the tread by spinning the tire. We used a small nail held in a mini vise and lightly pressed against the tread to ensure a straight line.





Step 5

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Here's a detailed shot of the scribed line. Try to position the line on the tread blocks to make the line as continuous as possible for easier measuring. Perform the same steps on the other tire.





Step 6

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Measure from line to line with the tape level with the floor.





Step 7

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Measure again on the tires' backsides. Make sure that the tape is level and the same distance above the ground as it was for the front reading. Compare the two measurements to reveal the toe, accounting for measurements taken lower than at the tires' center for actual toe.





Step 8

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This vehicle exhibited 1/8-inch too much toe-in. The adjustment begins by loosening the tie-rod adjuster sleeves. Penetrating lubricant helps break the nuts loose.





Step 9

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Assuming that the steering wheel is already centered, adjust the tie-rods on each side the same amount. Roll the vehicle back and forth several feet a few times to transfer your adjustment to the tires, then re-measure the toe. Repeat this step until the toe is within spec.





Step 10

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Torque the adjuster-sleeve nuts to factory specs to complete the adjustment.





Step 11

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Many aftermarket companies offer alignment tools that check toe. (Courtesy Eastwood Co.)





Step 12

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Camber measures tire lean. Camber isn't adjustable on many front-wheel-drive cars, and an out-of-spec measurement usually indicates bent or worn part(s) on these vehicles.





Step 13

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To check camber, make sure the vehicle is parked on level ground. If not, factor the ground slope into the camber reading. Then place a straight edge across the wheel (use the inner lip if the outer is nicked or uneven) and use an angle finder to reveal camber.
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby Gary » August 20th 2008, 4:56pm

:goodpost: :goodpost: :goodpost: :clap: :clap:
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby AstroAustin » August 20th 2008, 6:59pm

:ty:
Very helpful! I never thought a DIY method possible until I read this post. I'll have to try it.
Just knowing what all the terms mean is really good information. (ie. camber, toe-in, caster, etc.)

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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby grandamle91 [OP] » September 3rd 2008, 2:40am

Thanks I Hope It Would Help Someone, Since I Saw So Many People Wondering About Alignment, and i've done it a couples times at home and it works really nice for me, SAVES MONEY!! :2: :ty:
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby evil_motors » May 14th 2009, 4:41am

a couple of these things are good to try at home but i disagree with alot of what was said. I have been an alignment mechanic for 10+ years and you need to take into consideration what your back tires are doing even if you have a solid axle. because if the back tires are pointed in a different direction and you adjust your fronts to straight then you may have a pulling ( actually pushing if you want to be technical about it ) problem. Also any car that has front struts with 2 bolts can be adjusted for camber even if they dont make an aftermarket eccentric bolt for it. I agree that this is a good idea for saving money. But you could actually be hurting your tire's lifespan. I suggest that everyone take their car to a respected shop to get your alignment checked at least once a year if not twice. Most places will check it for free and only charge you if adjustments are needed. And remember $50 is not a high price to spend to be assured that your tires will wear evenly for the entire tread life. plus astros are notorious for rusted tie rod sleves. this is just my 2 cents.
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby grandamle91 [OP] » May 14th 2009, 5:32pm

Around here 50 dollars is just for one set, to do all 4 its 120 plus tax. i've never had a problem doing mine at home, my tires still look brand new on both my cars and i have a lead foot
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby evil_motors » May 14th 2009, 6:38pm

wow 120? remind me not to move to your area. although you do have 2 different size tires and a huge difference in front and back height so most places wouldnt even touch your van. so it probably is easier for you to do your own alignment. Its a good idea for some people but most are very clueless when it comes to working on cars.
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby grandamle91 [OP] » May 14th 2009, 6:46pm

No thats on any car, newer ones are even higher
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby RECox286 » July 4th 2010, 9:34pm

I used to do alignments when I wrenched in the early 70's. I would only do the DIY to get to a reputable shop that has the bucks to afford a four wheel alignment system. Guess I'm just old fashioned! $100. does an Astro around these parts, and I make sure that the sleeves are lubed and adjustable before I get there. Also, make sure the gas tank is 1/2 full, or 1/2 empty, depending on what kind of person you are. Tires should be checked for proper inflation, and the truck should be loaded as you would NORMALLY load it when you drive. ie: if you normally pull a trailer, then load enough bricks in the trunk to emulate the trailer toung weight. If you normally drive around empty, don't have 10 bags of cement in the truck when you give it to the shop.

There are other considerations, of course. The guy doing the alignment is who to ask before giving him your truck. Also, let him know if you hear any strange noises, like squeels or clunks when going over a shallow curve frontwards or backwards. Let him know if the truck "pulls" right or left. That could be hard parts, or it could be tire related problems.

Hope this helps some of you shadetrees out there.

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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby castle_Rock » July 11th 2010, 3:51am

As seen on this site - http://www.extremehowto.com/xh/article. ... e_id=60130 - good info though.
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby alan2112drums » August 26th 2010, 9:55pm

I had the power steering gear box, 2 idler arms and lower & upper ball joints(passenger side only) replaced, steering wheel centered and decided it to take my Safari for an alignment. The van had a slight drift to the left but didn't have to fight the steering wheel. After the alignment, the steering wheel was not centered and it pulled to the left. They adjusted the TOE but said the CAMBER was causing the problem and that there is no camber adjustment on the 1995 Safari AWD. A camber kit must be purchased to correct the alignment (at a cost of $250 parts & labor). Needless to say, I was pissed that the issue of CAMBER was not brought to my attention before they messed with the van when they knew(?) there is a chance the camber would need adjusting (& that it costs extra!).
My mechanic that did the front end work checked the van and said that the bolts & bushings on the control arms is the camber adjustment.
I just called a reputable alignment shop (they do the city fire trucks, buses etc.) and they said that on the 2WD Safari's there is a camber adjustment. (He couldn't remember off hand if the AWD had it).So who's telling the truth?
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby NY Safari TONKA » May 11th 2011, 6:32am

Have anyone of you done it (Alignment) with a thin wrope chk it and make your adjustments???... :layrubber:
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby chevymaherchevymaher is online! » May 11th 2011, 11:18am

NY Safari TONKA wrote:Have anyone of you done it (Alignment) with a thin wrope chk it and make your adjustments???... :layrubber:

Camber
Camber is the measure of wheel tilt from the vertical direction, when the wheel is viewed from the rear of the vehicle. Camber is negative when the top of the wheel is inboard and positive when the top is outboard. Always check for bent, damaged or worn suspension components before determining that adjustment is necessary. The amount of tilt is measured in degrees from the vertical and this measurement is called the camber angle.
On 2wd vehicles, camber is adjusted by removing or adding shims at both front and rear pivot shaft-to-frame contact points. To increase camber, subtract shims equally from both locations. On 4wd vehicles, adjustment is once again made using the adjustment cams.
I used to do alignments for a living.And before and after I did it in a shop I did them with a thumb tack and twine.Wheel centered straight.Stick thumb tack in center edge of rear wheels tread.Run line forward along centers of tires.It should touch on 3 arrows in cheap pretend illustration.Forward most arrow should have 1/8 inch gap as other three touch.If you make ajustment lift that wheel off ground to make sure all front end parts play centered.Set it down to check.Repeat on both sides.when you test drive wheel will never be perfect.just close.but it yours you can mess with it till it is.Remember the crown in the road.If alignment perfect it will pull.Passenger side of road tends to be lower for drainage of water.Van will try to go downhill so a slight left adjustment of steering wheel is needed to go straight.and if road tilted other way the reverse pull will be noticed.I always talk Do-Do about the stock alignment settings.I worked in shop and had it set perfect to specs.It vibrated at 75 MPH and handled like a milk truck.3 days in a row I checked it on a alignment rack.Then I did it at home changed my camber and toe using this method.Corners great now and I have no uneven tire wear.The out side of front tires on these vans go bald quick with factory settings.
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby NY Safari TONKA » May 11th 2011, 7:05pm

Haha... I had one done like 8yrs back and was like better than with the machine...This Dominican guy did it and it was impresive!!! :layrubber:
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby 'cudapaul » May 12th 2011, 4:54am

Yes, you can adjust the camber on the 1995 AWD.
In fact, all of the Astro/Safari AWD's have camber adjustments.

Just about anything that uses torsion bars for suspension, have eccentrics located in the upper controls arms to allow for both camber and toe alignment. Had them clear back in the 60's and 70's in Chrysler vehicles.

The shop was probably complaining about the "knockouts" that have to be removed to allow for more adjustment to correct more severe/complicated problems, but sounds like they were just lazy.

BTW, if they couldn't adjust your camber, how the hell did they adjust the toe? The same eccentrics do both.

But then, that's exactly why I don't go to alignment shops anymore.
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby drmmhmd » July 10th 2011, 2:35am

grandamle91 wrote:Thanks I Hope It Would Help Someone, Since I Saw So Many People Wondering About Alignment, and i've done it a couples times at home and it works really nice for me, SAVES MONEY!! :2: :ty:


raising your van like that does not increase ground clearance, looks ridiculous, is unsafe, changes the moment of inertia and centre of gravity and is probably illegal. so why do it?
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby alexalexanders » July 10th 2011, 6:39am

^^^^ This sticky is about DIY Wheel alignment in hope to save others money, not a place to question why his van is built the way it is.

Also why question the reason he has his van like that? Im gonna state the obvious and say, i would think thats the way he wants the van (which he paid for) to look :shrug:

Also just my :2:
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby grandamle91 [OP] » July 10th 2011, 4:14pm

I dont care about ground clearance, i'm not fricken rock climbing. Have you heard of bigger rims and tires? Please tell the whole world why its illegal. We have chevy trucks running down our roading that you need a ladder to get in.
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Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby Lumpy » November 17th 2011, 3:16am

How do I measure my rear wheel tracking?
Here's the deal -

With my new Frankensprings in the rear, the axle can move probably a 1/4 inch
in any direction (for/back,left/right) before you clamp it down. The "well" that the
leaf bolt head sits in is huge for the glass springs these replaced.

So now I've got the possibility that my rear wheels are out of track either
too far RIGHT, too far LEFT, or possibly not pointing parallel to the van's long axis.

I can loosen the bolts and move things around easy enough. But how do I measure
to see where the rear wheels SHOULD be sitting?


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250k+ Miles
Firing on 6 Cylinders (L5)
Firing on 6 Cylinders (L5)
Years of Membership: Lumpy has been a member for 4 full yearsLumpy has been a member for 4 full yearsLumpy has been a member for 4 full yearsLumpy has been a member for 4 full years
Posts: 4671
Topics: 155
Joined: April 2010
Location: Phoenix AZ USA
Gender: Male
Year: 1989
Van Make/Model: Chevrolet Astro
Extra Info: 9 in. lift Camo

Re: DIY Wheel Alignment

Postby Pantaz » November 17th 2011, 7:55am

There are points on the bottom of the frame used to check for frame square. A body shop manual will show the locations. I would measure from a (matching) machined point at the end of each axle tube to two frame locations -- one on each side. That will insure alignment fore/aft and side-to-side.
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Pantaz
Fueling (3/8 tank)
Fueling (3/8 tank)
Years of Membership: Pantaz has been a member for 4 full yearsPantaz has been a member for 4 full yearsPantaz has been a member for 4 full yearsPantaz has been a member for 4 full years
Posts: 39
Topics: 4
Joined: August 2010
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Gender: Male
Year: 1985
Van Make/Model: GMC Safari
Extra Info: Stretched 34 in.

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