How to Do a Wheel Alignment Yourself
Looking to do your own wheel alignment? This article reviews the basics of DIY alignment and two methods for checking the wheel alignment—one with string and another with a tape measure. Read on to find out how to do a wheel alignment at home by yourself.
Signs Your Car or Truck Needs a Wheel Alignment
- If the outside tread of any tires is worn down to where its almost bald, the alignment is off
- The steering wheel, when centered, is crooked.
- The vehicle pulls to the side of the road when driving straight
Steps for a DIY Alignment with String
Pro Tip: After the DIY wheel alignment is complete, we recommend bringing the car to a shop for professional alignment.
1. Read the PSI of Each Tire
Take a reading of the psi of each tire and confirm the reading is accurate.
2. Place Cardboard Underneath the Tires
Stack two pieces of cardboard and place them behind the worn tire and the opposing tire on the opposite side.
Back the car up so the tire is centered on the cardboard.
3. Center the Steering Wheel
Turn the steering wheel back and forth and adjust it as close as possible to the center so it’s centered
4. Tighten String to Two-Step Stools Within Reaching Distance of the Tires
Wrap a piece of string between two step stools and place them within reaching distance of the tires.
5. Make Sure the String Reaches the Center of the Tire and Is one Inch from the Center Cap
Measure the height of the string and make sure it reaches the center height of the tire. Do this for both sides.
Place the string about an inch from the center cap and make sure it’s tight and not touching a part of the car.
6. Measure the Distance Between the Step Stools and Make Sure They Match
Before making an adjustment, measure the distance between two strings at the front and rear and adjust them so the measurements match.
7. Check for a 1/16″ Difference from the Back and Front of the Rim with a Tape Measure
Measure the back of the rim to the string.
Measure the front of the rim to the string.
You want the front of the tire going in about 1/16th from the rear of the tire. On this vehicle, if the tire is out too far, you want to adjust and loosen the backside tie rod to push the front of the tire out. Different vehicles will have different ways to make adjustments.
8. Turn the Wheel and Adjust the Tie Rod Nut and Tie Rod a Quarter Turn for your DIY alignment
To adjust the right front wheel, turn the steering wheel all the way to the left. On this vehicle, mark the position of the front tie rod end.
Loosen the nut for a new turns
Turn and tighten the tie rod a quarter turn with pliers. Then tighten the nut.
9. Center the Steering Wheel, Measure the Distance from the Front and Rear of the Rim, and Adjust the Tie Rod if Needed
Turn the steering wheel to the center position to straighten out the tire.
Measure the position of the wheel and adjust the tie rod again—maybe a full turn if necessary.
How to Check the DIY Alignment with a Tape Measure
For another method to check the front alignment, use a tap measure.
How to Check the Alignment with a Tape Measure
- Pick a Line on the Back of the Tire Near the Center and Have an Assistant Hold the Tape Measure There
Pick a line on the tire and have a partner on the other side pick a line on the tire near the center. Have the partner hold the tape measure and measure the distance between the two tires.
- Measure the Distance Between the Back of the Tires
Mark the measurement on the tire with a marker and measure the distance between them.
- Measure the Distance Between the Front of the Tires
Do the same for the front of the tire. Record the distance between the back and the front, which should be about 1/16th