Have you recently noticed your tires have been squealing, have uneven tread, or your steering wheel is crooked while you drive? You can breathe a sigh of relief; your car isn’t going to explode. But your tires have improper alignment.
The good news: you can fix a misaligned wheel at home.
So, how are car tires aligned? And what should you be checking for proper alignment? Stick around to the end of this guide to find out how to align car tires.
The Short Answer
There are several ways you can check for misalignment by analyzing the camber, toe, and caster. You should take measurements to see if you need adjustments and may be able to solve this issue at home.
Read more: How Long Does A Tire Alignment Take
Main Factors to Align Car Tires
A car’s suspension, which is the system that connects the tires to the car, determines alignment. Camber, Toe, and Caster are main elements on how to align car tires. These factors most influence tire movement and position.
When observed from the front of the wheel, camber is the inward or outward angle of the tire. Excessive tilting inward is called negative camber, and excessive tilting outwards is called positive camber. Wheel suspension parts like worn bearings or ball joints may not align properly.
When surveyed from above, toe alignment is how inward or outward the extent of the tires are. When the tires are looked at from a bird’s eye view and the tires are angled inwards, this is called a toe-in alignment. When the tires are angled outwards, this is called toe-out alignment.
When analyzed from the side of the vehicle, your caster is the steering axis that helps balance, cornering, and stability.
You have a negative caster if the steering axis is tilted towards the front of the car. You have a positive caster if the steering axis is tilted towards the driver.
Steps to Align Your Car Tires
Here are some ways on how to align car tires at home. However, if you have more complicated issues when you align a tire, bring your vehicle to a mechanic for adjustments.
1. Prepare Measurements
The first step is to ensure all tires are even is to inflate them to the correct tire pressure. You can check your car manual to find the car’s ideal pound per square inch (PSI), camber, toe, and caster measurements and write them down.
Then you should check the front-end suspension of your car. You can do this by placing the car on jack stands and make sure the steering wheel is unlocked. Check each wheel by grabbing it and shaking it horizontally and vertically.
If you feel a little movement, you probably have good suspension. If it is too loose, you may need to take your car to the mechanic.
2. Measure Your Toe
To check your toe measurements, you can draw a line with chalk against the center of the tire tread. Then lower your car to the ground. Push forward with the steering wheel unlocked — the wheels need to be straight.
Take a piece of string and stretch it between the lines on the front tires and repeat to the back tires. If the distance is smaller in the front, your wheels are toe-in, and if your distance is smaller in the back, your wheels are toe-out. If the measurements are identical, then you have zero toe.
3. Correct Your Toe
First, you want to locate your tie rod ends. Next, you will take a wrench and loosen the lock nuts near the axle that hold the tie rod in place. If you have a rack and pinion steering or parallelogram linkage system, you should adjust the tie rod or sleeve accordingly.
Recheck your toe with the steps previously discussed. Then test drive your car to check it doesn’t pull to one side heavily and your steering wheel doesn’t vibrate.
4. Measure Your Camber
Get a stiff piece of cardboard that forms a 90-degree angle that is the same height as your wheels. Put the base of the triangle on the ground and perpendicular to the wheel.
The gap between your cardboard triangle and the tire is your camber. Measure on all four tires. If the measurements are not in the same range as your manual, you may need to bring your car to the mechanic to fix this issue. Feel free to check our article about the costs of tire alignment.
Consider checking: How to tell if tires are directional or nondirectional?
Vehicle owners need to incorporate proper car care into their routine and learn how to align car tires if they want to improve the lifespan of their vehicles. Checking a car’s alignment is considered an essential maintenance procedure that pays off; you’ll enjoy smoother rides and longer-lasting tires.