How to Check Your Car’s Wheel Alignment

How to Check Your Car’s Wheel Alignment

Off-road tire

Tire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have noticed that when you’re driving down the road lately your car seems prone to drifting towards the shoulder. Or perhaps the steering wheel is decidedly listing off center, even when you’re going straight. Maybe your car has started to shake and shimmy when you hit a certain speed, or one of your tires is wearing out a lot faster than the others. All of these could be signs that the alignment on your vehicle is out of whack. And while this turn of events won’t necessarily stop you from driving, it could definitely cause some annoyance when you’re behind the wheel, and ultimately lead to a blowout or other damage to your vehicle if you don’t address the situation. But how can you tell if your alignment is off or if there’s something else going on? In just a few easy steps you can actually check the alignment on your own before you decide to head to the mechanic.

In order to check the alignment, you’ll first need to understand just what you’re looking for. When your wheels are properly aligned, they’ll be parallel to one another across the axle, so the two front wheels, for example, will both face straight forward. When your wheels are out of alignment, they may face towards each other at the front, as if pigeon-toed (a state known as toe-in), or at the back (toe-out). What you want to see is something called zero-toe (or no-toe), which means that the distance between the two front tires is the same at the front of the tire as the back. And the same goes for your two back tires, if you’re trying to align them as well. But how can you check this?

In truth, checking your alignment is relatively simple. All you need is a ruler, a measuring tape, and some kind of marker for your tire, such as a piece of tape, sticky tack, or even a dot of paint or nail polish. You should also get someone to help you since it will make the process a lot quicker. You’ll begin by getting your car set up on level ground with the wheels facing forward. If you want to you can lift your car on jacks and set it back down, but for a simple home test this isn’t necessary. Once you’ve got the tires level and straight you can get started.

Using the ruler, select a spot on the back of your driver’s side tire (say at a height of one foot) and make a mark. Then make one at the same height on the other tire. Take one end of the measuring tape and hold it at the mark on the driver’s side while your friend stretches it to the mark on the passenger side. Write down the measurement. Next, roll the vehicle forward slowly, steering straight ahead. Have your friend use the ruler to tell you when the marks you made on the back of the tire have rotated around until they are the same height in the front (one foot from the ground). Now use the measuring tape to measure the distance between the marks again. If they are the same, your tires are aligned. If the second measurement is larger or smaller, you might want to seek service for wheel alignment Huntley to Huntington Beach.

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