How to Measure a Track on a Vehicle

Written by thomas west
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A vehicle's track, or track width, is the distance between the centre line of each of the two wheels on the same axle on any given vehicle. On most vehicles, the track width will differ between the front and rear axles since they perform different functions. Measuring track width is helpful when determining if a vehicle will fit on a car trailer, flat bed wrecker truck, or a hydraulic car lift. Knowing a vehicle's track width is also helpful in identifying a vehicle type by using tracks left at a crime scene.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Hydraulic jack
  • Jack stands

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Park the vehicle on a flat, level area and set the parking brake.

  2. 2

    Make sure the front wheels are straight ahead if measuring the track width of the front axle.

  3. 3

    Use a helper and a measuring tape to measure across the tires on one axle from the outside of the tread on one tire to the inside of the tread on the tire on the other side of the vehicle.

  4. 4

    Measure from the outside of one tire tread to the outside of the tire tread on the other side of the vehicle if this is easier for you. Just remember to subtract the width of one tire tread from your measurement to get the correct track width.

  5. 5

    Know that it may be difficult to measure the track of a vehicle that has low ground clearance. Raise the vehicle with a hydraulic jack and place jack stands under the frame of the vehicle to raise the wheels off the ground. Measure the track width as described in above steps. Raise the vehicle just high enough to remove the jack stands, then lower the car to the ground. Remove the jack.

Tips and warnings

  • Measure across tire tracks made on the ground if the vehicle is not available. Use a helper and extend a measuring tape from the outside of one tire track to the inside of the other tire track. Make sure the tape is pulled taut and you are measuring at a right angle to the tire tracks to get an accurate measurement. If measuring the tracks of a vehicle that was making a turn, make your track width measurements from the tracks made by the rear axle, as the front track width measurement will not be accurate when the wheels are turned to negotiate a curve.
  • When measuring tire tracks, oversized tires installed on the original vehicle rims will not affect the track width measurement. However, aftermarket rims may have a different offset than the original rims, throwing off the track width measurement. A vehicle that has incorrect front-end alignment may also throw off the track width measurements.

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