How to Check the Wheel Alignment

Updated July 19, 2017

Proper wheel alignment has a big impact on the handling of your vehicle. When the wheels are out of alignment, your vehicle might experience excessive tire wear and tear as well as serious steering problems. Wheel alignment should be a part of any car's regular maintenance. The following steps will show you how to check the toe and camber of your vehicle to ensure the tires are aligned properly.

Refer to your owner's manual to find specifications for the toe of your vehicle.

Check the toe of your vehicle by parking on a level surface with the wheels pointed straight ahead. Use a jack to raise the front driver's side tire, and secure your vehicle on a jack stand. While spinning the tire, spray paint a continuous straight line on the tire tread. Repeat on all tires.

Measure the distance between the paint lines on the front two tires and the back two tires with a measuring tape. Ensure that the measuring tape is level with the ground when taking measurements.

Make adjustments to your car if the toe is out of line more then 1/8 of an inch, by loosening or tightening the tie rods of each wheel with a wrench as needed. Drive your vehicle back and forth a number of times to transfer the adjustments you just made to the tires. Re-measure the toe. Repeat until the toe of your car is within regulations as stated in your owner's manual.

Check the camber that is the angle or lean of the wheels. Ensure that your vehicle is again parked on a level surface after the previous adjustments.

View the tires from the front of the vehicle. A positive camber refers to the top of the tires leaning outwards from the centre of the wheels. In contrast, a negative camber is when the tire leans in from the centre. A saw tooth pattern in the tread is a clear indication of camber misalignment. A misaligned camber will cause uneven wear and tear and cause the vehicle to pull to one side. Skip this step if you have a front-wheel drive vehicle where the camber cannot be adjusted.

If the camber of your vehicle can be adjusted, check your owner's manual for the proper camber. Place a ruler across the front of each wheel and use an angle finder to note the camber. With a wrench, either tighten or loosen the control arm or strut (depending on the vehicle) to align the camber.

Things You'll Need

  • Jack
  • Jack stand
  • Spray paint
  • Measuring tape
  • Wrench
  • Ruler
  • Angle finder
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About the Author

Corinne Cooke began her writing career in 2007 after an extensive four-year research study into primate behavior. Cooke's project lead to her first published work in "Applied Animal Behaviour Science." She holds a Bachelor of Science in anthropology from the University of Toronto.