Basic Pre-Alignment

Last Updated - October 16th, 2009

So the first question that someone is bound to ask is "What is a pre-alignment"?  That's a nice way of saying, here are some instructions for how to get your car pretty close to aligned properly before you take it in for an alignment.  Theoretically, it should be very close. The differences come with the fact that the tires are not on the car and thus the weight is not on the tires. That said, getting things even side-to-side is the biggest factor to it being close to a "real" alignment.  The second biggest factor would be setting the wheels to 90 degrees and toe to 0. Or if you know how the car is doing on the track, adjusting it to do better. (tire temp across the tread is the best method to understand how the alignment is performing.)


Difficulty:        

Time Investment:  

3-4 Hours

Tools Required:

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions:

1.  First, level the car.  This can be done by placing a level across the front above the radiator and then carefully adjusting your jack/jack stands until the level shows that the car is sitting perfectly horizontal.

 

2.  Next check the chamber.  This can be done by holding your level up to the rotor.  Ideally, it would read about 90 degrees indicating that your wheel will be perpendicular to the ground.

Shown above, Ed is actually using a magnetic level that sticks to the rotor.  This would make the adjustment/remeasure process easier.

 

3.  In order to adjust the chamber, the lower bolt hole shown above is slotted.  You should be able to adjust the position so that the reading in #2 comes out to about 90 degrees.  (Repeat checking #2 as required)

 

4.  The next step is to check the "Toe" which indicates that the tires are parallel to each other.  In order to do this, first get in the car and center the steering wheel visually to the best of your ability.  With the steering wheel in this position, one would expect the car to go straight ahead so that's the point we want to work from.  Once centered, we are now going to clamp our pieces of angle steel to the rotors pointing out in front of the car as shown above.  (Do this on both sides)

 

5.  With the steel in place, measure the width between the two pieces at the rotor.  As shown above, this came out to just over 59".

6.  Next measure at the end of the pieces of angle steel.  Assuming the wheels will be parallel, this measurement should be identical to the first.

Note:  In the interest of accuracy you should measure an equal distance outward from each rotor, mark your angle steel, and then measure between those marks before doing this so you aren't measuring at an angle.  Conceptually you're trying to create a perfect rectangle using the front of the car, 2 pieces of steel, and the tape measure.  If you were to measure at an angle across the two pieces of angle steel, your measurement would be meaningless. 

7.  In order to adjust the toe, you first need to loosen the jam nut shown above.

8.  Then you can push the angle of the rotor outward or inward by twisting the rod as shown.  You're going to want to do this on both sides and keep them as even as possible.  Continue checking BOTH the near and far measurements until you get them equal.  Once you're done, reseat the jam nuts.

Note:  You really want both pieces of angle steel to be in line with the entire car in addition to being parallel to each other.  In order to achieve this, Ed began the adjustment process by standing in front of the car with the steering wheel centered and eye balled which direction each piece of angle steel needed to go to get them parallel.  Then he adjusted the tie rods until they looked even.  At that point you would begin your measuring and tweaking.  In his words, "This worked remarkably well... I was shocked how well...".