View Full Version : DIY wheel alignments

12-22-2011, 01:43 PM
Anyone having success with DIY wheel alignments?

Noticed there are several tools out there, such as this caster and camber gauge: Suppose you could use strings and lasers for toe.

With multiple vehicles, the tool should pay for itself fairly quickly.

Can these types of tools do an accurate adjustment?


12-22-2011, 02:08 PM
That looks like a nice alignment tool. I think that there are some that less expensive that will do a good job though.

12-22-2011, 02:18 PM
I adjust my car's alignment. Normally I just aim for zero camber or slightly negative, which is pretty easy to do with just a level against the wheel. To get it into degrees/minutes you use the arc tangent; I have a spreadsheet set to calculate this based on length of the adjacent side.

For toe, I use the jackstands and strings method. Then measure with a good metal ruler from the ends of the wheel to the string.

12-22-2011, 03:05 PM
I haven't done one personally, but you might want to check out this guys' videos on DIY car alignments. Good stuff!! for the 1st of 4 videos.

12-22-2011, 03:19 PM
I think its an area that shows promise as various devices get cheaper etc., but as for right now, cheap tires are $400 or more a set and a good alignment is $80. Cheaper to pay for the best alignment. Needing parts replaced is what is expensive, so do that yourself and pay for a quality alignment with calibrated tools etc.

12-22-2011, 03:27 PM
Allignments and tire mounting / balancing is the only thing I don't do on my own rigs. I know a couple guys that run local shops that do tires and allignments. Both are shops that I have towed a lot of cars into and brought in cars from the bodyshop for allignments and tires after repairs are completed. They will hook me up with a pretty good deal. The last allignment on my F250 cost me $30. I think they like that I usually bring them in after I have done some sort of front end work so they are not trying to fight a bunch of worn parts to get the to allign.

12-22-2011, 09:12 PM
What is the car used for; street, race, off road . . . ?


12-23-2011, 01:12 AM
Sometimes the way to find out if you got a good alignment was to wait 6 months and see if the tires were worn evenly. I've been doing my own alignment for years. You can find reasonably priced caster/camber gauges if you look. Speedway has some and there are others. The toe can be set as was mentioned with the jackstands and a tape measure.

There are some high tech alignment machines out there, but they are only as good as the guy using it and the vehicle.

12-23-2011, 03:51 AM
I would like to but it's a lot of work to do it right.

12-23-2011, 06:57 AM
Longacre Digital Caster Camber Gauges (

How to do your own alignments, low cost, effective. (

12-23-2011, 09:04 AM
I got mine very very close with a tape measure, chalk, and a free level app on my phone. :D

12-23-2011, 11:36 AM
I should add that I took my car in for an alignment this year after replacing a bunch of parts in the front end myself. It hardly seems like it's worth the effort to DIY when it cost me something like $80 for an alignment on a machine with laser beams operated by a trained technician :-)

12-23-2011, 11:46 AM
I've had success doing toe and camber using a tape measure for the toe and a dedicated level for the camber. All you have to do with the measurements is to use your high school geometry to convert the readings to angles and compare with specifications.

I don't do caster, since (I understand) it rarely goes out of spec, has the least effect on tire wear, and is the most difficult to accomplish.

I aslo mount my own wheels with the Harbor Freight tire changer and balance with a 1954 Snap-On wheel balancer. I've been using this system for a number of years. In general it's worked fine for me and it's saved me a lot of money.

12-23-2011, 01:00 PM
yup, tape measure and a level... how it was done before the machines come along

12-24-2011, 07:13 AM
Great feedback.

A little more infoÖ

The Bridgestone A/T REVO Duelers on my Toyota Tacoma are showing an abnormal wear pattern in front. Have not had the truck aligned in 4-5 years. Then realized both my RAVs havenít had a recent alignment. My auto crossing Miata has had a recent alignment, but could use a tweak or two. And lastly, I want to experiment with the handling on my replica Shelby Cobra. Right now it snap over steers (515 hp/531tq).

12-24-2011, 08:52 AM
I do all my own cars
the first time or 2 it took an hour or so
but now it takes 20 mins or less

It's really really easy to do with 2 tape measures, some blue tape and a 2ft lvl with some spacers on it to clear the fenders

it's one of those, seems hard/compicated jobs that really isn't

I've been driving on my last one for a year now (rebuild the front end and put on new tires) with 0 uneven tire ware

12-26-2011, 11:51 PM
I use a SmartTool ( level in a home made jig. The jig is just a right angle with a place to hold the level and a few spacers for different sized rims. Similar to SmartRacing's SmartCamber tool ( There are a lot more choices now for digital levels than when I first did this. For caster measurements I just turn the steering wheel the same amount in each direction. With my car one full turn is ~20į. My goal is to have the same caster on each side. I don't care if it's off a bit.

For toe-in I use a tape measure and a couple straight edges.

For the past few years I put lowering springs in for good weather and back to stockish springs for the winter months.

diesel research
12-27-2011, 12:03 AM
"I can get one for only $80 using lasers etc"

Sure, there is a reason it is nicknamed "toe and go". These guys proudly boasting how they just flagged __ time to adjust your tierods. Camber? "nah it's good enough" Caster? "you don't need that" Weigh over 200lbs or have a passenger that does? "oh ya, all that pulling is due to passengers" Tow loads? "oh ya, it's just the nature of the beast"

You would be amazed how a bit of caster really firms things up (sometimes even beyond what the factory prescribes)....

Adam McLaughlin
12-27-2011, 12:09 AM
Oh Jesus. After paying WAY too much money for crappy alignments, I do all of mine myself.

Sliding T square, Laser, Tape Measure, 18" level, etc. and I got mine ridiculously good. A little basic 9th grade math in trig ( Tan-1 ) also helped out quite a bit.

I'll never pay someone else to do this again.


Adam McLaughlin
12-27-2011, 12:11 AM

12-27-2011, 07:28 AM
Oh Jesus. After paying WAY too much money for crappy alignments, I do all of mine myself.

Sliding T square, Laser, Tape Measure, 18" level, etc. and I got mine ridiculously good. A little basic 9th grade math in trig ( Tan-1 ) also helped out quite a bit.

I'll never pay someone else to do this again.


How about a write up so we can learn your method?

Sent from my GT-P7510 using Tapatalk

12-28-2011, 07:16 AM
Good discussions.

Iím thinking the Longacre digital caster/camber tool is the way to go for caster & camber. Iíll get the toe with lines, lasers, etc.

I think itís important to accurately set all the parameters, especially in sports cars.

Question Ė Anyone used the Longacre Digital Caster Camber Gauge that comes with a magnetic adapter instead of the quickset adapter? Not sure how the magnet would workÖ

12-28-2011, 10:15 AM
I stopped screwing around with doing it myself years ago. Around here a front end alignment is less than $50. Its done on a rack, has a computer read out of before and after.
If my tires wear out because they were not aligned properly, its their baby.

Tires are expensive, alignment is not. Screwing around for 2 hours to make it perfect in the driveway and saving $50 just doesn't make sense.

12-28-2011, 09:00 PM
Itís not a cost issueÖitís a hobby issue. Iím actually looking forward to a new challenge. Kind of like experimenting with shock settings, swaybar settings, etc.

12-29-2011, 12:36 AM
I have been doing the jackstand/string level thing for years but I recently scored a Blue Point caster camber gauge and Im working on a quicker home built toe gauge. There is some merit in reading the tires but you really don't want to scrub through a goodly part of your tire life to determine that you need an alignment. Truthfully, I find that cars don't need alignments nearly as often as the hype would tell us. In fact In getting set to do the first alignment ever on my 2000 GMC 222K and I just put a new set of rubber on it. The old ones showed some wear on the inside edges of the front tires but by the time it was significant, the whole tire was basically down to the wear bars. I just replaced a lower ball joint and the rest of the front end parts look fine. You really do need an alignment if you have done major front end work or if you just replaced some parts without knowing if the car had been "aligned" when it had somewhat worn parts.

I remember my dad welding in a complete left front section of frame and crossmember on a 73 Cougar (bad collision damage). After he set it up with his string/ level/tape measure method. He suggested to the owner that it be pur on an alignment machine because of the extensive amount of stuff that had been done to the front end...The thing was dead nuts on!

12-29-2011, 12:39 AM
This isn't rocket science and you don't need hi-tech tools to align a car.

Adam McLaughlin
12-29-2011, 12:41 AM
Around here, alignments typically go for about $250 to $200. I have paid for these for a few years, and never been happy, then I started to do my own and while I can't do it as quickly as the rack and computer boys, I can get my vehicles where I want them over and over again. This is fine by me!

BUT....... If there is a Blue Point tool to speed these things up, well, then..... gotta have it!


Adam McLaughlin
12-29-2011, 12:42 AM
Side Note: I think I put my Fords at 1/8" toe in, and something like a real slight negative camber, a half a degree to a degree max on my lowered truck.

12-29-2011, 12:53 AM
To the people saying take it somewhere because that is easy and cheap...

An oil change is $25-30, and they top off your other fluids. Do you do this also since its so inexpensive? If they screw it up you get a new motor, just like the tires. It probably takes less time if you take into account jacking, draining, disposing of oil, etc.

Why not? Because you don't trust them, you enjoy working on your car, and you know it's exactly how you want it. Wouldn't the same reasons would apply to an alignment?

Obviously it's simpler to do an oil change than an alignment, but after you have a couple alignments under your belt they seem pretty simple too.

For the record, I have never done one, but it's on my list of things to do.

12-29-2011, 12:55 AM
I assume I can use the tools in question (longacre and others) on the rear as well as the front? I've got an adjustable rear now.

12-29-2011, 01:09 AM
"Set the toe and let it go" :pimpflash

12-29-2011, 07:18 AM
I posted some of this in another thread, but will repeat here. I align my race cars myself and have been doing so for the last few years. It typically takes 2 hours to re corner balance and align. The cost of a corner balance and alignment at a professional shop can easily be $400.

I use the tools listed below. This is definitely the high tech solution, and not required for the average DIYer. The one area where I would recommend getting a decent tool is for caster/camber. Doing it with the level just is not that accurate.

Caster/Camber: Intercomp (

Toe: ART Laser String II (

Ride Height: ART (

Scales (for corner balancing): Intercomp (they make a bunch of different ones, but all are really good)

For slip plates, I just use some ziplocks with some oil in great.

Some other tips for doing your own alignments
1) make sure the tires are properly inflated to the correct hot pressure
2) make sure the floor is leveled (several youtube videos on how to do this)
3) after you make a change, "bounce" the car to settle the suspension.
4) put ballast in the drivers seat to simulate your weight
5) when you are done, drive the car around the block and then recheck your measurements