AWD Bishop

DIY 4-Wheel Alignment

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I recently (with a lot of help) upgraded my suspension. well, with any tweaking / changing of the suspension, an alignment is a given. Now, I have chosen to take my car to LSS to get an alignment but while just doing a little informational research about alignments, I found some DIY for a 4-Wheel alignment from a couple of different places. For anyone who already has the supplies and the time, this is a great alternative to spending $80.00 or more on an alignment.

Tools Needed
* ruler that reads in very small increments (1/32" or better)
* digital caliper (optional; expensive)
* camber gauge (optional)
* level
* 7' straight edge (anything straight will work)
* (4) jack stands
* (4) Thin concrete block (optional, but highly suggested)
* 12"x12"x1/8" floor tiles
* (2) 12"x12" pieces of plywood (optional)
* neon string
* Jack
* 22mm Socket
* 19mm Socket
* 17mm Socket
* 13mm Socket
* Rubber Mallet

Estimated time
* 3-4 hours for your first time, includes initial setup
* 45-60 minutes with experience

Initial setup

Make slide plates for each wheel by putting grease between two 12"x12" floor tiles.

Step 1: Level Your Work Area

Park your car on a flat, level surface. Jack car up and support with jack stands. Car must be high enough to place concrete blocks, slip plates, and a few leveling shims (if required). The 2" thick concrete blocks are used to raise the car off the ground just enough so that you can easily get to the adjustment turnbuckles later.

Now slide the concrete blocks under the tires. Measure for level from left to right, front to back, and shim accordingly.

FYI: these are not pics of my car

When everything is leveled, place a slide plates that you previously made beneath each wheel (on top of the concrete blocks and leveling shims). Starting with either the front or rear of the car, remove the jack stand and slowly lower the car onto the slide plates.

At this point all four tires of the car should be resting on the slide plates.

Step 2: Center and Immobilize Steering Wheel

Center the steering wheel where you want it and immobilize it using a steering wheel holder or even some string tied on the steering wheel and then to the drivers headrest will work as well.

Step 3: Setup workspace

Set 1 jack stand at each corner of the car as shown below. Tie one end of the string to the front jack stand and the other end to the rear jack stand. For sting, I use a neon yellow Dacron fly fishing line (20 lb. Test). It is highly visible, is very good for this application, and costs about $3 for 100 yards but any visible string or line will work

Raise jack stands so that the string runs through the center of the hub on all four wheels as shown here:

Step 4: Square the car up

Roughly place the front jackstands about 4" from the fender just in front of the front tire. Likewise, place the rear ones roughly 4" from the fender just behind the rear tire.

Now, tie a loop in the end of the string and loop it over the top of your jackstand.

Run the string to the other jackstand and tie another loop to hold it on.

Now pull the jackstands apart abit so that the string is nice and taut. Raise each jackstand so that the string is at the same height as the centercap on your wheels.

We need to use a very finely-graduated ruler for the best accuracy.You will now move the jackstands close or farther from the car to make them perfectly parallel with chassis-centerline. Since the string is thicker than the accuracy of your measurement, choose to measure visually off the inner edge of the string, and always look directly down at the string to the ruler, never at an angle.

Measure from the hub:

Step 5: Measure and Set Toe, and Tracking

Now measure the forward and rearward measurement, and take as accurate and precise measurements as you possibly can. Work systematically to prevent getting yourself confused. You will measure from the inner edge of the string directly to the lip of the wheel, first on the leading edge and then on the trailing edge:

Front of rim to string:

Back of rim to string:

Using your toe measurements, you need to now correct the toe on each wheel that is not perfectly aligned. During this part of the work, it is ideal to NOT jack up the car at all and also to NOT bump the jackstands or strings. This means that after each adjustment, you will be able to check the measurement without having to reset the strings again. If you jack up the car to make an adjustment, you instantly lose the ability to refer to the strings because the car WILL move enough to screw the readings completely.

To adjust the rear, you will use the 17mm, the rubber mallet, and the 22mm. You can substitute the 22mm with a big crescent wrench if you must. On cars that don't have the rear diffusor thingy, you can also opt to use a 22mm socket if you like.

Crawl under the rear of your car

Observe the two lateral links that connect the hub to the middle of the rear subframe. The rear-most lateral link is the toe-adjustment. The adjustment is accomplished using the bolt with the tickmarks on it.

In the photo above, you can see that the bolt head has a "cam" shape built into it and turning it will displace the center of the bolt slightly left or right to pull or push on the lateral link.

Stick your 17mm on the nut on the backside of that bolt. Hit it with the rubber mallet to help loosen it. Loosen it enough so that you can turn the nut without the mallet then take it another half turn or so. You don't want it completely sloppy loose.

Stick your 22mm (or crescent) on the bolt head with the tickmarks. Turn it so that the cam forces the lateral link to be pushed in the direction it needs to be.

Grab your mallet and whack the rearward edge of the tire a few times to help push it out (this happens easier with slip plates in place).

Go back to your string and take a quick measurement. If it's perfect, crawl back under and tighten down the 17mm nut, making sure the bolt doesn't turn AT ALL. If the bolt turns, you're screwed and you need to adjust it again. Hit the end of the wrench with the rubber mallet poor-man-impact-gun and tighten the nut to a nice tight high-torque setting.

Measure the toe once more just to make sure. If it's not quite right, adjust again. If it's fine, move on to the next wheel.

Once you have completed both rear wheels, move to the front. It's very tight under there, but the good thing is you SHOULD be able to reach what you need to and it's actually a little easier than the rear.

Locate the tie rod under the car. It is the metal rod that goes from the steering rack to the hub and it's on the front side of the hub. Locate the 19mm nut on the rod that prevents it from being changed. Take your 19mm open ended wrench (or large crescent wrench) and loosen that nut. On the right side with the wrench pointing down, you will have to push the wrench towards the rear to loosen the nut. Vice versa for the left front wheel - pull the wrench towards the front to loosen it. If you can't get it to loosen, get a bigger wrench or use your poor-man's impact technique (mallet hitting end of wrench) on it.

Once you get the nut loosened, take your 13mm and turn the rod the appropriate direction. If the wheel is toe-in, like it is in our example front-left wheel, you will need to "lengthen" the rod by 'unscrewing' it a bit. I have found that 4mm of toe is corrected by roughly a half turn of the rod. Some say that each "facet" of the tie rod (1/6 of a turn) is approximately 1mm of toe adjustment.

Remember, the rod screws into the rod-end so to help visualize which way to turn it, imagine yourself at the steering rack looking at the wheel and just unscrew it towards yourself.

Once you get the adjustment, finger-tighten the 19mm nut, then tighten it down with the 19mm wrench. The Ball Joint on the tierod-End will allow some play so try to turn the 13mm part with the 19mm part until the ball joint bottoms out against itself to prevent losing your precise adjustment.

It is NOT necessary to get this gorilla-tight. Just a pretty firm tug so that it won't come loose on it's own. I have NEVER had a tie-rod nut come loose on me. Plus, you might have to re-adjust it again after you check your measurements. I would suggest after you tighten the nut, turn the rod-end back a bit to make the balljoint roughly in the center of its articulation.

Once you get your first front wheel adjusted, move right on to the next one. You will repeat the measure/adjust/measure until everything is perfect front and rear. Again, I suggest using the ruler to measure the centercap-to-string frequently to ensure you are not drifting at all.

Once you think it's all perfect, unsecure the wheel, roll the car off the slide plates and roll the car back about 3 feet, then roll it forward again (steering wheel perfectly straight). Do a quick re-setting of the strings to get them nice and parallel, etc... Re-measure to ensure everything is just exactly where it should be. If it is, then you are all set.

Torque Specs:
Rear Lateral Link, Inner Attachment Bolt/Nut - 74 ft-lbs
Tie Rod LockNut - 62 ft-lbs
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  1. NoAffiliationSTi's Avatar
    Wish I had this much free time, lol Good job though. I just have all camber plates as negative as they can go...but then again 18x9.5's with 265/35 tires