Can you do your own alignment at home with common tools? Yes. Here’s how.
DIY Alignment by MVS Contributor CN90
I just did the Alignment Tricks Using Common Tools.
I tried it on my 1998 Volvo V70 and it works perfect!!! So here is the DIY.
The key thing is to define the axis of the car by making parallel lines along the forward axis of the car.
Performed on a 1998 Volvo V70
Toe-in measured at tires 2.9 mm +/- 0.9 mm.
- Carpenter Level at least 24″ long
- Carpenter Square
- Plumb Bob
- Masking Tape and Pencil
- Basic Skills involved in Tierod adjustment
- Most cars have negative Toe-in because when the car runs at 50-60 mph, the wheels “flare out” (or toe-out) a bit from the forward force and crown on the road, now the tires are parallel when driving.
- Any worn Suspension components need to be fixed before doing this. At 80-100K miles, common items are: Outer Tie rods, End Link Swaybar, Control Arms.
- Garage Floor needs to be level between R and L sides. The normal slope seen in typical garage floor slopes outward and this small slope does not affect this procedure.
- Do this inside garage to avoid wind blowing the Plumb Bob.
- Tires should be the same make and wear. Inflate all 4 tires to approx. 35 psi or so. Unload any heavy cargo in the car.
DIY Alignment Procedure
The following procedure shows you how to adjust toe-in (adjusting camber and castor requires special tools, and but these rarely need to be adjusted unless you just did spring/struts). So this toe-in procedure is usually good enough for annual maintenance.
- Start by attaching Carpenter Square to Carpenter Level using Zip Ties.
- Using a brick approx. 24 cm tall for support, measurements are made at “equator” of tires. Use a chalk to mark the tires where measurements are made.
- Set Steering Wheel Straight.
- Track widths for FRONT and REAR tracks are rarely the same in any car, so one needs to record this to establish parallelism:
Start by holding the Carpenter Level/Square Combination so the Carpenter Square is now at the Hub (Axis of rotation of Hub), drop the Plumb Bob within 2 mm of floor, mark an “x” on the floor with pencil.
Do this for all 4 wheels. Back car out of garage to measure track widths (including the Carpenter Level/Square Combination). In my case Front = 212 mm, REAR = 206 mm.
7. Drive car back inside garage at similar location. Apply Masking Tape on floor, long enough for the entire tires (see pic).
8. Repeat Step #5, but add 3 mm for the REAR “x” mark. Now you have 4 points that define the perfect rectangle, which defines the forward axis of the car straight movement.
Using a brick to hold the string down and pull it slightly tight enough to draw a straight line (using the Level to draw straight line) between FRONT and REAR points. Now you have a straight line parallel with the car.
9. After this stage do NOT move the car. If you do, then you must repeat Steps 1-8!
10. Now start alignment job: for EACH tire, do NOT measure at Hub but instead measure at tire side walls at “equator”.
11. In this example, RIGHT FRONT Tire Toe-in is 5 mm and needs to be about 2.9 mm according the Volvo spec’s.
12. Adjust by: Loosening the Locknut, turning the INNER Tierod using 13-mm wrench. Re-measure. The steering wheel may be pulled out of straight, do NOT worry about this yet.
13. Now adjust LEFT FRONT Tire Toe-in.
14. Tighten the Locknuts.
15. Check the Steering Wheel, it should be close to midline (should not be too crooked).
16. Note that the wheels now are according to alignment specifications, but the Steering Wheel may not be straight. Do NOT worry about it for now.
17. You will need to do another adjustment soon.
18. Go for a test drive on highway, if Steering Wheel is straight, then you are done. If not, you can either: ignore it or fix it.
19. I am a perfectionist, so I fix it. On highway drive, I noted that the Steering Wheel points at 1 o’clock position (car drives straight though). Write down your observation. If you screw this up and adjust it wrong in Step 20, you will have to repeat the whole thing!
20. Basically in my case, when the Steering Wheel is returned to 12 o’clock (or neutral position), Both Front Wheels are now slightly pointing LEFT, but they are still within spec’s.
21. Do equal adjustment on both sides: if you turn the LEFT FRONT tire Inward by 2 mm, you turn the RIGHT FRONT Tire Outward by 2 mm.
22. Test drive again. Whatever you do, once the tires are aligned, you always do EQUAL adjustment on both sides to avoid repeating all these steps mentioned above!
Car now drives beautifully in a straight line! Do NOT forget to Tighten the Lock Nuts.
23. Enjoy the drive and you just saved $70 alignment cost for beers/wine!
Bonus! 10 Interesting Volvo Facts
- In Latin, the word Volvo means: I spin. Today however the nearest meaning is “I roll”.
- Volvo was founded in 1924. The two founders were Gustav Larsson and Assar Gabrielsson.
- The ÖV 4 is the first Volvo car. The first car was sell-ready in 1927. The 2-Liter, 4-cilinder car got the nickname: Jakob.
- Volvo’s very first commercial vehicle was the Type-1 truck. The release year was 1928. In the same year, Volvo released the second car, the Volvo PV 651. Volvo manufactured a total of 1383 of both vehicles in the first year; of which automaker exported 27.
- This trend saw a sharp rise in 1932 when Volvo released a good amount of 10,000 vehicles, both trucks and cars.
- The company, however, started making a large-scale profit from the year 1935. The first luxurious car by Volvo was the PV36, which could carry six passengers at a time. The design of this iconic car paved the path for future Volvo cars to come. I came in the market with a price tag of 8,500 Swedish kronor.
- Volvo touched a landmark in 1941, with the sale of its 50,000th vehicle; this is a unique achievement considering the time when WWII was in full swing.
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