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Do it yourself front wheel alignment


Well-Known Member
Local time
10:52 PM
Dec 24, 2013
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Surprise, Arizona
I am going to give this a shot. My 73 Charger needs new bushings and steering components, they are all half worn out. So whatever damage I do is temporary and a learning experience. Tires are crap too. Doing some internet research it doesn't look that hard.

I have a pair of home made slide plates, toe bars, two tape measures, a carpenters degree gauge, and a plan.

Ride height is already set were I want it. I plan to adjust each upper control arm for as much positive caster as they can get. Then set both wheels to .5* negative camber, set toe to 1/16" toe in, then drive the car. I expect it to pull to one side or the other. The side it pulls to will have the least amount of positive caster. That means I need to pull caster out of the opposite wheel making it less positive to match the other side. Then reset camber, reset toe and drive the car again. Trial and error till it stops pulling.

Anyone do this before?
In order to do a proper alignment the tires as well as the suspension need to be in good condition. All tires need to be the same size, brand and model. The air pressure needs to be set at the proper psi on all 4 tires. The rims need to be the same width and offset. After all of that you can Now adjust the car to the proper ride height. Alignments don't always follow assumptions. Both caster and camber will determine tire pull. Depending on things like road crown, you will have to make compromises on whether straight tracking is more important in Hi-way driving where the road is more flat or city driving where the roadway is more rounded.
Unless you're running bias ply tires, it's better to use specs more suited to radials. Better to replace worn components first. PST has a discount for forum members I believe.
Pick up a caster/camber gauge. They are inexpensive and you will have it forever.
Having worn out steering components is dangerous. My advice, overhaul the front end or at least replace the components with the most wear to make the vehicle safe to drive. You can do a diy alignment and get decent results but a good alignment is not that expensive, and you can get it set to the specs you want the first time and be done.
I did my own with jacks stands, fishing line and a tape measure. Drives just fine
Spent quite a bit of time on this. But like I said it is a learning experience for me. I made an angle measuring stick from square steel tube I had (much like the young lady had in the above video) and a couple of bolts. Hold it against the wheel lip to measure the angle. And put an angle gauge app on my phone.

Caster angle can be easily calculated by first setting camber to your desired angle, I set mine to -.5° (top of wheel in), then turn the wheel 20° right and measure the angle, then turn the wheel 20° left and measure the angle again. Caster is the difference between the two measurements.

Example; wheel turned left angle -90.1°, wheel turned right angle +88.9° = +1.2° caster.

This worn out front end has issues and will be rebuilt soon, the car pulled left even with the wheels and tires from my 72. So the tires are not the problem. I first set the camber to be equal on each wheel to -.5°, and caster equal on both sides at +1.5° the most I could get and still have acceptable and equal camber on both wheels. Car still pulled left, just not as bad as before I started this exercise. The pull will be to the wheel with the least amount of positive caster on a level road.

I could not add any more positive caster to the left side than +1.5°, trying to make it more positive than the right side which should stop the pull to the left. What I tried to do then was making the right side have less positive caster then the left. That should move the pull to that side, I had to take positive caster away from the right side to make it have less positive caster than the left. The right side ended up at -1° caster to stop the pull. Not good. Car wanders terribly.

So what is the result of this? If you have the time and ability you can do the alignment yourself. It is not that hard with some home made tools in your garage.

I applaud your desire to learn how to do things yourself. That's never a bad thing.

I however question why you would even go to the trouble on a worn out suspension and trashed tires? All of the work you did is likely for naught. I'd be curious to see how your measurements look now after driving a just few miles. There is a reason that no shop (any worth their salt) will even mess with trying to align anything when the components are worn out. The reason why, is because once you set your angles, the slop in the suspension will wipe those settings out...possibly making them worse that when you started.

I know you mentioned that you're going to rebuild the suspension components, so maybe you already realize that you'll have to start from scratch once you do, and this is just a proof-of-concept.

Take care.
I however question why you would even go to the trouble on a worn out suspension and trashed tires? All of the work you did is likely for naught.

I have a lot of free time now. Stopped working this year. Old cars have been a hobby for a long time. Industrial equipment trouble shooting and electrical equipment maintenance was my career. I guess I am combining the two in retirement.

What have I learned by this? Alignment is very easy to do in your garage with some home made tools and a little technology.
The rear end should also be checked for squareness and that all the bushings, mounts, u-bolts etc checked for wear and tightness.

Whenever I setup a race car that is always done first.
That's called a "thrust angle" alignment, when you square the front with the rear.

Wasn't common practice until the late 70's IIRC.

The caveat is that if they're not close to square already, it could cause "dog tracking" like a nova.
I agree with the guys, first repair the suspension and change the front tires, save yourself from a lot of headache, and take the car to the alignment shop is cheap, but first find a guy that knows this cars m, that's were the trick is.
why cant he give it a shot and do it himself?geezzz. I say go for it. reason being in the many years owning thease cars I have found almost no one who can align them right. I am in need of an alignment on my challenger now and am sweeting it as to who I will have do it. as it sits now my car drives good tracks strait but I can see has too much camber. so here it goes to get an alignment. I have set my own front end in the street with NO tools to make it go strait and not wear tires. good luck
I would not go to an alignment shop again. No need. It is too easy to do yourself. That said, you must have the mechanical ability and the tools needed. If you dont have both of those then an alignment shop is your only choice. I will lay out the tools today and snap a picture. It is all stuff you can do in your garage, if you have the ability.
Yeah boy....I remember having my duster aligned and picking it up and it made a left turn all by itself....another guy that only did alignments called me after a few hours and said no way I'll get this car in specs...I said just make it go strait and not wear tires....sometimes that's all you can do with these cars
These are the tools needed.

The slider plates are self explanatory. They are a pair of steel plates with oil between the plates. Drive the front wheels on them and the wheel will move around easily. Some people use plastic bags under the tire to get it to move easily, I prefer the plates.

The two lengths of 1 1/2" angle are for toe adjustment. Place one across the wheel/tire, it can be on a pair of jack stands, stacked up 2x4's, whatever you have. One on each side, use two tape measures, one across the front of the two front tires, one across the rear, to measure the distance between the front of the tire compared to the rear of the tire.

The camber tool is shown with the carpenters angle gauge. I used an angle app on my phone.

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