DIY 4 Wheel Alignment
This DIY describes the process of doing a 4-wheel alignment on your car. This procedure will allow you to
set camber, tracking, and toe. Using this procedure you will set toe on all 4 wheels individually and with respect to the
chassis centerline. This means your thrust angle (tracking) will also be correct when you are finished. Caster is not adjustable
on the XD generation Elantra, and the procedure assumes that subframes and unibody are square and true. If your chassis is
damaged "out of true" the procedure will still work, but your thrust angle may be incorrect. This procedure can be used on
cars other than the XD as well, but the adjustment points may differ. You may also use this DIY to set thrust angle and toe
even if you do not intend to change camber. The order of the procedure is important, so follow the steps. Please note that
an alignment is required any time that you change any parameter or component in the suspension, with the exception of sway
bars. If you don't align afterwards you will have driveability issues, uneven and/or excessive tire wear, and possible reduced
fuel economy. I will not discuss parameters for the XD here, as different people want their cars to do different things. However
stock suspension parameters are available at hmaservice.com.
After I installed my K-sport
coilovers, I took my Elantra to an alignment shop. They had my car up on the Hunter alignment machine for several hours and
finally told me that their machine couldn't read toe due to the extreme negative camber that I had them set. For me this was
a waste of $75.00. So I did some research and found that one can use strings to do a four wheel alignment that is more accurate
than the alignment shop can do, and certainly less expensive. This method has been used for many decades, and is still used
by most racing teams.
Important Note: For an up-to-date
ongoing discussion of this DIY go here.
Tools & Supplies
* camber gauge (optional)
* 7' straight edge (can be straight lumber)
* (4) jack stands
* (2) 10' lengths of 3/4" or 1" metal electrical
* (4) 12"x12"x2" concrete block (optional, but highly suggested)
* (16-20) 12"x12"x1/8" commercial floor tiles
a couple of 12"x12" pieces of plywood (optional)
* string (fly fishing line works great)
* (4) jackstands
* (2) 22mm wrenches
* 13mm wrench
* steering wheel locking device (highly suggested)
* 6" or 12" scale with
32nd or 64th gradations
* 3-4 hours for your first time, includes initial setup
* 45 minutes to
an hour with experience
Make slide plates for each wheel by
putting grease between two 12"x12" floor tiles.
Measure 2 feet in from the edge of the metal conduit and drill a small
hole through the conduit. Make sure to drill through both walls. Later you will feed the string through these holes and tie
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). We are using the 2" thick concrete blocks 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.
Left to right:
Front to back: (notice my level isn't long enough; it is sitting on top a 7' length of straight timber)
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.CAUTION!
It is possible for the car to slide plates to allow the car
to slip off of the concrete blocks. Take your time and pay attention to what you are doing. Neither I nor Elantraclub.com
can be held liable for carelessness.
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. Notice the slide plates will move as you turn the steering wheel. The slide plates that you made also allow
the suspension to “settle” into its natural state. Once centered, it is suggested that you immobilize the steering
wheel. I use a steering wheel holder that I got on Ebay for about $20.
After you have locked the steering wheel give
a light tug outward on the front of each wheel. If you have any play in the tie-rods this will take it up and place the wheel
in the position is would be in when loaded by driving.Steering wheel holder & pedal depressor kit:
Steering wheel locked:
Step 3: Check Camber
This step, while optional, is recommended. With
the stock suspension components there is limited adjustability. The suspension components that you have will determine the
method of camber adjustment. There are many variations of suspension components; stock, aftermarket struts and springs, camber
kits, and coilovers. For the sake of simplicity or laziness on my part (you choose), we will only discuss camber measurement,
and the benefits and detriments of camber, not adjustment.
There are many ways to get the camber angle, but I suggest
utilizing a camber gauge. I use a $40 model available at Racer Parts Wholsale.
Because we carefully leveled the car previously, a less expensive bubble level type of camber gauge
may be used. There are digital camber gauges on the market that will allow you to check camber while the car is not level.
These camber gauges start at about $200. You can also find camber using a plumb-bob, scale, and trig tables.
camber is when the top of the tire leans outward from the car. Negative camber is when the top of the tire leans inward.
of negative camber:
You want to be careful with the amount of camber that you introduce. Negative camber, especially on the front wheels
will help with grip while cornering, because the tire on the outside of the turn will have a larger contact patch while cornering.
However, camber (negative or positive) will decrease straight line stability and impair braking because as the tire leans
in or out the contact patch is reduced. Note: Most race cars rarely use more than -3 degrees of camber. A little bit of negative
camber on the rear wheels will also help with grip while cornering. However, some like to have the rear of the car loose while
cornering. In this case you would reduce the amount of negative camber, and possibly introduce a little positive camber. If
you do not intend to race your car, then the manufacturer's recommended camber settings should be used.
I have my Elantra
set up with -3 degrees camber on the front wheels, and -1.5 on the rear. This is for autocrossing, and not recommended settings
for daily driving.
Here is my helper holding the camber gauge against the wheel:
Step 4: String it up!
Set 1 jack stand at each corner of the car as shown below. Rest conduit
across jack stands left to right. Thread string through holes previously drilled in conduit, and tie off at both ends. 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. You may need to use some kind of needle to thread the string through the conduit. Take up
the slack in the sting so that it doesn't sag, but don't pull it too tight.I'm all strung out:
Raise jack stands so that the string runs through the center of the hub on all four wheels as shown here:
Square it up! Now use your scale to measure the distance from the hub to the string. You need to move the jack stands
and conduit until the distance from the hub to the string is equidistant. The measurements for the front wheels will be different
than that of the rear, but still need to be equidistant. In other words, the distance between the hub of the driver's side
front wheel and the string must be equivalent to the distance between the hub of the passenger's side front wheel and the
string. This measured distance may not be the same for the rear wheels, but the distance from the hub of the driver's side
rear wheel to the string must equal the distance between the hub of the passenger's side rear wheel and the string. This will
take a little while to get set up. You need to measure all four wheels each time you move the string. Note the conduit helps
here because when you move one side the opposites side moves the equivalent distance. Measure, repeat, measure, repeat, and
so on until it's all square. Once the string is squared, don't move it! If you move the string,bump into the jack stands,
conduit, etc... you will have to set it up all over again. This is particularly important later when you are crawling under
the car to make adjustments.Measure from the hub:
Step 5: Measure and Set Toe, and Tracking
Toe is arguably the most important suspension setting.
Very small amounts of to can drastically affect the driveability of the car and tire life. Toe-out is when the front of the
tires are pointing away from each other as viewed from above the car, and toe-in is when the front or the tires are pointed
toward each other. A small amount of toe-out can improve the way a car enters the turn, but will decrease straight line stability.
Whereas toe-in will make it harder for the car to turn and generally increase straight line stability.
Now that the
string is squared up around the car, and you have previously locked the steerign wheel in place you are ready to measure for
toe. Measure from the edge of the rim at the font of wheel to the string and record the measurement. Then measure from the
edge of the rim to at the back of the wheel to the string and record the measurement. If the wheel is closer to the sting
at the front than it is at the back then you have toe-out. If the back of the wheel is closer to the sting then you have toe-in.
To find the amount of toe, simply subtract the smaller of the recorded measurements from the larger. Note: you may measure
from the back of the rim first if you wish. It doesn't matter what order you proceed in, but try to be consistent to avoid
errors.Front of rim to string:
Back of rim to string:
Now that you have determined toe, you may need or want to make adjustments. To adjust toe on the front wheels, loosen
the lock nut on the tie rod with a 22mm wrench. Hold the ball end to avoid damaging it with another 22mm wrench. Then adjust
by tuning the hex part of the tie rod with a 13mm wrench. I don't recall which way to turn for toe-in versus toe-out, but
it is not important. If it is going the wrong way, turn it the opposite direction. Generally, I adjust the tie rod at ½ turn,
then measure toe. Continue to adjust and measure until you get the toe setting that you want. Then tighten the lock nut. Note:
You will want to set the toe on the drivers side the same as the toe on the passenger's side. This will ensure proper tracking
(more about this later). Also, remember that you set toe on each side for ½ of total toe. For example if you want 1/8”
of toe-out on the front wheels, you would set each wheel at 1/16” toe-out.Front tie rod:
The process for measuring and setting toe for the rear wheels is the same as the front with the exception of the adjustment
point. The adjustment mechanism for the rear wheels is on the aft suspension arm. Loosen the lock nuts with a 22mm wrench,
then turn the adjuster, also with a 22mm wrench. Follow the procedure from above. When toe is set where you want it, tighten
the lock nuts.Rear Toe Adjuster:
Finally, an additional benefit to the string method of alignment is that once you have set toe according to the previous
instructions, the four wheel tracking will be correctly set. Because the string is “square” around the car, and
because you are setting equivalent amounts of toe on the driver's and passenger's sides all toe settings are centered around
the centerline of the chassis. Therefore when you drive down a straight, flat road and hold the steering wheel centered, the
car will track straight.
Thank you for reading. I hope that you find this DIY useful. Take your time, and think it
through, and you will be happy with the results. I hope that you get the same sense of satisfaction that I did after successfully
aligning my car. Happy motoring! - toecutter