So, I tried to adjust TOE by myself and this is what happened


#1

Car: 2007 Corolla CE with aftermarket wheels, 15X7 size, +42mm offset, 14.4 lbs. 195/60R15 tires (stock wheels were 15X6, +45mm, 185/65/15 tires.)

For the last year or two, my car has wandered to the right, I have to hold the steering wheel a bit to keep it straight, turning right requires slightly less effort than turning left. I have generally just put up with it, it was a minor inconvenience. I figured it was probably a tire defect and/or an alignment issue–the car has been pounded several times via pothole over the years. Well, out of boredom, I took a close look at the front tires and noticed that the inner edge of the tire was worn down significantly vs. the outer edge. This was particularly true with the passenger side front. The driver side front had this condition too but to a lesser extent, and the wear pattern seemed to be slightly different (tire wear is still more pronounced on the inner edge.) This left me wondering what the cause was—I thought it must negative camber wear (as I was familiar with the concept.) I did some more online research and came away thinking it was probably TOE. My research tells me that ‘toe-out’ tends to cause inner edge wear. Armed with this knowledge and my disregard for the tires (I plan to replace the tires soon and to have a real alignment via professionals,) I decided to tinker with toe by myself, without any measuring tools. I will adjust the tie-rods (having recently learned how to do so via online videos) then drive the car and see how it feels, then adjust again until I get it right. That’s the plan.

Adjusting toe was surprisingly easy. I didn’t even have to remove the wheels or have the car on jack stands. I only had to turn the steering wheel enough to clear enough space for me to access the inner tie-rod. Using my adjustable wrench, I spun the inner-tie rod clockwise and counter-clockwise until the car no longer wandered significantly to either side. What I learned is that I have to adjust toe in very smaller increments. I overdid it significantly the first time, and had to reverse.

I don’t know if I did this right. I don’t even know if my initial guess about the toe-out condition was correct but this has been a successful experimentation. The result was less wandering, and get this: the unexpected benefit of slightly easier steering with a very slightly disconnected feel to the steering. This is a positive result imho, I have always complained that the steering was unnecessarily heavy in this car, this 9th Generation Corolla (fyi: the 10th Generation made the steering TOO easy.) And, If I’m not mistaking, there seems to…appears to be… less tire rolling resistance. The car feels more willing to just go, it’s subtle I think, but it’s there. The car’s throttle response seems to have improved, again probably due to a lessening of a toe condition. Also, it feels like there’s less bump steer (but it’s still there.)

This has been fun and a learning experience. I will be monitoring the tire wear to see if it teaches me anything.

I already bought a new set of tires and they’re in the closet but I’m not ready to have them mounted just yet. I’m going to wear the current set till the steel belts show.

The only puzzle is that my experience seems to contradict the conventional wisdom that toe-out conditions tend to make steering easier. Here, I tried to fix what I thought was a toe-out condition by trying to make it more toe-in, and the unexpected result was easier steering.


#2

Well, I’m not sure where to start. As you must have learned from the online videos it is possible to do a reasonable toe adjustment yourself. But that is, of course, it - reasonable only. So for your own benefit I would stick to the plan of professional alignment with the new tires. There’s obviously a lot more to the whole thing than just toe. I would NOT wait for the belts to show on the current tires. That just makes you dangerous.

On the issue of toe-out, it’s hard for me to know exactly what you mean. It surely does not mean that the “toe is out of alignment.” Some alignment specs do call for a slight amount of toe-out - in which both front wheels are toed out slightly - and to the exact same extent. But the amount of toe out for general passenger street cars (i.e. we’re not taking about tuning the suspension & steering on a race car) would be so small that “shade-tree” toe adjustment would not likely be able to accomplish it correctly. Just the right amount of toe out on a FWD is helpful because under throttle there is a natural tendency to end up toed in. A little toe-out counters that.


#3

There are a number of geometries that are all interconnected and all need to be adjusted to tolerances within a small number of degrees. You cannot possibly do this in your driveway with a measuring stick.

In addition to toe, there’s the other “primary” ones of camber and caster, and there are also “secondary” requirements such as Steering Angle Inclination (SAI) that need to be checked. You need a machine and training to do a proper alignment. There’s no way around it.


#4

I disagree with you SMB, you can do an alignment in your driveway with a home made jig. In fact I will go as far as to say you can do a better alignment with a home made jig that most techs can on a “machine”.

You do need to understand the geometry of a cars suspension, which is something that most front end mechanics do not understand. They just look at the numbers and that is it. The machines require some alignment and calibration themselves and from what I have seen, most machines are out of alignment themselves.

But, you do really need to know Geometry and how a suspension works. You also need a level driveway, an accurate level, calipers and protractor.


#5

"But, you do really need to know Geometry and how a suspension works. You also need a level driveway, an accurate level, calipers and protractor. "

And I’ll bet a lot of patience also helps. Just an assumption though as all I’ve ever done is a “close enough to drive to the shop” toe check after new tie rods.


#6

I think the OP’s DIY’er efforts are an interesting experiment. I’m happy the OP reported the results here. I’ve never messed with alignment myself, but I don’t see any reason why this trial-an-error method wouldn’t work. I mean as long as you stick with toe-in, and make small & symmetrical adjustments, then some miles of test driving, before deciding if further adjusting is required.

As far as doing a total alignment procedure in your driveway, not so sure about how practical that is. On one hand, it is just high school geometry after all. If you can construct some straight reference lines to measure against, and can make the proper measurements with the proper accuracy, that should work as well as anything else. On the other hand, it seems like it would be a lot of effort, both studying the principles involved, and constructing the fixtures to do it. Also there’s a need to check alignment as the steering is turned too I think, which may mean you need some kind of device to rest the front wheels on, which will allow them to turn without grabbing.

So after purchasing new tires, me, I’d have the alignment done at an alignment shop. I’d ask my inde mechanic who’s the best alignment tech in town.


#7

Don’t get me wrong here, for most people, going to a shop is the best alternative, I’m just saying it CAN be done. I would never do it the way the OP did though. I prefer measurements to a SWAG.


#8

mareakin, nice try; it’s also how I got started with at home wheel alignment. You must very carefully measure toe and it is very sensitive to adjustment with the tie rod sleeves. I have a home-made trammel bar as a tape measure can not clear the underbody parts at the middle rear of the front tires or the middle front of the rear tires. Rotate each tire while scribing a mark around each tire’s perimeter and equalize each tire’s position on your working surface after lowering by rolling back and forth before measuring. Toe will affect tire wear profoundly more than caster or camber.

Camber has little effect on tire wear but camber must not be too much out of spec. or it will. With a level driveway/working surface you can do a good front and rear wheel alignment that will let your tires wear normally. I use a carpenter’s level to check camber, a trammel bar to check toe and after doing a careful front and rear wheel adjustment and with some hair pulling, caster can be inferred. After doing a careful front and rear wheel toe and camber adjustment, if there is still steering pull, then unequal front caster is likely at fault rather than a tire or a dragging brake problem. McPherson design front suspension caster can be adjusted in spite of what you might find but I choose to not go into that now.

If you want to get into wheel alignment, I suggest that you search “Fred Puhn” for his book about car handling. I have had a copy for at least 10 years, possibly longer. It will help you with background info to get started.

PS, I will add that thrust angle, the relationship of rear tires to fronts can be checked with a straight edge. You can go to a lumber store to find one. Pick out a usable 8 or 10 foot 1x 4 by eyeballing along the edge on both sides to find a straight one. Hold it against the middle of each rear tire to see how each rear tire aligns with the front tire. The rear tires might have a good toe angle but they must be uniform with the fronts. This may sound crude to some but it works as intended.


#9

The toe spec for your car is zero plus or minus 5/64". That means a tape measure measurement from center of the tread of the L/F tire to the center of RF should be equal to the corresponding rear measurement–or–the difference between the 2 measurements should be no greater than 5/64". Wha Who makes a good point about using a trammel bar as opposed to a tape measure. If you’re off too far your new tires will wear out incredibly fast.

Also, the toe doesn’t have to be off too much for the steering to be WAY, WAY over responsive & REALLY, REALLY unsafe.

Don’t get me wrong. Good luck to you.

Please post back!


#10

Wha who, camber DOES make a difference to tire wear. It creates a conical wear pattern if it’s out. And weird handling.

Keith, I agree that the quality of alignments done in shops is all over the map, but I disagree that you can do a better job in your driveway. How would you do the caster angle?

And if you try to use the tread to measure against, you’re further adding the acceptable lateral runout of the tread to the alignment error.


#11

I think Wha who may have inadvertently used the word camber in place of caster.

The OP was not real specific but it was inferred (at least the way I read it) that the OP thinks toe-out is the only thing to cause inner edge tire wear without considering negative camber and why negative camber may exist if that is the case.

That brings up points about (apparently) a tape measure not being used to set toe, whether or not there is any suspension wear or damage which is leading to a negative camber condition, and so on; especially given the comments about potholes, pulling, and this having gone on for a year or two.


#12

It is true that alignment racks can be way off. At the one dealership I worked at we had our Hunter 411 rack calibrated every 6 months without fail. Then it just went out of wack relatively quickly. The cars were pulling like crazy after alignments for no apparent reason. A customer who’d just got an alignment & 4 tires wore them out in 2000 miles. But when a rack is working properly you can’t beat it. The obvious advantage is in how quickly it can be done. Also the rack averages lateral runout of tire & wheel assembly, as TSMB referenced.

As for thrust angle, the industry rule of thumb spec for this is zero +/-.25 degrees–pretty tough to achieve in the driveway.

Some front toe specs call for a certain value +/- .04 degrees. Yes, 4 hundredths of a degree.

When alignment racks are installed it’s common to use a transit or other device to make sure the runways are close to perfectly level.

But hey, if you’'re doing alignments in the driveway & your tires aren’t wearing out then you’re doin SOMETHIN right!


#13

I am sorry for all the people so hard up a $49 alignment is an issue. Maybe we could have a fundraiser to provide help to those that need it.


#14

Alignments in my area are running about $89 now at many places. That’s for a 4-wheel alignment, which I believe is the only way to go on todays’ cars driving at todays’ speeds. There are coupon “come-ons”, but IMHO those are not to be trusted.


#15

Maybe @cqdilla might have an idea for an altruistic fund, I would do a paypal contribution


#16

Heck, I’m trying to get contributions to ME !!!
Honestly, if I had $49 to spare, I’d personally much rather contribute it to the Shriners’ Hospital for Children, of the Shriners’ Burn Institute.

But I tip my hat to your compassion. The world needs far more of that.


#17

As has been pointed out, you can do alignments in your driveway. It takes some thinking, some set up and lots of patience. No question, having a machine makes it faster, more accurate, and just plain easier. I’ve spent many an hour getting the toe right after adjusting the suspension in the race car.

But there is one thing our OP forgot. Tire conicity - root word “cone”.

This is the property where the tire pushes sideways. In new tires, it’s about how well the belt is centered. In worn tires, you can add tire wear to the picture.

Since the OP stated he has uneven tire wear, his tires probably have conicity worn into them and by adjusting the toe to compensate, he may now be “out of spec” from a mechanical point of view.


#18

After you have finished playing games crawling around under your car with a tape measure, I would put it on an alignment rack and at least see a print-out of your work…


#19

Yeah, I have some doubts about DIY alignments using various tape measurements and rulers and strings. I don’t it possible to get accurate measurements, there are too many variables involved, too many rounding off errors.

In my case, I wasn’t even trying. I was toying around.


#20

Count me as another DIY alignment guy. I paid for an alignment ONCE and they screwed it up so bad I started doing them myself and never looked back. I get some interesting looks at the tire store when I not only decline their alignment but am adamant about them not even checking it. Don’t touch it!!!

Contrary to the poster insinuating its about being cheap, I could afford it without batting an eye. That doesn’t factor into it whatsoever…