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Hagerty Employee

Wrenchin' Wednesday: How to set toe after rebuilding your suspension

There are few jobs more satisfying than rebuilding the suspension under your project car, even if you walk out of the garage looking like a coal miner from all the road grime. As all its joints and pivots wear, the suspension becomes less and less precise in its control of the wheel and tire, which doesn't just translate to a poor ride, it can severely affect the handling of your machine as the wheel inadvertently changes its alignment on the fly.


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Good article! One problem is that you need to measure at the centerline of the hub/wheel and you usually can't get a tape measure across the car at this point because of engine/suspension/etc. You can fab up a quick tool with a board and two pointers that sit on the floor and reach up to the centerline.

Intermediate Driver

Buy or turn up a couple of bob weights (with points) and secure them to either end of a string.  Slip knot on one end so length can be adjusted.   Drive the car a couple of car lengths fore and back, keep the wheels straight ahead, and park it.   Loop the string through a longitudinal tread groove on one side's front tire, and adjust so the bob weights so they just barely touch the ground.  Either have the front end on a big piece of cardboard or put masking tape down and mark where the bob weights point.  Without moving the car or disturbing the marks you just made, take the string/weights and move to the other side.  Loop the string over and again mark the ground (cardboard, tape, whatever) where the bob weights point.  Take the measurements between left and right marks, front and rear, and the difference is the toe (toe-in means front<rear) Adjust accordingly, not forgetting to move the car fore-and-aft a couple of lengths after each adjustment.  

If your spec is given in inches or mm, you've got the measurement directly.  If it's given in degrees, divide the measurement by the tire's outer diameter and take the arctangent (tan-1 on your calculator) of the ratio to get the degrees.  

Cheap and easy.  

Intermediate Driver

Good article but you lost a lot of credibility right at the start by using "anyways" twice in the same sentence.  I almost stopped reading at that point.  Even though you may hear it, it's not a real word ... the real word is "anyway".  Not trying to be a jerk here, Phillip just trying to keep things credible here at Hagerty Media. 


Community Manager

Thanks for bringing that to our attention. We have tweaked it so it now reads better.

Seconded. I generally try to resist being the jerk who calls out the pro writers on trivial goofs but that one warrants a rallying of the jerks.

Community Manager

No worries, we appreciate the feedback and we have re-worded that sentence.

Problem here is, it's about impossible to measure on the rear of the tire at the center level, too much in the way.   I use two 5 foot wood pieces, dead-on straight and parallel, supported level on center of the wheels against the tires.  Then measure across at the tires, then again at outer end.  When they read the same you're at zero, add a tad of toe-in and you're in the ballpark nicely.   My '36 Ford later at the wheel alignment shop, said it's dead-on perfect, they didn't touch it.   Just simple geometry guys. 

Pit Crew

Can't take a guy serious that uses a cheater tape measure.  Any "real man" would know where the 1/8, 1/2, and 1/4 marks are without them having to be labeled. 🙂 


If you are doing this regularly, go to Longacre's web site, spend $70 and use their toe plates.  Camber gauges are a good investment as well.  I can do a full alignment in my garage to better standards than most shops using their expensive equipment.  Most shops don't have people knowledgeable about the equipment they are using, and they also frown on doing "custom" (i.e. non-factory settings) alignments.


So True!

Intermediate Driver

Plates, bobweights with string - - same basic method just different ways of locating the measuring points.  Bobweights and string is a lot cheaper.


I keep a half dozen tape measures around, and I have never once thought "oh man I really wish this wasn't labeled to make life easier." I would say a "real man" is someone who works smarter, not harder, and strives to be as accurate as possible. why deny yourself the help?
Pit Crew

I guess the smiley face was lost on you Kyle.
Pit Crew

My pet peeve are people who preface a statement with "I don't mean to be a jerk", and then proceed to do so...Anyways, I liked the article.

New Driver

Something most people do not do is tighten control arms with the weight of the vehicle on them(wheels on the ground) after replacement.  The rubber bushings should not be preloaded after replacement.  If you thought it was awkward measuring the toe across the rear of the tire, wait till you torque control arm pivot bolts with the wheels on the ground.

The easy way to torque the pivots with the wheels on the ground is to just ask the alignment shop to loosen and retorque them when doing the alignment.  Don't be surprised to see the car look noticeably lower after re-torqueing the pivot bolts.


Pit Crew

I quit paying the ridiculous prices most places charge for alignment a decade ago. I have totally rebuilt more than one front end with new steering rack, struts and tie rods and never taken it to a shop. All my cars are rack and pinion and rear wheel drive so I line them all up with a tape measure, a level, some string and some duct tape. It's very simple. Not the rocket science those companies make it out to be. The last time I paid to have my car aligned on one of the fancy many thousand-dollar Hunter laser machines I didn't even get around the block before I had to turn around because the steering wheel was 20 degrees off center. That's when I decided I couldn't do much worse than that and it would be free. And most cars hardly ever even need aligned, but obviously in your case you did a suspension rebuild. I'm not taking the millennial grease monkey's word for it just because I need tires I need an alignment. Did the tires last a full life? Did they wear evenly? Is the steering wheel straight? If the answer is yes, there is no point in wasting money for an alignment.