Tips on Getting the Steering Wheel Straight When Doing a Wheel Alignment

One common automotive maintenance procedure is a steering and wheel alignment. This is not a do-it-yourself venture, as there are a number of expensive tools, such as an alignment rack, that must be used to properly perform an alignment. While doing an alignment, the functions of the front wheels and steering systems are checked and adjusted so the tires are sitting at the optimum location and the steering does not have drag or drift to it. Keeping the steering wheel straight is key to performing a proper alignment.

Lock the Steering Wheel

As part of their design to prevent theft or operation of the vehicle without the proper ignition key, steering wheels have a function that locks when the keys are removed from the vehicle. To align the wheel, turn on the vehicle using the ignition key, and straighten the steering wheel to as close as you can get to the completely straight position. Shut the vehicle off and, while holding on to the steering wheel, remove the keys. The steering wheel will not turn more than about 1/4 inch from its position with the keys removed before it will lock and secure in the straight position.

Set Rear Toe In

Set the rear toe in of the front tires before making other adjustments. This will ensure the steering wheel, which you will lock after making the rear toe in adjustment, will remain in the straightest possible position as you make other adjustments to the vehicle alignment. Setting the rear toe in makes sure the thrust angle of the tires is as straight as possible before locking the steering wheel and making other adjustments.

Take Stress Off Power Steering Valve

Before you have locked the wheel and before you have made the rear toe in settings, turn the vehicle on, and turn the wheel left and right a few times to bleed any air out of the system and make sure no fluid pressure is affecting the power steering rack. Start the vehicle, and check again after making the rear toe in adjustments to take tension off the tie rods.

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