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Pelican Technical Article:

Home Alignment

John Rogers

Difficulty Level: 3
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

     This article is the one in a series that will be released in conjunction with Wayne's upcoming book, 101 Projects for Your BMW 3-Series.  The book will be 256 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts.   With more than 350+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book should be a staple in any 3-Series owner's collection.  See The Official Book Website for more details.  The book is due out in October 2005.   
[Click on Photo]

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9


NOTE: This gauge is useful to check alignment at the races or at home especially if you have gone off course or hit some heavy bumps. Practice pulling the tape measure to get the same tension front and rear of the wheel when measuring.

1. Construction of the toe in/out gauges.

  • Get two pieces of 0.040 aluminum sheet, 24 inches x 18 inches.
  • Cut off each corner and smooth the edges.
  • Mark a line across the long dimension that is 6 inches from one side.
  • Bend the sheet 90 at the line. The short side will sit on the ground (bottom) and the long side against the tire (side).
  • Mark two notches one inch deep on each side approximately 3 inches from the bottom.
  • Cut each notch wide enough for a tape measure to fit into. Smooth the edges. See picture 1
  • Cut carrying handles as noted in picture 2 if desired. They make it easier to more them around.
  • Make the second one EXACTLY the same as the first one.

2. Use of toe in/out gauges.

  • Park car on level ground with wheels pointed straight ahead and steering wheel centered.
  • Place a toe in gauge against each wheel as shown in picture 3.
  • Use a weight to hold the gauge steady as shown in picture 4.
  • Pass the tape measure under the car then go to the other side and hook the end into the slot as shown in picture 5.
  • Put the other end of the tape in the slot on the other side and pull the tape SNUG, but not so tight it deforms the aluminum gauge and record the measurement as shown in picture 6.
  • Repeat the last two steps for the other side of the wheel, recording the measurement.
  • Take the difference between the measurements of the front and rear of the tires then divide by 2 and that is the toe in/out per wheel in inches.

NOTE: If the front dimension is smaller than the rear dimension you have toe in, otherwise it is toe out.

Refer to the chart below to convert to minutes or degrees of toe. There are 60 minutes to one degree. A good rule of thumb is 1/16 inch toe in per wheel front and 1/8 inch toe in per wheel rear for a car doing autocrosses/time trials.

NOTE: This chart is based on a toe gauge that is 24 inches wide and will NOT be accurate for other widths.

Toe measurement 1/16 inch or 0.0625 inch = Toe angle 8.95251minutes
Toe measurement 1/8 inch or 0.125 inch = Toe angle 17.9051 minutes
Toe measurement 3/16 inch or 0.1875 inch = Toe angle 26.8578 minutes
Toe measurement inch or 0.25 inch = Toe angle 35.8106 minutes
Toe measurement 5/16 inch or 0.3125 inch = Toe angle 44.7638 minutes
Toe measurement 3/8 inch or 0.375 inch = Toe angle 53.7172 minutes
Toe measurement 7/16 inch or 0.4375 inch = Toe angle 1.04452
Toe measurement inch or 0.5 inch = Toe angle 1.19375
Toe measurement 9/16 inch or 0.5625 inch = Toe angle 1.343
Toe measurement 5/8 inch or 0.625 inch = Toe angle 1.49225
Toe measurement 11/16 inch or 0.6875 inch = Toe angle 1.64152
Toe measurement inch or 0.75 inch = Toe angle 1.79079
Toe measurement 13/16 inch or 0.8125 inch = Toe angle 1.94008
Toe measurement 7/8 inch or 0.875 inch = Toe angle 2.08938
Toe measurement 15/16 inch or 0.9375 inch = Toe angle 2.23869
Toe measurement 1 inch = Toe angle 2.38802

3. Camber measurement, perform after measurement of toe in.

  • Use a carpenter’s square and place against the wheel with small side on the floor.
  • Ensure the long side is vertical.
  • Measure the distance between the square and the lower rim edge in 32nds and record as shown in picture 7.
  • Measure the distance between the square and the upper rim edge in 32nds and record as shown in figure 8.
  • Subtract the lower reading from the upper reading and refer to the chart below to get the amount of negative camber.

NOTE: If the lower dimension is smaller than the upper dimension you have negative camber, otherwise it is positive camber. Refer to the chart below to convert to minutes or of camber. There are 60 minutes to one degree. Camber settings will depend on what type of tire used and how the car is to be driven, but should probably never be positive!

NOTE: This chart is based on 15inch diameter wheels, the most common on 914’s it seems and will NOT be accurate for other diameters.


Camber measurement 1 - 32nds or 0.03125 inches = Camber angle 7.16201 minutes
Camber measurement 2 - 32nds or 0.0625 inches = Camber angle 14.324 minutes
Camber measurement 3 - 32nds or 0.09375 inches = Camber angle 21.4861 minutes
Camber measurement 4 - 32nds or 0.125 inches = Camber angle 28.6483 minutes
Camber measurement 5 - 32nds or 0.15625 inches = Camber angle 35.8106 minutes
Camber measurement 6 - 32nds or 0.1875 inches = Camber angle 42.9731 minutes
Camber measurement 7 - 32nds or 0.21875 inches = Camber angle 50.1358 minutes
Camber measurement 8 - 32nds or 0.25 inches = Camber angle 57.2987 minutes
Camber measurement 9 - 32nds or 0.28125 inches = Camber angle 1.07436
Camber measurement 10 - 32nds or 0.3125 inches = Camber angle 1.19375
Camber measurement 11 - 32nds or 0.34375 inches = Camber angle 1.31315
Camber measurement 12 - 32nds or 0.375 inches = Camber angle 1.43255
Camber measurement 13 - 32nds or 0.40625 inches = Camber angle 1.55196
Camber measurement 14 - 32nds or 0.4375 inches = Camber angle 1.67137
Camber measurement 15 - 32nds or 0.46875 inches = Camber angle 1.79079
Camber measurement 16 - 32nds or 0.5 inches = Camber angle 1.91022
Camber measurement 17 - 32nds or 0.53125 inches = Camber angle 2.02966
Camber measurement 18 - 32nds or 0.5625 inches = Camber angle 2.1491
Camber measurement 19 - 32nds or 0.59375 inches = Camber angle 2.26856
Camber measurement 20 - 32nds or 0.625 inches = Camber angle 2.38802
Camber measurement 21 - 32nds or 0.65625 inches = Camber angle 2.5075
Camber measurement 22 - 32nds or 0.6875 inches = Camber angle 2.62699
Camber measurement 23 - 32nds or 0.71875 inches = Camber angle 2.74649
Camber measurement 24 - 32nds or 0.75 inches = Camber angle 2.866
Camber measurement 25 - 32nds or 0.78125 inches = Camber angle 2.98552
Camber measurement 26 - 32nds or 0.8125 inches = Camber angle 3.10505
Camber measurement 27 - 32nds or 0.84375 inches = Camber angle 3.2246
Camber measurement 28 - 32nds or 0.875 inches = Camber angle 3.34417
Camber measurement 29 - 32nds or 0.90625 inches = Camber angle 3.46374
Camber measurement 30 - 32nds or 0.9375 inches = Camber angle 3.58334
Camber measurement 31 - 32nds or 0.96875 inches = Camber angle 3.70294
Camber measurement 32 - 32nds or 1 inches = Camber angle 3.82257

Comments and Suggestions:
mrbrian200 Comments: I have luck in road testing. Find an old asphalt-over concrete-road you know the ones: after about 5+ years the asphalt is still smooth but has perpendicular cracks running across the width of the road every 20 feet or so. Set toe in at the shop per whatever method you use such as this article. Mark the position of one of the inner tie rods then road test about 1/2 mile at a time getting it up to highway speed, adjusting 1/8 or less turn between each run. You'll know when you nail it: the spot where Lateral stability/ride quality is "best" has always been obvious to me, and is usually 1/4-1/2 turn from where it measures parallel with the vehicle sitting. You're only adjusting one side during road testing so if your steering wheel is off then go back and adjust both sides equally until the wheel is straight again. This doesn't work for the rear end though: as the thrust angle changes it can be difficult to interpret what is going on back there, but a flat 2-5 mile stretch, cruise control and MPG dash display on a day with no wind will give you an indication whether you're getting closer or further out back there as you tweak it. Peak the MPG then go back into the garage and adjust both sides equally until they are same in relation to the front tires I use the string method here. Set camber first before all this, if you can. Last car I used this method, a Chrysler Cirrus, I had right up around 40mpg on the highway at sane speeds and handled remarkably "like on rails" at insane speeds 85+. I've always thought somebody should make an alignment machine that incorporates a dynamometer/precision tach under the wheels as I can't think of any circumstance where rolling resistance wouldn't directly correlate to toe angle at speed.
December 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
HVYHWY Comments: Great, simple, physical, postive way to check alignment instead of the ole jargon that so many service people use to make it seem soooooo complcated and expensive. Thanks for the clarity.
November 23, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Just Me Comments: Is there a correction factor for other sizes? I have AM 16" and would like correct formula for that size.

Thank you!
March 15, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, the measurements are based on ride height, not wheel size. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
V70 AWD Comments: I just like your solution.
September 9, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
sonny boy Comments: do you have trailing arm bolt for rear wheel adjustment for 2000 bmw z 3 ? aftermarket different shape
May 6, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sure, give our sales dept a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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