I have a vivid memory of how my father used to brag about the quality of a newly purchased car on the drive home from the dealership – “It drives straight as an arrow!” he would exclaim. Yes, that was his first test of any new vehicle. If it drove true down the road with a straight steering wheel. Well, if this is my Dad’s benchmark for a quality car I don’t think he would be too impressed by Tesla these days.
For myself, maybe because of my dad, I have to say there is nothing more annoying than a crooked steering wheel or a car that pulls constantly, so it’s extremely satisfying to be able to correct it with just a few minutes of work. This goes for alignment shops and garage warriors just the same. It is VERY difficult for even the most advanced laser alignment machines to get the steering alignment perfect, and that is why so many Tesla’s are delivered with crooked steering wheels. The easiest way to get the alignment perfect is to observe which way the steering is off and correct it using the methods below in small increments. Each adjustment should only take a few minutes so it’s not difficult to make a few small steps, and you will enjoy your car that much more when it’s driving straight as an arrow!
In professional motorsport, we perform 4-5 full alignments per weekend, and it really doesn’t take long once you’ve practiced it a few times and know how to make the adjustments. This article and attached video will teach you how to use toe plates to quickly check and adjust your alignment.
We’ve talked about toe plates before. They are a great handy tool to check the total toe of the front or rear of your vehicle. While they can’t tell you what the relative thrust angle or steering wheel offset is, if you’ve recently had an alignment and know that the car is in the ballpark, they are the perfect tool to use to make fine adjustments. String alignments are also a great tool, but take more time to set up and require a little bit more knowledge and equipment to perform. You can buy toe plates from a ton of vendors online – a quick google search will result in a number of options!
I would suggest watching the below before reading the steps and then using the following text as a reminder.
Checking Your Alignment:
Step 1: Determine if the car is pulling one direction or another.
This is simple – drive down a flat road (and check your tire pressures first!), if you let go of the steering wheel and the car leaves the lane, it’s pulling! It goes without saying don’t do this on an extremely windy day!
Step 2: Determine if the steering wheel is out of alignment.
This is also very simple. On the same flat road, when you let go of the steering wheel the wheel be straight. If it’s crooked one way or another when you’re not holding it, the steering wheel is out of alignment.
Step 3: Measure the total toe at each axle.
Using your toe plates and two matching tape measures, sit the plates flat against the wheels (steering wheel straight) and measure the distance at the front and rear of the wheels. If the front measures larger than the rear, this is toe-out. The opposite is toe-in. Use millimeters!
Once you’ve established the above it’s just a matter of making some quick adjustments using the factory front tie rod and our rear Arastradero Toe Arms. One of the nice things about our arms is that they can be precisely adjusted, and you can always go back to the starting point if you mark the adjusters before you start (again – see the video!). The pinch bolts can be easily tightened without causing the assembly to rotate and stretch, so making even a 0.2mm adjustment is possible – repeatably!
If the car is pulling, this means the thrust angle is not correct and the rear toe needs to be adjusted. If the steering wheel doesn’t center straight when you let go of the wheel, this means the front toe needs to be adjusted.
Assuming that you know what you’d like the total toe to be (start with 1-2mm toe in total in the front, and 1-2mm toe in total in the rear for a normal daily driven setup),
What To Adjust:
If the car is pulling to the right: Toe IN the Rear Left or Toe OUT the Rear Right (move in the direction of the pull)
If the car is pulling to the left: Toe OUT the Rear Left or Toe IN the Rear Right (move in the direction of the pull)
If the steering wheel is off to the right: Toe IN the Front Left or Toe OUT the Front Right (move in the direction the wheel is off)
If the steering wheel is off to the left: Toe OUT the Front Left or Toe IN the Front Right (move in the direction the wheel is off)
How Much To Adjust:
Before you do anything – make an alignment mark with a sharpie or paint market (for the third time, watch the video!). Knowing the total toe and the target, pick the adjustment that will fix your alignment issue while also getting you closer to the target toe. If the toe is already perfect, you can adjust two sides, but I would suggest making one change at a time.
The nice thing is that both our MPP rear toe arms and the front tie rods work out to roughly 1mm of toe change per hex of adjustment (1 turn = 6 hexes). One hex of adjustment is easy to do, as you’ll be able to line up the flats on the hex.
Always adjust one hex at a time until you get a strong feel for how much of a difference each adjustment makes. To give you a rough idea – one hex of adjustment will correct a few degrees of steering wheel misalignment (in the front), and correct a very light minor pull (in the rear).
Extending the rear toe arm will toe OUT the wheel, and shortening the arm will Toe IN the wheel.
Likewise, extending the front tie rod will toe OUT the wheel, and shortening the tie rod will Toe IN the wheel.
A Video Is Worth 14,400 Words (at 24fps):
Please watch the attached video of Jesse showing you all of the steps in detail. Good luck and please let us know how you make out, if this helps you please do share it with the rest of the community!