Jim Smart
October 1, 2006

Ford calls for a minimum of 3/32-inch toe-in and a maximum of 1-1/32-inch toe-in. We're talking about a finite amount of toe-in, just enough to bring the wheel smoothly back to center with proper tracking. Too much toe-in will return the steering wheel to center aggressively and cause a sawtooth tire-wear pattern. This is why it's so important to get toe-in as accurate as possible. Toe-in also determines where the steering wheel sits when it returns to center. Sometimes, poor adjustment returns the steering wheel to 11 or 1 o'clock instead of noon. It's necessary to make identical, finite tie-rod end adjustments to center the wheel. Don't remove and adjust the steering wheel: Properly adjust the tie-rod ends and toe-in.

Common-Sense Alignment
A good rule of thumb is to always take a test drive before doing a front-end alignment. This gives you a good idea of what you're up against. Any front-end alignment shop that doesn't do a test drive beforehand is cutting corners (no pun intended). Not taking a test drive is like assuming food needs salt and pepper before tasting it.

If the car wanders right or left, toe and caster are the biggest suspects. Sluggish steering wheel return is typically due to inadequate toe-in; aggressive steering return is too much toe. Tire scrub in turns is most likely too much positive camber; excessive inboard tire wear can mean too much negative camber.

Another item is component wear. Never approach a front-end alignment until you have checked all the components for wear. Excessively worn ball joints allow camber and caster adjustment to go right out the window the minute you hit the road. Worn tie-rod ends allow toe-in to wander. What's more, worn-out components are dangerous.