Do You Need An Alignment After Installing A Leveling Kit?


There are tons of ways to modify cars. A common modification for offroaders is to upgrade the suspension. Adding a lift kit or leveling kit allows for some extra travel on the suspension as well as the option to install taller tires.

Do you need an alignment after installing a leveling Kit? It is recommended to get an alignment after installing a leveling kit. A leveling kit can change the camber, caster, and toe measurements to a tire and its alignment which can eventually cause premature and uneven wear on a tire.

A leveling kit includes spacers that adjust the ride height of the vehicle. These typically sit on top of the strut beneath the body. Most kits come with spacers and any additional hardware necessary to achieve the desired effect. With this in mind, you may be wondering if an alignment is required after installing a leveling kit. This article looks into how a leveling kit affects the alignment of the wheels. We will also go into how an alignment is done and any associated costs.

Why You Need An Alignment After Installing A Leveling Kit

A leveling kit is a little different than a lift kit. While both raise the ride height, a leveling kit typically only raises the front end. This is because most trucks and SUVs rear suspension rides are a bit taller than the front. To achieve the proper weight, rating requires certain spring geometry which sits a bit taller. A lift kit raises all four corners of the vehicle and can utilize different parts and hardware to do so.  

It is a good idea to get an alignment done after having a leveling kit installed. To understand why let’s first look at what an alignment does for a vehicle. Understanding wheel alignment is important for vehicle maintenance in general, but it is especially important to understand it before making modifications. 

A vehicle’s wheels, specifically the tires, use friction against the ground to push the vehicle along. The tread on each tire is designed to optimize traction for the application, meaning road tires offer the best traction for road use and off-road tires offer the best traction for off-road use. As the tire spins and grips the ground, a tiny amount of wear happens against the tire. Over time, the tire eventually wears out. Having the wheels aligned to the road prolongs the life of the tire.

There are 3 main measurements of wheel alignment: camber, caster, and toe. Camber is the measurement of how perpendicular the wheel is to the ground. The caster measures the forward or backward angle of the vehicle suspension pivot points. Toe is a measurement of how parallel the left wheel is to the right wheel. Adding extra lifters and hardware when installing a lift kit can change these measurements. To ensure proper tire wear, it is best to get it aligned after the installation.

Why An Alignment Is Important

The primary purpose of an alignment is to ensure proper handling and tire wear of the vehicle. If any measurement is out, the tire wear will reflect it. A common example is camber wear. Typically, a camber affects the inside or outside edge of the wheel. This reflects how perpendicular the wheel is to the ground. If there is a bent control arm or failed ball joint, the camber will likely be out.

Another common wear is toe, which can be identified as a feathering of the tread pattern. This means that one side of the tread is worn low while the other side is high. This condition will likely occur across the whole tread face. This happens because the wheels are being scrubbed against the road as they are either being forced inward or outward.

The caster typically doesn’t show any wear issues because it is mostly related to steering, but steering issues can be indicative of an improper caster. Other problems that can affect tire wear are bed wheel bearings, under/over inflation of the tires, or wheel out of balance. This causes tire cupping or irregular wear spots and can be checked by a qualified shop.

Can You Do An Alignment Yourself?

It is possible to perform an alignment at home, but it is very difficult to be precise. For that reason, it is generally a better idea to have it done professionally. There are a few reasons why to do it this way. Often this information is proprietary, meaning it is only available to qualified repair shops.

First, a qualified technician has been trained in performing alignments and hopefully has the experience to do so accurately. Second, a qualified technician will also be able to proficiently use alignment equipment. These machines include specialized sensors that measure alignment very precisely and offer the best feedback on what needs to be done. Having a precise measurement also helps verify the repair. Finally, along with these machines, a technician has access to specifications. 

There may be some that choose not to go somewhere for an alignment. If a vehicle has been heavily modified, especially the suspension, some shops may opt out of working on it. For example, a vehicle that has a tall lift kit on it with oversized wheels may be difficult to align to specification. 

In these cases, a rudimentary alignment can be done by measuring the front and rear of each wheel center to check the toe. In some cases, a digital level can be used to measure the caster compared to the floor. Vehicles like this likely won’t be going on the road much, so uneven tire wear is not as big of a concern.

However, if we limit the scope to just leveling kits, there is no reason not to take it into an alignment shop. Leveling kits are pretty common and many vehicles that are leveled still spend a lot of time on the road, meaning tire wear is still a concern. Most shops should be able to square up the alignment even if it might not match a factory measurement precisely. 

Do I Need An Alignment On Just The Front Wheels Or All Four Wheels?

Typical alignment squares the front wheels to the rear wheels as well as squaring the left wheels to the right wheels. However, most of the adjusting is done on the front axle. Between the suspension and steering components, there are ways to adjust the front wheels. For example, in most cases, the steering linkage can be adjusted to align the toe measurement. 

The steering linkage points both wheels forward as well as makes sure the steering wheel is aligned and level. In some cases, the camber can be adjusted via concentric bolts attaching a control arm to the frame. Turning the bolt pushes the control arm in or out to adjust the camber. Of course, the available adjustments are dependent on the make, model, and year of the vehicle.

There aren’t many adjustments that can be done on the rear axle, generally speaking. If a measurement is out of adjustment on the rear axle, it is probably indicative of a serious problem. For example, if the vehicle has a rear differential housing and it is showing signs that the alignment is out, it could be a bent axle or broken spring component. Some vehicles have an adjustable link for the rear axle if it has an independent suspension.

Going back to the previous section, this is why it can be worth the money to have the alignment done professionally. Trained technicians will be able to accurately adjust the alignment according to specifications or alignment machine readouts to get it as close as possible.

How Much An Alignment Costs After Installing A Leveling Kit

Getting an alignment done after installing a leveling kit is very affordable. Depending on the location, most shops will charge between $50 – $100 depending on the shop. A two-wheel alignment will cost less than a four-wheel alignment, but a two-wheel may be good enough.

As previously mentioned, a leveling kit is something that can be done at home. However, if a repair shop can do it, they may also be able to include the alignment as part of the job. Or they may be able to refer to a good alignment shop. This isn’t the only way to find a good alignment shop, but it could be a good way to do it.

Conclusion

While a leveling kit is not a crazy modification, it is still worthwhile getting an alignment done after the kit is installed. Since the spacers sit on top of the struts, this can affect the wheel alignment. A qualified shop will be able to precisely measure and adjust the toe, camber, and caster. 

Doing so prevents irregular tire wear and improves handling. It is possible to do a simplified alignment at home, but an alignment service from a qualified shop doesn’t cost that much plus a qualified technician will be able to inspect for any other problems.

Related Question

Do wheel spacers affect the alignment? Wheel spacers do not affect the alignment of your tires if installed correctly. Wheel spacers should space each wheel to the same distance so all of the tires should be aligned after you install them. You should take your car to be realigned after you have installed wheel spacers to ensure that no misalignment has occurred. You can learn more by clicking here.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. His passion for cars is his daily motivator and is constantly working on his projects such as restoring his 1966 Bronco, 1968 Firebird, or modifying his 2022 Bronco.

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