If you've just installed a brand new lift on your Jeep JK Wrangler and are wanting to get it aligned, there are a few things you should know before you take it to a shop and pay to have it done. First off, you should know that thanks to the new steering design on the Jeep JK Wrangler, very little is needed to have the front end aligned after the installation of a small to moderate suspension lift (2"-2.5" of lift). In fact, unless you've installed an adjustable front track bar and adjustable control arms, there really isn't a whole lot a shop can to other than recenter your steering wheel and take your money. Of course, if you did install a taller lift and added more adjustable components, you can still do your own front end alignment, in your driveway and with the use of just some basic tools. This write-up will show you how.
Steering Wheel Re-centering
Front Axle Re-centering
What You Will Need
• 15,18,21mm Socket & Wrench
• Large Crescent Wrench
• Angle Finder
• Tape Measure
• Carpenters Level
• Floor Jack
• Jack Stands
The following are wheel alignment definitions as defined by the Jeep JK Wrangler Factory Service Manual:
CASTER is the forward or rearward tilt of the steering knuckle from vertical. Tilting the top of the knuckle rearward provides positive caster. Tilting the top of the knuckle forward provides negative caster. Caster is a directional stability angle. This angle enables the front wheels to return to a straight ahead position after turns.
CAMBER is the inward or outward tilt of the wheel relative to the center of the vehicle. Tilting the top of the wheel inward provides negative camber. Tilting the top of the wheel outward provides positive camber. Incorrect camber will cause wear on the inside or outside edge of the tire. The angle is not adjustable, damaged component(s) must be replaced to correct the camber angle.
WHEEL TOE POSITION is the difference between the leading inside edges and trailing inside edges of the front tires. Incorrect wheel toe position is the most common cause of unstable steering and uneven tire wear. The wheel toe position is the final front wheel alignment adjustment.
STEERING AXIS INCLINATION ANGLE is measured in degrees and is the angle that the steering knuckles are tilted. The inclination angle has a fixed relationship with the camber angle. It will not change except when a spindle or ball stud is damaged or bent. The angle is not adjustable, damaged component(s) must be replaced to correct the steering axis inclination angle.
THRUST ANGLE is the angle of the rear axle relative to the centerline of the vehicle. Incorrect thrust angle can cause off-center steering and excessive tire wear. This angle is not adjustable, damaged component(s) must be replaced to correct the thrust angle.
Diagram from Jeep JK Wrangler Factory Service Manual.
Disclaimer: Utmost care should be taken when modifying anything to your suspension. Injury to you, your Jeep, and/or others can result from improper suspension modifications or alterations. The author is not a certified mechanic and assumes no responsibility for damage or injury.