All About Wheel Alignment: Toe-In and Toe-Out, and Shake It All About - Auto Quarterly (2023)

Over time, the joints and components on your car loosen or wear out. When the components that hold the wheels on fall out of tolerance, it can make your car handle poorly or wear your tires out much quicker. To fix the problem, all cars have adjustable components that allow you to adjust the alignment of the wheels.

There are three main properties centered around wheel alignment: toe, camber, and caster. In this article, we’ll be looking at the toe adjustment. Toe is one of the easiest adjustments to understand; just look down at your feet. If your toes point in towards each other, that’s toe-in. If they point out away from each other, that’s toe-out.

Contents [ show ]

  • What Is Toe?
    • Toe-In vs. Toe-Out
  • How Toe Affects Driving
    • Toe-In for Stability
    • Toe-Out for Cornering
  • How Toe Affects Tire Wear
    • Feathering
    • Inner or Outer Tread Wear
  • When to Adjust Toe
  • Point Your Toes in the Direction of Stability

What Is Toe?

Toe is a very simple concept, but it can be a little bit difficult to understand the effects it has on your car. To start, take a look at the following diagram. It shows toe-in, but it’s easy to imagine the reverse as well, which is toe-out.
All About Wheel Alignment: Toe-In and Toe-Out, and Shake It All About - Auto Quarterly (1)

The easiest way to understand how toe effects cars is to assume that a car wants to travel in the direction the tires face. When the two front tires point towards each other, the car wants to go straight (picture it like pushing your palms together). When they point out, your car wants to turn left or right.

(Video) Toe-in and Toe-out - Explained

Generally, you want your tires to be mostly parallel. Even more extreme setups only have differences measured in fractions of an inch. However, there are reasons you might want a little bit of toe-in or toe-out.

Toe-In vs. Toe-Out

Unlike caster and camber, which are expressed in positive or negative degrees, toe is often expressed as a simple distance measurement.

In industry terms, it’s the difference in track width as measured at the leading edge of a tire and the trailing edge of the tire. In practical terms, it’s a measurement that represents how far the wheels are turned in or away from each other.

The tires are considered to be pointed in if they angle in towards the car as the car moves forward. They are considered to be pointed out if they angle out away from the car. Sometimes, toe-in is considered positive, and toe-out is considered negative. That’s simply a way to keep all the alignment settings standardized.

How Toe Affects Driving

There are basically two ways that toe affects a car’s performance. Adjusting the toe can make your car handle better in the corners, or it can make it easier to keep the car straight on the highway.

(Video) Understanding Wheel Alignment !

The good news is that adjusting the toe angles is directly related to the car’s handling. That makes setting up your car fairly simple.

Toe-In for Stability

If you do primarily highway driving, or go on a lot of long road trips, you’ll want to have a little bit of toe-in. That will help keep your car going straight by resisting steering input. That has the added benefit of making longer drives more comfortable because minor road variations won’t translate to the steering wheel.

The downside is that you are sacrificing some cornering capability because your car will be resisting steering input. That’s especially noticeable at lower speeds because it lowers your steering angle.

What Is Steering Angle?

When you turn the steering wheel, there is a maximum amount of turning that can occur. That’s because there are some hard physical limitations. The steering arm only has so much room to move before, and the tires themselves only have so much space to turn back and forth.

The higher the steering angle, which is to say the more that the tires can turn, the better your car can take sharp corners at low speeds. Adjusting the wheels so that there is a little bit of toe-in reduces your steering angle. In essence, you are directly subtracting the toe-in angle from the steering angle because the wheel won’t be as turned when it hits the steering limits.

Toe-Out for Cornering

Cars are more stable and resist turning if you have a moderate amount of toe-in, so it follows that they have less turning resistance with some toe-out. Race cars and other vehicles that value performance over comfort will have some toe-out. That allows them to “snap” into a turn, and maximize turning angles.

(Video) How to do an alignment on a car at home using only a tape-measure!!! (And Alignment Basics)

The downside is that a car with toe-out can be a bit twitchy. When you make a car easier to steer, any minor movement of the steering wheel gets translated directly into a change in tire direction. Most people move their hands around a lot as they drive. Their hands get tired, or they need to reach for a drink, or they are shifting gears and they have to take their hands off the wheel for a second. You will feel the car move in that moment you release the wheel.

How Toe Affects Tire Wear

Excessive toe will wear down a tire more quickly than a properly aligned vehicle will. There are two ways that a tire will lose tread because of toe-in or toe-out. The first is very similar to castor issues; you’ll notice feathering.

The second is that the inside or outside of the tire will be worn down more than the opposing side, similar to what happens when you have excessive camber.


Feathering can make a tire look like it has gills. When you look across the top of the tread, it should be even; all the tread blocks should be the same height. When a tire experiences excessive feathering, the tread will look jagged. This website has pictures of various types of tire wear if you would like to see it.

The biggest problem with feathering is that it can harm a tire’s ability to expel water. It’s certainly not the worst thing that can happen to a tire, but you will need to replace them sooner than a tire without feathering.

Inner or Outer Tread Wear

The inside of the tire is the side that is closest to the center of the car. If your car has excessive toe-out, the inside of the tire contacts the pavement before the rest of the tire, which causes it to wear out faster. Excessive inner-edge tread wear, especially on one side of your car but not the other, is a sure sign you need an alignment.

(Video) Alignment Explained (+ DIY Guide)

Toe-in has less effect on tread wear, although it may cause some outer-edge tread wear. It can be difficult to tell what issue you are having if you have some outer-edge tread wear since almost every alignment or tire issue causes the outside of a tire to wear down faster.

When to Adjust Toe

Your car’s service schedule will tell you when to check your alignment and what your factory toe angle is. Often, a commuter car will come from the factory with some toe-in. Most cars, however, will have a very neutral toe angle.

You may want to adjust your toe angle to a non-factory angle in order to bring out certain driving characteristics. Toe angle is adjusted in very small increments, so we encourage you to experiment with it a little. Add in some toe-in if you do a lot of highway driving, or give yourself a little toe-out for better handling. You might find you enjoy it a lot more than the factory settings.

Point Your Toes in the Direction of Stability

Keeping your car’s wheels aligned is an important part of the driving experience. Bad alignment is bad for your wallet, and it can detract from the enjoyment of keeping your car on the road. Don’t suffer from poor handling. Get the toe adjusted to suit your needs and enjoy those road miles.

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(Video) Common Steering Faults and Wheels Alignment


What is toe in and toe out in automobile? ›

Negative toe, or toe out, is the front of the wheel pointing away from the centreline of the vehicle. Positive toe, or toe in, is the front of the wheel pointing towards the centreline of the vehicle.

Is it better to have toe in or toe out? ›

Most manufacturers recommend a chassis alignment which contains a small amount of toe-in. This will give the best possible stability at speed; the car will not have a tendency to wander. And the small amount of toe actually pre-loads the wheel bearings to make turning more instantaneous.

How do you tell if car wheel alignment is toe in or out? ›

If that's confusing, just stand up and look down at your feet. Angle them inward toward the center of your body. When the tires on your car are angled the same way (remember, we're thinking in terms of birds-eye-view), we call this toe-in alignment. Angle your feet outward and you have toe-out alignment.

What are the advantages of toe in and toe out? ›

A toe in alignment of the wheels can help to reduce over steer problems and can increase stability in vehicles that have front-wheel drives. Alternately, a toe out alignment can help to mitigate issues related to under steering and can improve the handling on a vehicle that has a rear-wheel drive.

What are the disadvantages of toe out? ›

Excess toe-out can cause the inside edges of tires to wear out quickly, braking issues, and understeer issues.

What is toe out advantages and disadvantages? ›

Toe Out. Toe out on the rear wheels of a rear wheel drive car will improve the acceleration of the car but decreases the top speed due to the increased grip and drag force. It will also reduce the life of the tyre due to the increased slip angle.

What is the most important toe to have? ›

It probably is no surprise that your big toe is the most important when maintaining balance and bearing body weight. Your big toes bear just about 2 times the amount of weight as all your other toes combined! It still should not shock you that the pinky toes are the least important.

What is the advantage of toe out? ›

A toe-in wheel alignment can help to reduce oversteer problems and increase stability in front-wheel drives vehicles. A toe-out alignment can help to mitigate issues related to understeering and can improve the handling of a vehicle that has rear-wheel drive.

Does toe out increase stability? ›

Increased toe-in will typically result in reduced oversteer, help steady the car and enhance high-speed stability. Increased toe-out will typically result in reduced understeer, helping free up the car, especially during initial turn-in while entering a corner.

How long does toe alignment take? ›

A skilled mechanic can do it in 30 to 60 minutes. There are some situations that take longer. For example, all-wheel drive and 4×4 vehicles are more work than two-wheel drive vehicles. It will also take more time if there are damaged parts.

How can I check my toe alignment at home? ›

To check the toe, park the vehicle on level ground with the tires straight ahead and the steering wheel centered. Jack up one of the front tires, secure the vehicle on jack stands, then spray-paint a stripe on the tread while spinning the tire.

What are the effects of toe out alignment? ›

Toe-out will cause your car to oversteer and be more difficult to control at high speeds. This is because each steering input is magnified by your toe-out angle.

Which toe is the least important? ›

The least important of your toes are undoubtedly your pinky toes. As the smallest toes, they bear the least weight and have the least impact on maintaining balance. People born without pinky toes or those who lose one in an accident will see very little, if any, changes to how their feet function.

How much toe out is acceptable? ›

The amount of toe-in or toe-out is very small - typically 0.3 to 1.6 mm - and must be set by a garage with special equipment. But you can make a rough adjustment by altering track-rod lengths. To roughly check toe setting, use a length of string, preferably, or new, unkinked electrical wire.

When should I be worried about out-toeing? ›

If your child has out-toeing, call the doctor if: Your child is limping or has pain in a hip or leg. One foot turns out more than the other. The out-toeing gets worse.

What does out-toeing look like? ›

Signs & symptoms of out-toeing

You may notice that your child's knees point outwards when standing or walking. You may notice that your child looks clumsy or apropulsive when walking or running. Your child may appear to have duck feet and even waddle like a duck when walking. You may notice that your child has flat ...

Which organ is connected to the big toe? ›

The liver and spleen meridians both start in the big toe.

What is the most common toe pattern? ›

Egyptian, Greek or square

The Egyptian foot is characterized by a first toe that is larger than the others. It is the most common foot type, occurring in 50.8% of the population.

Does losing a toe affect your balance? ›

Losing one or more toes does not necessarily mean that you won't be able to walk or even run again. However, it will adversely affect your balance and stability, and potentially change your walking biomechanics.

What should toe be set at during alignment? ›

Toe should usually be set at zero, but sometimes the tires will be toed out slightly to help the car with turn-in, but this is more of a driver's preference issue.

What are the symptoms of too much toe in? ›

The toe angle affects directional control, turning response and tire tread life. Toe-related tread wear will cause a "feathering" wear pattern across the tread. If too much toe-in is present, the feathering will angle toward the center of the vehicle.

Should I get new tires or an alignment first? ›

For the most part, doesn't matter whether you get your alignment before or after having your new tires put on. Most experts agree that the only effect worn tires have on your alignment is a change to the vehicle's ride height which, given today's steering and suspension design, should be negligible.

How long do alignments last? ›

Typically, it is recommended to get your wheels aligned every 2 to 3 years. However, to ensure the optimal safety of your car, yourself and others around you, it is best to opt for a wheel alignment every time you go to change your oil of the vehicle.

Do I need an alignment after replacing tires? ›

We recommend an alignment after the installation of new tires. This helps you get the most life from your new tires. Wheel alignment checks are always advised after a significant impact or uneven tire wear is detected.

What causes toe misalignment? ›

Certain diseases conditions such as diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis affect the functioning of muscles and nerves and can cause tightening of ligaments or tendons resulting in these deformities. In some cases, accidents or injuries can result in fractures and lead to toe deformities.

Will toe out cause wandering? ›

An axle with a slight toe-out condition will cause a steering wander complaint.

Can you align wheels yourself? ›

While it's possible to do a DIY alignment at home, it's best to have a mechanic do it for you at a service center near you. You can do the wheel alignment separately or as part of your annual tire care service and vehicle maintenance at Tom Kadlec Kia.

What is the difference between toe in and toe out alignment? ›

Toe angle can be expressed in degrees or fractions of an inch. If the tires point inward, the angle is positive. This is also called “toe-in.” Tires that point outward have a negative toe angle. This is called “toe-out.”

Where should my toe be? ›

As a rule of thumb (or toe), you should have about 3/8″ to 1/2″ of room from the tip of your longest toe to the end of the shoe.

Which toe is considered the first? ›

The first toe, also known as the hallux ("big toe" or "great toe"), the innermost toe. The second toe, or "long toe" The third toe, or "middle toe" The fourth toe, or "ring toe"

Which toe on your foot should be the longest? ›

The second toe is longer because one of two bones (the metatarsal or the proximal phalanx) in that toe is longer than the one in the big toe. Most people don't have problems with their feet just because the second toe is longer unless they have a condition called brachymetatarsia.

What is the use of toe in in cars? ›

Toe In. On the front of the car, toe in increases straight line stability. This is because if one of the wheels is disturbed during straight line driving and is pulled rearward of the steering axis then the wheel will steer outwards.

How much toe out should a car have? ›

The amount of toe-in or toe-out is very small - typically 0.3 to 1.6 mm - and must be set by a garage with special equipment. But you can make a rough adjustment by altering track-rod lengths. To roughly check toe setting, use a length of string, preferably, or new, unkinked electrical wire.

What is meant by toe out automobile? ›

: inclination of the wheels of an automotive vehicle so that either pair is closer together at the back than at the front compare toe-in.

What does too much toe out feel like? ›

Toe-out will cause your car to oversteer and be more difficult to control at high speeds. This is because each steering input is magnified by your toe-out angle. While a little bit of toe-out is beneficial if you are drifting or are searching for more extreme turn-in and cornering, too much can be a bad thing.

What does too much toe out cause? ›

Excessive toe out, which causes wander, may be accompanied by a feeling of sloppy, imprecise or unstable steering. The most common cause of toe-related tire wear is excessive clearance in the steering linkage or steering system.

What happens when toe is out of alignment? ›

Driving with a suboptimal toe alignment will wear the edge of a tyre faster, leading to uneven tyre wear across all of your wheels, as well as diminishing the durability of the tyre itself.


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2. How to Perform Wheel Alignment by Yourself
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5. Do It Your Self Toe, Camber Caster Home Wheel Alignment Using Quick Trick Tools Episode 248 Autorest
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6. Steering? Do you know about caster - camber? Toe in - toe out? Harris Motor co, Stoke
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