How to True Your Bike’s Wheels at Home

A little wobble in your bike wheel isn't as obvious as a squeaky chain or skipping derailleur, but it's the sort of repair that, if ignored, can literally slow you down. When a bike wheel is out of true (not straight), it starts rubbing against your brake pad with every revolution. And even if you open your brake calipers to make room, your bike's stability and handling will suffer. The good news is that by checking your wheels at every tune-up, you can keep them straight by tightening a few spokes to pull the wheel back into alignment. We have your step-by-step guide to make this fix at home, but know that well-abused wheels may require professional help from a mechanic. We recommend using a truing stand, but the only essential tool is a spoke wrench, which any bike shop can provide for a few bucks.

Fix Your Wheel Without a Truing Stand

  1. First, if you don't have a truing stand — dedicated home mechanics should invest in one — you can still fix minor wobbles while the wheel is mounted in the frame.
  2. With your bike in a stand, or situated with the wheels off the ground, use the brake calipers as a visual aide to watch for side-to-side movement by the wheel.
  3. When you've found a section of wheel that deviates from center, you can more precisely locate the start and finish of the wobble by holding a pen against the brake pad with the tip almost touching the brake track.
  4. Use the pen like the calipers of a truing stand to pinpoint the deviation by letting the pen rub against the wheel when it goes out of alignment.
  5. If the wheel rubs on the right side, tighten spokes connecting to the left side of the hub that attach along the deviation with a spoke wrench. (If the left side rubs, tighten spokes on the right side.) This will pull the wheel back into alignment. Give each spoke just a quarter turn counter-clockwise.
  6. Check the alignment and continue repeating the last step with quarter turns until your wheel is true.

Fix Your Wheel in a Truing Stand

  1. With the wheel in the stand, raise the calipers to pinch around the brake track, and give it a spin.
  2. If your wheel has a vertical hop or flat spot, you have a more serious problem. Pack it up and head to your bike shop to see if they can repair it.
  3. But if you just see a side-to-side wobble, slowly close the calipers until they rub against the wheel's deviation. Using that contact as a guide, locate the start and end of the wheel's misalignment.
  4. If the wheel rubs the right caliper, tighten spokes connecting to the left side of the hub that attach along the deviation with a spoke wrench. (If the left side rubs, tighten spokes on the right side.) This will pull the wheel back into alignment. Give each spoke just a quarter turn counter-clockwise.
  5. Check the alignment and continue repeating the last step with quarter turns until your wheel is true.