Coil Spring Compressor Query?

Has anyone used Autozone's loaner coil compressor on the suspension coils of an older Civic or Accord?
My cheap-o Harbor Freight $7 coil spring compressor worked
pretty well for disassembling my 91 Civic's suspension system front coil/damper assemblies. Getting them all back together is becoming a nightmare. Seems the claws on the tool are too thick and interfere with the dust cover, which then interferes with getting enough clearance to get the top nut on. The archives indicate at least one person ground down this tool's claws and had success. But I have limited grinding tools at the moment. Hence I am thinking of borrowing Autozone's tool and seeing if it's any better. These little Honda coils are tricky, complicating use of an already somewhat tricky tool, aggravated by the safety precautions necessary when working with a lot of spring stored energy.
Fully relaxed, the driver's side coil is about 1/4-inch shorter than the pass side coil. So that explains some of my car's non-levelness. The coils will be switched (pass. side to dr. side, etc.) when I am done. Then I will observe.
I also found a severely corroded stabilizer bar bushing on the passenger side that I think may explain some uneven tire wear I'm having on that side. This will be replaced within the next month or so.
I continue to contemplate a major rebuild of the suspension system in the near future...
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WHY??? Why not put new springs(or at least springs of EQUAL length) on both sides,and *not have to mess with it again*? (and have a level car,too!)
(see your first paragraph above)
BTW,springs of unequal length may affect suspension geometry and thus tire wear.
--
Jim Yanik
jyanik
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I don't know what the difference in height is with the springs compressed. It's a test.

I am considering this.
At the moment, I just need my ride back.
I have two tentative solutions to my coil compressor problem and will report back in the next day or so.
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Elle wrote:

I would try to get my hands on one of these units http://tinyurl.com/nsede (either by renting or borrowing it) or something similar. The shop I used to work at used one of these units http://tinyurl.com/rsduq . Although they work great, they're clearly not practical for the home owner/weekend warrior.
Eric
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The above links are a hint that going cheap is going to cost a person in other ways. Weekend warrior indeed. Operating the coil compressor several times wiped my arms out.
I cut holes in the coil/damper assembly "bases." This is the cap-like part that is made of metal, with two bolts coming out of it, supported by the car frame. There was no need to cut holes in the mounting rubbers that fit into these. The "$7 special" coil compressor then worked much better, with the claws fitting into the holes. The tool spanned about seven coils, which also eased operation.
I didn't get either of the two shock absorber assemblies all lined up right the first time I put each in, so I had to recompress, partly disassemble, etc. each. Must be a trick for lining things up correctly.
I switched the coils from dr. side to pass side. Now the driver's side is only 1/4-inch lower (vs. 3/4-inch before) than the passenger's side. (I checked before and after a long test drive.) Eric, like you suggested before, that sounds like a bad bushing.
The ride seemed better. Going over bumps was less of a blow, it seemed. (But it could just be the placebo effect.)
I am going to replace the stabilizer bolts and bushings, per my note earlier that one set was badly corroded. The old coils' rubber covers were pretty beat up in places, and I'm not sure how strong the underlying coils are. (Never mind the extra wear and tear on the rubber covers from my efforts with the compressor!) Most likely I will buy and install new springs, as Jim suggested, for $50 each from Majestic. I can't find them new anywhere in town, and the salvage yard doesn't have the greatest deal for used ones. I think it's quite possible my old springs are at the end of their life and I will have a better ride with new ones. Then possibly onto a ball joint separator per Tegger's web site. Then maybe a shop press as noted before to replace the bushings.
If the labor today weren't so exhausting, I would have tried to document more and put it up on the web site. Next time will be a lot easier.
As always, Eric, I appreciate your sharing your experience.
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I use those from harbor freight as well and haven't had problems. What I do is instead of hanging the hooks on the top of the spring i hang them midway so that the hooks don't interfere with the dust cover.

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John, I follow what you're saying. In my new-ness to this, and given how old and somewhat rusty my 91 Civic's springs appeared, I was hesitant to put the load on just a few coils. Folks with newer springs should go for it, of course.

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