Setting Toe

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Without serious modifications, my 91 Civic (among other Honda models) permits only one alignment angle to be adjusted: Toe.
Has anyone here set the toe themselves? If so, what tools
did you use or devise? Was your effort successful as indicated by tire wear and steering feel?
I have googled and there are some reports on this, but they are a bit vague. Also, I see tools like the toe gage plates advertised at http://www.quickcar.net/chassis/ch_tp.html and Ebay Motors. Is it a big deal to find my own very flat plates, apply them to the tire sides, devise a way to take measurements, etc.? I am sure tempted to do so.
On rear toe -- Having just replaced the trailing arm bushings in my 91 Civic, I know there are little "compensator arms" attaching to the front of the trailing arm. At one end, the compensator arm is bolted to the car. The bolt, when loosened, can move in a slot so that some adjustment is possible. Hash marks are etched prominently into the body of the car at this point to facilitate adjustment. The factory service manual describes this under "Rear Toe Inspection/Adjustment." See for example http://media.honda.co.uk/car/owner/media/manuals/CRXManual/62SH200/12-5.pdf
The other end of the compensator arm is free-floating. That is, it rides on air. It seems a rather flimsy arrangement for adjusting toe with any precision. The design seems to explain the following three comments:
"... usually only the front suspension [wheel alignment] is adjustable." Chilton's 1984-1995 Honda Civic/CRX/del Sol manual, page 8-12
"A unique feature of [the 1984-1995 models'] suspension system is the compensator arm. This component allows a certain amount of side-to-side movement of the trailing arm. This helps to maintain a better toe angle of the wheel throughout the suspension travel." Chiltons, page 8-16
"The [new at the time 1993 Integra] trailing arm's front end is located by a short transverse compensating arm which cancels unwanted toe changes." http://dwolsten.tripod.com/articles/sep93b.html
ISTM the free end of that compensator arm will move in a radius around its other (adjusting bolted) end. So it moves in and out somewhat, changing toe according to driving conditions and wear on the car. As a result of all this commentary, I get the feeling that rear toe need not be sweated too much. Thoughts?
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I've done several by looking at the wear pattern. Initially I've tried to get close with a measuring tape, but all the stuff in the way makes that hopeless.
If you find a fairly straight stretch of road and put masking tape (duct tape if the masking tape won't hold) from sidewall to sidewall on the front tires, you can drive a mile or so and check the wear. Excessive toe-in shows up as wear on the outer edges while toe-out appears as wear on the inner edges. I start with half turn adjustments on each tie rod; your intuition should do just fine for the finer adjustments.
It goes without saying the differential tie rod adjustment affects how your steering wheel sits, so the iterative process often ends with adjusting the centering after you get the wear dialed in. Within an hour you should have a really fine result.
Mike
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I think I'll give this a try just to see what it turns up. I wish I'd done it before all my suspension renovation work so I could compare. Thanks Michael!

Understood. Thanks again!
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Elle wrote:

[snip]
If you've had the rear trailing arms replaced, then you need to have the rear toe adjusted. The best way to do this is to have a professional alignment done. Just pay the $50-60 or whatever and get a 4 wheel alignment done. I've done many alignments using computerized laser sensors which are mounted to the wheels. A small amount of adjustment at the rears typically makes a large difference. I believe that a professional 4 wheel alignment will be the best thing you can do to maximize the longevity of your tires (including of course regularly checking the air pressure and rotating them periodically so that they get even wear).
Eric
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Eric wrote:

what he said. because of the 4-wheel alignment necessary on this vehicle, and the difficulty of setting the thrust angle iteratively, pay to have it done elle. but because also of the, er, "patchy" quality of some alignment shops, make sure you take it to a place that guarantees their work. then you can keep taking it back until they get it right. and eric's not fooling - the rears are uber-sensitive.
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I personally replaced the trailing arm bushings on Monday.
But I gather your advice does not change.

Knowing this helps a lot, Eric. I value your opinion.
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Elle wrote:

I'm just a little bit curious. Exactly which bushings are you referring to, the ones labeled as part #12 in this diagram http://tinyurl.com/fwt4y or the large one in the middle of the rear trailing arm through which bolt #26 goes to help mount the trailing arm to the car?
Eric
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I replaced both, but the one to which I refer above is the larger one (with bolts #26 going through it), Honda part #52385-SR3000 , only available in the last several years or so. Schley produced a special (and super fast and super effective) tool for removing it only in the last couple of years. I have a fuller discussion at the bottom of http://home.earthlink.net/~honda.lioness/id15.html#tabushings , with some links to excellent sites with photos of the process.
The bigger TA bushing is replaced with the TA in place, for the most part. That is, no brake lines need be disconnected and plugged nor bled.
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The brake lines and hydraulics don't need to be disconnected when you remove the trailing arm. Everything including the parking brake either unbolts or unhooks.
--
TeGGeR

The Unofficial Honda/Acura FAQ
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I meant those who intend to take the trailing arm to a shop or put it into a vise to press out the big bushing (and then install a new one) would have to disconnect the brake lines.
With the (relatively new) Schley tool, only five bolts need be removed.
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wrote

It just occurred to me: You're partially right. Opening the hydraulics *would* be necessary on a drum-brake car if you were to remove the trailing arm from the car entirely. If you had rear *disc* brakes, you do *not* need to open the hydraulics.
Finally I find ONE advantage to having rear disc brakes! LOL

Sounds like a boon for drum-brake equipped cars.
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I'm a lurker in a.a.h., and I have noticed that you seem very knowledgable. So, your comment about rear disc breake intrigues me. I thought rear discs were desirable? If not, why not?
Thanks,
-- R Flowers
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I pretend well, huh?

Rear dics brakes in a FWD car are desirable to the marketing department. Buyers tend to get a woody over them because they sound so hi-tech and sporty. They enable the sales department to have greater success liberating greenbacks from your wallet.
Rear discs in a road-going FWD car are otherwise utterly useless and trouble-prone. They never work hard enough to get very hot, so they rust, seize and wear out with distressing haste and regularity unless the car is used in SoCal or Arizona.
Any more questions?
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TeGGeR

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No, just a comment. I guess their marketing worked well, because I didn't even think about it. Back in the old days, many cars had drums all around. Then the front 2 discs came out, and I guess people thought "Well, if 2 are good, let's do all 4!" I remember sports cars in the 70s and 80s touting their 4 wheel discs.
-- R Flowers
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Nor did I, back in the dark days of early 1991...
My famous 1991 Integra famously has those infamous rear discs...

Ever driven un-powered 4-wheel drums? GAWD they were awful. Terrible! Plan your stops in advance, preferably in writing.

And it was akin to a religious conversion: YES LAWD, AH SEE THE LIGHT!!! Discs were a sea-change compared to drums.

Yep. But there is a point of diminishing returns, and rear discs was it. For road-going, legal speed, grocery-getting FWD cars, of course.
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Just one question...If disks are so much better, why do the large trucks and tour buses still use drums on all axles? I know there are some exceptions but most use drums. I hadn't really considered this until your above comments...
Dave D
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Dave and Trudy wrote:

very few of the modern tour buses use drums these days, or at least, not on the front.
the main reason drums are still used on large trucks, especially big rigs, is because of the air brake thing. unlike cars and lighter vehicles, they're "fail safe" which means their "natural" position is full on as opposed to off like a car. strong springs inside the drums press the shoes real hard against the drum, and the air system actuates against the springs to hold the shoes off the drum so the vehicle can roll. if the braking system fails, the brakes come on, and the 30+ ton cargo comes to a halt. hopefully. "fail safe" is much more complicated to implement on disk brakes, but real simple inside a drum. plus imo, a lot of domestic truck manufacturers are not exactly innovative pioneers in the engineering department - the quality of the chrome plating seems to get more attention from what i can see.
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Hate to disagree with you but every MCI coach I have driven in the past 10 years, including new ones, all had drums on all axles. I checked with our shop chief and he says it has to do with the larger swept area of the drum/shoe brakes as opposed to the disk/pad brakes. It is true that the disks will not heat up as quickly and are less susceptible to fade and water but the increased stopping power is the reason he gave me.

Actually, there are two systems at work there. The service brakes are activated via an "S" cam and release when the pedal is no longer depressed. You are quite correct, however, that in the event of catastrophic air pressure loss, the failsafe system that you describe will lock up (full on) all the brakes. Rather an unsettling experience I might add.
Dave D
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Dave and Trudy wrote:

http://www.mcicoach.com/parts-service-support/partsSpecialsNewsDrum2Disc.htm
euro coaches like setra & van hool have had them for more than a decade.

nope. see above.

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jim beam wrote:

<snip>
Plus interstate buses and 18-wheelers are seldom bought on the strength of some advertising campaign (as opposed to passenger vehicles), IMHO anyway.
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