Double-wishbone geometry introduces negative camber once ride height decreases. Fortunatel
It might be because you're cheap. Or maybe it's because you don't trust your Civic in the hands of the gas station apprentice. It doesn't really matter. Doing things yourself is almost always a good thing. It's that whole not knowing what you're doing part that can turn a cheap situation into a bad one, though. Fortunately, adjusting camber, caster, and toe isn't terribly difficult. Even the kid at the gas station can do it. But adjusting camber, caster, and toe in ways that won't wear your tires to the cords every other oil change or make your hatchback handle like mush can be.
Camber, Caster, And Toe: What You Think You Already Know
If you don't know what camber, caster, and toe are, then you probably shouldn't be doing your own alignment. In case you just forgot, though, follow along for a brief refresher.
Camber is simply the tilt of the wheel when viewed from the front of the car. Negative camber means the top of the wheel is tilted in, positive camber means it's tilted out. Most Hondas' camber settings are non-adjustable, so when the vehicle's ride height is lowered and camber naturally errs toward negative, there's not much you can do to correct it without some sort of aftermarket, adjustable alignment kit. Although some front strut suspensions, like those for the TSX, RSX, and newer Civics offer some play, it's negligible.
If you've got the adjustability, you can play with recommended camber settings for optimum handling, but there's really no better way to set up your suspension than to monitor tire temperatures with a tire pyrometer. The goal is to achieve an inside edge that's 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the outside edge. You can get this with typically no more than 2.5 degrees of negative camber on a track-bound, FWD Honda. Any more than that is just asking for excessive tire wire and poor handling. Although toe is the number one culprit of tire wear, incorrect camber isn't far behind.
If your car begins to feel unstable, it might be worth looking into its caster settings. S
The poor man's alignment begins with a $20 box of linoleum tiles, a tape measure, some str
You can't align your Civic unless the ground it's sitting on is completely level. Since yo
Caster is the inclination of the steering axis when viewed from the side. Caster adds stability-or takes it away-and shouldn't be messed with on your street car. Turns out, you really can't on most Hondas anyway without shims and some fancy measuring. Unless yours is out of factory specification, don't mess with it.
Toe is the relationship of the front edges of the front or rear tires when viewed from above. Toe-in means the fronts of the tires are closer together than the rears of the tires. Toe-out means the opposite. All Hondas feature adjustable front toe and is often all that's messed with when you pay for the obligatory "four-wheel alignment." A small amount of rear toe-in can increase straight-line stability while a small amount of front toe-in can improve steering response. However, track settings will differ. For example, toe-out settings are often used up front for improved steering when turning into tighter corners. If tire wear is your number-one concern, aim for the specs in your service manual.
Preparing The Surface
Alignment racks, lasers, and precision measuring instruments are all well and good, but the poor man's alignment begins with some string, a box of linoleum tiles, and some salt. Whether you're working with lasers or string, though, whatever it is that you're aligning has to be level.
Since you're poor, chances are your garage floor isn't level. Position your car where you plan on performing the alignment and mark the ground next to each tire. Move the car and place a single 1/8-inch-thick linoleum floor tire next to the marks. You'll want to start with one tile where each tire was. Most linoleum tiles have an adhesive backside covered by paper. Don't remove it. With a tile at each corner, you've just raised the potential surface height by roughly 1/8 inch-but it's still not level.
You'll also need a bucket of the most accurate leveling device on Earth-water. A simple wa
Ideally, you want to locate the car's centerline. Don't even think about measuring the mid
Next, grab four jack stands and some string. Position one jack stand adjacent to and in fr
Next, ensure that the string is parallel to the chassis by measuring from each wheel cente
Whichever method you choose, don't touch the jack stands or string unless the car's been m
It's important that the string is near axle height or inline with the wheels' center caps.