In the quest for faster lap times we always assume that race car stuff is the best and that is what we should upgrade to. Aero, anti-bump-steer, BBK, expensive suspension, spherical this and heim that. It’s easy for us to look at other people’s builds, guys who are fast, or crazy time attack cars, and try to mimic what they are doing because we assume if they are “fast” or have a “big” following they know how to build a car. This isn’t always the case, and we should really put more emphasis on improving our driving skill, and getting more seat time. Too many people now days are just building these all out track monster of a car just because that’s what the Honda scene has become. Put them on the track and they are going to be slow, Guaranteed! Yes all of these upgrades do help, but they only help the most seasoned of racers to shave milliseconds off their lap times. It’s not going to help a first time track racer. On a competitive level of high-end race cars all of these things are important, but on your Honda build that see the track 3x a year, don’t even waste your time. When it came time to upgrade my tie rods I fell victim to this way of thinking, I figured that getting a spherical bearing tie rod would help me out, and would be able to stand up to track racing extremes more than a OEM style tie rod would. This ended up being a huge mistake! It rendered my car useless, I drove the car 4x with the “super tie rods” each time I tried to talk myself into making it work… I would say things like,”I could live with this”, “ehh it’s not that bad” but it actually was that bad. the car would suddenly jerk so violently that it would cause the rear end to over steer! and that’s just going in a straight line. The car would fight me through turns, and you would really have to saw at the wheel. These “super tie rods” were going to put me in a ditch, I had to get rid of them and go back to OEM style outer tie rods. Once I installed new OEM style outer tie rods and I had aligned my car in the garage, I pulled out on the street and immediately the car was a million times better. I knew right then and there that the “super tie rods” were the root of my issue. Let’s back up real quick. When I originally replaced my old worn out tie rods I did both inner and outer, I ordered the Hardrace inner and the Hardrace “super outer”. I just want to make clear that the actual brand Hardrace isn’t bad, rather merely the design of the “super tie rod” which mounts to the underside of the spindle, not from the top like OE style. I run a lot of Hardrace products on both my cars and have no issues as do many of my friends, so i want to be clear that I’m not bashing them. Let me also point out that the Ktuned spherical tie rod is the same design, and while I can’t speak from experience I can say that it mounts the same exact way, and with the same hardware so it stands to reason that this will act the same way. I get why people think that making the tie rods parallel will help bump steer, but on a EG/DC/EK and possibly others we aren’t plagued with terrible bump steer contrary to what many people believe. Just take a look at most STL, and HC guys, they aren’t running any of this, OEM style ball joints and tie rods for them.
Please take all of that with a grain of salt, it’s not meant to ruffle your feathers. I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that you don’t need to build your car to the moon before you have ever done any tracks days. There is no replacement for seat time, yes buying all these baller parts can be a Band-Aid, but just be ready for someone with fewer modifications to be faster than you. Thus only making you look like a horses ass. remember this… all those cool parts get you instagram street cred, and doesn’t impress real enthusiasts. On the other hand if you’re fast on the track then you are respected by true enthusiasts.
The day I got my car aligned with the super tie rods, I left my friends shop and I could instantly tell there was something not right about my car. Under heavy acceleration each time you would shift the car, it would veer off in a whole other direction. For instance when under heavy acceleration my car will slightly pull to the right just due to torque steer, then as soon as I would let off to shift, the car would pull to the left. I knew that It couldn’t have been my alignment since I’ve been having Bobby align my cars for at least 6 years, and he’s never messed one up. For a couple of days I thought maybe it was just my aggressive diff being too cold, since at the time the temp in Vegas was in the 30’s. But even after I would drive for a little while on the freeway ( which would have warmed the trans completely) it would still have a mind of its own. So I jumped on the ol interweb to try to see what could be causing this. What I stumbled across was both upsetting and relieving. I was relieved because a lot of other people have had issues with them, and I was upset because I had just wasted money on them. These are direct quotes from people online… ‘”get an alignment and enjoy your loads of bump steer!” “I put these on and aligned my car then immediately purchased some sankei 555 tie rod ends. it felt like driving on ice.” “Drive car and remove…. I drove a car with them also and all I can say is sketchy” “As everyone has said above, take those hard race tie rod ends and place them in the nearest garbage bin.” and finally the big one “I’ve measured the bump steer on EF and DC2 with the standard suspension arms, and it showed that relocating the outer pivot downward by the amount the Hard Race parts do will make the bump steer massively bad. For a lowered car typically you will want to raise the outer end of the tie rod slightly to regain approximately standard bump steer behavior.” So as you can see it’s not just me that was experiencing this, I knew that I had to take them off and put OE style ones on.
As you can tell I like to do everything on my cars all by myself, I hate to be a burden or inconvenience anybody. This is why I decided to try to align my car myself, since I was just at Bobby’s a few weeks ago I didn’t want to wear out my welcome. I have read articles in the past about DIY string alignments but was always too scared to attempt it myself. In the world or alignments where adjustments are made down the 32nd’s and 16th’s of an inch you can see why I was so hesitant to do my own alignment. It would only take being off a tiny bit to make a huge mistake. Plus like most of you I’m sure you are thinking the same way I was… “how could I do a better alignment with strings than a laser guided computer digital alignment rack” The “super tie rods” were so bad I was willing to take the risk, plus even if I messed up the alignment I knew that Bobby would be able to help me out. Also Patrick was reassuring by saying that most race cars teams use the string alignment method. So here I go, only armed with a little bit of knowledge on how to do my own string alignment, I jumped in. I just took it very slow, I measured a million times.
So starting out I’m only doing the front wheels, not the rear. I did this just to keep things simple so I wouldn’t totally screw the alignment up, also I knew that Bobby had just done the 4 wheel alignment a few weeks back.
Obviously you want the car to sit on as level of ground as possible, I just used my garage floor. Keep in mind that I really just set out to see if aligning my car with string was possible, so I tried hard to make sure everything was as square and level as possible. Of course some people will be mad that I didn’t go to impossible lengths to level it. But it was my first time and now knowing that it’s possible to do myself I can make improvements if needed the next time I align it. I used some extra wood laminate floor I had laying around so that every time I jacked up the car to make adjustments when I lowered the car down and the suspension would become loaded there wouldn’t be any bind on it that would throw off any measurements. I made sure that before I did any measuring that I put the wood down and push the car on it so that my measurements would be accurate. It’s also important that the steering wheel is kept centered throughout the whole alignment process (you will have to check this regularly if you are doing this by yourself, or you can have a friend sit in and hold it straight. just make sure you make all the measurements with them in the car.)
Now that the car is on the wood I took some construction string (you can also use fishing line) and tied it around two jack stands, making sure the string was tied at the exact location on both jack stands so that your measurements are the same. Place the jack stands parallel to each side of the car with them going past the front and rear bumper a little. You are going to want to make sure that the string is taught by pulling the jack stands away from each other. The jack stands should be heavy enough to keep the line taught. If not use bigger jack stands
Measure the distance from the center of the wheel (hub) where the axle nut is and where the rear dust cap is. If you have center caps on your wheels this is ok as long as all wheels have them. Again this is all so you have a good reference point to measure from to make sure the string is square with the car. The distance you measure from the hub to the string doesn’t matter. It could be a few inches, or a foot. I chose to measure mine 10.5 inches just due to my space constraints. Now most cars have different track widths between the front and rear axles, so you will have to look up what the OEM track width is. For my civic it was –
- Front = 1,475mm (58.1″)-
- Rear = 1,465mm (57.7″)
So to make sure the string is completely square and parallel with the car I measured the string 10.5 inches away from the front hub, and the rear string, since the rear track width is less is going to be .2 inches more making the actual measurement 10.7 in the rear. Remember that since the front is a total of .4 wider you must divide that in half since you are going to be measuring both sides of the car. You are adding .2 of an inch to your driver side rear, and .2 inches to the passenger side rear, for a grand total of .4 inch which is the width difference between the front and rear track widths. make sure you have two more jack stands with sting on the other side too. You will need a total of 4 jack stands to make this work, but they don’t all need to be the same, I had two that were one size and two that were a different size. just make sure that you have the string tied to the same points of the jack stands, and you want to make sure that the string is as level with the hub as possible, this will yield the easiest and most accurate measurements. Now once you have jack stands with string on both sides of the car, and you have measured each side equally from the center of the front and rear wheel hub to make sure they are perfectly parallel with the car. my measurements are
- front left 10.5 inches from hub
- rear left 10.7 inches from the hub
- front right 10.5 inches from the hub
- rear right 10.7 inches from hub
Again this is like this because the total track width difference between the front and rear is .4 inches, with the rear being a little more sunk in. Which is why I’m adding .2 inch to the rear to make the strings perfectly parallel. Be careful to not hit, bump, move, or alter the jack stands at all once you have set the correct measurements to them as they are the constant in the formula for measuring the cars alignment. (remember that you are doing this exact same thing to both driver and passenger side of the car. I’m only showing you the passenger side because space is tight on my drivers side.)
Check again to make sure the steering wheel is centered and you are going to measure the Front of the wheel and the rear of the wheel as level with the string as possible to see what the initial measurements are. Since I knew that the alignment that Bobby did was good I was just going to swap out the outer toe rods and set the new ones to the same specs. You are going to do this for both sides, and make sure you write down the numbers so you can reference them later. This is also where you can start to see if the car is toed out or in. ( side note, I’m actually only adjusting the toe only on the front wheels. and that’s all. I know there is more adjustments to make but I don’t have adjustable front camber so there is no need for me to worry about that. again the car was all in spec last time Bobby aligned it, and I’m only trying to do this myself to see if i can get the alignment close enough to drive straight.)
Now I jacked the car up, only in the front. and removed my wheels, and changed out the “super tie rods” for the OEM style tie rod. When the car was in the air I put some baby powder in between the wood to help it slide without any friction.
I put the wheels on and lowered the car back down, once back on the ground I pushed down a couple times on the radiator support to make sure the there was no bind in the suspension and that it was at actual ride height. Remember that we are measuring in 32nd’s and 16th’s so if there is any bind on the suspension or its not properly seated, it’s going to throw your measurements off. You are going to have to jack up the car a few more times and take off the wheels to dial the alignment in properly. Just make sure that you are jacking from the same jacking point each time to ensure consistent and accurate measurements. Remember to be careful not to move the jack stands. Also remember to “settle” the suspension after each time you lower the car by pressing down a few times on the radiator support.
Please keep in mind that this isn’t a full 4 wheel alignment, and the only reason I posted the DIY was just because I was so excited about how well my alignment came out after swapping the outer tie rods that I just wanted everyone to know how easy this actually is. But if you just take what you learned from the front and apply it to the rear it is going to work just the same. here is the rear for reference even though I didn’t adjust it
If you are doing a 4 wheel alignment you always want to start with the rear then move to the front. This is only to adjust TOE, you will need a camber, and caster gauge to properly set each of those. Things can start to get pricey as you buy those things, and it really just depends on how often you’re trying to do you alignment, and if its more cost effective to pay a shop to do your alignment or pay all the money for the gauges, and tools you need for a at home alignment.
The whole reason for this post was, I just wanted to share with everyone how easy it actually can be to do your own alignment at home. Of course now that I did it I’m thinking of ways to make it easier for next time. I would put bricks or race ramps under the wheels to elevate the car high enough off the ground so that I could slide under and adjust the toe without having to jack up the car, just to make the alignment more precise, and to take the potential error out of the measurements by not having to jack up the car each time. Remember… measure a million times, make sure you steering wheel stays centered, and don’t touch the jack stands once you have set the measurement from the hubs. I hope this article helps someone out there and will inspire them to want to do their own alignment. Hopefully we will be testing my DIY alignment on Patricks car here soon, we will be doing a 4 wheel alignment and then taking it to a shop to put it on a real alignment rack to actually see if the measurements are accurate that I’m doing.
As always thanks so much for reading my blog posts, have a good weekend and hopefully I’ve inspired you to work on some cars!