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Help Understanding Rough DIY Toe Readings On FWD 1999 Honda Civic

I’ve had light steering issues at speeds above 60 MPH on smooth roads where my Civic ( 230K miles) feels darty, dangerous and unpredictable when I put in the slightest steering corrections to keep my car going straight. One possible cause, i assumed, could be my front alignment. I’m lowered on lowering springs but never had this darty feeling before.

  • Inner tie rod boots have been torn for awhile but there is no play left right top bottom with each wheel so I assume they’re still fine.
  • Rack could also be worn out.
  • It’s been 7 years since my last alignment.

First, I measured my front toe using the string method. Aligned the string to the rear wheel front and rear to keep it parallel, inches away then measured the front. These are the readings from the left and right tire.

  • Left tire/Front- 9" 3/8
  • Left tire/Rear - 9" 5/8
  • Right tire/Front 10" 1/4
  • Right tire/Rear 10" 3/16
  • Difference b/w L and R = +5/16th inch toe out.

To confirm, I used another method by choosing a tread line on my left and right tire that are identical and using a 2x4 to keep my tape level measure and taking a reading on each tire.

  • Distance b/w L and R in front= 62" 1/4
  • Distance b/w L and R in rear = 62"
  • 1/4th inch toe out in front

So I know I have slightly toe out by a little over a 1/4th inch. Could this cause darty and light steering? And why is my left front farther away from the center of my car then the right front (using the first method above?)

Oh, yes, 1/4 to 5/16ths toe-out will cause a darty feeling, no doubt.

Adjust the tie rods one wrench flat on each side to reduce the toe-in, drive it and see how it feels. The darty-ness should occur at higher and higher speeds as you adjust the toe-in towards zero. I’d normally suggest you set it to the factory setting but your car is lowered and some small modifications to that setting may give a better “feel”. A little toe-out is OK and desired if there is negative camber of 1 to 1.75 degrees.

BTW, I’d suggest an alternate way to measure toe. Us your 2x4 and two tape measures to measure toe from the outside of the wheel. place the 2x4 against the tire at an angle that is away from the bulge at the tire bottom. Set both tape measures below the edge of the fender opening front-and-rear on both sides. Zero-out one side using the 2x4 and measure the other side front and rear, subtract. It should give the same measurement as your center-tread method.

The string line is a good way to measure toe but you can’t use the wheel as reference, the front and rear tracks are not the same. The rear is usually narrower so the toe reading will be more toe-out, as you found. String line references should be made to the pinch weld of the rocker panel.

This is the most accurate way to check toe that I know of. This is a simple check only but it is adequate if the rest of the alignment is in spec.

Your toe should be near zero to 1/8" toe out.

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Since the springs have been changed and the car lowered I think you would be far better off to just drive the car to a shop and have them check the caster and camber before setting the toe.

Toe-out can cause the car to dart but so can too much camber or caster.

If you suspect the rack is worn out you should replace it before considering an alignment.

I wholeheartedly agree with OK4450.

I’m also wondering how and how much it was lowered. None of your articulating joints in your suspension and steering (both mechanically intertwined) travel through their ranges in straight lines. They all travel in arcs. If those arcs aren’t properly coordinated with compensating parts/shims/spacers, as can happen when you move the “static” geometry too far from the original design, all forms of bad handling can happen. Including dartiness. If you’ve changed the “offset” of the wheels, the problem becomes even more complicated.

If you have a reputable “speed shop” in your area, it might even be a good idea to have them take a look at it. Suspension and steering can be complicated. Shops who specialize in modified suspensions can get to the bottom of the problem quickly and accurately… but you’d best bring a charge card with a good balance on it.

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Lowered 2 inches as it’s an aggressive spring. It’s drove great for the past 6 years. Just now I’ve noticed the steering has lightened up.

Thanks for the advice y’all. Since the boots are torn, I plan to swap the inner/outer rods since they’re dirt cheap. Then get a proper alignment and go from there.

If you have a flat spot to work and enough space you can push the car forward a half-wheel-rotation, no strings needed. Make sure the steering wheel is pointed straight ahead. Scratch a precise reference mark in the appx middle of each tread. Place the mark so a line from the center of the wheel to that mark is parallel to the ground. Use a plumb bob to transfer that mark to the cement, both tires. Then push the car forward so the mark is 180 degrees rotated; i.e. if it was on the front of the tire, it will now be on the back. Transfer the marks to the cement using the plumb bob again. With a tape measure, measure the difference between the front marks and the back marks.

I think that means something has broken or is worn. In other words, it is something more than just the toe and perhaps the toe is just a symptom.

I don’t think that toe can be measured seperately from side to side without some serious equipment. And as others have mentioned it is likely that there is some wear or damage causing the poor handling and it would be worthwhile to have the suspension inspected by a ‘good’ shop.

I have experimented with DIY wheel alignments with only marginal success…When the vehicle is put on an alignment rack, my efforts are never within factory limits…For sure, toe-out will produce quick, darty steering. I have the alignment tech set to toe to near the toe-in limit, usually just a hair toe-in and the car will track properly…But before you worry about alignment, any and all slop in the steering must be located and removed…

I’ve aligned cars in my driveway and garage for years. I straightened an '84 Corvette that had a ton of thrust angle in it but drove straight, just dog-tracked. It was perfect when I got done with it. Did 4-wheel toe on my FWD race car, too.

The last time I got tires for the truck, a “free” alignment check was performed. The truck was in-spec, and I’d tweaked both camber to straighten the truck’s lead and toe to get better fuel economy on a long drive long before the tires were replaced.

It can be done but you must be a bit OCD to get good readings with string lines and levels.

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