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Realign Rear Axle?

So… related to my last post, here’s yet another issue that’s come out of the 60K mile check-up (of my 2005 VW Passat Wagon GLX). The technicians noticed a “wobble” from the rear of the vehicle at 15-25 mph (that, mind you, I have never noticed). Their inspection of the tires noted that the left rear tire’s inner tread was “showing steel.” After performing some suspension work, they did an alignment check. They adjusted the front axle (since they can do that), which is in alignment now. The rear axle, however, is out of whack. The left individual toe is at +0.50 degrees (shown in red on my diagnostic) and the right individual toe is at +0.10 degrees (shown in green), for a “total toe” of +0.60 degrees.

Their suggestion – mind you, this is from an independent mechanic – was to either re-shim the rear axle (which cannot be done at this particular mechanic’s shop), or to replace the axle in full. Either way, they’re telling me this is not an inexpensive repair, and that I should call my insurance company to get them to cover the amount past my deductible.

What do you guys think? Is re-shimming workable? How much would I expect to pay for that? Can it be done at any body shop? How serious is the problem? Better to just replace the axle in full?

I think the first thing to do is get a second opinion.

“Showing steel” is very bad. If the alignment is bad enough to wear the tire down to the steel, it needs to be fixed. ASAP.

Has there been some crash damage, or anything else that might account for the rear alignment being so far off?

And why didn’t you notice the tire being worn this badly?

Your car has a reputation as being expensive to maintain. For good reason. Get ready.

No crash damage on this car, honestly. The worst thing that’s happened to this car is a literal fender-bender, when it was parked in a parking lot. There’s no way that could have caused this, I can’t imagine!

Interestingly, over at the vwvortex discussion groups, a member suggested that if the car is tracking straight and we got 30K miles out of these tires (which likely we did… though we have hit some nails over the years and needed a few replacements, so it’s hard to tell), this is NOT a huge amount of misalignment. Do you disagree? Is this really urgent – e.g. get it done this week?

What, exactly, was the ‘suspension work’ they did to fix the ‘wobble’? It may have fixed a bad misalignment, with a lesser remaining problem.

Also, describe the ‘fender bender’. You’d be amazed at what one can cause.

The “fender bender” was one in which I was parked in a parking lot and came back noticing nothing (clearly I’m not very observant about my car), but got a phone call from someone who said she swiped me when parking next to me and offered to pay for any work required. I got out and checked the vehicle and a couple of panels had been scratched/dented. Took the car to the body shop, and $800 later had a mark-free vehicle. The other driver paid the bill, so no skin off my nose. I can’t imagine that this is related. Happened during parking – so at very, very low speed.

The suspension work was replacing all 4 steering links. This was not necessarily to deal with the wobble, but because the last time I was in to this mechanic they noticed the bushings were shot. Said I could definitely drive another 5K on cruddy bushings without a problem but that I would want to get it repaired (and prepare for a $800-$900 bill).