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by Bob O’Neill with an assist from Bob Lincoln
On front wheel drive cars it is important that the engine is centered, to avoid premature failure of the CV axles. As you make turns, the axle tends to stretch, especially if one side of the engine is closer to the wheel. On the side where the engine is farther than it should be, the CV joint can work its way loose and actually come apart, or if it is pressed in too far, it can result in noise and early failure. This is further aggravated when one side of the car or the other raises (e.g. when the car rolls during aggressive turns).
There are two ways to measure the axle length.
First, several steps must be taken to gain access to the axle nut, which must be removed to take the measurements. If your wheels will allow you to gain access to the axle nut, you won’t have to remove the wheel. If however, you cannot gain access to the axle nut with the wheel on the car, you will have to remove the wheels from both sides.
With the weight of the car on the wheels or wood blocks as described above, be sure that the car cannot move. Then remove the cotter pins, axle nuts and spring washers. These are usually 32mm or 1 ¼”, and a socket of this size with a long break over bar should work. If not, perhaps an impact wrench will help.
With the axle nut removed you can now start to measure. Using a pry bar will make this easier.
To adjust the centering of the engine, support the engine with a floor jack and a piece of half-inch or thicker plywood to take the weight off the mounts. Then, to move the engine, loosen the four fasteners which hold the front motor mount to the support below the radiator and loosen the passenger ‘upper’ engine mount vertical fasteners. The driver’s side is floating and will slide even with the bolts tight. Then using the pry bar move the engine a little at a time. Snug the fasteners at the motor mount, carefully remove the engine supports and drop the engine, and measure again to make sure you are within one eighth of an inch. If you are not, repeat the process; if you are, tighten everything up.
Once you have achieved this goal, tighten the passenger (50 ft-lbs) motor mounts then the front motor mount fasteners (40 ft-lbs), install the spring washers and axle nuts, torquing to 180 ft-lbs, using a new cotter key, and mount the wheels on the hubs. Torque the wheel properly to avoid warping the rotor on the front brakes. Proper wheel lug torque is 95 – 110 ft-lbs depending on the car.
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