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Rear outer tie rod replaced - full or partial alignment needed?

18 December 2008
Philadelphia Area
I replaced my passenger outer tie rod on my 91 NSX myself. I understand when re-installing I should get it as close to the former depth (locking nut and number of turns) and position as the old one was. And that I will still need an alignment.

Which type of alignment would I need, assuming my entire car's alignment was fine before (there are no stupid questions)
A) full 4-wheel alignment
B) rear-only alignment

Tried searching here and on the internet in general (for example, a front-wheel-drive car replacing a front tie-rod would only need front-end alignment)... but since the NSX mid engine has axles to the rear-wheels I obviously have to get the rear wheels aligned minimum. But was unclear if I needed all 4 at the same time.

If it helps, I barely drive the car (ie under 4,000 miler per year), last full alignment was about 25,000 miles ago, and I put normal street city/highway use on the car (aka I don't track it or anything crazy).

Thanks and hope this helps others!
I guess you don't have to do anything. If you eyeballed it precisely, it will probably be kinda ok.

But a normal plan would be to have a 4-wheel alignment done, especially since it's been 25,000 miles since the last one.

No brainer.
RE: "it will probably be kinda ok"
It's definitely fine for low miles to be able to drive to an alignment place. General consensus seems to be get it aligned because people and parts are flawed... and new tires would be more expensive (especially since tires should be replaced in pairs and would consist of tires, mount + balance, disposal). I am curious how accurate I was able to get it myself, but better safe than sorry.

RE: But a normal plan would be to have a 4-wheel alignment done [...] No brainer.

Appreciate the feedback and having a second opinion!!! I scheduled the 4-wheel alignment, cost will be $100. Not sure why I thought it was gonna be closer to $200 hence I was trying to get that down and see what was really needed. Plus for my own benefit just learning what is "required" and understanding how it all fits together is fun!

Thanks centerpunch!
Front-only alignment is more common because in many simpler cars the rear suspension isn't really adjustable.

See if your shop will allow you to watch if you promise not to ask too many questions. These days the readouts are on a monitor, color-coded red for needs adjustment, and green for ok.

This is a good basic intro explaining what camber, caster, and toe-in are. Your tie rod end replacement would primarily affect only the toe-in, but the shop's setup will probably check the other measurements also- always a good idea.

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Thanks again centerpunch for the info and video link!!! Really appreciate talking through this!

UPDATE (alignment job done):
  • REAR - was still good overall camber/caster/toe (within 93+ specs) EXCEPT passenger-side toe as expected. So good reminder to get alignment after replacing outer tie rod (no matter how close you think you got it)
  • FRONT - camber/caster were still good, toe (both sides) needed correcting
Actually found my last alignment paperwork from 2009 at 73k miles... so not bad after 13yrs and 20k miles