Brakes and Suspension


The goal here was to seriously improve handling and braking and also give the car some looks. Parts were chosen with a lean towards performance without much consideration for comfort. First, every single part involving suspension and brakes was striped from the car including the front and rear cross member (the rear cross member is another story). All bushings and bearings where pressed out of all suspensions arms, knuckles, and forks (you better have a hydraulic press) and all ball joints and bearings were removed. Shocks were disassembled and while being replaced be sure to keep the hardware that guides the rubber brake lines. All the suspension parts were cleaned, degreased and wire brushed and then sprayed with 2 coats of a clear rust blocker and then 2 coats of black (or red) enamel. Yup, it's tedious and not necessary unless you are anal and want a really clean car. You could send the parts out and bead blast and powder coat everything, but that is cheating. Besides, it looks almost as good and is fairly durable. We would rather spend the $ on other stuff.

All the bushings and bearings were replaced with new parts with most of the bushings replaced with hard polymer, polyurethane, or spherical bearings. Aftermarket front and rear sway bars were installed along with aftermarket big brakes, lines, and coilovers. Here are the details.

Strip, clean, replace

Here are some pics of various suspension pieces ready to go back in place. The front lower control arm uses stock (new) rubber bushings but the Upper arm bushings are Orijin self lubricating hard polymer bushings (not polyurethane). The theory being that movement in the lower bushings is primarily up and down and that twisting and distortions are controlled by the upper bushings and the rigid spherical bearings of the Full-Race traction bar. Sounds good anyway. Note the use of spherical bearings (Special Project Motorsports) in the rear trailing arm bushing which really tightens up the rear. Be warned, this makes for a hard ride where bumps are felt, but it is tight.

Front Assembly

After the motor, the front suspension was reconstructed and it looks like there is some hope in eventually completing the car. The assembly was pretty straight forward, make sure you torque everything to spec, especially on the brakes. To get the ss brake lines to run in a way I felt confident in some special aluminum brackets were fabricated. Be sure to inspect your brakes and front end carefully over the first year for wear on lines and tightness. I found a loose bolt on the traction bar after running a couple of thousand miles. It caused the front end to squeak which I was blaming on the coilovers. Not shown is a Cusco ST tower bar tying the shock towers together under the hood.

Rear Assembly

The rear setup was a bit more work. First, you have to run the new emergency brake lines (supplied in the FastBrakes kit). The stock bushing on the rear trailing arms is a large rubber bushing that commonly wears out on a CRX and is very flexy. The Special Project Motorsports spherical bearing fixes that but will run harsh. The Skunk2 lower and upper arms bolt right in, the upper allows the camber to be adjusted as well as being more beefy with poly bushings. The lower has 3 mounting points for the sway bar to adjust the stiffness. The rear integra disk brake conversion was easy with the adapter plates provided by FastBrakes. Throw those old drum brakes out. In reality, you can do fine with the rear drums as most of the stopping power is provided by the fronts but they offer a nice bling factor. Again, brackets were fabricated to run the ss brake lines in a fashion we were comfortable with, hate loosing the brakes.

Things got more complicated with the rear sway bar. Only the SI chassis has one and it mounts to a bracket with 2 bolts in front of the rear tow hooks. The holes are there on the DX for the bracket, but the welded nuts are not and you cannot install them without cutting through the trunk. We originally were going to use a Progress rear bar which gets bolted/welded across the lower arm mounting points on the chassis and then bolted to the shocks instead of the control arm position. We did not like this design as the chassis mounting points are known to be weak on the Civics (same design) and this would put more stress on the frame. I also did not like the esthetics of the shock mounting. So we went with a Neuospeed bar which uses the Si type setup but replaces the stock brackets on the frame with a heavier set and requires the removal of the rear toe hooks to gain an additional mounting point.

To solve the missing nuts for the swaybar mount problem, we fabricated a plate with 2 welded nuts (see pic 6). We drilled out the holes which should have contained the nuts (pic 7) and mounted the plate with the weld nuts behind and up through the drilled holes. Pic 7 shows the plate in place with the extra mounting bolt used from the tow hook. Then you weld the sucker in place and try not to drip any molten metal on you, paint, and the mounts bolt up to in even stronger mounting point than the Si. If you plan to do something like this to a DX or HF, remember that the lower control arms do not have the sway bar mounting point and must be replaced with ones from an Si or in our case the Skunk2.

Not shown here is the EM Racing rear shock tower bar to help stiffen the rear chassis. This requires some judicial trimming of the interior panels.

Brake Hydraulics

On the first cut we used the stock master cylinder and brake proportioning valve (P.S. the valve gets relocated for the swap). Even though the DX had rear drums, apparently (according to Fastbrakes who give great support) there is not a lot of difference in the proportioning valve between the Si (rear disks) and the DX. However, were never totally happy with the brakes, they just did not feel firm and sometimes took some time to hookup. We did discover that the Hawk HPS pads need to warm up, when dead cold they take a bit of force but once they do they are great. Discovered this when one of the more experienced drivers in our NER SCCA Solo event went right off the course in the first turn. Lesson, drag the brakes before the start if cold.

So over last winter we did some further tweaking. Again, at the recommendation of Fastbrakes plus some research it was suggested to go to a larger master cylinder. Here is a great thread on the topic of brake upgrades (Brake Upgrades 101). So we went from the stock 13/16" master to a 15/16" from a 90-91 Civic EX. This gives you about a 25% increase in area for the master cylinder and a cooresponding increase in fluid volume moved. We also went to a 90-93 Integra 4040 proportioning valve as it seemed closest to matching my brake setup, we figured it wouldn't hurt and we had to flush the fluid for the master cylinder upgrade anyway. We also invested in a Motive power bleeder, which is a pressurized bleeder (don't get the vacuum type). Not only did this make it easier to bleed the brakes, but it really guarantees you get a clean flush. We thought we had the system well flushed originally (the 2 person way) but with this tool we could see there was still some crud in there which may have also contributed to the poor performance. Lesson here is count on using a lot of clean fluid to get a good flush, and use DOT 4 while you are at it (DOT 5 is not compatable with Honda brake systems!). The reservoir for the Civic EX master cylinder is considerably larger than the stock CRX, so be aware of clearance issues with any strut bar, but besides that it is a simple bolt in.

This really improved the braking which is now much firmer, linear and predictable.

Wheels and Tires

Went with Volk Racing 16x7 Volk Racing TE37 TI Gunmetal 42mm offset with Dunlap Direzza DZ101 205/40 tires. The wheels are light (12lbs.) and gorgeous (and expensive, oh well). We were not too happy with the tires. This year we went with Bridgestone RE-11 205/45 and these are great tires. They are at the size limit of what the car can take and just touch the rear fender.



Volk TE37, a classic
The larger Civic master cylinder reservoir just clears the Cusco ST strut bar
Starting to look like a car again
This is what it looks like from behind
Neuspeed bracket installed on adapter plate
Adapter plate is in position and ready to weld
Mount plate fabricated to adapt sway bar mount on DX chassis
This is where the sway bar mount goes on an SI
Rear Integra disk brake swap complete
Skunk2 adjustable camber via upper arms with poly bushings
Skunk2 lower arms are nice, include poly bushing and 3 positions for sway bar
Rear trailing arm installed, ebrake cable, note spherical bearing
The finished product as it looks on the car
Progress Sway bar installed
Tein pillowball mount can be seen and Orijin solid upper arm bushings
To get the brake lines right to our way of thinking special brackets were fabricated
All set with brakes, rotors, and ss brake lines
Front fully assembled sans brakes, note traction (radius) bar
Two piece rotor safety wired
Rear trailing arms with spherical bearing and integra rear disk conversion
Damper fork
Knuckle, lower arm, front hub, all ready to go