CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

2003 Honda CRV steering

When I turn the steering wheel, I get what I can only describe as kind of a twisty gnarly rubbery sound. Any help would be appreciated.

Please describe exactly WHEN you hear this noise:

Is it only when the vehicle is stationary, or does it take place only when the car is moving at low speed, or only at highway speeds, or under all conditions?

The details are really important because if the noise takes place when turning the steering wheel at low speeds, the noise is likely not steering-related at all. CR-Vs have become fairly notorious for problems with the center differential and this causes the center differential to bind up when turning at low speeds. The noise is telegraphed in such a way that most CR-V drivers really do think that the noise is coming from the front of the car, even though it is coming from underneath the vehicle.

The “cure” is to change the fluid, which I believe is called Honda Dual-Pump Fluid, or something to that effect. The center and the rear differential have a connection for fluid exchange, so the process of draining and refilling the center differential is actually done through the rear differential. It is vitally important to use ONLY this pricey Honda fluid, rather than any other differential oil on the market, and it is apparently necessary to change it every 50k or so in order to avoid problems with this obviously poor design.

If my supposition, that this takes place only in low-speed turns, is incorrect, then feel free to ignore my advice regarding the current problem, but bear in mind that all CR-V owners do need to do a periodic differential fluid change in order to prevent center differential problems, as well as to cure symptoms such as what you have described.

I’ll have to take it on the highway to check it at high speed. Also, Is this a dangerous situation?

The key question is–Does the noise take place when the car is stationary, or only when it is moving? If the noise can be heard when the car is stationary, then the problem does not lie in the center differential.

Is it dangerous? Probably not, but I would be very wary of how long you could drive a CR-V with this condition before excess wear took place in the center differential. As a result, I view it more as a potential problem with the vehicle’s long-term durability, rather than a safety issue. Clearly, it is a bad design, and only frequent fluid changes can avert problems in this area.

YES!!! The noise does appear when the vehicle is stationary. And thank you for your help it’s greatly appreciated.

OK–In that case, the problem is in the steering system.

Depending on exactly what the steering problem is, it could be dangerous, so I would suggest having it checked out a.s.a.p., but NOT by Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, or any other chain operation.
If the problem turns out to be the steering rack, be prepared for a big repair bill.

And then, the next time that the vehicle is in for maintenance, have the differential fluid changed, just to prevent problems from cropping up with that quirky center differential.