Carried Heavy load in Honda Civic - car leaning to the left and squealing

I carried eleven 40 lb bags of dirt in my Honda Civic (1998) - in the trunk and backseat - and then drove about two miles with the dirt in my car. After unloading the dirt, when I got back into the car I heard a distinct squeaking sound - like something in the suspension moving or creaking - the sound seemed to come from the middle of the car. I started up my car and there was no sound but as soon as I began to drive I noticed that my car was leaning distinctly to the left and there was a rubbing and squealing sound coming from the left front end of the car - or so I think. I got out to check whether there was anything hitting the tire, but there wasn’t.

I didn’t drive the car very far, except to park it. The car is drivable, but just makes an unbelievably loud squealing/rubbing noise now. It does not pull to the left, but is leaning to the left as if something broke or cracked or I have a flat tire (which I don’t).

I’ve carried heavy loads before - but perhaps this was the last for my Honda. I thought it might be the suspension, then maybe cracked CV boots. But I really have no idea. I have 129,000 on the car and have kept up maintenance on it.

I suspect that whatever is making this sound is going to cost a lot of money to fix. Any help, advice, hints, or feedback is appreciated. Thank you.

Yes, you probably broke or collapsed a spring on the strut. PLEASE DO NOT DRIVE IT WITH A BROKEN SPRING. The broken end of the spring could drive into the tire a cause a major loss of control. The cost could be the price of a quick strut and DIY install time, or 1.5 hrs labor. has economy strut assemblies for as little as $62. And it looks like it can be installed with hand tools.

I agree with BustedKnuckles’s assessment.

Ironically, eleven 40-lb bags is the same as two 220-lb, or three 150-lb passengers - which your car should be able to handle with ease. I suspect vehicle age played a role here.

I agree, I think vehicle age played a role and the fact that I’ve carried this weight quite recently. The broken spring makes sense - is this why the car is leaning to the left (?).

11 40lb bags should not have been a problem IF the weight was distributed in the passenger compartment. I think it might have been poorly distributed to the rear or one side and caused something to break or bend when you hit a bump. So, I agree with @bentknuckes but feel after you have it fixed, if you intend moving that much weight, don’t treat it like a pick up and throw too much weight in the rear, but distribute it all between the wheels in the passenger compartment which most fwd cars need. Don’t use the trunk ! Be carefully to distribute weight equally from side to side to balance with your weight using the front seat as well. These little fwd cars are very weight sensitive when using the trunk for very heavy loads. That’s why fwd pick ups are useless and you find few successful attempts at making them. So, I agree that two 220 lbs people should present no problem for any small fwd compact in general, but it definitely would if one sat in the rear and one in the trunk.

I don’t think I’ll be using my car again to move such heavy items - after I’ve fixed the car. I’ve got to get more mileage and time out of this Honda, so I’ll find other ways to move things. But, yes, I agree - weight distribution should have been better.

Take more than one trip with less weight.

Yes, all good advice - but how much is this going to cost to fix? $1000 or more? Less? Any sense of that?

How old are the shocks/struts? Now might be a good time to have all 4 replaced, with new springs, using ‘ready mount’ strut/spring parts.

At a minimum, you have to replace both rear springs and struts, should be well under $1,000, assuming nothing else was damaged.

Hondas of this vintage have a narrow, tightly wound coil spring that is prone to breaking. Check near the ends and you’ll find the break. Replace both sides when you do get it fixed. Not hard to do yourself; Rockauto will have everything you need at good prices. Good luck.

Where is the coil spring and how do I find it?

If you have to ask…you need to get a pro to do this. The spring is inside of the rear wheel. But get it towed (on a flat bed) to a shop you trust.

Thanks so much for everyone’s feedback. I’m taking the car in on Wed - the soonest the trusted mechanic could see it - and I shall update.

And by ‘inside the rear wheel’ I should have said ‘inboard of the rear wheel’. Here’s a photo of a Civic’s rear suspension (not your particular year, but you get the idea):

It may be “Water under the bridge” in your case, but when I load up my Corolla, I push back the passenger front seat put as much as I can there. I also fold down the rear seat and load the remainaing bags as far forward as possible. That way the load is shared more between the rear and front suspensions. It also helps to be low on gas since that reduces weight on the rear of the car.

For such a short distance, several trips are totally reasonable. Why risk it?