CRV AWD Functioning?

Twice today, my '98 CRV AWD 5sp spun out of control when driving on surface streets with ice ruts and slight snow covering. In each case I was driving between 20 and 30 mph. In the first case, I popped up on the side of a rut and went sideways. The second time, I was in the ruts and it really seemed out of the blue. My question…is it possible that the AWD isn’t functioning properly? I ask because the car has never behaved this way. It is incredibly stable and sure footed in all kinds of our Montana weather.

Possible, but the CR-V AWD systems are pretty reliable (I have a '99). When’s the last time you had the rear differential fluid changed? Every 30k miles is recommended.

Also, what type of tires are you riding on, and how much tread do you have left?

Here’s a quote borrowed from “Curly” on a Honda forum on testing the CR-V AWD system:

"If you want to test your AWD, the simplest way I’ve ever seen is to
drive about 20 mph on an icy/snowy parking lot (or intersection), then
crank the steering wheel a bit, as if you were trying to do a ‘donut’,
at the same time yank the park brake so that the rear wheels lock up
into a skid. If the AWD is engaging well, the front wheels should lock
up too and put you into a 4-wheel sideways skid. You may also hear a
deep, throaty moan. On an automatic, nothing bad will happen, but on a
manual transmission, (if you don’t push in the clutch) the engine will
also stall.

Spinning out on ice will also show whether the rear wheels are
contributing to the fun. You should be able to spin one or the other of
the rear wheels whenever you peel out on ice."

You seem to have a false idea of what AWD is supposed to do.
It doesn’t come up with magic amounts of traction from nowhere, you know.

AWD applies power to all the tires when you are accelerating, which gives an advantage in low traction situations, say on a slight hill when stopped at a light, when its icy out.

When your car is just coasting along down the road, its just 4 tires acting like 4 tires.
If all 4 tires are on a slippery surface, and you hit a rut, your car is going to get forced in whatever direction the rut sends your vehicle.

Here in Colorado, Highway 36 between Broomfield and Boulder has bad tire ruts in both lanes of traffic. I have watched vehicle after vehicle hits these ruts, and get shoved to the side, completely out of the control of the driver.

I have also watched plenty of vehicles get spun out in front of me on this same road in snowy, icy conditions, including just this past week, with the most recent snows. Last year, I had to dodge a green Ford Explorer that hit the ruts, spun sideways, and then rammed nose first into the concrete center divider on the highway, two cars in front of me. He was going straight, changed position in the lane, hit the rut, spun sideways, and then smashed right into the concrete, all in the matter of 3 seconds, at 45 mph.

Because the car in front of me, and I were giving lots of space, we simply, and very nonchalantly, just changed over to the right lane, and went past him without incident. Both of us were driving FWD cars.

AWD doesn’t mean magic traction, all the time.
It doesn’t mean that you are impervious to bad road conditions.
It doesn’t mean that you can drive around in the snow like its 70 degrees and sunny out.

There’s a reason why AWD and 4WD vehicles are usually the first vehicles into a ditch during the winter. Overconfidence in the vehicle is the reason.


Well, said. While I have nothing but my own impressions to offer I thought that the roads became more dangerous when the SUV craze hit because people had a poor understanding of what 4WD or AWD actually do for you. People get into these things and just think they have an immunity to slippery conditions.

Ice with a covering of snow is one of the slipperiest things I can think of. Tires have a very difficult time getting any grip on ice. I think the ice is the problem, not the AWD.

What sort of tires do you have on your CRV?

The AWD in a CRV and many other cars is simply Front wheel drive and occasionally kick of power after the fact of the vehicle sensing slip. The AWD in the older CRV is a little jerky in engagement and usually too late. My feeling is at your speed in those conditions with your tires(likely worn all-seasons) was too fast or the AWD engagement caused the problem in these conditions.

Ice ruts are a very difficult condition and will knock a vehicle around.

Thanks for your comments. I fully appreciate the rigors of driving on ice and snow. We have that on our roadways for as much as 9 months of the year. Our residential streets are ice-rutted much of the time.

What bothers me is that this happended twice in one day in common conditions driving as I always do. I have never lost control of a vehicle in 25 years of driving. I can’t think of any other variables. The tires are a year and a half old, properly inflated and in good condition.

What brand and model of tire is on your car?
Not all tires are created equal when it comes to driving in snow.


hankook optimo h727. I think we may have hit upon a possible source of the handling problem. My wife had a tire repaired when the outside air temperature was well below zero F (probably mid teens below). They fixed the flat and she said they checked the inflation on all the tires.I checked the tires today and they were all at 40 psi. The specs for our CRV is 26 psi. I’m wondering if they inflated all the tires to somewhere in the low 30 psi range and the psi has increased with the temperature. We are now in the mid 30s above.

Consumer Reports tested the Hankook Optimo H727 on ice/snow and gave them a top rating compared to other all-season tires, so I don’t think your tires are to blame.

However, 40 psi is way too high. I wouldn’t run over 32 psi.