Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Honda Civic highway-speed handling: New tires

My 2006 Civic (LX) came from the dealer with Bridgestone tires, which wore out after 42k miles. At the recommendation of a local trustworthy tire dealer and general mechanic, I replaced them with 4 new Toyo Versatos. When I drove on the interstate the next day, the car felt like it was being buffeted by crosswinds: I had to make frequent minor adjustments on the wheel to keep it centered in its lane. No such problem below 55 mph, and no vibration in the wheel.

I took the car back and complained. The salesman rode with me and reported that he too felt the problem, and suggested that the tires must be defective. We replaced them with Michelins, I forget the style, and we rode it again. It seemed better, so I dropped they guy off at his shop and went on my way. After paying another $140 for these new top-of-the-line tires.

Well, what seemed okay that day has really just improved the problem slightly. It still feels like constant crosswinds on the highway, which I know isn’t the case, because we’re in the doldrums of a heat wave in these parts (North Carolina). And no, it’s not just those passing semis either.

I took the car back to my car pro, and after a day’s work, he reported that the front end, suspension, alignment, and steering were all perfectly fine; one of the rear wheels was 0.3 degree out of alignment, which they fixed. And no improvement in the handling problem. He tried another set of tires – really cheap ones, he said – same thing. He called the Michelin dealer, and together they concocted the following explanation:

The steering in this car is so tight and responsive, and the new tires grab the road so well, that the tiniest movement of the steering wheel causes an immediate shift in direction, which means that the driver has to compensate constantly for those movements.

I’m thinking —booooogus, but what can I say? The car didn’t do that when I bought it with new Bridgestones on it. Car pro did not have an answer for that. And, if the steering is tight, why doesn’t the car track better than that? I don’t make those tiny steering movements except in response to nudges from those phantom crosswinds and semis. No answer for that, either.

I was also told that the MIchelin rep told my pro that they’ve had other issues with new tires on new cars, and that the problems seem to go away after one or two thousand miles.

In other words, we can’t fix it, and leave us alone for a few months.

I haven’t called the Honda dealer about this yet, though he is next on my list.

Any similar experiences out there?

Does the pro’s explanation make sense to anyone but him?

It sounds like the pro is doing everything he possibly can to help and doing it in good faith but the car is just wind sensitive. I guess the only place to go from here would be to replace the tires with the same or similar model Bridgestone’s as it came with.

One factor might also be if you changed one of the rating characteristics, like going from a Z speed rating to an S rating or a highway tire to an all season. That affects a car’s feel.

Kinda makes sense to me, though I blame the road, not you.

Honda is famous for its handling. The better a car handles, the more sensitive it becomes to steering inputs, which can be made by you, or by the car getting pulled left or right by grooves in the road or other pavement features. Tires are a huge factor in this - especially if the tires you got are directional, they can get pulled around by the road quite a bit. I have a Toyota MR2 with ultra-high performance directional tires, and sometimes it gets jinked around by road undulations. The flip side is that if I want to I can keep up with Porsches on twisty roads :wink:

When cars get twitchy and “hunt” many times this can be cured by adding a LITTLE toe-in to the alignment. Move the toe-in near it’s upper limit and see if that improves things…

ANY toe-out will make a car twitchy and jumpy…

This is a combination of tire and road, not the car. I would venture to guess that the highway is grooved pavement (right?). Some tires are more effected by this than others.

For example: my Jeep Grand Cherokee used to do the same thing with BFG ATs on it, but doesn’t with Goodyear Wranglers on it. Nobody could ever say that the Jeep has tight steering.

My Tiguan with Pirelli Scorpions does the same thing. But no issues at all on non-grooved pavement.

i’ll check with my pro to see if a bit of toe-in is a good idea. I suppose it will make the tires wear a little faster, but that would be worth it at this point.

It is definitely much worse on grooved pavement, but still clearly noticeable on very smooth asphalt, which is on most of the surface of my commute. The odd thing to me is that it happens with 3 different tires.

For what its worth,my 07’ Accord experiences the same issues you describe.
I guess i agree that its a combination of steering components,tires,and road conditions.

At highway speeds, many times i have to make more steering adjustments than at lower speeds

What tires do you have on it? Are they still the originals from the factory?
I don’t recall my car doing this when it was new and had the original Bridgestones.

And, by the way, the service person at the local Honda dealer had not heard of this problem before.

Not an expert, but my wife has a 2006 Civic and I hate driving it for this reason. To me it has always felt like it wanders on the road because of the handling. It doesn’t take much steering input to make it move. She’s used to it and doesn’t seem to notice it, but she drives it every day. I notice it as soon as I drive it. This happened on the original tires as well. They all have a lot less play in the wheel than back when I started driving, but I still like that little bit of play I guess.

You’ve had 4 sets of tires on the car and 3 of them have handling problems!

First, I would check the inflation pressure. Given that the same guys put on all 3 of the offending sets of tires, they could be using the wrong inflation pressure. That appears to be the only common denominator.

And by check, I mean do it yourself. Do not trust these guys as they may be the source of the problem!

“And, by the way, the service person at the local Honda dealer had not heard of this problem before.”

That means nothing. Service people at dealerships generally tend to not have heard of anything unless a computer tells them to have heard of it.

My tires are Michelin Pilot MXM4 P215/50 R17 93 I have 28k on them and tread is fine.
Pretty expensive to replace when it comes time.
Besides the quirky steering,they are noisy. Supposedly attributed to the “sport” suspension tuning.

Thanks for the tip. I checked the inflation and 3 of 4 tires were at 35 lb and one was 31. Recommended pressure is 32. I set them all to 32 and things have improved. Not perfect, but definitely better.

My '75 Civic, '81 Accord and '85 Accord all handled like go-carts.
Steering very sensitive to the driver and the road.
The '88 Accord (sold recently) was more settled.

New tires can be more “squirmy” with their thick treads. The old tread rubber had also hardened a little over time.
Tire pressures and toe-in are very important.
How often did you check pressure on the old tires?

Actually, your new tires might be just a little “slippery”, not grippy like you think. New tires have a very smooth surface having just come from the road. After a couple hundred miles, their surface will roughen up some (sometimes called stipple) and they will track and grip better.

BTW, if you got directional tires like the Michelin Hydroedge, they will get twitchy if any of them are mounted backwards. There is an arrow on the sidewall that shows the correct direction of travel.