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Honda CR-V: at my wit's end with the front end!

At 100k I took my 2004 CR-V in for belated 90k maintenance. Besides the routine stuff, they had to replace the ball joints. They also rotated and balanced the tires, which are about 15k miles old.

Took the car home, and immediately noticed a loud clicking in the right wheel when I turned it hard at slow speeds, parallel parking, etc. Took it back to the shop and was informed that it was a spindle problem. Mechanics said this was merely a coincidence, not a result of their recent work, but nicely charged me only for parts not labor. They had to replace the ABS sensor in the course of this work.

Next day, had to take a long weekend trip, about 500 miles there and back. Half-way through, noticed two things: groaning/clicking noise in brakes at slow speeds, and a slight but detectable vibration through the gas pedal when traveling 30-50MPH. Also a faint “wobble” sound at this speed as though coming from front right tire.

Took it back to the shop: was told that brake rotors were rusted and this was responsible for groaning/clicking–something to do with warping due to the rust + car getting warm from long drive. They lubed up the rotors real good and there is no more sound, though I’ve not driven it a long distance yet.

BUT, faint vibration in gas pedal and wobble noise at 30-50 persists. Mechanic said that when they rotated the tires, they noted that they had gone “out of round,” but thought balancing might bring them back in round. Is it possible that the sound & vibration are just from the tires trying to find their level? Is this the kind of thing where I’m all of a sudden looking at 4 new tires (seems premature)? Any other front-end possibilities? Should I take it to a tire shop? I have found my mechanics pretty good over the past couple of years, but this recent series of visits has made me slightly leery…


I think that I have more questions at this point, rather than answers.

Was this the first time that these tires were rotated?
If so, the vibration problems and “wobble sound” could be due to wear patterns resulting from bad wheel alignment and/or failure to rotate the tires on schedule. Check the Honda Maintenance Schedule (it should be contained in your Owner’s Manual) to see the frequency of tire rotation, and compare this to your service invoices in order to see how often those tires were rotated.

Are you sure that the groaning noise when turning at low speeds is from the brakes?
How did you determine that this noise is coming from the brakes?
I am asking because a known issue with CR-Vs of this era is noise that is heard when making sharp, low-speed turns. The noise is the result of tires “binding” as a result of failure to properly maintain the vehicle’s center differential.

The differential fluid on these vehicles needs to be changed ~every 60k miles in order to prevent this problem, and ONLY genuine Honda Dual-Pump Fluid can be used. Has your “pretty good” mechanic ever changed the diff fluid on this vehicle? If not, then he may not even reach the status of “pretty good”.

Did the mechanic really tell you that he “lubed up the rotors real good”?
Usually, you would only lube the brake rotors if you are trying to kill someone, so I am not sure if you misheard him or if he really is trying to kill you.

Regarding the tires, did the mechanic really tell you that “balancing might bring them back in round”? If so, he is truly incompetent, as tires that are “out of round” will remain so despite balancing or belated rotation.

Like you, I would be leery of this shop, if you have quoted exactly what they told you.
At this point, I think that your vehicle is the victim of lax maintenance on your part, coupled with a lack of adequate mechanical knowledge on the part of your mechanic.

If I were you, I would visit a well-reputed tire dealer in order to get their opinion on the state of your tires-- both in terms of possibly being “out of round”, and whether they have wear patterns that resulted from bad alignment and/or failure to rotate on schedule. It is entirely possible that you need new tires at this point, as well as a new mechanic.

After resolving the tire issue, I suggest a visit to either an independent Honda specialist or a Honda dealership in order to have the center differential fluid changed. With any luck, simply resolving probable tire problems, and consistently maintaining the vehicle as it is supposed to be maintained will take care of the situations that you have told us about.

Hi, thanks for your detailed note. “Lube up” was my phrase–as you can probably tell, I don’t know much about these things. I believe they said they removed the rust from the rotors. I am not 100% certain that the groaning/clicking noise was coming from the brakes, but I am pretty certain–it never happened while making a turn; and the sharp click that was happening during turns was fixed when they did the spindle. Differential fluid was changed when they did the 90k service and they used Honda fluid.

I was indeed lax on rotating the tires (Honda recommends ever 6k for this vehicle) and I am pretty sure that the mechanic did say something about them getting back “in round,” and maybe he was just trying not to hit me with a bill for 4 new tires on top of the recent 2k worth of maintenance and service. In any case, I will take it to a tire shop!

I agree with VCD that your mechanic is far short of “pretty good”. I also agree with his recommendation on the center differential. I question the need for ball joints on a vehicle this new with that low mileage.

The clicking sound could also be from a CV joint. Was the CV boot inspected? If ignored long enough, it can lead to some of the other problems.


There are numerous other minor problems that could lead to your problems and a reasonably competent mechanic should be able to resolve them quickly and at a relatively low cost.

Thanks all. To Keith: Honda dealer also said ball joints needed to be replaced–this was independently verified when I took it to the mechanic for a second opinion (didn’t tell him what the Honda dealer had recommended–just told him to give the car a full once-over.) Well, so it goes. CR-V has another recall on it, so it’s back to the dealer in any case and we’ll see what they come up with this time, and then it’s off to the tire shop!

JeremyL, have you had any luck resolving this issue?

My 2003 CR-V has started wobbling. First, it was only after driving it for about 10-15 min after driving through a tight curve at higher speeds (like in a highway), but now will do it on a straight road at 40 mph (also after driving it for a while). It seems to happen randomly. But, of course, every time I have a mechanic test drive it, the car does not do it.

I have taken it to a tire shop, twice. They have balanced the tires and checked the tire pressure. It seems to work well for about a week of driving it to work, and then it would start again. The last time I took it, they said it is not the tires. They recommended that I take it to my shop and tell them to look at the drive train or transmission.

It is really scary driving it in the highway and it starts up… I am borrowing my boyfriend’s car in the mean time, but I cannot borrow it forever! …

If you were able to fix the issue in your car, any information will help. Thank you!


You would probably get more responses if your started your own thread, rather than “hijacking” a thread that is already several months old.

Anyway…can you give us a better idea of what you mean by “wobble”?
Is the car actually changing course or moving from side to side as you drive?
Is the steering wheel jerking back & forth?
Is this something that you perceive through your hands on the steering wheel?
If not, how do you perceive this “wobble”?
Is there a noise accompanying this symptom?
How long have you had this car?
Has the center differential ever had its fluid changed?

VDCdriver, There are so many threads that start describing my same issue that never give a final response or even if the issue was fixed… I was trying to pry it out of this one :slight_smile:

Anyway…can you give us a better idea of what you mean by “wobble”? Is the steering wheel jerking back & forth? Is this something that you perceive through your hands on the steering wheel? Is there a noise accompanying this symptom? If not, how do you perceive this “wobble”?
The wobble makes the steering wheel jerk from side to side at a few degrees, enough to make my hands and arms giggle/shake. Besides that, I perceive a movement coming from the right side of the car. Again, as if I had a flat tire. The noise that comes with it is faint, but it sounds like what a tire would do if it was not properly attached to the car and it is wobbling… like an oscillating rhythmic sound. That might be a horrible description, but that is what it sounds like. There is no grinding, or metal clanking. When I am on the passenger side, I can feel the shaking coming from that side of the car at my feet. Again, this is happening after about 20min of the car having been started and driven and at 40mph.

Is the car actually changing course or moving from side to side as you drive?
The car does not change course or moves from side to side. Since the steering wheel is moving back and forth at slight angles (same on both sides). So, if the car does moved from side to side, it is not bad enough for me to notice.

How long have you had this car?
I got this car new in Aug 2003. So 9 years. It has 128,000 miles.

Has the center differential ever had its fluid changed?
I am not sure the differential fluid was changed, but the differential has been maintained as per the schedule. I do not know what they do when they do the maintenance.


Since you have had this car since it was new and the problem apparently only began recently, my best guess is that there is a problem with worn front-end components. Even though your mechanic did not perceive there to be a problem when he drove it, I think it is very possible–even likely–that you have one of the following situations:

Ball joints and/or tie rod ends that are badly worn (This is a definite safety hazard.)
Very badly worn bushings on the control arms
Inner CV joints that are badly worn

I suggest that you seek out the best front-end shop in your area (an independent shop that specializes in alignment, rather than a chain), and have them inspect the front-end components. It is very likely that they will find the problem.

If there is no front-end problem, then my only other thought is the aforementioned Inner CV joints. Unlike the Outer CV joints, these components can produce some strange symptoms, including shaking at various speeds. Any competent mechanic should be able to check these out for you.

When the car is in the shop for this examination, have the mechanic change the differential fluid (center and rear), using ONLY genuine Honda Dual-Pump Fluid. No other fluid can be substituted in these cars. When that fluid is not changed ~every 60k miles on CR-Vs, strange noises and jerking motions will take place when making sharp turns at low speed.

Thank you! We will be taking it today to our shop. Not a shop specializing in alignment, but I have had a good experience with them and it was highly recommended by a co-worker. They are “import” specialists. I will let them know about the rear and center differential fluid and to use Honda Dual Pump Fluid. I will basically tell them that I do not want my car back until they feel & fix the wobble.

But, if they are not able to diagnose it, then I’ll look for an alignment specialty auto shop. I’ll keep you updated.

Thank you for your insight

The shop called me Friday saying that they not only had felt the wobble but they knew what it was! They diagnosed the problem resulting from faulty calipers. I am not sure how it all works, but what they explained happened during the “wobble” was that the brakes were being applied to that ONE tire, while all the rest were still going.

They will replace the two calipers (after market $86 vs new $300 each), the brake pads, and brake discs, Total about $500 in parts (ouch!), but a very reasonable $230 in labor…

I am hoping this takes care of the issue. :slight_smile:

Thanks again VDCdriver!