Who's right?

I have a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid that I purchased used with 50,000 miles on it. After a couple of months I had to replace the rear tires. The driver’s side was badly cupped and the passenger side was mildly cupped. I assumed the rear shocks were bad. I took the car to a dealership for the 60,000 mile service, explained that I had just replaced the tires and why, and asked them to check the suspension. They said everything was OK.

30,000 miles later I had the same problem with cupping on the rear tires. I took it to a different dealership and they again pronounced the suspension parts to be in good shape and blamed the tire wear on poorly manufactured tires (in both cases they were low-end Michelin). The guys at the tire shop claimed it was obvious suspension problems, and they could not even try to write up a warranty claim to Michelin.

Does anyone out there have any insight as to who, if either one, might be right in this argument?


The tire shop is right. Cupped tires are caused from worn struts/shocks.


How much did the Michelins miss their waranteed mileage? Did these tires stay on the rear the entire 30,000 miles? bad if they did, and if not perhaps the cupping came from running on the front.

What possibilites exist for rear wheel alighment changes on your car? not all are immeditaly adjustable in every direction.

Not an expert, but I don’t think it is the tires. I have an '03 Civic that I’m happy with, but I’ve noticed the newer generation of Civics (which I think includes your '05) seem to have a wider rear end than front end. In other words the rear tires do not track directly behind the fronts. Is this part of the problem, I have no clue but something looks odd to me.

I suspect something is out of align on the rear end or bad struts, or something other than the tires.

I second Tester about the cupping being caused by worn struts or shocks. If the problem is severe feather edging (sometimes misdiagnosed as cupping) then an alignment problem could be behind that.

A wider stance of the rear tires should not cause either a cupping or feather edging problem unless the track is off. It’s quite possible to have the front end out of alignment enough to cause a rear tire track problem; or crab as it’s called.
A proper front end alignment really should include checking the track.

You might want to check the background history of your vehicle. Carfax is one source. If the vehicle was in an accident the frame could be out of alignment. All four corners may look ok but the suspension may be out of whack. I once owned a 2005 Pontiac Vibe that had this exact problem. It was improperly repaired after an accident at the dealership. They never reported anything and sold it as a new vehicle.

You don’t mention tire rotation. Every front drive car that we have owned required timely tire rotations or else cupping would result on the rear tires. All were compact or medium size cars of various brands including VW, GM and Chrysler Corp. Once the cupping has happened, rotating the tires can repair them after a few thousand miles if the tires are narrow. Wide tires stay noisy from the cupping. Note the pics on the link to make sure that we are talking about the same thing.

I agree with Wha Who. Every front wheel drive vehicle my family or I have owned would cup the rear tires if not rotated, even the cars bought new. Cars have to be designed with springs and shocks (or struts) capable of handling maximum load. Then we bounce down the road with one person in the car most of the time and with front wheel drive there is almost no weight in the rear then.The only way to stop this would be with a weight sensing air or hydraulic suspension in the rear but I don,t see that happening in low-priced cars.

The suspension might be ok. Could just be all that added weight from the hybrid battery cell in the rear of the car.

The tires were never rotated or the wear would have been on all four tires. Rotate your tires every 5,000 miles or as directed by your owner’s manual. Now have the struts changed, they are due anyway. Get a four wheel alignment too. It is overdue.

Thanks for all the input. I believe that I will get the struts changed and rotate the tires regularly. The tire store scolded me for not rotating the tires even though they refused to rotate because after I replaced the rear tires there was too much tread difference between rear and front and they would not rotate them for me (and I was too lazy to do it myself).

I did get a 4-wheel alignment done by the second dealer I visited. There were some small adjustments, but nothing that would explain the tire wear (at least according to the same guys who blamed the cupping on internal tread problems). I have also purchased 4 better quality tires. Hopefully I can get more life out of these ones. And hopefully the problem isn’t that big heavy batter behind the rear seat. Other than this tire issue, I really like the car.

Thanks for the help.

First I would suggest looking around for a good local INDEPENDENT mechanic. Dealers are not all bad, but they are no better than non-dealers (both are better than the quick oil change places) but the dealers are almost always more expensive. Ask friends and neighbors for suggestions.

I have heard of cupping front tyres due to aggressive driving around turns.

I think the answer is here:

“… There were some small adjustments, but nothing that would explain the tire wear…”

What it explains is why it took 30K instead of 15K. This is a matter of degree.

Do you think that 30,000 miles on a set of tires is really all that bad? I agree that cupping points to a problem, but 30k on a set of tires is not all that bad, is it? Rocketman

In my first car (64 Plymouth Fury) back in the 1970’s I would have considered 30,000 miles on tires to be a miracle. However, these tires were rated for 80,000. The front tires probably went 60,000, and I wouldn’t doubt that if I hadn’t done a 4 tire replacement the front tires could have gone 80,000. Probably 80% of my driving was highway miles.

I own a 1998 Honda Civic, and after about 160,000 miles, I noticed slight cupping on my tires. I found a tire retailer who was having a special on struts, and I had all four replaced. Since then, no more cupping.

Your car is pretty young to be experiencing the same problems, but if you drive where there a lot of pot holes, or you hit a lot of curbs, you could have worn out struts. I recommend you look through the Sunday newspaper for coupons and special deals on struts, and take the car in. Try to get struts that have an unlimited warranty. Mine have an unlimited warranty on the parts only, so if my car outlasts these struts, I will only have to pay for the labor.

After a long trip, less than an hour from home(thankfully), a tire blew at night on the highway. Took it to the dealer, did some on line research…learned that there’s a bulletin out on this cupping problem(that led to blown tire) which says to me that Honda is aware of the problem-something about the REAR ARMS(is that part of the struts…yep, I’m not a car person). My car was just out of time warranty but only had (I think it was) 35,000 miles or so. The dealer paid to fix the rear arms even tho I was out of warranty (they knew I’d fight it?)but I had to pay for two new tires. I was prepared to go to Honda higher ups or small claims court(where I’ve prevailed before) for free tires because of 1)the bulletin and 2)DANGER but I only wanted what was fair. After interviewing a tire dealer and an independent shop, I decided to just pay for the tires. I like my '03 Honda Civic Hybrid but people(Honda dealers and owners) need to know about this DOCUMENTED PROBLEM WITH REAR ARMS.

The “suspension units” (struts) used on these econo-boxes look like something the Bic Pen Company would make…

There are no “low-end” Michelin branded tires. Well there are…They are called “B.F. Goodrich”…But they are still pretty good tires…

I just checked my source for TSB’s (EBESCO) and did not find any TSB related to cupping or “rear arm replacement” The data base I look in could be slow to update, do you have a number for this TSB?

This goes to show that a search for TSB’s should be the second thing a mechanic does (after verifying the complaint)

Just checked on a 2003 Civic Hybrid, nothing mentioned about any rear tire cupping being recognized by Honda, I am not saying there is not such a document, just I can’t find it.

OK, I notice your title says 2005 Honda, but your later text says “I like my 2003 Hybrid” perhaps a bulletin exists for the 2003.

Plenty of TSB info about the Civic Hybrid pulling to one side or the other

I’ve NEVER heard of cupping on anything that resembles a functional suspension. Never. Cupping is due to “pogo-sticking” where the tire STRIKES the pavement in an uncontrolled manner. Just HIT-HIT-HIT-HIT. Once the cupping starts it is progressive. Bad ball joints will cause it too.

Most front drivers I’ve had the rear tires and brakes could be untouched for several evolutions of front tires and brakes. They’re only along for the ride. Easily double or triple the time/mile line.

I find references to the contrary extremely unusual.