15

I have a 2001 Honda Prelude SH with about 180,000 miles on it.

For the past 12-18 months, I've noticed consistent strange behavior:

  • Very prone to skidding when braking on uneven roads.
  • Much earlier loss of traction when cornering.
  • When I hit slightly rough patches of road, especially when braking or cornering, it kind of feels like the car "skips" a little. I can't explain it, but e.g if I'm making a turn on a highway and hit a seam in the road, I get the sensation of bouncing to the outside slightly (it doesn't feel like understeering, it feels... weird and slightly out of control).
  • Very prone to laying tire when getting started or upshifting at slow speeds (< 20 mph). (Highly unusual for this car)
  • I think I feel smaller bumps in the road a bit more, especially regular ridges from the way the roads are constructed. But I can't tell if this is in my head or not. Also I moved about 2 years ago and regularly drive on a different set of highways now, so it could just be that the roads here are particularly uneven.
  • My steering wheel is about 3-4 degrees right to keep the car straight. It's stable here, it doesn't pull. I don't know if this indicates a problem though.

The behaviors have slowly been getting worse.

Now, I don't keep the car in the greatest shape mostly because I do a lot of city driving and the roads around here are pretty rough, so I can't usually justify it.

But it's starting to become a problem. I'm going to take it to a shop. But I don't want to spend money going down the wrong path. So my question is: What are the most likely causes of this that I can check out first?

From my research, I have at least a partial list, although I'm not sure which matches the symptoms the closest, or what I'm missing. So far I've got:

  • Damaged suspension linkage components (after writing this I discovered a slightly bent control arm in the front left, which is also throwing out the alignment).
  • Alignment (it's been a while, and the car's been on a lot of rough roads)
  • Worn shocks (all the suspension components are still the originals w/ 180k miles)
  • Tire wear (but I did get a brand new set of tires about a year ago and I don't remember it helping much; right now I have three of those plus one random used one)
  • Damaged or worn out sway bar (I'll have to take it apart to check).
  • ATTS malfunction (it would have to be something the computer isn't detecting, I'm not seeing any errors).
  • Engine / gearbox mount failure, causing weight shifts and unpredictable behavior.
  • Something with the brakes? Like pressure or alignment problems? Can that happen? (My pads / rotors / calipers are in good shape) ABS problems? (the skidding isn't only when braking though, and I have no error indicators, and it doesn't feel like ABS issues anyways)
  • Wheel balance (shouldn't be causing the problems I'm seeing)

It's also possible that there's more than one thing going on at the same time contributing to this.

Extra random info in responses to comments:

  • Does not make noise over bumps.
  • No brake wobble.
  • "Skipping" generally settles immediately upon returning to a better road surface.
  • No problems with tight U-turns.
  • While steering wheel is off by a couple degrees, the steering itself is still super tight, no problems there.
  • There are no error codes, and no dash warning indicators are lit.
  • Still has the original sway bar (all suspension and linkage components are still the originals except the front left half shaft, which is about 2 and a half years old).
  • Sounds like something isn't keeping the front tires on the road. How's the suspension? Does it make noise going over bumps? When you say the car bounces does it settle immediately or does it continue for a few seconds? Does braking feel normal? Are the brakes locking the tires up? How's the tire tread? Is it wearing uneven? Is it low? Is the steering loose? if you center the wheel with the car running how much can you move the steering wheel side to side without the tires moving? – Ben Mar 19 '16 at 1:14
  • 2
    I think you really need to get new shocks/struts. You are losing traction because they aren't keeping your suspension on the road. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 19 '16 at 3:06
  • 1
    I think it wouldn't hurt to examine the sway bar. The sway bar can cause many traction and handling issues if there are imperfections with it. – mr_tuner Mar 20 '16 at 17:30
  • 3
    If the prelude is an SH, it might have ATTS, which is basically an active differential directing additional (up to 20% if I remember correctly) torque to the outside wheel when turning. You can imagine what kind of problems it could cause if the system malfunctioned or the wheel centering was off. Something to consider... But it's almost certain you need new shocks/struts as well. – Lathejockey81 Mar 20 '16 at 18:47
  • 2
    Don't discount the failure of an engine / gearbox mount. This can make a car very unpredictable as the weight of the engine shifts about in the engine bay. – Steve Matthews Mar 21 '16 at 13:03
7

Sounds like an alignment problem to me. As you stated in the comments, the bent front control arm threw your camber angle off by 3°, which will reduce your tires contact patch, thus decreasing grip making it easier to slide.

Driving with extreme camber angle on rough roads will put undue stress on the suspension components, which may have caused your toe angle (controlled by tie rods) to be effected as well.

Excessive toe angle would explain why the steering wheel is 3-4° off. It would also explain why the car seems to dart or jump when you go over bumps, as at that moment the axle is unloaded (decreasing grip), and the tire that happens to have more grip is facing a few degrees off of the direction of travel, causing the car to jump in that direction until the axle is loaded again, and the weight of the car overcomes the side load the tire is still experiencing.

Excessive toe angle would also make it easier to lose grip when stopping and starting at low speeds, as the tires are (again) experiencing load in two directions, significantly decreasing the maximum load it can handle in any one direction. It only happens at low speeds because the momentum of the vehicle has not yet cause enough forward grip to overcome the side loading of the tire.

  • This makes a ton of sense, thanks. That's got to be the problem. I'm waiting to accept answers until I actually get the vehicle repaired and confirm. – Jason C Mar 21 '16 at 18:13
7

Sounds like your front tires aren't staying with the road. Without more specific information its hard to give a specific answer.

I suggest you check differential (or transaxle) or components that could affect alignment, such as shocks.

You should try to pay attention to how it behaves when both tires are being affected or only one side is being affected by road conditions at a time.
What happens when you do a U-turn from standstill? How do the tires behave?


RE: u-turns are fine.

(Make sure u-turns are good in both directions and fine with both situations of no throttle and some throttle. be safe, open lot)
If thats all good then I am going to say your differential is probably fine.

180k on stock shocks.. they are goners, done-zos, kaput. Without that "fixed", there is no complete fixing the rest, even if there are any other problems.

Honestly it sounds like something new shocks + alignment would fix. Bushings too probably, if you can (it'll help get rid of the tiny bumps you might be feeling now).
How is the ride height? What is it feel like on the freeway (more rapid bumps?)?

  • No strange behaviors during u turns. – Jason C Mar 20 '16 at 18:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.