TTAC commentator mnm4ever writes:
I have 2 slightly older cars in my stable and both are having similar issues. We have a 2001 MR2 Spyder with 72k miles, and a 2002 Honda CRV with 230k miles. The CRV recently got new shocks and springs, new lower front control arms and front compliance bushings, and new front ball joints. While it now rides a little bit better, it still crashes over bumps and just feels like an old worn suspension even with all the new components.
When shifting between drive and reverse, there is a “clunk” in the front end somewhere, this clunk was there before all the parts were replaced, and was supposedly caused by the worn out compliance bushings, which is why I replaced all those parts as well. Unfortunately it didn’t fix the noise. My mechanic has been over the car a couple of times and doesn’t know where the noises are coming from, he says it’s just old. He is an otherwise excellent mechanic, so I am surprised at his lack of ideas, but he knows I am probably too cheap to pay him to really tear it apart anyway so that could affect his answers.
The MR2 has significantly less mileage and is in excellent shape overall. But the suspension has the same worn out feeling, it doesn’t feel “tight” anymore. Driving fast over bumpy pavement, or over speed bumps it feels and sounds pretty much the same as the CRV, almost like something in the suspension is loose or worn out. Cowl shake on an old convertible amplifies the issue. The MR2 also exhibits an odd “looseness” when I turn the wheel at low speed tight turns, like pulling in or out of a driveway or parking space, it feels like the power steering over-boosts the last little bit of steering angle, but its unnerving when you are rolling forward or backward and the car suddenly turns in more than you expected. During normal driving the steering feels properly assisted and tight, so that could just be a trait of that car. The same mechanic says the MR2 is fine and I am just spoiled by the newer GTI. We want to keep this car and I want to do a proper overhaul on the suspension, I just put brand new tires on it, and I have a shelf full of chassis bracing components and new struts ready to install, but I do not want to do the labor twice. So I am trying to figure out the right way to fix it and the right components to change so I take care of all of the weak spots at once.
My guess is that new bushings may help the problem on both cars. Forums are not as helpful as you would think… I have read pages and pages of information but the CRV drivers do not spend a lot of time working on their own suspension and the MR2 drivers are way more concerned with performance mods rather than restoring the original ride quality. So my question is: Is there any way to restore the ride quality on older cars back to something close to new car feel? Or is the CRV just too old, and the MR2 just too much of a convertible to make it as good as new?
Thanks for any advice!
Replacing so many parts, pouring such amounts of money into a heavily depreciated, high mileage vehicle (CRV more than the MR2) is a pretty bad idea. Stop and ponder: why do I care to make an old machine run exactly like new? Is it really worth it?
If yes, you must be the nutty automotive restoration type. That is, you see money and cars differently than most: as what’s poured into a 230,000 mile CRV will never, EVER come back.
Personal aside: back in ’99, I had a suspension overhaul performed in my 1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7 with 130k and 10+ years of abuse from the brutal roads of Houston’s Third Ward. New (non-saggy) springs, shocks, bushings, end links, ball joints, etc. The only parts remaining untouched were the spindles, sway bars and the control arms’ metal skeletons. I took one fast sweeper and was sold on the $2000 spent: the Cougar felt “new” on any road, in any dynamic test.
Years later, adding 75 lbs of chassis stiffeners, Koni shocks and a ’98 Cobra rear sway bar turned a respectable machine into something pretty bad ass on the street. Which proves a point:
I justify the cost to an extinct animal (get it? Fox Cougar?) with some unique 1980s Muscle Car curb appeal, but your need for a perfect old Honda CUV is flawed. Perhaps you need to replace every last bushing, but you’ve spent enough: make sure the tires have plenty of non-dry rotted tread on them and let it be. If it still drives you nuts, time to upgrade to a CUV with far less mileage and sell this one to someone who doesn’t really care.
The MR2 Spyder is like my Cougar: a fun toy that’s damn near impossible to replicate. But don’t be afraid to attack the problem in stages: add the chassis bracing, install the new struts and consider putting a new (not reman) steering rack to kill any possible steering slop. Perhaps the ball joints are just a touch too loose and the bushings are past it (i.e. from abuse on bad roads), but I think you’ll be thrilled with the perfection gained from extra braces and new shocks.
Sure, you can get a Miata and I can get a new Mustang GT..but screw that. That’s loser talk! We are in it to win it…son!
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.