What factors are making my car uncomfortable for passengers?
July 30, 2013 6:36 AM   Subscribe

We have a peugeot 5008. As a driver I find it a lot of fun to drive because for a hybrid 7 seater its pretty nimble and responsive. However, as a passenger, the car is a vomit inducing roller coaster ride.

I noticed this when I would ride shotgun with my wife driving. It felt as if we were re-enacting a scene from one of the bourne movies. I would (in typical married people fashion) tell her to calm down and not be so herky jerky when she drives. She would (in typical married people fashion) flash me a dirty look and be like whatever. But she would say the same thing about my driving, even when I made an effort to drive very smoothly. I realized the problem wasn't that we were married but with the car itself.

Many back seat passengers since then have complained about getting nauseous. My wife cannot ride in the back seat for more than 5 minutes without wanting to hurl, and she's not usually suseptible.

Basically I would describe it like this.. you feel every minor change in g force, even the slightest lateral movement of the car transmits that force right to your sides even when you are changing lanes on a highway in a smooth controlled way.

So, is my car poorly engineered in this respect or are there things that can be tweaked by a good mechanic to fix the problem? What are the factors that would contribute to the comfort of the ride? I didnt find much on the web other than a reviewer who mentioned that the low profile tires make people feel bumps and such.

Is it the suspension perhaps? too loose?

need to fix this, we are a family of 6 and use the car a lot!

posted by postergeist to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your rear struts ok? You can try a quick test on all 4 corners of your car just to make sure.

posted by oceanjesse at 6:43 AM on July 30, 2013

Response by poster: I'll check. Would that explain the lateral motion sensitivity though?
posted by postergeist at 6:52 AM on July 30, 2013

Is it te initial jerk you feel or the response as the car stops moving a little bit after? So when you initially turn the wheel you feel the jerk, or it is a fraction of a second after when the car has finished rolling (tilting over) to accommodate the movement? Does it seem to roll over a lot or not very much at all?

Assuming the first option, it sounds like the car is underdamped. How old is it? if it is less than 3 years old and has always been like this, then maybe it is just underdamped from factory. To give a better ride (ie less susceptibility to bumps) sometimes manufacturers soften the damping (how fast the car moves on a bump and how soon after the bump/input the car stops moving, basically).

This will give a floaty ride to a 'car won't stop moving' ride like you seem to be having. So either the dampers are worn out (possibly but the car is relatively new anyway) or the car is underdamped for your preference.

Uprated dampers should be possible but may be hard to source for that car. It will not be a cheap fix, though.
posted by Brockles at 7:18 AM on July 30, 2013

My boyfriend's car is like this - stiff suspension is great for performance driving but miserable for the passenger. Try adjusting the passenger seat to more reclined. Also try driving more smoothly. I find performance vehicles put the onus on the driver to accelerate and decelerate well, make smooth turns and smooth gear shifting.

Take a driving class thru BMW?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2013

Your struts will cause lateral motion sensitivity if your struts are causing lateral motion sensitivity. It's a great place to start if you are experiencing damping problems, but I have no idea if that's what is causing your problem. Inspection is the only way to know, but you can still troubleshoot things before you decide to pay a mechanic.

Here's what MacPherson struts look like, which is likely what you have on your vehicle.
Here's some more info about suspensions. When I replaced the front struts on my Camry, it cost me ~$800. If you are having a suspension problem, you'll want to get that taken care of as soon as possible so that you don't develop accelerated drive train issues. If your struts aren't properly absorbing the forces from the road, it means that your car is experiencing an excess of unhastened mechanical forces which will cause additional strain on other drivetrain components such as CV joints, ball joints, and your steering linkage.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:26 AM on July 30, 2013

Effectively, you're driving a bus which is unladen. The suspension and ride is set up for it to be fully laden.

Lots of people I know hate riding as passengers in these MPV/softroader type vehicles just because of that. Fill the thing up with people and luggage to see how that feels - I bet it's appreciably better.
posted by car01 at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2013

Response by poster: @brockles: you feel the jerking as soon as the action happens. So a lane shift even when smooth feels like the driver just tugged hard on the wheel and you also tend to feel the forces of the car equalizing the balance back to center as well.

so suspension or struts seems to be the resounding culprit here. I assumed the suspension would be too loose not strong.

@car01: the car feels the same as a passenger with lots of weight on it. If its less so, I don't notice.
posted by postergeist at 8:25 AM on July 30, 2013

How does the car feel when you are driving it? Is it hard to keep it going straight? Either it wanders and you have to make a lot of correction to keep it going straight, or there is no "sweet spot" in the middle of the steering wheel's travel where it just tracks straight, and every little correction you make is overly dramatic? On straight, level road, you should be able to let go of the wheel and it should track pretty straight on its own.

Also, how does it feel when you hit bumps while turning? Does the rear end feel floaty or jerky?

My point is, maybe your alignment is off. This is something I would check first. Some cars are very sensitive to improper alignment. The driver might not notice it because they unconsciously prepare themselves for the shift in forces when they are turning the wheel, but the passengers don't have that luxury.

What kind of car did you have before, and have you or your passengers ever noticed this problem while driving other cars? Because the possibility does exist that you both are not driving smoothly enough...
posted by gjc at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2013

My point is, maybe your alignment is off.

That was where I was starting to go to based on the clarification from the OP. Is the car difficult or nervous around the straight ahead position?
posted by Brockles at 9:00 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: mmm I don't really know, i've never let go of the wheel to see if it tracks in any direction. I'll have to see tonight when I drive.
posted by postergeist at 10:28 AM on July 30, 2013

I tried the 5008's smaller sibling, the 3008, for a couple of hundred miles last year and don't remember much complaint from passengers. However, it is a tall car with a hefty chunk of batteries, giving it a fairly weird bottom-heavy weight distribution. Add that to a very light and airy glasshouse (a panoramic roof I recall) and you have a weird combination of being more aware of your surroundings while being shimmied around in a slightly unfamiliar way. That might contribute to the queasy feelings.
posted by jonathanbell at 3:00 PM on July 30, 2013

Most modern vehicle have sway bars (also referred to as anti-roll bars) at the front, and occasionally, at the rear. Generally, they are factory-fit-and-forget type components, that don't really wear much in use, and may never need service or other consideration over the life of the vehicle. But, they can break, or loosen in use, and depending on exactly how they fail or loosen, can give very weird ride and handling results.

Because they are not the first things that spring to mind, even for experienced mechanics, when talking about ride issues, you might need to question or mention them specifically, as a possible cause of your vehicle's stomach churning behavior, before even an experienced suspension shop will give them a thorough inspection, including not only the bars themselves, but their mounting hardware, bushings (if any), and attachment hardware.

It might also be useful to have a close look at your tires, and even rotate them, to see if matters become better, worse, or remain unchanged. Do this as a separate troubleshooting step, not in concert with other suspension changes and repairs, to be sure you are isolating causes and solutions. But I've seen oddball, and hard to diagnose results come from tires that are out of true, or in the initial stage of internal re-inforcing belt failure, or other tire problems.
posted by paulsc at 4:47 PM on July 30, 2013

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