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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

New to the forum and found this by searching for solutions to my 2005 2.5 outback problem.

Going down the road around 60mph in a straight line and everything running smooth. If I flick the steering wheel either left or right and back to center then the vehicle starts a serious left to right "wobble" (for want of a better term) and it is almost like the car suspension is resonating and the "wobble" goes on for a while and finally subsides. It feels like someone is standing beside the car and grasping the luggage rack on the top, starts to seriously push and pull the car sideways.

There is no vibration from tires or steering during normal driving and I can't feel the wheels moving left and right (although that is sort of what the cars motion feels like it is responding to).

If on a rough road, the car does similar things at lower speeds. I can tell the suspension is not responding properly to the bumps in the road but can't tell exactly what it is doing.

I have replaced the struts all the way around and also the upper mount bushings. Around $900+ so far and the local mechanic (nearest Subaru dealer is over 60 miles away) says "I've never seen a car do that before. I don't know what is wrong with it".

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.

Harry
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Check your lug nuts and make sure your wheels are all on properly. I had a loose wheel do something similar. I hope it's something easy.
That would be nice. Thanks for the tip. But those wheels have been on and off that vehicle so many times in the last six weeks or so. First I tried the front struts (it has 140,000 miles on it). Then I took it to a local "suspension" shop and they did the rear struts and when that didn't fix it they said they thought it was the front suspension upper bushings (what ever that is) and they also did a left cvs or is it csv joint under their warranty as they had installed a new one just last year.

So total, the tires have been on and off maybe four or five times since the problem started. I know I tightened them every time and I'm assuming the local mechanic did the same.

The "wobble" problem is just as bad or maybe even a little worse than when it originally started up.

I thought about a "steering dampener" but I was told Subaru didn't have such a thing. Maybe it needs one :)

I thought about anti-sway bars but the mechanic said he checked them and they appeared to be working fine.

I'm open to any ideas at all.

Harry
 

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I'm not aware that this is a common problem but tires were the first thing I thought of.

If it were me I'd take my mechanic on the drive and replicate the problem for him/her. Sounds like the other shop isn't really helping solve your problem but are helping make your wallet lighter. Post up where your at and someone is likely to recommend a proper shop.
 

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I thought the front suspension upper bushings at first, but if they did that you should be good. Have you had any recent service done? is there any noise when the car wobbles? (sway bar issues can usually be heard by shaking the car by hand) One thought would be the front upper spring seats... if the spring isnt held in place the spring it self could be shifting... Maybe ball joints, although not likely. Simple test is go out an cut the wheel all the way to one side, left or right, when steering is as far as it can go, give a little gas and see if the car returns the steering wheel to center without the help of your hands.
 

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Upper mount bushing is a little unclear. Are you talking about something in the strut (top hat?) of the bushing in the control arm? They leak out, and then don't work. Look at control arm connection points.
 

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First.. what tires are you running??? I discovered this issue with my 05 XT doing the same thing and solved it.. (Note, the know suspension issue is not the main problem only a contributor to the overall problem)

The original Potenza's that came on 05's were stiffer sidewall tires.. Many aftermarket tires do not have a stiff enough sidewall and Outbacks exert a strong roll on the sidewalls.. I ended up trying quite a few different tire brands before settling on the Hankook Ventus V4 ES 225/55ZR17 101W XL The XL stands for extra load (Sidewall).. Once I put them on.. that tire rolling issue went away and the car has been much more stable since......

Although many still don't notice how much the 3rd gen Outback's from those years exert on the inner and outer edges of the tires.. Keep an eye on the edges..!! If they are wearing and the mid tread is not, then the sidewall stiffness is most likely the cause..

These tires also need to be run at around 40 psi +/- otherwise they don't wear evenly..

Hope this helps

Steve Nordahl
Bethlehem, Pa.
 

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Try running your tires about ten pounds higher than normal (run them at maximum), then try ten pounds under normal.

See if the difference in air pressure one way or the other changes the problem by either solving it or making it worse.

That should help you to narrow down the possibilities.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Try running your tires about ten pounds higher than normal (run them at maximum), then try ten pounds under normal.

See if the difference in air pressure one way or the other changes the problem by either solving it or making it worse.

That should help you to narrow down the possibilities.
Thanks for all the tips. I'll try to get some testing done tomorrow. I called Subaru in Springfield, MO and they can get me an appointment next Monday at 10:30. So, I have that set up for a "fall back".

There aren't many options near where I'm located (60 miles east of Springfield). I did take it to another shop here in town and they said they couldn't work on it but it sounded like something they had read about in the last two weeks related to Subaru vehicles. They said they thought it was called "crow hopping" but that sounds like the clutch plate problem on 4wd Subarus where the rear wheels slip around a turn because the differential clutches aren't slipping like they are supposed to.

It sounds like the Subaru "ghost walking" thing to me but I can't believe there could ever be a problem this serious with suspension where replacing the struts doesn't fix it. All I want it to do is drive like it did when it had under 80K miles on it. I don't want to run at Riverside.

Everyone that talks about that problem talks about putting stiffer springs on the back and upgraded performance shocks/struts and a bigger anti sway bar.

I'll test the tire pressure thing but the problem has been there for quite a while and I'm sure the tire pressures has been up and down during that time.

I love the thought of making it either better or worse. I just wish it would totally fail. That way it would be MUCH easier to fix. I much prefer something broke versus something that is "sort of broke". Comes from my days of working on main frame computers. :)

Harry
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I thought the front suspension upper bushings at first, but if they did that you should be good. Have you had any recent service done? is there any noise when the car wobbles? (sway bar issues can usually be heard by shaking the car by hand) One thought would be the front upper spring seats... if the spring isnt held in place the spring it self could be shifting... Maybe ball joints, although not likely. Simple test is go out an cut the wheel all the way to one side, left or right, when steering is as far as it can go, give a little gas and see if the car returns the steering wheel to center without the help of your hands.
I'll check that out tomorrow

After replacing the rear struts I had asked him to do an alignment and that is how he discovered the upper bushing problem. He said the adjustment wouldn't hold. After he replaced the bushings he said it held adjustment fine.

I've had both cv joints on the front replaced and I believe the rear too, and either the upper or lower ball joints but I'll have to check which ones. We had that problem before the ball joints though. Some clunking sounds if you hit big bumps in the road at low speed.

What will the cutting the wheel and applying gas tell me? Something to do with caster / camber or along that line?

thanks for the things to check.

Harry
 

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Discussion Starter #12
First.. what tires are you running??? I discovered this issue with my 05 XT doing the same thing and solved it.. (Note, the know suspension issue is not the main problem only a contributor to the overall problem)

The original Potenza's that came on 05's were stiffer sidewall tires.. Many aftermarket tires do not have a stiff enough sidewall and Outbacks exert a strong roll on the sidewalls.. I ended up trying quite a few different tire brands before settling on the Hankook Ventus V4 ES 225/55ZR17 101W XL The XL stands for extra load (Sidewall).. Once I put them on.. that tire rolling issue went away and the car has been much more stable since......

Although many still don't notice how much the 3rd gen Outback's from those years exert on the inner and outer edges of the tires.. Keep an eye on the edges..!! If they are wearing and the mid tread is not, then the sidewall stiffness is most likely the cause..

These tires also need to be run at around 40 psi +/- otherwise they don't wear evenly..

Hope this helps

Steve Nordahl
Bethlehem, Pa.
My wife works real estate so she puts a lot of miles on the OB and they are probably 50% gravel roads. We go through a lot of tires. We have always run Michelins. We did put new ones on not too long ago (within the last year or so) I'll take a look at that.

I still like the sound of that Subaru "ghost walking" thing. Like the car is sort of "steering" with the rear wheels could be like what is happening but I can't tell. Lack of experience I guess.

Still "In Search Of"

thanks,

Harry
 

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Ghostwalking is unlikely. Usually only happens on snow/ice. Fixed with a good alignment to the updated alignment spec in the rear. Do you notice any uneven wear on your tires (outside/inside wearing first?)

They would have had to realign the front with new struts, and they should have done all 4 wheels.
 

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What Harry has been describing by "whatever the name..." is what was happening to me and it happened at speed on highways and on curvy roads paved and unpaved!!.. I can tell you for fact "I" experienced this myself.. Non-reinforced sidewall tires make up 75% of the problem.. Example..when I hit 65 with tires not rated for my 05xt it was scary!!! I would have given anything to have the crappy Potenzas on at that moment.. This only happened after I replaced the Potenzas with a set of non-reinforced sidewall tires. Only later would I discover the real reason this occurred.. This was a real problem stemming from the sidewall strength and its ability to manage the roll factor. At 65 for example, even without the slightest input from the steering wheel, my outback started this odd front/rear oscillation and sway sideways going left to right and visa-versa in a harmonic fashion. It really got worse if I increased speed or tried to input more steering.. The only thing that got it under control was to bring the speed down quickly without loosing control.

So I say this... If you have never gone through this...you have no idea what really is wrong..

Here is a way to see if I'm right.. It's kinda crude but you can get an idea on how much your Michilens that by the way are not reinforced sidewall tires installed on an outback can give sideways.. Get on the rear quarter side of your outback and push the car sideways and cause it to rock.. Give it a good hard shove.. Keep an eye on the sidewall of the tire and see if it gives.. does it stop, does it resist?? Mine only moved 1/4 inch left to right with the reinforced sidewalls, and I gave it a really good shove.. I remember the older set of Michilens rocked back and forth over an inch and the car shook back and forth twice before it settled. It stopped after I replaced them with the Hankooks..

I will say this again.. I speak from experience here.. Take this seriously..!!!

Steve
 

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What Harry has been describing by "whatever the name..." is what was happening to me and it happened at speed on highways and on curvy roads paved and unpaved!!.. I can tell you for fact "I" experienced this myself.. Non-reinforced sidewall tires make up 75% of the problem.. Example..when I hit 65 with tires not rated for my 05xt it was scary!!! I would have given anything to have the crappy Potenzas on at that moment.. This only happened after I replaced the Potenzas with a set of non-reinforced sidewall tires. Only later would I discover the real reason this occurred.. This was a real problem stemming from the sidewall strength and its ability to manage the roll factor. At 65 for example, even without the slightest input from the steering wheel, my outback started this odd front/rear oscillation and sway sideways going left to right and visa-versa in a harmonic fashion. It really got worse if I increased speed or tried to input more steering.. The only thing that got it under control was to bring the speed down quickly without loosing control.

So I say this... If you have never gone through this...you have no idea what really is wrong..

Here is a way to see if I'm right.. It's kinda crude but you can get an idea on how much your Michilens that by the way are not reinforced sidewall tires installed on an outback can give sideways.. Get on the rear quarter side of your outback and push the car sideways and cause it to rock.. Give it a good hard shove.. Keep an eye on the sidewall of the tire and see if it gives.. does it stop, does it resist?? Mine only moved 1/4 inch left to right with the reinforced sidewalls, and I gave it a really good shove.. I remember the older set of Michilens rocked back and forth over an inch and the car shook back and forth twice before it settled. It stopped after I replaced them with the Hankooks..

I will say this again.. I speak from experience here.. Take this seriously..!!!

Steve
Thanks Steve,

Your input alone has started me on a SERIOUS look at the tires, and I mean serious. Thanks for the input.

I might even see if I can find that exact tire you stated and see if I can get a set. Tires very well can be the problem but that is so scary. Why can a tire that everyone is buying cause this kind of dangerous problem and not be really common knowledge in the auto industry.

And it is scary ! ! I wanted my wife to set in the back seat and video what was happening and when I took it up to 60 on the freeway and gave the steering wheel a slight flick to the right and then back to center all she could do was scream. The video isn't very useful with nothing but screaming on it. :)

Tires are the main subject for tomorrow. I'll let you know how it comes out.

If it does turn out to be totally tire related, I am amazed there haven't been some really spectacular crashes because of this problem.

Harry
 

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Good luck Harry with this..

I think there's been a misconception about the problem.. Many focused on the crappy factory installed Potenzas or issues with the suspension.. No one wanted to believe it could be something as simple as the tire strength.. and for the most part they were right.. The wear was terrible and traction dry, snow, and ice was terrible.. Many overlooked the fact that the Potenzas were in fact...a light hybrid truck tire with reinforced sidewalls. The tires were designed with heavier sidewalls to prevent sidewall blowout in the event of a rock or tear hit.. The suspension stability issue on gen3's was not known quite yet.. but was never debunked even after the gen4's came out with an entirely new suspension system, but the tire stability issue continues to be ignored on the gen3's..

Once this happened to me, the engineer in me came out and started to look over the history. It didn't take long to figure out the first set of Goodyear Triple Tread's I put on were OK initially, but once they broke in that's when the fun (or terror) set in.. But even then I didn't suspect the weak sidewall problem. I got a set of Michelins and although a really nice tire, the problem continued and at time's got worse..

Nothing was wrong or worn out on the suspension..and all the previous tires were wearing out the inner and outer edges!! (Hint!!)

It was then I looked back and found the Potenzas were made with reinforced sidewalls, making the tire stiffer and in the case of an Outback, more roll resistant. I tried the side shove method and I was shocked..!! (Hint!!)

BTW.. when I mention "Roll", I'm not talking about the Outback rolling over.. I'm talking about what the tire does.. Tell me you've never slipped sideways out of a pair of slippers before.. because that is a good example of what I mean by rolling the tire.. The Outback flexes the tires sideways to the limit and thus the sideways "Rolling under" factor..

I started to look into who makes reinforced sidewall tires in the Outback size.. Bridgestone Potenza, Kumo Ex, & Hankook were it.. I didn't want another set of Potenzas so I tried the Kumo's.. Nice tire, good dry traction, but too soft. But!! but one thing became evident.. No quirky handling issues like before..the side sway issue at speed went away. Although I wore out the Kumo's quick I wanted to see if I could do better..

During this series of events, I had discovered something very important about gen3 Outbacks and how they throw their weight around.. Gen3 Outbacks are very hard on tire sidewalls, particularly without reinforced sidewalls.

In testing, I have tried several times to replicate the side-sway problems with the now installed Hankooks and it's just not there anymore..

The Hankooks are a very good tire with a 400 softness rating, pretty good in the messy stuff, and handle the Outback no matter how I throw it around..

What I am doing now... is never looking back "again...."

I hope others catch on to this.. It just may save their Outback from an untimely demise, or save someones life (yourself) or prevent an accident in the first place....

Steve..

FYI, I have 150K on my 05xt.. and I love that Subie..
 

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Good luck Harry with this..

I think there's been a misconception about the problem.. Many focused on the crappy factory installed Potenzas or issues with the suspension.. No one wanted to believe it could be something as simple as the tire strength
AMEN! I'm sure most people on here read this and thought, "oh he has some kind of strut problem or sticking brake pads, or broken anti sway bar." Well, if they experienced what I did at 60 mph, they would want to sell the car. That was one of my thoughts too. I never even gave the tires a thought. I think if I had tried the flicking of the steering wheel at over 80 mph, I wouldn't be writing about it on here.

One point regarding brand of tires on there. I was always using Michelin tires on the OB and last year I went to replace two tires (we get a LOT of flats on the gravel roads around here) and they didn't carry the Michelins any longer and I had to get two Bridgestones for the rear. Immediately after replacement, everything worked fine. After about six to eight months, this "rolling" problem started. Until Steve the outback guru from PA brought up tires, I would never have suspected tires could cause this kind of problem. Like I said earlier, my local suspension guy just gave up on the problem and another local mechanic I talked to said he would have argued all day that tires could never cause that kind of problem. Live and learn.

OK, results of today's efforts. First I put the tire pressure up to 45psi in all four tires and took it out to the highway. Amazing! The problem was still there but very MUCH diminished. When I flicked the steering wheel to the left or right and back to center, it still did the same type of motion but it died out extremely quickly. I then put the front tire pressure back down to 25psi and did another test run. The same results. You can tell the problem is still there but it is no longer dangerous.

So now I'm looking at the Bridgestone Turanza LSTs on the rear as the source of my grief.

I went to my local tire repair shop and asked if they had a couple of used 225 60R16 tires. They found two used Hankook tires my size and I had them put them on the rear. Back out for another test.

Problem GONE! They had put 40psi in the Hankooks so I had them put it back down to 30psi and I did a final test. Problem still gone. Then I had them put the pressure on all four tires back up to 40 psi and as a temporary "fix" I swapped my 15 month old Bridgestones for their maybe 36 month old Hankooks and I'm a happy camper. They won financially in that trade but I'm the happiest participant.

Now I'm looking for an XL rated tire in my size. There are none! Well, I shouldn't say there are NONE as I could buy a Michelin for around $210 per tire.

The best my tire guy could come up with are Sailun 215 65R16 Terramax CVR tires which are made for SUVs. That tire is about 1" taller than the 225 60 16 tires that are currently on there. I don't know anything about Sailun tires but I might give them a try.

A couple of points. The Bridgestone tires that were on the rear and causing the problem are 2 ply sidewalls while the Michelin Symetrey tires that I have been running all along are 1 ply side walls. I was originally running another model of Michelin tires but they seem to have gone out of production along the way. So why a 1 ply side wall tire would ever be better on the Subaru than a two ply side wall, I have no idea.

Sorry for the long story but it looks like my problem is solved but, and I can't stress this enough, ONLY because of Steve the OB guru of Bethlehem. You potentially saved me a lot of money.

I still don't like the 2005 OB suspension but I never have. It's way too mushy and I just can't bring myself to even think about putting the money in it to upgrade the rear shocks, rear springs, larger anti sway bar, and the rear "camber" kit everyone talks about. If I wanted to run the Dakar, maybe so but not this year.

To end, my $900 I spend trying to fix this problem wasn't entirely wasted as the car has over 140K and it and needed struts and some bushings replaced anyway (my way of consoling myself regarding the much lighter wallet)

This "problem" needs to be more widely circulated as like I said, I can't believe there hasn't been some awesome accidents because of it already. Not many people seem to be plagued by this but it is dangerous.

Thanks again Steve.

Harry
 

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I was always using Michelin tires on the OB and last year I went to replace two tires (we get a LOT of flats on the gravel roads around here) and they didn't carry the Michelins any longer and I had to get two Bridgestones for the rear. Immediately after replacement, everything worked fine. After about six to eight months, this "rolling" problem started.
Untold numbers of of threads here, and on other AWD vehicle-related forums, about the need for all four tires to have the same CIRCUMFERENCE. Different brands, or different models within brands, will not have the same circumference, even when new and even if the nominal tire size (e.g. 225/60/16) is the same. The difference between front and rear tires can lead to problems with the AWD system (AT or MT). I hadn't thought that the tires might be different, but now I'm wondering if the oscillations, which appeared only after several months, might have been related to torque build up in the drive train.
 

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Shot struts worn out suspension bushings and floppy tires will all contribute to lousy handling that is on the verge of being dangerous which is why it is important to maintain you car. Worn out wobble tie rods on the steering will also cause lots of issues and a dangerous failure if they let go.

No car with 140K running original gear ^ will offer good handling regardless of the maker or vehicle type.
 
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