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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Newbie post: Last night something happened with the tailgate / security system of my Outback. Not sure, I think accidentally pushed the gate opening button by sitting on the fob. I heard the door lock /unlock tone repeatedly, but thought it was from across the street. I came out this morning and the gate was up in the garage. I stupidly closed the gate manually without ascertaining the situation. Turns out the battery is completely dead, or dead enough not to be able to unlock the door. To my surprise, I learned that the mechanical key doesn't actually unlock the door; it seems to just be a switch, so if there's no power, the door won't unlock even with the emergency blade key. Wow, that's a bad design decision for a car intended for use in cold climates. Does anyone know of a workaround? I can't enter to car to open the hood to jump the battery, so I'm stumped. I have called for lockout service from a tow company, and hopefully they will be able to gain access. What am I missing? Thanks! Like the car otherwise, but man....
 

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2017 Outback 3.6R
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20 Posts
From a Gen 6 thread, but I suspect it could be the same here. Best of luck!

Thanks for making this post.

Other members have also found the manual key did not work and the dealer found the locking mechanism in the door was disconnected from the key lock.

You may want to test the lock again, it does take some force to move, and if it does not work get your dealer to resolve the problem.

Seagrass
 

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2015 3.6R Limited w/ES
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Newbie post: Last night something happened with the tailgate / security system of my Outback. Not sure, I think accidentally pushed the gate opening button by sitting on the fob. I heard the door lock /unlock tone repeatedly, but thought it was from across the street. I came out this morning and the gate was up in the garage. I stupidly closed the gate manually without ascertaining the situation. Turns out the battery is completely dead, or dead enough not to be able to unlock the door. To my surprise, I learned that the mechanical key doesn't actually unlock the door; it seems to just be a switch, so if there's no power, the door won't unlock even with the emergency blade key. Wow, that's a bad design decision for a car intended for use in cold climates. Does anyone know of a workaround? I can't enter to car to open the hood to jump the battery, so I'm stumped. I have called for lockout service from a tow company, and hopefully they will be able to gain access. What am I missing? Thanks! Like the car otherwise, but man....
As suggested, the lock might have broken, although that appears to be a very rare problem from what I can recall. Have you ever attempted to use the emergency key? To me it certainly feels like it's unlocking the door through a purely mechanical linkage - what good would it be otherwise?
 

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2019 Subaru Outback Limited 2.5i WGM
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168 Posts
I just tried using the key in the driver's door lock, and I agree that there is a mechanical linkage, not a switch, which unlocks/locks the door. Admittedly, I didn't disconnect the battery to test this, but there are no solenoids or lock/unlock motors running. There is a definite mechanical connection to something inside the door. It takes a fair amount of force given the small size of the key, but you can feel the connection to the locking linkage.

I also tried this test: with the door open, slowly turn the emergency key, while watching the inside door lock. You can see it move slowly from the locked to unlocked position and back again, in other words, it matches the rate at which you move the key, showing there is a mechanical connection. Using the button or keyfob, the lock/unlock motor always drives it quickly from one position to the other.

If you turn the top of the key towards the rear of the car (twist clockwise), the door should unlock, assuming the mechanism is not jammed or disconnected. It takes a fair amount of force, and the edges of the key are sharp, so you might want to use something to wrap the key in.
 

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2020 Onyx
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I am not sure if the Gen 5 emergency key works the same way as the Gen 6 but they probably are. People who have never used their emergency key should test it.

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
From a Gen 6 thread, but I suspect it could be the same here. Best of luck!
Thank you. Tow company opened the door, boosted the battery, and I ran it long enough to re-charge. The mechanical key does nothing, even with the battery charged, so it seems the linkage is broken. I made an appointment with the dealer to fix this. I had never tested the blade key; better that this happened in my garage than on a mountain somewhere. Thanks for the quick response and accurate suggestion!
 

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2020 Outback Premier 2.5i
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I believe that somewhere (perhaps in the linked thread) I suggested that testing it should be part of every oil change. Guess what I forgot to do recently...
 

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2016 2.5i Limited, 2013 Tesla Model S 85
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How the heck did the tow company open the door if the mechanical key would not?

I too have used the mechanical key (the "emergency key") to unlock my driver's door with a battery under 5V.
 

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20 Outback Premium; former 19 Outback Premium, 85 GL Wagon, 87 GL-10 Wagon
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How the heck did the tow company open the door if the mechanical key would not?

I too have used the mechanical key (the "emergency key") to unlock my driver's door with a battery under 5V.
I’m guessing they slid something inside the door.
 

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'18 Outback Touring 3.6R, '11 Legacy 3.6R Limited. '11 WRX not stock
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Just tested mine for the very first time.

With about 40 degrees or 1/8 of a turn towards the rear of the car it unlocked the door. I could feel just a slight bit more turning resistance (Mechanical engagement?) before a positive stopping point. This was with a fully charged battery though.
Glad OP got in but would like to know how.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
How the heck did the tow company open the door if the mechanical key would not?

I too have used the mechanical key (the "emergency key") to unlock my driver's door with a battery under 5V.
They insert small inflatable rubberized shins between the window frame and the body and inflate them with bulbs similar to what you see on a blood pressure cuff. This bends the window frame away to create enough space to slide in a rod and unlock the door manually from inside. This does permanently change the fit of the window frame which s no longer perfectly flush, but no wind noise so I don’t care. I was wrong about the emergency key, my manual lock is just broken, will get fixed next week. I will certainly test it regularly going forward!
 
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