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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This was buried in the thread about LCA bushings.

I have a 2009 Outback Limited 3.0R with a little over 80,000 miles. I love this car!!

A few months ago I noticed a groan and a slight vibration in the break pedal when breaking at low speeds. This does NOT happen on the highway. Only around town and when coming to a complete stop. Usually at < 10 mph.

I've been to 3 mechanics. First one said it was sway bar end links and LCA bushings but they were not bad. There is also a bit of a rattle on bumpy roads which I had not noticed before. They recommended doing nothing for now. Second mechanic said sway bar end links and the steering rack. There is no fluid leaking under the car and the wheel turns fine - except it does make some noise if I turn the wheel all the way to the right. Third mechanic said he could find nothing in the front end including the struts. All 3 said the brakes (rotors and pads) appeared fine.

I decided to do nothing and wait for something to break. Sunday it rained hard and Monday morning driving to work the noise and pedal vibration, when braking, was more pronounced. It is clearly not a safety item because the car handles fine. But I'm not convinced it is bushings or end links. It seems to correlate to the wheels turning at slow speeds and it is intermittent. (happens about 50% of the time)

I don't think it is bushings. What else in the front end or the braking system could make this noise and pedal vibration at very low speeds?

- hot spots on the rotors
- bearings
- something in the drive shaft
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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does the brake pedal pulse in sync with wheel rotation?

or is it 'jackhammer' (though much milder) type repitition?

can you feel the pulsing in the car - slowing or very mild bucking in sync with the wheel rotation?


how much material is left on the pads? are you sure the inside and outer pads exhibit the same amount of wear? are they wearingg evenly ffrom 'heel' to 'toe'?


if it is uneven pad material deposits - you could try left foot braking for 2-3 blocks at 40 mph. OF COURSE, scout a good place to do this, little traffic, NO stops and with 1/2 or a mile of 'cool down' afterwards. NO STOPS. Just maintain 35-40 mph but brake enough to feel the drag. Do that for a coupla blocks then drive to cool down the brakes.

If the symptoms are gone or better, you have some uneven deposits. You could do the procedure again. (or read on-line about 'bedding in' procedures and do one that's more aggressive)

If symptoms are the same or worse - you 'could' need new rotors. but not conclusive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
does the brake pedal pulse in sync with wheel rotation?

or is it 'jackhammer' (though much milder) type repitition?

can you feel the pulsing in the car - slowing or very mild bucking in sync with the wheel rotation?
No, it does not pulse in sync with wheel rotation. I can feel/hear it when coming to a complete stop and the front of the car dips down. But it only happens when the car is moving. Not a jackhammer feel either. The best way I can describe it is that the vibration in the pedal feels like a part that is fatigued and is wearing but not yet broken.

I did notice today, after some experimentation, that is worse when turn to the right which tells me it is something on the left side.

how much material is left on the pads? are you sure the inside and outer pads exhibit the same amount of wear? are they wearingg evenly ffrom 'heel' to 'toe'?
According to the mechanics there is more than 50% of the pads left in the front and even more on the back. I did not ask about uneven wear. Hopefully, one of the 3 that has looked at it would have thought of that.

if it is uneven pad material deposits - you could try left foot braking for 2-3 blocks at 40 mph. OF COURSE, scout a good place to do this, little traffic, NO stops and with 1/2 or a mile of 'cool down' afterwards. NO STOPS. Just maintain 35-40 mph but brake enough to feel the drag. Do that for a coupla blocks then drive to cool down the brakes.

If the symptoms are gone or better, you have some uneven deposits. You could do the procedure again. (or read on-line about 'bedding in' procedures and do one that's more aggressive)

If symptoms are the same or worse - you 'could' need new rotors. but not conclusive.
I will give that a try this weekend.

The mechanics said the rotors looked good.
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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are the pads OEM? if they are aftermarket, perhaps try a different brand?

can you create a noise by bouncing the front corners of the car when parked?
 

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It could be and ABS issue. Not my strong suit but other platforms I'm familiar with occasionally have issue at low speed. Sometime when it is checking itself the pedal will have vibration and you'll hear groaning.

Possibly check and clean your abs plugs on the back of the caliper?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
are the pads OEM? if they are aftermarket, perhaps try a different brand?

can you create a noise by bouncing the front corners of the car when parked?
That's a good idea ... will try tomorrow. Not sure I'm strong enough to push down enough to replicate but will get my son to help.

Interesting too, that today, I did feel like the rubbing or pedal vibration was synchronous with the wheel turning. It had not felt that way in the past.

It could be and ABS issue. Not my strong suit but other platforms I'm familiar with occasionally have issue at low speed. Sometime when it is checking itself the pedal will have vibration and you'll hear groaning.

Possibly check and clean your abs plugs on the back of the caliper?
Is that something I can do myself? I don't have a lift or anything other than the jack to take the wheel off.
 

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2001 VDC Wagon - White pearl - 302,000 km
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ABS sensor failures on some North American cars will cause the ABS to engage just before you come to a complete stop. A failing wheel bearing may cause the ABS to engage when stopping, while turning, in one direction, and will not engage when stopping, while turning in the other direction. Does the steering wheel reflect the pulsations in kind?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
ABS sensor failures on some North American cars will cause the ABS to engage just before you come to a complete stop. A failing wheel bearing may cause the ABS to engage when stopping, while turning, in one direction, and will not engage when stopping, while turning in the other direction. Does the steering wheel reflect the pulsations in kind?
One of the 3 mechanics that have looked at it said the rack was bad and had to be replaced, but I feel absolutely nothing in the steering and the car handles beautifully. This is all through the brake pedal.

That brings up an interesting point. If the bushings in the control arm are bad then would I not sense the vibration or hear the noise when making a hard turn and the weight in the car shifts? What I am feeling in the pedal and hearing has only happened at very low speeds and generally when going straight.
 

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@traildogck opinion time. (discussion going from brakes to steering).

I was thinking ball joints at 80,000 miles,
as those made some groaning only at parking lot speeds in parking lots while turning on my 2002 wagon, (I don't remember if that made for vibrations on in the brake pedal though, I remember it in the steering wheel).

@InFront0930r is this a rust free car that has been registered its whole life in a rust free area?

and disassembling brakes, and cleaning them out, and having them reassembled is a good idea with whatever work happens after this. (even if they find no worn parts, this gets 100% of the brake dust, sand etc out,...and such may exacerbate whatever problem you got).
 

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Try pulling the ABS fuse and take it for a drive. If the problem persists, move along, omitting the ABS as a possible culprit. Stupid question, but you do have 4 of the same size and brand of tires, having equal wear on them, right?
 

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any more on this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
@traildogck opinion time. (discussion going from brakes to steering).

I was thinking ball joints at 80,000 miles,
as those made some groaning only at parking lot speeds in parking lots while turning on my 2002 wagon, (I don't remember if that made for vibrations on in the brake pedal though, I remember it in the steering wheel).

@InFront0930r is this a rust free car that has been registered its whole life in a rust free area?

and disassembling brakes, and cleaning them out, and having them reassembled is a good idea with whatever work happens after this. (even if they find no worn parts, this gets 100% of the brake dust, sand etc out,...and such may exacerbate whatever problem you got).
This car was sold in New Jersey and driven there for a year. The owner then moved to Florida where it was driven for 6 years. I've been under the car (see below) and there is no evidence of excessive rust or even excessive wear from driving on salted roads or off-road.

Today was especially bad - it is a definite rubbing feeling and noise associated with the wheels turning and braking. At lunch I took it back to the first repair shop (who has done my repair work for 5+ years and who I trust) and rode around in it with their Subaru mechanic. He felt it and diagnosed brakes!! Ahaa!!

I went back with him and looked at it on the lift. The LCA bushings are most definitely worn but not torn or falling apart. He said they will need to be replaced but that is not the cause of the rubbing/groaning and vibration in the brake pedal. We then looked at the pads and the rotors. There were no perceptible marks on the rotors, except the grooves you would expect to see, and the pads have about 30-40% left. (according to him - and he seemed to know what he was talking about)

However, he said he was 90% certain it was the brakes and indicated that the pads may be aftermarket rather than OEM. He suggested a front brake job within the next 2-3 months with new OEM rotors and pads. $250 parts and labor. He did say that the LCA bushings will need to be replaced, but said I should wait until I hear a thump when stopping. He said he did not see wear on the stabilizer end links but that it would not be uncommon for them to cause a rattle as they age.

He looked around a bit more, and checked all 4 wheels for any movement and he inspected the struts. He said he did not see anything else that could be causing the brake pedal vibration. At my request, he even checked the steering rack but did not find anything wrong. (no leaks and the car steers fine)

He said he did not see a safety issue at all, nor did he see anything that could be damaged by continuing to drive the car. So my plan is to drive it another month and save up for a brake job. Then, unless it breaks before then, I will see about changing the LCA (entire piece) and the end links after the first of the year.
 

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Seems like a reasonable plan and sounds like you have a good mechanic to work with. However, there are plenty of aftermarket pad and rotor options that work well.

I would still pull the ABS fuse as Gen2Lover said. That's a great idea and will further narrow down any doubt (if you have any) that the pads are the issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Try pulling the ABS fuse and take it for a drive. If the problem persists, move along, omitting the ABS as a possible culprit. Stupid question, but you do have 4 of the same size and brand of tires, having equal wear on them, right?
Thanks for everyone's help with this. I very much appreciate it.

I just put 4 new tires on the car in March. The prior owner had not aligned the car and the relatively new Dunlop tires were badly worn on the inside - really badly worn. The outside of the tires looked almost new but the inside was down to almost nothing. After 5 months and 6,000 miles the new tires are wearing evenly.

I will mention the ABS plugs to the mechanic when I take it back and see what he thinks, but it does not feel like that sort of problem. I hit the brakes rather hard on a gravel road not long ago and felt the ABS system activate so I know what that feels like. This is different.
 
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