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2002 Subaru Outback L.L. Bean Edition H6-3.0
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Discussion Starter #1
Apologies in advance for this novel, but I want to include as much information as I can to help you guys give me advice.

Possibly Relevant Background:
I've had my 2002 Subaru Outback L.L. Bean Edition H6-3.0 since 2014, and my grandmother bought it new before leaving it to me. I drove it from California to Alaska and during that drive I don't recall the steering wheel shaking or vibrating, but I also don't have the best memory.

I do, however, remember my roommate driving my car in 2015 or so and mentioning how weird it was that my steering wheel shook/vibrated while driving on the freeway. So, for the last 2 years or so my steering wheel would shake 1-3mm at highway speeds.

Beginning in June 2017 it got worse, and the steering wheel would shake violently about 1 inch back and forth with a corresponding knocking and the car would pulse when braking from highway speeds. The shaking would stop around 40mph, but the pulsing happened no matter the speed. The rotors and pads were replaced in June 2016 so I was pissed off when my mechanic turned my rotors (which cured the issue for a few weeks) and then said he couldn't find anything wrong with the suspension, steering components, or brakes and could only advise I replace the rotors and pads again. I also had my alignment checked and it was in spec.

ANYWAYS, I eventually took my car to A&A the Shop, a reputable local independent Subaru shop here in Anchorage and they told me that I had a sticking caliper. I ended up replacing all rotors and pads and both front calipers per their recommendation and finally the issue was resolved.

BUT, while I was there I was also having them put my winter tires on my car and they told me that one of my winter tires had a broken belt. I told them to leave them on the car and I'd deal with it as soon as I could.

With my broken belt tires I could definitely hear a rotational "wub wub wub" while driving at or above ~45mph. Fast forward about two weeks and I was driving through a parking lot (maximum 5mph) and I turned around a curb and ran over a bit of it, but it wasn't a full curb because snow/ice had accumulated and only exposed ~2-4 inches. At that moment it didn't see like a big deal at all, similar to when you're pulling onto a road from a gas station or something and your rear tire kind drops off the section where the sidewalk dips down to allow cars into a parking lot.

But as I turn out of the parking lot where I bumped the curb a bit I notice a significant whole front end vibration at 10+mph. At 1-10mph there was a rotation clicking noise coming from the tire that bumped the curb no matter if I was turning or driving straight. I assumed that the curb incident had caused my tire with the broken belt to slip more and ruin it completely.

I bought some used Nokian Hakkapeliitta 4 studded winter tires with good tread depth on them that day and had them installed the following morning. With these new tires the clicking disappeared and the loud "wub wub wub" was gone, but now I have a new or perhaps old problem that is smaller than before so it is possible I just didn't notice it before.

Current Issue:
When driving at highway speeds (I commute 15 miles one-way per day) I have noticed an intermittent shake/wobble, but I can't seem to find a pattern to the issue. I've also noticed that my steering wheel jerks around when driving under ~20mph over bumps, road imperfections, gravel, etc. Not anything that's going to cause an accident, but enough to make me feel less in control of my car.

I can be driving perfectly straight with hands on or off the wheel, with no noise, no shake, no wobble, etc. one moment and then have the steering wheel just start shaking/vibrating 0-4mm and I'll hear/feel a sensation I can only describe as the sound/sensation of when you roll your R's by blowing your breath over your tongue and making your tongue flutter. I can hear it quietly, feel it in the steering wheel and with my feet in the floor of the car.

I've tried to find a pattern while driving but I can't. I've had no issues while driving around those wide sweeping highway turns (both left and right), but I've also had the shake/wobble begin while mid-turn (both left and right) and stop after the turn, and I've had the wobble start mid-turn and stop after the turn.

Questions:
At first I thought it might be a tire issue like cupping or something since they are used, but since the issue will occur when driving 70mph one moment and stop the next moment while still driving the same speed it doesn't make sense that it's a tire problem, correct?

I assume it's a worn steering or suspension component, but my regular mechanic didn't find anything wrong, the reputable independent Subaru shop with their "85-Point Inspection with Every Service" didn't find anything, and the Napa shop I had my used replacement tires put on said everything looked good.

My friend in the military is going to take me to the auto hobby shop on base here in Anchorage where they have lifts in every bay, tools, etc. and knowledgeable mechanics and assistants that can help/advise you while you DIY your car repairs, etc.

What I want to know is what can I do beside throw parts at my car to find/fix the issue that these three shops didn't do? I don't have money do just start replacing tie-rods, ball joints, etc.

I plan to re-balance and rotate my tires first thing and put them back on with the correct torque and check to see if the problem persists just to be sure since I had these tires put on recently and didn't have the shake between the time I had my brakes/calipers replaced and bumped the curb then had the tires replaced.

Assuming the problem persists I know I should be checking the steering components, but is there anything specific to our cars that I should know? I've seen a lot of similar issues, but none have really been exactly what's happening to me. I also know that I have almost 200k on this car and none of the steering/suspension components have been replaced that I know of (although my grandma kept it well cared for), and I've been told by multiple mechanics that my car is in surprisingly good condition for its age and mileage.

As someone who drives a fair amount and almost always volunteers to drive because I prefer to be the driver rather than the passenger (I've averaged ~18k-19k per year) I've really gotten to know how my car feels and responds to my inputs, so things like this drive me crazy.


TL;DR
I've had shaking/vibrating/wobbling issues for years, recently fixed the major issue and now my steering wheel gently shakes/vibrates at highway speeds SOMETIMES in no specific pattern that I can find with strange fluttering sound/sensation.
 

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'17 3.6R Touring Brillant Brown Pearl
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2,424 Posts
I would suspect you have stuck brake caliper pins in the front brakes.
 

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On the Super Mod Squad
2002 Pair: 3.0 VDC Wag & 2.5 Limited Sedan
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26,195 Posts
vibrations on highway might be a worn tie rod, possibly worn lower control arms/ A arms etc.

with 200,000 miles something is going to wear. ...hopefully easy to spot.
 

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2002 Subaru Outback L.L. Bean Edition H6-3.0
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72 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
I would suspect you have stuck brake caliper pins in the front brakes.
I just had my front calipers replaced a couple weeks ago
 

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2000 Outback Limited sedan 2.5 At,2001 Outback LL Bean 3.0 AT
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102 Posts
I have found that my lower control arm bushings are worn and may be the problem.
 

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Outbrat XT, Foz, 3.0R Limited
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4,605 Posts
I just had my front calipers replaced a couple weeks ago
Pull the slide pins out and remove the rubber piece and toss it in the garbage.
 

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4, Gen 2 H6's: 2001 LLBean, 2002 LLBean, 2002 VDC, 2003 Plain...I love the H6's!
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302 Posts
rk, I also live in Anchorage. I own 4 Subaru Outbacks, 3 of which are Generation 2 H6's. I work on them myself 90% of the time, so if you ever need advice feel free to PM me here.
 

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01 Outback LL Bean
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2,426 Posts
Transverse link bushings are shot. Either that or something more obvious like lower ball joint or tierods. Usually mechanics can diagnose those. It's difficult to diagnose bad tanaverse link bushings.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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12,391 Posts
Check the front springs. Does any corner of the vehicle look maybe just an inch or 1/2” lower than the opposite side?

Get all the extraneous weight out of the vehicle, park flat and measure the clearance between the wheel and fender at the same spot on both sides.

Are they identical?

The comment about issues presenting over bumps can happen with compromised springs.

Unfortunately, in my experience the compromised spring doesn’t look any different than a new one visually. Except maybe sagging slightly insitu.

Have the struts ever been replaced?

Transverse bushings and check tightness of the mounting bolts.

Tie rods, ball joints should be pried against to check for play.
 

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4 Posts
Apologies in advance for this novel, but I want to include as much information as I can to help you guys give me advice.

Possibly Relevant Background:
I've had my 2002 Subaru Outback L.L. Bean Edition H6-3.0 since 2014, and my grandmother bought it new before leaving it to me. I drove it from California to Alaska and during that drive I don't recall the steering wheel shaking or vibrating, but I also don't have the best memory.

I do, however, remember my roommate driving my car in 2015 or so and mentioning how weird it was that my steering wheel shook/vibrated while driving on the freeway. So, for the last 2 years or so my steering wheel would shake 1-3mm at highway speeds.

Beginning in June 2017 it got worse, and the steering wheel would shake violently about 1 inch back and forth with a corresponding knocking and the car would pulse when braking from highway speeds. The shaking would stop around 40mph, but the pulsing happened no matter the speed. The rotors and pads were replaced in June 2016 so I was pissed off when my mechanic turned my rotors (which cured the issue for a few weeks) and then said he couldn't find anything wrong with the suspension, steering components, or brakes and could only advise I replace the rotors and pads again. I also had my alignment checked and it was in spec.

ANYWAYS, I eventually took my car to A&A the Shop, a reputable local independent Subaru shop here in Anchorage and they told me that I had a sticking caliper. I ended up replacing all rotors and pads and both front calipers per their recommendation and finally the issue was resolved.

BUT, while I was there I was also having them put my winter tires on my car and they told me that one of my winter tires had a broken belt. I told them to leave them on the car and I'd deal with it as soon as I could.

With my broken belt tires I could definitely hear a rotational "wub wub wub" while driving at or above ~45mph. Fast forward about two weeks and I was driving through a parking lot (maximum 5mph) and I turned around a curb and ran over a bit of it, but it wasn't a full curb because snow/ice had accumulated and only exposed ~2-4 inches. At that moment it didn't see like a big deal at all, similar to when you're pulling onto a road from a gas station or something and your rear tire kind drops off the section where the sidewalk dips down to allow cars into a parking lot.

But as I turn out of the parking lot where I bumped the curb a bit I notice a significant whole front end vibration at 10+mph. At 1-10mph there was a rotation clicking noise coming from the tire that bumped the curb no matter if I was turning or driving straight. I assumed that the curb incident had caused my tire with the broken belt to slip more and ruin it completely.

I bought some used Nokian Hakkapeliitta 4 studded winter tires with good tread depth on them that day and had them installed the following morning. With these new tires the clicking disappeared and the loud "wub wub wub" was gone, but now I have a new or perhaps old problem that is smaller than before so it is possible I just didn't notice it before.

Current Issue:
When driving at highway speeds (I commute 15 miles one-way per day) I have noticed an intermittent shake/wobble, but I can't seem to find a pattern to the issue. I've also noticed that my steering wheel jerks around when driving under ~20mph over bumps, road imperfections, gravel, etc. Not anything that's going to cause an accident, but enough to make me feel less in control of my car.

I can be driving perfectly straight with hands on or off the wheel, with no noise, no shake, no wobble, etc. one moment and then have the steering wheel just start shaking/vibrating 0-4mm and I'll hear/feel a sensation I can only describe as the sound/sensation of when you roll your R's by blowing your breath over your tongue and making your tongue flutter. I can hear it quietly, feel it in the steering wheel and with my feet in the floor of the car.

I've tried to find a pattern while driving but I can't. I've had no issues while driving around those wide sweeping highway turns (both left and right), but I've also had the shake/wobble begin while mid-turn (both left and right) and stop after the turn, and I've had the wobble start mid-turn and stop after the turn.

Questions:
At first I thought it might be a tire issue like cupping or something since they are used, but since the issue will occur when driving 70mph one moment and stop the next moment while still driving the same speed it doesn't make sense that it's a tire problem, correct?

I assume it's a worn steering or suspension component, but my regular mechanic didn't find anything wrong, the reputable independent Subaru shop with their "85-Point Inspection with Every Service" didn't find anything, and the Napa shop I had my used replacement tires put on said everything looked good.

My friend in the military is going to take me to the auto hobby shop on base here in Anchorage where they have lifts in every bay, tools, etc. and knowledgeable mechanics and assistants that can help/advise you while you DIY your car repairs, etc.

What I want to know is what can I do beside throw parts at my car to find/fix the issue that these three shops didn't do? I don't have money do just start replacing tie-rods, ball joints, etc.

I plan to re-balance and rotate my tires first thing and put them back on with the correct torque and check to see if the problem persists just to be sure since I had these tires put on recently and didn't have the shake between the time I had my brakes/calipers replaced and bumped the curb then had the tires replaced.

Assuming the problem persists I know I should be checking the steering components, but is there anything specific to our cars that I should know? I've seen a lot of similar issues, but none have really been exactly what's happening to me. I also know that I have almost 200k on this car and none of the steering/suspension components have been replaced that I know of (although my grandma kept it well cared for), and I've been told by multiple mechanics that my car is in surprisingly good condition for its age and mileage.

As someone who drives a fair amount and almost always volunteers to drive because I prefer to be the driver rather than the passenger (I've averaged ~18k-19k per year) I've really gotten to know how my car feels and responds to my inputs, so things like this drive me crazy.


TL;DR
I've had shaking/vibrating/wobbling issues for years, recently fixed the major issue and now my steering wheel gently shakes/vibrates at highway speeds SOMETIMES in no specific pattern that I can find with strange fluttering sound/sensation.
Possible wheel bearing? I had the same issue(steering wheel vibration at highway speed) and jacked up the car. The wheel had play when I grabbed the tire and checked for play. Hub and bearing replacement did the trick.

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Outbacks, SVXs, XT6, 4Runner, Celica, Brat, E150s
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I suspect you have a combination of several issues.

Does the vibration change at all with modulation of the throttle?

I would check control arm and steering rack bushings, inner and outer tie rods, ball joints and bearings.

I would pull the calipers slide pins, remove the little bushing on the lower pins, and regrease (I'm particular to the high-temp ceramic permatex in the purple rubber cement bottle). "new" caliper surely means remanufactured, which means results may vary, and I've never been impressed with the grease they use.

I'd also be curious as to what kind of rotors were used. New OE rotors have an MSRP of $84.95, and aftermarket ones can be had for as little as $15. There's a wide variance in quality there...

IIRC, Hakka 4s were discontinued and replaced many years ago. I'd be very suspect of their condition, as well. Do you have a set of summer tires that you could swap onto it temporarily?
 
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