Subaru Outback Forums banner
  • Hey everyone! Enter your ride HERE to be a part of December's Outback of the Month Challenge!
1 - 13 of 13 Posts

·
Registered
1998 OBW
Joined
·
164 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Not sure what's going on, but my OBW hates the snow. HATES. HATES. HATES SNOW.

Driving the car feels like I have a set of shopping cart wheels attached to the back. It's completely unpredictable, sometimes the rear of the car will slide out around a corner regardless of throttle input, even at slow speeds. Giving the car any throttle causes the rear to pitch to the right, letting off the gas seems to make it pitch to the left, but more violently. BUT, the more throttle I give it around a corner, the more the front end pushes and I get extreme understeer.

At the end of my road there's a downhill grade and stop sign, and I have to make a 90* turn. Well only going about 10 MPH because the roads were trash, my ABS kicked in about 100' from the stop sign and there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to stop before that intersection. I let off the brakes and just took the corner (probably doing about 5MPH at the point) and the car went around it sideways (I was expecting it to understeer).

I tried giving it a little throttle to straighten the car out and that spun it the other way. I alternated between steering, letting off the gas, and throttle trying to get the car straight again, but nothing helped. The back end just didn't want to comply, it was seriously like I had shopping cart wheels on the back. Needless to say the car ended up traveling sideways, off the road and into the woods.

The first time I took the car out in the snow about a week ago I was having a similar issue. Every corner the car would be sideways, It didn't matter if I was off or on the throttle; although if I was on the throttle the car was more manageable. Driving down the road in a straight line, if I gave the car too much throttle the back would come out, always to the right. After that, I put some nice heavy subs in the rear between the strut towers which seemed to make it understeer in most situations. Those subs are still back there, but the rear still feels like shopping cart wheels are attached to it.

It doesn't seem to pull, but all I can think of is this might be an alignment issue. I'm running dedicated studless Nokian Hakkapeliitta II's with a decent amount of tread. I've been driving RWD, FWD & AWD vehicles in the snow for the past 11 years and I've only gone off the road twice (both times were my first winter driving).

This car made an ***hole out of me, and I'm not entirely sure why.
 

·
Premium Member
2004 Outback Wagon, Mystic Blue Pearl
Joined
·
4,939 Posts
Sounds like cousin of the ghost walking issues that were so common on the 2005-2009 models, and that I have experienced with my 2004. Even with a set of good snow tires, my car felt like it was constantly wanting to step out when driving on icy roads, especially on ones with longitudinal ridges.

Usually my first thought is tires. My next though is alignment. In the 2005-2009 models the issue was related to a change in the toe in the rear of the car depending on how heavily the car was loaded. Many people resolved the issue by having their cars aligned with a couple hundred pounds of weight in the back, and making sure to have a good set of winter tires.
 

·
Registered
Fresh Out of Outbacks!
Joined
·
14,499 Posts
Sounds like cousin of the ghost walking issues that were so common on the 2005-2009 models, and that I have experienced with my 2004. Even with a set of good snow tires, my car felt like it was constantly wanting to step out when driving on icy roads, especially on ones with longitudinal ridges.

Usually my first thought is tires. My next though is alignment. In the 2005-2009 models the issue was related to a change in the toe in the rear of the car depending on how heavily the car was loaded. Many people resolved the issue by having their cars aligned with a couple hundred pounds of weight in the back, and making sure to have a good set of winter tires.
I'm curious about how the alignment spec changed from 2004-2005, since the '04 already weighs a few hundred pounds more than the '05.

When you say longitudinal ridges... you mean a high crown in the center of the road?
 

·
Premium Member
2004 Outback Wagon, Mystic Blue Pearl
Joined
·
4,939 Posts
Well, I should have qualified that I had a modified suspension when the issue started, before the KYB Shocks, Rallitek Overloads, and a 23mm rear bar, I didn't have the problem.

As for longitudinal ridges, I a referring to the ridges that form when vehicles drive on a snowy road, before its been plowed, and pack the snowy unevenly eventually turning into ice. They run lengthwise down the road, and in my experiences can really effect the cars handling.
 

·
Registered
Fresh Out of Outbacks!
Joined
·
14,499 Posts
Driving the car feels like I have a set of shopping cart wheels attached to the back. It's completely unpredictable, sometimes the rear of the car will slide out around a corner regardless of throttle input, even at slow speeds. Giving the car any throttle causes the rear to pitch to the right, letting off the gas seems to make it pitch to the left, but more violently. BUT, the more throttle I give it around a corner, the more the front end pushes and I get extreme understeer.
At first blush that sounds like there's too much weight, traction or torque happening in the rear. Subies do understeer, but typically going on-throttle will cause the front to pull into the turn before the back swings out of one. I don't think any 1st-gen Outback AWD is able to send more torque to the rear than the front. That makes me think front alignment is causing loss of front traction.

At the end of my road there's a downhill grade and stop sign, and I have to make a 90* turn. Well only going about 10 MPH because the roads were trash, my ABS kicked in about 100' from the stop sign and there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to stop before that intersection. I let off the brakes and just took the corner (probably doing about 5MPH at the point) and the car went around it sideways (I was expecting it to understeer).
I know we aren't talking precise measurements for an accident reconstruction, but if you couldn't stop from 10mph in 100' then it may well have been too icy of a grade to be driving on at all. They do still exist.

Also keep in mind, ABS-assisted stops are longer than those done with the threshold method.
 

·
Banned
2007 Outback XT Ltd
Joined
·
847 Posts
I'm running dedicated studless Nokian Hakkapeliitta II's with a decent amount of tread.
How much tread? I am not familiar with the Hakka tread compound, but many winter tires have the special winter compound for 50% of the tread depth. When that is gone you basically have a set of really poor All Seasons.

How old are they? The rubber gradually loses the special chemicals that keep the tread pliable and able to grip the ice. If they are over five years old, don't expect them to perform like new. If they are ten years old they are worthless and unsafe.

I am running a set of Geolander I/T+ snow tires on my truck that look new and only have 14,000 miles on them, but they have seen nine winters now and I can tell that they are not very effective any more. The tread is no longer soft and supple. I am going to scrap them next fall.

Since the ABS seems to be overactive, it does sound to me as if your tires are shot. Do a fingernail test and see if the tread is still squooshy...... and measure the depth with a machinists scale or caliper. If it is less than 50% of the new value, it is time to go shopping for new ones.

There is no point wondering about suspension and alignment issues if the tires don't grip.....

John Davies
Spokane WA USA
 

·
Registered
2011 Outback Prm AWP 6MT
Joined
·
50 Posts
I drove my OBW in its first real snow storm today throughout north central PA. I must admit I did not encounter any unusual handling behavior in the car. I'm riding on 10k mile old Michelin Primacy mxv4's, which are all-seasons. I didn't have the greatest traction but everything the car did was very predictable. It would only oversteer if induced and understeer was very manageable.
 

·
Registered
OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
Joined
·
12,385 Posts
Need new tires.

This is not alignment. You should get them soon they are going to always perform this bad. Tread depth doesn't mean much if the rubber is compromised, they're sliding and not grabbing.

For completeness you could answer the following: How old are the tires? How many miles on them? How were they stored?

my ABS kicked in about 100' from the stop sign and there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to stop before that intersection.
classic tire symptoms. seen it, driven it, and it is no fun at all. First time i encountered it with tires that had minimum 75% tread if not like 90%, I was annoyed and blamed the ABS. New tires and the car ran flawlessly in the snow.
 

·
Lord of ScoobyMods, ,
19' Impreza Sport 5 dr / 01' Forester S / 13' OB CVT / 10' Legacy 3.6R / 99 Mita MX-5
Joined
·
1,213 Posts
I'm leaning towards old tires too. I've had it happen a few times where the tires seem to stop wearing and the tread depth looks acceptable. However, the rubber gets rock hard and grip, even in the wet never mind the snow, gets very bad. I got stuck in our Tribeca when this happened and in our 97 ob the car started acting poorly in the rain from a dead stop.
 

·
Registered
2002 Outback Wagon 2.5L Auto Weather Package
Joined
·
1,969 Posts
To add to the list of items to check, how about blown rear shocks?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
I had my new to me 02 base OBW in the snow we had in NJ on Wed and experienced the same thing. Just pulling out of a parking lot the rear would swing out on me. On deceleration the car was fine which really baffles me. The tires are some really cheap chinese pos'es and tires soully in the academic sense.
I have a feeling the rear of these cars is significantly lighter than the front hence the crazy snap oversteer when it snows and the tires aren't up to par.
I have an opportunity to buy a set of 205/60 R16 blizaks i am tempted to try them on the OBW to see if it solves the snap oversteer even thought the size is incorrect. They have to be better than what is on the car now.
 
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
Top