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I am a longtime and loyal Subaru owner. I am on my 3rd Subaru and almost everyone in my family owns one. I am writing to express concern about what I believe is a real design flaw with my 2013 Subaru Outback 2.5. 

 

I had the vehicle up in the mountains and ended up with a screw in the tire sidewall. I read in the manual that the spare could not be really used off road, so ended up doing some patch work. I am not thrilled with the limitation of the spare, but this is not what I am writing about.

 

What happened is that I mistakenly used an air compressor without the car running. What happened next was that I could not start the car as the battery was too low. Then I was shocked to find that I could not remove the key, no matter what I did. I checked that everything was correct that the key should be able to be removed. I then found that the headlights and fog lights were still on even when I turned them off inside the car. Now I was at risk of completely killing the battery and had to act fast.

 

I had to leave my car unlocked with the key in it to go get a generator and charger as it was in location another car could not get to.  As soon as I got it started, the key could then be removed and lights once again could be turned on and off.

 

I am guessing that the key not being able to be removed might be a result of anti-theft feature, even though it still had some power, and the lights not being able to be controlled as something must require more power than available to drive controlling these.  I would but be very interested in others thoughts?

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One, your battery needs to be replaced. It should have plenty of power even after running a portable air compressor for a few minutes.

 

Two, no you won't be able to remove the key unless the ignition lock has power. There's a solenoid in the lock that prevents the key from being removed while the car is in motion, that solenoid is only powered when the ignition lock is turned back through the accessory position, and the shifter is moved to the park position. If the battery is dead the solenoid will not get enough power to disengage the key lock, thus the ignition switch can't be turned back to the lock position to allow removal of the key.

 

Three, The ECU controls the lights on that year via a relay. If ECU supply voltage is too low it will keep any already energized control circuits energized (in this case it is providing ground control for the lighting relay). As long as the relay is energized the lights will stay on regardless of light switch position.

 

Four, why are you afraid to use the spare? It's there to be used temporarily if you get a flat tire. If you're out on a trail wheeling you're doing just as much or more damage to the AWD system as using the spare. Contradiction, gonna go wheeling and F up my car, but I don't use the spare tire because it might F up my car?

 

Get a new battery and buy a full size spare if that's your major concern.

  • Like 1

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actually, being on low traction surfaces with an odd-sized tire is easy on the AWD system as binding forces won't build up as much.

 

but driving down a straight dry freeway with an odd-size tire - that is murder on AWD. but again, it's temporary.

Edited by 1 Lucky Texan

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Thank you for the responses, great information.

 

The reason for the concern with the spare was that I originally thought the Owner's Manual was warning against driving over any obstacles.  In re-reading, I see it is just talking about the clearance being reduced.  The other issue was needing to go 160 miles to get to a place that could work on and/or provide tire needed.

 

With your level of knowledge, I would be very interested in you expanding on why it is not good to drive Subaru Outbacks offroad.  I mostly am doing forestry and logging roads that are dirt or gravel roads and only very short distances are done truly off road in open clearings.  Are there concerns with all these?

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I think you completely misunderstood his comment.

 

generally speaking - off-roading (any vehicle) very commonly results in some sort of damage to said vehicle - tire damage, broken axles, etc... it is not specific to any particular brand of vehicle, just a risk that is taken, in general, when going off road.

your "concern" over using the spare in your situation above was kind of... silly, shall we say?

 

If you plan on doing more "off-roading" with this car, I also suggest getting a full size spare that will match the tires already on the car, as well as carrying any other "tools" you might need if/when something else breaks... a portable booster pack would be a good idea...

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Actually portable booster pack was one of the first things I got once I got back, along with a number of key tools.

 

The concern regarding distance I could use the spare actually came from calling Subaru service.  

 

Thanks for the input.

Edited by Quest

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