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dcolemanca

97 Outback MT towed rear 2 wheels on the ground

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I just bought the car (privately) and noticed in the service records after reading them more closely that rear wheels locked after the car was towed to a garage after the head gasket blew.

 

The notes actually said it was an error having 2 wheels in the air cos AWD, the rear wheels had locked and had to be freed and then towed the rest of the way with all 4 wheels off the ground. Accoridng to previous owner they only went about 10 seconds before stopping after the rear wheels locked.

 

So now I am panicing because there may be permanent damage. However the car drives fine, the only thing I did notice was a very slight whine starting at about 50, if I lift off the throttle it goes away. This might be unrelated e.g. wheel bearings.

 

This was about 6 months ago and maybe 6000 miles or so.

 

If there is damage how can I tell? Seems like it might be fine OR could blow up on me at any time.

 

What recourse do I have legally to get the tow company / garage to pay for any repairs? I was not the owner at the time and it was some time ago as well.

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What recourse do I have legally to get the tow company / garage to pay for any repairs? I was not the owner at the time and it was some time ago as well.

Well, the owner of the car is responsible for how it gets towed. The prev. owner should have been aware that you have to pull a fuse and whatnot, and should just have gotten a flat bed to be safe. The towing company just moves the car.

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Subaru owners should know the basics about their cars, towing instructions are in the owner’s manual.

 

However, a professional tow service has the proper information and should follow it. Someone screwed up or didn’t care or didn’t take the time to check or just wanted to make a quick $50 and figured they could get it to the garage before something went wrong enough for someone to notice.

Come on, when your Doctor screws up (100,000 dead every year because of preventable mistakes) are you going to buy the " You should have known know he (or she) shouldn't have left the forceps in you and told him (or her)." line?

Sorry I don't know how serious the situation is, but it would seem to be hard to prove damage in the future. Why not contact the dealer and ask them to look up the service records and see if they'll sell you and extended warranty. If they won't, you know you're in trouble.

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If the car was towed on two wheels for ten seconds, it is almost certain that the center differential has been permanently damaged. Basically, you now have a FWD car instead of one with all wheel drive. Frequently, there are no symptoms for a failed viscous center diff. The car merely will not "go into" AWD when the wheels slip. The center viscous diff can not be repaired, it must be replaced as an entire unit. Certainly have the center diff tested before you have it replaced. Check with your local dealer, but if I recall correctly, the job typically runs about $800. On the other hand, if you don't actually require AWD, you may consider leaving the car in it's current condition.

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One of the main reasons I got the car was for AWD and trips to the Sierras for skiing.

 

Is there an easy way to tell if I still have power to the rear wheels by myself?

 

Would it work to take it to a shop and lift all wheels off the ground and give a little gas with the car in gear?

 

I think what I need to do is get the problem confirmed then go back to the garage that did the work and see if they are willing to fix the problem. After that I can start proceedings.

 

I ws thinking to start with the BBB and then go for small claims court.

 

I don't think I have any recourse with the previous owner do I? I was thinking of getting her to write a witnessed letter stating the circumstances to aid my case against the garage / tow company.

 

I feel resonably confident since the garage documented how they screwed up on the invoice.

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Actually, I would suggest that you post your question on the "Older Generation" Subaru board. There are some very excellent amateur mechanics there, and they may be able to help you with testing the center diff. But basically, when the front wheels spin the silicone in the center diff heats up and becomes very, very thick. This locks the front and rear axles together, and rear wheels get 50% of the drive power. Usually, the silicone thickens and locks the axles together in milliseconds. That is why towing your car on the rear wheels for even 10 seconds most probably toasted the center diff.

However you test it. Remember, if the center diff is good, the rear wheels will PROPELL the car forward. So plan ahead, and be very careful.

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The center diff in the newer subes are actively giving a constant 50/50 split at all times. if it was toast, locked together, the drive train would bind up in tight turns on hard surfaces.....the autos are the ones that vary the split, and if that has failed it would only propel on the front. The autos are also the only ones with the fuse you pop out/in to diable the rear and put the drivetrain in 2wd/FWD mode. Also, if the autos are not maintained well, they will bind like this as well...basically, its not a real problem, more of an annoyance to some people. My Dads outback has done that since we got it (130k or so miles) and still does it now at 182k+ miles. Never had any problems from it. BUT...a totally locked center is no good....you will break and axle or something. its not good.

 

The old style center diffs, they were open. They came on the RXs, GL-10's and fully loaded GLs, as well as XT6, some XTs, and some Loyales...and the Loyale RS...note, only in the manuals. the Autos of those days that were AWD were the same as the newer ones....anyhow, those open diff equipped MT subes could be towed on 2 wheels for a short distance with no damage...although still not recommended. yes indeed, you should NEVER tow a 4wd/AWD/FT4wd SUBARU on 2 wheels at any time. But there are methods to doing so in extream circumstances....but there is no way, with out removing the driveshaft completely, that you can tow a new gen SUBARU (EJxx/EGxx/EZxx engine, Legacy/Impreza/Forrester/Baja/Outback/WRX/STi with AWD manual trans) on two wheels and not create some sort of damage.

 

How long was it towed before thw wheels locked up? If only for 10 seconds....min damage i woudl suspect. Get the car into some kind of slipperly surface, and see what it does. Change the trans gear oil IMMEDIATLY. Use Mobil 1 synthetic gear oil, so to prevent more damage and wear in the future. The trans and you will love it. Shifting will be 10x better as well. You could also put the car up in the air on jack stands, and let it idle in agear.... and notice what happens when you try to engange the rear hand brake, easily and in increments....if the wheels still drive, no problem.

 

Whinning sound: Can you isolate the whinning to a corner of the car, or to the trans or engine? Try to localize the sound. I know that on my RX, it whines from the trans....its got 140k miles on it, and that is normal. the only issue with it, the 3rd gear syncro is a little weak. Does it in all gears at any speed....but does quiet down at speed and when its warmed up...but still there and noticable. It also does go away when there is no load, IE: let off the gas, on the trans.

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