1999 Subaru Legacy Outback



I recently purchased this car and after a longer drive (25+ miles) when you make a hard turn, into a parking space, the front wheels clunk and shake the car. This does not happen after a short drive. I’ve been thinking about this one and checked the power steering fluid, it was almost empty, thinking that after the engine warms up, on a long drive, the car needs more power steering fluid than it would if it was a short drive. I add some power steering fluid to bring it up to the proper level. The next day on my way to work (40 mile drive) it seemed like a more quite ride, and when I pulled into my parking space it didn’t clunk as much, but still clunked. Now that it has been a few days, and the power steering fluid is at normal levels, I am back to having the same problem. Can anyone tell me what is causing this clunking only after long drives?


Does this car have “matched” tires?
By that, I mean 4 tires of the same brand, size, and amount of tire wear.

I asked that question because mis-matched tires will cause excess wear on the center viscous coupler (manual transmission models) or the variable transfer clutch (automatic trans models). Subaru’s AWD system is very sensitive to differences in tires from one wheel to another, and this can lead to expensive problems.

One of the symptoms of problems with the viscous coupler/variable transfer clutch is a “grabbing” sensation when making a tight turn, and/or noises when making a turn. I would suggest that you find a Subaru specialist in your area and have him assess the situation. If the problem is what I suspect, you will probably have to spend…maybe about $400-$500 for repairs. Also, immediately invest in a set of new tires and be sure that they are rotated either every 5k miles or every 7,500k miles in order to keep them evenly worn.

Also–unless you can confirm through maintenance records from the previous owner that all maintenance has been done according to “the book”, have your Subaru specialist bring the car’s maintenance up to date. Most important is the timing belt.

Unless you know for a fact that the timing belt was replaced at 105k miles or 8 years (whichever came first), then the car is grossly overdue for a new timing belt. Failure to replace it will result in engine damage that would run about $2k to repair. The water pump, serpentine belt, and all belt tensioners should be replaced at the same time as the timing belt.


Good advice from VDCdriver. If there is a problem with the drive system you need to get it fixed soon. For sure the tires are the first items to check and make sure they are the same and have the same wear. Another thing to check is the CV joints in the front. Perhaps a boot has cracked on one or both of them and they may need to be replaced.

Hope you enjoy the car and if you live in snow country you will see how well they move on the roads (especially with the proper tires on it).


OP–What about those tires?
Are they “matched”?


I’ve checked out the tires, they are newer tires that are the same size, with normal wear on them. Nothing really out of the ordinary on the tires.

I also have been checking the power steering fluid constantly and haven’t been loosing any, which was one of my concerns. But when i did take the tires off and check out the tie rods one of the boots on the driver front sides seemed to be missing the part that the clap goes over; where the passenger side had that. I didn’t think that this could be the root of all my problems.

Thanks for all the advice, and sorry about the delay in response.


So I finally went to a very trustworthy subaru mechanic. He only works on subarus. he test drove my car and immediately could tell that it was the ‘back clutch’ in the transmission. this device allows the rear wheels to drive the car, as well as slip when necessary. This is what caused the clunking on tight corners. So the car needs a new transmission… sweet! thanks for all the responses.


I believe that he was referring to the Variable Transfer Clutch.
I am glad that I was correct, but I am saddened that you will be saddled with the repair costs.

Unfortunately, I think it is pretty definite that the previous owner drove the car with mis-matched tires.
This is one of the reasons why I avoid used cars.

That being said, unless you have documentary evidence that the previous owner replaced the timing belt on schedule (105k miles or 8 years, whichever came first) please be sure to have the timing belt, serpentine belt, water pump, and all belt tensioners replaced while it is in for transmission service. If you don’t do this, you are likely wasting your money on a new transmission.


If the transmission has been damaged the previous owner must have ignored the problem for a long time. Normally the transfer valve and clutch pack can be replaced and a new transmission is not required.

I agree with VDCdriver. This car could need lots more expensive work. Someone ignored it for too long, and Subarus do not take kindly to lack of maintenance.