2002 Subaru Outback- strange noise. *UPDATE- Video attached*

Hi all-

I have a 2002 Subaru Outback that recently started making an odd noise. This noise is somewhat hard to describe, but sort of sounds like “urrh ah urrh ah” almost like a rubbing noise or a deep squeak (not high pitched). This noise only occurs when I’m braking, starts when I’m slowing down (going below 20mph) and becomes more pronounced as I reach a full stop. The noise starts out fast (urr ah urr ah urr ah) and slows down as the car slows down (and gets louder as I come to a complete stop…urrrrrrh ahhhhh urrrrh ahhhhh urrrrrrrh). It is more pronounced when I’m braking going down a hill (louder than when I’m stopping on a flat surface). It does NOT do it when I’m braking in reverse, or when I’m braking going up a hill. You also cannot hear the noise outside the car- only inside the cabin. Anyone have any clues as to what this might be? Thanks!!!

Just to clarify, is it happening only when you brake or also when you drive slowly?

You can only hear it inside the cabin? That seems weird because very little inside the cabin has anything to do with your brakes. I can’t see your brake pedal, master cylinder or brake booster making weird noises depending on speed…

There’s a propeller shaft between the transmission and rear differential that happens to run just under your floor boards, between the driver’s and passenger seat. Maybe you caught a plastic bag in there or something and now it rubs against the undercarriage with every turn of the shaft? At high speeds, maybe the bag is tightly wrapped around the shaft so you won’t hear it? This is just a guess but it is easily checked. The shaft is mostly hidden under some shields but you may be able to see something if you stick your head under there.

It is bizarre I know- it is definitely only happening when I brake. And I can ONLY hear it inside the cabin- my husband has run along side the car and listened while I brake and he can’t hear it (and I can). He’s put the car up in the air and there is nothing trapped underneath or abnormal. It almost sounds like a suspension thing (squeaky spring??) or a tire rubbing against the car- but we’ve checked the suspension and it’s fine and doesn’t make any noise when you push on the front of the car, inside or out. Alignment is good. Scratching our heads over here!!

That does seem bizarre. It could be a wheel bearing or half shaft but usually you hear those things loudly from outside the cabin…
Maybe put it up in the air and have one turn the wheels manually while the other hits the brakes. Noise does travel but it is weird you don’t hear it outside.

I second Remco’s suggestion. For each corner, raise the wheel and with the car well secured against rolling and the tranny in neutral, spin the wheel by hand, preferably by the hub if you can. Also try wobbling the wheel, checking for looseness. While you’re spinning the wheel, have a friend slowly and gently apply the brakes. If the wheel is loose, roughness can be felt in the hub, there’s drag on the wheel (greater than the other wheels), or noise, it should be eays to tell if it’s coming from the brake, the dust shield (they get bent occasionally), or the bearing. Do all four wheels. Also, check the brake pads for wear and look for erratic wear on the tires.

The sound you describe is typical of worn brake pads.

I’m attaching a video of the sound so y’all can hear it- you’ll need to turn the volume up to get the best idea of the sound as it’s not very loud in the video. Thanks for your suggestions so far- I’m going to have my husband investigate more this weekend.

I’m not sure if this car has drum brakes in the rear but, my car was making this exact noise. Both drums were warped. I jacked up the rear end and spun each rear tire slowly and it made a quieter version. Had someone lightly apply the brakes, and it was louder. I’ve also heard disc brakes make a sound similar to this with warped rotors. Since the introduction of anti-lock brakes, having warped rotors is very very common. you may not feel it, but it’s there. I would check rotors/drums, and your pads/shoes.

No drum brakes- all wheels have disc brakes. BUT the tires are coming off this weekend and it’s getting a complete brake check, because that’s my gut feeling as well. Thanks for the comment/tip!

Not sure how the 2002 does it but later models have drums inside the disks to support the emergency brake function. Those shoes may be rubbing. It certainly sounds like it.