Scary 2005 Subaru Outback on icy road problem

My wife and I recently went on vacation from our home town to Colorado. While we were there the state got a lot of snow and ice from their unique conditions they seem to experience. The problem we ran into was that on roads where there was even a little ice that the back end of the car felt like it was going to break loose. So even if the rear right wheel was on dry ground, the rear of the car will sway as much as a foot when moving anywhere from 25 to 65 mph. The oscillating behavior is very scary and it appears to be the drive train. As it happens whether or not the car is loaded.

What do people think this could be? I looked in the NHTSA’s site and there are a bunch of others who have experienced the same problem. I checked and there are no registered TSBs for the issue. What I can seem to find is that this potentially impacts 2005-09 years.

We have a 2005 Subaru outback 2.5xt with 80k miles on it. We just had new tires put n 3k miles ago and had the alignment done.

Ideas? I am seriously disappointed that this car could get this unsettled.

P.s. We had similar experiences like this last year in the same conditions but we blamed it on high cross winds, snow, and the Thule roof cargo box(thinking it was acting like a sail)

Easy guess is awd is getting confused, Is 2wd an option?

I believe you answered your own question. My guess is its in the drive train, traction control whatever this car has. The pro’s will be along shortly. Hang loose n have some complimentary coffee n donuts

Does this car have a limited slip differential (LSD)?
If it does, I would suspect that the LSD is the problem.

The car is AWD. I do not know if it has LSD. I would assume it does but I will see what I can find out while we are driving. What I find interesting is that we have had this car a long time and live in an area with lots of snow, but this seems to have only shown its teeth in the last 12 monts.

If you’ve been driving in snow, and this is a new problem, I can think of 2 reasons - first would be worn tires (but you’ve addressed that); second would be a problem in the AWD system (expensive reason). Have you posted this on Subaru forums? Others will have lots of experience on it. Have you taken it to the dealer for a thorough check of the AWD system?

I found the C&D review of the car. We do not have the VDC option as we have the 2.5XT version. It does havd LSD but I have to say the article makes it sound like working the gas should make some of the ride better when the car is fidgety. I tried playing with the it a bit when we were in bad driving conditions and adding gas made no difference from what i could tell.

Unfortunately we haven’t gotten to a dealer yet. We have been on the road for twelve hours so far. We were trying to get home. We were on vacation when we discovered this and came to the realization of how crappy this issue was last night. IOW, new years day represents our epiphany that something serious is amiss with this car at the moment. I will be talking with the dealership about it.

All I can say, is thank god for 3G cell phone Internet.

One more thing, down below is a site showing similar issues to what i experiencing…

Has it changed since the new tires? Or was it present before.

I have the closest cousin to your car (Legacy GT aka turbo 2005 wagon) and never experienced that in 100k miles. However the suspension differs due to the ride height.

Car does have LSD as I own the closest vehicle possible(2005 Legacy GT wagon) to it but different suspension due lower ride height. Never had a problem with the car in winter conditions.

My guess is more with suspension but no real idea.

I find that a lot of 4WD or AWD drivers, tend to expect more traction. AWD or 4WD will only provide additional traction going forward. Neither system will help keep your car moving straight ahead on the road or stop faster. They may help you get out of the ditch, but will not prevent you from getting into it to start with.

If you don’t have them, I would recommend getting winter tyres all around. They will help you go stop and stay on track.

It would be interesting to know exactly what tires you put on the car.

It happened on the old tires too.

My parents 2006 does not do this nor does my 330xi. I am a long time AWD driver. I am very familiar with it’s limits. No other vehicle I have driven has a backend that oscillates. The swaying action is scary as it starts as soon as the rear hits ice.

225/55R-17 Yokohama AVID ENVigor (H&V)

Unfortunately you purchased weak in the winter conditions(ice/snow) tires. Yokohama makes decent tires all-season but the winter capability is pretty weak.

I think you are getting the slippage prounced with them. The factory tires(RE92a’s) are abysmal in the winter(snow/ice) also.

Even though the current tires you have on the car aren’t that great for winter diving there may be an issue with the drivetrain or traction system. It sounds like the rear wheels may be working harder than they should be compared to the front ones. I would have a shop that specializes in that sort of thing check things out and see what they think.

It is unfortunate because when I first looked at reviews on Tire Rack, they showed really good in deep snow and ice traction. Now they are not looking so hot. Hm…

Here’s something to try:

In your owners manual, there are instructions for inserting a fuse when you install the spare tire on the car. Try inserting this fuse so that it disables the AWD system.

Now with the AWD disabled, see if you still have the traction problems.

Also, are the tires studded?
If yes, then get rid of the tires, and go with non-studded snow tires.