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Sudden stop and loud noise while in reverse - 2002 Subaru Outback

I have a 5 speed 2002 Subaru Outback with 140K miles. Recently, I drove very fast in reverse in flat parking lot (~30mph - stupid, I know). Within about 40 yards of my drive in reverse, I first heard a loud whining sound, and then without taking my foot off the gas the car violently jerked to a stop, I heard a loud popping sound and all 4 wheels seized. The car stopped so suddenly that I left four 2ft-long skid marks on the pavement. After getting over the initial shock of the moment, I turned the car off, started it up again, put it into gear and the car wouldn’t move. I could rev the engine, but got no movement, as if I was in neutral.

My fianc?e and I both thought we were doomed, i.e. I blew the transmission. We called AAA. When they arrived, the tow truck driver started it up again and (to our surprise) drove around the block with no problems. 1st, 2nd, 3rd and reverse all worked fine and the car appeared to run just as well as it had. Since this crazy incident (3 days ago), the car has been running fine.

What do you think happened here? Could it be the differential, the transmission? And, most importantly, do we have anything to worry about? Any advice, wisdom or theories greatly appreciated. Thank you!

I Think It Relates To Going 30 MPH In Reverse. Although That Is An Impressive Feat, I Think If You Stop Doing That, The Lock-Up Problem Might Stop.

Was your fianc?e impressed?

I doubt the engineers considered that people would do such a thing.

When I was younger than I once was, I had a friend who routinely drove his Corvair backwards from place to place, just because he could. He never locked-up.


Since it left 4 - 2ft. skid marks all 4 wheels locked up. That rules out anything with the parking brake, since it only works on one or 2 wheels at most. I don’t believe normal brakes would act this way either.

My best guess is the transmission locked up. I believe Subaru’s have a “hill hold” feature to prevent you from rolling backwards when starting from a dead stop on a hill. I’m not sure how this system works but it must be some sort of pawl engages a gear somewhere in the transmission. The action of going in reverse at higher than normal speed may have engaged this system abruptly.

Less likely, but perhaps the transmission somehow went into “park” and locked up. Another possible is the transfer case locked up. As both of these items are expensive, just count yourself lucky to be moving again without major expense.

At this point the only way to diagnose what happened is to repeat the action and make it lock up again. Not recommending this action, so just back up normally and hope it never happens again.

Many thanks for the sound advice, UncleTurbo. I am feeling lucky than nothing worse happened. I’ll look into the “hill hold” feature and take it easy from now on. cheers.

I like Uncle Turbo’s theory about the Hill Holder feature being the source of the problem.

However, the OP has to clarify the type of transmission that he has. Both UT & I have interpreted part of your post to mean that you have a manual transmission, and if that is correct, the “hill holder theory” has validity–at least as a possibility. However, automatic transmission Subies do not have Hill Holder (except for the brand-new 2010 models).

OP–Which type of transmission do you have on this Subaru?

manual transmission. thx.