Tight turns in a 4WD

Are there issues with making tight turns with a 4WD vehicle? I used to have a Jeep Liberty and recently purchased a 98 Subaru Forester. What I’ve noticed is when I try to make tight turns, the car strains to keep moving. I even have to step on the gas a bit harder. Its annoying when trying to pull into a parking spot. It seems intermittant, both when the ground is wet or dry. I wonder if there is an issues with the vehicles, or if this is common.

Also, sometimes when I put either car in reverse, the car rolls back for 10-15 feet and then won’t move any more, even if I touch the gas.

Any thoughts?



The first thing to check is that all four tires match in size/make model/wear & tread depth.

Is this a manual tranny or automatic Subaru?

That may well be serious. You need the Ultimate Subaru Message Board found here: http://www.ultimatesubaru.org/forum/forumdisplay.php?s=ac528ec78a7cc186f83c4112c3735b9b&f=3 You have to “join” but it’s free and SOME of those guys really know their Soobs.

Your car isn’t the only one with the problem. My Ford E-150 steered sharply too, and wouldn’t move in reverse if you had the wheel turned too far.

There’s 4WD, and there’s AWD, and there’s a huge difference between them. 4WD is part time, and should never be used on dry roads. A 4WD vehicle will bind up SERIOUSLY around any tight turn on a dry road.

AWD, like the system in your Subaru, is full time and cannot be turned off. If you Subaru is binding up in tight, low speed turns, there could be a problem with the AWD system. Subaru uses two slighlty different systems, one for automatic-transmission vehicles, and one for manual-transmission vehicles. Which do you have?

Automatic-transmission Subarus of a certain mileage suffer from worn transfer valves and clutch packs. The transfer valve (and clutch pack) is what sends drive to the rear wheels. When the valve malfunctions, usually because of worn or leaking o-rings, the rear-wheel-drive is not reduced during tight turns, as it should be, and you feel the binding, or hesitation, when you make a tight, low-speed turn.

The cure for this problem is a new transfer valve and clutch pack (it’s a multi-plate clutch, similar to what you’d see on a motorcycle). These parts are located in the rear of the automatic transmission. It’s a few hundred dollars to replace them, but that’s less than the cost of a new transmission case, which can be damaged if the worn parts are NOT replaced.

If your car has a manual transmission, change the fluid in the transmission, transfer case, and differential(s). A fluid change may fix things.

Your Subaru should NOT bind up in tight turns. If it does, something is wrong, and serious damage can result. Don’t ignore this.

The problem of not moving in reverse is new to me. It sounds expensive.

The AWD is drastically different between automatic and manual transmissions. The Automatic is electronically controlled with a clutch pack you describe. The manual transmission is an elegantly simple Viscous Coupling using fluid shear to transfer power appropriately and quite effective.

Binding is very rare in manual tranny’s.