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Towed an AWD on a dolly...oops!

I just moved 1200 miles from NY to GA. I had a dolly on the truck and asked the owner of the rental place if I could tow my AWD 1999 Subaru Impreza on the two wheel dolly and he said “no problem.” Well we got here and drove the car (drive fine) but noticed a horrific smell after about 15 minutes. I researched online and kept getting “never tow an AWD on two wheels.” Having just moved I cannot really afford to take it to a mechanic yet…any suggestions on what to look for as far as damage etc.? Also, is it safe to drive before getting it to a shop?

I’m afraid this really does need to go to a mechanic, most likely along with a sizable check.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to drive it. In this damaged condition, I’d be worried about the wheels locking up and causing an accident.

The owner of the rental place was only tleling you that the dolly was rated for that vehicle and safety would not be a factor.

I’d have it towed to the shop rather than drive it.

This is a big no-no according to what Suburu says about it.


"I'd have it towed to the shop rather than drive it."

And make sure it’s a flatbed.

Is this Subaru an automatic or a manual transmission? The rear power transfer mechanics are different for each.

You probably could have towed the vehicle with the two rear wheels on the ground by disconnecting the rear drive shaft. For future reference, check your owners operating manual or consult a Subaru service department to be sure.

Hope this helps.

Also for future reference, yes some older Subbys (i dont know about newer cars) can be dolly towed. there is a box under the hood you can put a fuse in to decouple the xfer case.

Oh boy. This may be expensive. You just moved, ask your new co-workers or neighbors to recommend a good mechanic with transaxle experience or an independent transmission shop.

Since he’s looking to save money, I think I’ve heard that it’s possible to convert an AWD Subie into a front-wheel drive car. If it’s the car’s rear diff that’s damaged, might it be cheaper for him to simply remove power to the rear end drive it as a FWD car? He’s in GA now, so it’s not like he really needs AWD much anymore…

why would the diff be damaged? it spins all the time. driven or not. but when you tow the diff/shaft now drive the trans and may cause damage to the trans/transaxle.

All the damage is internal, you can’t see it. The auto transmission and the transfer case are the main components to check for damage. At a minimum have all the fluids (auto trans, transfer case, front, and rear differentials) changed immediately.

After the fluid change, if the car drives OK and there is no more “smell” I’d drive it locally (no major trips for a month or so) and see how things go.

I’d suspect you have caused excessive wear on some clutches and other parts in the transmission and transfer case. Whether or not they are worn to the point of failure in the short term is the question? Without tearing down the transmission and/or transfer case there really isn’t anyway to evaluate their condition.

If there is damage to the point where the car won’t drive normally you are looking at a very expensive repair bill 3,000+.