Why does the rear end slide in the snow and no other time?

Asked by Dec 01, 2010 at 11:05 AM about the 2002 Subaru Outback Limited

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Rear end wants to come around in even the slightest snow. Even at like 20mph. What could cause this? It has good tires.

5 Answers


Its a basic answer. Snow's molecular properties are varied many different directions Depending on the snows condition. It the Snow is whet, Its molecules are more malleable hence why it is the ideal snow for snowmen and snowball fights. When Snow is "dry" its molecular setup is more structured so it doesn't want to change. So when driving over snow the snow is like a layer of separate concrete in between your tires and the asphalt, and since snow is slippery, the car isn't moving always, sometimes it is but mostly it is the snow that is moving on the asphalt that makes you back end slip out because you front wheels have control, you back wheels are just sitting their. All of this is why trucks but chains on their wheels. Since a metal chain's molecular setup is more solid than snow, the chain can break through the snow and give you more traction because you are touch the actual asphalt instead of the slippery, no friction snow. So Over all the basic answer would be snow doesn't give on as much friction as asphalt.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

to be honest that guys answer was not basic at all and really is not the problem, the reason your geting the rear end wandering on you is because while you have 4wd there is still more weight at the fron of the car than the back and that is what gives the car better traction up front, now it may be worse if you have an automatic transmission because Subaru automatics instead of having a split of torque 50 percent to the front and 50 percent to the rear wheels like Subaru's manual transmissions, the auto's use a 90 percent front 10 percent rear torque split causeing it to drive more like a FWD car than a full time AWD car. My suggestion in either case is to get some good all season or snow tire if you have only a highway tire on now, and don't get on the gas too much and make sure your E-brake is not locking at all.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

As Nick previously answered the automatic Outbacks are even more apt to slide its rear on corners when driving in the snow. I did notice this occurance happening to me in my previous truck a 97 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 and to counteract this problem I added weights in the back of the Tacoma, as with the Outback I just placed an 80lb. bag of sand on the cargo area and it seem to help providing you are not driving the car like a rally race, and yeah a good set of snows like General Altimax Artic which I am currently using helps.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

I agree with jtablan I also have the General Altimax Artic tires I live in New England and we get a lot of snow these tires are great

I suggest you look up Ghostwalking. It's a somewhat well know issue with 05 to 09 Outbacks in North America, probably only in the US, and stems from multiple minor issues that add up to the major handling problem you and others experience. No one has been able to reliably force it to happen in a testing area so it's not well researched, but general consensus is it's tends to mostly result from Subaru raising the ride height 2 inches to get past fuel regulation, which led to the rear suspension being out of it's normally designed position and extremely toeing the rear wheels when the rear is compressed. The lack of ability to adjust camber and toe separately also seems to play a role as many have had luck in fixing the issue just adding a camber kit to the rear and having the alignment redone, sometimes adding an extra 200lbs to simulate having cargo. Some also have added stiffer springs to fight the sag when loaded. Others have also seemed to get normal handling by just inserting a fuse in the fwd slot and making the car run in FWD mode. I've also seen a few say the problem could also be uneven tires that haven't been rotated and the alignment being out of spec, but we can't be sure as noone has been able to reliably test it. And as an fyi, Subaru does know about it, but all they could do is recommend the rear tires be lowered by a few psi and the rear alignment be altered as per a TSB or recall. Beyond that we are on our own. If you need more info, just check out a Subaru forum for the Outback. There are many who are in the same boat as you.

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