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So while I was changing brake pads on my 2003 Outback automatic (H6 3.0, if it makes any difference), I reattached the rear driver's wheel (the car is RHD, so the driver's side is the air intake/fuel filler side) and began tightening the lug nuts. To my surprise, despite having the transmission in Park, I was able to spin the wheel while it was in the air. I had the parking brake applied while loosening the nuts, so I didn't notice until that point - I took the brake off to attempt to replace the disc, but was defeated.

On the other side, I did the same, but as expected, the transmission locked the drive shaft and I was able to loosen the lug nuts with the wheel in the air.

Given what I know about AWD vehicles, I'm pretty sure this shouldn't happen, unless while parked the transfer clutches entirely disengage the rear wheels (I know the Subaru transmission is predominately FWD, transferring to the rear wheels as required) and something else was locking the passenger side wheel. I don't know if the car has a limited-slip rear differential, but even if it did, I'm not sure it would be responsible. To re-iterate, the other 3 wheels were on the ground at this point.

Is this normal, or am I likely not getting drive to the rear driver's wheel?

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unless while parked the transfer clutches entirely disengage the rear wheels

This is correct for that generation of outback. The 95-99 engaged the clutch pack when no power was applied to the solenoid. So it would be disengaged.

I don't know if the car has a limited-slip rear differential, but even if it did, I'm not sure it would be responsible.

If the rear differential is a simple open dif, it should be possible to turn either wheel even when one is on the ground.

However, according to cars101, all 2003 models were equipped with limited slip differentials. You can easily check this by lifting the rear end and seeing if the tires spin in the same direction. As far as this being the reason, the clutch packs in the lsd do wear out, so that may be what you're seeing.

  • Even with an open rear diff, in order to have one wheel have the ability to spin, either the other tire needs to be off the ground if the driveshaft/tranny is locked in park, or if the other tire is on the ground, the driveshaft has to be able to spin. If two of the three are locked, the third will not spin (may move a little, but won't spin). This would be the same for a transaxle on the front end (either wheel off the ground or trans in neutral). – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 7 '17 at 17:13

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