Ghostwalk the Whip: Fixing Subaru bump steer with Whiteline Bushings

Ghostwalk the Whip: Fixing Subaru Bump Steer with Whiteline Bushings

by Daniel O'Donnell (With language assistance for Subaru owners in bold)

There aren’t many more usable vehicles than a Subaru Outback (Scooby Vapewagon). Mild off-roading to your next rock climbing trip? Easy-peasy. Need to take your Australian Cattle Dogs to the vegan dog park? Donezo. Hauling your butch friend Karen and all her camping gear to Beaver Island for a weekend under the stars? Legally, only Subarus are allowed to perform that task. Yet with all these wonderful positives, there’s one annoying issue that nearly makes all these points moot, over time Outbacks can develop terrible rear bump steer (totes gnar dorifto).

Annoying might not be a strong enough term (worse than your chick clownin' on your new 59FIFTY). On a trip home this winter after hitting some of the greatest ski slopes Indiana has to offer (steezin' fo no reason), we had to drive through a mild snowstorm with below freezing temperatures. Normally one wouldn’t see this as an issue with an all-wheel drive, mild utility vehicle with nearly new tires, but this 2 hour trip home was completely white-knuckle (YOLO ROFL). At random the rear of the vehicle would step out to the right, feeling as though you would be headed for the center ditch with any wrong turn of the wheel. It was bad enough that we stopped on numerous occasions to check if the lug nuts had loosened or a suspension arm had fallen off. All the while, rusty Kia Rio’s and mid-80s Olds Cutlasses were passing us by like we were standing still. Clearly something wasn’t right (like a 100k mile head gasket) and had to be investigated.

Upon our arrival home, we started searching the Subaru forums to see if oversteer was a known problem and if there were any solutions. This yielded hundreds, if not thousands, of posts related to the rear bump steer issue, what Subaru owners affectionately call, ghostwalking (Scandinavian Flick stage 2), but not many definitive solutions. Thinking it was likely a suspension geometry issue, we stopped at the palatial headquarters of PA Motorsports and put the Outback on the lift. What we discovered was a rear trailing arm bushing that had completely pulled away from the arm. This resulted in a substantial amount of toe-in (goofy footed) and little control of the alignment of the passenger rear wheel. The driver’s side was beginning to tear away as well, so research began to figure out the best way to fix this problem (don't want it rubbin' the Rally Armor flaps yo).

 

Whiteline to the rescue with their W63398 rear trailing arm bushings. Stiffer than OEM and featuring a shouldered design, this upgraded bushing cannot fail in the same way the factory trailing arm bushing does.
A unique feature is the knurled finish on the inside of the bushing. This allows the bushing to retain grease and keep the squeaks at bay much better than a bushing with a smooth finish.
While we were fixing damaged bushings, we also replaced the front control arm's rear bushing as well. Whiteline offers a few options here and we decided to go with the W53353, which is their most street oriented design. Additionally, Whiteline offers a control arm bushing with increased caster and a motorsports, spherical option that also offers increased caster.
The front control arm bushing also features a knurled design to retain grease. The three holes on each side of the bushing are designed specifically to allow for flex. These have to be aligned properly when installed to ensure the bushing doesn't wear out quickly and the suspension can move as intended.

Not wanting to put the stock trailing arm bushing back in, just for it to rip out again, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Whiteline (#yoloswag) offered rear trailing arm bushings with shoulders to keep the trailing arm from being able to slide off one way or the other. Designed for the Legacy sedan, but because Subarus are essentially Legos for adults (Spec C upgrades FTW), the suspension design is the same, just lifted, for the Outback. While we were under the car, we also noticed the rear bushings in the front control arm also showed signs of excessive wear as well, something the Subaru forums noted as a common occurrence. Back into the Whiteline catalog we went to get uprated bushings for that location as well.

Install for these bushings goes quickly if you have access to Grant Davis, owner of PA Motorsports. He nearly died (what happens to Suby ring lands) along with me on the winter trip and was just as intrigued as I was to see if these bushings would solve the bump steer problem.

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