• Beau Steward

Subaru Outback And The Dangerous Power Lift Gate

One of the features of my new Outback XT that I could have known about while reading the specs, but apparently didn't care about enough to remember it was there was the rear power lift gate. So when I opened the rear hatch and it popped up on its own, I was in awe. It was one of those features that helped make the car feel more premium.

But it didn't take long for me to ask "Okay, so how do I disable it when I need to?" I couldn't find information on how to do this. So I needed to know more about its safe operation.

I found that when moving, if it feels force in the opposing direction, it will reverse. What I mean by this is if it's opening, and the hatch hits something, it will close again. If it's closing and it clamps on something, it opens again. I confirmed this using my hands and applying that opposing force. Great, so it's not going to crush whatever is in its way.

But then, one day, it hit my shoulder. Ouch. It takes a decent amount of force for it to correct.

Okay, but it didn't really injure me. So it's not terrible, right? I can't seem to disable it, and if I get in the way, it hurts for a moment and then we move on.

But what about my dogs?

Greyhounds are pretty large dogs, particularly in the tall department. I got the Outback for the larger cargo capacity so the dogs fit more comfortably together than they did in the Impreza. I have to slowly close the gate to make sure they know to keep their parts in. Including their heads. In the Impreza, this was no problem, I had all the control over the gate. But on the Outback...this is a major problem. The force is enough to cause them serious injury. And because of where that force may be applied, it could be serious enough to result in death.

I did a bit more digging and found there is a way to put the gate into a temporary manual mode when closing. I went and tested it out so I could learn its behavior. While this is a positive thing, to me, it's not enough. It's pretty easy to slip it right back into automatic mode and I may not be fast enough to react before it crushes one of my dogs.

Here's a few things to note about the manual close override (there is no such override for open):

  • If you set the override and wait to close it (ie: set it, then load dogs), it will automatically disable the override silently (no light flash, no beeps, nothing). Set the override when you are ready to operate the door and be ready to react.

  • If you don't hold the trunk close button long enough, the override does not activate. Hold the button until the beeps and light flashes stop before operating the door. I've found if you let go before then, such as during the long beep, it doesn't activate.

  • If you move the door too quickly, the override turns off and the power lift gate system takes over. Move the door slowly. If you trigger the return to automatic mode, you will need to re-enable the manual override.

I can't imagine a reason why such a feature exists without a complete and total manual override. When I'm transporting my dogs, I want to be able to completely and totally disable the power lift gate. Not temporarily. I want it off. I want to lift it and close it manually. This is a safety thing. The force to trigger a safety response is way too high. For me, I'm concerned about the safety of my dogs. I can imagine there's similar safety concerns for children. Why is there not a full and complete manual override?

Outside of transporting my dogs? Yeah, the automatic gate is fine. I love it. There's no risk of injuring nor killing a living being. Well, except for that one time when it hit my shoulder because I didn't get out of the way like an idiot.

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