The Most Common Subaru Problems & Years to Avoid

Transmission failures, electrical faults, and defective airbags are just a few of the most common Subaru problems.
Written by Jaya Anandjit
Edited by Georgina Grant
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Transmission issues are the most common problem in Subarus, but defective airbags, faulty fuel pumps, weak windshields, and electrical issues are also known to happen. 
  • Subarus generally receive high reliability ratings, according to RepairPal.
  • Transmission issues are the most common problem in Subarus.
  • Some Subaru model years have more issues than others, like the 2013 Outback and 2015 WRX.
  • If your Subaru had a recall, bring it to your dealership for a free fix.

Most common Subaru problems

From electrical system flukes to fuel system defects, here’s a look at some of the most common issues in Subaru’s most popular models:  
  • Fuel pump failure
  • O2 sensor problems
  • Blown head gaskets
  • Oil leaks
  • Battery draining rapidly
  • Unintended acceleration
  • Cracked windshields
  • Subaru Starlink problems
  • CVT issues
  • Defective light switch 
  • Electrical failures
Overall, Subaru vehicles are some of the longest-lasting cars on the road even though they have their fair share of problems like any other car.

Subaru Forester years to avoid + common problems

Here are the most common problems with Subaru Forester models over the years:
  • 1998-2001 Subaru Forester: Blown head gaskets
  • 2009-2011 Subaru Forester: Malfunctioning airbags, leaking brake lines, electrical problems that could cause the engine to turn off or catch fire while driving
  • Common Subaru Forester problems: AC failure, transmission failure, oil leaks, O2/knock sensor problems
Instead, opt for the 2020 model year or the 2008 model year if you’re buying used. 
The Forester’s blend of affordability, boxy styling, and easy handling is a great pick for a used car or new car in these years, and both the 2020 and 2008 models saw a low number of recalls and customer complaints with new standard safety technology.

Subaru Outback years to avoid + common problems

Don’t buy the 2013 Subaru Outback, if you can avoid it. This model had an oil consumption problem that didn’t just cause a recall—it eventually led to a class action lawsuit
that issued warranty extensions and cash reimbursements to customers.
Keep an eye out for these common Subaru Outback problems:
  • 2013 Subaru Outback: Defective piston rings caused excessive oil consumption
  • Common Subaru Outback problems: Oil leaks, transmission problems, weak windshield, faulty oxygen sensors, faulty headlights, faulty airbags,
    trunk won’t open
Heads up: The lawsuit also affected Forester, Impreza, Crosstrek, and Legacy models from 2011-2015. 

Subaru Crosstrek years to avoid + common problems

The Crosstrek is well-known for its composed handling and plug-in hybrid option—but if you’re eyeing a new or used Crosstrek, you should avoid the 2013 and 2018 model years. 
  • 2013 Subaru Crosstrek: Engine stalling, malfunctioning brake lights, and ignition fob issue that causes the car to start unexpectedly and run until the engine is out of fuel
  • 2018 Subaru Crosstrek: Engine control module (ECM) causes stalling during operation
  • Common Subaru Crosstrek problems: Head gasket issues, transmission problems, lower power, oil leaks, rat attacks, faulty positive crankcase ventilation, faulty brake light switches
Instead, opt for the 2017 Crosstrek—one of the most reliable models to date—or a newer 2022 or 2023 model.

Subaru Ascent years to avoid + common problems

The 2019 Subaru Ascent has some serious transmission issues.
  • 2019 Subaru Ascent: There are 283 NHTSA complaints for the 2019 Ascent, especially concerning issues with the transmission, faulty fuel pumps, and slipping drive chains
  • Common Subaru Ascent problems: Transmission problems, slipping drive chains, faulty fuel pumps, electrical issues, battery issues from electric tailgate, rat attacks
If your heart is set on the Ascent, then you’re better off buying new. 
The 2021 model year seems to have resolved the fuel pump issues and other problems from the first year—but with discouraging ratings from experts and consumers, the Ascent might be an SUV to pass over. 

Subaru Impreza years to avoid + common problems

More transmission problems ahead! Avoid any 2008 - 2013 Imprezas.
  • 2008-2013 Subaru Impreza: Transmission issues, electrical failures, brake line corrosion, fuel economy issues
  • Common Subaru Impreza problems: Transmission failure, engine failure, acceleration problems, airbag issues, electrical failure, brake line corrosion
The Impreza’s electrical issues extended from the third generation into the fourth generation with the 2012 and 2013 model years. In fact, the 2013 Impreza saw recalls for faulty brake lights and engine stalling. 
Thankfully, the fifth generation features notable improvements, so if you’re interested in an Impreza, opt for the 2017, 2018, or 2019 models.

Subaru Legacy years to avoid + common problems

Early versions of the Legacy face more problems, especially the ‘09 Legacy.
  • 2009 Subaru Legacy: Head gasket failure, airbag malfunctions, poor fuel economy 
  • Common Subaru Legacy problems: Engine oil leaks, Engine failure, O2 Sensor failure, Head gasket issues, Infotainment system errors, low fuel economy
Luckily, better fuel economy, expanded space, and a surprisingly low number of recalls make the automaker’s redesign of the 2015 Legacy a favorite of Subaru owners. 

Subaru WRX years to avoid + common problems

The first-generation WRX experienced major car problems. In fact, the NHTSA issued two recalls for the 2015 WRX: one for the turbocharger, and another for electrical issues with the subwoofer. 
  • 2015 Subaru WRX: Turbocharger air intake duct prone to cracking and electrical issues with subwoofer leading to fires
  • Common Subaru WRX problems: engine failure, turbo failure, gasket leaks, weak pistons, weak rods, weak bearings, clutch failure, clutch plate issues
Subaru eventually ironed out the kinks present in the first generation, so you should be okay if you buy a WRX from model year 2017 or later. 

Subaru BRZ years to avoid + common problems

When the BRZ was first released in 2013, drivers noticed that the valve springs were prone to failure, causing engine stalling. The NHTSA issued a recall, but not before multiple car owners had been stranded on the highway and paid thousands of dollars for engine repairs. 
  • 2013 Subaru BRZ: Valve spring issues, engine stalling
  • Common Subaru BRZ problems: Faulty torque converters, broken valve springs, camshaft seal leaks, faulty water pumps, faulty O2 sensors, bad oil pump seals, faulty ABS control modules, head gasket problems
If you’re dreaming of a BRZ, you should look into the newer 2023 model, which serves as the second installment of the new generation.

Subaru’s most common problem: transmission failure

If your Subaru’s
check engine light starts to glow
and you notice some unpleasant sounds coming from under the hood, it’s probably time to get in touch with a mechanic about a transmission inspection.
Signs of transmission trouble in older Subarus (2013 or earlier):
  • Transmission slipping: If your Subaru is shuddering when you accelerate, you might need to replace a
    solenoid (wire coil) in the engine
    . Another possibility is a faulty front-wheel drive switch, which would require a new fuse.
  • Overheating: Overheating causes your “transmission temperature” warning light to start flashing. Again, the problem might be a broken pressure control solenoid—but it could be as simple as a clogged transmission fluid tube.
Signs of transmission trouble in recent Subarus (2014 or later) with CVT transmissions:
  • Stalling: Replacing a thrust washer or using a CVT-friendly transmission fluid can stop your transmission from stalling.
  • Growling noise: If your engine snarls at you when you accelerate, there’s probably an issue with one of the pulleys in the CVT.
  • Fluctuations in engine speed: if your engine speed is leaping up and down when you aren’t pressing the gas pedal, you’ll need to replace a transmission solenoid.
If you’re unsure of the exact issue with your Subaru, consider using an OBD-II scanner. You can hook the scanner up to your car and it’ll give you an
engine code
that identifies the exact issue. 

Is it expensive to fix a Subaru?

Generally, Subarus are more expensive to maintain over time than other non-luxury vehicles. This is because replacement parts for Subarus tend to cost you more than other comparable makers, like Toyota and Ford.
Owning a Subaru comes with a lot of perks. As a whole, they’re pretty good on gas and offer a nicer interior at a lower cost than other makers. They also offer all-wheel drive, which is great if you’re in an environment where that’s necessary. 
Like any car, they’ll need repairs from time to time. Subarus are generally regarded as one of the more dependable cars on the market, so they won’t break down very often, But, when they need a part replaced, it will cost you a little more than it would in a similar make. 
“After signing up with
, I went from $199/month to $97/month for my car insurance. My 2019 Subaru Forester now has full coverage for a great price!” —Rhonda H.
MORE: The best used Subaru to buy
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