The Legacy is Subaru’s flagship car which was introduced back in 1989. The mid-sized sedan has graced the roads for over 30 years and developed a reputation as a reliable family car. However, every car has problems, and Legacy is no exception.
The 5th generation showed many problems ranging from transmission and oil consumption to faulty airbags, dead batteries, and melting dashboards. The 6th and 7th generations had overlapping problems: unintended acceleration, fuel pump defects, and burned-out headlights. They also showed problems with the interior with their EyeSight system, infotainment system, and windshields.
Now that we have summarized all the major problems let’s look at each one in detail. We have explained the cause of every problem, how to fix it, and how much it will cost.
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1. Transmission Problems
As Subaru’s flagship car, you would expect the Legacy’s engine to be top-class. It is, at the beginning, at least, but as the engine starts to fall out of its standard warranty, drivers face hesitations, shudders, and stalling.
This is a fairly dangerous defect, particularly while making turns in ongoing traffic or when there is an obstruction in the vehicle’s path. This defect was fairly common in Subaru Legacy for models 2010-2015. It was so common that they had to extend their warranty from 5 to 10 years for vehicles of the mentioned models.
The problem lies within Subaru’s transmission. As it ages, it starts to shudder while slowing down and hesitates while accelerating. Owners have also reported knocking and jerking while the engine was idling. This is a big disappointment as they had initially advertised their state-of-the-art Lineartonic CVT as perfect and claimed that it would need no maintenance.
If you are facing problems with your Subaru Legacy, you should check if you can claim the extended warranty. There are also multiple technical service bulletins which are addressing these problems. Most recommend using CVT-friendly fluid or checking the health of the transmission pulleys and solenoids. Depending on your problem, it can cost you from $50 to $400.
2. Excessive Oil Consumption
Many frustrated drivers have reported excessive oil consumption in the Subaru legacy. The engine burns around a quart of oil per 1200 miles, prompting the drivers to refill before changing the oil. This adds to extra maintenance costs and can adversely affect the engine if action is not taken.
This issue was reported most in 2013 models and is prevalent in models from 2010 to 2014. Besides the oil check light lighting up, keep an eye out for blue smoke coming out of the tailpipe and listen for engine ticks while driving with a heavy load.
The F-series engine used in this model has loose tolerances, so the oil sneaks past the valve guides and control rings, going into the combustion chamber to burn off. The only solution is to replace the piston rings, which is done by pulling apart the engine, costing upwards of $9000.
The latest technical service bulletin issued with the code TSB 02-157-14R stated that the owners of 2013-2014 are eligible to have their engine short block replaced under warranty. This is a very significant issue as this does not only prove harmful to your wallet but is also harmful to the environment in the form of increased carbon emissions resulting from oil burning.
3. Cracked Windshield
Multiple reports of astonished drivers witnessing their windshields crack without apparent cause. Owners of the 2016 Subaru mostly faced this problem. Sometimes these cracks appeared while driving; other times, they would even appear as a small scratch while idle and would spread to the entire windshield.
These cracks often appear as a result of temperature or pressure fluctuations. The glass may expand and compress if you use a defroster or even the car’s heater. These expansions and contractions happen at varying rates because the glass heats up more quickly towards the edges; this can cause the windshield to crack.
There is nothing that can be done to prevent this problem as this is a manufacturing defect. All we can advise you to do is to replace the windshield as soon as it cracks to avoid problems while driving. Replacing the windshield will set you back around $300 to $600.
Multiple lawsuits were filed for this problem, and they came to a settlement in 2021. Subaru consented to increase the warranty of the 2016 Legacy’s windshield to 8 years. Additionally, owners are allowed to swap out one of the original windshields free of cost.
4. Faulty Airbags
Safety is something that no company should compromise on. Sadly, even buying Subaru’s flagship vehicle will not guarantee your safety. Many owners have reported that their airbags did not deploy during a crash and sometimes even exploded. Subaru employed Takata airbags in the Legacy from 2000 to 2014, which are now known to be highly defective. Millions of vehicles were recalled to replace these faulty airbags.
Inflators inflate the Takata airbag during a collision using a substance called ammonium nitrate. When subjected to temperature changes or high humidity levels, ammonium nitrate may become unstable, leading to inflators exploding with unexpected force.
This force usually caused the metal canister to shatter during deployment and send piercing pieces flying into the interior after a crash. This has caused many injuries and even deaths.
If you have a Subaru Legacy from 2000 to 2014, you must immediately check if you have a Takata airbag. If you do, then you must immediately have it replaced to avoid any dangerous incident. All vehicles of these models were recalled to have the airbags replaced.
5. Headlights Burning Out
The Subaru Legacy may have aesthetic headlamps, but you will be disappointed to hear that their headlights burn out very quickly and need to be replaced. Owners of 2010-2012 models have reported that they had to replace their headlights every 12,000 miles. You must be thinking that just changing a headlight isn’t that big of an issue. However, it is a long process in which the front wheel and bumper need to be taken off first.
All headlights burn out, but the 2010-2012 Legacy’s headlights tend to burn out too soon. They burn out soon because of several reasons. A power spike may damage the lightbulbs. There is also a theory about how the Legacy’s auto light mode is too aggressive. The lights come on under underpasses for just a few seconds and even turn on when there is plenty of light.
Subaru became aware of this problem in 2016 and started a program in which they sent letters to Legacy owners. This was not a recall, but it extended the warranty of 2010-2012 Legacy headlights to 10 years. Replacing one of these headlights by yourself will cost you about $100.
6. Eyesight Faults
Driver assistance technology called EyeSight uses a dual-camera system to keep an eye on the road ahead. EyeSight brings well-liked features to vehicles, such as lane-departure alerts, adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and automatic braking. To put it simply, it’s a computer that, in most instances, makes driving safer. It was initially made available in the 2013 Legacy model.
Multiple issues were reported with this technology. The system would sometimes shut down without informing the driver, putting them at risk. EyeSight is limited in what it can accomplish on dust storms, foggy days or those terrifying circumstances when you’re behind a truck on the highway in a downpour because it depends on cameras rather than sonar or radar.
In June 2015, Subaru conducted a recall for 70,000 vehicles to solve some of these issues. The newer versions of EyeSight have some decent improvements. The cameras now see in color, can detect brake lights, and have a wider and longer range of vision.
7. Dead Batteries
Owners of the 2015-2020 Subaru Legacy have reported dead batteries. People with this problem claim that the battery drains every few days and must be jump-started to start functioning.
The issue lies within the control area network (CAN) of the vehicle. The CAN is responsible for communication between all-electric units of the vehicle. The system uses power while the vehicle functions and enters sleep mode when the vehicle turns off. However, the sleep mode tends not to activate properly in the Subaru Legacy and keeps draining the battery. This is commonly termed a parasitic drain.
Subaru has offered to replace some of the batteries under warranty, but the fault doesn’t lie within the batteries. Changing the batteries will not stop the parasitic drain and is not a suitable solution in the long term.
We recommend using trickle chargers. These chargers prevent the battery from losing a significant amount of charge to stop the battery from dying. You can obtain a good quality trickle charger for less than $50. However, this, too, is not a permanent solution; Subaru needs to fix its CAN system, which is the root of the problem.
8. Unintended Acceleration
Cars that accelerate on their own are a big safety hazard, and such a phenomenon should not be happening in any vehicle, let alone Subaru’s flagship vehicle. The 6th generation Subaru Legacy (2015-2019) tends to surge forward as the driver tries to shift the vehicle into park.
Many people have blamed advanced sensors for these problems. The vehicle has multiple modules and sensors, such as the throttle body assembly, throttle position sensor, and powertrain module, that are susceptible to malfunctioning. Furthermore, the brake override system does not activate during unintended acceleration.
Subaru has failed to acknowledge this problem even though it is widely reported and blames it on the owners. Despite a significant amount of reports, Subaru has not even issued a technical service bulletin or even proposed a solution. As a result, owners have filed multiple lawsuits to get Subaru to take responsibility.
9. Defective Fuel Pumps
Users of the 2019 Subaru Legacy reported their engine stalling in the middle of the road. Others have also talked about the difficulty in starting the engine and the engine running roughly. The fault lies within the fuel pump, which is responsible for managing fuel flow from the tank to the engine.
The 2019 Legacy is employed with Denso’s low-pressure fuel pumps. There is an internal defect with the impeller of the fuel pump, which tends to deform. The impeller is a rotating disc that pumps the fuel and is an integral component of the fuel pump. A deformed impeller will not be able to supply the engine with adequate fuel supply and would hinder the performance of the engine.
After multiple complaints, Subaru’s engineers held an investigation and came to the conclusion that the impeller had a manufacturing defect. As a result, the 2019 models were recalled to have their fuel pumps replaced free of charge. Replacing the fuel pump on your own will cost you around $700.
10. Glitchy Infotainment System
Subaru introduced the Starlink infotainment system in its 2016 models to keep up with the increasing entertainment options in rival vehicles. Starlink offers the owner a wide range of safety and security features and even allows you to connect your smartphone to the car. All these features are accessed through a touchscreen to allow effortless control.
The STARLINK experience is not at all like what is described in the advertising material. The software is buggy, and the system uses defective navigation and audio units designed by Harman. Additionally, the system is prone to freezing and responds very slowly. It needs a hard reset to start functioning smoothly again.
Subaru has released many software updates and patches to try to solve this issue without replacing the entire unit. However, these updates bring little to no improvement as Subaru has failed to pinpoint the cause of this problem. If you really want to fix this issue, then you must replace the entire head unit, which will set you back around $1000.
Subaru vehicles are known for their rust and corrosion problems. This could be a result of them being fairly common in cold climate areas where cars are more susceptible to rusting. The leading cause of rusting is road salt which dramatically speeds up the process. The car’s underbody is exposed the most to road salt and is often the first area where corrosion starts.
This corrosion can cause leakage and reduce car efficiency. Subaru has failed to add an extra layer of coating to essential components to protect them from rust. This mistake has led them to recall several cars.
The 2009 Subaru Legacy was recalled because of brake fluid leakage and driving with low brake fluid can be incredibly dangerous. The brake lines corroded due to contact with salt water through a gap in the fuel tank protector. Subaru fixed this by adding an anti-corrosion wax to the area.
Rusting problems are common with every car. Make sure to wash your car regularly, especially the underside, to slow down the process. Furthermore, keep an eye out for paint chips and apply preventive waxing to susceptible components. Waxing the underbody will cost you around $200.
12. Melting Dashboard
The interior Legacy model of 2009 is unable to handle the heat. Many owners have reported that their dashboards have started to melt, turning into shiny, sticky goo under high humidity and heat.
This leads to many different problems for the driver. These melted dashboards reflect onto the windshield and interfere with the driver’s sight. The dashboard gives off a foul chemical odor, hindering the driver’s concentration. There are also concerns about the melted dashboards impacting the ability of the airbags to deploy.
If you own a 2009 Legacy and live in a humid area, then there is a high chance that you will be facing this issue. We recommend adding a protective cloth or plastic cover over the dashboard, which will cost you around $20. However, if the damage is done and you want to replace the dashboard, that will cost you a hefty sum of $2000.
What Is The Worst Year For Subaru Legacy?
The Subaru Legacy has a comfortable ride, is fairly spacious, and is quite well-equipped with advanced features. If you are looking to buy a family car, it is perfect for you; just look to steer away from certain problematic models.
According to this article we wrote earlier, the 2014 and 2017 model years of the Subaru Legacy without a CVT are the best second-hand models you can buy. Both models have no transmission or engine problems. Also, they’ve been recalled fewer times than other model years, and their recalls weren’t as severe. Finally, they’re affordable in maintenance, with the 2014 model year costing $623 per year and the 2017 model costing $556.
His interests in cars, motorcycles, and machines led him to the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore where he is currently a mechanical engineering sophomore.
His future aims include the development of an energy-efficient prototype vehicle for the Shell Eco-Marathon competition and getting a Master’s Degree in Automotive Engineering from Germany.