Subaru Forester is a compact crossover SUV that’s been a popular choice for those looking for a durable SUV. However, much like any vehicle, the Forester has its fair share of troubles. In the article below, we have discussed some of the most common problems faced by Forester owners.
Parasitic battery drain (2012 – present), along with excessive oil consumption (2011 – 2014), were particularly persistent problems for owners. Unintended acceleration, along with transmission issues, were other problems that plagued 2012 – 2017 models. Owners also worried about easily cracked windshields in 2015 – present models.
That was the bite-sized answer listing Forester’s common problems; let’s dive deeper to get a more thorough understanding. We have gone over each problem in detail, explaining what caused the problem and how much it might cost to fix.
Here’s what YourCarAngel has to say about the Subaru Forester and its problems:
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1. Drained Out Batteries
A common and persistent problem for some Forester owners is drained batteries in models from 2012 onwards. Without healthy functioning batteries, your Forester isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it won’t start up, much less go anywhere. We need the battery to power the starter motor that will crank the engine and let us drive off.
We’ve come across quite a few unhappy, to say the very least, Forester owners. They complained that drained batteries were not a one-off thing for them; they were stuck jump-starting their vehicles every few days.
A terrible ordeal to deal with on a regular basis. What’s worse is, because of the frequent nature of these drains, the battery’s health is severely affected. Which can only mean one thing, you’ll have a dead battery on your hands soon.
After much discussion and investigation, it was believed that the battery was not defective but had a parasitic drain. The problem was pinpointed to the Controller Area Network or CAN system, which helps all electrical components, including sensors, actuators, and microcontrollers, communicate with each other.
The CAN system works as intended while the vehicle is up and running but has some unresolved problems when the vehicle is switched off.
Ideally, the CAN system should have an adequate sleep mode that prevents it from consuming too much energy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The system has a flawed sleep mode with possible software errors that allows it to drain energy from the battery.
As we’ve mentioned before, after enough of these parasitic drains, you’ll be left with a dead battery. Subaru offered to replace some of these dead batteries under warranty, but that didn’t do much to solve the problem. The flawed CAN system remains untouched, and so does the pesty parasitic drain.
The only practical solution we came across was the use of trickle chargers. Trickle chargers cost between $50 to $150, but they’re bound to save you a lot more. Trickle chargers charge your battery at a low voltage and prevent your battery from draining completely. Many owners reported that trickle chargers came to their rescue, putting jumper cables to rest.
2. Unintended Acceleration
Subaru is under fire for unintended acceleration on its 2012 – 2017 Forester. It has two class-action lawsuits on its trail that demand accountability from Subaru.
Several owners complained about unexpected jolts of acceleration when the car was being slowed and often when the brake pedal was depressed.
Most commonly, unexpected acceleration was reported when drivers were trying to shift into park; at this point, the vehicle is usually at its slowest speed, and it’s where you would least expect an acceleration jolt. It’s also where unintended acceleration does the most damage, multiple owners reported driving into fences, gates, and other cars because of this terrifying problem.
Perhaps one of the worst factors of this problem is Subaru’s approach to the problem: absolving itself of any accountability whatsoever. Subaru refused to launch a single TSB, much less a solution or recall for the problem.
Subaru essentially blames the drivers for this problem. They credit it to poor driving, incompetent drivers, or mats that interfere with the brake pedal. Anything but themselves. This was the primary reason behind the two class-action lawsuits, to hold Subaru accountable, even if a little bit, for the problem.
With no official diagnosis for the problem, owners began to investigate the issue and came up with three possible causes.
The first was an inadequate fault detection system that fails to foresee unintended acceleration. The second could be a failure of the brake override system. The third cause could be a malfunctioning sensor or module.
Unfortunately, as of now, the lawsuits are still open, and there is no solution to the problem. Any damages incurred due to the problem will have to be covered by the owners with only the hope of compensation by Subaru under a settlement or court decision. We would like to mention that although this problem is a tough one, it’s not as common as some of the others on this list.
3. Excessive Oil Consumption
Oil consumption on the newer Subaru engines was a fierce discussion topic in the mid and late 2010s. There was much debate about the seemingly excessive oil consumption of the then-new Subaru F-series engines. 2011 to 2014, Subaru Foresters came with a 2.5L FB engine that shared the same concerns.
According to Subaru, oil consumption of 1/3 quart per 1,200 miles is justified and well within normal specifications. They’re adamant about it and even added a new section about oil consumption in their owner’s manual.
Subaru states that all engines burn oil, and owners failed to notice just how much because the recommended change intervals were 3,000 miles and have been upped to 6,000 miles.
What do owners think? They disagree. Most owners find it concerning that they have to add a quart or quarts of oil between the recommended intervals. According to reports, the consumption isn’t consistent either; while some owners may burn through 1/3 quart of oil per 1,200 miles, others have burnt through an entire quart in 2,500 miles.
After much debate and investigation into the new engines, many owners and mechanics believe that the oil consumption flaw comes with the need to improve MPGs. They believe that among other efforts to increase MPGs, Subaru tried to reduce friction by lowering tolerances and loosening components like the control rings and pistons. They also started using a super thin engine oil: 0W-30 fully synthetic engine oil. Pair up thin oil with loose components, and you’re bound to have oil leaks.
If you own a 2011 – 2014 Subaru Forester, keep your eyes peeled for excessive oil consumption indications. This includes listening for engine ticks and watching out for little puffs of bluish-gray smoke bursting out of the tailpipe.
Of course, don’t ignore the oil warning light that may go off earlier than expected; it’s probably not an error and your Forester might have already burned through the oil!
Thankfully, there was a helpful class action lawsuit against Subaru in this case. Subaru settled the case without admitting fault. As part of the settlement, Subaru agreed to a free oil consumption test and extended the warranty to 8 years or 100,000 miles.
According to Subaru, you need to go to an authorized dealership and request an oil consumption test. The dealership will change your vehicle’s oil and oil filter and ask you to drive for 1,200.
On your next visit, upon reaching 1,200, if your vehicle has burned through more than 1/3 quarts of oil, you will be eligible for a short block replacement. If your consumption was within 1/3 quarts, you’re operating as expected as far as Subaru is concerned.
4. Transmission Problems
Shudders, knocks, jerks, and hesitations all point to transmission problems, a daunting prospect.
People often run in the other direction after hearing ‘transmission problems’, a fair response since most large-scale transmission problems end with huge repair bills and a replaced or rebuilt transmission. Fortunately for Forester owners and enthusiasts, Subaru backed up their CVT transmission and helped owners in the process.
The Lineartronic continuously variable transmission is installed in several Subaru models, including the 2012 – 2017 Forester. When the transmission first came out, it was hailed by critics and drivers alike.
The engineers at Subaru added to the hype by claiming that their new CVT would require “no maintenance whatsoever for the life of the vehicle”. For a time, this bold statement seemed true, the transmissions performed well, and people loved it.
However, the statement didn’t age well. The transmissions performed well early in the life of the vehicle, but around the 60,000-mile mark, right around the warranty limit, they started showing problems.
At first, owners usually noticed shudders while slowing down, these were often followed by hesitations while accelerating. A few stalling complaints were also reported. The general discomfort, knocks, and jerks stemmed from a transmission that was just out of the warranty period.
Subaru acted swiftly in this case; first, they were on top of the problem with multiple TSBs, which were focused on the Subaru Legacy and Outback, the earliest models with the new CVT.
Then in 2017, before matters escalated and transmissions on the other vehicles got worse, forcing owners to band together, Subaru extended their CVT warranty to 10 years or 100,000 miles for 1.5 million vehicles. Subaru did all this but made it clear that there was no safety defect. This helped the automaker avoid future litigation and helped out owners in the process.
5. Windshield Issues
Easily cracked windshields are a major concern for Forester owners, especially those who have experienced this ordeal at least once. Owners have aired out their concerns about the new acoustic windshields (2015 model and later) that Subaru has opted for.
There have been several complaints reporting cracked windshields without any sign of impact, these windshields have fast-growing cracks that originate from corners or the bottom of the shields instead of noticeable impact points.
This windshield problem has become somewhat common in modern cars and can be attributed to manufacturers opting for different materials to make lighter windshields in hopes of increasing fuel efficiency and performance. Nevertheless, it troubles owners who have to pay out of their pockets to replace these windshields that magically break.
With fast-spreading cracks, you’ll need to get the windshield replaced as soon as possible, and that’s not a cheap endeavor. You’ll quickly notice huge spiderwebs on your windshields that severely impair visibility, making it an unavoidable and immediate expense.
The windshields can cost you anywhere from $600 to $1,400 to replace. We also found that the EyeSight system has to be recalibrated after a windshield replacement, and it’s not done for free. Although the cost may be included in the quote if you get your windshields replaced by Subaru.
Perhaps the worst thing about this problem is that it could just as easily happen again. The replacement windshields aren’t stronger or more durable, they’re exactly like the original. You could end up having the new windshields for years to come, maybe even a lifetime, or you could end up needing to change it within a month or two.
6. Air Bag Inflator Rupture
The Takata airbag recall affects more than 100 million vehicles worldwide, including the Subaru Forester. Takata airbags have been used in countless models, and a huge number of these airbags have unstable inflators that pose a safety risk.
The airbag inflators run the risk of rupturing in case of a collision or crash, expelling sharp metal fragments into the cabin that can result in serious injuries or death. It’s a well-known issue and can be traced back to the inflator’s susceptibility to moisture intrusion, which makes it defective over time.
The unstable inflator is ripped into flying small metal fragments by the forceful propellant explosion.
Subaru, much like other automakers, issued multiple recalls to address the problem. 2009 to 2013 model years of the Forester were part of the huge recall. As part of the recall, dealers will replace the airbag inflators free of charge.
If you’re in the market for a Subaru Forester, we recommend checking if the vehicle was part of the recall and if the inflators have been replaced. We’ve seen many complaints about unavailable parts and long waits for replacement in general for the Takata recall.
The NHTSA campaign number for this recall is 19V00800 (One of many recalls addressing the same problem and providing the same solution)
7. Soy-Coated Wiring
Soy-Coated wiring has become a common issue for most brands, including Subaru. Most automakers switched to soy-based coating for their wiring because it was more biodegradable and so more eco-friendly.
Although it’s better for the environment, it’s also better for the automaker as these soy-based coatings are cheaper than their plastic counterparts.
The problem with these soy-based coatings is that they attract rodents, who then like to chew on them and use them as nesting material. This could cause an array of problems, any system that utilizes wires that are accessible to these rodents is at risk of failing.
This has become quite the problem since there is no easy solution, and it’s a problem found in most vehicles by most automakers.
There are some simple steps to include in your routine to try and catch these rodents before they cause an expensive problem.
This includes regularly opening the hood and looking for signs of rodent activity, looking for shredded pieces of wire where you park your cars, and cleaning out all the food in your car.
What’s the Worst Year for Subaru Forester?
The Subaru Forester is a reliable SUV that should last you 200,000 to 250,000 if maintained and serviced properly. However, like in any lineup, the Forester has some great years and some that are best avoided.
2011, 2014, 2015, and 2017 model years are best avoided; they were marred with painstaking problems and have the highest number of complaints recorded on carcomplaints.com, with 2015 taking the top spot.
The 2014 and 2015 model years are the hardest to deal with, they come with several annoying problems, such as unintended acceleration, transmission problems, and parasitic battery drain.
2014 Forester owners also frequently had to deal with excessive oil consumption that would work to increase overall service and maintenance costs.
2015 Forester owners could be hit with a huge monetary setback because of their relatively fragile windshields. Apart from the transmission issues, most of these problems are left up to the owners to resolve through a significant amount of distress, time, and money.
The third generation (2008 to 2013) did well for itself but still had to deal with the enormous Takata airbag recall. Among the third generation, the 2011 model had it particularly bad; it racked up a lot of owner complaints and came with issues like excessive oil consumption.
The fifth-generation models are also a great option for those looking to get into the Forester family. That being said, the 2017 model is best avoided due to a significant number of complaints regarding some of the issues mentioned above.
The remaining model years have fewer complaints, and overall recalls for owners to deal with. The excessive oil consumption and transmission problems that plagued the earlier models have died down and were overcome by Subaru in the newer fifth-generation models. That makes these new models a good bet for a reliable SUV that will last you a long time.
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.