If you want to buy a reliable vehicle that is also good for transportation, the Subaru Outback is a good option. But first you should know the common failures of the Subaru Outback , so that you are prepared for what could come your way.
It is a reliable and practical vehicle, with a maintenance cost below average. It also has good resale value. It depreciates 45% after five years, which is pretty slow compared to other Subaru models.
How good is the Subaru Outback?
The Outback scored well in reliability ratings, earning a 3.5 out of 5.0 on RepairPal . It also ranked 14th out of 32 vehicles in the same category. Subaru is known for its long-running vehicles, and the Outback is one of the most popular members of its high-mileage club.
The Subaru Outback can easily top 200,000 miles as long as you maintain it regularly and follow its service schedule.
Common Subaru Outback Faults
The Subaru Outback is a reliable vehicle, but some model years have their usual problems. Here are the most commonly reported Subaru Outback failures for different model years.
1- Weak windshield
The 2018 Subaru Outback is notorious for having weak windshields , with some owners reporting these suddenly crack. This can be triggered by light debris, or the cracks can appear spontaneously.
The owners added that this part would crack several times in the span of a few months. Repairs typically cost between $600 and $800.
2- Failure of the cooling system
The 2000-2018 Subaru Outback is reportedly prone to overheating issues due to cooling system failure. The most common causes include coolant leaks, a faulty radiator, or a broken thermostat.
If not addressed immediately, this can damage the head gasket. Outback owners have reported that this usually happens around 100,000 miles. Subaru is aware of this defect, and has extended its warranty to 8 years/100,000 miles to accommodate necessary repairs and replacements.
3- Tremors when accelerating
The most commonly reported Subaru Outback failure is a noticeable shake when the vehicle is accelerating , commonly experienced with model years 2000-2017. Many owners have reported that this often occurs at 110,000 miles or more.
However, it can also appear at 2,000 miles. The part suspected of causing the shudder is the transmission’s torque converter, which may need to be repaired or replaced.
4- Oxygen sensor failure
A common 2000-2015 Subaru Outback problem is an inadequate oxygen sensor, which has a front element that cracks and fails. This can cause the check engine light to come on.
This usually occurs around 145,000 miles, but can also appear on some units around 5,700 miles. Approximately 145,000 units were recalled for sensor replacement under service program number WXW-80.
5- Excessive oil consumption due to leaks
Another notable problem, specifically with the 2013 Subaru Outback, is its excessive oil consumption . Some owners, including those who bought a used Outback, have noticed that their SUVs burn a lot of oil, forcing them to carry extra oil whenever they’re on the road.
This problem is caused by bad piston rings that cause oil to leak and burn at a much faster rate. Owners have reported that this usually happens at around 28,000 miles.
You can do an oil consumption test at your dealer to see if your Outback has this problem or not. However, use of the warranty for repairs may be subject to eligibility.
Some have found a way to solve the problem by replacing their oil rings, but extreme cases may require an engine rebuild . The cost of repairs and replacement can exceed $1,500, depending on the part and labor.
Older model Outbacks are also reported to have oil leaks around 130,000 miles due to a bad camshaft seal or front camshaft seal. These seals are usually replaced in conjunction with the timing belt service, so it may be prudent to have all of them changed at the same time.
6- Frequent burning of the headlights
Many vehicle owners have encountered problems with their 2011 Subaru Outback headlights. Some have reported that their headlights burn out every four to six months , averaging over $100 in replacement costs.
This reportedly usually happens around 80,000 miles. However, Subaru has issued a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) that extends the headlight bulb warranty to 10 years/unlimited miles, covering only the halogen low beam bulbs on select units of the 2010-2012 Subaru Outback.
7- Defective Airbags (Safety Airbag)
Defective air bags are one of the common failures on the 2010 Subaru Outback. Subaru announced a recall in January 2020 for some units for improper front passenger air bag inflators.
According to the recall, these can explode due to wear on the propellants, caused by prolonged exposure to changing temperatures and excessive humidity. Explosion fragments can strike and injure the driver or passengers. Owners have been advised to take their vehicles to the nearest dealer to have their airbag inflator replaced free of charge.
8- Transmission problems
The 2004 Subaru Outback is known for its transmission failures. Some owners have reported high pitched noises and clutch damage . Extreme cases can cause the vehicle to crash because the transmission can slip suddenly, while parked with the engine running. Subaru posted a TSB saying that transmission problems can be caused by damage to the extension box area.
According to the TSB, this happens due to changes in temperature, causing the casing to contract and expand. It also indicated that the preload of the transfer shaft bearings can be affected, which can also damage the bearings.
Subaru also recalled some Outback units in 2002 due to a bad transmission park rod. According to the recall, the park mechanism may not engage even though the transmission selector lever is placed in the park position.
This could be dangerous as it can cause the vehicle to roll or move unexpectedly, leading to crashes or collisions . If your car is part of the recall, the dealer will replace the transmission park rod assembly.
As long as you’re aware of the potential problems with the specific Subaru Outback you’re planning to buy, choosing this car should be low risk. If you are thinking of buying a used Outback, you should be aware of these common failures and make sure the seller has fixed everything before you buy the vehicle.