Subaru Forester Problems That Owners Face

by Conner Mckay

The Subaru Forester is a sleek, efficient small SUV that is excellent for any situation.  For such value, you receive a fair bit of amenities, along with all-wheel drive and a slew of equipment. Not to mention the safety elements thanks to the EyeSight driver assistance safety system, which contains a rearview camera, lane keep guidance, sway alert, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and much more. If you are having some unexplained Subaru Forester problems, here are some pointers to help you deal with them.

The Forester is spacious enough to easily transport the entire family, yet compact enough just to serve as a small vehicle when desired.

Almost everyone adores their Subaru Forester. The keyword being ‘almost’. Yes, like everything else, it’s not perfect. There are some Subaru Forester problems that owners are annoyed with. Let’s dive into some of them.

Subaru Forester Transmission Problem

When Subaru launched the CVT transmission in 1989, it was a pioneer. Subaru has persisted to use this type of transmission in their automobiles since then.

CVT is an abbreviation for Continuous Variable Transmission. It employs a heavy-duty steel belt to enable gears to operate in a constant, fluid motion. The Subaru CVT has no set gears and features a steel chain to join pulleys that differ in width. The controls are just the same when you peek inside the vehicles.

The 2014 and 2015 Subaru Forester vehicles were the ones that faced the most transmission issues.

Why Does Subaru Use CVT?

If you’re curious as to why Subaru keeps using CVT transmissions despite the concerns it faced, it’s because the advantages surpass the drawbacks. However, given Subaru’s ongoing dedication to constant development, it seems logical to stay with the CVT, which offers several advantages.

A nice drive is a stated perk since it does not employ gears such as conventional manual or automated transmissions. It does not seem to deal with shifting gears, resulting in a better and silent ride. Also, due to the general way the pulley system is built, a CVT-powered car can boost with power.

Subaru Forester Problems That Owners Face

Many people associate a CVT transmission with pleasant and strong feelings as you drive. However, the most significant benefit of the CVT is improved fuel efficiency. This kind of transmission lets the engine run more at lower speeds than a standard automatic transmission, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.

The CVT is ideal for driving through city streets since it is extremely fuel-efficient. Plus, thanks to the strong CVT, Subaru is capable of utilizing the best of both worlds – which is fuel economy as well as faster, more resilient acceleration. This is feasible since the CVT’s transmission is lower in mass, allowing it to offer more power and fuel efficiency than a normal automatic transmission.

Because the CVT is lighter, it performs well enough with lightweight cars, making it an excellent transmission option for Subaru’s smaller all-wheel cars such as the Forester.

How Reliable Is CVT?

Numerous Subaru customers have had troubles with the CVT transmission and they would probably recommend against it for reliability, although the problems with Subaru’s CVT appear to be limited to five years.

Subaru has had a solid track record of how reliable they can be. Subaru received a good reliability score from its users.  Also, the gearbox is carefully examined as a component of Consumer Reports’ road test.

Subaru’s CVT gearbox performed admirably in many tests of the brand’s more renowned models, including the Forester. Throughout the models and during the last few years, none of them got a score lower than 4 (out of 5) for their transmission estimated dependability.

To add to the safety, the latest Subaru feature upgraded CVT technology and software, making them highly dependable. Will you face issues with a new Subaru Forester transmission? Although there is no guarantee that they will not, the possibility is lower than you think.

CVT Problems And How Subaru Handled It

Certain Subaru cars have difficulties with the CVT and were susceptible to breakdowns. Subaru extended the warranty of 5 years (or around 60,000 miles) in 2017 to address failures with its CVT transmissions.

The warranty has been extended to cover CVT transmission faults for 10 years (or 100,000 miles). The increased warranty was available for Subaru cars manufactured between 2012 and 2017, affecting around 1.5 million cars. The Subaru Legacy, Forester, Impreza, WRX are among the vehicles covered by this modified warranty.

Several customers believe that the problems were significant enough that Subaru should have issued a recall instead of renewing the warranty.

Subaru chose the latter, and although this may not be the greatest conclusion for all customers who encountered CVT problems, it does indicate that Subaru was aware of the problem and was prepared to solve it.

Subaru Forester Problems: CVT

Below you can see some of the most often reported problems with the Subaru CVT transmission, irrespective of what model or year it is.


Consumers reported that the car would stutter and come to an abrupt stop. Others reported stalling whilst driving and being unable to restart the car.

Trembling, Shaking, And Wobbles

When a CVT belt or pulley isn’t working smoothly, it might lead the car to tremble or shake, which has been reported by customers across the different models.

Harsh Jerking

Loud sounds, such as bangs and jerking are among other prevalent Subaru Forester problems. Numerous owners also experienced loud thudding noises emanating from the transmission system.


The car’s unwillingness to start was repeatedly noticed. Owners claimed that their Subaru would not even start no matter how much they engaged the gas pedal. In some cases, the car would halt for some time after the gas pedal was applied.

Fluid Leakage

A very typical problem reported was fluid spilling or leaking out of the CVT transmission system.  As per the study, the leaking is induced by the existing sealant seen on the CVT’s oil filter cover.

You can either fix the problems you face with the transmission in your Subaru Forester or get a replacement instead.

Subaru Forester Problems: Engine

Sadly, there have been several reports of Subaru Foresters shaking, jerking, and wobbling forward when riding. Several drivers experience a lurch forward while changing gear, as well as the transmission jerks overall.

The 2017 version is much worse in this regard, so be extra cautious while considering it. Even though it is a transmission problem, it appears that the particular sign of trembling when driving is a major worry here, and in several cases, it might be the only one.

If your Subaru Forester seems to have a violent jerking issue, it might lead you to drop things in the car or tumble out of the seat unexpectedly. You can even get into accidents considering the issue is quite severe.

Subaru Forester Problems That Owners Face

First of all, take the car to a technician and get them checked thoroughly. This is most probably among the best approach to solve this issue.

Subaru does know about their problem and has issued a transmission software upgrade that is well worth getting updated at a shop. For some users, this completely resolved the issue, while for others, it merely eased it. There does not seem to be a specific cost associated with resolving this issue since, if the Forester has it, a viable repair has yet to be discovered.

Except for the 2017 model of the car, most Subaru Foresters should not experience shaking and jerking; however, it is possible that the software update will not resolve the issue.

As a result, you must take your car for a spin if it is a used Forester before purchasing it. Also, make sure you thoroughly check the transmission, evaluating how it behaves while shifting speeds at any time.

Spark Plug Wire

Spark plug wires are not as widespread as they previously were, but they are even now found in older automobiles manufactured in the twenty years. If they fail, the engine will not run how it should, which can cause engine misfires and the Check Engine Light to blink.

If a defective spark plug wire is not repaired, it can lead to many issues. For starters, the Check Engine Light will activate, and the engine will perform badly since the wire prevents the plug from igniting fully, resulting in incomplete combustion. You might even notice heavier emissions and lower fuel efficiency.

Catalytic Converter Failure

The catalytic converter is placed between the engine and the muffler across the exhaust line. Its goal is to minimize exhaust emissions to the output set by each state to manage pollutants. If the converter isn’t working normally, it indicates the equipment isn’t reducing carbon emissions from the exhaust properly.

Because of that, the Check Engine Light can flash, and if not handled, you may fail the smog test considering one is necessary.

Subaru Forester Problems: Electrical Issues

The 2014 Subaru Forester experienced various electrical difficulties, most of which were linked to blown fuses, door unlocking issues, and other electrical concerns.

Several customers experienced a fault on the driver’s side for the constant fuel pumping system.

Subaru Forester Problems That Owners Face

Some owners claimed that their ABS indicator abruptly flashed, and the technician was unable to access the car’s computer. Even though the vehicle was working, the computer said it wasn’t. Such issues were repaired for around $300 on cars with an average mileage of around 60,000 miles.

Furthermore, some customers have noticed problems with the door being ajar. Whenever drivers got inside the car, the light for the door being opened comes on. This indicates the driver’s side of the door is open.

The issue was that another light would flash as well that indicates the passenger side of the door being ajar. This would continue several times. Several owners expressed their dissatisfaction with this issue.

Steering Issues

Another significant documented complaint stated that the 2017 Subaru Forester suffered some steering system difficulties. Because the steering system is one of the most essential components in driving a car and avoiding accidents, it is critical to emphasize the issue here.

A significant number of complaints suggested that the engine would lose its power and the power steering light would blink unexpectedly. Furthermore, the steering wheel would get stuck with no prior warning signals.

These steering issues occurred mostly in the 2017 Subaru Forester models. Some of these cars ran for only around 6,000-7,000 miles.

Subaru appeared to be mindful of such steering issues, as evidenced by their service bulletin. Strange noises were reported from the electronic power steering transmission, and certain users might suffer intense vibration, according to this service warning.

Subaru Is Self-Aware

The electrical system may appear to be only the battery and alternator upon first glance, but there is much more to the issue(s) than it seems. Notably, nearly every element within the cabin is controlled by electronic systems. If there is a flaw, even if it is little, it causes an extremely unpleasant ride.

Subaru, it turns out, was dissatisfied with their power windows as well. As a result, they published a bulletin announcing new power windows switching components. This was implemented in an attempt to address additional issues, like the difficulty to control the windows from the drivers’ side of the vehicle and to provide one-touch features.

At the very least, the manufacturer is attempting to create quality that would last; it’s just too unfortunate for people who purchased the vehicle before Subaru decided to make these changes.

Subaru Forester Problems: Excessive Oil Consumption

The 2014 Subaru Forester’s excessive oil consumption is perhaps one of the most prevalent issues. Some owners have complained that their SUVs consume a quart of oil per 1,000 miles for no explicable reason.

According to others, Subaru is informed about this particular issue and offers an oil consumption check, but the reports seem fine regardless of the continuous issue.

Many people are unsure what is causing excessive oil consumption. Some people have reported being able to remedy it by acquiring a new short block or just replacing their car engine altogether. Such repairs may be costly, with prices sometimes exceeding a couple of thousand dollars depending on parts and service costs.

How Much Oil Consumption Is Acceptable?

Subaru feels that using a third of a quart of oil every 1,200 miles is reasonable and within specifications. They have included a subsection regarding oil consumption in the owner’s handbook published by the company.

A small amount of oil will always burn out, but there is something unusual about such modern engines. They’re using more oil than their predecessors straight on, which isn’t good for the long term as the motors degrade and break much more.

It’s also inconsistent, pointing to probable production issues. Whereas many users would use a third of a quart every 1,200 miles, some claim to use a whole quart per 2,500 miles.

It’s no surprise that Subaru owners frequently drive with a few extra quarts of oil in the boot as a backup.

How To Tell If Car Is Consuming Excessive Oil?

Some signs can tell you if your car is consuming too much oil or not. Keep an eye for these signs so you can tell when there are issues with the oil consumption in your car without taking it to the dealership.

  • Check whether there is any blue-grey smoke coming out of the tailpipe
  • Unusual smoke comes out from the pipe while the car is in idle mode
  • Keep an ear out for unusual sounds in the engine
  • Do not neglect any light flashing on the dashboard

Check this video to know more about Subaru’s excessive oil consumption issue.

Subaru Forester Problems: Faulty Airbag Inflators

Many Subaru Forester cars from 2010-2013 were reported to have frontal airbag assembly issues. When the airbags are deployed, the inflators might detonate due to propellant depletion. This is triggered by changes in temperature and humidity. If the inflators should rupture, metal shards could be sprayed at the occupants of the vehicle, causing severe injuries or even death.

In January 2019, a recall was issued for the concerned Forester vehicles, as well as additional Subaru models. Owners were instructed to take their cars to their dealerships to have the frontal passenger airbag inflators replaced without any charge.

Subaru posted a message to owners of the concerned Subaru vehicles on their website.  They addressed the problem of Takata airbag inflators causing difficulties in the recalled cars. Indeed, Subaru refers to the airbag inflator recall as the “biggest recall in automobile history.” Also, the letter emphasizes that the recall solely involves the passenger side of the airbag inflator.

Subaru addresses the problem thoroughly in the letter. The Takata airbag inflator recall is due to a defect in the inflator itself. But, the company is still offering free fixes for the issue.

They also mentioned that the driver side of the airbag inflators was not affected. The driver side did not have Takata airbag inflators.

The manufacturer also guides how to tackle the problem until the car can be repaired. According to Subaru, if the car needs the recall repair, they suggested that riders refrain from using the front-passenger side until the repair is completed.

Cracked Windshield Problem

When you hear rock or something similar hit the car windshield, you can expect to see some cracks in some places. It’s disorienting and unpleasant. But at the very least, you’re able to observe what’s going on.

But if cracks appear in the windshield on their own, it’s a completely different issue. It is worrying when it happens with your newer vehicles that only have around a few thousand miles of driving. Some owners reported their Subaru Forester developing cracks overnight in the garage.

Why Did It Happen?

Unlike with a fractured windshield, where the break begins at the spot of impact and progressively spreads out through time, such cracks appear fast and often towards the bottom of the glass near the wipers.

Subaru stated that some materials used to adapt the deicer to the bottom part of the windshield created a scenario where the glass became more prone to cracking after a small hit due to external pressure during a warranty extension on other Subaru cars.

EyeSight Issues

EyeSight is a driver-assist system seen in Subaru vehicles that monitors the road ahead using a stereoscopic, two-camera setup. It uses camera data to add important features to automobiles such as traction control, pre-collision braking systems, collision warnings, and lane departure warnings.

In layman’s words, it’s a computer that’s intended to make your drives safer, and in most situations, it works. EyeSight was originally marketed in the 2013 Legacy and Outback Limited models.

Eyes (Are Not) On The Road

Thousands of vehicles had their driver assistance systems turned off due to a faulty switch that activated brake lights. Subaru admitted the problem in June 2015 and recalled more than 70,000 cars. Eventually, the issue was found while working on subsequent versions of EyeSight.

Subaru stated that the flaw may result in a lag in alerting drivers that the EyeSight assist capabilities were no longer functional. Because Subarus aren’t self-driving vehicles, relying on that system to keep you secured is a terrible idea, but knowing if it’s working is useful just in case.

Customers reported that even when the technology was turned on (or so they thought), it was not working as claimed.

Avoid Buying An Unreliable Used Subaru Forester

To ensure that a used Subaru Forester meets your demands and does not have problems like excessive oil consumption, trembling, or damaged coil springs, pay attention to potential signs when test driving. You should mainly be looking at how the gears change as well as how the ride feels as you drive.

If you experience shaking or lurching when shifting the transmission, or if you have an overall unpleasant ride with mechanical noises, you should reconsider purchasing that Forester. As usual, you should have a professional mechanic check the potential purchase for flaws and secure a pre-purchase examination before finalizing the deal.

Facts about Subaru Forester Model Years to Avoid and Recommended Years to Consider:

  • Subaru introduced the Forester in 1997, and its boxy appearance and rough style became synonymous with the vehicle.
  • Forester’s first generation (1998-2001) had significant gasket head problems, with the 1998 model being the worst.
  • The 2003 Forester had basic problems such as breaking door seals, wind noise from the window seal, and airbag failure.
  • The 2010 Forester had blown head gaskets, engine failure, loud and cold starting, and interior accessory issues like the compass not working.
  • The 2011 Forester had high oil consumption, engine failure, and oil leaks, and its most frequent treatment for high oil use is replacing the engine or adding oil. As for the latter, make sure you’re wary about whether should your car be running when adding more oil.
  • The 2014 Forester was one of the worst model years, plagued by engine failure, excessive oil consumption, suspension breakdowns, gearbox problems, and electrical failures.
  • The 2015 Forester had excessive oil consumption, unexpected acceleration, engine stalling while driving, and problems with Bluetooth connectivity and speech recognition.
  • The 2017 Forester had problems with engine failure, weak battery, and radio and navigation system freezes.
  • The 2019, 2020, and 2021 Subaru Forester models have favorable customer reviews, better connection and technology, and excellent safety ratings.
  • The 2019, 2020, and 2021 Forester models offer spacious cabins, comfortable rides, snappy handling, excellent fuel economy, and a wealth of standard safety features.

Bottom Line

Even though the Subaru Forester is a highly popular and well-known vehicle, several issues and factors may cause you to reconsider which model to buy. You can always overlook most of them but some Subaru Forester problems are just unavoidable.

Possibly the worst model years of the Forester are 2011-2014 with the most number of complaints. However, the troubles began with the 2003 model year.

While the problems were minimal during the first few years following 2003, the 2011-2014 model years experienced cases of engine failures, transmission problems, and suspension flaws, making the car dangerous and unstable to drive.

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1 comment

Jon Deak 04/07/2023 - 2:46 am

I left a problem with my 2017 Forester on your “AI car Expert. (Ignition key release problem) Did it go through?


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