2020 Subaru Ascent Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Electrical system, cracking windshields, brake, and powertrain issues are the top problems based on our research

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The Subaru Ascent is punted as a vehicle that can ensure “Love is now bigger than ever.” It’s a campaign that was launched in 2018, but the problems relating to the Acent are what’s got bigger! Owners of the 2020 Subaru Ascent are complaining about batteries that fail, transmissions with major issues that recur, windshields that constantly crack, and brakes that deteriorate and malfunction.

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Most Commonly Reported

More than 30% of the problems 2020 Subaru Accent owners have complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about are related to the SUV’s electrical system. The most common issues relate to batteries that either drain or “die” completely. Another major issue they complain about is windshields that crack suddenly without impact. There are also a substantial number of complaints about the transmission, including issues with it skipping, slipping, and shuddering. There are also numerous complaints that say the vehicle loses motive power when the driver tries to accelerate. Brakes are another big problem, with people complaining that they deteriorate rapidly for no reason and malfunction.

Other components and systems that complaints identify as being problematic include airbags failing to deploy during crashes, the engine, fuel/propulsion system, forward collision avoidance, structure, lane departure, structure, suspension, seat belts, tires, and wheels.

Some consumers have experienced multiple issues including an owner from California. A lengthy complaint lodged with the NHTSA in February 2024, describes “a series of persistent issues with the vehicle since its initial purchase, indicating fundamental deficiencies that warrant thorough consideration and resolution.” These relate to recurring brake issues, window malfunctions, electrical faults, exhaust system irregularities, and most notably, transmission failures. Repeated complaints culminated “in a catastrophic breakdown witnessed by the dealership’s service team.”
According to the complaint, the dealer initially offered the owner “$10,000 in exchange for signing a waiver relinquishing my right to file a claim is indicative of their acknowledgment of the vehicle’s inherent flaws.” At the time, these were primarily brake malfunctions that called for continuous brake replacements. When additional issues occurred, the dealer offered to repurchase the vehicle. There was no resolution at the time of the complaint.

2020 Subaru Ascent Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
Unknown Or Other
Power Train
Service Brakes
Fuel/propulsion System
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking


There are also four recalls that affect the 2020 Ascent. These relate to the electrical system, powertrain, gasoline fuel system, and steering.

  1. There is an urgent recall for 271,694 Ascent vehicles, including the 2020 model, due to improperly fastened ground bolts that might cause a fire. The problem is that the ground bolt that secures the ground terminal of the positive temperature coefficient heater may not have been fastened properly. This can result in the ground terminal and surrounding components melting.
  2. As many as 198,255 Ascent, Legacy, and Outback vehicles have a programming error in the transmission control unit that may allow the clutch to engage before the drive chain is completely clamped. If the drive chain breaks, this can cause a loss of drive power and increase the risk of a crash. The recall was issued in December 2021 and as recently as August 2022 some consumers were told that the part needed to do the recall repair wasn’t available.
  3. Fuel pumps of 175,968 Subaru vehicles, including some 2020 Ascents, may fail. If this happens it can cause an engine stall while driving, increasing the risk of a crash.
  4. The fourth recall only affects 2020 Ascent vehicles (1,305 in all). An incorrect tapered hole in the housing may result in the front tie rod ends not fitting properly. The risk is that housings become deformed during assembly and service replacement if excessive torque is applied. If this happens it can cause drivers to lose control of steering, increasing the risk of a crash.

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Multiple reports mention premature battery failure. This suggests a chronic issue where the electrical system is draining the battery faster than normal. Some owners report needing to replace the battery multiple times within a short period. A major issue is that, as an owner from Nevada states, “Subaru markets the vehicles for camping and recreation vehicles, but the vehicle is useless in these scenarios.”

Additionally, there are other electrical system problems that don’t relate to the battery. For instance, an owner reported a serious incident with a 2020 Ascent that had done 21k. Forced to stop due to a smell of burning plastic and white smoke coming from the floorboard, the driver called the fire department. The complaint states that the SUV battery had already been replaced three times. And, despite a Subaru recall fix (presumably because of improperly fastened ground bolts), “the problem persists, raising major safety concerns. With 20+ years in electrical engineering, I’ve noted consistent electrical issues with this car.”

Battery Drain

The “battery gets drained if the trunk is open longer than an hour,” says an owner from Tennessee. “Left the car trunk open during our camping trip while unloading and loading, and, in both instances, the battery drained and we had to scramble for help to jump-start the car. This happened last time exactly the same way when we were in the campsite as well.”

An owner from Arizona states in an NHTSA complaint that the “battery would drain to the point where it would need to be jumped to start. I carried a jump starter in the car during the cold months. Finally, I took (the) car to be inspected and they told me that the problem was my battery and that I needed to replace it with a $465 battery. I’ve been dealing with this issue for 2 years and now I have found out that the car has a defect that drains the battery.”

Another owner tells how the car battery drains frequently “while the vehicle is running but after it’s been off for a few hours when no lights have been left on, Subaru dealership refuses to admit there’s a problem. This leaves me exposed to being stuck in unsafe situations with a dead battery.”

Batteries Failing

An owner from Washington tells the story succinctly. “When the rear hatch is open for more than 10 minutes, the battery is dead. Also, if the radio is left on after the car is turned off the battery is dead.”

The Nevada owner mentioned above states that his car “continues to drain power resulting in a dead battery. We have had continuous issues since purchasing the vehicle. The dealer even installed a higher quality battery due to Subaru admitting to the problem. However, this has not resolved the issue. The vehicle has been inspected multiple times at a factory dealer. We can’t be in and out of the car while (it is) parked for 45 minutes.” Furthermore, “with a dead battery the rear hatch is inoperable.”

An owner from California states that he bought the Ascent because the family wanted a reliable car. But the car has “constant problems with the battery failing.” Commonly, it fails “when we are going on any type of trip where packing the car is a process that takes time. The battery dies on us often and is unpredictable, leaving us stuck often.”

After the battery had “died” three times, an owner from Idaho complained to the NHTSA. In all cases, the battery died while the car was idle and he was unable to restart — “constant clicking and beeping” — and he required roadside assistance. The first time it failed, was “shortly after purchase.” The dealer replaced the battery, saying it was a battery issue. The second time, the car had been parked in the garage without any lights left on. “Today, it was idling as I was picking up my kids, (and) it just died. The battery is about a year old. Now all dash lights are just flashing.” He suspects permanent damage.

Cracking Windshields

The problem with 2020 Subaru Ascent — and other Subaru models — is rife. Furthermore, many owners complain that the problem recurs. Some have had chips unsuccessfully repaired multiple times. Others have had windshields replaced more than once.

An owner from Nevada tells how a “very small chip” suddenly appeared in the Ascent windshield. “We do not remember getting hit by anything. Within a couple of days, the chip cracked almost half the length of the windshield. We paid over $1,000.00 to have (the) windshield replaced. Less than two months later we again saw a small chip in the windshield. My husband tried to fix it before it cracked and while fixing it the chip cracked almost half the length of the windshield. We will now have to pay to fix another windshield due to spontaneous chips that we were not aware of.”

An owner from Texas had a similar experience. “Within a seven-month period, and while my car had under 10,000 miles on it, I’ve had to replace the windshield twice. Both times a pea-sized chip had progressed into a 12-18-inch crack within an hour while the car was parked. Both times I was driving on the same city highway at speeds at/under 60 mph and was hit with common highway gravel.”

An owner from Nevada has had the windshield chip three times in three years. The first happened within a month of buying the vehicle. He had both chips repaired, but neither held more than 30 days. “I have NEVER owned a vehicle that had a windshield that chipped so easily. I’m very surprised that this has not been a recall issue yet.” He adds that the glass repair shop “sees this A LOT with Subarus.”

Transmission Problems

The powertrain is made up of many vital parts, including the transmission. Multiple complaints state that the transmission lurches and surges when driving and many say they hear loud grinding noises. A related problem is that the drivetrain slips and the SUV loses motive power while accelerating. Many dealers say they are unable to replicate problems. Some maintain there isn’t a problem. There are also complaints that state dealers say they have fixed problems but they continue to recur. Many report having had the recall repair done, and even that doesn’t help.

Here’s a typical NHTSA complaint: “Transmission frequently slips and stutters when accelerating to higher speeds like when trying to transition onto the interstate. Subaru also denies this problem. They fixed the transmission clutch but that did not help.”

Another complaint reports shuddering “like driving on rumble strips,” and sluggish transmission that is “slow to respond (to) acceleration and sometimes jumping when depressing the gas pedal.” The dealer cannot replicate the issue and insists “in a dismissive manner that it was throttle control, which it was not.” Eventually, the transfer case was replaced, during which time the owner was without a vehicle for three months. But, “the exact same symptoms returned and got worse on a much shorter timeline than the first time this happened.” Three months later, she was told the transfer case needed to be replaced again. At the time of the complaint, the vehicle was back with the dealership and the owner had requested a new transmission be installed.

“Ultimately, I feel like driving the vehicle is dangerous. I’ve wondered if it’s just going to die while driving at times when it shudders. I have a young child and need a safe vehicle. I do not feel safe in this vehicle.”

Recall Repair Doesn’t Work

An owner from Connecticut had the recall repair done in September 2023 after experiencing a delay when shifting gears while driving at 20 mph. “The recall repair was performed. However, the failure occurred several times. The vehicle was repaired several times. The manufacturer was contacted, and a case was filed but no assistance was provided.”

Another owner from Connecticut states that his car has been to the dealer five times because of the recall, “however, the issue still exists.” The symptom he describes is “shuddering,” which started when traveling at about 20 mph, but which now occurs at 40 mph and about 60 mph. “In addition, occasionally at about 20 mph after slowing down and then accelerating there is a heavy vibration from the engine.” Repairs undertaken include “updating the computer, reflashing, reprogramming it, etc.” Even though the problems continue to recur, the dealer insists that the vehicle has been “repaired.”

An owner from Mississippi experienced the transmission “lurching and surging when driving. Pressing (the) gas pedal from a stop, the belt continues to slip.” The dealer said “they completed the inspection for transmission recall.” But the “Ascent continues to lurch and slip with grinding noises and loss of speed. I told them about the issues for over a year (ago).” Subaru Customer Care provides the recall information and states that all they have to do is “the trans inspection” — which they have supposedly done.

An owner from California took the car in for the recall because the transmission was slipping when accelerating between 20 and 30 mph. “But it continues to have the same issue.”


Brakes that malfunction and/or deteriorate rapidly put people’s lives in danger.

An owner from Ohio describes rapidly deteriorating brake issues. “The brakes have been replaced twice and I feel they are bad again. This puts me, anyone in my car, and any car around me at risk. The dealer is aware of the issue.”

An owner from New York has also experienced recurring brake problems. “They grind and the vehicle shakes when stopping. The issue grows worse with the increase in speed..” The dealership service manager said Subaru was aware of the issue “and it is common for this vehicle.” The reason is “ the rotors and calipers for the vehicle are undersized for the curb weight and it is an ongoing issue with the vehicles.” After spending thousands of dollars on a two-year-old vehicle the owner reached out to Subaru. “I was given a $600.00 coupon and told there is nothing else they can do and my issue was reviewed at the ‘highest levels’.” This, he states, is “unacceptable.”

Another owner began to experience brake problems at around 18,000 miles. “When applying the brakes, the vehicle would shake and vibrate. By 20,000 miles the vibration was excessive, affecting the ability to steer straight when braking. The dealer told me that they were aware of the issue with this year/model.” The diagnosis was warped rotors. So, the dealer resurfaced the rotors and replaced the pads under warranty. At around 36,000 miles the issue recurred. New rotors and pads were installed, again covered by warranty. At around 49,000 miles, the dealer replaced the rotors and brakes. But this time they weren’t covered by warranty! So, the owner was “$610 out of pocket to replace brakes for a known design defect.”

So Now What?

If you believe your 2020 Subaru Ascent may be a lemon you can contact the Lemberg Law Helpline or fill out a contact form. We will assess your problems free of charge. If it does turn out that it is a lemon, Subaru will be forced to buy back, replace, or pay you a cash settlement — and they will have to pay the legal fees.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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