2020 Subaru Forester Problems and Top Issues – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Windshield cracking, electrical system and steering issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

Subaru is long a leader in reliability and consumer satisfaction, so one would think the 2020 Subaru Forester would impress the same way. However, despite being a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, the new Forester shows many defects that could be harmful to occupants. This model regularly suffers from a faulty electrical system, defective steering and terrible visibility.

Click on other model years to view more problems:  2019   2021   2022   2023

Problems with the Electrical System

On a modern vehicle, the electrical system is responsible for a large amount of functions. One of these is to run the power lift gate, which appears to be causing trouble with the Forester.

One NHTSA complaint states, “Power lift gate open while parked during all-day sporting event (total of 8 hours). No other doors open, no auxiliary use of battery was in use, battery was dead and I was left stranded in parking lot.”

Aside from the trouble this caused the battery, imagine if there had been valuables in the vehicle during that time. That owner could have lost a lot if there were dishonest people nearby. Aside from this electrical concern, there’s another problem occurring. Service Bulletin #11-200-20R talks about how some owners are having trouble starting the vehicle in sub-freezing temperatures or struggling with a surging engine while driving in high altitudes. To repair this problem, an update is needed to optimize the ECM. However, these are concerns that should have already been worked out by Subaru, especially considering many of the fan base is the outdoorsy type. Perhaps Subaru no longer wants to appeal to anyone that’s heading skiing during the winter.

2020 Subaru Forester Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Visibility/wiper
244
Unknown Or Other
94
Electrical System
62
Visibility:windshield
45
Engine
40
Power Train
21
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
19
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
13
Vehicle Speed Control
13
Structure:body
12

Steering Issues

Another important aspect is the steering capability of the Forester. This vehicle needs to stay on the road, but it seems to be a real problem for many drivers.

Another NHTSA review states, “I was driving my 2020 Subaru Forester Sport in the left lane along an on-ramp to the highway, which consists of a road that curves to the right. There was snow on the ground but the roads were clear and dry. Suddenly and in a matter of a few seconds, the car began to beep continuously while the steering wheel veered to the left and locked, and the anti-lock brake system kicked in as I tried to correct the wheel and brake the car. I was suddenly completely out of control of the vehicle as the car drove me off the road and down into the snowy median, where it rolled at least once before landing upright. I believe the error with the car may have occurred with Subaru’s brand-new land centering technology, released with the 2020 Edition vehicles. The technology will physically direct the steering wheel towards the center of the lane if it detects the vehicle is getting too close to either lane line. Lane centering is a feature of the Subaru’s driver assist technology, called Eyesight. I’m unsure if the malfunction occurred with Eyesight or with the lane centering function specifically.”

This is one situation that Subaru hasn’t issued a response for. However, flipping a car because of out of control steering seems to be a large enough reason for safety ratings to be adjusted. After all, how can this vehicle be one of the top-rated in terms of safety if it is flipping owners around on the road? The very technology that was designed to keep people safe is turning against them, sort of like something seen in a bad science fiction film.

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Problems with the Windshield Cracking

Finally, it’s time to look at the largest complaint about the Forester. With more reports than anything else, it appears that this Subaru model contains defective glass.

Here is one last NHTSA complaint to review. “Windshield rock chip. While driving Eastbound on I-90 outside of Seattle, a rock hit the windshield and immediately cracked it. This is the third incident of rock chips to the windshield. I had previously had two chips within a month of each one. I made an insurance claim after the second chip because the windshield split. This was in March 2020. The windshield was replaced and is now chipped already again. A complaint will also be filed with Subaru as this is the third time the windshield has chipped between two different windshields. This vehicle is not even a year old yet.”

Again, Subaru has chosen to take the silent route when dealing with these complaints. However, there are some structure-related communications that show the level of care that the automaker uses. Service Bulletin #12-279-20 states that Subaru needed to create new outer door handles because there were numerous reports of the chrome finish peeling off. While no one is discounting the value of a nice-looking vehicle, wouldn’t it be more important to ensure that the glass isn’t shattering onto drivers? Apparently, that’s irrelevant, especially when dealing with a safety rating.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Subaru pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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
4 COMMENTS
  • D. S

    A couple months ago I read an article about the breaking windshields in the Foresters and Outbacks. It said that Subaru has 3-4 grades of glass available and use the cheapest, thinnest glass in the new models. I’ve had 2 windshields replaced in my 2020 Foresters which has cost me $1000 (2 $500 insurance deductibles). The article also said that the heavier glass can be requested, but Subaru says with the heavier glass the mileage is affected…fewer MPGs. Personally, I’d rather have fewer broken windshields. My previous Subaru Forester was a 2007 LL Bean addition I had for 13 years. I never had to replace a windshield even though I’d had enough small pebbles hitting the glass. I sure hope they get this problem solved soon.

  • Teri A

    I bought a new 2020 Subaru Forester in may 2020. August, 2022..check engine light came on, couldn’t drive it over 10 mph. Limped it to the dealer. It’s now almost November. Still not fixed. Like previous comments, waiting on Thermal valve and gaskets.

  • Margie C

    To Tom L. Maybe this is a huge problem with the 2020 Subaru. Our Forester has the same issue. It’s been sine July 10, 2022 and our car broke down 3 hours away from where we live. Same thing- gaskets on back order. It’s frustrating but we live in the North East and winter is coming soon. We bought this car for safety but I won’t ever feel safe in it again.

  • Tom L

    I bought a 2020 Subaru sport brand new, this year 2022 on July 2oth my check engine light came on and scared me.
    Subaru called me within 10 minutes to report the issue, they said to bring the car in when they had an opening which was July 26th. After testing all day Subaru suggested to me that they keep the car since they felt is wasn’t safe to drive, they said it was a Thermal valve issue and that the gaskets for this repair were on back order. It is now September 26th (2 months) later and Subaru still has my car and only updates me sporadically, I think Subaru of Temecula is hiding a much more serious problem
    What should I do? continue to be patient?
    They did give me a courtesy car after I waited 17 days from the day I took my Sport into the repair shop, I will continue to drive it until my car is fixed

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