2021 Subaru Forester Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Cracking windshields, electrical system, engine, and vehicle speed control issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The Forester compact SUV is Subaru of America’s most popular model. So why should the fifth-generation 2021 Subaru Forester be any different? While the automaker claims it “adapts to any adventure,” owners are reporting issues that are less than adventurous. For instance, there are electrical issues that drain the battery, engines that lose power and stall, and unintended acceleration that often leads to crashes.

Click on other model years to view more problems:  2019   2020   2022   2023

Most Common Problems

The volume of official complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that cracking windshields is the most common problem experienced by 2021 Subaru Forester owners. This is corroborated by complaints to Lemberg Law and comments on the Subaru Forester forum.

When an owner commented on this page that his Subaru Forester windshield cracked for no apparent reason, the immediate response from another owner was, “So I’m not imagining things?”

In terms of complaint volumes to the NHTSA, electrical system problems are also relatively high. Most relate to batteries draining, but there are also several complaints about rats eating the soy-based wiring. Engine complaints are mostly due to sudden loss of power and stalling, with several reporting crashes. Vehicle speed control issues are quite the opposite. These complaints state that vehicles suddenly accelerate, with more than 70% crashing because of this.

Other components and systems highlighted in NHTSA complaints include forward collision avoidance, powertrain, brakes, structure, suspension, airbags that don’t deploy, back over prevention, exterior lighting, the fuel/propulsion system, lane departure, and wheels.

2021 Subaru Forester Complaint Summary

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

Windshield Problems

Auto glass complaints have been ongoing for several years with Subaru models. Many hoped that the problems would be resolved with the 2021 Subaru Forester, but that’s simply not the case. Most NHTSA complaints about cracking windshields are listed as visibility/wiper or visibility problems. In fact only one complaint in these two categories isn’t about windshield cracking. There are also complaints about this issue in the category that covers unknown or other problems.

In total, by late October 2023, of 130 complaints, more than 67% (88) related to windshield cracking issues. Some complaints state that windshields were hit by small stones or even gravel particles, resulting in major cracking. Some describe a loud noise that drew their attention to spontaneous cracking. A surprisingly high number of complaints indicate that vehicles were parked when the windshield cracked, some of which were inside garages. Alarmingly, many complainants report having had to replace windshields two or three times because they were cracked and impaired visibility.

It is well known that Subaru’s standard warranty doesn’t cover windshield replacement. However, members of the Subaru Forester forum draw attention to an extended windshield warranty Subaru offers. Member discussion also covers a theory that the problem is the automaker uses acoustic windshields, and has done since 2017.

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Sample Complaints

An owner from New Jersey states that his windshield cracked after only three months on the road, having traveled 2,600 miles. A long crack that “distracts vision,” suddenly appeared in the middle of the windshield. “The history of incidents are very high with cracked windshields since Subaru changed to acoustic glass,” he says. The “Windshield seems more prone to crack-damage than other vehicles.” His was estimated for repair at a cost of $1,425.00.

Stating that Subaru Forester windshields crack easily, “without an impact site,” an owner from Colorado reports 3 cracked windshields in 7 months. The first cracked “while parked at work.” Another cracked “while parked at home.” The third was also when the car was stationary.

Another owner states he hasn’t experienced this type of problem in the 30 years he’s been driving cars. He experienced 2 cracking incidents in 5 months. The first was caused by a small stone on a roadway that caused a crack from the top edge of the windshield down and past the middle. The second, also caused by a stone, started as a star-shaped crack. Within 2 days this “small damage” had “radiated into 3 cracks covering more than half the windshield.” Since, “Weakness in Subaru windshields (has been) known since 2015, I would expect such problems would have been resolved 6 years later.”

A complaint dated September 8, 2023, described how he and his family “heard a loud noise come from the front of the vehicle (windshield area),” while getting into the Forester. They immediately saw a crack that had started on the driver’s side and “was going up the middle and turned to (the) passenger side of the windshield. All of this occurred while (the) vehicle was parked.”

Cracking Inside Garages

A Californian owner states how a 6-inch crack appeared at the top of the windshield of his 2021 Forester with 2,000 miles. It was parked in the garage and the crack appeared, “Completely out of nowhere.” The dealership undertook to try and get approval from Subaru of America for a replacement windshield. But by the time he’d done 7,000 miles, he was “driving with a 3 ft long C shaped crack.” The complaint continues: “I am not paying for this absurdity. $30,000 and now I am to spend over $1000 more within 2 months of driving.”

Another owner from California had owned a 2021 Forester for about 3 months when the windshield cracked. It was parked in the garage at the time. “I went to get into the car and noticed (that the) front windshield (had) cracked for no apparent reason.”

Problems Due to Unintended Acceleration

All the complaints filed as vehicle speed control involve unintended acceleration. As mentioned earlier, more than 70% of them report a crash. Scenarios all differ from one another.

An owner from New York describes how the Forester “suddenly and without warning accelerated” while he was driving slowly to a parking place in a diner parking lot. The result was traumatic. The vehicle drove over a concrete parking stop, went over a 1-foot high concrete wall, through a chain-link fence, and down into a 12-foot-deep “ravine.” The driver shut down, and he, his wife, and 2 grandsons crawled out of the vehicle through the rear hatch. “When things quieted down, we realized that none of the safety features were activated (anti-collision warning, anti-collision braking). I thank God no one was hurt.”

An owner from Hawaii had just shifted gear into reverse when it accelerated and lunged backward and crashed into another vehicle. It also “made abnormally loud noises and was extremely hot after it was turned off.” The dealer couldn’t duplicate the failure and the vehicle wasn’t repaired.

Another incident started when a Forester suddenly “accelerated independently and jumped the curb and (went) into the bushes.” The driver tried to reverse, but the vehicle continued to accelerate independently in reverse. After the incident, the vehicle wasn’t drivable. But the dealership wasn’t able to duplicate or diagnose the problem.

Electrical System Problems that Drain the Battery

The first complaint about this issue came from an owner in New York. “The car is two months old and the battery died.” The complaint adds that nothing was left on to cause this to happen.

An owner from Oregon had owned a 2021 Forester for about 3 months when the same thing happened. “I needed to get to an appointment and my car wouldn’t start, nor would my fob work to even open the doors. After calling for assistance, they jumped the battery.” Subaru did a diagnostic test and discovered that “the battery was defective.” They replaced the battery with the same kind. But the owner states, “I was dismayed to find that I had been sold a new car with a defective battery.”

After parking in a parking lot overnight an owner from Idaho discovered the Forester battery had drained. “When I tried to start my car this morning, the battery (was) dead!” The vehicle was 3-months old with 5,00 miles. “Very disappointed.”

Within 7 months of buying a new 2021 Forester, an owner from California had the battery drain 3 times overnight. Subaru Roadside Assistant jump-started it every time. But the dealer checked the battery “and it was fine.”

An owner from Arizona wasn’t so lucky. This vehicle was 8 months old when the problem started and it had happened 8-9 times by the time of the complaint — and it couldn’t be jump started. All the dealer does is “charge the battery. This is unacceptable.”

An owner who reported the battery issue to Lemberg Law states that when her 2021 Forester Subaru Forester Sport battery died, the tow truck driver who towed the vehicle said it “always happens with Subarus!” The battery was replaced under warranty, but the second battery also “went dead” after only 2 years.

Electrical System Problems Caused by Soy Wiring

There are only a few complaints to the NHTSA about this problem. But it’s a big one. For example, an owner from Georgia, has had the wiring replaced twice because rodents ate the wiring.

“I have been told by Subaru Customer Service staff that the wiring is soy-based. Subaru has a class action suite in Hawaii for this exact reason, yet Subaru in Macon continues to insist this is MY problem not theirs. I have Rodent repellent devices in my car. I am very frustrated, (and) upset with being misled and no concern for the customer being offered.

Another complaint states that a 2021 Forester with less than 9,500 miles has had more than $3,500 work done to replace soy-based wiring eaten by rodents.

Engine Loss of Power and Stalling

The 2 biggest problems reported to the NHTSA in consumer complaints about the 2021 Forester engine are loss of power and stalling.

An owner from Vermont experienced sudden loss of power 3 times before issuing a complaint to the NHTSA. The dealer had been unable to find codes relating to any of these incidents. About 10 minutes after leaving the dealership, it happened again. The “engine suddenly lost power while I was going about 25 mph, and decelerated to about 10 mph before regaining power. I drove back to the dealer and a service rep came with me for a road test of several miles, where the car operated normally.” So, there was no resolution. “How to resolve this problem?” the owner asks the NHTSA.

An owner from Florida states that within 8 days, the engine stalled twice at major intersections, blocking a traffic lane each time. The dealership simply said it was a glitch.

When an owner from California had a problem with the vehicle stopping and failing to respond to the brake or accelerator, this dealership couldn’t find the cause of the failure either. At the time, the owner was driving at about 10 mph. Turning it off and then on again solved the problem, but the concern is that nobody knows why this happened.

What If Your 2021 Forester Is a Lemon?

Do you think you might have bought a lemon? In general, you might have if problems recur and affect the value and/or your use of your 2021 Subaru Forester. If this is the case, Lemberg Law will gladly assess your problems at no cost to you.

Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. And when lawyers get involved, the law makes Subaru pay the legal costs. So, if you think you have a lemon on your hands, contact our Helpline or fill out a contact form and we’ll see how we can help.

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
  • Bob L

    I own a 2021 suburu forester and this is the second time the car has failed to start. The first time the car was jump started and the garage changed the battery but could not find any fault, the car was left for 4 days and the car wouldn’t start charged the battery and the car starts fine it is now in the garage but now they say they can’t find any fault.


    I bought a 2021 Subaru Forester Sport. Loved the car until the battery went dead. 2 YEARS OLD! I bought it new because I didn’t want car issues anymore. I never had to have a car towed until now, never, ever had a battery go dead. they told me it’s a defective battery. With warranty they put a new battery in. Tow truck driver says this always happens with Subarus! 2 days later the electronic emergency break would not disengage. Happened twice. Now waiting for a new part… AGAIN! 2 YEARS OLD. NOT a lot of wear and tear on the car. one driver. I don’t know if I made a mistake buying this car, and do I have a lemon?

  • Roy O

    2021 subaru forester windshield cracked for no apparent reason. Is there a class action suite being filed?

  • rudedogchew

    So I’m not imagining things??? Most chippin’est windshield ever.

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