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

Windshield cracks, electrical, and forward collision avoidance issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The 2021 Subaru Outback is a unique-looking SUV that consumers appear to flock to. The automaker labels this vehicle by saying, “go where love takes you,” but there seem to be problems getting anywhere behind the wheel of the Outback. With the faulty electrical system, malfunctioning powertrain, defective structure, poor visibility and failing forward collision avoidance programming, this car is a disaster waiting to happen.

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Most Common Problems with the 2021 Subaru Outback

More than half of the 178 complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the 2021 Subaru Outback between November 23, 2020, and February 20, 2023, report problems that relate to windshields cracking. A large percentage state that they cracked without any impact, while some say that tiny stones create long, sometimes spider-webby cracks.

Additionally, more than a quarter of the complaints to the NHTSA by February 20, 2023, were about the electrical system. And more than 58% of the manufacturer communications, which include technical service bulletins, are listed under the electrical system. There are a variety of problems, but batteries top the list.

Forward collision avoidance problems also feature, although negligible in terms of numbers when compared to windshields and electrical system issues. Other components and systems that are listed as being problematic are airbags, backover prevention, exterior lighting, the fuel/propulsion system, lane departure, powertrain, brakes, steering, structure, vehicle speed control, and wheels. The engine is also a cause of concern for some owners, one of whom describes how the engine block of their Outback caught fire while the SUV was parked and the engine turned off.

“It melted the engine and hood of the car, totaling it. Thankfully, we were not in the vehicle when the incident occurred, so no one was injured.”

2021 Subaru Outback Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
Unknown Or Other
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
Vehicle Speed Control
Fuel/propulsion System

Problems with Windshield Cracking

Seeing out of the windshield is a primary objective for any driver. However, the 2021 Subaru Outback seems to have a lot of issues with auto glass. And it’s nothing new. While there are no recalls for defective windshield glass, there are several service bulletins that were issued for the 2015-2016 Subaru Outbacks.

The first, NHTSA 10093650, dated October 26, 2015, acknowledges a potential manufacturing defect that makes the lower portion of windshields more susceptible to cracking “following a minor wound” like stone impact. They stated in service bulletin 12-192-15 that the root cause of these failures was ceramic materials used for the wiper deicer portion of the windshield glass. As a result, Subaru issued a warranty extension to address breakages and cracks in the deicer area of the windshield. But only windshield damage originating from the deicer area was to be covered. And, “Evidence of impact damage must be visible to the naked eye.”

In February 2021, service bulletin 12-192-15R notified dealers that the warranty was extended to 8 years. But it only allows one replacement of the original factory-installed windshield on specific vehicles.

There are two issues:

  1. Subaru refuses to provide warranty replacements even if the new windshields crack within weeks or months.
  2. Owners of the 2015-2016 models continue to complain that windshields crack spontaneously, with zero impact.

Nothing has changed for 2021 Subaru Outback owners.

Examples of Windshield Complaints to the NHTSA

A few 2021 owners say their windshields cracked in snow or icy conditions. But most say that there was no impact of any sort. Some say they heard a crack. Others say cracks simply appear, sometimes when the SUV is parked. Lots of owners state that their windshields have cracked two or three times, sometimes more. Some complaints state that owners have to wait for windshields to be repaired because there is a shortage of glass.

An owner from Texas states in an NHTSA complaint that he has owned the 2021 Outlook for 1.5 years and is on the sixth windshield. “If anything hits the edge of the windshield it totally cracks.”

Many of the complaints to the NHTSA state that dealers insist that cracked windshields are a result of impact. Because of this, they won’t consider replacing the windshields under warranty. This is a bit odd given that the extended warranty on 2015-2016 Outbacks was dependent on evidence of impact damage.

Nevertheless, as a 2021 Outback owner from Arizona states, there are so many complaints, “The volume of broken windshields must be caused by some defect on the manufacturer’s side.”

An owner from Massachusetts states that a tiny speck of sand instantly put a 14-inch crack across the windshield of a 2021 Subaru Outback. “How does a speck of sand crack a windshield?”

Class action lawsuits against Subaru for defective windshields in 2015 and 2016 models were widely publicized. Eventually, Subaru was forced to pay out for the replacement of thousands of faulty windshields. The Tennessee owner of a 2021 Outback whose windshield cracked said in a complaint, “My 2020 Outback did the same thing. Apparently, three class action lawsuits are not enough for them to fix the windshield problem. $1,200 to fix, on a brand new car.”

The Warranty Issue

It appears that Subaru may replace cracked windshields, but only if there is no visible point of impact. And even when there isn’t evidence of impact, many dealers refuse to replace them.

An owner from Maryland was one of the lucky ones. A spontaneous windshield crack developed, starting on the driver’s side edge of windshield. “The dealer confirmed that there was no sign of impact to cause the crack and agreed to replace (the) windshield free of charge.”

An owner from Oregon states, “my windshield cracked and spread right away. I took it to get it fixed.” Four months later, “my windshield cracked again and spread immediately. Both times it started from the edge and went inwards. I consider this as a safety hazard for the windshield to crack and spread so easily. This is the second time and we are only covered for 2 replacements on the warranty in a year. This expense can add up quickly.”

Others are not so lucky, including an owner from California who said in a complaint: “There was no impact to the windshield that could have caused the crack.” But, the dealer “diagnosed that a rock chipped the windshield,” and told the owner that the windshield crack was not covered under warranty.” Subaru also denies the claim.

An owner from Minnesota had a similar experience. The Outback, with only 150 miles, was parked at his home when a crack suddenly appeared. It was “in the middle of the windshield going upward.” The dealer insisted that a stone had struck the windshield.

A bubble in the front windshield was the first indication to a North Carolina owner that something was wrong. Soon after, it cracked about 12 inches without impact. The dealer “determined that the windshield had been impacted by an unknown object.”

Can Defrosters Cause Windshields to Crack?

It seems possible, even though this isn’t the same issue that Subaru acknowledged with the 2015-2016 models. Some do, though, crack in the area of the deicer.

An owner from Wisconsin states that the windshield cracked “at the bottom in the exact middle of the glass.” (This would be in the deicer area.) Seconds before it happened, “I (had) engaged the defrost button.” While it’s possible that the deicer played a role in the failure, this was “the second windshield to crack spontaneously.”

“The first replacement was proven to not be installed properly and Subaru paid for the replacement.”

Another owner states that he has had to replace the windshield twice “The first time the windshield cracked from using the defrost in the snow. The second time (the cause) was a small rock while I was driving on the highway. I’ve driven many cars in the past and have had rocks strike my windshield all the time and never experienced anything like this.”

A Colorado owner’s windshield failed twice in the first six weeks of ownership. “The dealer replaced it once. It lasted 9 days. Both times (the) windshield broke in snow storms with (the) defroster on high.”

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Electrical System Problems

With modern cars, it’s simple to find lots of high-tech equipment to make the ride more enjoyable. However, with the Outback, many owners are finding that the electrical system is faulty, leading to many troubles just accomplishing the common tasks, let alone running advanced equipment.

Complaints are varied from multiple error messages flashing on the dash, hazard lights malfunctioning, and the infotainment system blacking out (see Forward Collision Avoidance Problems), to issues with batteries that keep draining.

There are also warranty issues with electrical system problems. A 2021 Outlook owner from Wisconsin who had infotainment system issues tried to resolve them with Subaru. But, the complaint states, “their primary purpose just seems to be deflecting complaints and gaslighting. We’ve been expecting fixes for years and it never comes. Either Subaru doesn’t know how to fix it or they don’t want to. The system falls under the 3/36 warranty which means that by the time they find a fix, most of the cars won’t be covered.”

Malfunctioning Batteries

Battery problems top the list of electrical problems. Here are what a few owners have to say.

The battery of a 2021 Outback owned by someone in Texas failed in the first 6 months of ownership. It was replaced, but there were other issues when the vehicle was returned. The electronic door locks didn’t work and the body control module was faulty. Ultimately the battery malfunctioned for a third time when with the dealer. But they wouldn’t honor the warranty, “claiming outsider influence.”

An owner from Washington purchased a new battery because the original one kept draining and needed a jump start. But the failure persists. An owner from Pennsylvania states in a complaint that he is about to get the third battery for his Outback.

A Minnesota owner has the same problem with a battery that “continues to drain itself at seemingly random times. All sources that could possibly drain the battery while (the) vehicle is not running have been turned off (dome light, tailgate light, exterior lights set to minimum time, etc.) This battery has also had to be jumped several times. But the dealer says the “battery is fine.” Now, the dealer states “that nothing can be done if (the) battery is tested and it tests fine. We have resorted to carrying a recharging pack with the car to ensure that our kids don’t get stranded with a dead battery.”

And an owner from Florida whose battery “has died” 3 times in 7,500 miles of driving says that Subaru maintains the “battery is fine.”

Problems with Forward Collision Avoidance

With today’s advanced safety systems, drivers and passengers are better protected on the road. That is if everything operates as it should. When it doesn’t, there’s more danger ahead, which is evident as some 2021 Outback complaints to the NHTSA reveal.

One of the recurring problems is that the navigation system randomly blanks out. Or the infotainment display goes blank and then reboots, which is also regarded as an electrical system problem. The reason for this seems to be that Subaru has integrated its EyeSight collision avoidance system with the infotainment system. A North Carolina owner says that this causes the system to crash constantly. “At highway speeds, this is very dangerous.”

The complaint goes on to point out that Subaru has known about the issue for “two full model years.” While they updated the issues in the spring of 2021, it “made the problem worse not better. Subaru must be forced to either fix the issue immediately or recall the entire system and replace it before someone dies in a highspeed accident caused by this system.”

According to another North Carolina owner, “This not only affects any navigation which is currently in progress but also disables the Cruise Control, EyeSight, Lane Departure, and other safety devices. This has occurred numerous times while driving on an interstate highway and is dangerous and life-threatening.”

An owner from Maryland states that the computer system shuts down and reboots randomly “almost every time I drive the vehicle.” All the functions and controls associated with the computer system “are lost. Cruise Control drops out and the built-in safety features are disabled.” The complaint continues to say that this is also a known problem.

More Forward Collision System Malfunctions

The automatic braking system has been an issue for an Illinois owner. It “activated abruptly and forcefully when a vehicle in the adjacent lane slowed down to make a turn. This has occurred numerous times both on the highway and in city driving.”

A South Carolina owner describes how the emergency braking system has deployed when it shouldn’t have. Each time it has put the Outback at risk of being rear-ended. “The main problem is that if the car detects another car directly in front of you, the system will sometimes deploy even if the vehicle is not in the same lane as you.” The complaint cites several examples of when this happened.

For safety reasons, the owner has now disabled the emergency braking feature. “Unfortunately, this takes 7 key presses to accomplish and it resets every time you turn the car on. I contacted Subaru customer service to complain, but got ridiculous suggestions like just turn off the emergency braking when you expect to be driving with a lot of cross traffic.”

While driving on a 4-lane highway, an owner from Ohio experienced pre-collision braking, which “suddenly engaged with no warning at all. My foot was still on the gas trying to accelerate when this happened.” The SUV stopped in the middle of the road and wouldn’t move. Eventually, the “dashboard said something along the lines of ‘firmly press brake to hold stop.’ I hit the brake, then everything returned to normal and I could move forward.” He “safely switched to the right lane, and pulled into the nearest driveway to get off the road and park. I then disabled all EyeSight features and called my Subaru dealership who said they will ‘diagnose and recalibrate’ the system.”

What to do if your 2021 Subaru Outback is a lemon?

Only a small percentage of vehicles turn out to be lemons. But if you think that you have a lemon you don’t have to live with it. You can try and negotiate with the dealer or manufacturer, or you can get an experienced lemon law firm like Lemberg Law to help you. The law makes Subaru pay legal fees, so you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

If you need help, Lemberg Law will assess your 2021 Subaru Outback problems to see how we can help you. All you have to do is fill out a contact form or call our Helpline now.

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
  • Ed H

    Add 2022 outbacks to the list. We cracked and totally ruined 2 windshields in 9 months, 55 years driving experience and prior to this Subaru, never had a cracked windshield. SUBARU NOW SELLS A SPECIAL INSURANCE TO REPLACE CRACKED WINDOW GLASS….limit 1 per year.

  • Don G

    I have a 2021 xt model in Canada
    No tpms on Canadian Subarus, they say is not a a transport Canada requirement,
    Screen flicker, had to be replaced
    Drivers window won’t go all the way up, it’s in the shop now for the 5th time,
    4 occurrences of won’t start, dead battery,
    I bought this for my wife while I was diagnosed with terminal cancer, a trial treatment is currently keeping me alive, been back to the shop 12 times.
    This was supposed to be a safe , reliable vehicle for her after I was gone, it’s a nightmare

  • Vickie

    I have had my 2021 Subaru Outback in the shop for numerous hours since I purchased brand new, the computer system will stop working. It does not matter if my iPhone is plugged in or not. The computer screen will go black, an error on my dashboard will light up stating eyesight is disabled. This will either go on until I stop and restart the car (sometimes numerous times) or the screen will alternate from on to off without the ability to control any of the settings when it is on. There have been several occasions where I am driving at night with no where to pull off to restart my vehicle. I have also had times when the forward collision avoidance will come on for no reason, however it never came on when a deer ran out in front of me. The Subaru dealership has never given me an answer to the problem except that “maybe” the update they just did on the computer system will do the trick. Be careful if you are driving a curvy road when the braking system comes on, nearly wrecked several times because of this.

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