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

Electrical, powertrain and structural issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

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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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Problems with the Electrical System

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

Here’s an example from an Edmunds review. “Buyer beware. Bought new 2021 Outback from local Subaru dealer. 2 days later all lights on dash suddenly flashing during highway driving. Very unsafe. Subaru could not diagnose problem, but will not return our money or give us new car. Now have case with Subaru of America. We had loaner courtesy car from dealer which S of A told us to keep until local dealer’s service dept could diagnose problem with help of S of A. Local dealer came in middle of night to repossess their courtesy car while our new car was still in their shop. Cannot believe this thuggish behavior is associated with Subaru.”

It appears that the electrical problems go beyond what this customer referred to, giving people trouble even starting the Outback. Service Bulletin #09-76-21 says that new programming must be done to the vehicle to fix a no-start condition because of low temperatures or high altitudes. Basically, if the Outback is driven in the north or up on a mountain, it might not start. Considering these people are many of the target audience for these adventurous SUVs, it seems Subaru might be losing some customers in the near future.

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 in Outback models.

Here’s another Edmunds review to consider. “I complained that Eyesight was not functioning as designed. It will emergency brake on a clear road without traffic, and when a car in the right lane next to my lane slows to make a right turn. It never gives a close following distance warning as described in the manual. Rather it brakes when you get less than 10 feet from a vehicle in front no matter how fast you approach the vehicle. I found the out when a car cut me off on the highway then braked suddenly.”

It turns out that Subaru is currently facing a class-action lawsuit because of defective safety equipment. Drivers of the 2021 Outback have complained about the automatic braking system engaging when it shouldn’t, leading to on-road collisions. Hopefully, Subaru has to pay out for these defects before too many people get hurt. Until the problem is resolved, customers must be careful going “where love” takes them.

Problems with the Powertrain

The powertrain is one of the main systems in the vehicle, with the engine and transmission working together to supply power to the road. In the past, Subaru was known for its reliable powertrain. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

One NHTSA complaint states, “The Auto-start feature, which stops the engine at a light, then restarts, is very dangerous. It cannot be permanently turned off – always on by default. 1 if the steering wheel is not perfectly straight, it jerks out of your hand when the engine restarts. 2 the car jerks forward when the engine restarts. This has already put me in danger of a crash several times – and this ‘feature’ must be actively disengaged each and every time the car is started. It should be able to be permanently turned off – not always on by default.”

It turns out that Subaru is dealing with a powertrain-related recall to top it all off. NHTSA Campaign Number 21V024000 talks about how some 2021 Outback models contain a CVT select lever cable that wasn’t tightened correctly. If the nut loosens, retention can be lost, leading to an increased chance of an accident. Maybe the tagline should be, “go wherever the defective car takes you.”

Problems with Windshield Cracking

Seeing out of the windshield is a primary objective for any driver. However, the Subaru Outback seems to have a lot of issues with the auto glass.

One final NHTSA complaint states, “This is my second experience with a cracked windshield in the 6 months I have owned this vehicle. The first time the windshield cracked I was driving on the interstate and the windshield simply cracked. No debris impact, no bumps, just a long crack running from the top center of the glass down apx 8 inches. Subaru replaced under warranty. The second time the glass cracked I was driving on the interstate and was hit by a small piece of debris. So small it took a moment to find the point of impact. The crack immediately started to spread and after a few hours was apx 12 inches long. After apx 2 weeks the crack has run and is apx 2.5 feet. Insurance claim has been filed, but due to a shortage of glass the repair has not been completed.”

Subaru hasn’t wanted to discuss this concern, ensuring that there are no public service bulletins about cracking windshields. Yet, customers continue to all struggle with the same problem. The only visibility issue that Subaru will discuss is found in Service Bulletin #12-307-21. In this communication, the automaker states that changes must be made to the assemblies of the windshield washer nozzle and hose. Again, these are simple parts that should have been perfected many models ago, yet Subaru is still struggling to find its way.

Problems with the Structure

Year after year, Subaru built high-quality vehicles that exceeded the longevity of many other brands. However, this hasn’t been the case recently.

Another Edmunds review states, “Be careful how you open the hood.   You might damage the front fenders ($2500 to repair). Wash the car on a sunny day and you will crack the windshield (About $1000). Hit an insect at over 40 mph? Chipped paint. At 2500 miles you will wear through the cloth seats.”

The automaker is also discussing structure issues. Service Bulletin #12-314-21 states that a new weatherstrip with a revised design must be used to eliminate the chirping and squeaking that occurs when the front doors are closed. How did a car leave the factory with this noise being overlooked? Did the technicians fail to close the doors before the cars rolled off of the line or are they just that clueless? If they couldn’t get something small like this correct, imagine how the rest of the vehicle was built.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work aid your lemon 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.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 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.

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