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Subaru’s first continuously variable transmission (CVT) was introduced in a tiny hatchback, called the Justy, during the 1980s. Today, nearly all the company’s vehicles employ CVT technology.
Unlike traditional automatic transmissions, which use planetary gear sets to transfer power to the wheels, CVTs use a metal belt and pair of pulleys. The design is popular because it improves fuel mileage.
Unfortunately, the CVTs found in Subaru vehicles are known to be problematic. Drive-ability issues such as delay, harsh engagement and slippage are all too common. In fact, the problems are so prevalent, Subaru extended the warranty on some of its transmissions. The campaign applies to select vehicles produced between 2010 and 2015.
The well-known CVT problems carry on in the 2017 Outback. On the NHTSA website, one owner writes, “New type transmission – happens all the time, more so when car is cool. Back out on downhill slope, hold brake, put in drive. It takes 1 to 3 seconds for drive to engage but nothing shows when its engaged. You can, however, hear the ping of the engagement with window down. If you remove foot from brake and press gas, the car will roll backwards six to ten feet towards oncoming traffic. This occurs with or without the hill assist on. Subaru says this is normal nature for the car.”
As the owner mentioned, Subaru dealers sometimes claim slow engagement is “normal” in the Outback. And that may be somewhat true. After all, CVTs have always been a problem in the car, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
So far, no recall has been issued to address the concern on 2017 models.
Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2017 Subaru Outback Transmission Problems:
2017 SUBARU OUTBACK HAS 8200 MILES ON THE CAR. I WAS AT 85 MILES AN HOUR 1ST TIME ON THIS CAR. ALL OF THE SUDDEN TRANSMISSION DISENGAGED AND ENGINE RPM WENT TO 4000. GAS PEDEL WAS UNRESPONSIVE FOR 2 SECONDS. AFTER 2 SECONDS CAR SLOW DOWN AND GAS PEDAL WAS RESPONSIVE AND CAR WAS PERFORMING NORMAL. SUBARU DEALERSHIP GOING TO CHECK WHAT IS WRONG.
BOUGHT A 2017 SUBARU OUTBACK IN MARCH,2017. IT HAS 1946 MILES. CAR HAS SAFETY ISSUES. CAR DOESN’T GO INTO PARK, INSTEAD IT GOES INTO REVERSE. IT HAPPENED WHEN COME HOME TRY TO PUT IN PARK, I COME OUT OF THE CAR BUT IT START GOING BACK. ALSO AFTER THAT IT WAS NOT GOING INTO DRIVE EITHER. SUBARU CHANGE THE SHIFT ASSEMBLY, BUT THE CAR STILL MAKE “KLUNK” NOISE WHEN I PUT IN THE PARK.
WHEN SHIFTING FROM REVERSE TO FORWARD THERE IS A CONSIDERABLE HESITATION AND THEN THE VEHICLE LURCHES FORWARD. I HAVE TAKEN IT INTO TEAM SUBARU IN NAMPA IDAHO AND THEY CANNOT DETERMINE ANY PROBLEM. I WAS TOLD THAT THE HESITATION IS NORMAL. I DO NOT AGREE. BECAUSE NOT ONLY DOES IT HESITATE, BUT THE LURCH WHEN THE TRANSMISSION FINALLY ENGAGES IS CONSIDERABLE. I DID NOT NOTICE THIS UNTIL THE VEHICLE HAD APPROXIMATELY 1000 MILES ON IT. I HAVE JUST OVER 7100 MILES ON IT NOW.
Touchscreen infotainment systems are standard fare in almost all new vehicles. Everything from stripped down economy cars to luxury sedans have such a display, yet Subaru can’t seem to get the concept right.
On the Kelly Blue Book website, one owner writes, “Do NOT buy Subaru Outback with navigation. The integrated infotainment system (part # 86471AL66A or 86471AL76A) fails after 3 to 6 months. I didn’t believe it until mine failed after having it for 6 months. The entire screen on the center console went dark. No radio, no backup camera, no navigation, and no Apple Carplay. It’s been over a month now since the dealer ordered the replacement part. I was told there’s massive backlog of cars waiting for the part, and massive back orders. Do a search online, you’ll see many people complaining about this and other problems with their Subaru Outback!!! BTW, 2019 and 2018 Outbacks contain the same part.”
Another owner on Edmunds.com says, “BEWARE!!! I am on a list of 20 Subaru Outback owners and growing at my dealership waiting for a replacement infotainment system that started going bad the second day of ownership. Eventually, it just died and they will not replace a new car unit with a new unit, they only will install a rebuilt unit and they do not have enough used units to rebuild for all the bad units so the wait goes on for months with no delivery date insight. It is my understanding that this unit is also in the 2019 Outback. Subaru is installing potentially defective units in new cars that they know they have an issue with. Other than this issue which leave you with no navigation, radio, phone or other entertainment features, it is a good car and I would recommend it as long as not having the infotainment system is not an issue for you.”
Subaru has released a couple of technical service bulletins (TSBs) regarding the problem, such as 15-199-16R, which say to reprogram the unit. In many cases, this doesn’t seem to solve the issue though, and replacement of the entire infotainment assembly is necessary.
Another problem that plagues the 2017 Outback is that of soy-based wire coating. Rodents are drawn to the tasty wiring and chew through it, causing all kinds of problems.
“The check engine light came on a week ago and the engine became sluggish when accelerating. We took the car to Marin Subaru service department where they did a diagnostic test. Result is that a rodent must have chewed through the soy-based harness covering the sensor wire. Repair bill = $1,400, Subaru says it’s not covered by the new car warranty.”
So, if a mouse decides to have your car for lunch, you’re out of luck. The problem isn’t covered under warranty, and so far, no recall has been issued to address the concern. In 2017, a class-action lawsuit regarding the problem was filed against Subaru.
Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2017 Subaru Outback Electrical Problems:
OPEN LETTER TO SUBARU AND SUBARU OWNERS. I HAVE A 2017 SUBARU OUTBACK. THE REASON I PURCHASED THE CAR WAS THE HIGH SAFETY RATINGS. I CAME HOME YESTERDAY, DROVE INTO THE GARAGE AND SHUT THE CAR OFF I THOUGHT. I APPARENTLY DID NOT PUSH THE START AND KILL BUTTON HARD ENOUGH. I AM HARD OF HEARING SO DID NOT NOTICE THE ENGINE STILL RUNNING. THIS CAR DOES NOT HAVE A REMOTE START. MY GARAGE DOOR AUTOMATICALLY CLOSES AFTER A PRESET TIME. I HAPPENED OUT TO THE GARAGE 3 HOURS LATTER TO FIND THE CAR ENGINE STILL RUNNING. I CAN NOT THE IMAGINE THE CARS COMPUTER ALLOWING THE ENGINE TO CONTINUE TO RUN FOR THREE HOURS WITHOUT THE KEY BEING IN CLOSE PROXIMITY OF THE VEHICLE. THIS IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. IT WAS WELL OVER 100 DEGREES IN THE GARAGE PLUS THE CARBON MONOXIDE LEVEL WAS OUTRAGEOUS. IF THERE IS COMPUTER SETTING TO STOP THIS PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
THE “CHECK ENGINE” LIGHT CAME ON A WEEK AGO AND THE ENGINE BECAME SLUGGISH WHEN ACCELERATING. WE TOOK THE CAR TO MARIN SUBARU SERVICE DEPARTMENT WHERE THEY DID A DIAGNOSTIC TEST. RESULT IS THAT A RODENT MUST HAVE CHEWED THROUGH THE SOY-BASED HARNESS COVERING THE SENSOR WIRE. REPAIR BILL = $1,400, SUBARU SAYS ITS NOT COVERED BY THE NEW CAR WARRANTY. THEY ARE TELLING US NOT TO DRIVE THE CAR NOW AS IT COULD BE DANGEROUS. INSURANCE SAYS IT DOES NOT COVER THIS EITHER. SUBARU AND THE OTHER MFTRS HAVE KNOWN ABOUT THIS ISSUE FOR SOME TIME APPARENTLY BUT CONTINUE TO USE MATERIAL THEY KNOW ATTRACTS RODENTS..
TWICE SINCE PURCHASED MARCH 2017 ELECTRICAL FAILURES HAVE CAUSED ALL DASHBOARD WARNING LIGHTS TO GO ON; STABILITY CONTROL, ANTI-LOCK, VARIOUS DRIVER AIDS HAVE CEASED TO OPERATE, AND ENGINE POWER WAS SEVERELY REDUCED (ALTHOUGH CAR STILL RAN). FIRST FAILURE WAS RECTIFIED WITHIN A FEW DAYS, BUT CURRENT FAILURE HAS HAD THE CAR AT THE DEALER FOR A MONTH WITH NO PROSPECT OF A REPAIR. CAR WAS RUNNING AT THE TIME OF EACH FAILURE. DEALER IS SAYING THE MANUFACTURER IS TRYING TO DESIGN A WIRING HARNESS OR INSTRUMENT CLUSTER THAT WILL WORK, BUT BACKORDERS ARE PILING UP ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND HE HAS NO PROMISE TO GIVE ME. I’M CURIOUS ABOUT HOW LONG I MUST WAIT BEFORE I ASK THE DEALER TO REPLACE THE ENTIRE CAR WITH ONE THAT DOES WORK.
Because consumers want everything automated these days, many modern cars have electronic emergency brakes. With this design, the e-brake is applied electronically, with the push of a button, rather than manually using a lever. The problem is, when the technology fails, it can cause wheel lockup, as many Outback owners have experienced.
“I would not recommend buying this car if you’re looking for an adventure mobile. Subaru no longer offers a mechanical parking brake and has removed the manual release mechanism on the electric parking brake in the 2015 Outbacks. If either of the two parking brake actuator motors malfunctions, it completely disables the vehicle. The only option is a tow to the Subaru dealer. This happened in my car, resulting in a 140 mile tow. This is especially frustrating as a non-safety-critical system malfunction can result in being stranded if it happens outside of cell phone service. I am disappointed that Subaru made this design decision in a car which is heavily marketed towards adventurous people. Another thing to note is that the car does not come with a full size spare tire, which is another important consideration if you’re planning on using dirt roads or going off-road,” an owner writes on the Kelly Blue Book website.
Another on the NHTSA website states, “The first of four incidents occurred on state highway 509 when traveling with my 12 year old granddaughter in the passenger seat. At the speed of 60 mph in the right lane, the parking brake applied itself without being touched.”
A service campaign (WTB-63) was issued to address the concern on 2015 Outback models. In the document, dealers were advised to reprogram the parking brake computer. So far,Subaru has not publicly addressed the concern on 2017 models.
Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2017 Subaru Outback Brake Problems:
THE FIRST OF 4 INCIDENTS OCCURRED ON STATE HIGHWAY 509 WHEN TRAVELING WITH MY 12 YEAR OLD GRANDDAUGHTER IN THE PASSENGER SEAT. AT THE SPEED LIMIT OF 60 MPH IN THE RIGHT LANE, THE PARKING BRAKE APPLIED ITSELF WITHOUT BEING TOUCHED. THE CAR SHUTTERED VIOLENTLY AS IT TURNED TO THE RIGHT HEADING FOR THE SHOULDER AND SLOWED THE CAR TO 35-40MPH BEFORE I SAW THE BRAKE LIGHT ON THE DASH AND WAS ABLE TO TURN OFF THE PARKING BRAKE SWITCH LOCATED ON THE CENTER CONSOLE. 2ND TIME GOING 35MPH ON A LOCAL STREET WHEN THE SAME THING HAPPENED WITHOUT WARNING. 3RD TIME ON THE SAME HIGHWAY AS 1ST INCIDENT BUT AT 55MPH AND BY MYSELF. 4TH TIME THIS HAPPENED WAS RIGHT AFTER I PICKED UP THE CAR FROM THE SHOP WHERE THEY TRIED TO REPAIR THE PROBLEM AND WERE UNABLE TO FIX IT. I WAS ON THE FREEWAY ONRAMP TO HIGHWAY 509 STARTING TO MERGE ON A BRIDGE WHEN FOR NO REASON THE BRAKE APPLIED ITSELF. AGAIN THE DEALER SHOP WAS UNABLE TO REPAIR THE CAR AND I PICKED IT UP AND TOOK IT TO ANOTHER SUBARU DEALER. THE PAPERWORK STATES THAT THE CAR IS NOT TO BE DRIVEN HOME OR LONG DISTANCES. THIS SUBARU OUTBACK IS A VERY SEVERE SAFETY RISK IF I KEEP ON DRIVING IT
AS EXIT MY LEVEL GARAGE THE DRIVEWAY IS ON AT 9% DOWN SLOPE WHEN I PUT MY CAR IN REVERSE AND BACK UP OUT OF THE GARAGE AND THEN PLACE THE CAR TO DRIVE TO MOVE BACK UP THE DRIVEWAY TO LOAD MY WIFE AND GRANDCHILD THE CAR SLIPS BACKWARDS BETWEEN ONE AND 3 FEET OR THREE SECONDS OF HIS FULL SLIPPAGE. MY GRANDDAUGHTER AT TWO YEARS OF AGE DOES NOT KNOW THAT THE CAR WILL SLIP BACK WITHOUT CONTROL. THIS IS A SAFETY CONCERN AND CAN CAUSE CRITICAL HARM TO HER AND/OR MY WIFE.
WHILE BRAKING AT AN INTERSECTION THE CAR WOULD SUDDENLY ACCELERATE INTO THE INTERSECTION. THIS HAPPENS OFTEN. I NEED TO CONCENTRATE ON MY FOOT POSITION EVERY TIME I HIT THE BRAKES TO MAKE SURE THAT MY FOOT DOES NOT ACCIDENTALLY HIT THE GAS ALSO.
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