2018 Subaru Forester Top Complaints and Problems – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Airbags, vehicle speed control, windshield and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Subaru was one of the first automakers to create SUVs that took over America’s roads. One of the most popular options with discerning consumers was the 2018 Subaru Forester. On the newer models, the automaker claims this is “the SUV for all you love,” but actual owners don’t agree. There is a long list of defective equipment included with this vehicle. From the airbags to the powertrain and steering system, there are many items that seem to malfunction.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2017   2019

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Airbags

The airbags are a part of any vehicle that doesn’t get thought about often. American drivers have become accustomed to knowing that the airbags are included and just assume everything is working the way it should. Yet, inside the 2018 Subaru Forester, drivers face a real dilemma.

Look at what one NHTSA complaint says. “Ever since I purchased the car, the passenger air bag indicator light has shown ‘OFF.’ The NHTSA site shows numerous people have had the same experience. Some of those people were advised by Subaru service technicians that they must have spilled something on the seat, affecting the sensor. I was told the same when I took my car in. Subaru techs ran a diagnostic that indicated no error codes.”

While the service department is busy blaming owners, the automaker issued a recall about the faulty system. The recall was labeled with NHTSA Campaign Number 19V701000 and states that a connection can loosen leading to the deactivation of the airbag. Even when the seat is occupied, the airbag might not deploy, which creates a larger injury risk during an accident. While Subaru is willing to replace the defective parts at no charge, they don’t have them at the time of the recall. Owners are asked to wait an undetermined amount of time before they can receive these repairs. In the meantime, drivers have to consider who sits in the passenger seat as they might not receive the protection of the airbag during a crash. This SUV for all you love apparently doesn’t apply to friends and family.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Subaru Forester Airbags Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2018 SUBARU FORESTER. THE CONTACT TOOK THE VEHICLE TO ANNAPOLIS SUBARU BECAUSE THE AIR BAG WARNING INDICATOR ILLUMINATED INTERMITTENTLY WHEN THE VEHICLE WAS STARTED. ALTHOUGH THE VEHICLE HAD BEEN SERVICED AT THE DEALER, THE FAILURE CONTINUED. WHILE THE CONTACT’S WIFE WAS DRIVING 55 MPH, THE PRECEDING VEHICLE SUDDENLY SLAMMED ON THE BRAKES. DURING THIS INCIDENT, THE CONTACT NOTICED THAT BOTH THE SIDE PASSENGER AIR BAG AND THE DRIVER’S AIR BAG WARNING INDICATORS WERE ILLUMINATED. THE MANUFACTURER WAS NOTIFIED OF THE FAILURE AND THE CONTACT WAS INFORMED THAT A REPRESENTATIVE WOULD CALL HIM BACK. THE CONTACT HAD NOT HEARD BACK FROM THE MANUFACTURER. THE DEALER WAS NOT NOTIFIED OF THE RECENT FAILURE WITH THE VEHICLE. THE VEHICLE WAS NOT DIAGNOSED OR REPAIRED. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 8,300.

FRONT PASSENGER AIRBAG HAS BEEN INTERMITTENTLY ON AND OFF, WITH AND WITHOUT A PASSENGER, WITH AND WITHOUT ITEMS ON THE SEAT. THIS IS THE THIRD OR MAYBE FOURTH OCCASION VEHICLE IS AT THE DEALER. ONE OF THE FIRST TIMES THEY INSPECTED THE CAR, AND THEIR SOLUTION WAS TO RELOCATE THE “MODULE” (WHATEVER THE MODULE IS) FOR THAT SEAT. THEY STATED IT WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM. A MONTH LATER THE CAR STARTED TO DO THE PASSENGER AIRBAG WARNING LIGHT ON AND OFF AGAIN. CAR BACK AGAIN TO DEALER BUT THEN LIGHT WAS GONE OFF. YESTERDAY, SEP 23, 2019 CAR WAS DROPPED AGAIN AT DEALER WITH LIGHT ON AND THE CAR STILL ON, IN ORDER NOT TO LOSE THE SITUATION AT RESTART. THEY JUST CALLED ME AND STATE THE SEAT AIRBAG WAS REPLACED $1,100 UNDER WARRANTY, CAR IS 6500 MILES OR SO. THAT WE COULD NOT LOCATE ANYTHING OTHER THAN A PASSENGER ON THAT SEAT. ANY ITEM, CELLULAR, TABLET, COMPUTER, BATTERY, BAGS, PURSUES, SHOPPING ITEMS, PAPERS, DOCUMENTS ON THAT SEAT WILL POSSIBLY CAUSE THE SITUATION AGAIN AND THEY WONT COVER IT UNDER WARRANTY. ALSO NOTHING IN FRONT OF THAT SEAT BY THE FLOOR..??? NOT POSSIBLE TO RECLINE THE BACK OF THE SEAT…. WHAT? THIS IS MY FIRST CAR DOING THAT. I DON’T CARE WHAT THEY SAY TO US, IT’S THEIR RESPONSIBILITY AND A DEADLY RISK DRIVE THIS CAR WITH THE PASSENGER LIGHT ON AND A PASSENGER IN IT AND BEEN INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT. THIS HAPPENS WITH THE CAR ON, BUT PARKED, STOPPED WAITING FOR A LIGHT TO CHANGE, MOVING, GOING FORWARD, GOING REVERSE, AND IS INTERMITTENT.

Powertrain

Today’s modern transmissions feature advanced technology that helps the vehicle run its best. Sadly, with the 2018 Subaru Forester, many owners find that this powertrain isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

One Edmunds reviewer says, “Just got a 2018 Forester with cvt transmission. I no more than got it home and the car would cut out 1-2 seconds or more from a stop or slow movement. Apparently this can be a problem with some cvt transmissions. It is dangerous in close traffic or pulling out into oncoming traffic. Took it back to the dealer who told me it takes a while for the car to get used to my driving habits. I can’t buy this. Once the car cuts out it starts back up with a sudden jerk forward. This is unacceptable and am considering evoking the lemon law. Also the speedometer is set back under a cover and is hard to read.”

While none of the manufacturer communications address this problem, there are some that are interesting. One that catches the eye is Service Bulletin #16-103-16R. It discusses customer concerns about seepage coming out of the CVT assembly. After plenty of investigations, it turns out that this fluid is actually sealant from the oil pump chain cover and input shaft oil seal. Repair includes removing the chain cover and cleaning all of the surfaces. It seems odd that the engineers needed time to figure out what this mysterious fluid was and where it came from. It should be rather elementary to anyone that designs and constructs vehicles. Maybe the real problem is that the engineers don’t understand vehicles at all.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Subaru Forester Transmission Problems:

THE CAR WILL PERIODICALLY STALL FOR A SECOND OR TWO ON OCCASSIONS WHEN STARTING OUT AND THEN ACCELERATE WITH A JOLT. WHEN IN TRAFFIC THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. I UNDERSTAND THIS MAY BE COMMON WITH CVT TRANSMISSIONS. IF THAT IS THE CASE I QUESTION WHY THEY ARE ALLOWED ON THE ROAD. I WLL NOT PURCHASE ANOTHER SUBARU OR ANY OTHER CAR WITH A CVT.

OCCASIONALLY WHEN I SLOWLY ACCELERATE FROM A STOP, AS WHEN I PULL INTO A DRIVING LANE FROM A PARKING LOT A STOP SIGN, THE CAR WILL MOVE A FEW FEET AND THEN STOP. THE ENGINE WILL STILL BE TURNING APPROX. 2000 RPM BUT THE CAR WILL NOT MOVE . WHEN I APPLY THE ACCELERATOR THE RPM DOES NOT CHANGE AND THE CAR STILL WILL NOT MOVE. AFTER ANYWHERE FROM 3-5 SECONDS THE CAR WILL ACCELERATE NORMALLY. OTHERWISE THE CAR PERFORMS NORMALLY AND THERE IS NO HESITATION AT HIGHER SPEEDS. AS A RESULT, I AM SITTING HELPLESS IN A TRAFFIC LAND WITH CARS BEARING DOWN ON ME. S FAR WE HAVE NOT BEEN HIT. I HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO REPLICATE THIS PROBLEM AND IT MAY OCCUR A FEW TIMES IN ONE DAY OR NIT FOR SEVERAL DAYS. I TOOK IT TO MY LOCAL SUBARU DEALER AND THEY WERE UNABLE TO DUPLICATE THE PROBLEM ON A TEST DRIVE. HOWEVER, A SERVICE WRITER WITH THE SAME MODEL DID DESCRIBE A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE. THE SERVICE DEPT. RAN DIAGNOSTIC TESTS AND SAID THAT EVERYTHING IS NORMAL. SUBARU CUSTOMER SERVICE SAID THAT UNLESS THEY CAN DUPLICATE THE PROBLEM THERE IS NOTHING THEY CAN DO. WHEN I GOOGLED THIS PROBLEM I FOUND SEVERAL SIMILAR COMPLAINTS INVOLVING SEVERAL SUBARU MODELS AND ALSO THAT SUBARU IS AWARE OF THE PROBLEM BUT APPARENTLY HAS NOT FOUND A SOLUTION.

I HAVE TROUBLE MAKING TURNS FOR IT HESITATES BEFORE IT WILL KICK IN,YESTERDAY I WAS ALMOST HIT BY A POLICE CAR GOING ON A CALL, LIGHTS/SIREN ON . I JUST MADE A TURN AND IT HESITATED I COULDN’T GET OUT OF HIS WAY. THIS IS AN ONGOING PROBLEM WITH THIS CAR.

Steering

One thing that any driver wants to count on is a solid steering system. It’s imperative that the vehicle moves where the owner wants it to with ease. Again, on the 2018 Subaru Forester, it’s clear to see that there wasn’t much attention given to this component either.

An Edmunds reviewer wrote, “This is the noisiest car I have ever owned.  Terrible wind noise through the windows and the sunroof.  I consider the steering to be dangerous, as it almost pulled me off the road on a curve and constantly jerks to the right even when I am directly in the middle of the lane.  I’ve read complaints from others that this appears to be connected to the lane sway feature of the electronics (not the lane departure feature).  The dealer says it’s all in my head, although the loaner car they gave me was like a normal car that had smooth steering and the steering wheel didn’t jerk once.  I consider my car a lemon and I regret buying it — especially when the men who sold me this car keep ignoring my complaints.”

It seems that there are multiple problems originating from the steering system. Service Bulletin #04-23-18R documents clanging, rattling and knocking coming from the steering rack with a vibration present. In this communication, the automaker provides a flow chart to technicians so they can figure out what the noise is caused by. What’s more notable is how the manufacturer defines each sound, just in case the highly trained technician has never heard it before. If this is who is working on the Subaru vehicles, it’s not likely that anything will be repaired correctly.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Subaru Forester Steering Problems:

ON STRAIGHT HIGHWAY SOMETIMES WILL GIVE A JERK TO THE RIGHT. HAD VEHICLE IN FOR ISSUE THEY FOUND STEERING SHAFT BOLT LOOSE. THEY RETORQUED TO SPEC. DROVE TO FLORIDA STILL HAS SAME ISSUES. WHEN IN A BANKED TURN DOES NOT HOLD TURN PROPERLY. WHEN ON ABSOLUTELY STRAIGHT HIGHWAY STEERING WHEEL APPEARS TO BE SLIGHTLY TO THE LEFT OF 6:00. MAKING APPT WITH DEALERSHIP AGAIN. DON’T KNOW WHEN IT STARTED, WIFE HAD BEEN DRIVING DUE TO MY MEDICAL ISSUE. *BF

WHEN DRIVING FORWARD ON LEVEL ROAD, THE VEHICLE DRIFTS OR GOES TO THE RIGHT. I MUST KEEP TURNING THE STEERING WHEEL TO THE LEFT TO CORRECT THIS PROBLEM. I NOTICE WHEN THE VEHICLE DRIFTS TO THE RIGHT SIDE, STEERING WHEEL MAINTAINS A CENTERED POSITION.

Vehicle Speed Control

With advanced vehicle speed control systems, there should be no question about the rate at which the vehicle is moving. Yet, the 2018 Subaru Forester has a lot of trouble with this as well.

Just take a look at this Edmunds review, “We had great hopes for this car, bought it primarily for the safety features. Shortly after purchasing it we noticed random acceleration – RPM would jump to 4000 and above. This happened even when using cruise control without any other cars being in sight. Once during cruise control the car started braking, again, without traffic in sight. At times the running lights would not come on in spite of the ‘auto’ setting. On 2 occasions the blind spot detector failed to notice full sized trucks coming up behind me, yet it it ‘detected’ a  non-existing vehicle in an empty parking lot. The lift gate closed on my husband’s arm on two occasions. When shifting from reverse to drive the car rolls backwards – according to the mechanics the car is designed that way! When turning on the inside air button the AC comes on, even in freezing weather. GPS would freeze frequently. The only way to restart it was to turn off the car. Most phone calls/SMS did not come through. The infotainment system would change radio stations by itself or lock up altogether. None of these issues could be reproduced in the shop. We are in the process of selling it.”

Notice there is a lot more mentioned here than simply the vehicle speed control, but also plenty of electrical concerns. The automaker has more than 80 communications about troubles and issues but has failed to mention one regarding this malfunctioning part. Let’s just hope the airbags are working when the car decides to have a mind of its own.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Subaru Forester Speed Control Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2018 SUBARU FORESTER. WHILE DEPRESSING THE ACCELERATOR PEDAL, THE VEHICLE HESITATED BEFORE SUDDENLY LAUNCHING FORWARD. THE FAILURE WAS NOT DIAGNOSED OR REPAIRED. THE MANUFACTURER AND LOCAL DEALER WERE NOTIFIED OF THE FAILURE. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 4.

AS I WAS EASING INTO A PARKING SPACE IN MY TOWNHOME COMMUNITY IN FRONT OF MY NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE, THE CAR SUDDENLY ACCELERATED ON ITS OWN AND JUMPED THE CURB, LANDING ON THE SIDEWALK AND PUSHING IN THE WALL OF THE HOUSE. AIRBAGS DID NOT GO OFF AND LUCKILY NOBODY WAS HOME OR STANDING ON THE SIDEWALK. I WAS NOT INJURED. THE CAR SUSTAINED MINIMAL DAMAGE (BUMPER WAS ASKEW) BUT THE HOUSE WALL NEEDED TO BE REPLACED AND THE TENANTS WERE UNABLE TO LIVE THERE FOR TWO WEEKS.

I WAS DRIVING ON I-95 AND STARTED TO ACCELERATE TO MERGE WITH TRAFFIC WHEN MY CAR STARTED TO RACE. I IMMEDIATELY TRIED TO BRAKE, I NEEDED TO PRESS VERY HARD ON THE BRAKE PEDDLE FOR THE CAR TO STOP ACCELERATING. AS SOON AS I TOOK MY FOOT OFF THE BRAKE, THE CAR ACCELERATED AGAIN AT A VERY HIGH SPEED. WHEN I WAS BRAKING, I COULD NOT CONTROL THE BRAKE SPEED, IT SEEMED LIKE THE CAR WAS SHUTTING OFF SO I REMOVED MY FOOT FROM THE BRAKE. THIS HAPPENED FOUR MORE TIMES UNTIL I WAS ABLE TO GET OVER TO AN OFF RAMP AND SHUT THE CAR DOWN. THE CAR SMELLED LIKE SOMETHING BURNING. I HAD THE CAR TOWED TO SUBARU DEALER.

Visibility – Windshield cracking

Finally, it’s time to look at the visibility issues of the 2018 Subaru Forester. While this might not seem like a top priority, when the windshield doesn’t provide the view and durability desired, it becomes quite the problem.

One NHTSA complaint documents the situation exactly. It states, “The contact owns a 2018 Subaru Forester. Approximately one month after purchasing the vehicle, a crack suddenly appeared in the windshield. After having the windshield replaced weeks later, another crack was present after a small pebble made contact with the windshield. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer and local dealer were notified of the failure.”

While it seems this should be a safety recall, there hasn’t been one issued. Instead, the only talk the company has about the windshield is trivial. In Service Bulletin #12-234-18, they discuss the repair procedure for replacing a foam cushion between the IP and windshield glass. Overall, this SUV doesn’t come with much to love, so it seems impossible that the engineers would know how to make the owners happy.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Subaru Forester Windshield Cracking Problems:

I’VE HAD MY 2018 FORESTER FOR JUST ONE YEAR AND TWO WINDSHIELDS HAVE CRACKED FROM MINOR ROCK STRIKES. THE FACTORY WINDSHIELD WAS REPLACED AT 11,670 MILES ON 12/17/2018 AND WAS REPLACED WITH SUBARU OEM GLASS. NOW AT 24,000 MILES THE REPLACEMENT WINDSHIELD HAS CRACKED FROM A MINOR ROCK STRIKE. I WAS DRIVING THE VEHICLE WHEN A CAR PASSED ME. THE SOUND OF THE ROCK STRIKE WAS BARELY NOTICEABLE AND I DIDN’T NOTICE THE DAMAGE UNTIL MY PASSENGER POINTED IT OUT TO ME. SUBARU WINDSHIELDS ARE TOO FRAGILE AND BREAK EASILY WHICH IS A SAFETY RISK. I WILL BE REPLACING THIS SECOND SUBARU WINDSHIELD WITH AFTERMARKET GLASS.

BEFORE ENTERING FREEWAY, AT LOW SPEED, A CRACK APPEARED ON THE WINDSHIELD. SEEMS TO STEM FROM THE LOWER BLACK STRIP ON THE WINDSHIELD. THERE IS A SMALL IMPACT POINT STEMMING FROM THE BLACK STRIP ALONG THE LOWER SIDE OF THE WINDSHIELD AND THE CRACK IMMEDIATELY GREW TO ABOUT 10” VERTICALLY UPWARD FROM THAT. THE NEXT DAY, THE CRACK CURVED AND GREW ANOTHER 10-15” IN LENGTH ACROSS THE PASSENGER SIDE. I DID NOT NOTICE ANYTHING IMPACT THE WINDSHIELD. A CAR WAS AHEAD OF ME BUT WAS ABOUT 2-3 CAR LENGTHS AHEAD AT LOW SPEED AS IT WAS A FRONTAGE ROAD BEFORE ENTERING THE FREEWAY RAMP.

I HAVE HAD THIS CAR SINCE APRIL 2018. DURING MY FIRST WEEK OF OWNERSHIP A SMALL ROCK HIT MY WINDSHIELD WHILE DRIVING ON THE HIGHWAY AND PUT A CRACK IN IT I GOT REPAIRED. I’M CONSTANTLY GETTING CHIPS. I AVOID DRIVING BEHIND SEMIS AND OTHER LARGE TRUCKS.I HAVE BEEN READING THAT THIS IS A VERY COMMON PROBLEM WITH LATE YEAR SUBARU’S. I FEEL SUBARU NEEDS TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF GLASS THEY USE. I WANT MY EXPERIENCE WITH SUBARU DOCUMENTED. HOPE SOMETHING CAN BE DONE. I’VE NEVER HAD SUCH A BRITTLE WINDSHIELD BEFORE.

NOTICED SMALL CRACK IN WINDSHIELD LAST TUESDAY, STARTING JUST ABOVE A CLIP ON WIPER. ASSUMED, AT FIRST IT WAS DIRTY WINDSHIELD FROM LIGHT RAIN & WIPER USE, BUT THEN SATURDAY IT MOVED ABOUT 6 INCHES MID DAY PARKED THEN HALFWAY ACROSS DRIVER SIDE A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER PARKED. I HAVE NOT BEEN HIT BY ANYTHING BIG OR SMALL. I HAVE READ THAT THIS WINDSHIELD ISSUE HAS BEEN IN EVERY SUBARU MODELS. I WANT SUBARU TO PAY FOR THIS!

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