This article was written by Brian Jones, ASE Certified Master Tech and Lemberg Law Automotive Contributor
Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019
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Problems with the Electrical System
With a malfunctioning electrical system, the ride simply can’t be enjoyable. This Subaru model struggles on many fronts.
Here are a few complaints from an Edmunds user. “Bought my 20 ascent in September of 2019. Got groceries out of the rear hatch one day, got distracted, forgot to close it, left open for about 4 hours, dead battery. Dealership told me there is a design flaw that keeps hatch motor powered and it draws 4 amps. No fix, Subarus fix was to tell me not to leave open. Twice I could not unlock car, not with keyless, not with key fob, not with button on hatch. Thank god I could unlock it with phone app. No fix at dealership. Air quit working, bad Freon tube. Seat heaters defective. Brakes squeal at ever stop. Radio head unit went out. Final straw, around 3500 miles started noticing at take off, Ascent would accelerate, slowdown, then accelerate again. Stopping at stop sign would feel like someone rear ended it. Around 4000 miles would occasionally rev way up, squeal like a pig and drop rpms again. Sometimes could barely make it up a hill. Took to dealership, faulty transmission. Would take a month and a half to fix. Back order and another ascent with crap transmission before me. Told dealership, I’m done . Only had 3 months, 4000 miles. Ascent transmissions are very unreliable and defective. Actually the whole car is.”
Thankfully, Subaru has addressed the liftgate issue with Service Bulletin #07-173-20. The troubles stem from the trunk opening on its own to not opening at all. It seems the Ascent can’t make up its mind whether it wants to let owners in, but doesn’t mind being left open for would-be thieves to get in.
Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2020 Subaru Ascent Electrical and Battery Drain Problems:
WE PURCHASED A NEW VEHICLE AND WITHIN 400 MILES THE BATTERY WAS COMPLETELY DEAD. NO LIGHTS WERE LEFT ON OR NOR WAS THERE ANY EXTERNAL DRAIN ON THE BATTERY. THE VEHICLE WAS STATIONARY AND PARKED IN OUR GARAGE.
THE CAR HAS HAD A DEAD BATTERY TWICE THROUGH THREE MONTHS OF OWNERSHIP. THE FIRST INCIDENT OCCURRED WHEN THE CAR WAS A MONTH AND A HALF OLD AND THE BATTERY WAS REPLACED BY THE DEALER. THE SECOND INCIDENT OCCURRED ONE MONTH LATER BUT BATTERY WAS RECHARGED INSTEAD OF REPLACED. THREE MONTHS LATER AT A REGULAR SERVICE THE DEALER ADVISED BATTERY CAPACITY WAS ONLY 75% INDICATING CONTINUED ABOVE NORMAL DRAINAGE.
Problems with the Fuel System
With a properly running fuel system, the drive is smooth. However, this Subaru model has a major complaint that can be alarming.
Here is what one NHTSA review states. “Raw fuel smell coming through vents when outside air being used. More often this occurs when engine is warm and has been restarted (i.e. short trip). Can experience the smell when the car is stationary or in motion. Smell is enough to cause headache. Dealer couldn’t replicate but this happened as soon as I picked up the car from the dealer.”
While Subaru hasn’t discussed any fuel system repairs, there is an engine-related concern that should be looked at. Service Bulletin #11-195-20 talks about the release of a new vacuum hose to fix an oil seepage concern from this vehicle. The new design provides better crankcase ventilation. Whether it is the smell of raw fuel or oil seepage, these are all issues that should be dealt with if the automaker wants to create more “love” among customers.
Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2020 Subaru Ascent Fuel System Problems:
WE ARE ON OUR SECOND SUBARU ASCENT, FIRST ONE BOUGHT BACK FOR THE SAME ISSUE. UPON STARTING THE CAR, THE CABIN WILL FILL WITH A STRONG SMELL OF RAW FUEL (NOT EXHAUST). THE CAR WILL ALSO FILL WITH THE SMELL IF RUNNING WHILE PARKED, REMOTELY STARTED, ETC. THE SMELL IS ALSO NOTICEABLE WHEN TURNING OFF THE CAR AND ON THE OUTSIDE OF IT.
Problems with the Transmission
The powertrain is made up of many vital parts, including the transmission. This system appears to be just as big of a failure as other parts with the Ascent.
Another Edmunds review states, “First and last Subaru. Problems started at 100 miles on the odometer and kept getting worse. Transmission shuddering, lack of adapting to change of the throttle. Throttle response is trash, causing whiplash from a standstill with just minor tip in. Adaptive cruise control tried to kill me 2 times in traffic when it failed to pick up other vehicles changing lanes in front of me. Infotainment system was glitchy, with poor touch screen feedback that would also lock up and after disconnecting a phone call (if it ever picked up that the phone was actually connected) it would drive the stereo to 100% volume. Lane departure assist would randomly show ‘off’ even when functioning normally. Worst part, the selling and servicing dealer practically refused to deal with me or the vehicle after the deal was done. Avoid this heap at all costs and buy something that wont put your family at risk!”
According to Service Bulletin #16-103-16R the CVT assembly is also allowing for fluid seepage that shouldn’t occur. To repair the problem, Subaru must replace the chain cover and clean all of the sealing surfaces. Is there any fluid that remains where it is supposed to?
Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2019 Subaru Ascent Engine and Transmission Problems:
AT AROUND 20,000 MILES THE DASHBOARD LIT UP LIKE A CHRISTMAS TREE AND THE VEHICLE BEGAN HAVING ACCELERATION ISSUES. AT THE END OF THE COMMUTE TO WORK, APPROX 55 MILES, THE TRANSMISSION STOPPED RESPONDING TO THE ACCELERATOR AND NO GEAR WOULD ENGAGE. DRIVER WAS ABLE TO COAST THE REMAINING 500 METERS TO WORK. CAR WAS TOWED TO SUBARU AND AFTER TROUBLESHOOTING THE COMPUTER SYSTEM WITH SUBARU OF AMERICA THE TECHNICIANS AND SUBARU OF AMERICA DECIDED IT WAS A TRANSMISSION ISSUE. TRANSMISSION WAS REPLACED WITH A NEW TRANSMISSION FREE OF CHARGE UNDER WARRANTY. VEHICLE IS CURRENTLY BEING REPAIRED AT TIME OF REPORT. TIME MAY TELL IF THIS IS A MORE WIDESPREAD ISSUE OR SIMPLY A RANDOM OCCURRENCE.
Problems with the Visibility
Finally a look at the visibility shows further concerns about the way this car was built.
One NHTSA complaint states, “Vehicle was stationary on private driveway. Went to vehicle to retrieve personal item and then noticed a large crack originating on the lower right hand side of the front windshield. Unknown what caused the incident. Crack was not apparent earlier in the day.”
While Subaru hasn’t discussed the glass concerns, despite countless complaints, there are other structure-related problems. Service Bulletin #12-281-20 points out that the hood panel surface tends to vibrate during operation which can result because of a lack of adhesive. Whether the Subaru is falling apart at the seams or leaking noxious fumes, it’s a car that many should love to hate by now.
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