2012-2018 Subaru Forester Problems

April 1, 2020
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Common 2014-2018 Subaru Forester Problems and Issues (And How To Fix Them)


The 2014-2018 Subaru Foresters' common problems include failure-prone transmission, burning oil, rear spring failure and short-lived wheel bearings. Most of these problems are worse for earlier model years - 2014s in particular. The Subaru Forester is a great car, but like all vehicles, it has some common problems and mechanical weaknesses that should be inspected or addressed before purchasing.  

Overall the Forester is a very reliable car and the problems are manageable, but there is an elephant in the room that needs addressing. 

Transmission problems

When released, the Subaru Forester had a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. Over time an increasing number of Foresters had their CVT transmissions fail. To ease new owners' fears, Subaru extended the warranty covering the transmission of all 2014-2018 Foresters to 10 years/100,000 miles.  

While the extended warranty is nice, you should still determine if your Forester has had transmission work done. There is no common time frame when (or even if) the CVT will fail; some owners report needing the transmission replaced at 20,000 miles, some at 120,000 and others report no problems despite years of ownership. Signs of a bad CVT are the car jerking or shuddering, the vehicle revving in drive but not moving or accelerating slowly compared to how much throttle it is given. If you find a Forester with any of these problems, expect to take it into the dealer soon. 

Oil Consumption And Faulty Piston Rings

Now that the big issue is addressed, let's move onto the smaller problems, the first of which is heavy oil consumption. Due in part to the design of the boxer engine and some shoddy parts used in the Forester's construction, Subaru was hit with a class-action lawsuit on their cars burning an excessive amount of oil, which affects 2014 Foresters with the 2.5-L engine.

Class-Action Lawsuit 

This lawsuit was mostly about faulty piston rings resulting in extra oil consumption, but Subaru continues to say some oil consumption is normal. This is in part due to the boxer engine, as the pistons are horizontal, oil can pool on the bottom of the cylinders and squeeze through the gaps into the combustion chamber when the car is started. 

Subaru seems to have engineered out that problem from the 2015 models and newer, so keep an eye out for burning oil (particularly in 2014s) but a little bit is okay. 

Suspension Problems and Recalls

Foresters also have a habit of breaking their rear springs. The first year of the generation, 2014s are particularly bad according to this site. 

But there are reports of newer years facing the same type of suspension problems. While owners report getting the springs fixed was not covered by the factory warranty, Subaru recently started to recall Foresters manufactured between March 2013 and October 2018 due to "faulty rear suspension springs and engine valves." So make sure to get a free repair at a dealership rather than taking it to an independent shop if those springs do collapse. 

Wheel Bearing Recall

Finally, the last common problem Foresters face are wheel bearings going out early. Owners report that Subaru wheel bearings in general tend to not last long. A bad wheel bearing sounds like this. The powertrain warranty should cover this and the Subaru Crosstrek seems to have a larger problem than the Forester regarding wheel bearing failure, but listening for droning when test driving a Forester would be a good idea.  

Of course if you own or buy a 2014-2018 Subaru Forester you might have different results, but these problems should be watched for when you talk to the current owner or look over its service records. To ensure a Forester is right for you look at our car buying guide and our used-car checklist to avoid a lemon.

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