Subaru Forester Electrical/Lighting Issues

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,372
This is the place to chase down those electrical gremlins in your Forester.


  • mxbaeromxbaero Member Posts: 1
    I have a 2000 Subaru Forester S with 100K miles. Recently, the lights have started briefly flickering once or twice when the turn signal/light arm on the steering column is moved. I suspect a wire has come loose in the arm/or steering column, and I'm looking for help in tracking down the right repair manual or advice in fixing the problem before the lights cut out completely.

    I'm competent enought to have installed keyless entry, but that was with the help of a repair guide for my other car. Opening up the steering column has me a little more wary. I've searched all over for a Chilton's like guide for the 2000 Forester, but can't find anything other than the really pricey factory manuals. I guess I'd settle for one of those if I can get some help finding the right one.

    Any advice?
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaMember Posts: 1,786

    First question is whether the car is fitted with a Driver's Airbag. If so, entrust it to an expert as the entertainment of an airbag triggering is something you don't want to experience.


  • p0926p0926 Member Posts: 4,423
    Yes there's a driver's airbag so I recommend that you heed Graham's sound advice.

  • flj168flj168 Member Posts: 12
    I had a similar problem with my 2000 Forester after changing a new battery purchased from Costco. My parking lights started to click on and off. After spending an hour checking all the fuses and electrical connections and reading the owner’s manual from cover to cover, I gave up and left the car in my driveway. I locked the car with my remote, and an amazing thing happened, the parking lights stopped turning on and off! By locking the doors with the remote, it reset the car’s electrical system.

    I hope you have similar luck?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Now that I think about it the same thing happens to mine, whenever I disconnect the battery and reconnect, I have to lock/unlock a few cycles to get it to stop doing that.

  • donivandonivan Member Posts: 1
    FYI : The reason your lights flicker after replacing the battery is because some Subaru vehicles are equipped with a keyless entry unit manufactured be Code Alarm. The unit they chose to use was the same as the SECURITY systems that were DEALER installed by Ford, GM and Mitsubishi. My dad has a 98 FXT and the module is mounted under the driver's side dash, left of the brake pedal. The reason the lights start to blink is because the Keyless module they chose to use is actually a FULL BLOWN SECURITY SYSTEM with the optional features not installed. When you disconnect the battery, the module thinks that maybe a "bad guy" is trying to "bypass the security system" by disconnecting the battery. When power is restored, it immediately triggers - flashing the lights and sounding the siren. (No siren is installed in the case of Subaru) When you press the "unlock" button on you remote, it "disarms" the security system. The good news is that you actually have a full blown security system module in your car. If you find a Code Alarm dealer that still has some legacy equipment around, you can add the siren, LED and shock sensor and upgrade to a complete system.
  • delucardelucar Member Posts: 1
    I am brand new to this forum--sorry for the length of the post but it's an extremely odd occurrence. I bought a 2006 Subaru Forester X in July of 2005 (brand new, only owner).
    A couple of months ago we had a fuse short out which my husband replaced with the Subaru spare fuse (yes--it was the correct fuse). Two days ago, we drove the car to work in the morning, I got back to it about 10 hours later to see a third of the passenger side floor BURNED, the inner console burned to the point that the plastic on the right side of gear shift was completed melted (you can nearly see underneath the gear). It melted so much that it approached the dc lighter box (below stereo). It seems that the root of the fire/meltdown came from underneath the passenger seat where I'm told the main system board is located. I did not dare turn on the vehicle and am still dealing with Subaru of N. America to determine what is going on. I was wondering if anyone has heard of this sort of thing happening. The entire front area is completely smoke damaged (all uncovered interior is now smoke colored and all exposed plastic/glass is smoke covered). I don't think it was a fire because there was a newspaper right on the passenger seat completely untouched. Also---we DO NOT smoke on this vehicle. Any suggestions would be great. I am really upset about this because I LOVED my car. I had no problems for the first 13 months of owning it.
  • terry92270terry92270 Member Posts: 1,247
    Well, rare occurrences happen. :sick:

    I hope you reported the fire and damage to your insurance company! If not, please do so. Once they are involved, any car manufacturer repairs the damage far more promptly.

    I had a crack appear in my sunroof, same car as yours. They told me it must have been a foreign object hitting it. I took it to my AAA office, and they called Subaru, and they repaired it as soon as they received the replacement glass at the dealer. Seems the insurance company had documented many reports of the exact same fault, in the same place, rear left corner, from other Subaru owners.

    See, the Insurance Industry operates a computer database of all such "odd" and not-to-odd occurrence's. Makes it much harder for the car companies to claim they don't know about such things, or they are the owner's fault. ;)

    I totally agree with you about loving my Forester. Keep us posted on what happens, please!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Electrical short sounds about right. Wow. First ever I've heard of such a report on a Subaru here on Wild.

    Obviously take it to your dealer but also call 800-SUBARU3 and ask them to open a case number for you. Ask them for a loaner car while all the repairs are done, and tell them you want replacements for all the items damaged by the heat, including the center console panels affected.

    The dealer will do the work but the 800 guys basically monitor your case to make sure you are taken care of.

  • jbur1jbur1 Member Posts: 15
    My 2003 Forester has a backlight that burnt out behind one of the circular temperature control knobs. I'm surprised it failed already unless it is just a bad connection. Has anyone ever tried to replace one of these? How difficult is it to replace? Was it worth the time to do it?
  • terry92270terry92270 Member Posts: 1,247
    I cannot stand instrumentation lights out, it bothers me so much, I eventually tear into the dash and replace it! :P

    As for the light, sometimes a bad one comes along, and that's why its annoying, because we all take for granted they will last a dozen years, and most do.

    If you have never been into the dash panel, or installed your own radio and sound systems, I really recommend that you bite the bullet and have the dealer do it. Those areas are so jammed with wires and crap, unless you really know what you are doing, it can sometimes end up with an expensive repair when they have to trace down something mistakenly pulled loose or shorted. :sick:
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    A light on the right side of my Miata's stereo is out, and I agree it's annoying. Probably easier to replace the whole unit! The CD skips anyway.

  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    They aren't replacement bulbs though, they are usually cold solidered units and are a pita to replace, it's a dealer replacement item probably cost around $100 or so.

  • rebecca8rebecca8 Member Posts: 2
    I have a 2003 Subaru Forester with a headlight challenge: The driver's side headlight is very dim. Its not the bulb or the power going to the plug; both bulbs have been changed (and interchanged!) and the power to the plugs checked. I haven't found any information on the web re: problems with the headlight/wiring harness...but found this forum. Anyone familiar with this type of problem?
  • once_for_allonce_for_all Member Posts: 1,640
    Rebecca, if it isn't the bulb, or the power to the bulb, or the connection between them, the only other things that might be worth checking is the alignment and the outside and inside glass condtion.

  • subearusubearu Member Posts: 3,613
    I don't recall if each headlight has a fuse, but check those perhaps as well. Back when I had my '87 Sprint, I had a similar dim headlight that ended up being the fuse for that one.

  • scotteeescotteee Member Posts: 5
    I had a radio installed into my 98 forrester and now the dash lights and interior lights are not working. Does anyone know if there is an inline fuse and if so where is it?
  • lucyliulucyliu Member Posts: 7
    I just bought a 2007 Subaru Forester. Unfortunately, on the next day when I drove it, it has burning smell when I parked my car. Does anyone know what might be the problem and is it serious? Thanks!
  • smittynycsmittynyc Member Posts: 289
    It's not unusual to get burning smells in the first 250-500-1000 miles of a new car's life. It's mostly undercoating protection burning off of the exhaust pipes.

    I'd do a quick check of fluids -- if the odor doesn't smell like oil or coolant or transmission fluids, and all your levels are okay, and there aren't any leaks, it's probably just the undercoating.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I believe those fuses are in the driver's footwell. Other fuses are under the hood, but I would expect the ones for the lights to be inside.

  • alyosha73alyosha73 Member Posts: 35
    Could anyone provide instructions for fog light bulb replacement for Subaru Forester 2004. I purchased at the dealer's part number 84920GA400, however they wanted to charge for installation, even though they claimed there is never an install charge on any light bulbs bought from the dealer. Can anyone help with any info?
  • sms9955sms9955 Member Posts: 1
    2004 Forester - manual says to change bulbs for fog lights to use the dealer. Yeah, right!

    OK, so how do you change them?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    All I know is that they're different than on my 98. I have the original bulbs, but I can only see the back of mine when I remove the lower covers under the engine bay.
  • wybird1wybird1 Member Posts: 2
    I have a 03 Forester and just went through changing a fog lamp bulb. I went to an auto parts supply who looked up the bulb #. It is listed wrong in the owner's manual, so you may want to check your local Subaru dealer for the part. Then when I had my oil changed, the guys changed out the bulb for me.
  • khoolkhool Member Posts: 8
    I own an 05 model (current shape) and had to replace a bulb around 6 mths into my ownership (bought new).

    I was told by the dealer that it had to be done by them cause they had to hoist the car and remove something to gain access to it.

    Charged me $150 AUD cause a bulb is not under warranty.

    That's the last time I let those thieving swines change a bulb in my car.
  • veedub8veedub8 Member Posts: 2
    I have an 03 impreza with the EXACT same symptoms. Any ideas??? I tried a new bulb, it's definitely not the bulb. I removed the "breaker" in the fusebox and put it back, no change. High beam is dim too... did you get yours fixed rebecca8???? Any help would be great.

    Thanks. :confuse: :confuse: :confuse: ;)
  • testnavtestnav Member Posts: 1
    We were driving in downtown Las Vegas last night, and the radio started acting funny (powering on/off on its own), and the ABS light came on while we were driving. About 3 minutes after this, I made a lane change, switching on my turn signal, when suddenly the instrument panel lit up with the ABS light, Oil System Status Light, Battery light, and the engine stopped working. I was unable to restart and the hazards dimmed out as the battery drained.

    A friend that I was driving with and I popped the hood to check all connections, and nothing seemed to be amiss. The vehicle has 75,000 miles on it, and the battery is the original. We're thinking it's a problem with my alternator because all of the accessories dimmed out. Anyone have a similar experience? Any idea how much replacing an alternator costs?

    Thanks in advance,
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 15,852
    Sounds like the alternator for sure. Replacement part costs about $120, if I remember correctly, and it takes about 20 minutes to replace it from start to finish. At least, it took me that long, so if you have a shop do it and they want to charge you more than 30 minutes labor, go somewhere else! If you fully charge the battery, you should get an hour or two of driving from the car, assuming you are not using all the accessories, lights, etc.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Yup that's the classic "bad alternator" signal on a subaru. As wes said takes 20 min and you can do it yourself in the parking lot of the auto-zone.

  • eyorteacheyorteach Member Posts: 4
    Hi. I am looking for advice. I own a 2004 Subaru Forester (original owner). The car has been great, and we kept up with regular maintenance. However, the car died Monday afternoon without warning. When my husband checked the battery, it was giving out a minimal charge. We decided to jump the battery. The car came back to life with one exception. The instrument cluster was virtually dead. The dealer's mechanic claims that my husband improperly jumped the car causing the instrument cluster to short. He is estimating a total of $1,000.00 for identifying the problem, a new cluster, and labor. I feel like we are being ripped off. Has anyone else heard of this as a problem with the 2004 Subaru Forester?
  • aathertonaatherton Member Posts: 617
    It is not confined to the 2004 Forester. It is a general situation when jumping cars with an ECU. The manual may call for a very specific sequence for connecting the cables to specific locations. People tend to just clamp the cables around here and there. If the manual is not followed exactly, fuses can be blown or the ECU messed up . More likely that is what happened, rather than actual damage to the instrument panel.
  • eyorteacheyorteach Member Posts: 4
    We were told we need to replace the instrument panel. I can only assume that the fuses were checked. We know that the computer is okay. Thanks for the information.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Even if the fuse was checked, go ahead and have it replaced.

    I ran across a situation where the fuse looked fine but wasn't, it had still burned out. I swear I could see no flaws in it, but a new one still fixed it.

    Worth the few pennies to try that.
  • aathertonaatherton Member Posts: 617
    How do you know the computer is OK? It is possible for a surge from a poorly executed jump to hurt an ECU and mess up the ECU's status and warning lights in the instrument panel.
    On the other hand, I don't see how a jump can pass the fuses and cause damage to the instrument panel itself.
  • eyorteacheyorteach Member Posts: 4
    The mechanic checked the ECU and said it was fine. Supposedly, he checked the fuses as well. From my discussion with him, they actually pulled out the instrument panel and checked the wiring as well. There were no warning lights on the instrument panel. The thing was absolutely dead with the exception of the mileage reading before the car was jumped. I will call first thing in the morning to discuss the fuses again. I just wasn't thinking about the logic in that. I did contact Subaru customer service, and a case file has been opened. Unfortunately my schedule is such that I cannot drive over until the afternoon to discuss the issue face to face.
  • mogul2mogul2 Member Posts: 14
    Replacing fuse is really easy. Can't you buy fuses (get the list from owner's manual) from local auto store or wal-mart, replace it and see if it works. It will only cost you around $15 even you replace all the fuses in the fuse box.
  • eyorteacheyorteach Member Posts: 4
    I want to thank everyone for the advice. I am continuing to persue the fuse issue. When I questioned the technician who diagnosed the problem, he was emphatic that he tested the fuses. He felt that because the odometer always receives a charge, that the short ran through the odometer which caused the whole panel to short. He did not have a solid response for when the panel shorted (before or after jumping). At this point, I have referred the situation to Subaru for inquiry and will talk to the service manager in detail. I have reliable pricing information on the instrument cluster so that we can discuss an appropriate fee. I am not an electrical engineer, so I rely on the advice of others in this department. The car is at the dealership and the old panel has already been removed in preparation for the new panel. The dealership would not release the car back to us due to safety concerns. I wish I could say that I am being dealt with honestly, but my gut instinct is screaming otherwise. I will let you know about the outcome tomorrow.
  • jspectorjspector Member Posts: 2
    My 2001 Forester would not start. The keyless entry also does not work. When I manually opened the door, I heard a slight whirring sound from the CD/Radio on the dash (factory installed). The light inside was extremely dim. I tried jumping the car, but absolutely nothing happened when using the key in the ignition. I bought a new battery to install myself and was told that I may need to reset the "override button". Any hint as to where to find this switch and/or tips on putting in the new battery other than the obvious of hooking up the terminals?
  • chihigbeechihigbee Member Posts: 2
    I just purchased a 2002 Subaru Forester that has a couple symptoms I am worried about. It appears as though my interior lights have a slight flicker to them. This is most noticeable when I am idoling. Similarly, when driving and I release the gas peddle and press the brakes (so the rpm's drop), it appears as though my headlights dim or flutter for a brief second. Any thoughts on what this might be or steps to correct would be greatly appreciated.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I wonder if the previous owner installed an underdrive pulley? That spins the alternator at a slower-than-normal rate.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Probably needs an alternator in it.

  • chihigbeechihigbee Member Posts: 2
    Thanks! I'll look into the alternator.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    mike - it could also be a slipping belt, no?

    Check the belt tension first. Also inspect the belt for aging.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    It could be a slipping belt, however you would hear a high-pitch screeching in general if it were a belt.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    good point...
  • juancanojuancano Member Posts: 2
    I have a 99 Subaru Forester. A couple weeks my blinkers started acting up. Sometimes they would work, and sometimes they wouldn't. I figure I would check the fuse, but there's no fuse that says 'blinkers', so I couldn't tell which one to check. They were working fine until today they just stopped working; didn't work at all during the day. As I was driving home and had to make a right turn, out of courtesy, I figure I should at least do my Hazzard lights. Well, they didn't work either! I thought great! There's a fuse labelled 'Hazzards', so I'll find it. The fuse was fine, not burnt, but I replaced it anyway. I also check all the ones that had a light connected to them, and all were OK. Now, all of the sudden, my hazzards work again, but my blinkers still don't. It seems to me more than just a fuse problem; should I take it in to a shop? :confuse:


  • vtdogvtdog Member Posts: 163
    My son has an '02 Forester. The clock works, but the light is goes on and off. I figure its a loose bulb and/or bad ground. Does anyone have experience with this problem or opening up the clock housing to get to the wiring?
  • juancanojuancano Member Posts: 2
    Not sure about the '02, but I have a '99, and the USERS MANUAL has instructions on how to take the light housing apart. Have you checked there?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I had a 98 and the clock went out a couple of times. I used my soltering iron to patch a cracked connection.

    Check on Scooby Mods and you will find the full procedure on there.
  • vtdogvtdog Member Posts: 163
    Thanks, when my son comes in we will pry off the cover and see whats up
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