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Subaru Outback/Legacy Electronic & Lighting Problems



  • Hello . my 91 legacy has a dash light problem. when i am on a bumpy road my dash lights flicker, sometimes they go out. When i am not moving i move the stearing wheel up and down the dash lights flicker, when i hit the stearing wheel they go out tail lights are not affected by this can some one help?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Hmm, ages ago a buddy had his dash lights go out, and they shared a fuse with the tail lights. So I think it was a good idea to check that.

    Sounds like an alternator issue to me. Perhaps the external lights just get first priority.

    Do you have an underdrive pulley? That would make the alternator spin slower and some people reported dimming lights with those.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    My guess is a loose dash-light connection. Hightly doubt the alternator or fuse.

  • Lots of electrical issues with my 2001 outback. Abs light is on and there is a "clicking" sound under the console when I step on the brake. Also the headlights go out when I pull the parking brake. Funny smell occasionally in the car. Low beams burned out (both) and the high beam light on the dash goes on when I put the driving lights on. Also when the abs light is on the wipers (front and rear) go faster than normal. All these things started at the same time. What's up!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    headlights go out when I pull the parking brake

    The daytime running lights will turn off when you pull up the parking brake, that's normal, if that's what you mean.

    Funny smell occasionally in the car

    Change deodorant? :D

    Just kidding. What type of smell? Fuel? Burning? Rotten Egg?

    Under what conditions do you sense the smell? Hot days? Cold? Rain? Long trips?
  • What's deodorant? ;) The best I can describe the smell is the stale air from inside an inner tube. It happens at various times, usually worse when it sits for a couple of days. I have no low beams at this time and when I turn on the driving lights, the high beam indicator on the dash lights up. Also abs light is on frequently and when it is, the wipers go faster than usual
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Try new headlight bulbs first, to see if that helps. They tend to go out at around the same time.

    IIRC mine failed within a week or two of each others, this after 7 years of use! Yours could be a coincidence, too.

    Do you have a cabin filter in the HVAC? Maybe it's in need of change, and that could be causing the smell. Once a year is the interval I seem to recall.

    ABS light? Maybe the brake fluid is low? Check just in case.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    IIRC your car has Daytime running lights. What that means is that your low-beams are on at a reduced power level even when you have the switch off. When you are turning it "on" and the high beam indicator is coming on, means you likely have the high beams on and when you turn on your headlights the highbeams are coming on. First try putting the switch out of the high-beam selection and see what happens. After that I'd replace the headlights and go from there.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 11,147
    Probably a good place to start, for sure.

    The ABS light on along with increased wiper speed makes me think there is an electrical short happening. That might be causing the smell, too, if the wiring is overheating. All of this would be fairly unusual on a newer car (having several 30+ year old cars, anything 15 years or newer is a "newer car" to me!) given all of the fuses and relays that protect the circuits, but shorts are still possible.

    If you are willing to do further investigation yourself, you might consider removing the lower dash panel below the steering column and instrument cluster and feeling the wiring clusters to make a quick determination if there is additional heat build up anywhere. The wires should not feel warm or hot.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • Thanks. I know how the lighting switch works but currently have no low beams or daytime running lights in any position. Both low beam bulbs have been replaced. The high beam indicator light comes on when the high beams are on, and also when I put the driving lights on, even though there is no difference in the intensity of the lights. This vehicle sits in the back yard under a canopy until there is inclement weather.(rain, cold)I'm thinking small rodents may have found my wiring!?
  • My 98 outback wgn just a battery replacement and now the running light wont shut off. It was not this way when I picked the car up from mechanic, started one day later. I had to disconnect the terminal to ground to turn them off. Also I have noticed the rplacement battery has a second wire coming off the neg terminal and grounding directly to body next to battery. I don't remember seeing this before.

  • jfljfl Posts: 1,388
    Have you checked the fuses for the low beams?

    Running lights won't turn off - there's a switch (mine is on the steering column between the steering wheel and instrument panel) you need to turn off.

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Grounding wire is supposed to be there.

    As for the parking lights, there is a switch on top of the steering console which was probably by mistake and that's why they are staying on.

  • The smell appears to be coming from the alternator. Could this also be causing the electrical probs? I checked all fuses and all are good. I had the charging system and battery ckecked at my local Auto-Zone and the guy said all was ok. Appt. scheduled at the Subaru dealer. Time will tell I guess, and $$$.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Definitely could have to do with your problems. Why not just replace the alternator yourself? Takes about 20 minutes and should cost about $125.

  • If I knew for sure the alternator was the cause, I would change it myself. Auto-Zone guy said charging system is fine though. Here again is the list of problems. No daytime running lights, no hi beams, abs light on more often than not, check engine light now on saying knock sensor and O2 sensor. The car is running fine and getting normal mileage. :sick:
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    It's going to cost you at least $90 to get a dealer to check it out. I'd chance it on an alternator for $120

  • Lately my car won't always start on the first try. When you turn the key it definitely clicks and all the lights are turning on, but there's no sound coming from the starter--it doesn't seem to be turning over. Sometimes it'll start on the 2nd or 3rd time or sometimes if you just give it time it'll start. I'm getting ready to go on a big road trip down the ALCAN and am thinking I should probably get this checked out--maybe the starter?
  • Thanks Mike and Jim, I did find the switch on the top of the steering column was on. What an odd feature. I have owned this car for 3 years and never knew that was there.

    Brian :)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That gets nearly everyone. Got me once, too.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 11,147
    It certainly involves the starter. You should check the battery cables for corrosion and makes sure they are tight at all connection points. The negative terminal mounts to a bracket, which in turn is held in place by the upper starter bolt - if something is loose, this is the most likely spot. If all looks tight, I think you should replace the starter solenoid and call it a day.

    If you are driving the highway this time of year, definitely get it fixed unless you plan every stop in a populated area. It is not going to get better without intervention, but it could always get worse!
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • turns out the alternator was overcharging and putting out 17 volts. As a result all headlight bulbs were blown and also caused the abs light to turn on. 40$ to find out and 70$ for an alternator that I will put in. Thanks for your help! :shades:
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Nice, glad you solved the problem!

  • seanuseanu Posts: 7
    Hi everyone. I have a problem with both front power windows on my 2005 outback. The drivers side window always had a "sticky" switch, and now both front windows are completely dead. I checked the fuse, and it is ok (and the back windows are working). Any ideas on a do-it-yourself repair? I'm really disappointed that I'm having these problems with the car (my first Subbie) just about 10k miles out of warranty.
  • jfljfl Posts: 1,388
    On my 2000 Legacy, all you could do was to replace switch cluster. There was no easy or simple way to take the cluster apart.

    You might find the part at They are a dealer in Washington state. I call to confirm the online prices and send Subaru bucks to pay for the parts. Definitely less expensive than my local dealers.

  • crcyrcrcyr Posts: 1
    I have a 1998 Subaru legacy/outback limited. My problem is the tail gate is locked shut. The remote or key doesn't work. What a pain not have access. It stuck on me a few times before but would "fix" itself, now nothing. Besides a pry-bar any fuses, key tricks anything I need to know. Please send me any helpful information out there. Thanks
  • cptpltcptplt Posts: 1,075
    when you hit the remote can you hear the mechanism cycle but it won't open when you press on the latch?? had this on my 98, first thing to try is just spray some WD40 into the mechanism where the latch is on the outside, if thats not helping you may have to replace the latch.
  • Hi there,
    I was in here perusing Outback problems because I am researching buying a used one...

    Anyway, I suggest checking the ground wiring. This can be the sole source of all your issues! I had a very similar problem with my father's Dodge Caravan. Headlights wouldn't work right, turn signal lights were out/non-functional on one side...list goes on. It wasn't an Alternator problem like I initially considered. A mechanic at my local Advance Auto store suggested that it could be very simple - grounding issue. Turned out that was exactly what it was! If the grounding wire is either completely de-attached or connected, but seriously corroded, it will cause headlight/turn signal/dash indicator light 'brown-out' or non-functioning.
    Get the proper book for your make/model and search out where the grounding wires are suppose to be attached when they exit that section of the harness that connects to those headlights/turn signals/dash lights and (after disconnecting from the Battery) undo the nut holding it to the car body and visually inspect for corrosion/disconnection. (there's more than one usually, one on each side at least..)
    A new connector can be purchased for pennies and installed on that ground wire in about 10 seconds. REconnect ground wire to car and screw nut back on, tightly. Reconnect the Battery. Test everything. Be aware there could be more than one ground wire problem. And buy yourself a line testor! Make it easy on yourself to find ground on your car! They are fairly cheap and valuable to have.

    I hope this helps!

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I agree. Try a search for "Single Point Ground AND Subaru" on your favorite search engine.
  • Recently purchased a 2003 Outback wagon. My left headlight stopped funtioning, so I bought a new pair of headlight lo-beam bulbs. When I replaced them, my left headlight still was not working. Bought another bulb, same result. Went through and checked all fuses, and replaced headlight fuses for good measure. Still nothing. Any suggestions on what I might be able to check next. Last thing I want to do is spend $80 for a diagnostic check.
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