Subaru Outback/Legacy Electronic & Lighting Problems

caliberchiccaliberchic Member Posts: 402
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  • subaru43subaru43 Member Posts: 1
    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 Member 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 Member Posts: 21,181
    My guess is a loose dash-light connection. Hightly doubt the alternator or fuse.

    -mike
  • sorlikowskisorlikowski Member Posts: 6
    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 Member 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?
  • sorlikowskisorlikowski Member Posts: 6
    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 Member 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 Member 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.

    -mike
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,130
    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.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • sorlikowskisorlikowski Member Posts: 6
    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!?
  • subaruinysosubaruinyso Member Posts: 2
    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.

    Thanks
    :confuse:
  • jfljfl Member Posts: 1,396
    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.

    Jim
  • paisanpaisan Member 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.

    -mike
  • sorlikowskisorlikowski Member Posts: 6
    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 Member 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.

    -mike
  • sorlikowskisorlikowski Member Posts: 6
    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 Member 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

    -mike
  • mnhamilmnhamil Member Posts: 1
    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?
  • subaruinysosubaruinyso Member Posts: 2
    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 Member Posts: 72,587
    That gets nearly everyone. Got me once, too.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,130
    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!
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • sorlikowskisorlikowski Member Posts: 6
    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 Member Posts: 21,181
    Nice, glad you solved the problem!

    -mike
  • seanuseanu Member 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 Member Posts: 1,396
    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 1stsubaruparts.com. 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.

    Jim
  • crcyrcrcyr Member 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 Member 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.
  • callileahcallileah Member Posts: 1
    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!

    Callileah
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I agree. Try a search for "Single Point Ground AND Subaru" on your favorite search engine.
  • b_myersb_myers Member Posts: 1
    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.
  • no1fiddlerno1fiddler Member Posts: 3
    My Subaru Outback 2000 has been sitting still in the snow and rain while I was on holiday for a couple of weeks. The car started fine this morning on the first day back, but unfortunately it seemed to develop an electrical issue on the way to work.

    The symptoms are apparently dependent on the speed of the engine:
    Below about 1500 revs everything looks and works fine
    Above about 2000 revs: Radio switches off, Caution and battery warning light on
    Car is running absolutely fine at all speeds and all the main lights seem to work.

    When I left the office this evening my battery was flat. A jump start from a friend got it going just fine. Not sure what I'm going to find out tomorrow morning.

    I've never replaced the battery (I've had the car from new), so that was my first thought, but I don't understand :confuse: how that would mess with the radio at different engine revs.

    I'd appreciate any insight that someone might have on these symptoms.

    Thanks, Steve
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Probably the Alternator. I do an alternator and battery replacement.

    -mike
  • no1fiddlerno1fiddler Member Posts: 3
    Thanks, I'll try that today and let you know how I get on... (for future reference!)
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,130
    Yep, it sounds like alternator to me as well. If the alternator is putting out very little juice, higher engine speeds are going to demand more power for spark, etc. If there is not enough to go around, the radio is the first thing to shut down. If the alternator was dead altogether, you would continue losing auxiliary items, including gauges, before finally the engine would die.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • no1fiddlerno1fiddler Member Posts: 3
    Good call both paisan and xwesx.
    Both battery and alternator were faulty... I guess it's been a while since I've messed with cars, so I was surprised that the on board computer was able to shut-down non-essential services so quickly and allow the engine to continue to run.
    Also, I *thought* the engine was running OK, then after the replacement of both components, it definitely had more zip. I guess 2 1/2 weeks away from the car and I forgot what it sounded like!
    Because I'm basically a mug I took it to the dealership to get it fixed, worried that a generic garage would not be able to diagnose anything other than the Alternator and Battery. Yesterday was an expensive day!

    Quick newbie question though, are Subaru's computer diagnostics generally supported by non Subaru garages?
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Most of the codes in OBDII are readable by a generic garage, but there are some items that are only accessable by the Subaru Computer Diag.

    -mike
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,130
    Just for reference, the work involved with replacing the alternator and battery is about 30 minutes from start to finish. That, plus around $250 for the two parts. Auto parts stores can usually check those items to determine if they are within spec or not as well.

    I don't blame you for going to a service department though. If you are not familiar/comfortable with the vehicle's mechanicals, there is peace of mind knowing that the car will work right when you get it back.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • mtbknobmtbknob Member Posts: 3
    Recently, I noticed that when i used the key fob to lock my car, the parking lights did not blink. Then I was told that I had no tail lights when leaving a parking lot one night. Checked the fuse, it was blown. Tried a new one, blew immediately. Checked accessible wiring in hatch to no avail. Is there a relay on this circuit? anyone have any ideas?
    Also, where can one find an easy to use electrical diagram and t.s. guide for the car?
    Thanks in advance for answers/suggestions!
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    You have some kind of short in the lights. I'd look for a cracked bulb to start with. Unfortunately if it's not a bulb it may get tricky to chase down.

    -mike
  • mtbknobmtbknob Member Posts: 3
    Thanks! Found a tail light with the lead contact melted into the ground socket.
    I thought I t-shot the problem by disconnecting the the main plugs in the hatch, but apparently, the ground circuit was still intact (doh!) Being at a loss of what to do next, I took your advice and began pulling bulbs... voila!
    This all began with a leak in the tail light lens. Everytime I opened the hatch after a good rain, I'd get a dribble out of the interior panel ever since the car was new. The dealer claimed they could not find the source and implied it was my imagination. Finally, after 140K miles, I tore into it and found that when it was assembled, a gasket had been folded over that is just below a little vent in the top of the lens housing. Cleaned it up, and sealed the vent slot with silicone. The car is now sitting in the sun getting the lens housings dry and I'm on my way to the A/P store for some bulbs and fuses ;) Thanks again!
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    No problemo, glad to help a fellow subie owner out!

    -mike
  • dingledingle Member Posts: 1
    I've got a 93 Legacy wagon ... brake lights working ... no tail lamps ... manual missing and I need to chase it down ... can't decipher fuse box under hood, nor find interior fuse box where fuse puller may be hiding ... but it may be more than that ... suggestions welcomed ... dingle
  • sdaubinsdaubin Member Posts: 1
    Hi,
    I have a 2000 Subaru Outback Limited that I purchased about a month ago. The other day the heater didn't work when I turned it on and I noticed a burning smell which I hope was just the fuses blowing. Later that night I checked the fuses. Both of the 15 amp fuses on the top right of the fuse panel (marked "heater" on the fuse diagram) were blown. I replaced them and the heater still didn't work, except on the highest fan speed. Well, it worked for one day, and now both fuses are blown again.

    Does anyone know why the lower fan speeds would drop out on the heater, and what might be causing these fuses to blow?
    Thanks
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    I believe its a combo of a bad relay for the fan and possibly another short on it. The high selection has it's own relay so that you can have a blower if the other one blows in an emergency.

    I'm not sure what's involved in repairing it though.

    -mike
    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • yuyaxyuyax Member Posts: 11
    This morning when I started my car I noticed a Tic Tac sound coming from behind the ignition switch or lock cylinder, .

    - This sounds repeats itself approx every 5 seconds.

    - The car does not have to be running for this sound to occur. Just having the key turned to the ON position will start the sound

    - I can notice a slight interruption of the blower/fan and the light on the ignition lock when the Tic Tac occurs

    - Car seems to run fine and do not notice any irregularities besides this sound

    Anybody experienced this before?

    This is on a 2002 Subaru Legacy Outback with 90,000 miles

    Thanks in advance
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Is the electric fan under the hood also turning on and off with the tic/tack/relay sound?

    -mike
  • yuyaxyuyax Member Posts: 11
    It doesn't quite turn on/off. It is more like a 'brown out'. Like a drop in power.

    Another thing, the radio was removed by the dealer (warranty work) two weeks ago but there were no tic tacs back then. I could be wrong but I don't think this is related to the sound.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Sounds like someone connected the test circuit wire and put the car into closed-loop mode. It's hard to describe which wires need to be disconnected but when they are connected these symptoms are what you get.

    -mike
  • yuyaxyuyax Member Posts: 11
    Thanks Paisan.

    If that was the case, wouldn't the Tic Tac happen right after I picked up the car instead of manifesting itself today?

    Also, when the car was in for warranty work (another long story) I don't think there were any computer checks or diagnosis performed on it. The radio/tape player was removed and sent to Subaru for repair or replacement and that should have been it.
  • yuyaxyuyax Member Posts: 11
    I went to the car again and it does sounds like when you hook up a code reader.

    I also noticed that the daylight driving lights also dimmed when it clicked/clacked.

    Very puzzling... ??
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