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Subaru Outback/Legacy Electronic & Lighting Problems



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Not sure, but I recall a discussion about a single point ground, to solve issues like that. It was common enough that people came to use the acronym, SPG, by itself.

    Google it and see what you can find, I'm sure you'll get plenty of hits.
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,783

    I would go looking for a short circuit to earth in the wiring loom in the steering column or under the dashboard, anywhere that the loom passes over bare metal. The described behaviour sounds like a live wire is touching earth, affecting ancillaries. It would not change behaviour of engine unless you managed to fry the computer

    The most likely point is probably the wiring to wiper controls as you were using these at the time. After that, look to the ignition switch, light controls, horn and cruise control, all of which are mounted where cables need to flex. If nothing obvious there, move onto cables passing through metal brackets near fuse block.

    As a last resort, try the wiring for trailer plugs which are often fitted after market and often not insulated properly. Similarly if there are any wired after market accessories, look at the insulation on clips, and ensure that the attached wire has been terminated and insulated.


  • I solved the problem. I had a short in the main wire that goes to the brake lights. The fuse did not blow, it melted (never buy fuses from Harbor Freight). The wire got so hot that it melted through to the signal and other lights. I had to trace it all the way to the engine compartment and tape all the exposed connections. The original problem was that the wires that go from the body into the rear hatch had failed from fatigue. (poor wire in that is was just a few strands of heavy wire.

  • I would start by looking at where the wires go from the Car body into the rear cargo door. These stranded wires are of poor quality in that they consist of a small number of strands of large gauge wire rather than a large number of smaller strands) This causes them to break and eventually even the vinyl covering fails. When two or more wires make contact they do all kinds of strange things. Before I discovered this, my park lights would come on for no reason, dash lights went off when I stepped on the brake, speedometer pinned at high and ABS brake lights came on randomly. The most common problem is the large white brake light wire can get so hot it melts the vinyl off of the smaller wires. They make contact turning things on and off. Fortunately non of them are ground wires so the engine should never stop. If you replace fuses make sure they are quality fuses. I had used fuses from Harbor Freight and one melted, the two fuse contacts came together and all hell broke loose. I now test fuses by taking one from the package and put more and more current through it until it fails. If the plastic softens don't use that brand of fuse. Just shorting the fuse across a battery will not work as current is so high that fuse fails instantly and plastiuc does not have time to heat up.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775
    edited October 2011
    This sounds like a job for Mr. Peabody and the "Wayback Machine"!! OK, it helps if you were a child of the '60's and know what that even means.

    Does this sound familiar?

    If you encounter a customer complaint
    of the speedometer needle jumping, dash
    warning light(s) on/glowing dimly, or an
    engine driveability problem, etc., check
    the alternator.

    It is from a 2003 EndWrench article, and was also the topic of a TSB covering 2000-2002 models. Alternator failure results in a depleted battery, slow running wipers and dim lights, the electronic instrument cluster screwing up, ABS system operation issues, etc. It is an intermittent problem, and most often happens in damp weather. Probably related to insulation breakdown. You may need to replace the alternator.
  • nhrobnhrob Posts: 1
    Hi all, great site.

    I have a 2004 outback with an after market stereo. The stereo worked for over a year. My car was bumped in the driver side front fender and shortly after that the stereo, the dome light and the lights between the visors won't come on.

    The fuse box near the coin holder has power to all slots. I even replaced fuses that looked fine. Any idea what has happened?

    Thank you.
  • sghuskersghusker Posts: 10
    edited December 2011
    I just installed a new passenger side headlight assembly in my 2000 Legacy. When I turned the turn signal on, the turn signal indicator on the dash board went dim then I had no response from my turn signal switch on the column in any direction. I replaced a blown hazzard relay fuse and now all the correct bulbs light up when the hazzard is on, but still no response from the turn signal switch. Also, now, my son noted that the spedometer and odometer are not working either.??? I found that the turn signal socket on my new headlamp assembly was faulty. What could have happen to my turn signals??
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775
    Unfortunately it sounds like 'faulty' as in short circuit in the socket assembly. You drew excessive current, and took out a fuse. But it sounds like something else fried before the fuse opened. If I get a chance I'll take a look at some wiring diagrams for you.
  • Thanks for responding but it was a blown fuse in the alternator circuit. Go figure! I didnt have a wiring diagram so I had to tow it to my mechanic. It cost more to tow than to fix !! By the way.. Is there a website out there where I could get wiring diagrams for all my cars. I found one where they charge $4.00 but Im not sure if they are complete diagrams. Are they any FREE website out there ??
  • DON'T spend the $4. I did and the site is complete junk. There are no wiring diagrams and no useful information.

    I am still searching for a valid destination that can acutally provide a schematic. May have to go to the dealer or buy a repair manual.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775
    Some time back you could get .pdf versions on CD of the factory service manuals from some of the larger e-bay automotive guys. That's how I got mine. Something like $20-$25, but well worth it.
  • metroartmetroart Posts: 2
    Ignition starts up right away, so it's not the battery, but clock resets to 1:00 and tach to 0. When I turn raidio/cd on, panel lights flash a few times, then none of the radio/cd buttons work. When remote is used to lock car doors, car beeps 3 times but works.

    Next day everything is fine and I lock car with remote without any beeping, but after a few hours the car starts beeping about once every 2 seconds until I turned the remote lock off. Car still starts just fine, but radio/cd no longer works and clock/tach always reset to 0. Any idea?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I wonder if one of the grounds is bad and there's a short somewhere? I remember a long thread for "single point ground" that went around for a while and was a popular fix/mod.
  • zshaw1zshaw1 Posts: 2
    Driving home yesterday, I noticed when I turned the turn signal on the tachometer, speedometer, dash lights all turned off while driving. The problem proceeded to get worse with the addition of all those systems failing when I braked. As I neared home, my turn signal became more frequent, the radio had completely shut down and as I pulled into the driveway my horn began to sound as if the alarm were going off. The battery eventually died, we jumped it and it proceeded to die again. What does this mean? Is it the alternator or the battery? I saw people describing similar issues with the alternator, should I have it towed? Thanks.
  • zshaw1zshaw1 Posts: 2
    Exact same problem last night. I was driving home and I noticed the issue. The battery ended up dying and after jumping it, it died again. I called the tow truck this morning, I think it's the battery in my case, but who knows.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,911
    If it died while you were driving, it is either your alternator or a connector to the alternator. Most likely, it's the alternator.

    They do have a lifespan. The one on my '96 Outback started getting weak at around 130,000 miles. I kept it in there until around 175,000, but it wouldn't produce enough current to charge the car at idle if I had the headlights on. :blush:
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • woodcrvrwoodcrvr Posts: 1

    I just bought a 2003 Outback with this same problem. Did you find a solution?

  • pella2pella2 Posts: 5
    Hello everyone. My sons 1990 legacy 2.2L has a problem with the warning lights. The battery, brake, stop lamp, at oil temp lamps stay on whether the car is running or not. They go out when the key is turned all the way off. When he pulls the emergency brake, that lamp gets brighter and gets dimmer when released. I checked the electrical connections in the engine compartment and they seem fine. I am really not sure where to look.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Could be tough to pin point, but search for "Single Point Ground", as I recall Subies from that ear benefiting from that electrical mod.
  • jd_24jd_24 Posts: 92
    Check the alternator. My 2001 OB once had the brake light come on during a drive home. Then once the battery was about shot, just about every light came on at once. 30 seconds latter... no more and I coasted to a stop. Interesting thing was that the battery light wasn't the light to come on first, and didn't come on until the battery was basically dead.
  • pella2pella2 Posts: 5
    Thanks for the quick replies. I will check those things and let you know how things work out. I appreciate the input.
  • Thanks a lot for the tip. I did check the alternator and that was the problem. Replaced it and all is OK now. Just seems a little weird that erroneous trouble lights appear when the alternator is bad. I would expect just an "ALT" light instead of all the other stuff that showed up.

    Thanks again.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,578
    On modern cars, when voltage drops or is erratic, the computers go nuts. Steady voltages are a must.

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  • Hi I just got a 1998 Subaru Legacy wagon. As I would be driving everything is ok until I slow down and stop the lights (all of them) go dim and there is a lot of noise in the radio. When the car is sitting running you can see and hear the car and light revving up and down. The car starts and drives fine. :surprise:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,578
    Sounds like a failing alternator or a dead or soon to die battery OR very corroded or loose connections OR a bad engine-to-frame ground cable. You should do some exploring on loose wires and corroded cables, then make sure your battery is fully charged and then test the alternator output with a volt meter across the battery cables.

    If the battery in the car is over 5 years old, it's tired.

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  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I also wonder if the previous owner installed an under-drive pulley?

    It was a common mod that let the engine rev a little more freely, but it turns the alternator more slowly and one side effect was dimming lights at idle.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,578
    really? Seems like a useless modification unless the car were supercharged.

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  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    A lot of people did it, at least the NASIOC Mid-Atlantic folks.

    I thought they were a bit crazy.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,578
    Really. All that work for maybe...MAYBE 5 HP.

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