In the realm of all-wheel drive, Subaru is one of the undisputed champions. Legendary for its handling and performance, the Subaru Symmetrical AWD system provides traction and stability in rain and snow.
However, like any mechanical system, it’s prone to challenges. Fortunately, if you’re experiencing Subaru AWD problems, you’re not alone.
Let’s explore five common issues, fixes, and more.
This Article Contains:
- 5 Prevalent Subaru AWD Problems (+Fixes)
- 3 Constructive Tips to Maintain Your Subaru AWD System
- The Most and Least Reliable Subaru Models and Years
Let’s dive in.
5 Prevalent Subaru AWD Problems (+Fixes)
Exploring the road less traveled is one of the best things about being a Subaru owner, but it’s essential to be aware of common AWD problems and what to do about them.
1. CVT Issues
Most Subaru models come equipped with continuously variable transmission (CVT) systems, which function similarly to automatic transmission. However, these systems can be susceptible to slipping, stalling, jerking, and sudden loss of acceleration.
Additionally, because CVTs rely on belts to transmit power, the transmission can fail if these belts stretch or snap.
The transmission is quite a complex system, so if you’re experiencing any transmission issues, it’s best to leave it to a trained mechanic.
2. AWD Warning Light Illuminates
There are many potential contributors to an illuminated check AWD system light, including:
- Low tire pressure
- A faulty wheel speed sensor
- An electrical issue
- Driving with odd-sized tires
Often, the AWD light illuminates when there’s an FWD fuse inserted in the front-wheel drive slot in the fuse box, disabling your AWD. Removing the FWD fuse should re-engage all-wheel drive.
While these are relatively easy fixes, you could leave it to a mechanic if you’re unsure.
3. Unusual Noises During Turns
There are several possible culprits for strange AWD noises, including:
- Bad viscous coupler: Sitting inside the transmission, it can make a clunking sound and lock the car in AWD once it starts to wear out.
- Failing constant velocity (CV) joints: Less of an issue in a new Subaru; this can be a relatively common problem in older models. Worn CV joints often make a noticeable clicking or clunking sound when turning.
- Torque bind: Torque bind generally occurs when the front and rear wheels spin at different speeds. More noticeable when performing tight turns, torque bind often sounds like a solid thud.
If your Subaru vehicle makes strange noises when turning, take it to a professional since the repairs likely require mechanical know-how and the correct tools.
4. AWD System Not Engaging
If the check engine light activates and you notice the rear wheels are unpowered, it could be an issue with the transfer case. Because of the Subaru Symmetrical all-wheel drive, the transfer sits directly in the transmission housing.
Vibrations, fluid leaks, and unexpected AWD behavior can indicate a faulty transfer case. Given its tricky location, you should let a mechanic handle it.
5. Differential Leaks
Occasionally, an issue may create a leak in the rear differential, which can lead to a problem with the all-wheel drive system. The rear differential is a critical part of the AWD system, so fluid leaks can result in increased friction, reduced lubrication, and loss of traction.
Likewise, issues can arise with the center differential, creating a similar problem.
Now, a slight leak in the center differential or rear differential won’t necessarily make your AWD vehicle unsafe to drive. But being fundamental components, it’s best to avoid the risk and have a qualified mechanic take a look ASAP.
Note: If the check engine light also activates, it may mean the car has automatically turned off AWD in case the detected fault damages the system.
Now that we’ve covered some of the most common problems encountered with Subaru’s AWD system, let’s look at how you can maintain it.
3 Constructive Tips to Maintain Your Subaru AWD System
Keeping your Subaru’s AWD system in peak condition is vital to enjoying its full potential. Here are a few things you can do to extend the life of your Subaru’s AWD system:
- Regularly change fluids: Although sometimes marked as “lifetime fluid,” you can replace the differential fluid as often as every 30,000 miles. At the same time, you should have a mechanic check the transfer case and transmission fluids.
- Frequently rotate tires: Rotating the tires every 7,500 miles helps maintain uniform wear. Uneven tire sizes or traction can put additional stress on the drivetrain and increase wear on AWD components. Similarly, it’s crucial to ensure tire pressure remains stable. Uneven air pressure can cause each wheel to spin at different speeds, leading to torque bind.
Note: Avoid driving with especially worn or damaged tires, as this can increase wear and tear on the AWD system and traction control.
- Watch out for rust: If you live in a particularly wet or muddy area, it’s easy for rust to work its way in and corrode suspension, brake, and exhaust system components. Washing your AWD vehicle to remove road salt and applying protective coatings can help minimize the risk.
Curious about the most reliable Subarus?
We’ll uncover the top contenders and point out the models to watch out for.
The Most and Least Reliable Subaru Models and Years
While a little preventative maintenance goes a long way, it’s also important to consider the inherent reliability of a Subaru model.
Here are some of the most reliable Subaru vehicle models and years:
- 2020 Subaru Forester: Built off the Impreza platform, the Forester became the best-selling Subaru in 2021. It has a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- 2022 Subaru Crosstrek: The 2022 Subaru Crosstrek has firmly established itself as a dependable SUV with solid off-road performance.
- 2018 Subaru WRX or WRX STI: The 2018 iteration received several upgrades, including a revised suspension and a new transmission. The WRX STI also underwent a few improvements, including a revised AWD system.
If you’re thinking about becoming a Subaru owner, these years and models have experienced more problems than others:
- 2011-2013 Subaru Outback: Subaru suffered a lawsuit relating to defective piston rings, which caused the engines to burn oil and, in some cases, lead to engine failure. Aside from the Subaru Outback, the Forester, Impreza, Legacy, and Crosstrek models of the same years were also affected.
- 2009 Subaru Forester: This particular Subaru model and year suffered 18 recalls, primarily due to an airbag and an electrical issue. Owners also reported problems with the exhaust and climate system and significant engine problems.
- 2011 Subaru Impreza: The 2011 Impreza suffered 14 recalls. Owners have also reported issues with the suspension, climate system, noises, and leaks.
Make Every Subaru Adventure a Smooth One with AutoNation Mobile Service
Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive has a reputation for outstanding reliability and performance in snow (with snow tires) and muddy conditions (with all seasons). However, it’s not without potential issues — which often require technical knowledge and specialist tools to fix.
So, whether you have an old or new vehicle, it’s best to leave any potential Subaru AWD problems to a professional.
In this case, why not have the mechanic come to you?
AutoNation Mobile Service is a mobile repair service that can tackle your Subaru AWD problems from your driveway.
Contact us, and our expert mechanics will have all four wheels powered in no time.