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Subaru Recalls Crosstrek, Forester, Legacy, Outback Over Inhibitor Switch Failure

First and foremost, inhibitor switch refers to a safety device that prevents a given vehicle from starting unless certain system conditions are fulfilled. For example, if the gear lever isn't in the park or neutral positions. Also known as neutral safety switch, this device prompted a 95,830-vehicle recall at Subaru.
Subaru Forester 23 photos
Photo: Subaru / edited
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Recalled vehicles include the 2021 model year Crosstrek, the 2022 model year Forester, the 2021 through 2023 Legacy, and the same years for the Outback. The long and short of it is that an insufficient weld allows water to enter the inhibitor switch, thus preventing the reverse lights from illuminating and the rearview camera image from displaying on the infotainment system's touchscreen.

As per documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the transmission gear select indicator also becomes inoperative. Subaru can't rule out the inability to start the engine either. Affected vehicles were assembled in the period between February 8, 2021 and August 25, 2022. The inhibitor switch, identified under part number 31918AA120, is produced by Japan's Tokai Rika.

When did Subaru receive the first report from the US market over this problem? That would be June 2021, with the owner alleging that his vehicle failed to display reverse or drive on the combination meter. That very month, the supplier rotated a welding jig out of the production process as part of regular maintenance. Come September 2022, the folks at Tokai Rika identified a defect in the welding jig introduced in switch production back in June 2021.

Rather than issuing a recall then and there, Subaru preferred to continue monitoring field data. Fast forward to November 2023, and the grand total of reports filed with Subaru of America over said condition is 12. On the upside, the Japanese automaker isn't aware of any crashes or injuries related to defective switches that failed as a result of water ingress.

2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness
Photo: Subaru
As mentioned earlier, 95,830 vehicles are recalled in the US market. The recall condition was corrected at Tokai Rika's plant on June 16, 2021. Dealers have already been instructed to replace the inhibitor switch at no cost to the owners, who will be informed of this problem via first-class mail in January 2024.

Remedy switches have been manufactured with an appropriate weld that doesn't allow water to get in. Owners who paid to have the inhibitor switch replaced prior to the publishing of safety recall number 23V-755 are eligible for reimbursement.

Redesigned for the 2025 model year on a stiffer version of the Subaru Global Platform, the Forester isn't the best-selling Scooby out there. As far as the United States of America is concerned, the sales champ is the Outback due to 135,277 deliveries from January 2023 through October 2023. Who said wagons (posing as crossovers) aren't cool anymore?

The Legacy is best described as the four-door sibling of the Outback, a sedan with slightly cleaner looks than the heavily cladded wagon. Pricing for the Outback and Legacy starts at $28,895 and $24,895, respectively, whereas the Forester and Crosstrek presently sticker at $27,095 and $24,995 in the US.
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 Download: Subaru inhibitor switch recall (PDF)

About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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