Running on Empty? Subaru Recalls 229,000 Legacy, Outback Models Over Gauge Issue

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
running on empty subaru recalls 229 000 legacy outback models over gauge issue

Subaru is recalling nearly 229,000 late-model vehicles over an issue that could result in vehicles unexpectedly stalling. While this is a very different issue from October’s recall notice, which dealt with roughly 400,000 vehicles globally, both could leave you stranded on the side of the road.

The new recall involves software gremlins inside the 2018 Outback and Legacy. According to the NHTSA’s report, the low-fuel warning light may not issue a warning at the appropriate fuel level. Likewise, the anticipated range may overestimate the number of miles you have left before needing to refuel. This could elevate the risk of a crash in certain situations, but the most likely outcome is the vehicle sputtering before you’ve had the chance to gas up.

Subaru plans to notify owners starting in December. Dealers will then reprogram the combination meter software for affected vehicles for free once the manufacturer issues the tools necessary for the fix.

Meanwhile, the company is still working on the notification process for an earlier issue involving the 2.0-liter found in Subaru BRZs, Foresters, and Imprezas manufactured between 2012 and 2013. Unlike the fuel gauge glitch, that issue was mechanical and dealt with faulty valve springs which could snap — leading to serious engine damage. The problem also affected some Scion FR-S or Japanese Toyota 86 vehicles produced within the same timeframe.

[Image: Subaru]

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  • JGlanton JGlanton on Nov 10, 2018

    LOL, I got stranded in my 2018 Outback. I was embarrassed! I always pay attention to my fuel guages. Then there I was, begging a gas station quick-mart attendant for a gas can to borrow, but noooo, he said I had to buy one to carry gas to my car that was stranded within sight of his window. I finally prevailed, and he loaned me a 1 gallon plastic can that leaked profusely when tilted into my fuel fill neck. I was squatting in my church clothes, with gas pouring down the side of my car, with a pretty girl in a dress sitting there sweating in the heat. Seeing my apparent incompetence and hot mess, a Harley rider stopped in front of my car and gave me advice on the proper way to use a gas can. With my samaritan helping to press the can against the car I managed to get a half-gallon of fuel into my Outback and a half-gallon onto the pavement. I then drove a hundred yards to the station and filled it up. Before all this started, the Subaru said that I had a 30-mile range from church and I drove three miles to the gas station. I kept thinking "My BMW would have never done this to me. The German engineer would jump out his window if his fuel range measurement was found to be imprecise". Well, on Friday on took the Outback in for its 6-month service and they told me about this recall. I just laughed. Then they told me that they fix was not ready yet, I'll have to wait for it.

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Nov 12, 2018

      On Ford's they specifically under state the distance to empty, once it gets low. The lower you go the bigger the discrepancy. Once it gets down to about 20 miles left they start ticking off twice as fast as miles are accumulated.

  • Watersketch Watersketch on Nov 11, 2018

    Running out of gas is definitely a pain in the butt. Elevate the risk of a crash - I don't think so.

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Nov 12, 2018

      Well it all depends on when and where you run out of gas and if the driver is aware of whats going on enough to get the vehicle out of the center lane of a freeway for example, or it just quits when the driver pull across or into traffic where it was going to be close anyway.

  • 285exp 285exp on Nov 12, 2018

    Did the gauge itself not indicate the correct amount or was the range to empty calculation wrong? If you're driving around with the fuel gauge on empty, just waiting on the low fuel light to come on, you deserve to get stranded. I used to own a MB 300SD, and you really don't want to run a diesel dry. One evening we were going out to dinner, and when I got in I noticed that the fuel gauge was on empty, my wife assured me that we had plenty of fuel, the low fuel warning light hadn't come on yet. As we were driving through one of the less desirable neighborhoods on the way to the restaurant, it sputtered to a halt. In the pre-cell phone era, I had to walk about half a mile to a pay phone to call a friend to bring me a can of diesel, and then find the priming pump buried deep in the engine bay, in the dark, and pump it a few dozen times to get fuel to the injector pump. The problem was that she drove around so much with the low fuel light on that she had burned out the light.

  • Jagboi Jagboi on Nov 14, 2018

    My routine when I get a new-to-me car is to fill a jerry can with fuel and put it in the trunk when I get to about 1/4 tank on the gauge. Then I drive until empty and see how the gauge behaves, so I know where true empty is. Then refill from the jerry can to get me back to a gas station to completely fill the tank.