What Problems Do Subaru Foresters Have? (Solved!)

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Foresters are Subaru’s icon for adventure cars. They are a convenient crossover vehicle that has gained popularity among adventurous people. While they are built for adventure, there are a few common issues to watch out for when purchasing and maintaining your Forester.

Subaru Foresters are known for problems that include: high oil consumption, failed sensors, head gasket leaks and failures, transmission issues caused by cooling issues, catalytic converter failure, and more rarely oil leaks. The older models are more likely to have these issues.

Some of these issues are only minor repairs that won’t take a lot of your pocket, but other problems listed above can have costly repairs and replacements. Read below to learn what problems you can expect with your Subaru Forester. 

Head Gasket Failures

The head gasket provides a seal between the engine block and the cylinder heads. This seal keeps the fuel separate from the oil and coolant. If you blow a head gasket, the seal is broken and your vehicle loses a lot of power, starts overheating, and the engine runs poorly. While your vehicle may still run with a blown head gasket for a short while, it’s unsafe to do so and should be avoided. 

Head gaskets are difficult to replace because a mechanic will have to remove the engine to get to the gasket. The average cost to repair a head gasket on a Subaru Forester is between $1,500 to $1,800.

Sensor Failures

Vehicles are full of different sensors that fulfill all sorts of roles. If a sensor goes bad, your vehicle may not be able to regulate itself. On the Forester, common sensor issues surround the O2 sensor, the knock sensor, and the mass airflow intake (MAF) sensor.

O2 sensors are involved in the exhaust system and ensure that the fuel to oxygen ratio in the engine is within normal limits. When you have a bad O2 sensor, you will not pass an emissions test, gas mileage will be affected, and your engine will run rough. 

Sensors are fairly easy to replace, but it’s not as simple as a quick oil change. Replacing the O2 sensor can cost anywhere from $200 up to $500 if you take it to a mechanic. If you are experienced with repairing cars, you can replace them yourself and only pay the cost of parts which can be anywhere from $35 to $270.

The knock sensor helps to manage ignition timing. If your knock sensor is malfunctioning, you will likely experience shaking and misfiring when starting the vehicle, slow acceleration, and reduced gas mileage. Replacing the knock sensor can cost anywhere between $250 to $400.

The MAF sensor determines the mass flow rate of air going into the engine. A bad MAF will cause poor gas mileage, difficulty starting the engine, stalling after starting, and hesitation and jerking during acceleration. Replacing a MAF sensor typically costs around $200.

Transmission Probelms

The Subaru Forester can have issues with shuddering and jerking, especially when stopping and starting. The most common issues with the transmission are surrounding the transmission fluid, how much fluid is in the reservoir, and how clean it is. To have the fluid changed or flushed costs around $150. However, a transmission replacement typically costs around $3,500.


Some years of the Forester come with a CVT instead of the typical manual or automatic transmission. A continuous variable transmission (CVT) receives many mixed reviews. Most car gearheads aren’t fans of the CVT and would prefer to control shifting with a manual transmission, but when it comes to automatic transmission vs CVT, there’s more to consider.

A CVT was introduced to the automobile to increase efficiency. The goal of a CVT is to increase gas mileage and create a smoother ride.

A manual transmission has gears that the driver can shift to once their vehicle needs more power. The automatic works in a similar way, but switches gears due to pressure rather than driver choice. The CVT, instead of switching gears when it reaches a limit, continuously changes with the engine. The CVT doesn’t have set gears to switch to.


Because the CVT doesn’t have to switch gears, the ride is smoother and CVT cars generally have an easier time accelerating from a stop. They are much lighter and more efficient than a traditional transmission, so having a CVT improves gas mileage. 


One big downfall of the CVT is that you can’t feel the switching of gears, which makes the ride feel less sporty and engaging. Aside from feel, CVTs are typically more expensive and difficult to repair and replace. Because the system is so complex, maintenance must be completed by a trained mechanic. 

The lifespan of the CVT compared to a traditional transmission varies, but often the CVT has a shorter lifespan. Common problems with a CVT are:

  • Overheating
  • Slipping belt
  • Sudden loss of acceleration
  • Shuddering

The cost to replace a CVT in a Subaru Forester can range anywhere from $1,000-$8,000 depending on whether you replace it with a new CVT or a used one. Not all years of the Forester come equipped with a CVT. Check your specific year and trim to determine if you have a CVT. 

Catalytic Converter

A failed catalytic converter is a somewhat common problem on older cars, so seeing that on this list shouldn’t be overly concerning, but some of the newer Foresters have been having issues with the catalytic converter sooner than anticipated. 

A catalytic converter converts toxic gasses to less harmful gasses which helps regulate air pollution from cars. While the catalytic converter is mostly concerned with putting out better air, it can cause some problems with how your vehicle runs.

A bad catalytic converter can take a toll on gas mileage and cause sluggish acceleration. A bad catalytic converter will also create a sulfur smell and cause the underside of the vehicle to heat excessively. 

The cost of replacement varies widely based on what kind of catalytic converter you get and where you have it installed. For a Forester, you can expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $2,000.

Is the Forester Reliable?

While you can expect some problems to arise with the Subaru Forester, it ranks as the most reliable Subaru. It also beats out other models from different makes. It is known as an adventure car and it proves itself in its reliability and dependability. Because it’s a crossover it offers the comfort of driving in a car and the power of an SUV. It’s also built to be a bit more rugged and off-road-ready, so its durability is increased.

Overall, the Forester is a reliable vehicle that will take you where you need to go, but there are years of this model you should be wary of.