Too Many Subarus Suffer From Spotaneously Cracked Windshields

Key Points

  • There's been a surge in complaints about cracked windshields in Subaru vehicles since their switch to acoustic glass around the 2015 model year.
  • Subaru has offered a "quality assurance" warranty extension to certain Outback and Forester owners.
  • Other owners not covered under the warranty extension have filed a consolidated class-action lawsuit seeking reimbursements for the expensive repairs.
Image from inside the a 2016 Forester cabin showing a large horizontal crack along the bottom of the windshield.
Posted on
Author
Scott McCracken
Tagged
#windows #lawsuit #tsb

Chances are you've probably heard a rock hitting your windshield hard enough to crack it at some points. It's jarring and not a lot of fun. But at least you can explain what's going on.

It's a different beast entirely when the cracks form in the windshield spontaneously. Especially on newer car with only a few thousands miles on the odometer.

Or to cars that are just sitting at a stoplight when the crack forms. Or resting in a garage overnight.

A Few Possible Explainations

Unlike a chipped windshield, where the crack starts from the point of impact and slowly spiders out over time, these cracks are developing quickly and often starting at the bottom of the windshield where the wipers are located.

But why?

The switch to acoustic windshields

An acoustic windshield has more sound dampening capabilities than a normal windshield. The added layers of soundproofing can make a significant improvement to reducing wind, tire, and other outside noise while driving.

It's a nice improvement but they might not be all they're cracked up to be considering complaints about this problem took a steep turn around the same time Subaru made the switch to acoustic windshields.

De-icer adhesion issues

During a warranty extension to 2015 and early production 2016 Legacy and Outback vehicles, Subaru explained that certain compounds used to adhere the deicer to the lower portion on the windshield created a situation where "the glass become more susceptible to cracking following a minor wound" due to some outside force.

Cost cutting and fuel efficiency considerations

Another possible explaination is the thickness of the windshield glass itself.

Subaru vehicles tend to get good gas mileage, but glass is heavy and shaving a few pounds off can boost a car's MPG ratings. Glass is also expensive and so shaving off a few pounds can also boost the CEO's net worth.

Implications of a Constantly Cracking Windshield

Cracked windshields are expensive enough to replace on their own. But, according to many owners, the costs don't stop with the glass.

  • EyeSight needs to be recalibrated when the windshield is replaced. And Subaru won't do that for free.
  • It can interfere with the proper deployment of airbags and can reduce the structural integrity of a vehicle in a crash.

All of which is to say, you need to get it replaced quickly. And that's not cheap.

TSB Leads to a Warranty Extenstion for Certain Outback and Forester Vehicles

In TSB #12-192-15R, Subaru acknowledged that the "ceramic materials used for the black-colored printed perimeter combined with the silver-colored material used for the wiper deicer portion of the windshield glass" is the root cause of many windshield failures.

Subaru offered a "quality assurance" program by extending the windshield warranty from 3 years/36,000 miles to 5 years/unlimited mileage for 2015 and early-production 2016 Legacy and Outback vehicles.

Subaru also offered reimursement options for owners who had previously paid for repairs, but eligibility requirements made it nearly impossible to receive full reimbursements. They also refused to reimburse anyone who used a 3rd party, like companies their insurance might have suggested, if the company didn't replace the windshield with OEM glass.

The deadline for reimbursemnts passed on February 1st, 2016.

A Series of Lawsuits Says Subaru Didn't Go Far Enough

Since the extended warranty was offered to just a couple 2015 models, Subaru has faced multiple lawsuits regarding their outright refusal to cover the cost (and related costs) of numerous windshield replacements in newer models.

Powell v. Subaru

In November 2019, a Wisconsin woman sued Subaru for dfective windshields in Forester and Outback vehicles

Christine Powerr said the windshield defect poses an "imminent and signifcant safety hazard" after she dealt with multiple cracked windshields before her Forester even had 15,000 miles.

She also pointed out that replacement costs skyrocketed with the recalibration of the EyeSight safety system.

The case specifically mentioned the 2017-2019 Forester and Outback.

Leon v. Subaru

These points were reinforced a few months later in Leon v. Subaru which added the 2020 model year, as well as the Ascent, Crosstrek, Impreza, and Legacy models.

The plaintiff argued that it was Subaru's switch to "acoustic glass" that is to blame for the multitude of failures.

And that contacting Subaru for reimbursements has been a "waste of time."

The Lawsuits Were Consolidated to Present a Stronger Case

Both the Leon and Powell cases were consolidated into one class-action covering roughly 2.5 million vehicles:

  • 2017-2020 Subaru Forester
  • 2017-2020 Subaru Outback
  • 2017-2020 Subaru Crosstrek
  • 2017-2020 Subaru Legacy
  • 2017-2020 Subaru Impreza

Unfortunately the Ascent was dropped from the list.

In March of 2020, Subaru asked for a motion to dismiss saying the cases do not allege that Subaru vehicles fail to comply with federal safety standard #205.

They also claim the cases are too broad and consist of "two different design generations of four of those five models." Which is a problem for the case's credibility because Subaru used multiple windshield suppliers over that period of time.

Of course, that could just mean they were all incompetent but that is up to a judge now.

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Subaru generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

  1. 1st Generation Ascent

    Years
    2019–2021
    Reliability
    20th out of 38
    PainRank
    4.75
    Complaints
    28
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Ascent
  2. 1st Generation Crosstrek

    Years
    2016–2017
    Reliability
    17th out of 38
    PainRank
    4.16
    Complaints
    17
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Crosstrek
  3. 2nd Generation Crosstrek

    Years
    2018–2021
    Reliability
    18th out of 38
    PainRank
    4.29
    Complaints
    35
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Crosstrek
  4. 4th Generation Forester

    Years
    2014–2018
    Reliability
    38th out of 38
    PainRank
    21.02
    Complaints
    353
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Forester
  5. 5th Generation Forester

    Years
    2019–2021
    Reliability
    22nd out of 38
    PainRank
    5.21
    Complaints
    38
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Forester
  6. 6th Generation Legacy

    Years
    2015–2019
    Reliability
    24th out of 38
    PainRank
    5.72
    Complaints
    82
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Legacy
  7. 7th Generation Legacy

    Years
    2020–2021
    Reliability
    N/A
    PainRank
    N/A
    Complaints
    0
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Legacy
  8. 6th Generation Outback

    Years
    2015–2019
    Reliability
    36th out of 38
    PainRank
    17.97
    Complaints
    382
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Outback
  9. 7th Generation Outback

    Years
    2020–2021
    Reliability
    4th out of 38
    PainRank
    0.44
    Complaints
    1
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Outback

What Owners Say About This Problem

The 2019 Subaru Forester was less than a week old. I was driving down the road, no one or nothing near me, and I heard a pop. I then saw the crack in the windshield ... I found other reports of windshield issues, took the information to the dealer, and they reluctantly replaced the windshield.

Because I have the Eyesight feature, I cannot replace the glass with aftermarket glass. It has to be OEM glass from the dealership. The glass is thin (2 layers sandwiching a thin film for noise reduction) and brittle resulting in the exterior layer cracking easily. Owning a Toyota for 15 years.... no cracked or broken windshields. Owning a Subaru 3 months... 2 cracked windshields.

Six days after I bought a 2019 Subaru Outback, I noticed a crack developing from the top on the driver's side, close to the middle of the car. I thought it was a small streak of water at first. But as it didn't dry, I realized the windshield had cracked. I didn't see or hear anything hit it. No trucks around, and the road was smooth, free of debris.

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA