Too Many Subarus Suffer From Spotaneously Cracked Windshields

Posted on
Author
Scott McCracken
Tagged
#windows #lawsuit #tsb
Image from inside the a 2016 Forester cabin showing a large horizontal crack along the bottom of the windshield.

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.

Plaintiffs say the windshield defect poses an "imminent and signifcant safety hazard" and that the switch to "acoustic glass" that is to blame for the multitude of failures.

Cases consolidated

Two cases, Leon and Powell, 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.

Lawsuits Regarding This Problem

Lawsuits about this problem have already been filed in court. Many times these are class-action suits that look to cover a group of owners in a particular area. Click on the lawsuit for more information and to see if you're eligible to receive any potential settlements.

  • Settled

    Khona et al v. Subaru of America, Inc.

    1:19-cv-09323
    1. Settled

      Subaru has agreed to settle a cracked windshield lawsuit for 2015-2016 Subaru Outback and Legacy vehicle owners and lessees.

    2. Case Filed

      The plaintiffs allege Subaru "fraudulently misrepresented the nature and scope" of the windshield problem in 2015 when the automaker extended the warranty from three years to five years for the windshields, based on technical service bulletin (TSB) 12-192-15.

    Class Vehicles
    • 2015-2016 Outback
    • 2015-2016 Legacy
    Location
    New Jersey
  • Partially dismissed

    Powell, et al., v. Subaru of America, Inc.

    1. Partially dismissed

      A Subaru windshield lawsuit has been partly dismissed after a federal judge ruled several claims made by Subaru owners weren't sufficiently pleaded.

    2. Case Filed

      Lawsuit alleges 2017-2019 Subaru Forester and 2017-2019 Subaru Outback vehicles are equipped with windshields that suddenly chip, crack and break. Subaru allegedly refuses to pay for repairs even when the vehicles are under warranties, leaving owners and lessees with paying for windshield replacements.

    Class Vehicles
    • 2017-2020 Forester
    • 2017-2020 Outback
    • 2017-2020 Crosstrek
    • 2017-2020 Legacy
    • 2017-2020 Impreza
    Location
    New Jersey
  • Motion to dismiss

    Leon, et al., v. Subaru of America, Inc.

    1. Motion to dismiss

      In a motion to dismiss the Subaru windshield class action, lawyers for the automaker say the plaintiffs can't support their claims.

    2. Case Filed

      Lawsuit alleges the glass chips, cracks and breaks within weeks or a few months of purchasing these vehicles. According to the plaintiffs, customers say the windshields crack and break from simple and light impacts to the glass, a problem no Subaru owner expects to experience on an expensive vehicle.

    Class Vehicles
    • 2017-2020 Outback
    • 2017-2020 Forester
    • 2017-2020 Crosstrek
    • 2017-2020 Impreza
    • 2017-2020 Legacy
    • 2019-2020 Ascent
    Location
    California

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 of 38
    PainRank
    4.75
    Complaints
    28
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Ascent
  2. 1st Generation Crosstrek

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

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

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

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

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

    Years
    2020–2021
    Reliability
    24th of 38
    PainRank
    N/A
    Complaints
    0
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Legacy
  8. 6th Generation Outback

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

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

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at CarComplaints.com.

  1. The lawsuit against Subaru's crappy windshields will move forward after partially surviving the automaker's motion to dismiss.

    The windhsields crack and chip at an alarming rate, but Subaru doesn't cover replacements under warranty if the issue is due to a defect. According to them the warranty only covers material or workmanship issues. Strange position to take, but ok.

    While a few allegations were removed due to legal technacilities, the judge said dismissing the case entirely at this point would be premature.…

    keep reading
  2. Just a month after Powell v. Subaru, a second lawsuit is accusing the automaker of selling cars with defective windshields.

    The plaintiffs say the use of "acoustic glass" in the windshields seems to correspond with the uptick in complaints.…

    keep reading
  3. The lawsuit says Subaru refuses to pay for repairs under warranty even though the cracks are not being caused by an external force, but some internal defect.

    Additionally, the cost to replace the windshield skyrockets because the EyeSight system needs to be recalibrated each time.

    keep reading

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