Since 2015 there has been a surge in complaints about Subaru windshields that crack spontaneously. Many believe this is due to a design switch to 'acoustic glass.' Owners want compensation from Subaru because windshield replacements come with extra costs such as the recalibration of EyeSight technology.'
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.
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 vehiles 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 shaving off a few points can 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.
Subaru's EyeSight has its own host of problems. And while the sensors and technology are incredibly useful, it's also very dependent on being able to see straight.
So when the windshield is replaced, the EyeSight system needs to be recalibrated. And Subaru won't do that for free.
A busted windshield isn't safe for a number of reasons. It reduced the structural integrity of the vehicle, it may not properly protect you in a crash, and it can actually interfere with the proper deployment of the airbags.
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.
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.