STARLINK Infotainment Freezes, Locks Up, and Randomly Blasts the Radio Volume

Posted on
Scott McCracken
#technology #infotainment #lawsuit
An infotainment screen with StarLink's toucnscreen interface loaded.

Subaru has never received much praise for their infotainment options, and so they made a big push to change that when they introduced STARLINK[1] for select 2016 models.

STARLINK features a new suite of safety and security features that resemble GM's OnStar (hell, they even borrowed the star naming convention). Services like automatic collision notification, SOS emergency and roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle recovery aim to give owners peace of mind ... for an annual fee, of course. After the first couple years, owners can pay up to $149/year[2] for these features.

And what good would a new car be without a way to connect to smartphones? Not only does STARLINK offer improved hand-free features like phone calls, navigation, and climate control, but it also connects with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Most of the new features are run through a shiny new touchscreen interface that "allow for smooth, effortless control — just like a tablet device[3]"

The actual experience of using STARLINK falls way short of the marketing brochure description. The system uses allegedly defective Harman Gen 3 audio and navigation head units, and runs on buggy software that often freezes and sometimes requires a hard reset to start working again.

Downtown Chicago trying to get out of traffic jam had GPS all set, when all of a sudden screen went blank and began spinning. The GPS installed in this vehicle is prehistoric to say the least. — 2017 Outback Owner in US

Let's run down the long list of issues owners of this infotainment system are experiencing.

  1. Back up camera freezes or shuts down
  2. Head unit failure that disables audio and radio control
  3. Complete system lockup and error messages that only go away after the vehicle has been turned off several hours
  4. Display goes blank even though the infotainment system is still working
  5. Can't shut off radio or adjust volume when backing up due to a technical glitch
  6. Radio volume is blaring when the car is turned on, even if the radio was turned off when the car was last turned off.
  7. Favorites on smartphones and other connected devices aren't remembered
  8. Radio will turn on and off randomly
  9. The touchscreen is very unresponsive
  10. Spotty Bluetooth connection prevents calls and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality.

Software Updates and Technical Service Bulletins (TSB)

Subaru has released multiple software updates to try and find a solution without replacing the head unit. Version was released in December 2017 and released in July 2018.

Owners who have received the software updates report little to no improvement. They've had better luck with replacing the entire head unit, but replacements are on back order and can be up to a 6-month wait.

Technical service bulletins advise technicians to install the software updates, perhaps just to buy some time. There are also tips for replacing the audio amplifier, and troubleshooting ideas for Bluetooth, CarPlay, and Android Auto connection issues.

Owners tired of waiting file a lawsuit

A lawsuit filed in December 2018 says multiple software updates have failed and the system can actually pose a threat because:

  1. Starlink can freeze and drain the battery after the engine is shut off.
  2. The backup camera picture can freeze and give drivers a false representation of what is behind their cars.

The lawsuit covers the 2018 Outback, Legacy, Crosstrek, BRX, and 2017-2018 Impreza.

The lead plaintiff says a survey was sent to certain customers and dealerships in January 2018 to help identify, and in some cases address, customer concerns. Additionally, the lawsuit claims Subaru intends on sending dealers new TSBs in July 2019 concerning another Starlink update because previous Starlink updates haven't worked.

  1. From Subaru's Starlink Press Release ↩︎

  2. From the Hidden Cost of Infotainment by Consumer Reports. ↩︎

  3. According to Subaru at least. ↩︎

Image from

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.

  • Chad Udeen, et al., v. Subaru of America, Inc.

    1. Case Filed

      Lawsuit alleges the infotainment systems freeze and malfunction because the head units fail, and updates offered by the automaker have allegedly failed to fix the systems.

    Class Vehicles
    • 2018 Outback
    • 2018 Legacy
    • 2018 Crosstrek
    • 2017-2018 Impreza
    • 2018 BRZ
    New Jersey

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.

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

  1. A lawsuit filed in New Jersey is tired of waiting around for software updates to Subaru’s STARLINK system to solve any of the wide ranging problems owners are experiencing.

    Subaru customers also complain about turning off the engines with the Starlink screens frozen, resulting in drained batteries that strand drivers. In addition, there is a clear and present safety issue if a driver relies on a frozen backup camera screen believing the image is in real time.

    keep reading article "Subaru Sued After Multiple STARLINK Updates Have Failed to Make System Usable"

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 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