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Subaru is known for making high-quality SUVs and cars that are safe, reliable, and practical. But even beloved brands like Subaru face safety recalls. Recently, the automaker issued a recall for over 200,000 Outback, Ascent, and Legacy models for potential transmission problems. Here’s what you need to know if your car is affected.

What’s wrong with these transmissions?

A green 2020 Subaru Outback in a U.S. National Park-themed display
2020 Subaru Outback | David McNew/Getty Images

Subaru has issued this recall because of a programming error. However, that programming problem could turn into a hardware problem. The error is happening in the transmission control unit (TCU). It can cause the clutch to engage before the drive chain is fully clamped. 

This issue can damage the drive chain, but that’s not the worst scenario. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the problem could cause the drive chain to shatter, sending pieces outward and into other parts of the car’s transmission. In turn, that could increase the risk of a crash. In some cases, this could force Subaru to replace the car’s entire transmission.

Fortunately, because this is a programming issue, it’s somewhat easy to fix. In fact, Subaru updated the code in the affected cars at some point in their production. However, certain vehicles made before that update are being recalled for repairs.

Which Subaru models are affected, and what should owners do?

The recall affects three Subaru models, totaling 200,000 vehicles. They are the 2019 to 2020 Ascent, the 2020 Outback, and the 2020 Legacy. Most — 160,000 units — are Ascent SUVs. About 35,000 Outback SUVs might be affected, and about 2,000 Legacy sedans are being recalled.

Subaru will begin notifying owners by mail on February 7, 2022. The recall should begin in April. When owners take their recalled vehicles to an authorized dealership, Subaru will update the code in the TCU, and that should fix the problem. Plus, service technicians will also inspect the vehicle for any damage due to this issue. If they find damage, Subaru will repair it for free.

So far, nobody has reported any crashes or injuries related to the issue. However, owners can enter their car’s 17-digit VIN in the Subaru or NHTSA website to see if their vehicle is affected.

Other recent Subaru recalls


Recall Alert: Subaru Warns Owners Not to Drive These Impreza Models

This transmission recall seems minor due to the programming issue and the fact that it hasn’t caused any injuries yet. That’s similar to another recent Subaru recall. A couple of months ago, the automaker recalled about 165,000 cars because some engines were stalling.

That issue was caused by a faulty fuel pump, and it could lead to crashes. However, there weren’t any reported crashes or injuries when the recall was issued. 

And this past October, the Japanese automaker issued a recall for 2021 Impreza models. Just over 800 Imprezas might have a lower control arm weld defect on the front driver’s side. If so, the arm could fail, leading to the tire making contact with the wheel well, potentially causing a crash.

Another recent Subaru recall relates to defective Takata airbags. This infamous problem affects tens of millions of cars across multiple automakers, including many Subarus.