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There’s much to like about the Subaru Forester compact crossover SUV, including its smooth ride, standard all-wheel drive, and a comfortable and roomy cabin. However, the Forester isn’t completely free from issues. View the three most common Subaru Forester problems reported by many real owners. We also see if it’s a reliable vehicle.

What are the most common Subaru Forester problems?

To find out the most frequent Subaru Forester problems, we reviewed reliability analysis from RepairPal. In its analysis, the automotive site receives input from real owners, which shows the severity, frequency, and cost of repairs for the compact SUV. 

Here are the three most common problems for the Subaru Forester:

  1. Recall of front O2 sensor
  2. Failed catalytic converter 
  3. Head gasket failure due to cooling system issues

Before you get alarmed about any of these issues, it’s important to note that they don’t affect most Forester models. However, they are the most frequent ones cited by owners, so let’s dig a little deeper and cover them in more detail.

The most common Subaru Forester problem is a recall of the front O2 sensor

Dashboard in 2023 Subaru Forester compact SUV, showing most common problems and if it’s reliable
2023 Subaru Forester | Subaru

The most common Subaru Forester problem reported by real owners is a recall of the front O2 sensor — according to RepairPal. For this issue, the front oxygen sensor, which measures the air-to-fuel ratio, develops a crack. This, in turn, results in an illuminated check engine light

Because of the problem with the O2 sensor, Subaru issued a recall for some models (1998, 2000-2007, and 2009-2014). Like most recalls, Subaru should cover the cost of fixing the O2 sensor. The service program number for this recall is WXW-80.

Failed catalytic converter

The second most frequent issue for the Subaru Forester is a failed catalytic converter, which also produces an illuminated check engine light. Additionally, this problem might cause the compact SUV to fail a smog test for states in which it’s required, such as California. If it’s still under warranty, Subaru will likely cover the cost of the repairs or replacement of the catalytic converter. Otherwise, owners have to foot the bill. 

Head gasket failure due to cooling system issues

The other common problem that Subaru Forester owners reported is a head gasket failure due to cooling system issues. With the frequency of this problem, Subaru extended the head gasket warranty coverage to eight years or 100,000 miles for some vehicles.

Is the Subaru Forester a reliable compact SUV, and is it expensive to repair?

We covered the most common issues for the Subaru Forester, but overall, is it reliable? RepairPal gives it an “average” reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0. However, compared to most other compact SUVs, the Forester is not very reliable. In a field of 26 compact SUVs that the automotive site evaluated, it ranks 21st for reliability.

For repair costs, the Forester is “average” compared to all vehicles — but slightly more expensive for the compact SUV segment. RepairPal lists a $632 average annual repair and maintenance cost for the Forester. In comparison, it’s $652 for all vehicle types and $521 for the compact SUV segment.


2023 Subaru Forester: Price, Specs, & Overview — Popular Crossover SUV!