Tips, Tricks & Trends

Subaru’s Switch to Eco-Friendly Wiring Caused a Major Problem

Subaru, along with many other car manufacturers, is doing everything it can to lower the carbon footprint of both its factories and its products. Subaru is leading the way on this mission, with the first zero-emissions vehicle manufacturing plant in the U. S. in operation in Indiana. However, the switch to eco-friendly wiring caused a wacky problem that no one had foreseen. 

Subaru aims for environmental responsibility

Subaru makes no secret that it focuses on vehicle production with the environment in mind. To that end, Subaru has recently achieved the noble goal of being America’s first zero-landfill automaker. They began pursuing this dream in 2015 and in just two short years had a zero-waste factory, doing everything from reusing engine packaging over and over to composting cafeteria waste.

This initiative extends into the cars Subaru builds, with the goal of having biodegradable components and less-polluting parts whenever possible. Their goal is to improve the recycling potential of all their vehicles, and they take back steel, airbags, bumpers, and other items from used cars, trucks, and SUV’s to reuse these resources.

Recycling potential is designed into their vehicles, from the smallest to the biggest elements. All of these green initiatives are completely awesome but have caused Subaru owners a surprising problem that involves certain furry rodents. 

Soy-based wiring is tasty

Up until about 10 years ago, carmakers only option for wiring was petroleum-based products. Then, along came a brand new, environmentally friendly idea — soy-based wire coverings. This insulation is great for the environment because it biodegrades completely in landfills, but it also proves irresistible to rats, squirrels, mice, and the occasional rabbit. 

Subaru owners with the problem suddenly found themselves experiencing problems like the digital dashboard malfunctioning, the engine light coming on, the low fuel light blinking, or the fuel gauge not displaying properly. Upon inspection by dealership mechanics, it was found that rats had chewed through the wires or wiring harness. Other owners reported the power steering wires being chewed through, which cost close to $3,000 to fix

Rodents not covered by warranty

Who knew? Rats destroying your wiring is not covered by warranty. Subaru was among a group of automakers sued in 2017 for using soy-based wire coating. The lawsuit was filed in Hawaii, but depending on the verdict, it may have nation-wide or state-wide implications.

The manufacturers involved, including Toyota and Honda, have claimed this isn’t a defect. In fact, in July of 2018, Toyota won a dismissal of a lawsuit over rodent-eaten wiring. The stance of Toyota, Subaru, and other manufacturers is if rats or other pests are gnawing on your car, it’s your problem. Find a way to get rid of the rodents. 

If you do find your precious ride has become part of your neighborhood’s snack parade, there are a few things you can do. First, keep the vehicle in a garage if you have one. Second, don’t let your car sit for long periods of time without starting it. Moving it daily will help keep rodents from settling in. Third, look around the area you park your car and see if there is anything attracting vermin.

Make sure there is no other available food source besides your wire coverings. Other ideas include leaving your hood up at night, setting traps in your garage, or spraying the engine area with peppermint oil several times a week. 

It doesn’t look like Subaru really has a solution to this crazy problem, besides the suggestions above or possibly getting a cat. Unfortunately for drivers who want to go green, it sometimes comes with unexpected consequences.