Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

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definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
41,950 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Subaru Forester engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Subaru Forester Owner Comments

problem #9

Aug 212009


  • 55,000 miles


My 2003 Subaru Forester - purchased new - currently has 55,000 miles on it. It was last serviced 3 months ago. At that time, nothing was mentioned about coolant problems or leaks. Last week, on the turnpike, the RPM needle started swinging wildly and I lost power. I managed to get to the shoulder of the turnpike and shut down and by that time smoke was pouring out from the engine. The problem diagnosed is that the coolant had leaked at the head gaskets - a problem that I am now learning Subaru has known about for some time. I have to replace the engine at a cost of at least $2600. I was never contacted by Subaru or the dealership to inform me that this may be a problem although I consistently have received notifications about repurchasing an extended warranty. Obviously, a 2003 vehicle with 55,000 miles on it has not been driven excessively. Comments I have heard are that "you're still breaking in the engine".

- Cleveland, OH, USA

problem #8

Feb 192009


  • 64,886 miles
I purchased a new Subaru Forester xs in July 2003 and had it serviced regularly at now defunct Subaru dealerships. While I was driving one day, the car suddenly overheated. The foreign and domestic auto service mechanic I was able to reach showed me that the engine was leaking coolant in 3 places, requiring a costly repair of the head gasket. I learned from him that this head gasket failure was a common problem with Subaru. I had the car under warranty with Subaru for 60,000 miles. At no time was I notified by the dealer from whom I purchased the car or by any Subaru service center, that special coolant was required to mitigate this defect. I had the car repaired at a cost of over $2,000.

- Medford, MA, USA

problem #7

Oct 112008


  • 115,000 miles
I had regular service done to my car at clay Subaru of norwood Massachusetts. The representative stated that the mechanic noticed some oil seepage from the head gasket. They recommended that I get the head gaskets replaced within a year. Since that time I have monitored the oil level and have had to replace about a quart in between regular oil change intervals. I am concerned because I know this represents major engine work. They quoted that it would cost about $2,000 to replace the head gaskets. The car only had about 115,000 miles on it. It is a 2003 Subaru Forester that I purchased new in Dec 2002.

- North Attleboro, MA, USA

problem #6

Jan 272007

Forester 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles


Dealer advised the head gasket is leaking coolant and recommended repair which will require extensive labor. Vehicle only has 69,000 miles. Vehicle was purchased 20 Nov 2002 and had a 60,000 mile/5 year power train warranty. Servicing was done on a regular basis and vehicle has not been driven excessively.

- Springfield, VA, USA

problem #5

Jan 022007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,900 miles
- the contact owns a 2003 Subaru Forester. The vehicle's failure occurred on four occasions. The mechanic stated that the head gasket needed to be replaced. The contact called a Subaru dealer and North american Subaru. The contact stated that when the vehicle's mileage exceeded 100,000 it required a new head gasket. The contact was advised that the previous incident was a leak in the radiator, which was repaired and the contact suspected the head gasket was the cause of the previous leak. The second incident was a coolant leak which was also repaired, which occurred two days after the original repair. The vehicle was towed to the dealer andwas currently being repaired.

- New Town, CT, USA

problem #4

Apr 142006

Forester 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,165 miles
: the contact stated there was a pining noise in the engine, when the vehicle was first started in cold weather. The noise stopped after two minutes. The dealership determined this was normal operating conditions, although there was a service bulletin instructing to replace the pistons.

- Weymouth, MA, USA

problem #3

Nov 242003

Forester 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 400 miles


Clutch jitter; started immediately: Clutch was replaced under warranty at 11,900 miles. Spoke with cousin in Canada who bought the same car the same day. Already has replaced clutch once and is having trouble again with jitter. Vehicle stalls frequently upon cold start. Computer was removed from vehicle and sent back to factory to be recalibrated at 11,900.

- St. Petersburg, FL, USA

problem #2

Jul 182003

Forester 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 1,000 miles
When starting the engine first thing in the morning, the engine fumbles then stalls.

- Webster, NY, USA

problem #1

Feb 142003


  • 1,200 miles
Intermittent stalling..

- Red Lodge, MT, USA

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