really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
56,750 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 #8

Jan 132014

Forester 4-cyl

  • 81,100 miles


Very strong odor of gasoline in the cabin right after startup and throughout short trips, especially with heater on. Seems to happen most often when outside temperatures are near or below the freezing mark. Did not experience before this winter, now occurs daily. Please investigate this problem before someone gets hurt or killed! if Subaru knows that there is a safety problem with the fuel system, owners should not have to pay for repairs.

- Maplewood, NJ, USA

problem #7

Apr 012006

Forester 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 26,279 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Subaru Forester. The contact stated that the engine exhibited a loud, unusual noise when the vehicle was first started or when driving. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The dealer inspected the engine and advised that the engine manufacture was a factory defect and would need to be replaced. The engine was replaced but the head gasket then began leaking. The manufacturer was made aware of the defect and denied assistance with repairs to the vehicle because the warranty had expired. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 26,279 and the current mileage was 83,300. Updated 04/05/12 updated 06/13/2012

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #6

Mar 092011

Forester 4-cyl

  • 115,000 miles
2003 Subaru Forester ~114K miles. During passing (~70 mph)engine has stalled 2X in past week. After coming to full stop and turning key in ignition full "off", car restarts with no difficulty will take to dealer this week. Had batter installed ~ 2 months ago.

- Reading, MA, USA

problem #5

Nov 222010


  • 101,570 miles


Frontal impact while striking a deer at this speed should have deployed both air bags. The air bag light sometimes would remain on, but mostly it was off. From what I have found through other complaints is that this year vehicle is known for this issue, but a recall has not been issued. Is it going to take a death to force Subaru to correct this issue" the other issue found while repairing the vehicle is that both head gaskets are seeping coolant, the drivers side is seeping more just like the recall describes on 1999-2002 models. Even though this a 2003 it was purchased in the fall of 2002, Subaru failed to contact me and advise me to add the $1.44 coolant additive to save the head gaskets. How is a consumer supposed to know these little details" now the vehicle has too many miles for them to care, sticking me with the estimated $2000 repair.

- Black Creek, Wi, WI, USA

problem #4

May 142008

Forester 8-cyl

  • 52,047 miles
Noticed anti-freeze odor after vehicle had been run and turned off. Did not see any leaks. Problem continued several weeks before noticing several leak spots on garage floor, so made appointment with mechanic who knew immediately it was a head gasket problem. We purchased the car new in October, 2002 and have maintained it according to the maintenance schedules. The vehicle had 52,000 miles on it when we spent $1300 to repair a problem that Subaru of America knew about and has known about for some time. We never received any notice or recall of any kind relating to this problem. Subaru of America should make some sort of restitution to its customers for this manufacturers defect.

- Weaverville, NC, USA

problem #3

Mar 032008


  • miles
2003 Subaru Forester problems with cylinder head gasket. Consumer states there are several internet complaints about this defect. She states that the estimate cost for repair is about $1500 to $1600 dollars.

- Manalapan, NJ, USA

problem #2

Jun 292007


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Latches on the forrester cannot be opened unless you have a key fob. There is no way to access the tailgate without the battery operated fob. If you have a child that gets into the car without your knowledge, or if there is an accident and the doors will not open from the side. How will you get out the back--there is no way to even access with a key from the outside. If you are in an accident and you loose track of your fob too bad, you can't get out from the back. I myself carry dogs in crates in the back of the forrester. Had I realized that when I have crates, or any other large item in back you do not have access to the back, I would have never purchased the car. I believe this is a safety issue. I called the dealer and asked how to open the back of the car and they said you have to remove a panel. If you are on fire--you have to wait to get the panel off to get the door open, but if you can't get to the back because of dog crates, baby carriages, cribs, playpens etc. How would you get out. I would like to give a written hard copy report. 2. Subaru knows there is a problem with the headgasket? manifold gasket that there is a defect. When it goes bad, you make the fix it will never happen again--why does the owner have to foot the bill when I was told, by the mechanic, that in fact Subaru knows this and it is only a matter of time before the gasket will go, but once you make the correction it will never happen again.

- Media, PA, USA

problem #1

Dec 162006

Forester 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles
Took Forester into Subaru dealer for 3K oil change; was told that almost all of my anti-freeze was gone and that the head gaskets were leaking, needing replacement at $1500. Miles on vehicle: 78K, purchased 6/02 new, all maintenance performed at dealer per schedule. At this time, I'm looking into websites to identify if this is a problem that's systemic with this vehicle, and looking into alternative sources to fix vehicle to reduce cost.

- Pewaukee, WI, USA

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