hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
100,976 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 Outback drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Subaru Outback Owner Comments

problem #5

Apr 202016


  • 123,400 miles


After previous repairs to transmission fluid leak and head gasket repair, the car's transmission failed and had to be rebuilt. The transmission failed as I was driving. I could not shift from first to second. I was able to get the car to the dealer by driving in first and living with a sharp clunk into second. I was close to the dealer or else this would have been a tow. If this had happened on the freeway it could have been catastrophic.

- Vancouver, WA, USA

problem #4

Feb 172015


  • 194,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Subaru Outback. The contact stated that the while parked, the vehicle rolled away. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who diagnosed that the parking mechanism within the transmission failed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 194,000.

- Middletown , CT, USA

problem #3

May 212009

Outback 4-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
Head gasket failure***** 2003 Outback **** this is not a new problem as four of the Subaru's we've owned had hg issues. Although in the past Subaru acknowledged the failures and repaired them under the wwp99 campaign (1998-2002 model years). While this failure continues to be widespread (just google Subaru head gasket problems and you'll get pages of complaints of hg failures) Subaru has stopped repairing them or even acknowledging there is a problem. This appears to be solely a cost saving strategy. When the gaskets fail, oil leaks outside the engine which contacts the exhaust system. The burning oil puts smoke and fumes inside the car. I would think this is also a fire concern. Inside the engine, oil and coolant mix and can cause catastrophic damage/failure. Is there anything I can do to get this repaired by Subaru? they seem to be getting away with a huge consumer injustice just by acting like it doesn't exist. Can they be required extent the champagne (wwp99) with the 03 and later models? Subaru clearly acknowledges a head gasket problem in previous years and later model years have the same failure.

- Pequea, PA, USA

problem #2

Jan 032011


  • 80,000 miles
After smelling leaking oil for many months, my mechanic confirmed that the head gasket is leaking. Oil is leaking down onto the exhaust creating a constant burning smell. I contacted Subaru and they are unwilling to address this in any way, despite the fact that the engine has been meticulously maintained and serviced.

- Phoenix , AZ, USA

problem #1

Sep 122007

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,479 miles
I took my 2003 Subaru Outback in for regular oil change maintenance. The auto mechanic informed me that the engine was quite noisy and thought it might need valve adustments. We took it to the dealer thinking that the dealer would cover this under the warranty. We left the vehicle with the dealer to be checked out, their diagnosis was that the timing belt tensioner was defective. Being that our vehicle only had 27,000 miles on it, the maintenance mechanic said it was probably defective right from the factory. If we had not caught this at this time, it could have cause considerable about of damage to the timing belt or engine. The warranty covers 6 years on the powertrain, but the dealer would not cover this expense of this part.

- Fort Collins, CO, USA

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