really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
35,576 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.

2004 Subaru Outback engine problems

engine problem

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2004 Subaru Outback Owner Comments

problem #5

Sep 162009


  • 32,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Subaru Outback. The contact stated that the vehicle would exhibit an abnormal tapping noise when first started. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who replaced the pistons. The noise recurred and the vehicle was taken to another dealer who advised that they would need to replace the engine block with new pistons. The manufacturer was contacted who offered no assistance. The failure mileage was 32,000 and the current mileage was 50,100.

- Helena, MT, USA

problem #4

Dec 032010

Outback 4-cyl

  • 65,000 miles
During early December 2010 my wife was driving the car and heard a huge rattling noise. She pulled over and we got the car towed to the dealership. We were told that the valve on the engine cylinder got damaged and as a result the valve stem has fallen into the cylinder. As the piston was moving, it got damaged. So we needed to replace two pistons. Which we did. This is a design problem as differential material expansion has caused the stem to fall and damage the piston. If this has happened on a busy highway could have been fatal. This problem has caused by bad design and using two different materials for engine valve and block. Subaru needs to recall the vehicles and fix this problem. The customers should not be paying. The car is very well maintained and had only 65,000 miles. Got it repaired. Subaru was of no help.

- State College, PA, USA

problem #3

Sep 102008


  • 67,380 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Subaru Outback. The contact stated that while driving 45 mph, the vehicle overheated without warning. The contact moved the vehicle off of the road and added coolant to the radiator. The coolant continued to leak out of the radiator; therefore, the vehicle was driven to the dealer. The dealer informed the contact that the head gasket, water pump and timing belt would need to be replaced. One year later, the failure recurred. The contact had not taken the vehicle to the dealer but stated that the head gasket was blown. The contact also stated that the warranty on the repair was only good for a year. The contact did not feel safe driving the vehicle. The failure mileage was 67,380.

- Huntingtown, MD, USA

problem #2

Nov 082004

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,500 miles
I want to express my concerns for Subaru quality and reliability. As a family we have owned several Subaru Outback vehicles. Unfortunately, our 2002 had bad pistons that had to be replaced after only 11,000 miles of ownership. The vehicle still did not run correctly after the engine overhaul so we sold it and regrettably purchased yet another new 2004 Subaru Outback wagon, which is now at our local dealer having pistons replaced in the engine. This is the second time a 4 cylinder Outback in our family has let us down. I now know what kind of quality they build into their vehicles. We are knowledgeable owners and we maintain our vehicles to a really high standard. We feel the NHTSA should investigate engine piston quality in 2002-2004 (4 cylinder) Outback wagons so that other owners do not find themselves in an unfortunate and precarious position. The engine is junk!

- Taylor Ridge, IL, USA

problem #1

Aug 302004

Outback 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 5,000 miles
My Subaru, forester xt has had numerous problems since it had 5000 miles. The engine performance is inconsistent. The car has an intermittent miss at idle, cruise control that disengages at will, is difficult to start intermittently; spitting and sputter for 30 seconds, acts as if it will stall occasionally while braking, and the clutch does not grip the flywheel properly. While passing on 2 lane roads, I have nearly had numerous head-on accidents; the car does not accelerate consistently. The cruise control defect has nearly caused many other accidents in distinct conditions: 1. while ascending hills, I have nearly been rear-ended by other cars when my car loses speed without warning 2. while descending hills, I have nearly lost control as the car accelerates while cruise control has disengaged I have problems with the car when I must take off hard, especially when crossing a busy street. When launching hard, the clutch will slip excessively. The car will not accelerate; it will only burn the clutch creating a large cloud of smoke. It does not matter which gear I switch too or how much throttle I apply; the clutch will not grip until it cools down. I have nearly been hit numerous times because of this. I am experiencing problems with the brake pedal. After braking to a stop, when the engine idles down, the brake pedal will sink an additional half an inch. I have brought my car to 2 different dealerships, and involved Subaru's regional service manager. All efforts to repair my car have been unsuccessful or ignored. The dealerships have only adjusted switches and replaced an oxygen sensor. The manufacturer has now claimed that they will not issue a repair order, since the problems are intermittent, even though the lead tech has experienced the problem, and they can't replicate the problems. I am stuck with a defective vehicle that is going to cause a serious accident, as I drive 1500 miles per week throughout a 6 state region.

- Lexington, KY, USA

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