Premature Headlight Burn Out

2011 Subaru Outback (Page 1 of 2)

This problem may be covered under warranty. Ask your Subaru dealer. Seal Of


fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
85,000 miles
Total Complaints:
25 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replaced headlight (20 reports)
  2. not sure (4 reports)
  3. difficult and costly bulb replacement (1 reports)
2011 Subaru Outback lights problems

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2011 Subaru Outback Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #25

Apr 012021

Outback Premium Awd

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


Repeated headlamp blowing out prematurely, to the point where replacements are required 2-3 months or less. Replacement not financially feasible given location - it requires removal of wheel/number.

- murrayl, Seattle, US

problem #24

Jan 072020

Outback V4

  • CVT transmission
  • 178,370 miles

This is third bulb burnout since we've owned car. This appears to occur about once a year or once every 2 years per bulb..

- Larry B., Westwood, CA, US

problem #23

Jan 162018

Outback V4

  • CVT transmission
  • 111,342 miles

There is some risk of accident if both bulbs failed at once. The bulbs are very difficult to replace, requiring removal of tire and wheel, fender liner and difficult maneuvering to detach and replace bulb (approximately 45 minutes for professional). We have received warnings from highway patrol officer for burned out lights.

- Larry B., Westwood, CA, US

problem #22

Nov 132019

Outback Limited 4 cyl

  • CVT transmission
  • 110,000 miles


Original owner of a 2011 Subaru Outback. My headlights (both sides) burn out on average once a year. First time on this site to add my complaint.

- Greg I., Wheeling, US

problem #21

Aug 012019

Outback 3.6R Limited 3.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,671 miles

Changed my light bulbs a bunch of times, really a pain in the ass! When I call the dealership they act like they don't know about this.

- Vince R., Saint-lambert, QC, Canada

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problem #20

Aug 102019

Outback Limited 2.5L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,050 miles

This is about the tenth time I’ve had to replace headlights or other exterior lights in the past two years. There’s no easy way to do it so it takes about an hour each time and about $60 each time. I have three other vehicles and have not replaced a single exterior/headlight on any of them in the past five years. Obviously a Subaru electrical issue that meets deaf ears at the dealership. Anyone have the same problem with a successful conclusion?

- ernhout, Sparks, US

problem #19

Jun 012018

Outback Limited 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles


Every 4-6 months I have had to replace headlights. To date I have replaced at least 8 headlights. So far cops have been nice and given me warnings and I get it fixed the next day. Just a real pain. Subaru has a problem and they know it but refuse to fix the problem.

- Robert L., Chattanooga, TN, US

problem #18

Dec 302016

Outback Limited 2.4L V4

  • CVT transmission
  • 109,000 miles

I bought a 2011 Suburu outback 2.4 V4 in September 2012. Since then I have had to replace the headlights seven times. You can't reach in and replace the bulbs yourself. You have to take it someplace and they have to remove the tires to access the lights. I drive a lot of back roads and when I loose a headlight it is very difficult to see. This is a very annoying problem. The last time I got the headlight replaced was Dec. 2016. Guess what, the daylight running light went out in March 2017 and now in April the headlight went out again. Suburu is now covering the cost to have these replaced until 2024 I believe. I don't know if I should be relieved or not.

- Pam R., Kent, US

problem #17

Feb 062017

Outback Limited 3.6r

  • CVT transmission
  • 148,000 miles

After seeing this sight, I know that I am not the only with the low beam headlight issue in our 2011 Outback.

After being blown away with my first outback in 1997 and running it over 200000 miles later, we experienced virtually no expensive problems other than normal maintenance. It blew everything off the road in the winter, was dependable and convinced me to stay with the Outback.

So, several Outbacks later, we special ordered our 2011 3.0R Outback Limited. Since we've had it, I have replaced 86 low beam headlights by the145000 mark. All of the other lights are simple to replace but the low beams just make me shutter even though I have replaced them so many times. At first, the Subaru garage wanted close to a $100.00 to change them and that is when I decided to do them myself.

First take out a bunch of those plastic buttons on the inner fender well, if you use pliers, beware, they will pinch your fingers when they slip off (Just love blood blisters). Second, turn the wheel so that the front edge of the wheel protrudes out. (Drivers side turn left and opposite for the other side. Third, tuck the inner fender well behind the tire. Fourth, turn the wheel slowly in the opposite direction with the car off. Only go far enough so that access can be obtained to the low beam. If you look in, you will notice that the access hole is very small. So if you have large hands, good luck. Fifth, open the hood and locate the dust cover on the side your working on. Notice also that there is very little room to get at it. Use a screwdriver as a lever and looking at the face of the cover, try to rotate it counter clockwise. If it has moved enough, you should be able to get it the rest of the way off underneath the fender. Sixth, find the hole to the low beam, put your ear against the fender and blindly feel for the cover then remove it. After the cover is off, vision in your head the mounting position of the bulb by feeling around. Unplug the bulb, the wire will slip away. Feel for the bulb retaining spring and also how it feels in its correct position. Push spring in then down and swing away. The bulb can now be removed and you will also notice that the inner fender is cutting into your forearm. Seventh, now for the fun part. They tell you not to touch the bulb, good luck with that. With your ear against the fender again you will blindly try to find the hole to the low beam then you need to find the bulb hole. By this time, that bulb has touched many things. But when it does go in, what a relief. Put the spring back in place, reconnect the plug then try to start the dust cover in its closing position, Back under the hood using a screwdriver again to close the dust cover. Turn the wheel back and straighten out the inner fender well and then finally all of those plastic connectors. The first time I did this it took about 1-1/2 hours per light. I've got it down to 20 minutes after all these years of practice.

OK, now that I have totally bored you to death, this lightbulb issue is totally unacceptable. The Outback in my opinion has been a terrific vehicle. I have only had two major issues with them and that has been the OEM tire selection and now the low beam issue. This problem could easily deter any new Outback owners to come back.

I am totally convinced that this low beam issue is solvable and it appears to be related with the power output. A quick test, while sitting idle with the engine running, raise and lower the drivers window. You will notice that it seems to operate correctly and non threatening. Now drive somewhere. When slowing down, operate the drivers window again. If it still seems normal, stop, then put the car in reverse and backup normally and at the same time operate the window. If the window flies up in a fashion that it could remove your fingers, you now see that there is a significant current surge. I also noticed this in my garage when I observed my headlights briefly getting brighter during this surge. This surge is probably happening most of the time but unnoticeable. It only happens with the car in motion and acts like there is no voltage regulator. So there is something going on in the charging circuit and I believe could be seen by using a simple current meter. Subaru really needs to fix this and I would gladly have them use my car as the guiney pig.

Thanks for listening.

- kenv53, Shelbyville, MI, US

problem #16

Jan 012013

Outback Limited 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I'm seriously getting tired of replacing the external headlights at a rate of nearly twice per year. Having to go through the wheel well makes it especially frustrating!

- Graham R., Madison, WI, US

problem #15

Jun 012013

Outback 2.5

  • CVT transmission
  • 30,000 miles


Left headlight burned out. Had to take it to a dealer to replace as I didn't have the tools to do so. Replaced both sides, figuring of one side burned out, the other side was soon to follow

- mcharlie, Reno, NV, US

problem #14

May 152016

Outback Premium 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 96,000 miles

headlight bulbs burn out prematurely on a regular basis. I have replaced headlight bulbs at least 10x over the past 4.5 years (approx. 82,000 miles). Many other bulbs have also been replaced. Prior state inspection, dealer replaced 7 bulbs!

I have never had a car that eats light bulbs like this one does, it's a problem...

- Robert D., West Chester, PA, US

problem #13

Feb 042016

Outback LTD 3.6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,083 miles

The driver side low beam light bulb burned out AGAIN. Asked the dealer if Subaru knew about the rate of failure of the headlights. They said "no one had mentioned it before". This is several months after they said they knew about the reoccurring problem and it was a problem with the car's design that overheated the bulbs.

- John L., Chicago Park, CA, US

problem #12

Feb 242014

Outback LTD 3.6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,239 miles

This time, it was the driver side headlight that failed. Dealer admitted that the car's design is causing overheating of the light bulbs.

- John L., Chicago Park, CA, US

problem #11

Feb 042011

Outback LTD 3.6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,972 miles

Had to have the dealer replace the passenger side headlight. Due to the vehicle's design, doing the replacement myself was out of the question. The dealer stated that, due to the design of the front end, headlight burnout was seen quite often.

Update from May 19, 2016: Date of service was 11/29/13.

- John L., Chicago Park, CA, US

problem #10

Apr 052016

Outback 2.8L 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,500 miles

Thanks for publishing the report on the headlight problems with Subaru Outback 2010 & 2011. We have a 2011 with 80K miles and have had to replace headlights about 5 times. We changed to lower wattage bulbs to help extend their life with little improvement. Our latest bulb changes cost $200, mostly for labor due to the difficulty of getting to them all. Thanks to your article we have contacted the lawyer for the plaintiff in CA and asked if they plan to file a class action lawsuit in federal court. We are very tired of changing bulbs. Meanwhile, the headlights on our Mazdas have burned brightly for years and can be changed in about 2 minutes!

- Matt K., Morgantown, WV, US

problem #9

Jan 132016

Outback 2.5i Limited 4 cyl 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,000 miles

Have had to replace headlight bulbs numerous times and tail light bulbs a couple. Right headlight bulb just went out the other day and now right tail light bulb is out. Wish Subaru would come up with a solution to this problem as it is very time consuming to change out bulbs.

- Kay B., Wahpeton, ND, US

problem #8

Sep 252015

Outback 3.6 R Limited 6 cyliner

  • CVT transmission
  • 70,000 miles

It is 9/25/15 at 70,000 miles I have replaced four headlights and three tail/stop lights.

I believe Subaru knows whats causing this...but will let us owners hang with the problem.

- garymin, Valparaiso, IN, US

problem #7

Apr 202015

Outback Limited 2.5i

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I had to replaced both low beam lights this past winter at about $26 apiece. In just a matter of months, one of the headlights is out. I was careful not to touch the bulb as halogens are sensitive. You do not need to take it to a mechanic, but they are a pain to replace.

As a comparison, I have a 2000 Ford Excursion that I have only replaced the headlights on once since buying it in '04. Plus, the lights on that are super simple to replace.

- pettismt, Manhattan, MT, US

problem #6

May 102012

Outback Limited 2.5L 4 cyl

  • CVT transmission
  • 45,000 miles

Every other month I need to replace a light that burned out. Headlights must be done at a dealer and cost $75 plus.

- Jos F., Newberg, OR, US

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