2011 Subaru Outback seat belts / air bags NHTSA complaints: Air Bags

NHTSA — Air Bags Problems

2011 Subaru Outback (Page 2 of 2)


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
3 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
12,495 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.

2011 Subaru Outback seat belts / air bags problems

seat belts / air bags problem

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2011 Subaru Outback Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #18

Nov 212014


  • miles


The airbag indicator for the passenger will not remain on, even though the passenger meets the required weight.

- Little Ferry, NJ, USA

problem #17

Jul 242014

Outback 4-cyl

  • 79,000 miles
With no passenger seated, the seat belt chime started ringing. To try to stop it, I latched the passenger seat belt. Chiming continued. I notice the air bag warning light was lit. I drove the car straight to my Subaru dealer and was told the passenger side air bag sensor had failed. I was also told the only way to fix it was to replace the seat at well over $1000. I was still left with the problem of the seat belt chime. The dealership wouldn't disable the chime so I searched the internet for a solution. What I found is that this is a very common problem with 2011 Outbacks. I did also find out how to disable the seat belt chime. Because this is such a costly repair and a common problem, I have to believe there are many Subaru owners driving around with unprotected passengers having disabling their seat belt chimes and having no air bag protection. In fairness to Subaru, I contacted customer service and they offered to split the cost of the repair. It will still cost me $798 for what should be a simple repair but because of poor engineering, a replacement seat. I would appreciate you looking into this matter.

- Danbury, CT, USA

problem #16

Nov 272013

Outback 4-cyl

  • 21,000 miles
The passenger air is disabled when my wife or daughter sits in the front passenger seat. Both weight approximately 120 lbs. We have taken it to the dealer and they say it works as designed but that means my wife and daughter have no air bag protection. Subaru states they fixed the problem in the 2012 model. That is no consolation to me. I read the air bag should be disabled for a 5th percentile women which is 107 lbs. This is a common problem in the 2011 Outback.

- Huntsville, AL, USA

problem #15

Mar 132014

Outback 4-cyl

  • 21,000 miles


Air bag is not being turned on when a passenger is in the seat. They meet the 80+ weight requirment.

- Ogden, UT, USA

problem #14

Jan 072013


  • 40,000 miles
We have a Subaru Outback that we purchased in May 2011. In January 2013 the airbag indicator began to turn off randomly while I was seated in the front passenger seat. It happens intermittently and without any change in behavior or movement on my part we have brought the car to the dealer and they say there is not a problem with the system. I have called the Subaru company and they say the system is operating as designed and since the dealer cannot find the problem there is none. The company also state there have been complaints by other people my weight. (117 lbs.) they also state that the airbag will not inflate if the indicator for the airbag is off. I have expressed my fear of not having an airbag in case of an accident to no avail. I feel that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

- Navarre, FL, USA

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problem #13

Feb 012013

Outback 4-cyl

  • 42,000 miles
First I will say I am an adult female weighing 120 lbs, sufficient weight to activate airbags. We just purchased this car and went for long trip and I noticed my air bag light was off. I tried to adjust positions and sometimes I could get it to come back on, only to find a few minutes later that is off again, this process was repeated the whole 7 hour trip. We were traveling on snow covered roads so this was very upsetting to not have the air bags working. This is a serious problems that needs to be fixed. What good are safety features in a car if they do not work properly.

- Fairmont, WV, USA

problem #12

Dec 142012

Outback 4-cyl

  • 28,600 miles


The vehicle in question was moving at about 35 mph when its front end collided with the side of a car moving slowly across its path. The driver's seatbelt worked properly. The air bag did not deploy.

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

problem #11

Nov 102012

Outback 4-cyl

  • miles
I believe my anti-lock brakes malfunctioned on my 2011 Subaru Outback and if this is the case then someone in auto safety data collection needs to know about it. I was driving down an off ramp during snowy conditions. I applied my brakes at around 35 mph and they abruptly locked up. There was no shutter/shimmer effect that I might expect with anti-lock brakes as they go on and off while trying to grip the road. I applied them again with the same jolt followed by sliding. I tried this several times as I approached the intersection. Though the long off ramp did slow me down, at about 15 mph (I think) I plowed the left front of my car into the Ford Ranger in front of me. This impressively crushed the left front side of my car and my air bags did not deploy. The point of impact was the left side of the front bumper, but it hit at the upper 2-3 inches of the bumper. I'm not sure if the airbags should have deployed with this type of impact, but if they were supposed to deploy then someone needs to know about it too.

- Sparks, NV, USA

problem #10

May 312010

Outback 4-cyl

  • 10 miles
The contact owns a 2011 Subaru Outback. The contact stated that the air bag light would intermittently illuminate when someone was seated in the front passenger seat. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer on several occasions and the contact was informed that the vehicle could not be repaired unless the failure was duplicated. The failure mileage was 10 and the current mileage 11,500. Updated 03/14/12

- New York, NY, USA

problem #9

May 102011

Outback 4-cyl

  • 606 miles
The passenger side airbag fails to activate or cycles on and off while the adult passenger remains seated in the proper position. Dealer claims no defects detected yet is unable to resolve the problem. Manufacturer representative is also unable to provide any assistance in the resolution of the problem even to the point of not acknowledging that a problem exists. I feel this is a serious safety issue as you cannot rely on whether or not the airbag will be properly activated or even deploy in the event of an accident.

- Campo, CA, USA

problem #8

Feb 012011


  • 1,000 miles


The contact owns a 2011 Subaru Outback. The contact stated that the passenger air bag warning light illuminated intermittently. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who advised the contact that the body type of the seat occupant was causing the passenger air bag light to illuminate intermittently and that there was nothing that could be done to correct the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 1,000 and the current mileage was 2,300.

- Shiprock , NM, USA

problem #7

Sep 152010

Outback 4-cyl

  • 1 miles
A longer version of the following letter was sent to Subaru on 1/3/2012: The purpose of this letter is to file an official complaint regarding the operation of the passenger airbag for our 2011 Subaru Outback and to request your help in resolving this problem. We purchased our Outback in September 2010 from steven's creek Subaru in san jose, California. The airbag sensor has worked intermittently since we first took ownership of the vehicle. Specifically, it turns on and off frequently when my wife (approximately 120 pounds) is seated in the passenger seat. Over the past year, we have made numerous complaints to the service technicians with no resolution. We have serious concerns for my wife's safety and it is un-excusable that Subaru does not have a resolution to this life-safety issue. I am extremely disappointed that Subaru did not disclose this issue before we purchased the vehicle. I have provided Subaru with a series of email correspondence between the dealership and myself regarding the issue from late 2010 and early 2011. In one of the emails I provided links to youtube videos documenting the issue. We waited until this time to file our formal complaint as we were hopeful that steven's creek Subaru could help us to resolve this problem. Unfortunately they have not been able to resolve our concerns and have directed us to contact Subaru headquarters directly.

- Fremont, CA, USA

problem #6

Sep 212011

Outback 4-cyl

  • miles
There seems to be a problem with the front passenger air bag activation sensor. My wife, who weighs approx. 125 lbs, often sits in that seat. The air bag sensor light might go on, or it might not. Sometimes she can shift her weight and have it come on. Other times it doesn't matter what she does, it will not go on. We can be riding along with the air bag light on and all of a sudden, for no reason, it will go off. Then, inexplicably, it might, or might not, come back on. I brought the car to a local Subaru dealer who informed me that this is the way the air bag system is made and that there is nothing they can do about it. They said that it is against federal law for them to make any adjustments and that I should just make sure my wife wears her seat belt when we're driving. This is a major irritant, since neither of us can be sure if the passenger air bag will actually deploy should we be in an accident. It seems like something should be done about this, especially now that I've searched this site and found that I am not the only one to experience this problem with the passenger air bag sensor. I joke with my wife that we might need to fatten her up to save her life, but for some reason she just doesn't think it's funny. Maybe you folks can look into the problem and do something about it.

- Winchester, VA, USA

problem #5

May 182011


  • miles
I have told the Subaru dealer(s) that the front passenger airbag sensor light says "off" unless the passenger weighs over 150 lbs or so. The dealer(s) deny knowing anything about it. However, it is on a Subaru blog and there are many complaints about it. The dealer is unable to tell me if the airbag is working or not. My brake pedal makes a clicking noise when I release the brake pedal. The Subaru dealer told me he knew this happened to all of the 2010 models but didn't realize it was happening to the 2011 models and he said there is nothing he can do about it until Subaru comes out with a recall. So far I haven't heard back from Subaru, it's been 5 months.

- Durham, ME, USA

problem #4

Sep 132011

Outback 4-cyl

  • miles
The sensor turns off intermittently when my wife sits in the front passenger seat (5 ft, 4 inches, 110 lbs). It will also turn off when she shifts her sitting position. The sensor will remain off, regardless of how she is sitting, for long periods of time (80+ miles) or until I restart the car. I spoke with two Subaru dealers and they said that they have seen this issue with lighter passengers and don't thing a recalibration will help due to the sensor's sensitivity.

- Allendale, NJ, USA

problem #3

Jul 012011


  • miles
The passenger side front air bag indicator randomly showed the status 'on' or 'off' when the seat was occupied by an adult passenger. No pattern could be identified for the indication although we tried every perturbation of sitting, fastening seat belt, closing door, starting engine, etc. The vehicle was returned to the dealer for repair. The passenger seat sensor(s) was replaced as defective, now the indicator never indicates 'on', always 'off' regardless of actions as above. The vehicle was returned a second time, this time it was determined that the sensor(s) were being inhibited because of seat covers distributing the weight in such a way as to 'fool' the sensors. It took a 180 lb. Person to activate the sensor, [a 170 lb. Person did not] with the seat covers on, the sensors appeared to operate correctly without the seat covers. This raises the question of weight distribution, are large buttocks required given that there are multiple weight sensors in the seat, how about a small framed 120 lb adult. The answer is clear, the passenger air bag should always be on unless manually turned off by the user. Subaru must provide a programming option to the owner to default the airbag status to always 'on'. my Toyota and Honda both provides a key lock option to disable the unit, default is, and should be required, to be 'on'. this is a safety issue, and Subaru is opening themselves to class actions, and heaven forbid the first accident when the unit fails to deploy because it was not armed because of quirky weight distribution requirements. I believe that a preventive recall should be ordered if Subaru does not unilaterally provide an always 'on' default option for the vehicle.

- Dufur, OR, USA

problem #2

Apr 072011


  • 50 miles
Front passenger seat airbag switch irregularly changes state with lighter occupant. The passenger side front airbag indicator light shows off even though occupant is within limits stipulated verbally by Subaru salesman. The indicator light changes state with occupant in seat, even though the occupant remained completely still.

- Sierra Vista, AZ, USA

problem #1

Oct 182010


  • 6 miles
Occupant sensing airbag won't turn on for my wife who weighs 110 pounds. This is a new 2011 Subaru Outback. The dealership argued and was evasive about my complaint; and said the seat was calibrated to activate with a 120 pound person. They were "instructing" me on the proper seating position. I told them I didn't want the vehicle if the air bag wouldn't operate for my wife. I have an appt. This week. Stay tuned.

- Webster, NY, USA

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