Steering Column Shaft Problems Prompt New Subaru Recalls

Cherry Hill, NJ — June 16, 2016 — A new Subaru recall effort will address 48,500 potentially compromised vehicles. Drivers in Subaru Legacy or Outback models from either the 2016 or 2017 model years may be in danger of crashing due to sudden steering loss.

As a recall acknowledgment document filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted, this issue comes from steering columns that don’t properly connect the steering apparatus to the wheels.

The only component listed in this statement is the column, which was reportedly machined incorrectly during manufacturing. The Safety Recall Report, also available through the NHTSA, lists the production dates for each of the affected models: They range from Feb. 9 to May 6, 2016. This condition could mean that the wrong tool setting was used on the column when it was in manufacturing.

The recall timeline
According to the NHTSA documents, this recall has a relatively short history, with the first customer-related steering issue reported May 3. Further inspections followed on May 5, with the official safety recall determination coming just four days later.

May 9 was listed as the dealer notification date, and as of this writing, no planned owner notification date is given on the amended report dated for May 12. The recall will also include a stop sale for any of the affected Subaru vehicles in the U.S. market.

Because of the manufacturer’s fast response, it has already spurred changes to prevent this issue from hindering future vehicles. New screening practices went into use May 6. To address the potentially dangerous vehicles already in use, the report suggests dealers look at steering column lot numbers before deciding whether the entire column needs to be replaced.

Unlike the faulty shafts, replacement parts are correctly machined and will comply with the intended specifications. The column comes from supplier NSK Steering Systems America, based in Michigan.

All of the affected models are classified as “light vehicles” with a gas power train. While the 2017 Subaru Legacy has a 4-door body style, all of the other models are SUVs. The updated safety recall report lists the 2015 Subaru Outback as well, stating that it may have a defective steering column due to a previous service repair. Vehicle Identification Numbers are not included in this report.

A previous action
Some of the models in this notice were subject to other recent Subaru recalls. Last November, the 2016 Legacy and Outback vehicles were involved in a different action that also resulted from incorrect manufacturing practices.

As the recall report for that case noted, the drive shafts in 3,251 potential units could detach, since the fastening nuts were not properly tightened. This could lead to a fire hazard, since the unmoored drive shafts could hit the vehicle’s fuel tank and cause a leak.

Once again, improper tool use during manufacturing was at fault, since the loose nuts were not torqued correctly during the initial production. For the vehicle to pose a true fire hazard, however, the discharged fuel would have to come into contact with a source of ignition that would spark it into a flame.

This was another case of a fast-acting recall, since the announcement came just three days after Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. discovered the issue, with dealer notification then scheduled for the same day.

Though the remedy mentioned possible replacement nuts and bolts, it also said that dealers could solve the issue by simply tightening these existing parts. A repair procedure document from the manufacturer stated that both the affected Outback and Legacy vehicle models began production on October 24, 2015. 

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