Laguna Hills, CA – Oct. 14, 2019 – Subaru of America has announced the recall of more than 366,000 Forester vehicles equipped with heated seats, due to a defect that could potentially deactivate the front passenger air bag.
An indicator acknowledging the loss of the air bag’s function will illuminate if deactivation occurs, so hopefully drivers will be fully aware if their vehicle is affected. However, the problem still brings with it an increased possibility of injury for the individual in the passenger seat, thus necessitating the field action.
Documents describing the defect note that it applies to certain 2015-2018 Subaru Forester vehicles, and is caused by electrical issues.
“Over time, due to a decrease in contact pressure between terminals in the occupant detection system (ODS) sensor mat harness, a temporarily unstable electrical connection may be possible,” Subaru’s safety recall report describing the defect pointed out. “If the connection is temporarily unstable, the ODS may not properly determine the status of a front right seat occupant.”
Because the sensor cannot ascertain whether or not the front right seat is occupied, it may fail to activate the air bag.
Timeline of Events
Subaru’s own chronology report regarding the defect goes back more than three years, as the issue first surfaced in April 2016. At that time, the manufacturer received its first field report related to the ODS sensor issue, which described the condition as it affected a 2016 Forester vehicle. Further reports of the same issue continued to find their way to the automaker throughout much of 2017, although no root cause could be determined by either Subaru or its supplier.
By September 2018, it had ultimately been determined that “other factors could cause connection instability, such as harness connectors and/or harness routing,” which led to a crucial update of the manufacturing process. Roughly one year later, Subaru finally concluded that the root cause of the failure was the unstable electrical connection described above.
The manufacturer was able to decide the scope of the recall by comparing vehicle production information, results of their own investigation, and field reports describing specific vehicles that contained the defect. Of the 366,282 vehicles currently reported to be included within the recall, Subaru estimates that roughly 10% of them contain the defect.
“Subaru will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, replace the ODS sensor mat harness, free of charge,” stated an official letter that Subaru filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Dealers have already been notified of the field action, and owners of vehicles affected by the recall will themselves be fully informed by the end of November. However, the parts being used for the repair are not currently available, so owners will be contacted once again, at a later date, when they can actually bring their vehicle in for the remedy to be implemented at no cost.
For information on other vehicle recalls involving Subaru and other major automobile manufacturers, visit MotorSafety.org.