Subaru Recall Issued Over Melting Windshield Washer Covers, Fire Risk

Nearly 600,000 Subaru vehicles are being recalled after a nearly three year-long investigation discovered that debris may enter and obstruct the windshield wiper motor, which may cause the motor to overheat or catch fire, as well as potentially disable the windshield wipers and increase the risk of an accident. 

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the Subaru Legacy and Outback recall on September 29, after determining that the windshield wiper motor housing does not fully protect foreign material from entering and building up around the motor.

Problems with the Subaru windshield wipers has already resulted in several reports involving overheating and failure events, including at least one fire. However, to date, no injuries have been reported in connection to the recall.

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Subaru of America Inc. indicated that they first learned of the potential windshield wiper issue in 2011, and conducted a recall of certain 2010 through 2011 Subaru Legacy and Subaru Outback vehicles on September 6, 2011, due to a design defect that did not allot proper clearance dimensions for components within the wiper motor bottom cover.

Following the 2011 Subaru recall, the automaker received a technical report in March 2013, of a similar model vehicle’s wiper motor emitting smoke and catching fire that was not included in the 2011 recall. The additional report prompted the automaker to reopen the investigation and begin gathering parts from field vehicles that reportedly experienced similar problems. After a three year investigation made more difficult due to problems analyzing melted parts, Subaru concluded the root cause of the problem was due to a manufacturing defect in the windshield wiper motor housing.

The wiper defect may cause interference between the relay joint and worm wheel. Due to the design defect of the front wiper motor bottom cover, debris such as excess snow or ice may build up in the cowl area when the wipers are turned off, causing the motor to continuously attempt to move the wiper blades and generate an excessive amount of electrical current through the wiper motor.

In the event a blockage occurs within the cowl area, the windshield wiper motor may begin to overheat and emit smoke or catch on fire, posing burn hazards to occupants. In this scenario, operators and occupants will be at an increased crash risk due to the inability to use their windshield wipers that may cause an obstructed view in inclement weather.

According to the NHTSA, an estimated 592,647 Subaru Legacy and Outback vehicles are included in the recall. All vehicles listed within the recall as well as vehicles previously recalled in 2011 are impacted by the most recent recall.

The vehicles included in the recall are certain model year 2010 through 2014 Subaru Legacy four-door vehicles manufactured from November 26, 2008 through June 7, 2013 and certain model year 2010 through 2014 Subaru Outback SUV’s manufactured from January 9, 2009 through June 7, 2013.

Subaru indicates that it intends to provide a notification schedule to the public soon but has not yet provided a tentative start date for repairs. Customers will be notified of the issue and will be instructed to schedule an appointment at their local Subaru dealer who will be instructed to replace the windshield wiper motor bottom cover assembly, free of charge. Customers with questions concerning the recall are being asked to contact Subaru Customer Service at 1-800-782-2783 and reference the recall campaign number WTK-71.


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