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500K Subaru Forester Models Investigated For Airbag Malfunction, Is Yours On The List

If you own a fourth-generation Subaru Forester SUV, it's being investigated for a possible passenger airbag malfunction. See if your vehicle is on the list.


Some fourth-generation Subaru Forester models are under investigation from the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) a division of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a possible malfunction of the passenger side airbag. They are investigating the 2016-2018 Subaru Forester compact SUV. A recent report from the ODI says 553,692 fourth-generation Forester models are estimated to be under investigation in the US. This does not appear to be related to the global Takata airbag recall issue.

2016-2018 Subaru Forester2016-2018 Subaru Forester

The NHTSA has not recalled the 2016-2018 Forester SUV as of this date. The office of investigations says the Occupant Detection System (ODS) for the Subaru Forester front passenger-side airbag may malfunction causing the passenger side airbag to not operate as intended. The Office of Defects Investigation reports they have received 51 complaints from customers and is opening an investigation “to assess the scope, frequency, and consequences of the alleged defect in the subject vehicles.”

2016-2018 Subaru Forester

The 2016-2018 Subaru Forester uses a capacitive type Occupant Detection System (ODS) which can identify if the passenger seat is occupied by an adult, small child, a child seat, or other objects. Some Forester owners have reported the ODS failed to operate properly, and the supplemental restraint system warning light illuminated, and/or the ODS incorrectly suppressed (turned off) the front passenger airbag when the seat was occupied by a full-sized passenger.

2016-2018 Subaru Forester

If a frontal crash occurs and the airbag deploys, a suppressed air bag may increase the risk of injury to the passenger in the front seat of the compact SUV. What should Forester owners do? Owners should let the NHTSA complete the investigation which started on August 6, 2019, to see if it warrants a recall of the 2016-2018 Subaru Forester. If there is a recall, Subaru of America will contact owners to bring their vehicle into a dealer to replace the malfunctioning parts. Stay tuned.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Gary Greenstreet (not verified)    August 12, 2019 - 2:23PM

This investigation should extend back to the 2014midel as well. I have complained to the dealership service about this very same problem. Left my vehicle there for three days and couldn't find the problem.

Gary Greenstreet (not verified)    August 12, 2019 - 2:24PM

This investigation should extend back to the 2014midel as well. I have complained to the dealership service about this very same problem. Left my vehicle there for three days and couldn't find the problem.

HopeUnderFire (not verified)    August 22, 2019 - 1:57AM

In the first couple of weeks of owning the Forester, the airbag light went on. The dealership told me that it may be the gas cap so I should just keep driving with it and see if it eventually disappears. The light went off. The light came back on a few days later. I was told this might happen whenever I put gas in my car...but it might legitimately be the airbag. We brought the car in again. The light had turned off by then. Unfortunately, service has to observe the issue so they couldn’t do anything about it. When the airbag light turns on, we are supposed to make a service appointment and it will likely take a few days to get a spot. The light may or may not be on at the time, in which case, you may or may not be wasting your time. I cannot intermittently leave work for this issue on the chance that the airbag light stays on. I could be told to drive it for a few days because it might be a gas cap issue. I have learned to live with the airbag light coming on intermittently and the probability that it will never be fixed. Unfortunately, it is not the only thing that has been a problem with this vehicle.

Ashley (not verified)    September 17, 2019 - 11:54PM

The airbag light came on - I took it to the dealer service center and they kept it for two days and said it was fixed. This was end of August and had to pay my deductible to have it fixed under warranty. The light came on again this week (9/16) and I have yet another alert from StarLink that there is an issue and that I should bring my car in to service. How many times do I need to take the car into be fixed? Is it unsafe to drive w/ passenger?

Froggie (not verified)    September 19, 2019 - 6:16AM

600 miles on my new 2019 Forester - the Passenger Seat Air Bag light is on. Service Department told me - wait it's coming - a towel on my passenger seat caused the Air Bag light to come on. Sorry, but stupid is stupid. Might take the hit and dump this new Forester. My new plan - - buy an old car for around town and rent a car for trips. These car manufacturers can sell their overpriced crammed with useless technology cars to rental companies - save your money people !!!! We are being sold high priced complicated vehicles that service departments can't fix... but the service departments are coming up with creative answers that even a child would question as truth ! - - - I regret buying my Subaru

Tom Schwindy (not verified)    January 21, 2020 - 6:29AM

Purchased new in Feb, 2016 Forester > The SRS Airbag fault keeps coming and going like an old friend one really doesn't want to see coming into ones life. I'm worried because I have a trip planed coming up soon and worried about the 4 hour trip and the what ifs. The last two months 12/2019 & 01/2020 the SRS faults have been on much more on than off. UNTIL I head to the local dealer ..... well then the light NEVER comes on. PITA to say the least.

Tom Schwindy (not verified)    September 1, 2020 - 11:52AM

In reply to by Tom Schwindy (not verified)

UPDATE: Sorry I forgot to update sooner .......

USA SUBARU took care of my issue with the passenger side air bag @ no COST TO ME. Once I took the car back to where I purchased it, they recommended that I call them (USA Subaru) once I did that it took about 4 hours and they called me back and took care of the issues, all I needed to do was take the Forester back to where I purchased it. Steve Moyer Subaru and they replaced the seat censor and where paid from USA Subaru. THANK GOD, as I'm out of work because of MS and I've been out since 2/2012

tracey albee (not verified)    August 31, 2020 - 1:38PM

I have my subaru forester 2018 in the shop as we speak and I was just informed that it was the sensor on my passenger airbag and moisture must of damaged it and it was $52.56 bill for servicing because they said the codes were bad so they had to reset it. I called them to let them know that the warning light was coming on and the passenger airbag would just shut off as I was sitting in the passenger seat as my husband was driving us down the highway. It would also stop dinging when i would unhook my seatbelt also once the warning light came on for the airbag system to be serviced. I asked the gentlemen twice about a recall and he just repeated to me a few times that there is no recall on my subaru forester. it is very frustrating because all he kept saying is it was moisture and something must of been spilled on it. I know nothing was and whats funny to me is if I did spill something on it why are so many other people having the same issue? Did everyone spill something on their seats too?

tracey (not verified)    September 1, 2020 - 9:48AM

In reply to by Éric (not verified)

I feel the same way Eric and I am now waiting for the manager of the service dept to get back to me. I did pay the bill yesterday because the after hours woman had nothing to do with the scenario and I wanted my car but I dropped off the paperwork to show them what is going on with many many subaru foresters.
I know it is not the point of just $52.00 but I feel being that the service man stated the codes in my subaru were bad and the warning lights came on I definitely should not need to pay at all. I think what made me most upset was the he kept insisting it was due to moisture and kept saying I must of spilled something on it. UGH

Chance (not verified)    October 14, 2021 - 4:16AM

It's truly very difficult in this active life to listen news
on TV, thus I simply use internet for that reason, and take the most up-to-date