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Having Problems With Subaru Starlink? What Owners Can Do

Subaru has a problem with its Starlink infotainment system. Have you had problems with your Subaru vehicle?

Have you experienced issues with Subaru Starlink on your Subaru Outback, Crosstrek, Impreza, Legacy or BRZ vehicle? You are not alone. Subaru’s latest infotainment system called Starlink is messing up and there is a new lawsuit filed by a disgruntled owner. The new lawsuit alleges the Subaru Starlink infotainment systems “freeze and malfunction because the head units fail, and updates offered by the automaker have allegedly failed to fix the systems.”

Subaru has never received much praise for their infotainment options so the Japanese automaker made a big push to change that when they introduced Starlink1 for select 2016 Legacy and Outback models. Owners reporting problems on their Subaru vehicles now include some 2018-2019 Subaru BRZ, 2018-2019 Subaru Crosstrek, 2017-2019 Subaru Impreza, 2015-2019 Subaru Legacy, and 2015-2019 Subaru Outback.

Starlink is supposed to improve your driving experience

Subaru’s Starlink offers a suite of onboard technology bringing multimedia content with smartphone connectivity, navigation, and extra safety to Subaru vehicles. A driver can use the Starlink system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth. The technology also includes the screen for the backup camera, controls for the radio and audio system.

But about 50 percent of owners are reporting some problems with Subaru Starlink. The Starlink systems consist of Harman Gen 3 audio and navigation head units, and the lawsuit alleges it's the head units that create safety concerns for Subaru drivers.

Complaints from owners

  • Back up camera freezes or shuts down
  • Head unit failure that disables audio and radio control
  • Complete system lockup and error messages that only go away after the vehicle has been turned off several hours
  • Display goes blnk even though the infotainment system is still working
  • Can’t shut off radio or adjust volume when backing up due to a technical glitch
  • Radio volume is blaring when the car is turned on, even if the radio was turned off when the car was last turned off.
  • Favorites on smartphones and other connected devices aren’t remembered
  • Radio will turn on and off randomly
  • The touchscreen is very unresponsive
  • Spotty bluetooth connection prevents calls and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality.

Even though Subaru has issued at least two Starlink software updates to fix the head units, the lawsuit claims some customers weren't helped much by the updates or by technical service bulletins (TSBs) issued by Subaru to dealerships. The lawsuit also says new TSBs are supposed to be sent in July 2019 to correct the problem because the past updates have failed to work.

Consumer Reports says about 50 percent of customers with Subaru Starlink are very satisfied. CR also says even though it’s an upgrade over Subaru’s previous antiquated infotainment systems, “the new system remains decidedly average.”

What can customers do?

Some owners have reported they have had better luck with replacing the entire head unit, but are on backorder and can be up to a 6-month wait. Technical service bulletins advise service technicians to install the software updates, perhaps just to buy Subaru of America some time to figure out what’s wrong. There are also tips for replacing the audio amplifier, and troubleshooting ideas for Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto connection issues.

The Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey issued a ruling recently largely denying Subaru’s motion to stay discovery pending the outcome of its motion to dismiss. The Judge’s order found Subaru’s concerns about the expense of discovery “overblown” and acknowledged that even Subaru concedes that some of the plaintiffs’ claims will survive its motion.

Owners can wait to see what happens with the latest lawsuit and if you would like more information on the case, you can go here. Subaru Outback, Crosstrek, Impreza, Legacy and BRZ owners with Starlink problems can go here to check on any current Subaru recalls for your vehicle.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Paul Cahill (not verified)    March 19, 2019 - 11:20AM

I have a 2015 WRX and have the crappy Fujitsu10 double din radio. My boring radio doesn't have any of the fancy pants features that the 2016+ models have ... but I also don't have the headaches. I was disappointed when the 2016 came out with the new dash and radio but man...I think I dodged a bullet.

S.M. Jones (not verified)    March 25, 2019 - 8:01PM

The problem is obvious. They went cheap on processor speed and memory for all the jobs the head unit does. Blaring radio on start can usually be avoided by cranking volume to zero leaving it on.

If we buy another Subaru we may get a base model and take it to a car stereo installer. Rip the whole thing out and start over. We don't like leather anyway so no factory premium sound for us anyway.

CVT frailty is annoying also as are the moronic artificial shifts. They are shooting themselves in the foot not selling manual transmissions. And what happened to the hatchback WRX?

Dave Renwick (not verified)    April 3, 2019 - 6:38PM

Our system went down on March 28,2019. Shut off car at a business, started up 30 minutes later and all dark. No radio, phone, back up camera, no interior lights, door lock system not working, etc.. At least it runs, so can get to dealer!

Thomas Skeados (not verified)    April 11, 2019 - 5:05PM

We bought our Crosstrek in October and have had multiple problems since then. First on a cold November evening the car was disabled and couldn't be started. Had to be towed to dealer an hour and a half away in cold Vermont. Magically it started for the dealer in the morning. Haven't been able to get an explanation.
Five weeks ago the radio stopped working completely. Then after car was left for two weeks, the battery was dead and had to be charged. When car started so did the radio. Today took it to dealer and they said ok radio is working now and that happens to the battery because there are so many electronics in this car. that can drain the battery when left for a period.Really, it this what I have to expect from now on?

Kaylee Grimes (not verified)    April 17, 2019 - 1:29AM

In reply to by Thomas Skeados (not verified)

This should also include the Subaru Ascent. We've had numerous issues just like the list stated above with our system. We've taken it back to the dealer 3 times and they've updated it and claim they can't get the problem to replicate...right. anyways we finally have given up hope and are left with a shotty system. Might be time to trade in already lol.

John sankus (not verified)    March 6, 2020 - 8:42PM

In reply to by Kaylee Grimes (not verified)

I have the same problems 2020 outback. Infotainment freezes,radio cuts out, loose all controls. It will do this 6 times in a 8 mile run. Today the radio cut out, the display froze for 2 hrs. No temp control, nothing worked. Unacceptable

Fran Johnson (not verified)    April 24, 2020 - 3:39PM

In reply to by John sankus (not verified)

Just had the same thing happen to me in my 2020 Outback, screen went blank, then all audio off...tried to re-set everything, no go! First it was the volume on phone calls, could barely hear the person calling, now it is the whole system shutting down...

Kathy (not verified)    June 22, 2020 - 11:46PM

In reply to by Fran Johnson (not verified)

I have a 2020 Forester and Starlink continues to tell me that there was a problem with the login. I’ve changed my password successfully three times and still can’t access Starlink. My daughter has a 2020 Ascent and Starlink locked her car remotely about an hour ago, but it won’t unlock it. She’s tried at least six times, her hubs tried 4 times, and Starlink themselves tried 10+ times. No response. Their solution was to send roadside assistance to unlock it. A 20-30 minute wait in 95 degree heat. OnStar would have had this handled within 2 minutes. Starting to desperately regret our decision to buy a Suburu. Less than 2 months old...

Michael Simonov (not verified)    August 20, 2020 - 8:44PM

In reply to by John sankus (not verified)

I've had a 2020 outback premium for about 3 months. It was set to automatic update and yesterday I noticed that it started to download the update. After the complete download It failed to install twice and so I just turned the car off. Next time I started the car the 11.6 inch screen went black and won't turn on. Dealer worked on it today but could not reset the infotainment system...They called Subaru and they said it was probably a part that got fried in the download and or attempt at installation. Part will be here next week. Can't control AC or radio or eyesight anything else because the screen is down. We love the car but this is terrible...There have been all kinds of issues surrounding the advice, don't do the OTA (over the air) download...take it to the dealer. Subaru needs to fix the starlink system pronto.

Audra (not verified)    September 8, 2020 - 8:38PM

In reply to by Michael Simonov (not verified)

I'm getting nervous after reading all these comments! I have had my 2020 Outback for about 3 months. There were a few episodes of no sound from the radio - mute was off, I changed the channels, restarted the car. Nothing worked. Then the next time I drive it I had no problems. Today I had no sound and I could not open the audio screen. I am seeing that this may progress to more issues. Calling the dealer this week. Very disappointed.

Audra (not verified)    September 8, 2020 - 8:38PM

In reply to by Michael Simonov (not verified)

I'm getting nervous after reading all these comments! I have had my 2020 Outback for about 3 months. There were a few episodes of no sound from the radio - mute was off, I changed the channels, restarted the car. Nothing worked. Then the next time I drive it I had no problems. Today I had no sound and I could not open the audio screen. I am seeing that this may progress to more issues. Calling the dealer this week. Very disappointed.

Allie (not verified)    January 26, 2021 - 9:42AM

In reply to by Audra (not verified)

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but my 2021 Forester does the same thing. Apparently they aren't interested in fixing this. The Starlink restarts a few times in a row. Was mostly a minor inconvenience, but it went completely out for a few days so I made an appointment. I go to leave for the appointment and car is completely dead. We were able to jump it and everything came back, go figure. They did an update but its still doing the restarting. Not impressed.

ron (not verified)    June 17, 2021 - 1:51PM

In reply to by Carla (not verified)

I have a 2020 outback with all of the Starlink problems discussed here. Mine even changes XM channels and turns on the emergency flashers by itself. Everyone I have talked to concurs that this is a Starlink processor and touch screen problem (hardware not software) and can only be resolved by replacing the entire head unit, software updates will not fix the problem. I understand that the processor failure rate is statistically high enough that even replacing the head unit may not fix the problem.

Denena (not verified)    March 5, 2023 - 6:54PM

In reply to by Carla (not verified)

Jiust bought 2016 outback had it for less than a month and the infotainment centee d a mess. Backup camera rarely works. The whole thing is a shitshow im beyond angry. They know of hhe issue anf havent recalled it to be repaired. Im very disappointed. What the hell
Can we do. I just replace the damn battery dead drained out in no time so this is to bullshit things that I guess we have to deal with that they know about and should freaking fix .

Rick (not verified)    September 22, 2021 - 2:05PM

In reply to by Kaylee Grimes (not verified)

Had our 2019 Ascent alittle over a year. Last evening it stopped recognizing my our my wife’s apple phones even when plugged in. That plus we are part of the recall on the fuel pump.

Paige Barrett (not verified)    March 21, 2023 - 7:08PM

In reply to by Kaylee Grimes (not verified)

I agree we have Ascent Touring and I am constantly getting update failure error message but once I connect to Wi-Fi it says updates up to date. As soon as I leave my driveway it’s behind with the message and it overrides navigation & music.

Ken pohl (not verified)    April 22, 2019 - 12:45PM

We bought a preowned 2018 Forester loaded 9000 km very happy till last month March 2019 complete unit froze backup cam on driving down hiway radio run for 1st 6 min and shuts off always prox 6 minutes volume unresponsive.
This all started after I plugged in a memory stick with music I’m a electronics tech and agree it’s slow processor and or lack of on board memory.
Wife’s pissed sub dealers says wait awhile.silence is not golden,,!!

CAROL WITTE (not verified)    May 2, 2019 - 10:25AM

I have a 2014 Impreza Hatchback that I love, but the Bluetooth functionality is total crap. I can be on a phone call and it disconnects to Bluetooth and reconnects multiple times while on a call. Often Bluetooth never connects at all. I have been considering buying a new 2019 or 2020 Impreza and am not reconsidering this as I do NOT want to experience more issues like this. Plus it is my understanding that after the warranty is over, Subaru will not cover any updates that require bringing the car into the service center - that's on the consumer. Ugh - very disappointed. I am now thinking of replacing the entire system with Apple Car Play in my 2014 and just keeping it since it's completely paid off!

Meghan deAnda (not verified)    February 12, 2020 - 6:47PM

In reply to by CAROL WITTE (not verified)

Mine has been doing the same things you describe, and plus my radio does not hold presets for lengths of time either. It is frustrating... Subaru keeps telling me it is an update issue, but I have already updated twice since Labor Day of 2019!

Enrique Del Barrio (not verified)    November 9, 2020 - 1:04AM

In reply to by Meghan deAnda (not verified)

Yes, you're right they blame it to update issue. But they said no one is complaining about the update issue yet before me. But I told them after they updated my Starlink Infotaiment system, it is working beautifully without any problem.

Enrique (not verified)    November 9, 2020 - 12:56AM

In reply to by CAROL WITTE (not verified)

I have the same problem with my 2017 Subaru Impreza, before they service my car last 31 October 2020 my infotainment system or Starlink is working beautifully. No problem with my bluetooth etc. After the service, they told me they updated my sat nav, etc. I noticed that when I play my Spotify thru bluetooth. it keeps dropping out. So today, 09 November 2020 went back to Subaru service and they try to fix the problem, hold and behold it created a new problem. The guy in the service even told me to use Apple Car play instead, for better transfer of data because it's like a mirror of your phone. But I noticed that when using Apple Car play it keeps cutting off on my music and it goes to radio FM. They told me, they don't any notice receive from Subaru Australia of any problem with the update what so ever.

Alicia Escobedo (not verified)    May 11, 2019 - 4:20PM

Subaru outback 2018 starlink / CarPlay I ssues

Way to Vegas
- Car and phone connected
- Turned off car and grabbed phone
- Turned car back on, and phone would not connect. Went to gas station and did the following:

1. On phone —-Go to Settings > General > CarPlay > Tap on Forget This Car
2. Connect your phone via USB to your stereo
3. Pair your phone with your stereo again
4. Subaru. Home settings. Delete your connections...add device. Go to phone Bluetooth and add connection
5. Restart your phone

Work around: since we wanted the gps to continue to work, we did not disconnect the phone while the car was on or off. thus we left it in the car when we would stop on drive to Vegas


Way back to home
- Car and phone connected
- Stopped in remote area. Turned off car and grabbed phone
- Was out of the car for about 15 min
- Turned car back on and started driving, phone would not connect, STARLINK shows no WiFi connection, no gps, music etc.
- While driving further, (past Baker) my phone shows 4 bars. Car still shows no internet if you try to connect says cannot pair

Work around: had to manually use my phone for gps for 2 hours. We did not want to stop again and reset our phone pairing


Seems since the upgrade it happens more. I used to be a software tester for 15 years and my guess is someone not testing:
- Turning off the car and pulling off the phone. ( test before opening doors, and after opening doors)
- internet connection : strong link, weak link, and driving changes to the connection. As I mentioned it did not connect to a poor connection, yet further down the road I had 4 bars on my phone. My assumption is the car is failing to always search for a connection as it never showed internet connection
- What is the reset time for the car ? Seems if you leave the car for an hour it resets and it works. The car should be tested to clear its cache when you start it. Or have a reboot option in the dashboard
- Also after the last upgrade we had more issues. Once we paired our phones it was fine. More testing on upgrades and maybe a message to users to pair the phones again. Sort of like phone App updates you have to download and reboot sometimes
- My guess is the software testing is automated which is fine for repeated transactions, or they have inexperienced software testers.
- when humans will be using software, you need to think dumb, and manually do things that is not in the script and try to break it for defects. Your users should not be the testers
Other issues:
When we bought the car 1 year ago, the the backup camera went black, and froze . We took it in, and that was resolved with our tech at Honda in Huntington Beach

Tami Jones (not verified)    May 27, 2019 - 1:14AM

MySubaru is not working on my Crosstrek, it's very frustrating! We pay for a service and it's not working, that's just wrong :-(

Naram-Sin (not verified)    May 31, 2019 - 11:37AM

I have a Subaru Legacy with the low end radio (which cannot be upgraded). I've had this car for a year and a half, and I am currently waiting on my fourth radio. While I have no problems with the rest of the car, the radio is garbage. The first thing was that I couldn't link the radio with the phone's GPS and other apps as advertised. Worse the phone will remain synced for only a few days at most (the first couple of radios it wouldn't last a day), requiring the phone to be completely uninstalled and then reinstalled/resynced. This is a real problem when you use your car for work. Twice now the head unit completely fails when the dealer attempts to install an update. This is what happened the last time I asked the dealer to check the unit. The radio and screen have been completely dead for a month while I wait for a replacement.

I've leasing Subarus for years, but this latest experience makes me very hesitant about getting another one. I certainly don't want this one any more.

Jeff (not verified)    June 7, 2019 - 12:19PM

We don't have the option of Starlink in this part of the world s I guess I should count my blessings..
So how can I connect my 2016 Forester to my iPhone or at least get Waze from my iPhone on the "big" Forester screen

Lloyd Peterson (not verified)    June 8, 2019 - 10:15PM

2019 Forester Limited with the gps navigation added as option. Poorly Spent Money.
. . .
Frequent lockup with gps requiring reset is the main compliant followed by inability to find places on search. The processor is slow, slower than gps units I have had on Toyota and Ford products. It is a TomTom and performance is inferior to a TomTom I had added to a 2009 Element (in 2009).
. . .
I'm approaching home after 7000 miles of driving. After entering Canada at Vancouver the sound disappeared . . . from the gps and radio . . . Well that fixed the radio always blaring as I turned on the car.
. . .
I like this car. The new set of safety features are wonderful. I was ripped off with the infotainment system.
Two Canadian dealerships were unable to help me.