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New Subaru Ascent Owners Say a Glitch In the SUVs Tailgate Could Leave You With a Dead Battery

New Subaru Ascent owners are having trouble with the tailgate. See what complaints are about.

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If you own a Subaru Ascent family hauler or are thinking of buying a new 2020 model, you need to be aware of a potential design flaw in the rear tailgate. Torque News has received tips from two different customers that informed us of the issue with the 2019 Subaru Ascent 3-Row

One Subaru Ascent owner (Barbara) told us she thinks the Ascent is a great car except for the fact that there is a potential engineering design flaw. A sensor on the tailgate does not shut off the cargo light when the tailgate is left open. If she leaves the tailgate open for extended periods the battery will drain to the point where the car will not start. There are other reported issues at Car Complaints.

2020 Subaru Ascent

Apparently, this does not happen on all Ascent family haulers, but many customers are experiencing the problem. It’s happened enough that some Subaru dealers are giving away free batteries, but not all dealers are doing this. Barbara says Subaru of America knows about it and dealers are telling customers this is how the car is designed but won’t tell them how to disconnect the sensor in the tailgate to keep it from happening.

2020 Subaru AscentKeep Subaru Ascent's Tailgate Closed

The logical thing would be to keep the tailgate closed when you are done loading cargo. But some Ascent owners need to keep the tailgate open for extended periods of time for tailgate parties, kids parties, for dog trainers, and campers. They are finding themselves with dead batteries as the Ascent has a power draw when the tailgate is open according to this customer. Apparently, the cargo lamp is enough to drain the battery so the SUV won’t start. Barbara says, “SOA needs to find a solution to this.”

Another customer, Carolyn, told Torque News she has had to purchase two batteries in 4 months for the same issue. She recently purchased a deep cycle battery and now carries a portable battery pack to jump the car after the battery drains. Carolyn says, “The first time the battery died, my dogs were locked in the back and I was alone in a remote training site. Scary situation!”

2020 Subaru Ascent

Customers ask if Subaru needs to put a timer in the car like they do for the interior lights to automatically shut off. Subaru has not confirmed or denied that this is an issue with the new 2019 Subaru Ascent family hauler. Carolyn says, “It’s a big design flaw as far as I am concerned.”

Torque News has reached out to Subaru, but we have not received an answer. We will follow up and give a report when we get any new information.  

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Ruarri Thomson (not verified)    August 31, 2019 - 10:21PM

In reply to by Denis Flierl

I was the excited buyer of a 2019 Subaru Ascent and took delivery of it on July 31st 2018!!!!!
We have had the truck for 13 months and love our Subaru..... however, this tailgate issue is a very real problem. I tow a ski boat and other times, a hybrid camper and we use the tailgate for all the odds and ends... it stays open and I’ve been left without battery power for a start. I carried a booster pack and have used it upwards of 20 times.
Today, my dealer in Ontario replaced my original battery with a new one. I will do my best to keep the gate closed..... but when you’re camping and not running the car, the power lift gate uses battery as well..... so many open and closes without a charge from the alternator will have you loading the trunk through the back seat like I did last weekend.
Please let me know if Subaru ever gets you a reply with their idea for a fix.... the towing and tailgate was the main reason I left my beloved Outback and got into the latest and greatest!


Milton, Ontario Canada

LAURA J CARPEN… (not verified)    October 20, 2019 - 7:25PM

In reply to by Denis Flierl

I too have brand new 2020 ascent now 3200mi bought aug '19, battery draining issue, jump 3 times, now alternator wont recharge battery after 6 hr drive, and now Car Play, bluetooth phone microphone not working --all in one weekend..
has anyone tried getting dealer full refund using lemmon law attorney general lawsuit? I cant believe a jump start kit ill have to keep w me after car ownership of 40 yrs, never have i had to do this, Ive owned range rovers, mercedes, tahoes, subzero buffalo NY.

Faye gentry (not verified)    June 23, 2020 - 5:34PM

In reply to by Denis Flierl

I have had to call AAA for a jump start 3 times within the last couple of months after not starting my Ascent for 2 days. The dealer replaced the battery once. Wondering if the onboard computer systems is draining the battery or there might be a wiring issue. Anyone else experiencing this issue?

Garth Hetterly (not verified)    June 23, 2020 - 7:40PM

In reply to by Denis Flierl

I've had my Ascent for 6 months now. I had to get a boost twice and one time at home it would not start. This is not a minor issue for SOA they need to find a fix and offer the fix free of charge to the customers. Very embarrasing to have a 2019 vehicle of any mfg to have a tow truck pull up to give you a boost. Reliability is what SOA is famous, a dead Suby on side of the road is not very reassuring to the buying public - it my experience that is suppose to be a Fix Or Repair Daily not a great (maybe) brand like Subaru.

Stan Woinoski (not verified)    July 16, 2019 - 9:24AM

It is NOT the rear entry light that is draining the battery. Even with the light off an open rear hatch draws from 2 to 4 amps of current that runs down the battery. Subaru says this is normal and so far has not adequately addressed owners concerns. Many owners leave their hatch open at dog shows or camping and end up with dead batteries as a result. A more capacity battery helps but does not correct or solve the problem. The constant 2 to 4 amp draw when the hatch, or any other door or hood is open is the problem. There is a Facebook site dedicated to this issue also.

LAURA J CARPEN… (not verified)    October 20, 2019 - 6:34PM

In reply to by Stan Woinoski (not verified)

i have 2020 ascent 2.4L tubo 3200 mi, came out to an open tailgate?? how? , accident pressure on FOB? battery was dead, jumped , now needs repeated jumps, weekend no dealer open, cant turn car off on errands, is the alternator and battery defect? now Car Play and the cars own bluetooth phone speakers not working at all...

Sam (not verified)    November 27, 2019 - 2:05PM

In reply to by LAURA J CARPEN… (not verified)

I have a 2019 Ascent.

The tailgate has randomly opened three times now. Thankfully, we live in a crime free area... mostly have to worry about bears crawling in.

All I can think it that it has to do with the FOB.

Auto start won't work when the back door is open.

pamela dural (not verified)    July 16, 2019 - 10:56AM

The problem with the battery going dead on the 2019 Ascent is not from the cargo light. It is the sensors in the hatch that draws 4amps if left open. It does not time out! You can drain their crappy battery in a few hours. I have gone through two of those so far. Its a design flaw and they won't admit it.

Donna (not verified)    July 16, 2019 - 11:15AM

Glad to see this issue getting some attention, but there is an error in the article. It is not a cargo light draining the battery. It is apparently a sensor in the power lift gate that never times out. This would be the sensor that reverses the lift gate if something gets caught in it when it is closing. Clearly something that only needs to be active when the power gate has been activated. The battery drains even if a clip is used in the latch to trick the car into thinking the gate is closed. Seems like a simple programming glitch so it is disappointing when Subaru insists that it was designed this way on purpose.

Brian L Graham (not verified)    July 16, 2019 - 6:30PM

This happens for the outback as well. The cargo light is not on the timer like the interiors lights, so you can drain your battery if you accidentally leave the cargo light in the on position.

Glenda l (not verified)    July 16, 2019 - 7:29PM

Definitely not the light. I camp a lot, and I'm very grateful that I already had the habit of keeping a jump-starter with me, although I've started storing up front instead of in the tool compartment.

John Wilson (not verified)    July 17, 2019 - 3:04PM

My 2018 Outback’s battery dies in less than 6 hours when the tailgate is open and all lights off. Apparently the motor draws about 10 amp hours with the tailgate open.
As I show dogs, I often need to leave the tailgate open for extended periods of time.
Two concerns-1. Where does the heat from the lift gate motor go? 2. How can I work around the problem? I certainly will not be getting another Subaru unless this major problem is fixed.

Barry (not verified)    July 17, 2019 - 7:23PM

Just replace the taillight bulb with an LED. That'll be the end of the issue. I got an entire set of LED'S for all the interior lamps for less than $20.00.

Steve B. (not verified)    July 25, 2019 - 9:51AM

We are two months away from purchasing an Ascent. I'm glad that this information has come to light before we put our cash down. Subaru intentionally plays into the marketing theme of their SUV;s and wagons as being designed for adventurers. That means camping folks!
If you've ever been camping, you know that the rear hatch is open and stays open - alot! In regard to this design flaw, what was Subaru thinking? I can just see some millennial design engineer, who's never camped in his life, scratching his head and saying, "how do we get out this one?"

Michael Salzbrun (not verified)    August 20, 2020 - 12:18AM

In reply to by Steve B. (not verified)

Don't buy the Ascent ! I have owned a 1998 outback had engine seal problems. Then a 2006 outback xt with head gasket problems that Subaru of America told me SORRY no help on the $3000 repair.
I had already bought the Ascent to replace the xt before I heard about the head gasket problems.
Now More glitches. I'm NOT buying anymore Subarus!!!!
Buy The new Kia Teluride it is what I should have bought! !Good Luck Mike

Keith (not verified)    July 25, 2019 - 1:39PM

My wife and I just purchased a 2019 Ascent and we love it. We drove it all the way to Las Vegas and back recently without issue. When we got to the resort we had the car valeted and 3 days later retrieved it to do some site seeing...NO ISSUE. Then his past Tuesday (23rd of July) my wife need to leave to go to a doctors appointment and the car would start...the battery was dead. We hadn't driven the car since Sunday. We had to call Suburu roadside service to jump-start the car even though we were at home. The guy came out and told my wife that he has heard of this happening and suggested that we put on the PARKING brake (switch) before we shut of the car, which is strange since it is all electronic and I didn't think you could enable it after it is shut off. So far, the battery hasn't drained....but we will be buying jump starter. If this is a known issue, Suburu needs to figure it out. My father-in-law has a 2019 Outback no issues, my sister-in-law and the crosstek, no issue.

Jennifer G. (not verified)    July 27, 2019 - 3:11PM

I, too, have a 2019 Ascent and only left the hatchback open for 10-15 minutes as I was loading up the car. Closed the hatchback, got into the car and... car battery DEAD with my dogs LOCKED INSIDE and no way to get them out in 100 DEGREE WEATHER!! Dogs were in crates that faced the hatchback too! INCREDIBLY SCARY SITUATION!! And... the "SOS"/Starlink does NOT work if the car won't start either! It's a BIG PROBLEM for some with dogs like Subaru advertises!! SO PO'd!! (Car has less than 2k miles on it!)

Jennifer Grossnickle (not verified)    September 3, 2019 - 10:19AM

In reply to by Jennifer G. (not verified)

I traded in my 2019 Ascent (less than 2k miles on it) for a Ford Explorer! Subaru lost a loyal customer when corporate insisted it wasn't a problem! IT IS and WAS! A very expensive lesson from a supposedly "dog friendly" car company! (I also ordered 2 door crates in case this ever happens with the Explorer... I can get my dogs OUT and through the car if the hatchback won't open. There SHOULD BE a manual over ride to be able to open the hatchback. There is not on any of the new, "lots of electronics" cars :(