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Reader Insight, New Subaru Ascent RAB Stops You From Backing Up While Towing

If you are buying a new 2019-2020 Subaru Ascent and pulling a trailer there is an issue you should be aware of. See why the Reverse Automatic Braking is a problem while towing.

One of our readers alerted Torque News to an issue he is having with his new Subaru Ascent. Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB) is a feature designed to keep you from backing into something you can’t see from your side mirrors or rearview mirror. It could keep you from running over a small child that is out of the driver’s sight. But owners are having problems with the safety system if they are towing.

RAB is optional on the 2019-2020 Subaru Ascent Premium trim and standard on Limited and Touring trims. While backing up the Ascent, if an object is detected, you'll hear a series of beeps and see visual indicators to alert you that an object is behind you. If you don't react, Subaru’s Reverse Automatic Braking activates and the brakes are immediately applied to help you avoid any potential collision.

2019-2020 Subaru Ascent backup screen

The RAB buzzer can be disabled by pushing the touchscreen indicator on the backup camera screen, but one of our readers Philip told us the RAB cannot be fully disabled if you are pulling a trailer. When Ascent owners have anything on the hitch, the RAB will see there is something behind the vehicle and activate the safety system and you won’t be able to back the vehicle up.

Philip, who is disabled, owns a small trailer and mobility scooter, but when he puts the vehicle in reverse, the brakes are automatically applied by the RAB system on his new Subaru Ascent and he is unable to back up. Philip told us, “I can't use my $1,000 scooter carrier since I purchased it in April. Handicapped people can't remove their carrier/scooter every time we go to a store to turn off auto braking before reversing out of a parking space.”

Philip’s 2019 Subaru Ascent with a small trailer and mobility scooter

We checked the Subaru Ascent Forums and there are numerous threads talking about this RAB towing issue with the new 3-Row family hauler. Philip contacted Subaru Corporate and they have received complaints about the issue from others, but they don’t have a solution to this problem. Philip and other Subaru Ascent owners are frustrated because they can’t use their vehicles for towing.

Philip sent us a thread from one forum, where someone found where the owner’s manual recommends the Blind Spot Detection / Rear Cross Traffic Alert be turned off when towing. It’s located on the bottom row panel at the lower left of the dashboard. This person says, “Since I started doing that, the RAB shuts off automatically as soon as I start backing and remains off if I need to drive forward to adjust during the backing process. BSD/RCTA will remain disabled until the button is pressed again, even if the car is turned off and restarted.”

For Philip, his trailer is not used for recreation, he uses his Subaru Ascent to pull his mobility scooter so he can get to the grocery store and other places he needs to go. Ascent owners can contact Customer Support and let them know about the issue. If Subaru hears from enough customers with this problem, hopefully, it will be addressed with a better way to disable the RAB with a trailer or bike rack on the trailer hitch.

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Photo Credit: Subaru, used with permission from Philip A.


Adam Robles (not verified)    November 10, 2019 - 11:58AM

This is not an issue guys. These safety feature can be turned off. The idea that someone can't use a carrier and Subaru has no solution is utter bullsh!t. Stop spreading rumors and report the truth. How do I know I can turn it off?? Because I have a Wilco tire carrier that RAB doesn't like so I turned it off.

Sonny (not verified)    November 10, 2019 - 9:27PM

This Article is completely wrong... rear brake asst and the warnings can be turned off , because Subaru knew you would need to if you towed anything. Apparently the author did not do his research

Michael E Anderson (not verified)    November 10, 2019 - 9:27PM

You know that's a hitch-mount carrier in your pictures illustrating the RAB problem, not a trailer, right?

James Miller (not verified)    November 11, 2019 - 8:17PM

You just have to turn off 2 virtual buttons on the screen when backup camera turns on. One each in bottom left and right corners of screen. Or, in my experience, just back up real slowly with your foot on the brake and RAB doesn't kick in. Some times I'm just too impatient for both buttons; you have to hold them each for several seconds.

Edgardo D Santillán (not verified)    November 11, 2019 - 8:23PM

The RAB can be turned off. It will turn itself off automatically once it detects something being towed and the car reverses. The RAB will kick on, hit your brake, wait 2-5 seconds, then RAB will turn off allowing you to reverse while towing. The RAB will remain off until the car is shut down and started again. Much like rebooting a computer. The first several times this happens, it will scare you until you understand Subaru's obsession for safety and learn to prepare for it next time. Slight inconvenience only.

Steveinboston (not verified)    September 3, 2021 - 11:37AM

Come-on, man!

See that RAB icon bottom left of the back-up screen? Just touch it to toggle it off. Yes, it’s a surprise at first, but then you remember and turn this valuable safety feature off.

I’m very impressed with all the loaded safety features of our ‘21 Outback (turbo w/3,500 pound towing capacity).