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Subaru Slapped With Another Lawsuit; Have You Had Starlink Problems?

2018 could be described as the year of the lawsuit for Subaru. They are slapped with another one. See what they are being sued for now.


Subaru gets slapped with another lawsuit and this one doesn’t involve the Subaru Boxer engine. This one involves their Subaru Starlink infotainment system in the 2018 Subaru Outback, 2018 Crosstrek, 2017-2018 Impreza, 2018 Legacy, and 2018 BRZ.

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.

According to a report from, 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.” 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.

The plaintiff, Chad Udeen, from Tennessee, represented by Chimicles & Tikellis, and J. Llewellyn Mathews, says shortly after he leased his new 2018 Subaru Outback, he began experiencing problems with the Starlink system. Udeen claims the screen went blank multiple times and continued to get worse until the head unit failed in April 2018. After multiple trips to the Subaru dealer, and having the head unit replaced, his problem was still not fixed.

10 alleged Starlink problems

The lawsuit alleges there are 10 problems with Starlink including the backup camera freezing/or shutdowns, loss of audio functions, complete system lockup, display shutoff, inability to shut radio/audio off or turn high volume level down when backing up, radio comes on at high volume when the car is turned on, smartphone favorites aren’t saved, audio/radio functioning is erratic, touchscreen controls are unresponsive, and Bluetooth connectivity issues.

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 on the 2018 Subaru Outback, 2018 Crosstrek, 2017-2018 Impreza, 2018 Legacy, and 2018 BRZ. You can go here to check on any current Subaru recalls for your vehicle.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Robyn Z (not verified)    January 4, 2019 - 5:34PM

In reply to by Ralph F Freese (not verified)

Make sure with CarPlay you're using a high quality data cable. Also, there are a lot of settings in the phone, and in the mapping programs (especially Google) that need to be set just right so that the phone can "play nicely" with the car. Your dealer should be able to set it all up correctly for you.

Deidre C Berger (not verified)    October 16, 2019 - 7:31PM

In reply to by Ralph F Freese (not verified)

I am on my 3rd radio in my Outback and they aren’t fixing it! All they want to give me is $2,000 to go away. I still have a screwed up system in my car! Looking for an attorney to handle this case against Subaru!

Tom n (not verified)    July 4, 2021 - 5:04PM

In reply to by Ralph F Freese (not verified)

Brand new tires and icon on display for soft tire (TPM) won’t go away. Re program worked for two days. Due for oil change. Does dealer know how to reset while leaving tires alone?

G.Popelka (not verified)    December 30, 2018 - 12:17PM

I have a 2016 Wrx. Have had it back to the dealership 6 times for the radio head issue. I have given up. Class action participation maybe my only resolution.

Mark Day (not verified)    December 30, 2018 - 3:13PM

Consumer Reports continues to rate Subaru highest in reliability, while not mentioning the record number class action lawsuits. CR's credibility has been lost.

inwdc (not verified)    March 30, 2019 - 4:13PM

In reply to by Mark Day (not verified)

Yeah, I looked at ratings for Subarus on Consumer Reports and that helped sway my decision to buy a Subaru. Now having had the car for a month and frustrated by the complete idiocy of the electronic/infotainment system (radio never shuts off and poor UX design just to name a few issues), Consumer Reports has lost all credibility in my book. Will definitely caution people away from trusting Consumer Reports and Subaru at this point. Potential buyers: look at multiple sites before buying a Subaru ... it's definitely NOT the car company it's cracked up to be.

MB Schneidler (not verified)    August 5, 2019 - 4:50PM

In reply to by inwdc (not verified)

I hate the technology on my new 2019 Subaru the ride, appearance snd size but hate the continual issues with licking, rear gate opening and now entire infotainment center...monthly issues and now not working at all! Tired of it!

sam (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 2:21PM

In reply to by inwdc (not verified)

I too have a 2020 Subaru Legacy XT. Leased after reading Consumers Reports... My display also went black and had a very loud beeping sound that could not be turned off. This was at 70 MPH. I pulled off of the parkway to turn off the car and restart it. Immediately called the dealer and was told "Never heard of that before but if it happens again bring the car to service dept. Was at the dealer today for a different issue and inquired about the screen issues.. The reply was " you know that the is a computer with a harddrive behind the screen and the experience you had was a signal sent to the computer to update it....Dont believe him. At one time Consumer Reports had a policy of not allowing companies to use reviews from them to advertise products.. The Subaru dealership had reprints form Consumer Reports displayed all around the showroom. These were laminated and presented as from Consumer Reports.. It is difficult to believe this was done without Consumers Report. knowledge .. I will not be renewing my subscription.

TED Zaluski (not verified)    September 11, 2019 - 4:41PM

In reply to by John Capozzoli (not verified)

I have the same issues, only 740 miles on my car and the navigation has failed twice now. Dealer replaced the head unit on Sept 3, 2019 and it failed again 6 days later. Dealer has the car now trying to fix the issue.

Charles Kluepfel (not verified)    July 21, 2020 - 11:03AM

In reply to by TED Zaluski (not verified)

2019 Crosstrek: after 1.5 years, first major issue-- H-K screen froze on main menu--no sound, no backup camera, no nav map, nothing except a silent menu screen. Luckily, after stopping for gas and then stopping and starting again several times, it returned to normal. The problem is Subaru's outsourcing to Harmon-Kardon, who may be good at conventional audio, but not about cars.

Robyn Z (not verified)    January 4, 2019 - 3:43PM

In reply to by Les (not verified)

Yes, the 2019 has some of the same issues (for things that are actual problems, see my below post), and there is a software update from the factory available now. Your dealer should be able to perform this update for you.

ed (not verified)    April 13, 2019 - 3:50PM

In reply to by Les (not verified)

My 2019 outback 3.6 has been having similar problems. Could not place phone calls, turn radio off, or use left side controls for the starlink system. Took it to the dealer and they said their fix would make things worse. System fixed itself after turning off waiting and then turned back on. But have now had the problem crop up twice car has only 200 miles..

John (not verified)    November 20, 2019 - 10:55PM

In reply to by Les (not verified)

I purchased a 2019 Outback 3 weeks ago and at first thought the Starlink system was not connecting but after a few reboots it came up and everything worked well. I didn't think much of it until it was home and with cold weather in the 30's the freaking Starlink would repeatedly reboot; come up, give it's little warning message, radio would play for two seconds, system shut down and Starlink would reboot repeating this process without stopping. This continues until the cabin warms up and voila!; the system booted up and worked. Radio worked, Bluetooth worked,

I took it to the dealer and the service manager observed the repeating reboot sequence. We pushed the off button for the 10+ seconds, no help. We shut off the car opened the door, pulled the ignition key (their suggested first try fixes). It did not correct the issue. The service manager agreed there was a problem (did not mention the ongoing issue) and took photos of the mileage and Vin number. That was two weeks ago. After several phone conversations (following several calls and voice messages he called me and said he needed a picture of the screen coming on as Subaru says there should be no problem. It isn't being driven due to the issue with Starlink software/firmware control being potentially problematic so getting it to fail in 40 degree weather was not an issue, it failed. I sent him multiple pictures and a video of the sequence.

Bruce Stedman (not verified)    December 31, 2018 - 11:20AM

I purchased a 2018 Subaru Outback limited trim in April (2018). This by the way is my 6th Subaru. I'm really happy with most everything but have the Starlink system fail and have had a replacement done in November The dealership was excellent in allowing me a loaner until the system was replaced.

Robyn Zimmann (not verified)    January 3, 2019 - 9:32AM

It's no secret that there are some problems with the 3.0 and 3.1 Generation head units and Subaru has been slow to react. However, some of these 10 "problems" listed in the article are just the way Subarus roll, and nobody has filed a lawsuit about them in the past. Subaru doesn't let you do anything with the dials and touch screen in the car while you're backing up; that's a safety feature. Beginning in 2018, the volume button when given a quick press is a "mute" button, not an "off" button. The radio doesn't stay muted; the next time you start the car, the radio comes back on at the volume you last left it at. Learn to turn it down when you leave the car, instead of muting it. The "favorites" screen built into the phone screen of the car is for the driver to manually designate contacts loaded into the car as a favorites, not to pull in favorites from the smartphone. For display shutoff, press and hold the volume button until the screen shuts off.

All computer screens, whether on your desk, phone, laptop, or car, occasionally lock up. Shut off the car and restart it, or, long press the volume button until the screen reboots. Reading the owner's manual will clear up some misunderstandings about the cars - most of what I just listed are somewhere in the library of books that every owner receives with the car. You might hate some of those "features", but they aren't unexpected if the dealer is doing their job in explaining the car at the time of the sale.

Richfng (not verified)    January 14, 2019 - 4:43PM

In reply to by Robyn Zimmann (not verified)

And when we get the Black Screen of Death on our Infotainment screen? Nothing shows up, no radio, GPS and no back up camera...… so what now?????

Dealer tells me there are NO estimated delivery dates for all of their customers with Head Unit problems.....

Go team Subaru..... sarcasm....

Robyn Z (not verified)    January 15, 2019 - 9:24AM

In reply to by Richfng (not verified)

The BSofD is definitely the end of the road. Our dealership is able to order replacement radios which is the only option for that. There are now also software updates for the HK 3.0 and 3.1 Generation units in the '18 and '19 cars. Much of the time the update or the replacement solves the various problems, but sometimes not, and that's the REAL frustration for all of us. Harman Kardon needs to figure this out fast.

Ingrid Pearson (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 5:56PM

In reply to by Robyn Zimmann (not verified)

Can you explain the Subaru Starlink GPS system that only gives you about 15 meters (about 15 yards) notice to make a turn, No warning ahead of time that you should a) get in the other lane to turn or b) get into the turn lane until you are parallel turn. All you get is "turn right onto Rose Street" as you pass the intersection where you are suppose to turn. I cannot find anything in the manual about ability to preset the warning time to allow safe travel.

DL (not verified)    January 17, 2019 - 1:36PM

I am so glad someone is doing something about this problem. As much as Subaru would like to pretend it's not a problem and claiming that "everything works fine on our end" it's a problem. I have taking my 2018 Subaru Crosstrek to the dealer multiple times wasting all day trying to get firmware updates to address the Android Auto disconnects, favorites getting removed, the fan running on the radio even when the radio and the car is turned off <--WTF is that battery draining s*it all about? Now, I have a 2018 vehicle with a radio that doesn't fully work and Subaru with the impression that I need to live with it.

S Moffet (not verified)    January 25, 2019 - 9:39AM

‘18 3.6r headunit replaced within first year after software updates failed. Black screen of death. My frustration is with both S of A and dealer for not being transparent in communications regarding the failure. S of A offered $500 gift certificate toward future service or accessories after I contacted them to complain about delay in parts. Dealer pushed me off to S of A with comment that they had other owners who had waited over a month on the part. I am happy to see this issue is being escalated.

My concern is resale value of car and ongoing inconvenience. I would be hard pressed to join in a class action suit that argues headunit failure is a safety issue. None of STARLINK accessories are necessary for driving. We all likely grew up in cars that had none of these features. I will note the ear piercing screaming volume might count as a distraction. One of my failures involved ear piercing static that sounded like a blown tire thumping along road. It took us a moment after pulling over to realize it was the radio making the racket. Could not of course shut it off until powered off the car.

HomoSapiensWannaBe (not verified)    February 6, 2019 - 9:19PM

I am overall a happy owner of the 2018 Outback 2.5i Touring with the 8" touchscreen navigation system. Suburu gets so much right with this car, but the Starlink / Audio / Touchscreen system has some problems...

Having the radio come on even when it was long-pressed off previously is annoying and a poor design choice. Why Suburu would think we want this is beyond me! I keep it tuned to XM radio channel 0, which has no sound, and this "solves" the problem, but my wife usually changes it to an FM station when she drives. Then, when I drive the vehicle after her, I have to change it back to XM, channel 0, then turn it off. The radio still comes on the next time I start it, but at least I hear nothing this way. The solution is for the system to never turn the radio on automatically when it was muted or turned off previously.

Even more annoying, I cannot get the two Vehicle Menu Settings for unlocking ALL doors with keyless access to work.

There is a setting to have the key fob unlock ALL doors when the unlock button is pressed the first time, or just the Drivers door (the default, which then requires a 2nd press done quickly after the first to unlock the remaining doors.) I want all doors to unlock on the 1st press from the key fob, but setting "ALL doors" in the vehicle settings has no effect.

From another menu setting, I was able to get all doors to unlock if I grip the driver's door handle, but the setting for keyless unlocking does NOT respond to the ALL doors setting.

I can get the doors to unlock when I switch back to park after driving, which is one of the options that I prefer.

Also, there is a keyless access setting so that opening the tailgate hatch auto lift unlocks ALL doors, or just the hatch. That setting also does not respond to the ALL doors selection.

Here is a scenario: I approaching the vehicle with other people and want to put something in back and let the passengers begin loading, so I press the Hatch open button so it will be open when we get there. But the doors are still locked! As it is by default, I have to press the center unlock button twice in succession, then the hatch open button. Too many steps!

I got the car as a CPO at the end of January. My head unit software was already updated in a earlier recall in January.

I am calling the dealer tomorrow to discuss. There is no point in me driving there if they are just going to try changing the same keyless vehicle settings I already did, or if they know about the problem but can't offer a fix.

By the way, I tested these settings by trying the keyless action from a distance, confirming the car is responding to the key press by the flashing lights and chirps, then leaving my key at a distance and not taking it with me to the car. I wanted to be the virtual passenger getting into the car from one of the other doors who would not, of course, have a key on them.

Cheers from Atlanta!

John Ritchey (not verified)    February 16, 2019 - 1:23AM

2018 Outback Touring with all the Starlink problems mentioned above. Dealer confirmed that head unit needs replacing and has no idea when a replacement will be available. It’s our forth Subaru and is the only one with any significant issues.
My dealer says they don’t have loaners available for this problem (no wonder) and I have prepaid reservations on Arizona and Louisiana for the month of March. I took the OB (7500miles) on odometer to a local Toyota dealer and tried to negotiate a trade for a 2119 FourRunner and they would not accept the trade because of the known problems. It’s our only car and the only thing I can do is rent a comparable one for approx $1600 for the month. I have contacted regional office and was told I would hear back from them by next Tuesday. Fingers crossed!

Bryan Beardsley (not verified)    February 25, 2019 - 11:18AM

2018 Crosstrek Infotainment system problems ongoing even after head unit replacement and recent software update!

Ferdie (not verified)    February 25, 2019 - 9:35PM

Just wondering if anyone had these issues with the 2019 Limited 3.6 outback. I only had the car a month and at 100 km the radio froze the first time. Then yesterday finally aweful sounds were coming out of the radio for no reason the volume was only on 2 but it was very loud static noise.

Jon (not verified)    February 27, 2019 - 12:26AM

I recently got a notification to bring my 2017 Subaru Impreza in for a recall/reprogram , which failed . They sent me on my way with a completely nonfuntioning head unit (only the backup camera works) and since the failed update the screen is lit up with an error message and it has drained my battery completely two nights in a row . Anyone having similar issues

DL (not verified)    February 28, 2019 - 2:47PM

Received the recall notice from Subaru regarding the head unit. I took my 2018 Subaru crosstrek in and they programmed Rel_U0.18.43.20 in. Still unable to play music from my phone. Still unable to sync Android Auto where it detects my car as connected. I have spent so much time on this it's no longer worth it. I am so done with Subaru and there lack of being able to address this. I hope this class action suit goes forward!