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Subaru Stop Start The Worst New Gas Saving Feature Ever? How To Turn It Off

Check out the stop/start system on the 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek. Why is it worse than other automaker’s technology?


Auto-Stop-Start is one of the most controversial fuel-efficiency features on new Subaru vehicles. Many automakers use a system that automatically stops the engine when you come to a complete stop for more than a few seconds. It’s designed to save fuel every time the car stops at a stop sign or you wait at a traffic light.

The frequent starting and stopping of the engine are tiresome to some drivers who live in urban areas, especially if you commute in heavy stop-and-go traffic every day. And many Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent owners say they don’t like the car stopping and starting because it shakes the car every time the engine starts back up.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Outback

Why does Subaru’s system shake the car more than any other automaker’s? A recent column in the San Diego Union Tribune says Subaru is among the worst for engine vibration on restart. They say Subaru’s Boxer engine design in which the pistons are horizontally opposed creates more significant side-to-side movement and more vibration.

One Forester owner says he asked the dealer about the issue, and the salesperson who sold him the car said that if you turn on the rear defroster, the shaking will stop. Why does turning on the rear defroster stop the vibration?

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Outback

Using the defroster temporarily disables the start-stop system. When there’s a sizeable electrical draw, the car’s computer disables the start-stop system to keep the battery from being drained with the engine is turned off. It’s not the best to run the rear defroster all the time when it’s not needed.

Can I disable my Auto Stop-Start?

The Auto Stop-Start can be disabled on 2020-2021 Subaru Outback, Forester, Legacy, and Crosstrek. It’s different for each model, and the problem is that you cannot permanently disable it in some models like Forester. The system will always default to an on position once you turn the car off. So every time you get back in your vehicle, you have to disable the system again manually.

The new Outback and Legacy do have a feature on its new 11.6-inch touchscreen menu, and you can disable the system. When you are on the home screen, push the car icon button to change the settings and then click on “Others,” allowing you to turn off the Auto Stop-Start system. The Auto Stop-Start on the new 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, Legacy, and Crosstrek can be annoying, but it will save fuel if you live in an urban area.

You Might Also Like: The Subaru Forester Model Year Most Likely To Need An Expensive Engine Rebuild

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: main image Adventure Subaru


E K Sancheez (not verified)    May 24, 2021 - 10:16AM

In reply to by Bonnie (not verified)

As much as I HATE the AUTO-START-STOP, I love our CrossTrek more. So I agree w/ Bonnie, make it a habit: Press START ENGINE followed by pressing the A.

The first time it came on, it scared the heck out of us. I was ok with it stopping, we can deal with that, but the car tremble, jerk, whatever, it was horrible. Worse thing the new era of cars ever came up with.

Carol G (not verified)    July 17, 2021 - 10:34PM

In reply to by Bonnie (not verified)

WORST feature ever! You should be able to permanently turn it off or on. Im sure having it on and stopping in the city at every light and stop sign is not good for the starter. Wish I had researched this more before I bought the 2021. I HATE IT!

Dave (not verified)    January 11, 2022 - 9:46PM

In reply to by Bonnie (not verified)

Same here. Awaiting and hoping for a software update to permanently disable this feature in my Forester. I've disabled the lane centering, now this is the next feature to go.

Matt (not verified)    February 24, 2022 - 9:58PM

In reply to by Bonnie (not verified)

OMG. I thought I was the only person who goes through “the process” of turning off this feature EVERY time I get in the car. I also disable the feature that tells me I’m not looking at the road. Screw you Subaru. You are lucky my wife loves the car or it would be gone. I’ll stick with driving my I-Pace

mike wood (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 3:49PM

this article fails to mention that you can easily bypass this stupid gas saving feature by buying the "Autostop Eliminator." i have a 2021 forester touring and added this in 10 minutes, plugs under the driver seat. it reduces your fuel mileage, but the engine doesnt shut off at red lights.

jennifer (not verified)    July 31, 2022 - 3:46AM

In reply to by mike wood (not verified)

Thanks for this... I'm researching this possibility now. I just got the car two days ago, and it really gave me a scare when it shut off on the one lane, extremely steep, mountainous road I live on when I pulled over to let another car go by. I'm dreading winter now. I didn't even know cars did this as it didn't occur on the test drive, or I probably wouldn't have bought it.

Mel Berman (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 3:52PM

I’d think that Subaru could provide a software update for the 2021 Forester to allow a fixed defeat of the annoying engine on/off feature.
Please pass along this request to Subaru.
Thank You!

Mark (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 4:17PM

I have had Foresters with the start stop feature for some time now. I currently own a 2021 Forester. If you stop the car and just easy up on the brake enough to hold the car in place the start stop feature won't engage. If you apply firm pressure to the peddle while stopped then the car will shut off. Try it, stop the car and relax the pressure on the brake and see what happens.

Jason (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 4:26PM

I have a '21 Outback and would like to know if there's a data of fuel savings with this annoying feature. I think you're wearing out starter motor and also emmission would be bad every time engine starts and stops.

Amy Billmeyer (not verified)    August 18, 2022 - 11:20AM

In reply to by Jason (not verified)

YES This is the answer Jason. Please have some data on this. I have wondered about it a lot as to wear and tear verses fuel/emissions saving verses safety even. It's a feature I would never want especially without any proof of it's benefit!! Also, whenever something is new, it usually is flawed and takes a few years to hammer out the quirks. I'm a Subaru driver for life, but now I have to limit my future cars to 2018 and older which will be impossible pretty soon.. So I'll drive my 2018 forever, and hope that they have REMOVED this feature in a few years!

Tom Mead (not verified)    May 24, 2021 - 5:04PM

In reply to by Danny (not verified)

I agree. There's a preference there deep in the touch-screen's menus, to turn it off permanently BUT IT DOESN'T WORK. This article says: "The new Outback and Legacy do have a feature on its new 11.6-inch touchscreen menu, and you can disable the system. When you are on the home screen, push the car icon button to change the settings and then click on “Others,” allowing you to turn off the Auto Stop-Start system."

Gregg Harcus (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 5:25PM

When I asked the service adviser to the feature off on my 2020 outback he said the upgrade tor the software doesn’t allow that lots of customers have complained and he believes it will be in the next update will have it back.

Barry S (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 5:38PM

First world problems. I have a 2021 Legacy Touring. Can barely feel it. If that’s the worst complaint about a car, thats fine with me.

John Donaldson (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 6:09PM

I understand the gas savings aspect but I thought the real point was the reduced emissions when the engine isn't running. I can deal with the stop/start if I am reducing emissions.

m.hajime (not verified)    May 25, 2021 - 1:42AM

In reply to by John Donaldson (not verified)

Yes, you are correct. The ultimate goal is to reduce emision because car companies have to comply with CAFE regulations. SUBARU doesn't have many hybrid/electric line-up yet, at least not in the US, so they need to do everything they can to reduce emision. Otherwise they could not sell their performance oriented car without being panelized. Gas savings is mostly marketing, but thats not false either. Just miniscule in my opinion.

Z Jones (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 6:57PM

If you have a 2020 or 2021 Legacy or Outback there is a free software update which adds a button on the home screen so it's quicker to disable.

Bob (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 9:18PM

We got a 20 Forest as a loaner for an airbag recall. The start stop wasnt very refined. The motor had a noticable jump that shook the car each time it turned off. They needed to improve the motor mounts to make it more transparent.

Keil Miller Jr (not verified)    May 23, 2021 - 9:58PM

I think this article is full of fluff. I have it enabled on my 2021 Forrester and get 29.6mpg. Also, the car vibrates less than my zx10r or dodge cummins. What's the problem?

Eoleary (not verified)    May 24, 2021 - 12:20AM

Press the brakes down lightly to stop without stopping the engine, and then depress the brakes hard at longer stops to stop the engine