('09-'13) Trouble Starting - Subaru Forester Owners Forum
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-18-2011, 06:29 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Trouble Starting

CAR: The wife’s 2010 Forester, 2.5L 4cyl boxer engine; purchased brand-new with 150 miles; approx 6300 miles current.
PROBLEM: Periodic starting problem, so far only the first time of the day (“cold” start).
This problem has been observed three times, once per month of ownership. This is the series of events: The key is inserted into the ignition and turned to the “on” position for approx 10 secs prior to cranking the engine. Normally, the engine will crank 4 times on a “cold” start, fire and begin to idle. When the problem occurs, the engine will crank over twice, and only twice, pop just enough to disengage the starter from the flywheel and not start. Then, the key is turned to the “off” position for approx 10 secs, turned back to the “on” position for 10 secs (this is completed 3 times, per advice of my mechanic, in an effort to prime the fuel-delivery system and allow other sensors to acclimate to ambient conditions); following the three “on / off” actions, I crank the engine. All 3 times, the engine has cranked over many times (8, 10, 12; I lose count after about 6-7) until I butterfly the accelerator slightly (perhaps pressing down to an inch). So far, this action has resulted in the engine spit…sputter… spit…sputter…as if it were flooded; I then goose the throttle a bit to rev the engine, and after 2 or 3 revs only then will the engine smooth to an idle. This also results in very foul smelling exhaust (likely due to non-burned gasoline). This starting problem first occurred two weeks after purchase, and has happened approx once per month since. The car is garaged, and the temperature range under which this problem has occurred was 10(F)-30(F). Since purchase, the car has never sat outside in -20 or colder weather. After the third occurrence, the car was driven to the dealer only to result in no error codes and no problems starting following a five-day stay; therefore no repairs. I see other Forester owners have had this problem in various iterations, with various model years. As far as I am concerned, this car is not a reliable starter; not to mention the slow starter turn-over speed to begin with, and the periodic failure of front (engine-oil) seals on newer Forester engines. Neither of these problems are recalls nor service bulletins, yet. Anyone have the correct diagnosis for this starting problem? On day five of the dealer stay, I showed up to retrieve the car and a tech came out for one more cold start. No diagnostic instruments were connected to the vehicle, which leads me to believe that he knew what to replace if he observed the starting problem. Any ideas? Temperature sensor? Cold-start injector? Crank-angle sensor? Any logical suggestions as to the most-likely source of this starting problem would be appreciated. Thank you!

Last edited by SorryDude01; 04-18-2011 at 06:40 PM. Reason: Better wording.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-18-2011, 07:11 PM
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Only thing I could compare this to IME is that Subarus have never liked to be 'short started" for lack of a better term, letting off the key or stopping cranking just short of the engine firing off and being able to run. You get a couple of struggling cylinder fires before the engine dies. The follow up start takes a couple extra seconds of cranking and the resulting idle immediately upon starting is poor but straightens it self out.

More common with manual owners simply because not only do they have to turn the key but they have to keep the clutch down far enough to trip the clutch safety switch. Admittedly I do it once every few months to my self.

With out it happening in the hands of a dealer tech, I will put money down that they will write it off as OE(operator error), it's just one of those types of things.

Where are you at in MN?

What dealer are you going to?

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-19-2011, 08:28 AM
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Ya, operator error. Not meaning to say you don't know how to start a car....! LOL.

Mine does the extended crank once in a while.... also does the stumbling start once in a blue moon.

And then I was reading the manual.. how about that... about the keys.. ignition.. stuff, trying to figure out why this car beeps at me.....anyway, came across info in the manual about not starting.. seems the ignition doesn't recognize the security chip in the key sometimes.
Manual says fix is to take the key out and reinsert it. Try a different key maybe.
Oh.. and don't touch the throttle until started.
I don't think 10 seconds is necessary for priming. First time a couple of seconds. I don't think about it.... just turn it on.

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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-19-2011, 10:11 AM Thread Starter
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Responses- 20110419.

To flstffxe - Actually, OE / early ignition release was the first dealer suggestion as a source of this problem. Problem with that argument is following the "pop" which disengages the starter motor gear from the engine / flywheel gear I heard the starter motor wind out and subsequently wind down. Since originally posting, and reading many occurrences of a nearly identical problem with 2011 model-year Foresters, I am more convinced that an as-of-yet non-identified systemic problem exists with either the fuel-delivery system (under cold start conditions) and / or perhaps the ECU in terms of correctly interpreting ambient conditions as appropriate for a "cold" start, "warm" start, etc. Insanely annoying for a brand-new car, especially one which prides itself on safety and reliability. The next time I have to take this vehicle to the dealer for this starting problem I am going to print some of these posts (anonymous of course) as evidence that other folks have the same problem. Also, sorry for not posting my location; the dealer is located in Northern MN.

To trailangel - Feathering the accelerator was the only way the engine would even begin to fire / start. Even then, the following spitting...sputtering reminded me of a sticky choke in the days of carbureted engines; the exhaust odor was nearly unbearable in the garage; and yes, the person door was open. I honestly believe that the boxer-engine configuration is not a very reliable configuration for cold climates, such as Minnesota, simply because if this engine becomes flooded (which is very likely happening to some degree in my case), there is no place for the excess gasoline to drain.

So far we are fairly disappointed with this vehicle, and also the service we received from the dealer. We were treated like know-nothings when we visited the dealer for this problem. And when we asked about other potentially fatal problems for this model / year vehicle, we received "We don't know of any". When I asked about the front-seal-failure problems on 2009 Foresters, we received a series of examples of that problem being observed at that dealer, with causes ranging from front-seal manufacturing defects to an oil pump coming loose due to improper tightening of oil-pump bolts at the Subaru assembly facility. They were hiding these problems. And they said they had never heard of any problems with starting the engine under non-extreme ambient conditions, which very likely cannot be true. If this problem continues we will trade this vehicle, take a small financial hit and be done with it.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-19-2011, 10:29 AM
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Well, for one I think you are releasing the starter too early. This "pop" that disengages the starter in unknown to me.
I think if you hold the key on for 10 seconds before each crank/try and feather the gas peddle it will flood and won't let the motor go into it's high idle warmup routine.
No need to prime the fuel delivery system.
Try your other key!

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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-19-2011, 05:16 PM
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I am not saying "it is" OE, only saying that unless it happens while it's the techs hand turning the key that will probably be the diagnosis. That is until it totally fails and wont start at all.

The simplest thing from the way you describe it, a pop then the starter free wheeling. Would be the starter gear simply not kicking out to make full contact to the flywheel/flex plate and upon building compression/firing those forces just kick the starter gear out engagement.

In all honesty I this is the only thread/posting I recall of a '09+ having a starting issue. If there are others post up the links. It may help to draw a conclusion...

I did find this reference to a 2011 Forester.
Walking Among You: 2011 Subaru Forester Start Problem

His - 08 X Prem 5mt
Hers - 08 X 4EAT
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-19-2011, 07:41 PM
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Have you ever gotten the key wet? Say like left it in a pants pocket and washed it or jumped in a pool with it in your pocket ? Somethings not right and id be at the dealer every day till it was fixed. Try a different dealer if you can

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 05:53 AM Thread Starter
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To flstffxe: I think the link you posted may be appropriate for our situation; our 2010 Forester has a very slow starter turn-over rate, even though the original battery passed its load-test. I have long claimed auto companies skimp on four somewhat critical components nowadays; battery, windshield glass, tires and body-panel rigidity / thickness; many times in the interest of decreasing vehicle weight. I am going to replace the battery with a higher CCA-rated batt. One new development; cracked windshield from unknown source. No observed rock ding; just a crack extending half-way across the front windshield within the wiper-defrosting "wires"; happened overnight in the garage (temp approx 30-40F). Had a new Subaru windshield installed and...believe it or not...the new windshield cracked that very day in almost the exact location as the original windshield, only not as far across horizontally this time (yes, we left a door window open approx one inch following installation to help prevent pressure-bursting the new front window bead during door closing). Cheap glass, anyone? A second replacement front windshield will be installed in four days. Always seems to be something with this vehicle, even if observed problems are not specifically related to mechanical functionality.

Last edited by SorryDude01; 04-23-2011 at 06:03 AM. Reason: Clarify windshield problem.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 06:13 AM
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The OEM glass is less then stellar. PPR or Pilkington are far better choices. There is no replacement for glass coverage when owning a Subaru. A little extra pocket change each month/year(< $50 year in my case) to have zero glass deductible.

Between our 3 vehicles(2 Foresters, '95 F150) with glass coverage it adds <$150 a year to our insurance premiums. On average we seem to replace at least one windshield a summer, Which runs more then $150 for any of those 3 vehicles. Even with my neighbor owning a auto glass company I can't do a windshield for less then $150. For us it is a guaranteed savings.

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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 06:17 AM Thread Starter
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To TC2000: One key has been dropped in the snow at least once (I did it); however, this is the key we currently keep in the house for potential emergency needs. We have completed the recommended break-in processes for this vehicle (current approx 7100 miles), and followed dealer and user's manual recommended processes for ensuring proper security-system enablement / disablement (i.e., use fob not key to lock / unlock doors; Why? No idea.). We will continue to submit this vehicle to the dealer whenever problematic starting is observed (next nearest dealer is about 100 miles away). Thank goodness other folks have observed a very similar problem with late-model Foresters; hopefully, a technical service bulletin or "component upgrade" (aka recall) issuance in the near future.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 06:28 AM Thread Starter
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To flstfflx: I agree, full glass coverage is a must; always have it on auto insurance. Will do on the alternate windshield-manufacturer request. The second replacement windshield, which has already been ordered, is Subaru and, if history be my teacher, this windshield will also likely fail. Currently batting 0 for 2. Side note: colleague at work with 2009 Forester has all these same problems, with one extra...front oil seal failure returning from Int'l Falls. That must have been a mess. Two weeks at the dealer for repair. Dealer says this is a fairly common problem with late model Foresters. However, no TSB or recall, yet. Has Subaru become too big for its britches too quickly? Quantity over quality?
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 06:35 AM
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Well, I hope this issue gets solved for you sooner than adding to your frustration.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to contact Subaru Customer Service and have them open a file on this issue. By doing that Subaru will follow up initially with the dealer and advise them of any TSB's they might have overlooked (it happens) or make some suggestions if any other regional service advisors have come across this before and reported it.

I'd also advise even when dropping your car of for the tech to check out, have them write up a work order for it and retain a copy. Even though they can claim some warranty time for diagnosis, it should be documented and you have a copy should something related happen when out of warranty. This is where you would likely get courtesy coverage since an issue was reported previously.

Keep us updated, we don't always have the solution but when someone reports it here, it'll help others.

Cheers
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 02:55 PM Thread Starter
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To good dog: Good suggestions. We contacted Subaru cust. serv. approx 1.5 wks ago following our return from the most recent dealer visit to describe the engine-starting problem, and also a few observations about how the dealer approached the problem. When we arrived to claim the vehicle from the dealer (after the most recent visit approx 2 weeks ago) we were informed the dealer did open a file (for the problematic starting), and we have documentation / receipt of the dealer visit containing our description of the series of events and vehicle observations (sounds, smells, sputtering engine) during / following poor starting events. I believe a work order was initiated, and we were told (by the dealer head technician) that "quite a few like complaints" have been received by Subaru corporate, although no TSB or recall / component upgrade has been issued. I will be calling Car Talk re: the problem starting the engine this week; listen in next Saturday / Sunday, perhaps I will be a guest.
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-18-2011, 01:44 PM Thread Starter
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Recall notice for problematic starting 2006-2010 Subarus.

Hi all. I knew it! Recall notice on nearly all Subaru cars produced between 2006-2010. The ECM needs to be re-programmed to properly control the oxygen sensor and other emissions components; the wrongly programmed ECM has been blamed as the cause of the previously described problematic engine starting events. No word on whether this WILL fix the periodic starting problems (see original two posts) such as those observed during January, February, March and April (2011), but it is a start (pun intended). Google search "subaru ECM recall April 2011" and follow the "cars101" link; about the fourth or fifth from the top. Scroll down to find the appropriate recall notice and affected models and years. Happy trails!
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-28-2011, 11:18 AM
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Would this A/F sensor error prevent the car from starting at all?
I thought my starter was out, but am now hoping it's just this sensor?
All I get when I try to start it is an electric churning sound. THe engine won't kick in.
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