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Subaru’s Steering Problem

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This past year Subaru’s second-best-selling vehicle, the Outback, sold nearly 140,000 vehicles, as it became one of the companies must trusted assets. However, Subaru took a drastic hit as more than 48,500 Outback and Legacy models have been recalled this past month due to steering problems. The difficulty behind these steering wheel are due to the fact that they were so improperly built that turning the wheel doesn’t have an effect on the direction of the car’s wheels. Because of this, Subaru has warned its customers of the 2015-17 Outbacks and 2016-17 Legacies not to drive unless the vehicles have been thoroughly inspected and repaired. Luckily, Subaru caught this steering problem in advanced as it informed the National Highway Safety Administration on the dilemma on May 3 after an Outback owner discovered “an issue” with his steering wheel. Because of this complaint, Subaru decided that a recall was necessary and determined that an “incorrect setting” of a tool making the steering part has allowed the wheel to rotate more freely than normal. Thankfully, no injuries or deaths have occurred as a result of the part’s malfunction and only 22,000 vehicles being sold since coming onto the market earlier this year. Interestingly, this difficulty highlights how specific automakers must be in the process of designing and engineering their cars and building them in an efficient manner. Hopefully, the recall of Outbacks doesn’t infringe upon Subaru’s sales, but its best for the company to sell high performance cars instead of defected ones.



  1. Barrett Snyder
    Barrett Snyder

    Not sure what the extent of Subaru’s problems are at this time, however I can offer some insight to what I could easily see as the problem in this case. In most modern, power-steering vehicles there is a power steering box on trucks and a “rack and pinion” in most cars. See Diagram ( There are several different places along the steering column, steering shaft, and input shaft that are connected (usually) by a cuff that slips over a shaped end matching the inner contour of the cuff. the cuff is tightened over the shaped end using a bolt. Having disassembled several different steering systems before, I can speak to just how difficult it can be to line up and tighten these fixtures. All manufacturers have a specific torque rating that these bolts must be torqued to in order to ensure they do not loosen and are still able to allow movement. Even with brand new cars there is a slight play along this path between the steering wheel and power steering assembly. If one of these bolts is not torqued correctly this could easily lead to more play in the steering than what is expected from a new car. Regardless, the cuffed and shaped ends are designed to still be able to steer the vehicle even without a bolt in place at all. This obviously creates excessive play in the steering feel but is not a direct risk as turning the steering wheel will still turn the vehicle. It’s likely that at some point in production the tool tightening one of these bolts became out of adjustment and did not get quite as tight as it should have resulting in increased play in the steering over time. Just my theory.

    May 17, 2016
  2. platte16

    After reading this I was impressed to see Subaru recalling even though no injuries have been reported. Recalls can cost a manufacturer a large amount of money and hurt their brand. However, Subaru’s preemptive actions, in may eyes, improves their brand. This is a great example for other manufacturers and supplies, especially given the current recalling of Takata airbags.

    May 20, 2016
  3. Sam Wilson
    Sam Wilson

    It is really odd how many recalls there have been in the past year. It seems that a lot of car companies have been cutting corners or not testing their equipment well enough to ensure the safety features and durability of parts. I am impressed that they were able to catch this slip-up before any injuries or deaths occurred. It will be interesting to see how this recall will effect sales given the other recalls among other auto companies. I would think that since they caught the defect before it hit the market they will be better off than if it had caused any major injuries or deaths which the Takata airbags have.

    May 22, 2016
    • Isn’t this an outcome we should expect given vehicle complexity combined with greater ease in compiling information? Remember too this is 22,000 vehicles and “an issue” that may be less than disaster, but is cheap enough to fix to see that no disaster does occur.

      May 26, 2016

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