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'11 Forester thrown same code 7 times in a year

Hoping that there are some Subaru techs that can help me. I bought a 2011 Forester in Sept. 2011. It’s a 5-speed manual, premium. In January 2012 I throw a 0505A code, cold idle start. Of course check engine light came on, cruise and traction control disengaged.

I took the car into the dealer and they cleared the code, and off I went. That was the first of seven times in 12 months that this has happened. Same code each time. I’ve had all the software updates, including the one that just came out in the form of a recall specific to this code. That was done on December 13 when I had thrown the code and took it in. They had just gotten the software for the recall related to Foresters, 2012 and 2012. So here I am five weeks later, after getting the updated software for the recall for code 0505A, and had the exact same thing happen this morning.

There are no outside temps that correlate with this happening. Has happened when it’s 8 degrees and when it’s 90 degrees. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the garage or was outside overnight. Always has happened when I first start it in the morning, not during the course of the day.

I have a business where I drive seven days a week, averaging about 50 miles per day, stopping and starting multiple times. No interstates around here so usually don’t get over 45-50 miles, and mostly my daily driving is more like 35-40 throughout the day.

I’ve owned the car for 16 months, and am at 23,000 miles so I likely have about 7-8 months before my warranty is up. I’m concerned that they can’t seem to fix this problem and each time it’s an hour driving time/30 miles to get to the dealership, and 2 hours there of my time. What do I do?

Since they can’t fix the problem will they be responsible for continuing to check the code and clear it at no charge after my warranty is up?

Is this a software issue or is there a mechanical related problem that contributes to this ongoing problem?

Would you attempt to pursue an issue like this through MA Lemon law if it were you? I’m taking it in tomorrow to have the code cleared and need to know where and what to do at this point.

I’m just so frustrated with this and don’t know where to turn. Thanks for any input/suggestions.

I would seriously consider getting it bought back a three-time lemon.
Even if you like the car and keep it, just imagine it’s still acting up after the warranty is expired.
Read up on your state’s lemon law. If the car has consistently been having the same fault code and symptoms, and they have failed in multiple attempts to fix your problem, you may have a good "case"
Why are you taking it in to have the code cleared? You should be taking it in to have the problem fixed!
I advise you not to tell them if you’re going for a buyback. The service manager may try to convince you that the problem’s not a big deal. Or worse yet, they may try to get you to trade your car in for a new one.
If you do go for a buyback, I advise you to let your lawyer contact the dealer and drop the bomb.

I am not familiar with this problem but do have a question. Was this car a brand new leftover (3 or 4 miles on it) or was it a dealer demonstrator, etc?

The reason I ask is because a demonstrator is technically a used vehicle the day that it goes into service as a demo. MA Lemon Law also appears to have time and miles limits after the sale of a used vehicle so in theory the Lemon Law may not apply.

Maybe you should contact the regional office of Subaru of America and bring them into this as any verifiable warranty complaint and repair should be backed up by their records.
There’s a point to this that I won’t go into at this time.

Do You Have Paper Work From Each Of The 7 Dealer Visit Showing Your Complaint And The Dealer’s Response In The Form Of A Repair Order Or Other Document ?
Were They Willing To Do That Each Time Or Were They Reluctant ?

Is this a large (high volume) dealership ?
Does the staff seem competent (other than with this specific problems) ?
Have you had your salesperson and/or dealership owner/principal involved ?

You could try contacting other larger, high volume Subaru dealers, not necessarily very nearby and speaking with the Service Manager/Director and running the problem by them. The larger dealers often have more vehicles with similar problems come through their doors and often discover a remedy before others do.


Thanks for your responses. They service manager has been responsive. Additionally, I took it to an excellent independent mechanic in July for him to check and get his thoughts. He is the one who explained more thoroughly that the problem was related to computer software settings. The reason I take it back to have the code cleared is so it shows up on the official records for my car through Subaru. It doesn’t appear to be a mechanical issue, but rather the parameters for coolant temperature after storting the engine and estimated exhaust gas temperature. So I guess if the computer doesn’t read this correctly it registers a ‘malfuntion’. This is a 2-event occurence. The first malfuntion and it gets stored in a temporty file. If the same thing happens the next time I start the car then I get the ‘CEL’.

I stopped at an auto supply store yesterday right after it happened just to be sure it was the same P0505A code. It was. It showed the occurence yesterday, the stored occurence that happened just before I got the CEL, and a third reading that says this is a continual problem on this vehicle.

I have paperwork for every visit. The staff does seem competent. It’s a medium size dealer I’d think, the only one in Berkshire County, MA. I’m going to try to talk to the GM of the dealership when I’m there this afternoon.

I can buy a code reader/clearer and just clear it myself, but don’t think I should have to do this. It’s the only problem I’ve had with the car other than it’s a very rattily car. They have given me two complementary oil changes the last two times I’ve had to take it in for this problem, valued at $89 for synthetic oil change. So they are ok to work with, but it seems to me the sevice departments hands are tied if this is truly a computer problem, not a mechanical problem. Is that right?

I can’t figure out why the OP did not “kick it up a notch”–to the corporate level–long ago.
In your Owner’s Manual, you can find the toll-free phone number for Subaru Customer Service at the corporate level, and through them, you can request intervention at a higher level–such as the regional service supervisor.

Even if a dealership is being cooperative, there will inevitably be matters that are beyond their expertise, and in my experience (with both Ford and Toyota), getting the corporate folks involved can make a huge difference.

If everyone agrees it is a computer software bug that cannot be fixed and it does not affect the cars operation, is it a big deal? It sounds like it will never be fixed. How about a NEW PCM?

If it is indeed a bug, a new PCM will likely have the same bug but I’ve never heard of a P0505A code that doesn’t go away on a Subaru. Replacing a PCM is drastic and something you’d do last.

The code is related to the IAC. If I were the dealer, I’d replace the IAC first. I’m surprised they are farting around and haven’t do that yet.

I don’t understand this “A” at the end, I have not seen that before. Here is some information on this code.

The troubleshooting procedures listed in that link seem to be solid, but the author keeps referring to the IAC as having sensors, which it does not, It is strictly a motor, the sensor needed to control it is the throttle position sensor (TPS). Your vehicle may also have a separate idle position sensor (IPS) which is essentially a switch that makes when you let your foot off the gas.

Are you having any issues with the idle? When the engine is warmed up, it should be rock steady at around 750 to 800 rpm. It should be higher than that when the engine is cold and you should have no problems with the engine stumbling or dying as you let off the gas. If the IAC or its wiring is actually bad, you will have some or all of these problem with the idle.

BTW, if the warm idle is a little high, say around 900 RPM with the AC/defrost off, it could be as simple as a misadjusted throttle stop screw. A slight misadjustment would cause a slightly higher idle speed. The computer would send a signal to the IAC to reduce the idle, but when the IAC is fully closed and the idle speed does not go down to spec, the computer might think the IAC is defective and set this code. If the idle were more than 200 RPM above spec, it would set a P0507 instead of the P0505.

People draw the lemon law like it’s a gun. In reality, there are limited circumstances that allow protection under the law in MA. For example:

“The Massachusetts Lemon Law protects consumers who have serious defects in their new cars. The law defines a lemon as a new or leased motor vehicle that has a defect which substantially impairs the use, market value, or safety of the vehicle, and which has not been repaired after a reasonable number of attempts”

“Substantial Impairment:
The Lemon Law only covers serious defects- those which substantially impair the use, market-value or safety of the vehicle. The law does not list the defects which are considered substantial. You must be able to demonstrate specifically how the use, safety or market value of your vehicle is substantially impaired by the defect. For example, to prove market value impairment, you must show that your vehicle is worth at least 10 percent less than it would be without the defect. Although a defect may be annoying, it is not necessarily substantial.”

"The Lemon Law gives the manufacturer, its agent or authorized dealer a “reasonable number of attempts” to repair the substantial defect. This standard is met if, within the term of protection (1 year or 15,000 miles):

•a repair is attempted 3 or more times for the same substantial defect, and the problem continues or recurs within the term of protection;

I’d be upset too but realize this is not necessarily a viable avenue for addressing your grievance.

In some states, you cannot sell a vehicle that does not pass the emissions or safety inspections. In that case wouldn’t an MIL qualify as substantial? And if it disengages the traction control, would that not qualify as a safety issue? The defect showed up and was reported 5 months after the sale. I think it qualifies. Of course, that does not mean that it is automatically the best route to take.

The still unanswered question is whether this car was a dealer demostrator or not. A demo is a used car and according to the MA lemon law statute I read it states that with the purchase of a used vehicle that has less than 40k miles on it the lemon claim period is 90 days or 3750 miles from the date of sale.

If this is a legitimate ECM issue then it should be covered under the Federal 8/80 warranty.
It could also depend upon the regional rep as to whether an ECM could be allowable. The one we used to have here would just state that if an ECM was changed we should make SURE it’s no good before being submitted as warranty. A 110 volt wall socket would remove all traces of murkiness…

Gotta go with Keith on this one.

Diagnostic Trouble Codes for OBD2 according to SAE J2012
* DTC P0505 Idle Control System Malfunction

Keith has given you good advice, as he usuallly does.

Thanks everyone. I bought the car new in Sept. 2011. It was not a dealer demonstrator/or used car.

The car clears inspection as long as the code has been cleared and stays off after driving a minimum number of miles. I had it inspected this past Sept, with no problems.

I did notice I put the code as P0505A…it is actually P050A…but still is the cold start idleair control.

What I understand to be happening is the computer is reading a malfuncion that isn’t there based on the parameters set for when you start the car, the coolant temperature after starting the engine and established threshold values. They have gone through and done the complete steps of checking out all the components that could be a problem and nothing was found. They kept the car 1.5 days when this was done. There aren’t any driving issues when the code happens, it just causes the CEL to turn on, cruise and traction control to disengage.

As I mentioned there was a recall issued in Dec. 2012 - Service Program WQC-39 Engine Conrol Module Reprogramming for twelve states. I’d guess these are all states that have the emissions control thing on the cars. I threw the 050A code in December and when I took it in they had just gotten the software to reprogram the ECM, which they did. I was very hopeful this would solve the problem. It didn’t since P050A code happened again yesterday

Someone asked about the IAC…was told there is not an IAC on this vehicle, just something with the trottle. I’m not a mechanic person so lots of this is foreign to me.

Obviously I have not jumped right on the ‘lemon law’ plan, since I’m into the car now with 16 months/23,000 miles of ownership. But I’m getting to my wits end in dealing with it. In MA you have 18 months to file under the lemon law with a new vehicle. So I have only 5 weeks to decide if that is an avenue to explore.

There is no P050A. SAE J2012 is the official format for Diagnostic Trouble Codes as recognized by the federal OBD2 requirements. The forth and fifth digits must be numeric. Sorry, but there must have been a misunderstanding.

Diagnostic Trouble Codes for OBD2 according to SAE J2012

OBD2 Diagnostic Trouble Code structure:

First digit:

    * Pxxxx for powertrain
    * Bxxxx for body
    * Cxxxx for chassis
    * Uxxxx for class 2 network 

Second digit:

    * P0xxx Government required codes
    * P1xxx Manufacturer codes for additional emission system function; not required but reported to the government 

Third digit:

    * Px1xx measurement of air and fuel
    * Px2xx measurement of air and fuel
    * Px3xx ignition system
    * Px4xx additional emission control
    * Px5xx speed and idle regulation
    * Px6xx computer and output signals
    * Px7xx transmission
    * Px8xx transmission
    * Px9xx control modules, input and output signals 

Fourth and fith digit:

    * Fault (00 to 99) 

Below is the entire P050X series. Could it have been one of these?

  • DTC P0500 Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) Circuit
    • DTC P0501 Vehicle Speed Sensor Range/Performance
    • DTC P0502 Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) Circuit Low Input
    • DTC P0503 Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) Circuit Intermittent
    • DTC P0505 Idle Control System Malfunction
    • DTC P0506 Idle Speed Low
    • DTC P0507 Idle Speed High

Electronic throttle control system, fault code P050A;



Engine keeps running at higher speed than specified idle speed.
Engine keeps running at a lower speed than the specified idle speed.
Engine stalls.

Leave the vehicle at the dealer until it is repaired, clearing the fault is not a repair.

All my paperwork from Subaru references the code as P050A - Cold Idle Start. The generic code for ‘cold idle start’ is P0505A. Both are the same thing…Cold Idle Start…that I am having a problem with.

Nevada 545…the thing is I’m not having any of those problems which is why the thought at both Subaru and the very competent independant mechanic I had look at the car believe the computer is reading a malfunction that didn’t happen and hence the CEL.

Hmmm. I learn something new every day.

If the cold idle engine speed was 100 RPMs below normal you wouldn’t notice a problem, most people complain that the cold idle speed is too high. The cold idle speed is important for proper tail pipe emissions, that is why the check engine light comes on.

Leave the vehicle with them for a few days so they can cold start the engine. Ask them to replace the throttle body, even if it’s wrong it is better than doing nothing.

Its a new one on me too. I agree, leave it with the dealer until they fix it. Start the process of the lemon law, that should motivate them too.