2010 Subaru Outback keeps blowing fan fuses, overheating

Several weeks ago, my wife drove our Outback for 10 minutes, turned the car off, then turned it back on after 10 minutes. After 15 minutes of its being on the second time (and the car being in a car line), the red temperature indicator blinked, then went solid. She pulled over to let it cool, then put coolant in the overflow reservoir when she got home. The reservoir was nearly empty. The very next day, the exact same thing happened, in the exact same sequence - 10 minutes on, 10 off, 15 minutes on in a car line, then indicator came on again.

I took it to a mechanic who could not reproduce the issue after letting it run for four hours. He replaced the fuses and told us to bring him the car when the problem recurred. Reservoir tank is full, no blockage in line from radiator to overflow tank.

The next day, for a third time, the car overheated in the pickup line. We brought it in the following day. The mechanic finally was able to reproduce the issue. He said that both fans (a subi outback has two) needed to be replaced, as they were drawing a tremendous amount. He advised that I take it to subaru to find out if there was anything they could do re: warranty.

I took it to subaru, who said that the fans are not now under warranty (we have 65k on the car). I decided to have them replace the fans anyway, so I asked them for a diagnosis. However, after two days in the shop, they were unable to reproduce the problem. They ran the car in idle, they tried to recreate the stop-and-go/standstill environment of a carline, but no luck. They said that the fans were drawing the expected amount and that they would need recreate in order to diagnose.

I have two questions:
1) Should I replace the fans myself? I can either take the car back to the first mechanic and have him replace the fans or I can do it myself. I can do basic jobs like oil changes, replacing serpentine belts, but I’m not sure what nuances are involved with replacing anything electrical.

  1. Most importantly: What would cause both fans in a relatively young subi to spike their amperage draw intermittently? I guess it’s possible that i just got two bad fans, but that doesn’t seem to be a common problem with this model. So, I want to make sure that this issue is not indicative of some other underlying problem.


There are a couple of relays involved and they are easy to replace. The fans are no big deal. Unplug and undue the bolts and they should slide out. Did it lose fluid or is it still loosing fluid? That would be a different problem.

Thanks. Regarding the relays - would you think those should be replaced too? The first mechanic originally suspected them, but after he found that the fans were spiking their draw on their own, he said there is no reason to suspect any issue with the relays.

No, It didn’t seem to lose any/much fluid. I was advised that the plastic reservoir tank next to the radiator is actually an overflow tank, so the fact that there was very little fluid in there after the first overheat incident wasn’t necessarily an indication of any kind of issue.