Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Newish car sometimes fails to crank

My 2016 Outback, 10K miles, occasionally does a weird thing. The dealer is far from us, so I’m putting off taking it in, especially since they will be unable to reproduce this. Every now and then when I try to start it, it does not crank. The dash lights all come on, and dim when I turn it to the start position. But instead of cranking, it just does a soft stuttering click, exactly as if the battery were nearly dead. But if I try a few times, suddenly it cranks perfectly and starts right up. Anyone have a thought on this? Thanks!

A defective ignition switch, perhaps?
Whatever it is, it will be covered by warranty, so inevitably you will need to take it to a dealership.

Although the car is near new it’s also possible for the battery cable ends to have developed a light scale over them on the contact surfaces. This could certainly cause a similar problem.

If you’re not prepared to do this yourself you can have any automotive facility remove and clean them. It will only take minutes and may, or may not, cure the problem.
It’s easy and cheap anyway.

It might not be a bad idea to have the battery tested at the same time. I realize the battery is also near new but that really doesn’t mean much because out of a certain number of batteries there will be premature failures.

I even bought a new battery once, installed it, and it was fine. The next day when I got off work a no-start due to a weak battery. Testing showed the new one was failing already and it wasn’t even 24 hours old.

I also remember a one month old VW with a battery that just went kaput suddenly.

ok4450’s suggestion–as usual–is a good one.
I just want to remind the OP that disconnecting the battery cables will cause him to lose the memory settings on his audio system, and–possibly–some other devices. Additionally, the engine’s electronic controls will go into “learning” stage, and you may experience rough running or other unusual situations with the engine until it goes through a few drive cycles.

I think that the OP should definitely consider what ok has suggested, but I want to avoid having him come back with a new question about why his engine suddenly starting idling roughly, and why he lost the memory settings on his devices.

“Although the car is near new it’s also possible for the battery cable ends to have developed a light scale over them on the contact surfaces. This could certainly cause a similar problem.”

I have memory (first-hand knowledge) of an actual stalling (and no-crank… at a traffic intersection left turn lane!) situation involving a fairly new Ford that was still within warranty.

After being towed to the dealer, a diagnosis advised that the problem was with a ground cable that was not making continuous continuity because of paint between the cable end and body metal. There were no more problems with the vehicle, once the easy fix was performed.

I have the exact some problem. The dealership has been of no help. Any help will be appreciated. I’m ready to get rid of the vehicle and get something more dependable.

We took it to the dealer a month ago, and they kept it for several hours. They said they tested the battery and charging system, and both were perfect. The car was fine for a month, and then a few days ago it did it again! I’m wondering if this might be a software issue in the computer. If I learn anything, I’ll post it here. Please do the same.


You may want to monitor sites that post Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) for Subaru vehicles. It is possible that your problem is not unique to you and Subie will offer a fix.

Beyond that, be sure you document everything, keep all your shop order copies, and if it continues pursue the problem using the channels defined in the booklet that came with your owner’s manual.

I urge you not to try to fix this yourself. Doing so could invalidate the warranty for any related issues in the future and then you’d really be screwed. Oh, but DO try replacing fuses… that cannot invalidate anything doing that unless you try to “up” the fuse rating… which I strongly urge against. I HAVE seen a fuse be intermittent, although it is very rare.

if all you hear is a click when you turn the key, it’s mostly one of two things. Weak battery or a starter solenoid on its way out. Next time this happens use a multimeter to measure the battery. Should have around 13V if in good condition. If lower than 12V I would suspect a battery that is not holding a charge, something is drawing current while the car is parked or just a bad battery, or is not being charged properly.

If the battery measures good, I would take a mallet and give the solenoid a few firm taps while someone is turning the key to “start”. It’s not fixing anything, but if the engine starts it’s a good indication the solenoid is bad or loose cable connection.

I know…you said it’s a 2016, but it does not guarantee a good battery or other car parts.

Be careful with loose clothing and stay away from turning belts if the engine starts.

It sounds like you are getting the same treatment I am getting. I have talked to Subaru corporate and they are not helping. I have not heard from Subaru today although they returned my car to me Friday and the tailgate would not open. This was also an issue when they took the car the previous Friday. I will keep you posted. Oh corporate Subaru told me there were no other complaints like mine.

There isn’t much doubt as to the solution to the problem you are having and just as OK4450 correctly stated, the battery connections are either loose or dirty and making a bad connection. That is why you get the clicking when trying to start the engine sometimes and makes it seem the battery charge is low but the battery is really okay, it is the connection to it that is causing the trouble. Bad connections to the battery are one of the most common and most easily fixed problems cars can have.

But here’s the weird thing. When I turn the key off and on a few times, it eventually (2-10 tries) starts right up, with good, fast cranking. Also, the car is almost a year old now, and it’s done it only three times. If the battery were bad, I would think that it would be more consistent. Also, although I didn’t check with them, I assume that given the description of the problem, the dealer mechanic would have cleaned the battery terminals as the first step. If I take it back again, I’ll mention that. Thanks for the info. I’ll keep this thread posted.

I don’t think you are understanding my previous post correctly. The battery indeed IS good. It is the loose or dirty battery connections that MAKE IT SEEM the battery has a low charge when the trouble happens. That causes resistance in a high current circuit needed by the starter motor. In your case I have to suspect the battery connections are just loose rather than dirty since the car is so new. See if putting a little pressure on the connections will allow them to twist on the posts. If they do then they need to be snugged up slightly, just enough to make a solid connection. I’m not sure if the newer cars still use a 10mm wrench or not for the connections.

Modern cars can exhibit odd electrical problems and these problems are different from one manufacture to the next. If this is something common eventually there will be enough sample vehicles for the manufacture to study and develop a repair solution for.

Loose and corroded battery terminals are something I don’t see daily while inspecting cars.

Toyota cranking problems? You could knock me over w/a feather … lol … I’ve battled these for years on my Corolla. I’ve learned the quickest way to get to the bottom of it is to start at the starter motor itself, making voltage measurements during attempted cranking. A “try this, try that” approach might work, but if not can be very frustrating and expensive. Plus it can put you or your family in danger if your car won’t start in an emergency situation.

This is for cold weather, but replacing the relays seemed to help others with a now start condition.

APPLICABILITY: 2015-16MY Legacy and Outback Models

SUBJECT: Interior Fuse Box (F/B) “IG” and “ACC” Relay
Under-Hood Fuse Box (M/B) Main Relay
Replacement for Engine Will Not Crank / Start Condition


If you receive a customer concern of a no crank I no start condition during very cold temperatures, the IGI, IG2, ACCI, ACC2 and/or the EGI Main relays may be the root cause and require replacement. It is generally reported that the car starts normally after an overnight soak. After the initial start, the customer drives a short distance then shuts the car off (example: at a gas pump or coffee shop). After the time that it takes to pump their gas or get their coffee, they return to the car and it will not start. The customer may also notice the instrument cluster and/or interior lights are not illuminating along with the HVAC being inoperative. The source of this condition has been identified as condensation flash-freezing inside the relays. This bulletin provides a service procedure for replacement of all 5 relays, 4 of which are located together in the vehicle’s interior fuse box (FIB) and the EGI Main relay which is located in the under-hood Main fuse box (M/B).

*VERY IMPORTANT : To prevent damage to the FIB itself or the relay connections inside it, the FIB MUST be removed from the vehicle and allowed to stabilize to a reasonable temperature PRIOR to relay removal. DO NOT attempt to remove the relays with the FIB still installed in the vehicle.

^ Remove the 12mm nut and disconnect the negative cable from the battery temperature sensor.

^ Release the 3 push clips securing the under dash cover and push it up towards the pedals / bulkhead to get it out of the way.

^ Using a plastic trim tool, CAREFULLY remove the trim cover on the end of the instrument panel. Once removed, you will have access to the 1 Philips screw at the bottom, just above the hood release lever which secures the lower dash trim panel.

^ The remaining fasteners securing the lower dash trim panel are simply claws which will release easily. Once the trim panel is removed, unplug the harness connectors and put the panel aside.

^ There are three - 10mm hex fasteners securing the FIB to the dash structure; a bolt at the bottom and 2 nuts at the top on studs. Remove the 3 fasteners and start CAREFULLY unplugging harness connectors as you drop the FIB down, gaining more access as each harness connector is released. There are 16 harness connectors plugged into the FIB. Use a plastic trim tool to release the hinged yellow cover for the connector in the upper right comer (green arrow in photo).

*IMPORTANT REMINDER : To prevent damage to the FIB itself or relay connections inside it, the FIB MUST be removed from the vehicle and allowed to stabilize to reasonable temperature PRIOR to relay removal. DO NOT attempt to remove the relays with the FIB still installed in the vehicle.

^ Using a large pair of needle-nosed pliers, remove the 4 black relays by PULLING STRAIGHT UP on them in a motion perpendicular to the FIB as shown in the photos. DO NOT WIGGLE THEM as damage to the relay connectors or the FIB itself may result.

^ Once ALL 4 of the black relays have been replaced, reinstall the FIB and re-assemble in the opposite order of removal.

NOTE : Always make sure all of the harness connectors are fully locked back in place (audible “click”) as each one is plugged back into the FIB.
IMPORTANT : Relay identification:

NOTE : Make sure all of the harness connectors are fully locked back in place (audible “click”) as each one is plugged back into the FIB.

^ Reconnect the battery cable and torque the 12mm nut to 5.5 ft. lbs.

^ Start the car and verify all the combination meter warning lights cycle on / off normally.

^ For the power window Auto Up / Down feature to operate, the system will need to be re-initialized on BOTH front doors.

^ Confirm the HVAC and all electrical systems operate as designed to complete the repair.