Nitpicking A 2013 Subaru Outback (And A Car Purchase Update)


I’ll Start With The Update.
My son purchased a like-new, low miles, mildly pre-owned 2013 Subaru Outback Premium from a Subaru dealer a few weeks ago. He has already driven it over 1,500 miles and absolutely loves it. It runs very well, all fluids are still clean and full, and he has found that everything works. He has no legitimate complaints about this car, but because of that, it only leaves nitpicky things, actually just one. Having considerably more spare time, I told him that I’d try and see if I can learn anything about it.

Picky, Picky.
When the Windshield Wipers are used in the intermittent mode they aren’t as “infinitely variable” as were the wipers on his previous Chevrolet Impala. It seems that there isn’t much in between wipers wiping continuously slow and intermittently too slow. The Impala offered more choices for the length of delay when the wipers were set to “intermittent.”

Have any of you found this to be true on a Subaru or when comparing one car to another? Do you think these wipers are operating correctly and is there a solution?
Told you it was nitpicking.

Thanks, CSA


I find that the intermittent wipers on my 2011 Outback work–essentially–the same as the ones on a friend’s Toyota Rav-4, and on my brother’s Hyundai Azera. I can’t compare the functioning of the wipers on these three vehicles to that of an Impala because it has been a very long time since I have ridden in a US marque vehicle.

Do the wipers on the 2013 Outback work differently than the ones on the 2011 models?
While I doubt that they do, I have to say that I don’t know for sure.


I guess one way to find out is to take a test drive in a new Outback Premium and see if it works the same.


I guess I haven’t noticed much difference between my Acura and Pontiac but I do find myself shutting them off and then on again because the interval is too short for a light mist.


That is the one thing my wife dislikes on her 06 Sienna, the speed range on the intermittent wiper. The fastest speed is too slow for most conditions. My Chevrolets all have a wider range.

Ed B.


Thanks For The Replies So Far. I Found A Better Description Of This Minor Complaint (I Was Describing The Issue Based On What I Thought I Heard Over The Phone) When I Searched The Web. It Also Confirmed That My Son Is Not The Only One With This Minor, But Legitimate Concern. shows owners of 2012 Legacy And 2012 Outback models with similar concerns, and searching for a solution, but none found.



I miss the foot controlled interval wipers I had on my 1947 Pontiac and my 1950 Chevrolet pickup. You controlled the interval by letting up on the accelerator. (The wipers were run by engine vacuum).


Just wondering, does the time interval change whether you’re (he) sitting at a stoplight or driving on the freeway?

It’s hard for me to imagine in this day and age that the wiper system isn’t mutiplexed in with the powertrain control module and varies the wiper speed based on vehicle speed.


"Just wondering, does the time interval change whether you’re (he) sitting at a stoplight or driving on the freeway?"

Good question. I’d think my son would have noticed that and would have mentioned it, but I will still check with him to sure in case he didn’t try that or notice it.

If he hadn’t tried that theory out then it would be a good day for it. He ran a “Running of the bulls” 5k this morning near his house in the SNOW! (runners were issued horns for their heads) Wet, winter weather is already upon us.

Thanks for the input. I’ll let you know.



"I miss the foot controlled interval wipers I had on my 1947 Pontiac and my 1950 Chevrolet pickup. You controlled the interval by letting up on the accelerator. (The wipers were run by engine vacuum)."

Ah, … the good old days. I remember that on a 53 Chevy my family had. It had vacuum operated wipers. The only problem was that the unintended “wiper speed control” was opposite of what one needed. Idling at a light, the wipers whipped away at a fast speed when you didn’t need to see very much. During acceleration, like while passing another vehicle, they’d slow down or come to a stop, a thing of beauty!

I suppose that could be a reason that system is no longer in use.

Ah, … I remember those fantastic 6 volt auto electric systems… and the great heater in my 64 bug. Ah, … and those bias-ply tires… and single circuit drum brakes… “armstong” (no power-assist) steering on a full-size car… To me, the good old days appear much better in the rear-view mirror.



I never thought much about the interval speeds on the wipers. Having owned cars with vacuum wipers, I found electric wipers to be a real improvement. I wonder if the reason that vacuum wipers were used for such a long period of time was that the electrical systems on many cars,would have been overloaded with electric wipers. My parents had the use of a 1940 Chrysler for a,year and it had 2 speed electric wipers. Back before alternators, Chrysler cars had generators that had a,higher output than the generators on competing products. My 1965_Rambler had vacuum wipers and a vacuum booster section on the fuel pump so that the wipers wouldn’t stall under acceleration. My Rambler was the lowest trimline. The higher trim lines had electric wipers and fuel pump that did not have the vacuum booster stage. I find it hard to believe that it was less expensive to install the vacuum wipers with the more expensive 2 stage fuel pump over electric wipers with the single stage fuel pump when all the Ramblers used the same output alternator. At any rate, I find the electric wipers, especially with the interval feature such an improvement over the old days of vacuum wipers that I don’t think much about the interval speed.


My Mazda6 has rain sensing wipers. They are very cool and automatically adjust to the type and rate of precipitation. I love them and never have to mess around with adjusting the speed of my wipers. When the rain stops they stop wiping automatically.


That’s Good To Hear. It’s Always Enjoyable Whenever A Product Or Feature Of A Product Works Better Than Anticipated.

I would really like to have those wipers on my 4 GM family cars that already have automatic daytime running/headlights & taillights. They always seem to correctly sense when we need running lights or full all-around exterior lights. I think about lights only when I do an occasional walk-around check.

I consider the lights and wipers, like those on your Mazda to be valuable safety equipment. It would be difficult or impossible to say how many accidents have been prevented by those devices having been installed in thousands/millions of vehicles. Also, I’m sure it didn’t cost a fortune for the manufacturer to include them.

The automatic wipers and lights eliminate a couple driver distractions and often in inclement conditions when that’s really helpful.



When I was at the Benz dealer, the cars used one sensor for both auto wipers and auto headlamps. It was mounted on the windshield, near the top. So it didn’t cut into the driver’s field of view

The system was quite accurate, in my opinion

Just leave both the light switch and the wiper switch in auto positions, and drive.


I don’t remember what car it was, maybe the 74 Olds, that didn’t come with intermittent wipers yet but had the feature of doing the swipe once when you pulled on the lever. Almost as good.


“I wonder if the reason that vacuum wipers were used for such a long period of time was that the electrical systems on many cars,would have been overloaded with electric wipers.”

Even though electric wiper motors don’t draw a whole lot of current, it is very possible that the anemic weak 6-volt systems were one of the reasons for retaining vacuum operated wipers.

Wipers draw less current than…let’s say…power windows, but I’m sure you recall that the earliest power windows were hydraulically-operated. What a…joy…it was when the hydraulic cylinders in the door began leaking into the fabric covering the interior door panels.


The vacuum wipers were particularly bad on school buses. The two buses I rode to school had vacuum wipers. One bus was on a,1939 GMC chassis and the other on a 1946 Chevrolet chassis. In bad weather it is quite possible that the headlights and defroster fan would be on. This would be a load on the electrical system of a car back in those days. On a school bus, the added lights would add even more to the load. I am surprised however, that the buses I rode didn’t have a vacuum booster stage on the fuel pump.


Most of the vehicles I have owned/driven with purpose built intermittent wipers (I have had to endure several with vacuum) were equipped with a rheostat like control. My current car (2010 Kia Forte has 8 click positions). I recall vehicles with 2 positions which were to slow or to fast much like standard Army uniform sizes (to small or to big). I have never directly owned a Subaru but my ex is on her third Outback (1999, 2002,2010) which I have driven and they may be the culprits. I really like the “mist” feature where a bump of the wiper stalk results in 1 swipe when needed. I have never noticed much improvement with the fast non intermittent feature. Regarding 6 volt systems. My 1960 MGA roadster had two 6volt batteries. One behind each seat for weight distribution. They somehow ended up as a 12 volt positive ground electrical system. I have never understood BMC’s reason for positive ground. Perhaps one of our electrical engineers can explain it. Curiously while owning 4 BMC vehicles I was never visited by Sir Joseph Lukas (Prince of darkness).


A little off-topic, but if you haven’t seen that movie about that Robert Kearns fellow who invented intermittent wiper circuits, and his bizarre legal battle with Ford over who owned the patent rights, it’s well done and a quite interesting story.

Flash of Genius is the film’s title I think.


Before 1956, many U.S. cars were 6 volt positive ground. GM cars were the exception. GM cars at least as far back as 1939 were 6 volt negative ground. In 1953, the Oldsmobile, Buick Super and Roadmaster and Cadillac went to the 12 volt negative ground. The Buick Special went to the 12 volt negative ground in 1954 and Chevrolet and Pontiac adopted this system in 1955. The other U.S. makes switched to the 12 volt negative ground in 1956. I know before 1956 Ford products and Chrysler products were 6 volt positive ground except for the Imperial that became a separate Chrysler make in 1955. The Imperial had a 12 volt negative ground system.
It really doesn’t matter which way the electrical system is designed–negative ground or positive ground. I think I read somewhere that the current flow is actually from negative to positive which may explain the positive ground. GM probably thought it was more intuitive to ground the negative side to the chassis.