No Heat in 2011 Subaru Outback

I wrote in a while ago re the crappy heater in my Outback. I did take it back to the dealer as it’s gotten cold again here in Minnesota. I asked the Service Tech to check out the heater and he told me that it was a crappy design and there was nothing they could do. Not to be crude but WTF? or for the faint of heart WTH? Anybody have any suggestions as to being able to jerry rig something or get a solution. The cold is numbing, we drove approx 25 miles from our home on a -20 kind of day and our feet froze in the car. We really need the heaters in our vehicles in Minnesota.

There may be a air pocket in the heater core that is causing the trouble. While I haven’t driven that model car I suspect the service department is giving you a line and not the real story. If you can test drive a new car of the same year and compare the two I would do that. It may help to have a small thermometer to measure the temperature of the heater output and compare the results.

Since my 2011 Outback’s heater puts out enough BTUs to make me dizzy if I crank it up to a high setting, I have to believe that there is a problem with your sample and that the service department is giving you a runaround.

So, you need to “kick it up a notch” as follows:
Open the glove compartment, take out the Owner’s Manual, and find the toll-free phone number for Subaru of America’s Customer Service department. Politely, but firmly request that a regional rep inspect your car when he is next at the dealership. These folks have the technical knowledge and the power to authorize repairs that seem to elude the dealership in some cases.

Just to give you an idea of the simple fixes that dealerships can overlook, I had the same problem with my brand-new '74 Volvo. Several visits to the service department yielded zero results, even though they claimed each time that it was fixed. Eventually, the regional representative discovered that the cable leading from the temperature control knob on the dashboard had never been connected to the heater core.

You apparently listened to a service writer at the desk. NEVER, EVER put any faith into what these people say.
Almost all of them are mechanically illiterate and they are not going to tell a customer to their face that they have no idea what the answer is. Instead, they will wing it and babble garbage.
Most service managers fall into this category too.

If the coolant level is full and since I would not suspect a bad thermostat on a 2011 model car my guess would be that there is a blend door problem in the dash. The blend door is what routes air from the cabin through the hot heater core.

With the engine fully warmed up, and using care, touch a fingertip to both heater hoses at the firewall. If both hoses are hot then there is likely a blend door problem. This should be a warranty fix at no cost to you and it might be time to contact the regional office of Subaru of America and drag them into this if the car has been in several times with no positive results. Hope that helps.

You Shouldn’t Have To Jury Rig A Car That’s Just One Model-Year Old.
I Suspect That Something Isn’t Functioning As Designed And Your Local Dealer Is Letting You Down.

How many Subaru dealers are in your area ?
(There are none in my area and it’s just one reason I’d never buy one.)

I’d try a different dealer, preferably a larger, well reputed one that wants the opportunity to win new customers. Often a phone call to the dealer’s Service Manager/Service Director will let you know if they’re up to the challenge when you explain the situation.

By the way, I too deal with extreme cold and know the importance of good heat and defrost.


Has This Dealership Called To See If You’re Satisfied With Your Recent Service Visit ?
All Of Our Local Dealers (Ford, GM, Chrysler) Phone Customers Promptly After Any Service Work To Be Certain They Are Satisfied. If Not Satisfied, They’ll Make “Arrangements” To Be Sure You Are.

If your current dealer does not value your business and is not doing this then find one that does. You may have to drive past the current dealer to get there, but it will probably be worth it and much less frustrating and more enjoyable.


if there was air in the radiator, how does that affect the “no heat” situation? Also, what is the proper procedure to burp the system?

That air bubble suggestion mentioned is a very likely cause unless there’s something wrong with your heater core or the control to it.
An air bubble causes the coolant pump to cavitate and not circulate the coolant properly - it is not made to circulate air but only fluid. As such, the coolant will not reach the heater core. Besides that, your engine will also not be cooled properly and it will cause a serious failure, eventually.
Get it checked out by people that did not work at mcDonalds last week, seriously.

To burp the system, park the car on a ramp, open the radiator cap and goose the engine a bunch of times. You’ll see air bubbles coming out of the radiator. When you do, you add coolant and do it some more.
Actually, refilling a subie can be tricky as well where burping won’t really help or will take a long time. I usually park it on a ramp, nose up, take the top radiator hose off, put a funnel on it and fill the engine first.
Your Stealership is taking you for a ride. Find another dealer. Subarus have excellent heat.

Perhaps to reiterate what is being said here…I have a 2011 Outback and the heater works fine (no complaints).

Beth, you have a problem. That service writer seems to not want to tackle it even though it is under warranty. That is unacceptable. You need to go above them. Talk to the manager at the dealership, not another service writer. If that proves fruitless, Contact the Subaru District Office for your region. The company website should give you contact phone numbers. Does your state have a lemon law? This problem seems like the perfect candidate.

I am glad that Busted Knuckles has repeated my earlier advice regarding the need to contact Subaru at the corporate level. However, I am not sure about whether this type of situation would qualify under the Lemon Law. In most states, the statute includes a proviso along the lines of…the problem must materially affect the safety or driveability of the vehicle…or something to that effect.

While an inoperative defroster is surely a safety issue in the winter, the mfr might be able to successfully claim that this problem does not qualify under the terms of the Lemon Law. I believe that a firm, but polite approach at the corporate level is most likely to yield cooperation from both the dealer and the corporate folks.

I would counter that an inoperative heater IS a safety issue and affects the driveability of the car. A defroster that doesn’t work makes the windshield a big, frosted curtain. And, even though most cars use the A/C as part of the defroster, the A/C will not work in temps below zero degrees.

Once your toes is froze, you will have difficulty controlling the car. :slight_smile:

You guys are preaching to the choir.
I didn’t say that I believe a non-operative heater/defroster to be a non-safety issue.

I only theorized that some loopholes in various statutes may exempt things like heater problems from coverage under some states’ Lemon Laws. After all, the legislators who write these statutes are not always the sharpest knives in the drawer–especially when it comes to things automotive.

Hopefully it will not come to a Lemon Law claim. I have found most customer service folks who work for car manufacturers to be reasonably responsive and to be able to provide help from the company’s regional zone rep. In this list of helpful staff, I include Honda, Subaru, Toyota, and Ford.

I was even successful in getting Ford to replace interior moldings in my '86 Taurus that cracked in extremely low winter temperatures, and that was a couple of years after my warranty expired!

Since this is a car that is under warranty, I am confident that the OP can get corporate intervention that will convince the dealership to actually deal with the situation.