Subaru Legacy Electrical Issue

1998 Subaru Legacy Wagon Type L

I turned my car on after work but the radio and windshield wipers did not come on. The check engine light did. I turned the car off, then back on and the radio and wipers were fine -though the engine light was still on. Took it to an auto parts store and the engine light error message was “p0480” which is for a cooling fan #1 cotrol circuit malfunction. They cleared the light, I turned my car on (the light did not come on) and drove home. I then popped the hood, turned on the AC and looked at both cooling fans and they seemed to be working just fine. After the car sat all night, I turned it on to go to work. Again, the first time I turned it on I had no radio, no wipers, and the engine light came on. Any thoughts? They guys at the auto parts store said that it was likely the cooling fan relay, but since other systems are being affected I’m worried that there might be a worse electrical issue (eg, electrical surges) that are throwing out false error messages. Thoughts?

Yes, the problem could be electrical surges.
I would suggest that you have your alternator’s output checked.
I suspect that your alternator is on its way out.

Check to see if the side mirrors and the cigarette lighter work when the trouble happens again. If those areas are dead also then the trouble is most likely with the ACCessory contact position in the ignition switch. It provides power to those areas and some others when the switch is in either the RUN or ACC positions.