Subaru periodically won't start

we have an 04 subaru, forester. one week ago it wouldn’t start. we had it towed to our mechanic. once there it started up. the mechanic checked it out and couldn’t find anything wrong. one week later it happened again. we pushed the car out of the garage in reverse. still wouldnt start. we pushed it foreward and then it started. mechanic still does not know what is wrong. Any Ideas?

Does “won’t start” mean that the starter turns the engine over but that the engine will not run on its own power?

Or, does “won’t start” mean that turning the key does not even cause the starter motor to turn.

Until we have some idea of what the symptoms actually are, nobody can respond in a helpful manner.

Manual or automatic?

Maintenance history–in detail?

The starter does not turn the engine over. When I turn the key I hear a tinny buzzing sound and that is all. Nothing else happens.


routine oil changes every 3000 mi. Breaks replaced in 08. No history of engine trouble. We are the second owners. carfax did not indicate any engine work before we purchesed it. It was a lease vehicle with 13000 mi. on it when we got it in 04.

Your mechanic needs to go over the entire electrical system in detail, from the battery’s state of charge and the condition of its connections, to the alternator’s output and its connections, to the starter and its connections, to every other electrical connection between the battery and the starter. If he didn’t find the problem so far, he did not search well enough.

Thank you. He said they checked all electrical connections and the battery. Should I try a different mechanic. Mine recommended we wait for this to happen again and he would come out to check the car before it starts again. My concern is that it may happen when I am out of town.

I think that your mechanic may have reached the end of the road with diagnosing your car.
If there is an automotive electrical specialist shop in your area, you might want to try them. If not, a different independent mechanic may be more helpful than your original mechanic. Just do NOT take the car to any chain operations like Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, Pep Boys, AAMCO, etc.

Ok. Thank you again for your good advise. I really appreciate it.

The trouble you are having is fairly minor and may be due to a faulty inhibit switch. It is the safety switch for the transmission. Try putting the shift lever in neutral and see if it starts then when this trouble occurs again. If it does then the inhibit switch may just need adjusment or replacement.

The trouble could be caused by other things. I suggest you remove and clean the battery connections to eliminate that as a possible problem area. Checking to see if voltage is getting to the small solenoid wire while the key is in the START position would be good to know. The power passes through the ignition switch and inhibit switch on that lead to the solenoid.


Unfortunately, there is MUCH more to the vital maintenance of a car than merely changing the oil. While your current problem is probably not related to lax maintenance, I strongly urge you to bring the car up to date with maintenance now if you want to avoid really big repair bills later.

Open the glove compartment, take out the booklet titled Subaru Maintenance and Warranty Supplement, read it, and have all of the maintenance brought up to date a.s.a.p. Oil changes are great, but they are just the tip of the iceberg–so to speak–regarding vehicle maintenance. And, we all know what that iceberg did to the Titanic.

Have you solved this problem yet? I had the exact same problem with my 02 Forester late last year. Mine came with a check engine light that would come and go. Ended up being the alternator overloaded and fried, and with it burned up a bit of the wiring. I guess the intermittent starts with a few fails, with the fails becoming more common, were the alternator slowing dying. A new alternator and some spliced wire and it was all fixed.