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December 8, 2022 NHTSA CAMPAIGN NUMBER: 22V907000


Improperly Fastened Ground Bolts May Cause Fire
A melting ground terminal increases the risk of a fire.


NHTSA Campaign Number: 22V907000
Manufacturer Subaru of America, Inc.
Components ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
Potential Number of Units Affected 271,694
NUMBER IDENTIFIED SO FAR: 11
ESTIMATED PERCENTAGE WITH DEFECT: 1%




Summary
Subaru of America, Inc. (Subaru) is recalling certain 2019-2022 Ascent vehicles. The ground bolt that secures the ground terminal of the Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heater may have been improperly fastened, which could result in melting of the ground terminal and surrounding components.

Remedy
Owners are advised to park their vehicle away from structures and to avoid leaving the vehicle unattended while the engine is running. An owner who notices or smells smoke coming from the dash or driver's footwell area should immediately stop operating the vehicle and turn the ignition switch to the "Off" position. Dealers will replace the PTC heater ground bolts and if necessary, replace the ground wire and the connector holder, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed February 6, 2023. Owners may contact Subaru's customer service at 1-844-373-6614. Subaru's number for this recall is WRL-22.

Description of Remedy Program
For all the affected vehicles, Subaru dealers will replace the PTC heater ground bolts and, if necessary, replace the ground wire and the connector holder.
  • As a precautionary measure, it is highly recommended that owners park their vehicle away from any garage, car port or other structure until this repair is completed.
  • Additionally, owners should never leave the vehicle unattended while the engine is running until this repair is completed.
  • If an owner notices or smells smoke coming from the dash or driver’s footwell area, the ignition should be placed in the “off” position and the vehicle should not be operated. If this occurs, the owner should immediately contact Subaru’s Roadside Assistance or the nearest Subaru dealer for assistance.
Subaru will provide reimbursement to owners for repairs according to the general plan submitted in May 2022.

MORE DETAILS
More details can be gleaned in the "Remedy Instructions and TSB" documents filed with the NHTSA and on STIS. You can find the public link below.

Chronology
  • January 9, 2020 - Air tools introduced to the production line (replacing battery tool)

  • January 11, 2020 – Subaru received the first technical report exhibiting smoke from the driver’s side interior cabin

  • September 29, 2021 – Subaru received the first technical report involving fire damage. While a vehicle inspection identified the area of origination, a root cause could not be determined due to the significant damage caused by the fire.

  • February 24, 2022 – Subaru received the first technical report exhibiting smoke on a vehicle produced after the Jan 9, 2020 tool change

  • April 29, 2022 – Subaru changed line tooling to DC tools capable of detecting torque and rotation angle

  • May 2022 – Subaru received the first technical report from the U.S. market involving fire damage on a vehicle produced after the Jan 9, 2020 tool change.

  • May-July 2022 Subaru conducted testing and evaluation to determine the specific conditions required to generate the heat necessary to cause the melting conditions being observed. It was determined that contact surface area was the primary condition. Low torque was a secondary condition.

  • August 15-30, 2022 – Subaru conducted a field evaluation study to understand the potential scope of the issue Part 573 Safety Recall Report 22V-907 Page 3 The information contained in this report was submitted pursuant to 49 CFR §573 beyond the few incidents that were reported.

  • December 1, 2022 – Out of an abundance of caution, Subaru decided to conduct a voluntary safety recall. Subaru is only aware of 11 technical reports in the U.S. market. Subaru is not aware of any crashes or injuries resulting from this condition.

Notes
Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.nhtsa.gov.

DOCUMENTS:

WHERE TO CHECK IF YOU ARE A PART OF THE RECALL
Everyone, this is the most accurate place to see if you're a part of the recall:

  • NHTSA is the second most accurate place to check (virtually always equally as accurate).
  • The MySubaru app may take a while to update but will eventually be correct (it usually updates after the Federally mandated postal service delivered physical printed notification is mailed).
  • CarFax and the likes are often wrong and base it off year and model.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
I will be using this section to address the most common questions I see.

QUESTIONANSWER
My 2019 Ascent was built before the tool change suspected to cause the issue - am I a part of the recall?Most likely. Try the link above and enter your VIN.

Like mine (built May 2018), though your Ascents ARE NOT built with the tools Subaru identified as having the problem, Subaru "in an overabundance of caution" is including ALL Subaru Ascents up to the tooling change, in the recall - because that's how they handle safety. To date, they've identified no Ascents in our production time frame that are affected, but, we're still getting the remedy applied.

So, while (to date) there were no problems identified with the early Ascents, the remedy for the rest is better, and we're getting it installed as well.
When does the PTC Heater turn on? The PTC heater activates when the car is first started and the coolant isn't up to temperature, as well as when idling in extreme cold when engine temps are too low to handle heating the cabin (it doesn't turn on just when idling).

So, in other words: if your car is maintaining 195 degrees coolant when idling, then, the PTC heater would most likely only come on when you start the car with the heat on any setting that (a) was warmer than ambient/cabin temperature and/or (b) when recirculation wasn't on, and outside air was lower than the set temperature.

If heater coolant temp is at the Subaru 195 (+/- 1-5 degrees), the PTC heater most likely will not turn on.
 

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For what it's worth to other members, our 2019 Ascent Premium is at the Ewing Subaru dealership in Plano Texas for CVT number 2 and I asked my service rep if they could take care of this recall while they have the car. I was told they don't have the parts yet and that the recall involves swapping out four bolts and changing a harness (if required).
 

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In late September I had the Rear Differential warning light come on, I pulled over waited a few minutes and it went off. I continued on my trip having it came on again as I arrived after travelling on a rough road. I called my dealer talked with service they were pretty sure I had a either a bad sensor or a loose wire connector. Driving home the light would come on flashing and then go off every once in awhile. I made an appt to take it in. Did so and they said sensor was ok and seemed to be working as it should. Decided it was a bad pin on the connection in the instrument panel, so they ordered a new warning light module. Two days later the part came in they installed, still flashing. They called Subaru tech line, they suggested they look at wiring harness for a short, so they started taking the rear area apart, day later they had completely removed all the seats, carpeting and left side front panel and had the whole dash apart. They removed the harness and found the black ground wires had melted through the harness in multiple spots, damaged the insulation and other wiring. End result was they replaced the main body wiring harness Part # 81502XC11A, a combi meter Part # 85003xc00A, the hitch wiring harness Part # H771SXC002. Technician replaced left body harness - left side from left kick panel all the way to the rear of vehicle. Also replaced trailer hitch harness and box with updated part that has a thick while ground wire. My car is included in the recall 2019 Touring built in August 2018. Service guy was great, he called me several times with updates, they had the car for a couple of weeks. Will be interesting to see if it is related to recall.
Google Photos
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
In late September I had the Rear Differential warning light come on, I pulled over waited a few minutes and it went off. I continued on my trip having it came on again as I arrived after travelling on a rough road. I called my dealer talked with service they were pretty sure I had a either a bad sensor or a loose wire connector. Driving home the light would come on flashing and then go off every once in awhile. I made an appt to take it in. Did so and they said sensor was ok and seemed to be working as it should. Decided it was a bad pin on the connection in the instrument panel, so they ordered a new warning light module. Two days later the part came in they installed, still flashing. They called Subaru tech line, they suggested they look at wiring harness for a short, so they started taking the rear area apart, day later they had completely removed all the seats, carpeting and left side front panel and had the whole dash apart. They removed the harness and found the black ground wires had melted through the harness in multiple spots, damaged the insulation and other wiring. End result was they replaced the main body wiring harness Part # 81502XC11A, a combi meter Part # 85003xc00A, the hitch wiring harness Part # H771SXC002. Technician replaced left body harness - left side from left kick panel all the way to the rear of vehicle. Also replaced trailer hitch harness and box with updated part that has a thick while ground wire. My car is included in the recall 2019 Touring built in August 2018. Service guy was great, he called me several times with updates, they had the car for a couple of weeks. Will be interesting to see if it is related to recall.
Google Photos
Hi Stu, no, those conditions aren't related to the recall. Glad to hear they figured it out though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Everyone, this is the most accurate place to see if you're a part of the recall:

  • NHTSA is the second most accurate place to check (virtually always equally as accurate).
  • The MySubaru app may take a while to update but will eventually be correct (it usually updates after the Federally mandated postal service delivered physical printed notification is mailed).
  • CarFax and the likes are often wrong and base it off year and model.

EARLY 2019 OWNERS:
Like mine (built May 2018), though your Ascents ARE NOT built with the tools Subaru identified as having the problem, Subaru "in an overabundance of caution" is including ALL Subaru Ascents up to the tooling change, in the recall - because that's how they handle safety. To date, they've identified no Ascents in our production time frame that are affected, but, we're still getting the remedy applied.

So, while there were no problems identified with the early Ascents, the remedy for the rest is better, and we're getting it installed as well.

I really miss my car, thanks to the accident situation, and, I'm going to have to give it up soon after I get it back from the body shop, for two recalls. Kinda sucky, but, I am ok with it. I'd rather Subaru be extra diligent than try to ignore and bury problems. So, I'm ok with losing my car for a couple more days.

Here's my recall page:
(CVT chain recall not done yet thanks to the accident)
Font Rectangle Screenshot Number Parallel
 

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I have two questions... as I don't look forward to parking outside all winter: 1) Can this threat be alleviated by disconnecting the battery? 2) As it is related to the heater/ environmental control system, can this threat be avoided by turning the system off and not using it while driving?

Any answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated as the dealer could not help.
 

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As someone who works with statistics. I would like to see at least a build time breakdown on the affected units that have been found. It would be nice to be able to make a statistical breakdown to at least narrow down the time/shift/build year to see if our cars are within an identifiable cluster at the factory. If clusters cannot be found, that would be interesting also.
The DC tool that senses and records torque for every fastener is a TPS (Toyota Production System) thing, not surprisingly with who owns part of Subaru. Also, that's a long time to do a Root Cause Analysis. Might want to get some more training people.
 

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Since first hearing about this recall, the park away from structures solution hasn't quite been adding up in my head.
Avoiding leaving the vehicle unattended while running makes more sense.

If I understand correctly, the ground in question is on a heater in the HVAC system that provides heat before the engine is hot enough to put out hot air for the passengers. So wouldn't this heater only be in operation at the beginning of a drive, generally off at the end of a drive, and off when the car is off?
If that's the case, it would be perfectly safe to park in your garage... just don't start your car in or near your house in the unlikely event it catches fire. I've been getting a chevy volt/bolt-type vibe in the couple of threads about this recall so far and I feel like that might be overreacting a little.

Disclaimer: I'm just asking the question not advising you where to park.
 

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Since first hearing about this recall, the park away from structures solution hasn't quite been adding up in my head.
Avoiding leaving the vehicle unattended while running makes more sense.

If I understand correctly, the ground in question is on a heater in the HVAC system that provides heat before the engine is hot enough to put out hot air for the passengers. So wouldn't this heater only be in operation at the beginning of a drive, generally off at the end of a drive, and off when the car is off?
If that's the case, it would be perfectly safe to park in your garage... just don't start your car in or near your house in the unlikely event it catches fire. I've been getting a chevy volt/bolt-type vibe in the couple of threads about this recall so far and I feel like that might be overreacting a little.

Disclaimer: I'm just asking the question not advising you where to park.
4 years of ownership and I don’t have plans to park my car outside!
 

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Since first hearing about this recall, the park away from structures solution hasn't quite been adding up in my head.
Avoiding leaving the vehicle unattended while running makes more sense.

If I understand correctly, the ground in question is on a heater in the HVAC system that provides heat before the engine is hot enough to put out hot air for the passengers. So wouldn't this heater only be in operation at the beginning of a drive, generally off at the end of a drive, and off when the car is off?
If that's the case, it would be perfectly safe to park in your garage... just don't start your car in or near your house in the unlikely event it catches fire. I've been getting a chevy volt/bolt-type vibe in the couple of threads about this recall so far and I feel like that might be overreacting a little.

Disclaimer: I'm just asking the question not advising you where to park.
^ Exactly - this was exactly what a couple of us were left wondering on the original discussion thread (please see page 2, towards the bottom, posts 33 and 34):


I'd be most leery of what happens after a longer drive - and speaking personally, I would be much less concerned about the vehicle spending the night in even an attached garage (as with my home), moving the vehicle a short/quick distance, "cold start," from having been left outside for a while and then for indoor overnight storage (or, for that matter, parking the vehicle at work).

I've yet to tear into mine (my VIN shows that my vehicle is affected by the recall). I'll do so, tomorrow, and check back.


----


For those who are worried about the active HomeLink garage door issue, for those with newer or more feature-rich openers, check your opener's manual to see if remotes can quickly be locked/disabled.

Since moving to our new home (now an attached garage versus before, detached) I've done so every night. For me, all it takes to lock/disable the remotes is four key presses - and to unlock, just one - on the control pad (I can access functions such as live camera/mic and operate the opener via my phone App, but for some reason, it didn't enable a lock-out feature).

Many times, for attached garages, a robust physical interior lock is also present. Look for a throw-bolt type lock at about waist to knee height on either track.
 

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As someone who works with statistics. I would like to see at least a build time breakdown on the affected units that have been found. It would be nice to be able to make a statistical breakdown to at least narrow down the time/shift/build year to see if our cars are within an identifiable cluster at the factory. If clusters cannot be found, that would be interesting also.
The DC tool that senses and records torque for every fastener is a TPS (Toyota Production System) thing, not surprisingly with who owns part of Subaru. Also, that's a long time to do a Root Cause Analysis. Might want to get some more training people.
The entire car building process is under a microscope for the exact reason of recalls and traceability. This is how SOA knows exactly what VINs to recall. Many issues don't affect vehicles for years...i.e. Takada airbags, Torque converter bushings, oil consumption...etc.
 

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As someone who works with statistics. I would like to see at least a build time breakdown on the affected units that have been found. It would be nice to be able to make a statistical breakdown to at least narrow down the time/shift/build year to see if our cars are within an identifiable cluster at the factory. If clusters cannot be found, that would be interesting also.
Only 11 cars across multiple years have been affected so far. The recall is intended to ensure others are not. That's not a statistically relevant number out of 271,694 cars. And with only 11, (and nine of them potentially intentionally caused), being spread out over multiple years, there's hardly a cluster.

Also, that's a long time to do a Root Cause Analysis. Might want to get some more training people.
It took them years to replicate the issue. Someone else reported only two of the cars were owned by people (one of which was too badly burned to determine the cause), and the rest were cars they tested the hell out of to find the cause.

If the recall proceeds to completion as planned, there will only always be those 11 cars.
 

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Robert, so the PTC turns off after the engine has warmed and now circulating coolant through the heater core?
If so, if one set the heat temp at low until the engine was warm, then the PTC would not come on?
And which source does the Rear Heater use a PTC or a heater core, seem like a long way to run coolant.?
Thanx
 

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Robert, so the PTC turns off after the engine has warmed and now circulating coolant through the heater core?
If so, if one set the heat temp at low until the engine was warm, then the PTC would not come on?
And which source does the Rear Heater use a PTC or a heater core, seem like a long way to run coolant.?
Thanx
Only 11 cars across multiple years have been affected so far. The recall is intended to ensure others are not. That's not a statistically relevant number out of 271,694 cars. And with only 11, (and nine of them potentially intentionally caused), being spread out over multiple years, there's hardly a cluster.


It took them years to replicate the issue. Someone else reported only two of the cars were owned by people (one of which was too badly burned to determine the cause), and the rest were cars they tested the hell out of to find the cause.

If the recall proceeds to completion as planned, there will only always be those 11 cars.
Thanks for all the great information. I am a paranoid sort, though, so I still have concerns. It seems logical, as others have suggested, that if the car has been parked for several hours without bursting into flames, that it will probably remain cold until it is started again. Is this true? There is something that starts up and makes noise at some point after the car has been shut down -- is that related to this issue?
Thanks again for the knowledge.
 
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