Subaru Ascent, Legacy, and Outback Recalled for Transmission Failure

A software problem could cause a chain to break if Drive or Reverse is quickly selected

2020 Subaru Ascent driving up a snowy mountain
2020 Subaru Ascent
Photo: Subaru

Subaru has announced a recall of more than 198,000 Ascent SUVs from the 2019 and 2020 model years and Outback SUVs and Legacy sedans from the 2020 model year. A software issue in the transmission control unit (TCU) may allow the continuously variable transmission to engage before the drive chain is properly secured, the automaker says. This could result in the chain slipping and breaking, leading to a loss of power and a risk of a crash. This recall also covers Ascents that were part of a prior recall.

According to documentation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Subaru found out about the issue in December 2018, in a technical report that indicated an owner was unable to shift their vehicle into drive. After collecting and reviewing the failed part, the automaker and supplier collected more data. By August 2020, Subaru made updates to the TCU on vehicles being manufactured. However, the problem persisted into 2021, with a total of 23 reports of various problems, including the inability to shift into Drive or Park, the inability to start the engine, contaminants in the transmission fluid, and the drive chain slipping while the vehicle was in motion. 

Subaru has stated that it is not aware of any reports of crashes or injuries from this problem.

The Details

Vehicles Recalled
A total of 198,255 sedans and SUVs are affected:
• 2019 and 2020 Subaru Ascent, 160,941
• 2020 Subaru Legacy, 2,057
• 2020 Subaru Ascent, 35,257

The problem: The transmission drive chain may engage before it is fully clamped, resulting in the belt slipping and/or breaking.

The fix: Dealers will reprogram the TCU, inspect TCU data for chain slippage, and visually inspect parts of the transmission. The transmission will be replaced if there is evidence of slippage or damage. All the work, including transmission replacement, will be done free of charge.

How to contact the manufacturer: Subaru is expected to notify owners by mail beginning Feb. 7, 2022, and the remedy is expected to be available in April 2022. Owners may contact customer service at 844-373-6614. 

NHTSA campaign numbers: 21V955. This recall also applies to vehicles that were part of recall 19V855. Subaru’s internal number is WRK-21.

Check to see whether your vehicle has an open recall: NHTSA’s website will tell you whether your vehicle has any open recalls that need to be addressed.

If you plug your car’s 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) into NHTSA’s website and a recall doesn’t appear, your vehicle doesn’t currently have any open recalls. Because automakers issue recalls often, and for many older vehicles, we recommend checking back regularly to see whether your vehicle has had a recall issued.

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Jon Linkov

I owe my career to two fateful events: my father buying a 1965 Corvette and my purchase of an Audi A4 rather than a Chevy Tahoe. The Corvette jump-started my love of cars, and the Audi led me to automotive journalism, track days, and amateur car repair. In my free time I cycle as much as possible, no matter the season.