Subaru Recalls 660000 Vehicles for Brake Line Corrosion

c.2014 New York Times News Service

Subaru is recalling about 660,000 of its newer vehicles in the United States because the brake lines might corrode, according to a report the automaker posted Thursday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.

The recall covers the 2009-13 Forester, the 2008-11 Impreza, 2008-14 Impreza WRX and WRX STI and the 2005-09 Legacy and Outback wagon. About 241,000 of the vehicles being recalled are Foresters; nearly 185,000 are Outbacks and about 141,000 are Imprezas, including the WRX/STI models.

The vehicles are being recalled only if they were ever registered or are currently registered in 20 states that make heavy use of road salt during the winter — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia — or in the District of Columbia.

Consumer advocates such as the Center for Auto Safety tend not to approve of these geographic recalls, arguing that they serve only to save automakers money and could miss vehicles that need to be repaired as their owners move around the country. Automakers and the safety agency, which approves of geographic recalls, say it is practical and consumers are not harmed by it.

Owners outside the recall area can also take their vehicles to a dealership for inspection, and if necessary a free repair, Michael McHale, a spokesman for Subaru, said in an email. Owners who had previously paid for that repair are eligible for reimbursement, he said.

Subaru told federal regulators in its report that examination of returned parts showed that some brake lines could rust through after several winters because a gap in the shielding around the fuel tank could allow salt water to reach them. A hole in the line would allow brake fluid to escape. The automaker said that if that happened, a warning light would illuminate. The vehicle would not lose all its braking power, the automaker said, but the driver “might misjudge the amount of brake pedal travel required to achieve the desired stopping distance.”

Subaru said it began investigating the problem in 2011 after seeing some vehicles with worse than usual corrosion. That led to a recall last year of about 215,000 vehicles.

The repair under the current recall involves replacing corroded lines and protecting them with an anti-corrosion wax. Lines that do not need to be replaced will get the protective coating.

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