Subaru recall: 'Puddle lights' can cause fires

Subaru recall involves nearly 634,000 late-model Legacys, Outbacks, Tribecas, and Foresters. Vehicles with faulty exterior lights on doors – 'puddle lights' – could be affected by the Subaru recall. 

Jae C. Hong/AP/File
The Subaru logo is seen at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles in this November 2012 file photo. A new Subaru recall includes Outbacks and other models equipped with exterior 'puddle lights,' which could short-circuit and catch fire.

Subaru is recalling nearly 634,000 vehicles in the United States due to issues with exterior lights that could cause smoke or fires.

The Subaru recall affects some 2010 and 2011 Legacy sedans and Outback SUVs,  some Tribeca SUVs manufactured between 2006 and 2012, and certain Forester SUVs from to 2009 to 2012 model years sold before January 2012.

The problem involves exterior “puddle lights,” which illuminate the underside of the vehicle just below the doors. The lights can short-circuit when the lights or their connectors are exposed to a certain type of external moisture. This could cause the apparatus to overheat, melting the plastic and potentially causing a fire hazard.

“A short circuit can develop when either the puddle light or connector are exposed to an electrolytic moisture source (such as road spray that has road salt in it) and it penetrates the circuit board of the puddle light or the pins of the puddle light connector(s),” warns the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a statement. 

Only about 54,000 vehicles are actually equipped with the affected lights, but the recall is much wider than that because the puddle lights were outfitted and sold after the cars were manufactured. As a result, the automaker has no way to track them, a Subaru spokesman confirmed via e-mail.

Figuring out whether or not you have cause for worry, however, is simple: If your Subaru is outfitted with puddle lights, you may be affected. If not, drive on.

Subaru will notify customers, and the recall is expected to start in early February. Dealers will fix the issue and install a new puddle light harness free of charge.

For more information, customers can call the NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 or visit safecar.gov [http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/latestRecalls.cfm]. Or call Subaru’s Cherry Hill, N.J.-based US headquarters at 800-782-2783 from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday; or 9:00 a.m. to  3:30 p.m. Saturday (all Eastern Standard Time).

The vehicles affected by the Subaru recall are listed below:

VEHICLE MAKE/MODEL MODEL YEAR
Subaru/Forester 2009-2012
Subaru/Legacy 2010-2011
Subaru/Outback 2010-2011
Subaru/Tribeca 2006-2012
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