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Subaru Check Engine Light

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We’ve scanned over 41,074 Subarus with the FIXD OBD2 scanner and app. These are the 5 most common reasons for a check engine light in your Subaru.

Diagnose Your Subaru Check Engine Light in Seconds

Read and clear over 7000 check engine lights from your phone using the FIXD Sensor and free app!

5 Most Common Reasons for a Check Engine Light in Your Subaru

CodeSeverity Simplified Description
P0420ModerateYour catalytic converter isn’t functioning efficiently. This could increase the output of harmful pollutants.
P0303SevereCylinder number three is experiencing misfires, which could cause damage to your engine or emissions system.
P0304SevereCylinder number four is experiencing misfires, which could cause damage to your engine or emissions system.
P0301SevereCylinder number one is experiencing misfires, which could cause damage to your engine or emissions system.
P0302SevereCylinder number two is experiencing misfires, which could cause damage to your engine or emissions system.

Other Common Subaru Issues

  • Cruise control light is flashing
  • TRAC OFF light is on

Why Is My Cruise Control Light Flashing?

One quirk specific to Subarus is that when the check engine light turns on, the cruise control light will start flashing, and cruise control will be disabled. Subaru does this to call your attention to the check engine light by mildly inconveniencing you with more than just the check engine light itself. There is nothing actually wrong with the cruise control system. When the check engine light turns off, either by itself or by resetting it with an OBD2 scanner, cruise control will work and the light will stop flashing.

Why Is My “TRAC OFF” Light On?

The “TRAC OFF” light means that your traction control system is disabled. It is normal for this light to turn on if you turn off traction control manually, to remind you that the system is off. If the light turns on and you have not turned off traction control yourself, there is a problem in the traction control system that you should get checked out. Traction control problems may also cause the check engine light to turn on.

Check Your Gas Cap

One of the most common reasons for a check engine light in your Subaru is also the easiest problem to fix. A loose gas cap is often the reason the check engine light turns on. This happens because the engine detects a leak in the evaporative emissions system, which exists when the gas cap isn’t tightened until it clicks. It’s easy, and it’s free!

What Should I Do If the Check Engine Light Is On in My Subaru?

There are many issues that can trigger the Subaru engine light, from a loose gas cap to major engine issues. If this light turns on, don’t panic. Follow these steps to figure out what the problem is and get it to a trusted repair shop for inspection as soon as possible.

> Find a RepairPal Certified Shop Near You

What the Check Engine Light Means

Your Subaru’s check engine light is part of the onboard diagnostics system (OBD2). All gas-powered cars and trucks made since 1996, plus diesel cars and trucks since 2008, have a diagnostic system to manage the engine and monitor emission system performance. It alerts the driver to any problems by turning on the Check Engine Light on your dashboard. Special tools known as OBD2 scanners or car code readers can access diagnostic information from this system to find out what’s wrong with your car and how serious the problem really is.

Instantly Diagnose Your Subaru Check Engine Light

Read and clear 7000+ check engine light codes with the FIXD Sensor and free app.

How to Read Your Subaru’s Check Engine Light

There are a few ways you can read the diagnostic trouble code stored in your car’s computer.

1) Go to your local mechanic. They will plug in their professional scan tool to read the code and identify the cause of the problem. This won’t help you on the side of the road, however, and they will charge a fee for this service. You also may not have a shop that you trust to diagnose the problem accurately, rather than try to make some extra money from repairs.

2) Go to a nearby auto parts store. Most parts stores will plug their OBD2 scanner into your car and give you the problem code and description at no charge. The person providing this service is likely not a mechanic, and may not be able to provide any more information than just the code and its technical description. It’s also possible that they may try to sell you products you don’t need in order to “fix” the problem.

3) Get the FIXD car scanner to read your own codes. There are many OBD2 scanners you can buy that will read codes and provide other engine information anytime you want. FIXD is able to translate any Subaru check engine light trouble code into plain English directly on your smartphone. 

How the FIXD Check Engine Scanner Works

The FIXD car scanner plugs into your car’s OBD2 port. This is a trapezoid shaped plug located under the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car. Read more about how to find your OBD2 port on your particular car.

The FIXD Sensor and free mobile app will tell you in plain English what problem codes exist. You will get a detailed description of the problem so that you can make informed decisions about repairs.

Understand Your CEL

FIXD instantly translates over 7,000 error codes into simple terms right on your phone.

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See How Serious Your CEL Is

Learn if your problem is serious or not, and whether it’s safe to keep on driving.

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Get Maintenance Alerts

FIXD can automatically alert you when your Subaru is due for an oil change and other routine maintenance, based on your specific model and its mileage.

Monitor the Health of Your Subaru

If your check engine light turns on, FIXD will immediately send a notification to your phone. You can also monitor data in real time, such as oxygen sensor voltage, fuel trims, vehicle speed, and more.

Does FIXD Work with Your Subaru?

FIXD is compatible with all 1996 or newer Subaru models. Use the Compatibility Checker for additional info.

Is It Safe to Drive with My Check Engine Light On?

That depends on what problem triggered the light to come on in the first place. You will need to use an OBD2 scan tool like the FIXD Sensor to find out exactly what’s wrong, how severe the issue is, and whether or not it’s safe to keep driving.

Generally speaking, if the indicator is a steady yellow light, it should be okay to keep driving.. This could be something like an emissions issue. While your car will keep running just fine, it’s still best to get this diagnosed and repaired sometime soon, especially if you live in a state that performs vehicle inspections.

If the light is blinking, you should stop as soon as it’s safe to do so. This indicates a serious problem, such as a misfire, that is occurring right then. It’s also good to check for low oil or overheating. If your Subaru’s check engine light is red, you should stop driving immediately.

If your Subaru experiences driveability issues, such as reduced power, slow down and take it easy on the engine to avoid making the problem worse.

How Can I Reset the Check Engine Light in My Subaru?

If you have resolved the problem, you may want to clear the codes that triggered your Subaru engine light. If you reset the light, drive, and it doesn’t turn back on, your problem is fixed.

The easiest way to reset the check engine light on your Subaru is with FIXD. While auto parts stores will typically read your codes for free, they will not reset the light for you, and shops may charge more than $100 to do this. 

In the FIXD app, you can reset the light anytime you want for free. After performing the engine scan, go to the Details page and click the “Clear Engine Light” button. The light will turn off, and any codes stored inside your Subaru’s computer will be cleared. If the light turns back on after a few miles of driving, the issue likely still exists.

Diagnose Your Subaru’s Check Engine Light with FIXD

If the check engine light turns back on, use FIXD to get detailed engine diagnostics, plain English code descriptions, issue severity warnings, and so much more. Learn more about the FIXD Sensor and mobile app today!


Recovering autocross and track day enthusiast. Once turned a VW Jetta into a pickup truck. Lives in a van down by the river. Dream car: 2001 Subaru WRC rally car.

We’re here to help you simplify car care and save, so this post may contain affiliate links to help you do just that. If you click on a link and take action, we may earn a commission. However, the analysis and opinions expressed are our own.


About the Author

Justin Hughes

Justin Hughes

Recovering autocross and track day enthusiast. Once turned a VW Jetta into a pickup truck. Lives in a van down by the river. Dream car: 2001 Subaru WRC rally car.

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