Subaru Forester Relamping

Prompted by RCP’s battery misadventure, I replaced a handful of the Forester’s incandescent bulbs:

Subaru Forester 2015 - replaced bulbs
Subaru Forester 2015 – replaced bulbs

Despite what look like “squeeze here” markings, you must push the license plate bulb holders toward the center of the car:

Subaru Forester 2015 - license plate bulb holders
Subaru Forester 2015 – license plate bulb holders

They were both stuck firmly to the trim plate, so I braced a screwdriver against the outboard edge of the trim panel, after which it becomes obvious how pressing inward compresses the (plastic) spring clip so you can pull the outward side of the holder away from the hatch.

Casual searching turned up a bunch of exceedingly helpful advice for anyone DIY-ing through a Forester.

The bulbs with conical ends, known as “festoon” lamps, (unsurprisingly) come in  several lengths. The Forester bulbs are about 25 mm long, (unsurprisingly) much shorter than the 31 mm LEDs that seem to be the smallest available replacements, but (surprisingly) the socket tabs have barely enough compliance for the extra half dozen millimeters:

Subaru Forester 2015 - dome with 31 mm festoon LED bulb
Subaru Forester 2015 – dome with 31 mm festoon LED bulb

The LEDs are much much much brighter than the incandescents, although I’d prefer warm white to cool white. The cargo compartment lamp in the back is still way too dim; I don’t understand how Subaru decided on a plastic cover tinted tinted dark smoke gray.

All in all, a worthwhile upgrade!

I wonder how long they’ll last? I have one spare of each type …

7 thoughts on “Subaru Forester Relamping

  1. The guide is handy, and there’s enough overlap between the 2012 and later models that it’s a good start. Chilton offers an on-line manual for the 2012; apparently hard copies of such just aren’t done any more.

    There are subtle differences between the ’12 and ’16. A/C and recirculate buttons are in different locations, and the windshield wiper control must be from a different vendor. The motion that gives you a single wipe in the ’12 gets a wash cycle in the ’16, and the interval timer is rather different. Progress! [sigh]

    Apparently Subaru is working on a pickup truck (based on the Ascent SUV chassis). The 2003 Chevy is showing its age, and a smaller one will do just fine now. The default choice is a Honda Ridgeline, but AWD would be an add-on, but should be standard on the Subaru. 2WD vehicles don’t do that well in our winter conditions.

    1. Bajas exist around here, but an AWD pickup with the same cargo capacity as my bike trailer seems optimized in the wrong direction. Maybe they’ll get it right next time?

      1. It’s not clear if a pickup is really going to happen, but the Ascent is the largest vehicle that Subaru has done. It looks like it would be about the same size as the Ridgeline; two plastic trash/garbage barrels and cardboard will be the usual cargo. We’ll want enough towing capacity for our tent trailer; Julie’s old V6 Ranger handled it well enough, and a turbocharged 4 would work. That seems to be the sole engine choice for the Ascent.

        I’m not fond of the dealership chain that owns the Ford and Toyota dealerships, and we’re allergic to Dodge, so Honda or Subaru are logical choices. (No Nissan or GM dealership within 100 miles, so those are out.)

  2. Not in a Subaru, but I replaced some Toyota festoon bulbs with flat LED panels with bulb adapters. There’s enough room under the lens for both, and the result is So Much Light. That might work well in your cargo area light as well. The ones I bought are these, but they are of course available in an infinite variety of sizes and quantities, with the price having no correlation to either of those.

    1. The cargo light is behind a little bitty porthole on the side wall, where any actual cargo you might want to haul around completely blocks it, rather than up on the headliner where it should be.

      I planned to hotwire an ungainly LED under-cabinet light in parallel with the “Canbus Error Free” LED, except it’s straight and the headliner is curved. Now that you mention it, one of the COB LED panels I got a while ago will be better, although the bigger ones may be fierce enough to melt their way into the headliner.

      Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. The main advantage of the side mounted cargo light is one can actually see it when it’s on. The ’12 has a cargo dome light at the very back of the headliner; hitting the override switch seems to be a common problem. It also has a smoke-colored lens. I think it just might get the LED upgrade…

    1. I want enough light back there to raise smoke from the upholstery; we’ll definitely know it’s on. But, yeah, we’ve nudged the dome light switch from DOOR to ON and nearly left it that way, so it’s a clear and present danger.

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