Bought the car a few days ago, now I'm noticing something that I'm betting may have been done on purpose.

  • My power locks do not work at all, have to manually lock each door. Not the worst thing but annoying.
  • Half my dash warning lights do not light upon engine start-up, which has my wondering if this was intentional as the engine light is one of them that isn't lighting.
  • My cruise does not work at all - no light on the button, does not engage.
  • Oddly my interior light does not shut off even though all doors are closed- but again my gate light is not illuminating on the dash.
  • My fog lights and my wiper de-icer both work, which are the two switches next to the cruise button on the dash.

I have checked and replaced fuses. It appears all connections out of the fuse box are connected.

I'm wondering if someone disabled the CEL on purpose somehow to sell it, but I have no idea what to look for to confirm.

Any suggestions regarding how I can confirm my suspicions or not regarding the issues I've described?

  • Did you buy from a dealer, or privately?
    – PeteCon
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 0:41
  • Dealer, but no warranty, as-is. It's in excellent shape body wise and runs well, just annoyed with the electrical.
    – Wendy
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 3:14
  • 1
    does your state do an OBD2 check for it's inspection? if not it should of failed for the MIL not illuminating. could be as simple as the bulbs burning out. on Subarus when the MIL is commanded cruise control is disabled.
    – Ben
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 11:54
  • Agree with Ben. Take the car for a state inspection and see if it passes. My money is on it failing miserably. Buying it from a dealer as-is still gives you certain rights (depending on your state, of course); the most basic is that they have to sell you a road-worthy vehicle - as in, it must be able to pass state inspection and emissions. And if the MIL light doesn't work, that's a straight fail in any state I'm aware of.
    – PeteCon
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 14:07
  • Have you removed, cleaned, and tightened all battery terminals and grounds? Have you checked your battery with a multi-meter with the battery out of the car? With the engine running?
    – NitrusInc
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


This could be just about anything.

  • To start with, I'd get way organized.
  • I recommend strongly you purchase a paper copy of the service manual (Either Haynes or Chilton. They cost $30 new at your local autoparts store.) Inside they have a few pages in the back of the wiring diagrams for your car. These manuals are awesome for teaching you how your car works.
  • Get a photocopy made of each wiring diagram page. (You will be writing on these, and we don't want to mess up your new manual.)
  • Start a list on a separate piece of paper. Carefully write down each and everything electrical that is wrong with the car.
  • Note: when you first start up the car each and every light bulb in the cluster should light up. This it to tell you if a bulb is burnt out. Do this a few times to ensure that each and every indicator in there lights up. If an indicator stays dark, then add that detail to your list of electrical problems.
  • I want you to get the engine codes stored in the Engine Computer. Not sure where you live, but in many places your local autoparts stores will read the codes from your On Board Diagnostics (OBD) port for you for free. Note: this is not true in California. If you want to purchase a code reader they will run from around $30 and up. If there are codes listed, then there should be a check engine light. If there are no codes found, the check engine light should be off. Note: In many cars of your vintage, the manufacturers include a method for reading the codes using either no tools or a simple Volt Ohm Meter (Multimeter) It may be a series of special button pushes or whatever, and then you read a flashing light code. The details of this are included in the service manual you just bought. I'm not positive for your vehicle, but generally all manufacturers do this.
  • Next step is to look at your list of issues, and match it up to the wiring diagram. Take a red pencil and draw a line on top of all wires that feed the things that aren't working correctly. You are going to generate a colored fault inspection map.
  • What I'm hoping is that all those red lines will cross at the same place. If I had to guess that would be a junction box located under the dash panel on the drivers side of the car. Its very possible that box is generating the errors.
  • Other things that can cause a bunch of electrical faults include loose grounding wires. Generally you will be able to see that from the wiring diagram with red lines on it. Loose grounds are easy to fix, once you find them. I'd guess there are probably 10-12 ground points through out the car.
  • Have you checked the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) history on this car? Did it come from a location that recently has seen heavy flooding? Water can do lots of crazy things to electrical systems.
  • Its also possible that a wiring harness has become frayed and cut somewhere. A wire can hit a moving fan, abraid against a sharp edge of metal, or get cut by repeated motion of the brake pedal under the instrument panel (if the wires aren't routed correctly.) Wires can also get burnt if too near to the hot engine exhaust system.
  • One thing I really, really doubt someone disconnected the Check Engine light. I've worked a whole lot on clusters of your vintage car and frankly it's WAY easier to fix the defect on the car than it is to remove the cluster, isolate the correct light and disconnect it.

Good luck with it.. and let us know what the red line wiring diagram looks like. Also let us know if there are any codes.

  • This is a great list. I think it would be unlikely for a dealer to do what you have described - it would be much simpler just to clear the OBD codes. Also, Foresters are pretty robust when it comes to water. I have an MY05 that I have driven through water up to the top of the tyres for over a kilometre (flooding had turned a road into a long pond). 4 years later the only impact was the exhaust system rusting out. My guess is either you have an ECU malfunction or there was severe inundation.
    – timbo
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 10:10
  • I'm with you, kinda sorta. Clearing the codes is a fix that lasts for ten to 12 minutes only. I doubt it's the engine control computer. Generally those only control spark, fuel, speedo, tachometer functions, and possibly cruise control. Definitely not door locks in a 2002. If the codes are readable, then the CPU is likely whole. I have seen engine control computers where the CPU was working, but the output mosfets and IGBT current sinks were non-functioning, such that the car wouldn't run. (Oh, and that doesn't set a code, dang it...)
    – zipzit
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 10:21
  • OOps. Forgot and broke rule. Never use unexplained abbreviations. That's just highly offensive. IGBT = Insulated-gate bipolar transistor... CPU = Central Processing Unit. MOSFET = Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor, Apologies...
    – zipzit
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 10:27

Were these faults visible when you test-drove the car? If not, check the consumer rights in your jurisdiction, you may well be entitled to a refund if the car was not fit for purpose.

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