Forester CEL blinking, low power, jumpy idle


Asked by Jun 02, 2015 at 12:42 PM about the Subaru Forester

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

My 2005 Subaru Forester just passed Rhode Island inspection last week. I didn't use for 6 days. Last night when we got home I moved the car and noticed a strong gas smell. This morning on I drove it cold on way to work right away I noticed lack of power at low gear (its automatic trans), a jumpy idle, and some smoke out back (not too much and looked whitish). Check engine light flashed a couple of times but didn't stay on nor flashed continuously. I know flashing CEL is BAD, so I went right back home and parked, didnt even drive a mile.

I'm thinking some sort of cilynder misfire.

My mechanic is less than a mile from my home. My question to the forum is: Is it safe to drive there or should I go with a tow truck?

15 Answers


As long as you have plenty of oil, I would say it's safe to drive it there. White smoke could mean bad head gasket. Strong gas smell could mean it's running too rich. But it would be black smoke. May have a fuel line leak or EVAP issue.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Thanks! On way to mechanic it had none of the symptoms. it ran perfectly! Made me look bad! Wonder what happened? It is a rainy day.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

You should have had the error codes scanned. Whatever it was will come back again. You can always take a water bottle and mist down your wires and coil packs. See if it starts to skip, Hopefully it's something simple like that.....

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
Best Answer Mark helpful

Thanks again for your response! I misted the plug wires and in one particular place near the sparkplug end the misting triggered the misfire.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Nice! That was easy!


Major kudos Reelin. question: Is this a scenario that causes the cruise light to flash? I know there are many factors with all the sensors and components but it is a question that is often asked. My response is usually along the lines of "the computer is monitoring a fuel/air ratio that can damage the catalytic converter" etc etc. And Carlos, this was your CEL flashing and not a SOLID CEL and flashing cruise? Thanks guys.


Yes Reelin, thanks! I did a tune up today and its running like new (so far)! No oil or coolant anywhere that it shouldnt have been, thankfully, but old wires looking worn out. Walth: The CEL flashed (scary!) for about 5 seconds whenever the misfire was actively happening and then stopped until it happened again. Cruise control light never came on and CEL didnt stay on beyond the flashing. Thanks!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Scanned and the code was for a cylinder #3 misfire, btw.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Walth, thanks! If you have a Forester, this seems to be an ongoing problem with this model. There are many posts that say if the CEL comes on, the CC light will flash as well. Some people say to get the error codes read, fix the issue, then remove the negative battery cable for an hour or so. Some Forester owners still have the flashing cruise issue. Now they just ignore it. Try researching for example "Subaru Forester TSB 2005." Or whatever year you have. All the TSB's will come up. Maybe there's one for the Cruise light flashing. Good luck!


Nice job Carlos! Glad to help!


I have 03 and 04 forester but no issues. I just try to help people on here and was curious if this question was related. Sometimes it's just me and Mark and maybe one or two more answering on the Subaru Q's. Thank you both for the quick replies.


My Forester is a 04, Lately it's been happening to her. But always super cold mornings and snowy. I always give her lots of time to warm up before going anywhere on days like that. It's usually when i hit the highways ill all of a sudden loose power and my speed starts decreasing instead of increasing when pushing the pedal. When that happens i go off to the side of the road and give her a few minutes and ill turn her off then back on again. The CEL will be Blinking when I loose power and after a bit of sitting it will stop blinking on its own. I still give it some time but it can get back on the road after a few minutes. I need to figure out whats going on and how to fix it. Especially because I do lots of highways driving

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Crossroad_1101, get codes read first. That will save a ton of guess work. Post codes back here.

My '04 XT also gets blinking CEL with blinking Cruise seemingly during cold or moist temps indicating potential misfire, it happens from time to time and seems to self correct. These boxer engines are finicky with misfires and a lot of intake problems can happen with the turbos (oil leaks broken hoses etc). Haven't been happy with reliability as of late @ 220k.


Might try turning your plug wires in case they are touching but no guarantees.. good luck

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