Subaru is recalling certain Legacy, Outback, Impreza and XV Crosstrek models from the 2010 through 2013 model years due to a remote starter that may allow vehicles to start without the key fob being pressed.

A notice on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the number of vehicles potentially affected in the U.S. at 47,419. The Detroit News reports that another 2,819 Subaru vehicles are affected in Canada.

The recall population includes certain 2010 through 2013 Subaru Legacy and Outback models equipped with automatic or CVT transmission and an Audiovox remote engine starter (RES), certain 2012 and 2013 Subaru Impreza sedans (not WRX/STI) equipped with an Audiovox RES, and certain 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek crossovers equipped with CVT transmission and an Audiovox RES.

The problem

The NHTSA bulletin and documentation Subaru (PDF) submitted to the NHTSA indicates that if the RES fob is dropped, it may malfunction and begin transmitting random engine start requests – without the button having been pressed.

The engine could run for up to 15 minutes or it could continue starting and stopping until the battery is depleted or the vehicle runs out of fuel. Should this condition occur in a confined space, such as a garage, there is a risk of asphyxiation as a result of carbon monoxide build-up.

Subaru said that only 12 Legacy and Outback models from the 2013 model year are affected. All other 2013 Legacy/Outback models are not affected.  The automaker also said that the defect does not pose a risk during driving the vehicle, since the RES system is “completely deactivated after the vehicle is started with the key.”  Also, original equipment keyless entry key fobs integrated on vehicle keys are not affected.

No reported accidents or injuries due to the condition are mentioned in the NHTSA filing or Subaru documentation.

What Subaru will do

Subaru will notify owners of affected vehicles and dealers will replace the RES key fobs. The service work will be performed at no charge. The Subaru safety recall campaign, identified as WQF-42, is expected to begin at the end of April 2013.

In the meantime, owners of vehicles involved in the recall with any questions or concerns may contact Subaru at 1-800-782-2783.

Alternatively, owners of vehicles involved in the campaign may contact NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or go to  Reference the NHTSA campaign ID No. 13V061000.

(c) 2013, High Gear Media.