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2011 OB 2.5i limited
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212 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I found water in my rear cargo area and on the inside of the rear windshield after a recent hard rain. A search around this site found a few other threads (like this one), but no good solutions, so I decided to make one myself.

The total time for this repair was about 30 minutes. Most of that time was spent scraping the gasket off the light. I did this yesterday, and today I sat in the cargo area while my wife attacked the 3rd tail light with the hose. I used a flashlight to look at the back of the light (trim was still removed) and I saw no leaks at all.

The silicone I used will not permanently affix the light to the car. I can still remove the light later if necessary.

The Tools:
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • 1/4" ratchet with a 2"+ extension
  • 5/16" socket (8mm might also work. I didn't try.)
  • Razor scraper
  • Black silicone adhesive sealant

1.
Remove the upper trim inside the hatch. It is held in place by just four clips. I couldn't get my fat fingers wedged behind it enough, so I used a flat head screwdriver to wedge between the trim and the glass to get things started. (Trim removal is also described in the first post here.) The upper trim is all you need to remove.



2.
Use the socket wrench to remove the two washer nuts holding the 3rd tail light in place. You have to basically look straight up into the hatch holes to see them...





^^^This picture is taken looking in the hole with the black wire running through it that you can see next to the hole with the socket in this picture vvv

Left Side:


Same on the Right:


BE CAREFUL.... Move slowly and deliberately pulling the socket out of the hole once the washer nut is off the bolt. If you drop the nut inside the door, I don't know how you'd get it back.

3.
Once the two nuts are off, the light just comes out and it can now be disconnected from the wire.



You can see the problem here...


FYI -
I took the part to my local dealership hoping they could just replace the gasket, but their only fix was to replace the entire thing for $60. No thanks.

4.
Scrape the gasket off the light with a razor scraper to get it as clean as you can. You can use goo gone to get the remnants if you're really picky, but I didn't. I also wiped away the dirt around the hole in the hatch where the light had been.

I didn't get a picture of this. Just imagine me sitting on my tailgate with a razor scraper for about 15 minutes.




5.
Once the gasket has been scraped off, replace it with a thick bead of the silicone. I had some of this around the house, but you can pick it up at any auto parts store for $6 or so.







6.
Put everything back together: Clip the wire back into the light, put the light back onto the tailgate, and put the nuts back on. Now just replace the trim and you're done.


Let me know if there's anything I missed, or if anybody has any questions.
 

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2011 Outback 3.6R Limited, Red
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578 Posts
Awesome guide! While I haven't found any leaks in my hatch yet, it's great to know that it's a simple fix. Thanks for taking the time to photograph your work and write this up.
 

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2011 OB 2.5i limited
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212 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Something else I learned doing this... The 3rd tail light isn't built in a way that would let you replace the bulbs if they go out. They are LEDs and shouldn't go out anyway, but if they do the only option is to buy a whole new light for $60. Not the end of the world, but still.


Awesome guide! While I haven't found any leaks in my hatch yet, it's great to know that it's a simple fix. Thanks for taking the time to photograph your work and write this up.
No problem. Much credit to my Samsung Galaxy S4 for the pics.
 
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2021 Outback 2.5i Premium
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510 Posts
Thanks for the tutorial. I did it this morning on my 2013 Outback.

My cheap ($5) plastic trim removal tool kit from Harbor Freight came in handy once again.

My holddown nuts were only on fingertight.

I used a brass wire brush to knock the bulk of the original gasket off, and my fingernails did the rest.

On installation I snugged the holddown nuts up a little tighter than they had been.

Next carwash I'll see if I gained anything.

Interesting that I found a spiderweb in the little recess built into the fixture for the rear squirters to have a path to the glass. How the heck do they find these places?

Thanks again for the photos.
 

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2011 2.5i Steel Silver Metallic, Limited , Moonroof
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125 Posts
Hey great write up! Have the same problem with mine and have been meaning to get out there and take care of it for a few weeks. Now that it isn't freezing cold it's raining all the time but hopefully soon. Thanks for the nice pics!
 

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2010 OB Premium
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2 Posts
2010...Same problem..this is the fix...thanks for the info and instruction. The right side washer/nut only half way tightened in my car..??
 

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91 Posts
Thanks for the detailed and illustrated instructions!

If you have the risk of a removed nut falling out of a socket in between body panels, I've found these work pretty well.
http://www.amazon.com/Magnetic-Socket-Inserts-Model-300/dp/B001AYJDTE

I've even taped the socket to the extension to make sure it stays put as well if there is any chance of knocking off the socket from the extension inside a body panel or engine. In fact, tape wrapped around a socket universal joint can keep it in the correct orientation whenever you need to use one and must reach it into some deep recess where you can not keep your fingers on it to guide it over the nut or bolt.
 

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2016 Outback Ltd 2.5 eyesight Nav push button Hole in roof, Lapis Blue
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737 Posts
Thanks for the detailed and illustrated instructions!

If you have the risk of a removed nut falling out of a socket in between body panels, I've found these work pretty well.
Magnetic Socket Inserts, Model# 300 [Misc.] - - Amazon.com

I've even taped the socket to the extension to make sure it stays put as well if there is any chance of knocking off the socket from the extension inside a body panel or engine. In fact, tape wrapped around a socket universal joint can keep it in the correct orientation whenever you need to use one and must reach it into some deep recess where you can not keep your fingers on it to guide it over the nut or bolt.


Bubble Gum works Tooo :D

Not kidding... ;)


.
 

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2010 2.5 OB
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7 Posts
Similar experience in my '10. It doesn't appear to leak when closed, but after a rain when the tailgate is lifted water streams out of the joints on left and right of top center trim and soaks whatever is in the cargo area in two spots. Is the 3rd brake light 'gasket' issue to blame?

Honestly pretty p.o.'d that this is even an issue.

What if I had irreplaceable items soaked? Luckily not the case here.

Oquipah
 

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246 Posts
Haven't read through the thread, but this seal cannot be purchased separatly. It comes with the light.

I applied silicone.
Solved.
 

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2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited
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88 Posts
Thanks OP! I got exactly the same issue, only in mine, the gasket was not completely ripped out. However, it was flatten enough to where water would just come in. Also, I noticed that the screws holding the light were loose, this probably exacerbated the problem.

Instead of using silicone, I ended up creating a new gasket using tool box drawer liner that I got from Harbor Freight. It almost has the same consistency and thickness of the original gasket.



Using pen, ruler, and paper knife, I created an almost identical gasket out of the drawer liner. Instead of scraping the old gasket off, since it's so thin anyway, I placed the new gasket on top of the old one. I used thin double tape in a few spots just to hold the gasket in place.

I tested it by going trough the car wash and it was completely dry. So, I'm happy so far with the result. I still left the top trim opened just to monitor the situation. I'll wait for more rain to come and more car wash to see if the new gasket does its job.

I also found another potential source of water coming into the rear gate. Like many other people, I only used the top two holes to screw in my rear license plate. This leaves the bottom two exposed and can let water into the rear gate. I used my HVAC tape to make a seal by cutting it into a round shape the size of the license plate screw holder.



I also created two round rubber gasket using the drawer liner for the top two holes that holds the license plate. This way, there should be no water coming in from any of license plate holes.
 

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Thanks for the fix. I thought that it was the rear glass. But after seeing your investigation and repair, I found that I had the same problem. New taillight on order. Thanks again.
 

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99 Legacy Outback; 2010 Outback 2.5i Premium CVT, Harvest Gold
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98 Posts
I approve of mws4ua, plus couple of tips

Thanks to mws4ua for helping to diagnose and provide guide for the fix! Due to mws4ua, I was able avoid bringing it to a body shop.

Some tips:

--8 mm socket does fit.

--for Step 2: Instead of using bubble gum, I put a little bit of strip caulk into the socket so that the nut sticks to it.

--for Step 4: I was scraping the old gasket initially, but then found that it can be rolled up like a carpet cleanly.

--Step 5: As an alternative, I used 3M Strip Caulk which is what I think body shops use.
 

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2010 Subaru Outback 2.5 Premium
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52 Posts
Thanks for the diagnosis and guide! I was noticing the same leaking in my outback. Searched it on here and found this thread. The gasket around third brake was falling apart when I pulled it out. Instead of using a scraper, I used a flathead screwdriver the same width as old gasket.
 

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2010 outback 2.5i PZEV Premium
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1 Posts
Similar experience in my '10. It doesn't appear to leak when closed, but after a rain when the tailgate is lifted water streams out of the joints on left and right of top center trim and soaks whatever is in the cargo area in two spots. Is the 3rd brake light 'gasket' issue to blame?

Honestly pretty p.o.'d that this is even an issue.

What if I had irreplaceable items soaked? Luckily not the case here.

Oquipah
oquipah, did you wind up doing this fix as described in this thread? Your description is EXACTLY what is happening to my new-to-me 2010 OB. Thanks mws4ua for the original tutorial!! I have a feeling I'll be doing this before the weekend is out.
 

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2016 Outback 2.5 Premium Black
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65 Posts
Had this same problem on a 2011 Outback and decided to tackle this yesterday. It was threatening to rain but I figured I could get it done pretty quick. I did drop one of the screws in the hatch and went over to a local hardware store to but a magnetic wand. I couldn't find it with the magnet but I could hear it rolling a bit when I would close the hatch. It eventually fell out on its own. I scraped off the old gasket as it was pretty soft and wet, put some black silicone on it and just tested it today and no water leaked. Thanks for the pics and guidance. Also changed both headlights on the car yesterday. Boy what a pain that is. I think I finally figured out to do it after changing 3 bulbs out.
 

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2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium (The Superoo), Graphite Gray Metallic, CVT, Yoko Geolandar G015 AT 225/65R-17
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236 Posts
I took my new to me '10 OB through it's first car wash earlier this week and had the same problem. Thanks for this guide!! I'm going to give it a shot this weekend.
 

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2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium (The Superoo), Graphite Gray Metallic, CVT, Yoko Geolandar G015 AT 225/65R-17
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236 Posts
Got it done last night! Right before we're supposed to get 8-10 inches of rain over the next few days!

When I popped the middle piece of trim the right side nut for the third brake light fell in to the cargo area. So that pretty much confirmed that this is the source of my leak. Got the other nut off, pulled the light, and low and behold the gasket is completely falling apart. Sealed it up with the silicone sealant. So far no leaks from the rain overnight!

Thank you again for this guide!
 

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2016 Outback 2.5 Premium Black
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65 Posts
My first attempt to fix this wasn't successful as I still ended up getting a little water in inside the hatch area. I think I didn't put enough sealer around the light and maybe left a gap. I took everything apart again and used a socket with a magnetic attachment with an extension. I loosened the nut with the wrench attached and then just held the extension in my hand and took the nut off. Both came out easy and neither fell in the hatch like the first time. I scraped all the original sealer off and reapplied a different brand. The first one I used seemed a little difficult to spread for good coverage. I also applied some around the screw holes as there seemed to be a bit of a gap there too. It's been a couple of weeks and no new water in the hatch. I'm glad I got this fixed before winter arrives.
 
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