Purple Frog (Forum Supporter)
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/27/22 11:01 a.m.

Asking the hive...

I've been seriously considering treating myself to a new Toyota GR86.  It checks a lot of the boxes.

But, reading over many posts the last few years in multiple treads on this forum I keep getting a sense there is some inherit weakness to the Subaru engine that will cause expensive heartache.   When I look out in the real world and see so many on the road and many over ten years old I begin to wonder.

Are the complaints on this site caused by pushing the drivetrains near the limit as we are want to do? Are the problems in older editions and improvements been made?  Or is there real serious concern even about new versions?

I'm buying the car for street use.  No plans for track days or solo, I have a garage full of stuff for that.  I'm thinking more as a less expensive alternative to a C8 to drive when I don't need my big truck, and maybe do a 48 state tour.

Thanks in advance for your input.

Cactus HalfDork
6/27/22 11:08 a.m.

The one they put in those 86s is leaps and bounds more reliable than the EJs that you used to get in WRXs and similar.


Obviously turbo additions can be as (un)reliable as you'd like them to be.

mdshaw HalfDork
6/27/22 11:12 a.m.

I would also love to have one as replacement for the MR2 Turbo that I sold. My personal experience & experience of close friends is that Subaru engines are fragile. I will never ever have another one. Previous ownership plays a major role but to me there is no comparison of the reliability & power to a Honda K. 
I want to find a nice body & do a turbo K swap. 

parker HalfDork
6/27/22 11:27 a.m.

My 2015 FR-S is totally stock.  107,000 miles with no problems.  I've only tracked it a couple of times and autocrossed it once.  Mostly just fun road driving.  I think a lot of the complaints are from adding forced induction.  The engine has 12.5:1 compression and makes over 100hp per liter normally aspirated.  Adding boost seems like a guarantee to blow it up.

hunter47 Reader
6/27/22 12:04 p.m.

The FA series of motors are stout in their stock form, imo. You start running into problems when you start adding power. 

I'm not sure if the FA24 fixed the oil pressure/cooling issue but even then those are track mods. If you don't plan on ever tracking or autoxing, you should be 100% a-ok in stock form.

dps214 Dork
6/27/22 12:05 p.m.

The engines of the past (EJ in particular) were a bit fragile, but still if you leave them stock and treat them decently they seem pretty good. The problem is that almost nobody leaves them stock and a lot of people don't treat them very well, so things go wrong a lot more than they would naturally. The modern engines are not totally free of issues but are much better. And the 86 engine being n/a takes away some potential for failure. The biggest issue with the first gen 86 engine was poorly trained techs doing a bad job of fixing a mnor issue and causing a much bigger problem in the process. I haven't been paying too close attention but I think the new engine has been having some engine failures, but mostly tied to mechanical overrevs, so...yeah, don't do that. As a pure street car I wouldn't expect you to run into any issues. But one of the nice things about new cars is the warranty...so even if you do run into an issue it's not your problem for the first five years or whatever the powertrain warranty is.

APEowner UltraDork
6/27/22 12:28 p.m.

Not that there aren't some years and models with inherent issues but the biggest issue I see with Subaru motors is Subaru tuners who don't know what they're doing.

GameboyRMH MegaDork
6/27/22 12:31 p.m.
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) said:

Are the complaints on this site caused by pushing the drivetrains near the limit as we are want to do? Are the problems in older editions and improvements been made?  Or is there real serious concern even about new versions?

Some of both of these. If you don't mod an FA20/4UGSE and you just use it for street driving, it'll be fine. If you start working it hard you'll run into oil supply and cooling problems (what usually kills stock engines in track use) and if you add boost you'll rapidly start exposing weak spots like the head gaskets and crank. The revised engine (2017 and later 2-litres) has some reliability fixes over the earlier models.

I've done I'm sure an easy half-dozen autocrosses with mine with extensive fun runs and some "spirited" street driving and haven't wrecked anything yet. I did have a high-flow oil pickup and baffle plate installed for at least the last two though, but if you give it a slight overfill and avoid banging the limiter you can get away without those for autocross use. I'm not taking it on track until I have the oil cooler and front brake ducts installed, the coolant temp is stable on these models but oil temps can quickly fly out of control without a cooler.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
6/27/22 1:57 p.m.

The biggest problem with Subaru engines are dubious mods and dubious tunes.  Those will kill any engine, Subaru attracts certain types of car people.  Flat engines do have inherent oiling concerns, no matter who makes that flat engine.  

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
6/27/22 3:23 p.m.

Yeah, my pal had a bugeye WRX. Driven reasonably it made a quarter million miles with no more than an oil leak. But you hear of people going through motors and trannys like chicklets when they've been boosted  and clutch-dropped. 

Not that it's particularly relevant, but my wife loves her Crosstrek.

Appleseed MegaDork
6/27/22 6:20 p.m.

50,000 on a 2015 FR-S. All I've done is oil and filters. That's it. 100% reliable.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
6/27/22 7:41 p.m.

The sub 2.5l EJs are reliable.

The FB engines are reliable as long as you keep oil in them.  100% of issues I see are a failure to check the oil level until the oil light comes on.  Half the time people think it is a maintenance reminder and ignore it, too.

The FA engines are reliable as long as you don't let a Toyota dealership work on them...


Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/27/22 8:37 p.m.

I know two 1998 Legacy GTs that went through, what, six engines between them? Five in under 60k, iirc. Bone stock, dealer serviced, no turbos, adult drivers, street driving only. Just plain boom. At least two failures were oiling problems. 

Based on what I've seen, any used Subaru will need an engine. It's happened to me, it's happened to coworkers. All naturally aspirated EJ25s.

They're not my faves. They got a reputation for reliability based on the old 1.8 or whether, and then proceeded to milk that for a couple of decades. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
6/27/22 9:00 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

The 2.5 is really too large for the EJ architecture.  The crankcase is small with a lot of webbing, with very little room on top, and while there are very tiny windows in the "main webs" there are also more of them than a V engine and closer together than an inline, so when with every revolution there is 1.25 liters of air getting pushed by two cylinders into the other two cylinders and back again, most of it blows through the oil pan area.  If I cared enough and there wasn't an intake manifold in the way I would run a huge maybe 1.5" breather hose on the TOP of the engine between the cylinders.  As big as could fit.  Maybe just mill out a big cross section and put a box over it, give the air an easy path for transfer.  Here is a handy EJ20 for reference:

(I know you are cognizant with Subaru oily bits, but took a pic for everyone else in the class smiley)

That and the pistons have an incredibly short compression height, which is where OMGZ RINGLANDS comes in on the turbo engines.

Tom1200 UltraDork
6/27/22 10:08 p.m.

We've had three EJ25 powered Subarus; without issue.

My current Outback is at 130K.

The previous Outback are the center diff at 265K; we'd sold it to.my brother in law and he put mismatched tires on it..........shortly thereafter it ate the center diff.

wawazat SuperDork
6/27/22 11:36 p.m.

My first EG33 lost a head gasket at 10 years old and 127k miles.   The replacement head gasket was still good 8 years and 45k more miles.  My second EG33 was still running well when we sold it after 8 years of ownership at 95k miles.  Both engines were stock as not much is avaialble for them.  
My 2007 Legacy GT specB 2.5 turbo was stock and reflashed by dealer early on under a service campaign.  My wife swore it lost power after the change.  We bought it new and drove that up to 147k without issue though I was getting a random stumble at idle toward the end of our ownership.  No MIL just an odd random misfire at times.  

ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter)
ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/28/22 12:03 a.m.
Appleseed said:

50,000 on a 2015 FR-S. All I've done is oil and filters. That's it. 100% reliable.

30,000 on a 2013 FR-S. Didn't do the valve spring recall. No oil cooler or pickup mods. All I've done is oil, filters, oil analysis, and avoiding tagging the rev limiter. That's it. 100% reliable. Mostly spirited street driving, but also autocross and trackdays. I do live in a moderate climate, and I've owned it since new, so I know that it has always been tested and serviced properly. YMMV

Chrissmith New Reader
6/28/22 4:26 a.m.

Someone told me 2009 and 2013 are the top two Subaru years to avoid

hunter47 Reader
6/28/22 10:38 a.m.

In reply to ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) :

You were probably better off not doing the valve spring recall due to poor training at Toyota dealerships.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
6/28/22 10:58 a.m.

My EJ251 powered RS has 155k mikes on the clock.  It did 12 rallycross events last two years and did 200 road miles or more to and from each event.  I didn't baby it, let others drive it, and it's been reliable for it's intended purpose.  The car is for sale too because now I have a more hardcore WRX.  

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
6/28/22 1:32 p.m.

Have a '10 EJ253 in the shop right now, heaving oil leak and starting to get white smoke on cold start.

Yep, head gaskets.  195k miles.


Eight trips around the world before there is a problem becomes a meme, while every 2.2l Beretta, Corsica, Cavalier, and S10 heaving coolant at #4 cylinder by exactly 3000mi outside of warranty is considered acceptable, I guess?

parker HalfDork
6/28/22 11:06 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

Eight trips around the world before there is a problem becomes a meme, while every 2.2l Beretta, Corsica, Cavalier, and S10 heaving coolant at #4 cylinder by exactly 3000mi outside of warranty is considered acceptable, I guess?

I don't know about acceptable, but expected since they are complete crap.


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