Subaru BRZ Problems: 7 Common Issues (Explained)

The Subaru BRZ is a very stylish and fast sports car that looks great and handles exceptionally well. Subaru has produced the BRZ since its debut during the 2013 model year, and it has proven to be very popular among buyers.

Unfortunately, some common issues could cause buyer’s remorse for some owners.

A detailed look at those problems appears below.

1. Poor Handling Due to Bad Torque Converter

The torque converter improves the BRZ’s handling and turning ability by compensating for different wheel speeds.

Without the torque converter working properly, you might feel wheels hopping in sharp and fast turns. It also could damage the drivetrain, which is no good for a sports car.

The Subaru torque converter in the BRZ is subject to early failure, which could greatly affect the car’s handling and performance. When the torque converter starts to go bad, the wheels do not roll at compensated RPMs while turning at speed.

Without the RPMs optimized for turning at faster speeds, the wheels will not turn at the right speeds and could cause shuddering and wheel-hop. That in turn will reduce traction, handling, and overall performance.

Replacing the torque converter is the only solution.

Fortunately, the problem mostly occurs on higher-mileage BRZ models that are near the 100,000-mile mark, which helps buyers of new BRZs to look forward to many years of reliable service.

2. Camshaft Seal Leaks Oil

BRZ uses the same Subaru boxer engine that has been a persistent leaker of engine oil for many years. The problem is the seals on the camshafts inside the engines often will fail and cause oil to leak.

A leaking camshaft seal usually is the problem when oil starts to leak from the camshaft area of the engine.

A leaking camshaft seal could result in damage to the camshaft, which in turn would render your BRZ generally useless until repaired.

Without enough oil to reduce friction and keep it cool, the camshaft might overheat and start shedding metal inside the engine, which could be especially harmful to the entire motor.

If you see oil accumulating beneath the engine, a leaking camshaft seal might be the culprit. The engine light also might come on the dash, but you could fix the problem.

Replacing the camshaft seal with a new factory seal or an improved aftermarket seal could help to fix the problem and prevent it from repeating.

The problem commonly afflicts Subaru boxer engines with about 80,000 miles of use.

3. Bad Water Pump Could Cause Overheating

You can get a lot of great performance and good fuel economy from the BRZ’s 2.4-liter boxer motor, but it needs to stay relatively cool to last for many years.

A hot-running engine suffers from heightened friction and could suffer from a catastrophic failure.

The BRZ has a water pump that many owners have complained about failing and leaking fluid.

A bad water pump could kill your BRZ’s motor.

If you see the engine temperature gauge rising higher and higher as you drive it, a bad water pump often is the problem.

If your BRZ is still subject to the manufacturer’s warranty, that should cover the cost of a replacement water pump, but that might mean replacing a defective unit with another one that eventually will fail sooner than its intended service life is complete.

If your BRZ no longer is under warranty, you could replace the stock water pump with a more durable aftermarket model that will ensure your BRZ enjoys the effects of good coolant flowing through the engine block and radiator.

It also helps to perform an annual flush and fill of the coolant to make sure your car enjoys an ideal level of coolant.

An annual flush and fill will help to prevent mineral buildup inside the radiator and gives you the chance to closely inspect radiator hoses and ensure your engine has the best possible cooling system.

4. Bad Oxygen Sensors Cause Rough Running

A bad oxygen sensor will make any vehicle run poorly.

Unfortunately, the Subaru BRZ is prone to suffering from cracked oxygen sensors that are supposed to maximize fuel economy.

But when an oxygen sensor is cracked, it cannot suit its intended purpose.

The oxygen sensors on the BRZ can harden from the engine heat and form cracks. Those cracks make it virtually impossible to correctly assess oxygen levels and adjust the valves to produce the ideal air-fuel mixture.

Thankfully, the problem generally is simple and affordable to fix.

Subaru realized it had a problem with the oxygen sensors that it mounted to its legendary boxer motor on virtually all of its models. So the automaker improved the sensors and could replace a defective one if your BRZ is still covered by the factory warranty.

5. Bad Oil Pump Seal Might Ruin the Engine

Subaru oil pumps sometimes malfunction sooner than they should. A defective oil pump endangers the engine and could cause excessive oil consumption. If you see the oil pressure dropping while the engine temperature gauge is rising, a defective oil pump is a likely culprit.

The primary problem with the Subaru oil pump is that is has a bad seal.

The oil pump seal often will form cracks long before it should, which enables oil to pass through.

The defective seal makes the oil pump less effective and helps to shorten its life.

Because of the potential for a leaking oil pump, you should keep a close eye on the oil level. If you regularly lose oil and need to top off the motor on a nearly weekly basis, an oil leak is likely.

You can check for oil accumulation on the engine and near the oil pump to confirm if the seal is leaking.

A warrantied BRZ should enable Subaru to correct the problem. If your BRZ no longer enjoys warranty protection, you might choose an aftermarket seal that is more durable than the OEM seal.

You also might consider replacing the oil pump with an OEM unit or a better-performing aftermarket model.

6. Failing ABS Brake Control Module Compromises Safety

ABS brakes help you to stop smoothly without losing traction.

The braking system makes it much safer to drive in snowy or rainy weather and to make sudden stops without losing control of your vehicle.

A sports car needs excellent brakes to deliver the best performance and handling. Unfortunately, BRZ owners have complained about a failing brake control module that negates the intended effects of the ABS brakes.

The problem often resides within the ABS brake control module, which could fail and render the ABS system useless. 

The problem mostly resides with the earliest models of the BRZ because Subaru recognized the problem and corrected it about five years into the BRZ’s manufacturing run. So recent models are less likely to be afflicted with the problematic ABS control module.

New models are equipped with a removable ABS control module, which makes it very easy to replace. A warranty service could correct the problem quickly and easily with no cost to you.

7. Defective Head Gaskets Decrease Motor Performance

The aluminum head on the BRZ helps to reduce engine weight, which enables better power to weight for the popular sports car.

Unfortunately, virtually all aluminum heads could warp when subjected to heat.

A warped aluminum head makes it possible for the gasket to fail and oil to leak out, which you would recognize as excessive oil consumption. You also might notice oil accumulating beneath the engine if you part it in the same spot on a daily basis.

It also is possible for the head gasket to fail without the head warping. No matter what the cause might be, a bad head gasket is bad news for your BRZ.

A replacement head gasket that is more durable than the stock unit also will help to cut down on excessive oil consumption.

If the head is the problem, you might have to replace it. At the very least, you would need to have it machined flat to even out the high and low spots.

General Pros and Cons for the Subaru BRZ

The Subaru BRZ is a very fun and fast sports car that also is affordable. That combination of performance and affordability makes it a winner by any measure. So does its use of the four-cylinder Subaru boxer engine.

Like all Subarus, the BRZ has all-wheel drive and a horizontally opposed motor that helps it to run circles around competing models.

The BRZ comes with an exceptional power-to-weight ratio, but its relatively new design has led to some common problems for its owners.

Careful maintenance and paying close attention to the problems listed above could help to prevent serious issues from arising.

If one or more does, Subaru has the right fix at the ready to help you keep it on the road or even the track if you enjoy club racing.

What you gain in performance you generally sacrifice in reliability, and many owners modify their BRZs to boost performance.

That makes the BRZ a less than ideal vehicle to buy on the used car market.

What Do the Reviews Say?

The Subaru BRZ is in its second generation of production and benefits from having a naturally aspirated, 2.4-liter flat-four boxer engine. It is a very fun and great-looking sports car that weighs less than 3,000 pounds.

The lack of a turbocharger might frustrate some buyers, but it helps to keep the cost and weight lower.

A turbocharger likely would add a significant amount to the selling price for a car that already provides drivers with an excellent power-to-weight ratio.

The lack of a turbocharger also helps to lower maintenance and ownership costs. Aftermarket upgrades are certain to make the BRZ go even faster.

Its boxer engine helps to keep the Subaru’s center of gravity lower than an inline four. It also helps to improve the handling and performance of the 2,843-pound sports car.

A well-maintained engine is very reliable and capable of producing good fuel economy – especially when compared to other sports cars.

The Subaru BRZ offers excellent bang for the buck, looks great, and is a winner without even going onto a racetrack, but it can win there, too.

What’s the Resale Value on the Subaru BRZ?

The Subaru BRZ is a relatively affordable sports car, which helps to ensure it holds its value better than most vehicles.

The BRS loses only a quarter of its value during the first five years of ownership, which is a truly impressive feat.

If you drive it for less than 12,000 miles per year, it could hold its resale value even more.

Regular maintenance and paying close attention to potential problems known to exist in the BRZ and virtually all other Subaru models will help to maximize its value on the used market.

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