Subaru BRZ years to avoid — most common problems
Discover the crucial Subaru BRZ years to avoid for a smarter car-buying decision.
When Subaru announced the BRZ model back in 2013, fans were quite skeptical as they didn’t know what to expect. With the reputation of the Impreza WRX and WRX STI, many drivers thought that the BRZ will be a completely different car from rally-based versions.
Well, the famous car brand surprised everyone with this amazing two-door compact sportscar with a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter boxer engine. The engine itself is a gem of the automotive industry, but what about the car itself and its reliability? You’ll find out about it all in this guide on the Subaru BRZ years to avoid as we go through it bit by bit based on model years.
Why you can trust REREV’s advice on which car model years to avoid: Our car experts look at official data, ask real drivers what they think, and talk to experienced mechanics to make sure our list is useful. This reliable info can make buying a car easier for you. Want to know how we do it? Find out more about our research methodology.
Most common Subaru BRZ problems
The BRZ is a pinnacle of a high-revving four-cylinder naturally-aspirated engine, full stop. It’s a unique powertrain you’ll find in the automotive world since the boxer engine is placed closer to the driver and slightly lower than the turbocharged engine. As a result, it offers impeccable steering and braking performance, perfect for hitting the track and pushing peak torque even on a lower rev range and all that without a turbo!
So, Subaru did a great job there since we don’t see a lot of “driver’s cars” these days. While this car is certainly worth buying for its driver feedback and impressive handling, there are a few problems we need to discuss. It’s a reliable car overall, but drivers have reported issues with head gasket cracks that simply can’t be overlooked. Another issue is in the cracked valve springs that harmed the engine, and these are the most serious issues.
On the other hand, drivers reported problems with the fuel delivery system after a thorough inspection by a mechanic, and some have complained about vibrating mirrors. Other than these, the BRZ didn’t have any major issues over 10 years of production before the introduction of a second-gen model.
With just four official recalls for the US market, it’s a car that gives you a great bang for your buck, but let’s see if we can figure out a bit more about the common problems just in case.
Problems with head gasket cracks
After some time of driving their first-gen BRZ, drivers have reported seeing slight oil and coolant leaks under the car. As it turns out, the vehicle suffers from teh potential to develop a head gasket crack. Some of the main symptoms of a blown head gasket include oil and coolant leaks and if these two mix up, the engine could completely seize.
The head gasket is supposed to keep the fluids sealed within the engine and prevent any sort of mixing up or leaking outside. So, it’s an expensive repair to make, but we have to hand it to Subaru since they made the aluminum head to reduce the weight. They thought about everything to give you the best driving experience, but it turns out that this decision wasn’t the best one for the car’s reliability.
Cracked valve springs
Besides the potential head gasket leaks, another engine-related issue that the BRZ comes with is in the cracked valve springs. In case of a valve spring fracture, there’s a risk of complete engine stalling and it’s the last thing you want to happen to such a capable powertrain as the boxer engine in this car.
Valve springs are essential for keeping the valves closed when necessary during the combustion cycle, so they may be left open in case of a spring fracture. This compromises the engine’s timing cycle and could potentially ruin the engine completely, resulting in a complete rebuild that’s quite expensive for this model.
Also, the specific design of the boxer engine requires an expert in these engines alone, and that’s also another difficulty since you may have a hard time finding the mechanic suitable for the job. Luckily, this problem was mostly present with the 2013 BRZ and it got resolved during an official recall that Subaru did in 2018. So, you have two options – either avoid the 2013 BRZ or make sure you get a unit that got its springs replaced by the manufacturer.
Fuel delivery system issues
Subaru BRZ cars are equipped with a low-pressure fuel pump that is supposed to push the fuel from the tank into the fuel lines and toward the injectors. However, these pumps are sadly prone to premature failure, so this may cause a lean condition and the engine not firing at all. Even worse, it could lead to a problem with engine stalling while driving which is something you probably wish to avoid at all costs.
The good thing is – Subaru also scheduled a recall to tackle this issue like the valve spring fracture problem, and it included the 2018-2019 BRZ models. There are some signs of this problem like reduced engine power, rough idling, and poor performance, but it’s better not to risk it and go with another BRZ model instead.
Finally, the last problem we’ll discuss luckily isn’t associated with crucial systems like the powertrain or the fuel delivery, but it can be a tricky issue. Namely, drivers have stated that the side mirrors shake and vibrate while driving at higher speeds, and that’s a bad thing for the visibility inside the cabin.
There’s also the matter of a bad camera inside the rearview mirror that’s supposed to turn on while driving in reverse. Overall, it’s worth checking the mirrors before buying a used BRZ so you hopefully won’t have a visibility issue.
Which Subaru BRZ years to avoid?
There are some Subaru BRZ years that are not as much of a good pick as others, and that’s perfectly fine. While we might have scared you with the listed issues, having 3 or 4 problems in the whole generation isn’t as bad as it sounds. It even means that the BRZ is a well-built vehicle overall, and you at least now have a chance to completely avoid the problematic editions.
Since the second generation of the BRZ has only started its journey recently, we’ll focus on the known first-gen years to avoid.
First-generation Subaru BRZ (2013 and 2018 model years)
The first model year of the BRZ still stands for a reliable car, but it’s the most problematic one out of all the BRZ models. It’s no wonder since it’s common for car manufacturers to test the new model with the initial year and fix the found problems later on, which is just what happened with this car.
The 2013 BRZ had a few issues with the engine cooling and valve spring cracks that we discussed. These are serious issues and it’s safer to go with a 2014 or 2015 one if you can afford it to avoid the trouble. Also, the initial model year struggled with misinformation about the passenger restraint system due to unclear statements in the owner’s manual.
Finally, the 2013 model struggled with some crucial sensors like oxygen sensors that provide information to the ECU and affect the combustion. The 2018 model had the most problems with the fuel delivery system, and while these were present with the 2019 model as well, they weren’t so frequent.
Best Subaru BRZ years
After going through the bad model years, it’s now time to focus on the best ones you can find on the used car market. For the first-gen Subaru BRZ in particular, the best model years are as listed below:
- 2015 Subaru BRZ
- 2016 Subaru BRZ
- 2017 Subaru BRZ
- 2019 Subaru BRZ
- 2020 Subaru BRZ
Despite the minor fuel delivery system issues, the 2019 BRZ stands for one of the best model years since it received the least complaints along with 2020 one. Still, the overall reliability of the car makes this model one of the best options on the market if you are looking for a responsive compact sportscar with considerable performance.
It can spin the wheels easily and create quite a show on controlled track conditions, and it’s fairly fun to drive on the road as well. You can skip the initial two production years just in case, but that doesn’t make those unreliable either. We simply wanted to warn you about the engine-related issues, so going with 2015 and later models will get you on the right track.
Is Subaru BRZ worth buying?
As the time comes to draw the line and decide on the reliability of the Subaru BRZ, our team had an easier job than it might have seemed after we listed the problems. To put it simply, it’s a genuinely good car with a lot of potential for customization, and it makes a reliable choice in this class.
Perhaps it’s even one of the most reliable compact sportscars and a worthy successor to the boxer engine dynasty that started with the Impreza. So, we can recommend this model to all interested buyers as long as you simply avoid the 2013 model due to engine issues.
What year BRZ is most reliable?
The 2019 and 2020 BRZ years are the most reliable based on the NHTSA reports and driver complaints.
Is the BRZ a reliable car?
Yes, the BRZ is a reliable car with a low number of complaints by owners, and the only exception is the 2013 model which had a few engine issues.
How long does Subaru BRZ last?
The Subaru BRZ can last up to 150,000 miles and even more with proper maintenance.
What problems do Subaru BRZ have?
Subaru BRZ has head gasket and valve spring issues in certain model years, as well as a few issues with the low-pressure fuel pump.