Buying a used Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ? Here are the common problems to look out for

Jason · Dec 26, 2020 02:00 PM

Today, you can pick up a used or reconditioned Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ for around RM 90-150k and there are plenty of choices. As you can still buy an unregistered unit from grey importers, you can still get financing at affordable rates. By now, most of the common problems have been identified and fixes are available. Even then, what should you look out for?

History of the Toyobaru Twins

When these 2 models made its world debut back in 2012, the automotive world lost its collective minds. Here was an affordable, fun-to-drive RWD sports car. Powering the rear wheels is the FA20 2.0-litre flat four engine pushing out 200 PS and 205 Nm. It was available in manual or automatic (both 6-speed), further expanding its appeal.

In 2016, both models got a facelift (called Kouki) to keep things fresh. Power was bumped up to an 'earth-shattering' 205 PS while torque remained the same. Exterior wise, changes extended to new bumpers, wheels, head and tail lamps. Inside, Kouki models received a new steering wheel and semi-digital instrument cluster.

Both cars rolled off Subaru's production facility in Gunma, Japan.

Is it reliable?

Short answer, yes. In the time I’ve owned the Subaru BRZ, maintenance has been relatively painless. Do your periodic maintenance on time (engine transmission and LSD fluid), and the car will run flawlessly. Even taking into account that my own car does see occasional track days, autocrosses and gymkhana activities, it has never missed a beat.

Having said that, there was a recall campaign of 86 and BRZ models that had a valve spring defect (manufacture year 2012-2013). My car was one of those affected, and subsequently underwent the recall job. A year on from the valve spring replacement, the car is still running stoutly (2 weeks after the recall, it went for a track day). Kudos to TC Subaru for managing this recall campaign efficiently.

What could potentially happen if you don't change your valve springs. 
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Therefore, if you’re looking to buy a used or reconditioned unit, do look out for this valve spring issue if the car falls under the aforementioned manufacture years.

For early manual models, it is imperative to get your transmission throw-out bearing replaced. This isn’t a recall part but is prone to failure, which would destroy your clutch fork too. Moreover, it is a relatively inexpensive part.

What a worn throw-out bearing looks like

Another part to keep any eye on is the steering rack. Many owners have complained about a knocking noise when turning the steering wheel at low speeds. This is a simple fix as the part causing the knocking sound is the steering damper. It is an inexpensive replacement and will very likely solve the issue.

Small fix for an annoying problem

On the topic of spare parts, they aren’t difficult to source despite this being a low-volume sports car model. Even if you can’t source original Toyota/Subaru parts, there is a thriving aftermarket ecosystem in Malaysia that enables you to find an equivalent or improved version of any spare part. 

Which model to get?

The most frequently-asked question I get is, “which one do I buy, the 86 or BRZ”? Personally, I have no preference, the priority is finding a mechanically sound unit and starting from there. In the end, buy the one that makes you happy.

Valve spring recall handled brilliantly by TC Subaru and Karrus Automotive

Variant-wise, if you’re looking for one to daily-drive while doing the occasional spirited weekend drive, plump for the GT Limited (86) or S (BRZ) variants. These come with keyless entry and push-start, a Torsen LSD and a nicer instrument cluster.

The barebones Subaru BRZ RA​​​​

However, if you’re looking to strip the car out to build a track-oriented weapon by adding all the modifications yourself, I suggest you go for the barebones RC (86) or RA (BRZ) variants. They do away with all the aforementioned features, even the Torsen LSD. What remains the same is the fun-to-drive factor.

What about prices?

A quick survey show that prices range from RM 90k for a used example, up to RM 150k for pre-facelift (Zenki) models. Up your budget to RM 170k onwards for Kouki models, but at this price point, it starts to lose its appeal.

Keep in mind that these prices are stated in platforms like Mudah, and the customary bargaining is still to be done. Depending on your haggling skills, you might just snag yourself a good deal.


The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ has been, in equal measure, lauded for its handling and dynamics, and derided for its lack of poke. No prizes for guessing which side of the fence I’m on. If you, like me, enjoy a good steer, this is all the car you’ll ever need. If you need more convincing, check out the video below.


Up to 20% higher than average trade-in price

2014 Toyota 86 2.0 (M)


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