We've found a common problem with the new GR86 and Subaru BRZ, and it affects USDM and JDM cars equally.
A while back, we covered a warranty claim on the Toyota GR86. After much press coverage and a little hullabaloo, Toyota said it'd replace Blake Alvarado's blown GR86 motor. But while investigating Alvarado's case, we found a worrying trend. One that we feel GR86 (and Subaru BRZ) owners ought to know about. GR86 owners in both the US and Japan have begun reporting clogged oil pickups due to excessive silicone sealant in their oil pans.
What does that mean for GR86 owners? Nothing good. In short, it can lead to engine failure, and may even be grounds for a recall if enough owners report the issue to Toyota and the NHTSA. For now, let's get into what this issue is, what causes it, and what can be done to prevent it.
First, let's start with what causes the issue. RTV is a silicone sealant used by Subaru in the construction of both the GR86 and the BRZ's boxer-four engine. The sealant is very good at its job, keeping oil in your pan and off the street. However, the engine in the GR86 and BRZ must also suck oil out of this pan and into the motor through a straw-like apparatus called the oil pickup. This is where the problem appears to start.
It looks like Subaru and Toyota used excessive amounts of RTV silicone sealant around the cars' oil pans. As a result, the RTV comes off over a period of time, eventually finding its way into the oil pickup, as pictured below. It then clogs the pickup, starving the engine of oil until you're left on the side of the road wondering what happened.
Thankfully, a Japanese owner has already detailed the issue in tandem with an American owner. Again, it should be rather concerning that the same incident is happening simultaneously on both USDM and JDM cars. However, we must note that we haven't heard of any BRZ issues yet.
Over in Japan, CSO Car Fool Blog (henceforth, CSO) noticed the issue back in July of this year. We apologize for any mistranslations, but it appears that CSO is detailing the same RTV issue as the YouTube channel Photomikes Garage. Both tore down their respective GR86s and found the exact same thing as the above Twitter user: RTV in the engine oil pickup.
At this point, we should note that mileage doesn't seem to have anything to do with the issue. Our Twitter user from above claims their car had just 800 kilometers (around 500 miles) on the car when they found RTV packed into the pickup. It's largely unconfirmed, but based on photos of Alvarado's motor (the one that blew up) found on his Facebook profile, this could be what killed his engine. The dealer even noted engine failure due to oil starvation as a cause of the damage on Alvarado's car, and it's what sent us down the rabbit hole in the first place.
Toyota did eventually relent and replace Alvarado's motor and has since issued a statement on 86 engine failures, though this is specifically in regard to track use for the GR86 and not the RTV issue. In short, Toyota will evaluate each warranty claim on a case-by-case basis and will not decline your warranty if you've tracked your 86. You can read the full statement linked above. Clearly, Toyota is not saying there's a problem yet, which is why owners may need to force a recall.
Toyota's stance on the GR86's engine and warranty scope aside, other owners have started to take notice. There's currently a running thread on the GR86.org forum that compiles many of the owners we've discussed here and the issues they and others have faced. One post, again from a Japanese Twitter user, shows just how much RTV can end up in these motors. The gallery below says it all. This user's engine appears to have been saved from an oil diet, but the issue could have quickly killed the owner's car.
Thankfully, as of July 31, we do have an instance of an American owner getting their engine replaced under warranty for the RTV issue. GR86.org forum user 'toeout'has reported that their GR86 is "currently at the dealer waiting on a short block." He explains: "They are replacing it under warranty this time but told me that under these 'circumstances' they would not do it the second time." The owner also notes that there was "an overrev event" to 7,900 rpm around 2,000 miles before their engine failed.
Once again, it appears that for now at least, Toyota is taking this issue on a case-by-case basis. Which, of course, is concerning when this issue can occur at any point. Based on the sources we've accumulated, there is no rhyme or reason as to which cars have the issue, only that they are new GR86 models.
So, that leaves us with one final question: what can owners do? Frankly, if you've got a GR86, a few sockets, and a spare afternoon, go drop your oil pan or take it to the dealer. Ask your dealer to examine the oil pickup for excess RTV sealant, and if found, to clean it under the car's powertrain warranty. With any luck, it'll be cost-free for owners, but we can't guarantee that. This is only a suggested course of action. We'd caution against DIY-ing this unless you absolutely have to, as a nice, clean paper trail will be your friend by the time Toyota asks you why you need your motor replaced under warranty.
Should things not escalate that far, this fix should be relatively simple. Dealers (or shadetree mechanics) will need to drop the oil pan, disassemble the pickup, then thoroughly clean and reassemble both, this time using less of that RTV goop. In this case, RTV sealant really is too much of a good thing.