Home » 2022 Subaru WRX Owners Are Finding RTV Clogging Their Oil Pickup Tubes But It’s Not Clear How Big Of A Deal It Is

2022 Subaru WRX Owners Are Finding RTV Clogging Their Oil Pickup Tubes But It’s Not Clear How Big Of A Deal It Is

Subaru Wrx Rtv Issue

Subaru reliability is a common joke in car circles, but not all models are bad news. The FA20F in the old WRX is quite reliable at stock power levels, plus the FA20D in the Mk1 BRZ seems alright aside from valve spring issues on 2013 models. However, just when it felt like Subaru had turned a corner, some 2022 Subaru WRX owners are experiencing a concerning issue, other than being made fun of for plastic cladding.

The problem is something Mk2 Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86 owners are growing all too familiar with – excessive RTV sealant clogging the oil pickup tube, potentially resulting in engine failure due to insufficient oiling. So why cover it now? Well, up until very recently, it was thought to be isolated to the BRZ’s FA24D engine, but that’s clearly not the case.

First, a primer on RTV. It’s a silicone sealant with RTV standing for Room Temperature Vulcanization, meaning that it cures at room temperature. Subaru doesn’t just use RTV on the oil pan; the stuff is also used on the timing cover, between the halves of the engine casing, and in various other locations. Strategically-applied RTV is great because it’s relatively cheap, effective, and can seal narrow mating surfaces you’d have a hard time getting a gasket on. It’s also very resistant to high temperatures and doesn’t shrink much — ideal for forming gaskets.

However, RTV should be applied sparingly in narrow beads, yet Subaru seems to be taking the opposite approach. After all, why would chunks be finding their way into the oil pickup tube screen? Speaking of the oil pickup tube screen, let’s talk about Subaru’s design. Here’s a look at the pickup tube, which sucks oil from the pan to be distributed elsewhere:

It’s likely a little bit difficult to see what’s going on here, so I’ll break it down for you. While loose chunks of sealant are clogging up the oil pickup screen, they aren’t clogging up the entire thing. Subaru uses a five-sided oil pickup screen on FA24F engines that’s a basket with the silhouette of a Zippo lighter. Even if one face is completely clogged with RTV, there’s still surface area for some oil to move through.

However, RTV impeding oil flow through any part of the pickup tube generally isn’t great. After all, resistance impedes flow. Just because a partially-clogged oil pickup screen can still flow enough oil to keep things happy when puttering about town, that doesn’t mean expected oil flow will be maintained while hitting redline. Plus, an RTV blockage on one facet of the screen could lead to another issue – possible cavitation.

 

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A post shared by Prime Motoring (@primemotoring)

Adding insult to potential injury, Subaru shop Prime Motoring of Wallington, N.J. reports that the level of disassembly necessary to get at the oil pickup screen is fairly substantial. The exhaust header sits in the way of the oil pan, so it must come off first, then the pan has to be dropped to get a good look at the screen. Should you wish to remove the actual pickup tube for a thorough cleaning, the timing cover allegedly has to be removed, meaning several hours of labor to get things right.

What’s more, this isn’t an isolated issue. As you can see from embedded media, StepUp Automotive of Gold Coast, Australia, and American YouTuber Widebody Nation have also encountered this RTV issue, while Prime Motoring has found it on multiple cars, and several private owners have found it on their own time, like this one. While I can’t say that this problem affects all 2022 Subaru WRX models, multiple vehicles on two continents definitely indicates a pattern.

2022 Subaru Wrx Rtv Issue

Since the FA24F goes into a significant chunk of the Subaru lineup from the Ascent to the Legacy GT, one could be forgiven for assuming that some sort of oil-deprived death awaits many modern Subarus. However, because of the oil pickup screen design, it’s unlikely that an RTV clog on one side of the screen will present serious issues in the near term; maybe if you’re really tracking your WRX.

So, if you do plan on driving your 2022 Subaru WRX hard, what can you do? Well, it doesn’t hurt to pull the oil pan and clear out any chunks of RTV that may have accumulated, but it’s also not a bad idea to check the oil filter media for debris. It’s a canister-style filter so it’ll need to be cut open, but it should be a good early indicator before things get really bad. Also, it’s possible for bits of RTV to end up on the dipstick, so frequent checking of oil level isn’t a bad idea.

This RTV problem also an issue that Subaru Ascent, Outback XT, and Legacy GT owners may want to watch out for as mileage racks up, but 2022 Subaru WRX owners should be especially mindful given how the WRX is meant to be driven. Still, clear the RTV out every so often, and you should be sideways on gravel for years to come.

(Photo credits: Subaru, Facebook)

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40 Responses

  1. The Suzuki SX4 had a similar problem in its first year in Canada. Some RTV would end up clogging an oil passage in the head somewhere and kill the engine. The fix was a new engine on warranty.

    Found out about this when in for an oil change at a dealer and saw a mechanic rebuilding an SX4 engine and asked the service manager what was up. He explained the problem (not a universal problem). But for him, the real problem was that Suzuki wasn’t able to supply a complete engine for the repair, they would get a short block and a giant box of parts! This sucked for him as this dealership only had 2 mechanics and scheduling around one rebuilding an engine was not fun.

    1. I had an early FR-S and the engine blew (I assume valve springs, but didn’t really care). I believe it was a similar situation for the dealer, who took a month to complete the engine replacement.

  2. How big a deal is it?
    It cannot be understated how fucking massive a deal this is.

    Not because it’s killing motors, not because it’s widespread, but because this is at least the third fucking time that Subaru’s completely fucked up engine manufacturing! THREE TIMES!
    What, you forgot? They fought the NHTSA for years over breaking valve springs. (Your 12-14 Impreza, BRZ, XV, and Scion FR-S are owed a new engine if you haven’t already gotten one.) \
    “But wait, third?” Yeah, tens of thousands of Imprezas and Crosstreks were recalled due to their idiotic aluminum PCV design having a fondness for being sucked into the engine and destroying the shortblock. They’re not the only ones with the problem, just the only recall they’ve admitted to so far.
    Nevermind the dozens of other defects they’ve had over the years, which can accurately be summarized as: “the entire history of their products.”

    And that’s not counting recall after recall after recall they’ve fought tooth and nail against. Brake recalls, transmission selection recalls, transmission fire recalls, and they drag every one out as long as they can. That’s why you don’t hear so much about it. They fight tooth and nail against admitting every defect, then avoid publicizing at all costs. (So what if a few more people die due to the steering column shaft detaching? There was a recall! It’s on them to get it done!)

    1. Ah, finally someone who is as fond of Subarus as I am. I’ve spent long enough on the tools to grow painfully bitter to the concept of owning a Subie.

    2. I feel like I have been lucky with my 2019 WRX. The FA20F seems to be one of the more reliable Subie engines. I also got the absolute base model so fewer electronics to break and most importantly, no CVT.

      1. In fairness Honda of today is not Honda of 20 years ago, either. Honda has been screwing people on rusty CR-Vs and oil diluted 1.5l engines recently.

  3. I’ve only seen this with inexperienced enthusiasts doing engine assembly in a couple of cases tragic. I find it hard to believe a major manufacturer would let this happen, but there it is.

    My wife drives a 2012 Subaru Impreza it has been mostly OK, but definitely not trouble free, nothing to leave it at the side of the road. I don’t see them as good value, the OEM parts are comparatively expensive at least in Canada.

  4. RTV in the oil pickup used to be a good sign that an amateur had rebuilt your engine, Subaru is really committed to the full shitbox experience!

    Saying this as we have five Subarus in the family….

    1. That’s exactly what killed the engine in my GT6 shortly after I bought it, only it’s a step worse than that. Previous owner decided to seal the oil pan with clear household silicone rather than proper RTV. Stuff that doesn’t react well to oil. It broke apart and clogged the oil pickup tube. The resulting starvation caused major damage to nearly everything in that motor.
      On the bright side, I learned how to rebuild an engine and it gave me something to do during the pandemic lockdown…

  5. This seems to be a pretty widespread issue amongst current Subaru engines. SavageGeese mentioned this in their latest video update on Jack’s GR86.

  6. A man, newly deceased, approached the Pearly Gates. Saint Peter was standing nearby, list in hand, waiting patiently.

    As the man arrives, Saint Peter meets his eyes, and with a soft smile, says, “In Heaven, humor is very, very important. I will let you pass through these gates to experience the rapture within if you can tell a joke that makes me laugh.”

    The man paused, with a quizzical look on his face, obviously caught off guard by the Saint’s request. But after a couple moments, he recalled what was easily the greatest joke he knew. Possibly the greatest of all time. He recited it and shortly afterward, was reunited with his friends and loved ones in Heaven.

    Behind him, the man could still heard Saint Peter’s amused chuckling.

    “Subaru reliability…oh, my!” he guffawed.

  7. Ah yes, the Autopian, the number one resource of getting rid of your Subaru addiction.
    Fine, my next car will probably be a Mazda.
    I hope you’re happy.

  8. Shop manual procedure to R&R the oil pan and clean oil pickup:
    Remove timing cover, scraping off excess RTV
    Remove pan, scraping off excess RTV
    Clean oil pump pickup screen of excess RTV
    Liberally coat the oil pan and block mating surfaces with RTV
    Reinstall oil pan
    Liberally coat the front cover and block mating surfaces with RTV
    Reinstall front cover

  9. “Subaru reliability is a common joke in car circles, but not all models are bad news.”

    It’s a common joke see: HeAd GaSkEtS.
    I’ll admit they have a lot of recalls and recently some bad engine design/manufacturing issues, and to address someone’s comment “Hyundai/Kia just says “hold my beer!”, calculate those recalls against production numbers and yikes, Subaru isn’t looking good. But to be fair historically: the head gasket issue was limited to one engine, and was a design flaw in the GASKET, not the engine. Maybe you can also criticize them for not designing an engine capable of being woefully mistreated (like Honda I guess?). But out of my 6 Subarus the previous 4 have died glorious deaths at the hands of other drivers, not Subaru. They just can’t be ignored, or worse, tuned and ignored, triple worse, badly tuned and ignored. They are not appliance cars, you need to pay attention to them, do the maintenance suggested on your dealer visits, or if you do your own work** address those little leaks, noises etc. yeah you spend some time under the car, but none on the side of the road.

    “So, if you do plan on driving your 2022 Subaru WRX hard, what can you do? Well, it doesn’t hurt to pull the oil pan and clear out any chunks of RTV that may have accumulated, but it’s also not a bad idea to check the oil filter media for debris. It’s a canister-style filter so it’ll need to be cut open, but it should be a good early indicator before things get really bad.”

    Wait isn’t Subaru doing anything? I’m really advised to drop the oil pan on my (potentially) 6 month old car to look for RTV? I mean it’s very good advice coming from y’all but seems like a) Subaru should do the inspection. b) Wouldn’t pulling the oil pan and associated parts be problematic with the warranty?

    **I mean this in the most and least sarcastic way possible, in that changing your oil is admirable, but if you can’t tell if that seepage is “normal” 100K miles leaking or a soon to be catastrophic failure, you’re not doing yourself any favors by eschewing professionals. I fully support home mechanics maintaining their cars, I do, but I get very familiar with the cars so that anything out of place I notice. Forgoing the dealership will bite you in the ass if you miss a HeAd GaSkEt about to go..

  10. Back around 1971, I was working as a mechanic for Five Flags Foreign Automotive of San Bernardino, CA between the end of my nine year tour in the Marine Corps and my eighteen year tour in the Army.
    When the Army gave me my first set of orders sending me to Ft. Sill, OK I went into scramble mode to try and get my ’62 Triumph TR3B ready for the trip from CA to OK. One of the jobs I undertook was to rebuild the carbs, which I did using 3M “baby shit yellow” RTV due to a lack of gaskets.
    On this trip I got as far as Albuquerque, NM when the TR stuttered, sputtered and ground to a halt. As I was in a time crunch, I had the car towed to the local Triumph dealer where it was parked against the wall to await my return.
    Eight months later I returned with a tool bag and just a bit over $100 in my pocket. Just on a hunch, I decided to start with the carbs, reasoning that it was the last major thing I had done before the problem presented itself. Lo an behold, both float bowls had little gobs of purplish yellow rubbery shit floating in it. Both float valves had little strings of the same material clogging to float valves. It was of course 3M RTV that had broken down on exposure to gasoline and turned to gunk.

    Ahah!! Finally a connection to this story!

  11. Why does this keep happening? Doesn’t it make sense to change the install procedure of their oil pans at this point. Do they like the idea of class action suits on the horizon? It just seems so stupid that this keeps coming up.

  12. This isn’t the first vehicle to have issues with a clogged oil pickup screen.

    The Saabs with the 2L and 2.3L turbos of the 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s had the same issue.

    The solution is that you drop the pan and check the screen every 100,000km.

    I did that with the Saab I had and the engine was still running strong after 397,000km. But there were other Saab owners whose engines died well before that for this exact reason.

  13. My son just bought a ’23 Outback Wilderness. After some research I see they came with the FA24F as well. I wonder if there is any way he can get the dealer to check for this problem.

    1. I would think that they could feed a small articulating camera probe in through the oil pan drain hole. Even if the RTV isn’t piling up, they could see if there was excess sealant showing inside the pan.

      Then again, they probably don’t want the customer to know since they’d get hounded to preventively fix the issue.

  14. Overall, the NA FB25B seems to be fairly reliable. I was worried about the CVT auto, but that seems to be holding up well enough for my parents as well. I cannot say the same about the Focus Ecobost 2.0 with Powershift DCT my gramps had.

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