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Scion FRS, Subaru BRZ owners facing engine software problem

The new Scion FRS and the Subaru BRZ have hit the market with instant popularity but the internet is abuzz over an engine idle problem that the two automakers claim is caused by a “software bug” related to the variable valve timing system – with the two companies taking differing views on how this problem needs to be fixed.


The Scion FRS and Subaru BRZ are both equipped with an engine control unit (ECU) that is designed to adapt to the driving style of the new owner during the first 100 miles or so. This system pays close attention to a variety of input parameters such as throttle input to alter the engine operation to optimize both performance and efficiency. Unfortunately, it seems that this system is running into an issue where, once the driver’s habits are learned by the ECU, pushing the car beyond a range of the predetermined parameters can cause the engine controller to get confused.

Basically, if the owner of the Scion FRS or Subaru BRZ drives like a little old lady most of the time and then begins to hammer on the car at a track day or something – the ECU may be pushed out of the parameters of what was learned during the first 100 miles. When this happens, the FRS or BRZ may run or idle rough as the ECU works adjust to the new driving conditions and in the worst case scenario, the Toyota or Subaru sports coupe could stall when the ECU is out of the normal range. When this problem occurs, the check engine light will illuminate with the code P0019 being the cause on diagnostic equipment.

Toyota intends to fix the problem with the Scion FRS by reflashing the ECU so that it can adjust to a wider range of parameters once the initial learning process has been set – provided that the vehicle is within the first 100 miles. If the vehicle has more than 100 miles on the odometer, Toyota expects that the dealership will replace the ECU with one already programmed with the new parameters intact. Interestingly, Subaru does not believe that replacing the ECU is necessary regardless of the mileage on the vehicle. A Subaru spokesman insisted that the problem is in the coding and not in the ECU itself so the problem can be fixed simply be reprogramming the engine control unit.

The good news is that vehicles delivered to dealerships since mid-August already have the proper engine control program installed so new Scion FRS and Subaru BRZ owners shouldn’t have any problem. However, for those who have already purchased their FRS or BRZ who have experienced the problem – the repairs have gone far beyond a reflash of the ECU.

According to Automotive News, some owners of the Subaru BRZ and Scion FRS have had to replace engine components like the VVTi cam gear, the oil control valve, camshaft bearing, camshaft gears, and camshaft position sensors. Making matters for those owners worse is the fact that many of these items are on backorder so the problem isnt getting fixed in much of a rush. Also, some of those owners still facing these problems have already had their car to the dealership for the recommended ECU reflash or replacement – with no change in the problem.

Both Subaru and Toyota declined to say how many versions of the new FRS and BRZ could be affected nor are they saying how many complaints have been formally filed but Automotive News claims that over 100 complaints have been registered with the enthusiast community FT86Club.

I have had the pleasure of spending a few miles behind the wheel of a new Scion FRS and it was a fantastic, fun car to drive but engine idle and stalling issues in a sports car (or any car) is a good way to turn off enthusiasts…and enthusiasts are a major driving force in the sports car market. Let’s hope that Toyota and Subaru collaborate to get this problem fixed quickly.

Source: Automotive News


FRS Driver (not verified)    October 11, 2012 - 4:11PM

I have 1954 miles on my FRS and now my car is back at the dealer because of this. The same dealer told me a guy that bought the same car only had 128 miles on his car before his ECU messed up. I love my car i hope Toyota will fix the problems with this sweet car quickly and correctly. Then repair any of the problems this may cause down the road....

Anonymous (not verified)    October 18, 2012 - 4:41PM

hearing about this problem and other smaller problems with the FR-S kept me from buying one this morning. Although this problem is well-documented on the web, the salesman i dealt with refused to believe any of it, although i printed out a dozen pages of information. The head of the service department ( I was dealing with the largest Toyota dealership in Central Virginia) also had not heard of this and says Toyota had not sent out any information on such a problem. very discouraging. I had my choice of red or blue and walked away with disgusted.

Anonymous (not verified)    November 4, 2012 - 4:35PM

Have over 8,000 miles on my FRS and love it. Not one issue so far! Maybe that's because I have always driven it the way it's suppose to be driven! ;)

JOE LEE (not verified)    November 4, 2012 - 11:04PM

I got the FRS at Nov02 night, the next day morning, my car had this problem at its 50 miles. Now, it backs to the dealer.
After mid-August , they replaced with a new ECU. ???

shane shipman (not verified)    January 14, 2014 - 3:26AM

Almost 12 thousand miles on my frs not one problem yet .drive it like you Stoll it that will keep it out of the dealerships garage! That's what I do with mine. Love my scion. Let's all pray for boost in the future.

Roy perez (not verified)    August 8, 2014 - 9:10PM

52 k on my frs. Threw a rod in the engine. Toyota has had since june 8th. They refuse to fix. They want me to pay 2300 for them to tear down and then see if it was a warrantable issue. All oil changes were performed as noted in the manual. They accused me of using wrong oil, too much oil, not enough oil, not doing oil changes. Scion rep is sending me the forms to file a lemon law claim. Loved the car while it was running but extremely unhappy with toyota/scion fulfilling their corporate responsibility to their warranty.

Daryl Aud (not verified)    September 11, 2020 - 2:47PM

In reply to by Roy perez (not verified)

Mine threw number 4 at 78k. Although out of warranty, there is something not right about engines dying before 100k. Did all maintenance above and beyond. Not to mention, I also had to replace the throwout bearing at 62k. Toyota refused to fix both times. I ended up getting a used short block and throwing it in on my own. I was a fan of Toyota till this fiasco happened

Nic (not verified)    November 8, 2014 - 3:43AM

this issue hit me to but it worked out for me in tje long run. well kinda..... my frs is boosted with a aem EMS ECU 679hp twin scroll gt35r turbo. carbon fiber dive shaft, Crower rods, JP heads, ported compression housing, hks cams and all sorts of other goodies I mean u name it. it was done, but the initial reason for my engine build was because of this issue. at 243 miles my frs was acting like a DSM talon and I almost cried myself to the dealership at that point but ended up getting this milfs number instead so I wasn't to sad....but back to the story. when I got to the dealership they said the issue was driver error related not ECU issues and after some bickering back and forth I flipped off my car and the service department and i decided to make my frs fast because lets face it, its slow. i mean i got pulled by a freaking mini for crying out loud merging onto the free way but at least i looked good losing to a mini lol well anyway I ended up taking my frs to a local high performance shop that builds supras and GTRs and what not and told them to make my car give me giggles when i hit the gas instead of frowns and well I ended up with one beastly frs. only cost me about 32k out of pocket which I got for selling my $50k super duty to Carmax and lost money on it but hey. it was worth it...... well...... not really cuz I prolly should have just bought a better car for 32k like a 3.8 gen coupe or a Lexus or BMW...... crap..... maybe i made a bad idea thinking about it haha oops >.< but hey the look on corvette owners faces when they see me pull away is priceless !!! so guess it was worth it. sometimes lol

Marie (not verified)    March 1, 2015 - 11:46AM

In reply to by Nic (not verified)

Should have got a 3.8 genesis... I'm no! You would have to spend so much money in the suspension to drive as well as the FRS . I've owned both. I would choose my FRS ... Even NA and slow over the genesis.

Roy (not verified)    November 18, 2014 - 9:59PM

i have 25,000 miles on my frs and my light came on and the code popped up. I've had it reflashed but it didn't work. I found another one out of a totaled frs but will that work if I had it reprogrammed?

Bryan S (not verified)    May 31, 2015 - 1:37AM

I have a 2013 scion FRS limited edition that is now boosted to 15 psi, cold air intake, methanol injection, header back exhaust, clutch, 10lb flywhell, full light weight pully upgrade and and an open flash tablet linked to the ems. Over my time driving, i can feel the differances when i drive arround town then mash the throttle and say after i get on the road after a track day. The ems does actively manage the motor based on driving style and it seams to be active without problem on my setup. Ive never had it tuned past what i know how to do myself with ems coding. If anything, going to a tune shop that can overwrite the existing "active tune" would be the best... ive just been to lazy to do it myself... :/

Roy L (not verified)    September 14, 2015 - 8:39PM

hi guys, I bought my 2013 frs used and had a rebuilt title from the front bumper accident. It wasn't a bad accident just a lot of cosmetic stuff. Around 21,000 miles the light came on and threw the p0019 code. I had it reflashed and it didn't work... The dealership is not wanting to even talk to me cause it's not under warranty. How can this be fixed. Oh, and will that effect programming a new master key to my car? Since my others were stolen. Thank you

Marty Kennedy (not verified)    April 10, 2019 - 8:54PM

My 20 yr old collage student daughter just bought a 2013 frs and now has this code p0018, I changed the vvt/ sensor on intake cam side. The code remains and now we are scared to even start 5he car. Is there a service bulletin or warrenty, the car has 70kms on it and is only 6 yrs old now! Gad it at dealer in the fall and they scanned it a and said they font know what's wrong and they can just start replacing parts at our cost, I paid for the scan and left with the car and code on, any help would be appreciated! Thank you