This 2013 Scion FR-S Went Up in Flames After Valve Spring Recall

The car caught fire two weeks and 2,000 miles after having its valve springs replaced.

kimkong1981/FT86Club

Last week, we reported on the steadily growing number of 2013 Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ owners reporting engine failures shortly after taking their cars in for a valve spring-related recall. The story centered around a registry thread on the FT86Club forums containing owner accounts of their sports cars failing—often on the side of the road. Full disclosure: I am one of those owners. Last time we checked, the thread contained 17 incidents (15 Scions and 2 Subarus). As of Friday morning, the count is at 30 (27 Scions and 3 Subarus). 

Included in that list is forum user kimkong1981, who goes by Mike in most other real-life forums and whose FR-S reportedly went up in flames two weeks after doing the valve spring recall. 

According to Mike, he took his car in to Toyota of Berkeley for the service on January 29, got the car back and, much like myself, didn't think anything of it for a couple of weeks. On February 17, three hours into a drive on California's Highway 1, Mike "tapped the brakes to slow down" at around 25 to 30 mph before feeling the rear tires of the FR-S give out and seeing the traction control light flash, which was peculiar given the low speed and dry conditions. 

Taking his foot off and on the brake again produced the same result. Suspecting a brake issue, he then downshifted from third to second gear. "After second was engaged, [I] heard a pop, saw the hood jump up as if something inside hit it," he wrote. 

After coasting around a hairpin turn, Mike apparently began to "feel my feet and legs get burning hot." He then "saw flames through the window coming from the driver's side tire well." So he stopped and exited the vehicle ASAP. "Fire spread and engulfed the entire car. Total loss."

kimkong1981/FT86Club
kimkong1981/FT86Club

Mike says the incident occurred at around 72,000 miles—2,000 miles after he brought the car in for the recall. He has since filed a report with NHTSA and is currently waiting for an insurance payout.

We reached out to Mike, who told us he was by himself at the time of the fire and that the only modifications done to his car were a factory-approved TRD intake and exhaust. "I made sure to only go with TRD products because they were official Toyota products," he told us. The only aftermarket mod done to Mike's Scion was apparently a Kenwood navigation system.

"[I think] the car is in a scrapyard in Sacramento, insurance is in process of taking ownership of it. Police and fire aren't investigating it, they were just more concerned no one was hurt and clearing it off the highway," Mike added. "Insurance is more interested in paying out and not investigating cause."

When we brought the story to Toyota, the company declined to comment on whether this incident was recall-related, and instead encouraged Mike to reach out to its Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331. In response to the slew of owner-reported engine failures post-recall, the automaker issued this statement: "The safety and security of our customers is a top priority. We are investigating reports regarding issues involving certain Scion FR-S vehicles after the engine valve spring recall remedy was completed. No other information is available at this time." 

Toyota added that it continues to urge affected FR-S owners to bring their cars in for the valve spring recall if they have not done so already.