Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
FA/FB Subaru Engine Rocker Retainer Kit by Denstoj
Q: Does the issue occur under normal driving conditions and even with no modifications?
A: Yes. Unfortunately we’ve seen it happen across the rev range even on stock vehicles. The reason being that the rockers are free-floating. Under any situation where a valve sticks or bounces they can dislodge. Being a boxer engine where the rockers are vertical they’re more susceptible to drop under gravity.
Q: How common is the rocker failure?
A: If you drive a Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ or any Subaru with a third-gen engine and haven’t had a rocker drop, consider yourself one of the lucky ones!
We dealt with multiple engine failures before realising what was going on and creating a fix. We’ve come across many more on the internet. There is a thread discussing it here on the FT86 club forums if you want to read it into it further: FT86 Club Forums - FA20 Rocker Retainer Kit.
Q: Does having the correct valve clearance to the rocker eliminate this issue?
A: Valve clearance is important for correct engine operation however, as the rocker is floating it can still fail regardless. Correct valve clearance would reduce the likelihood of it occurring but it is still possible when a valve sticks or bounces across the rev range as they are free-floating.
Q: Is there a common RPM that you’ve seen the majority of rockers fail at?
A: On the FA20 engine, the failure generally occurs around 9-10,000 rpm. Usually, on the downshift when missing a gear. However, the rockers can even fail at low RPM under normal driving conditions.
Q: What else increases the risk of a rocker dislodging?
A: If the valves have carbon build-up, this will cause the valve to be ‘stickier’, and it increases the chance of a rocker dislodging.
Q: I’ve upgraded or looking to upgrade my springs (eg. Kelford) won’t this create less valve float and hence fix the issue?
A: Unfortunately not. The rockers are still fundamentally floating. Depending on your setup running stiffer springs could actually be creating unnecessary wear on your valvetrain.
Q: I've heard that the FA20 likes to be adjusted to the looser side. Is rocker ejection due to too much lash?
A: The oil in the middle of the pivot is for lubrication not for cushioning. For a failure to occur due to excessive rocker clearance, it has to be extreme. The main cause of rockers dislodging is due to the lack of retention.
Please see our video demonstrating the FA valvetrain oiling system here.
Q: If I have a tapet noise can I just use an Enginer Performance Restorer like BG 109 to clear out the carbon build up in the oil?
A: If the noise in your Toyota 86 FA20 valvetrain is definitely a tapet noise, it’s unlikely the BG 109 will work as the FA20 does not run hydraulic lash adjusters.
Rocker Retainer Kit
Q: Why do the OEM pivots need to be replaced? Can’t you just add a clip to the rocker?
The pivots must be replaced as there is no groove for the clip to attach to.
Q: Can't I just machine a grove in the OEM pivot for the clip to attach to?
No. For starters, we custom make our clips and we do not sell them separately.
When you attempt to machine a grove in the pivot it leaves an edge that the clip can wear against. The ramp angle is critical so the clip does not interfere during normal operation, only in a rocker dislodge event. Our bespoke pivots also have a thicker wall thickness where the clip attaches for durability.
There is also obviously also the time and cost to machining the pivots yourself with increased risk not being repeatable.
Years of R&D time has gone into developing our rocker retainer kit to ensure the fitment is just right. We've tested our kits on hundreds of engines in both street and race applications. We know they work well or your money back.
It might seem like a quick fix to save a couple of bucks and have a friend machine a groove, but it's not worth it in the long run. Our complete kit might cost a bit more now, but it could save you a lot of money and trouble later on. It's a small price to pay for knowing your engine is running safely and smoothly.
Q: Do you sell the clips separately?
A: No. As mentioned above. We only sell them as part of a full kit, not by themselves for quality control reasons.
Q: Is this kit just for one cylinder head or both cylinder heads on the FA20?
One of our Rocker Retainer Kits will both cylinder heads on an FA/FB engine. It includes 16x Pivots and 16x Clips to do all intake and exhaust valves on both cylinder heads.
Q: The rocker retainer clip looks like a body clip. It doesn’t look strong enough to stop the rocker separating from the pivot?
Our rocker retainer clips are not body clips. They are custom made from high carbon steel and are heat treated. The clip is in place only to “catch” the rocker for the split second a valve floats/sticks/bounces, when installed correctly, they are more than suitable for the application.
Fitment and Vehicle Applicability
Q: What vehicles do the Rocker Retainer Kits fit?
A: All FA and FB Subaru engines.
Q: Does this kit work on all FA and FB 2.0 engines as well as the FA 2.0 DIT?
A: Yes, the pivots and rockers are the same across all FA and FB engines.
Q: Do you know if this issue has been corrected in later models or is this a problem all the way up to current Subaru engines?
A: The rocker falling out issue has not been fixed in the latest FA20 & FB20 engines. It is evident in all third-generation Subaru engines, including FA20 (2012+) FB20 (2010+).
Q: I have an automatic gearbox, do rockers only fail on manual transmissions?
A: No. It is more likely with a manual due to over-revving when downshifting, however, engines with automatic gearboxes are also susceptible to the rockers dislodging.
Q: Does it work on both Right-Hand Drive (RHD) and Left-Hand Drive (LHD) vehicles?
Q: Does the 2022+ BRZ and 86 have the same issue and does your kit fit?
A: Yes, it's a common misconception that the valve spring recall rectified this issue but it didn't. The rockers are still floating in the current (2022+) Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. Here is a quote of an email from a customer:
"Hello, thanks for the shipment. I found you on Google when researching the rocker arms. My son has a 2020 BRZ, that is experiencing the same failure. Fortunately, there has been no damage yet. I was baffled that it happened on a 2020, as the problems seemed to be with the 2012-2013 models. Your frequently asked questions page answered a lot of those questions."
Q: Didn’t the valve spring recall in 2012 fix this issue on the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ?
A: The valve spring recall actually has not fixed this issue. The rockers are still free-floating and hence can fall out from the pivot. Our clip and modified pivot resolves this issue.
The engine valve spring recall that affected 2012-2013 vehicles was due to the valve springs potentially fracturing. Source: https://www.toyota.com.au/news/toyota-australia-recalls-86-vehicles-to-replace-engine-valve-springs
The free-floating rocker design is still evident in third-generation Subaru engines, FA20 (2012+) FB20 (2010+).
Q: Are Toyota/Subaru aware of this issue? Will they fix it?
A: We don’t know! They’re still making cars and engines with it so I guess not. We too think they would have fixed the rockers falling out by now. Unfortunately, not.
Q: I thought that Toyota/Subaru modified the pivots on the newest models, does this fix the issue?
A: Yes, the pivots have been revised three times, however, functionally they are the same. The rockers are still prone to falling out. Please see our other videos for more information.
Q: How dangerous is a rocker dislodging compared to the timing cover leak recall?
A: Neither are safe problems to have. The case of a rocker dislodging and punching through the head likely presents a more dangerous scenario than a timing cover leak due to the volume of oil that could potentially catch fire on the exhaust. It depends on the severity of the timing cover leak and the location. Generally, they are minor weeps that burn off over time.
Q: What engine oil do you run in both daily driven and track racing FA20 engines?
We use Fuchs 5W-30 full synthetic in both everyday drivers and track FA20 engines.
Upgrades and Modifications
Q: What cams would be a good upgrade for the FA20 engine?
A: That is a difficult question to answer without knowing your current setup and power output goal. There are a lot of great options and it depends if your engine is still naturally aspirated or you’re planning to run a turbocharger or supercharger. Feel free to email us your current setup and the power you are aiming to achieve.
Q: Will the rocker retainer kit work for engines that are boosted?
A: Yes. These are a must on all FA20 engines, both Naturally Aspirated and Forced induction motors.
Q: Where will the motor break next if you over-rev it?
A: The next weakest link would be the connecting rod, However, if your FA20 is still naturally aspirated then it is unlikely.
Q: What other upgrades do you recommend to further bulletproof the engine?
A: Engine oil cooler kit, engine oil pan baffle kit are just some of the lower-cost improvements that we recommend. If you’re going forced induction then forged pistons and billet connecting rods if you're willing to pull the engine down.
Q: If I modify my camshafts will your rocker retainers still work?
A: Yes. As there would be no change to the rockers, our clip and pivot will still work.
Q: What is the valve clearance/lash specification for the FA20?
A: Inlet 0.10-0.16 mm (cold)
Exhaust 0.21-0.27mm (cold)
We have a worksheet to help when setting up the valves here:
Denstoj Subaru FA20 Valve Adjustment Worksheet
Q: Are the valves supposed to be adjusted hot or cold?
Q: When is a good time to install your Rocker Retainer kit?
Anytime! If you’re already pulling out the engine for a modification or service such as spark plug change, perfect!
Q: Can you remove the rocker cover without removing the front timing chain cover?
A: Yes. You can remove the rocker cover without removing the front timing chain cover. We recommend removing the engine from the car. It's easiest to leave the gearbox attached.
Q: Can I install the rockers without removing the engine?
A: Being a boxer engine, we recommend removing the engine and gearbox.
Q: Can I install the rocker retainer clips without having to remove the rocker arm entirely, just compress the spring a bit?
A: No, to install the retaining clip you must first replace the pivots with our custom ones. The clip will not work on its own otherwise the retaining clip will not be able to locate and stay in place. Our pivots have a location groove for the clip.
Q: If I'm in Australia how much does it cost for you to install the Rocker Retainer Kit for me?
A: A ballpark quote is $2,700 AUD for a drive-in, drive-out installation.
For full details, please see: https://denstoj.com.au/products/install-fa-fb-denstoj-rocker-retainer-kit-in-toyota-86-subaru-brz
Feel free to call on (02) 4962 2008 or email email@example.com to make a booking.
Q: How often do I need to adjust the clearances?
A: There is no change to the intervals between when the clearances should be checked. It is recommended under normal driving conditions that this is to be conducted every 30,000 - 40,000 kms.
Q: Do I only need to install rocker retainers if I am a spirited driver or track my car?
A: As the failure can happen across the rev range they are critical for a car that is either a daily driver, track or a bit of both.
Q: How many engines have you seen this failure occurring on?
A: We've had it happen to three of our motors that we've worked on as part of the Toyota 86 race series here in Australia.
Q: Is this a must if I am doing an engine rebuild?
A: Yes. It would be devastating to spend the time and effort on the new build for a rocker to dislodge and destroy the engine. We’ve seen it happen before!
Q: I thought the lash adjusters were hydraulic in the FA and FB engines, is this correct?
A: The lash adjusters are not hydraulic, instead, the valve clearance adjustment is done by a bucket on top of the valve stem.Q: Is the pivot oil pressurised from underneath?
A: No. Oil is fed from a galley in the side of the pivot to lubricate the interface between the pivot and rocker. There are differences between the intake and exhaust. We have demonstrated this in the following video: https://youtu.be/AncxPbaI-9k
Q: How long will it take to install the rocker retainer pivots and clips?
A: Depending on clearances the setup time but should be an hour each side once the engine is removed from the vehicle.
Q: Is it possible to install myself as a “backyard mechanic” or do you need specialised equipment and should I get my mechanic to install instead?
A: Hey, it's possible to do yourself but there are a few critical things to check in the process. If you would rather us install our Rocker Retainer Kit for you, we'd love to do it.
It depends on how much damage has been done. If you're lucky and there is no damage to the head or valves it's possible to do it yourself. However, there are a few critical things to check in the process. For example, there are a lot of openings in the head where components can drop into.
Q: Will running the retainers create any additional valvetrain wear or noise?
A: The correct installation of our rocker retainer clips and pivots as no additional wear to the valvetrain. This is because the clip is not loaded under normal operating conditions. Only when the rocker is about to fall out does the clip hold the rocker in place. The retainer will last as long as the rest of the valvetrain.
Of course, valve clearances must be set correctly as per the standard engine build and maintenance procedure.
Q: How long have you been running these rocker retainer clips in vehicles?
A: Since 2019.
Q: Are there any reports or feedback on the longevity of these retainers?
A: On all of the vehicles that we’ve installed our Rocker Retainer Kit on we’ve had no issues. This has been on 86s that are daily driven to track cars competing in the Toyota 86 race series.
The only issue that has occurred was on a vehicle in the States where the clips had worn against the machined shoulder on the pivot due to incorrect installation of the clips.
Full details are on rixter145’s post on the FT86 Club forums available here.
Since this issue, we’ve improved the design to a custom pivot that removes the shoulder and explained how to install the clip properly in this video here.
Q: I thought you were machining the pivots?
A: Yes, the first iteration of our product involved machining the stock pivots. We have since improved our product and created a bespoke pivot as this is a more robust solution.
FA20 Engine Rebuild
Q: I'm rebuilding an FA20 engine, anything I should look out for?
A: They're an engine that requires attention to detail when rebuilding. Important to check oil pickup, oil pressure relief valve, and oil screen to head.
We ship worldwide via both standard and express options. Head to checkout to check pricing for your area.
Australia Post Express (3-5 working days) is $14 AUD for one kit.
Q: Where do you ship from?
A: We ship from Newcastle, Australia.
Q: Can you reduce the invoice price for my order?
A: No. Unfortunately, we can't lower the invoice price. We get this request quite often and we must stick to the correct price to ensure everything is above board and legal.
We're really sorry we can't help out with this. However, if there's anything else please don't hesitate to ask.
PurchasingQ: Can I buy them in a store or elsewhere online?
A: We design, manufacture and distribute our rocker retainers. It’s best to order from our website. However, we also have international distributors. Please contact us for the latest list.