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Summary
  • The Scion tC is a reliable sedan, thanks to its power, roomy hatchback area, and improved suspension and handling, among others.
  • Some of the common Scion tC issues include clutch failure, water pump seal failure, excessive oil consumption, and more.
  • The Scion tC can last more than 250,000 miles if it’s well-maintained.

The Scion tC is a sporty, two-door compact sedan. According to autopadre.com, the Scion tC is expected to depreciate 33% of its value after five years. Based on the website’s data, this is a low score compared to other vehicle manufacturers whose vehicles had a lower depreciation. Scion vehicles aren’t known to have high resale value.

This article will discuss the Scion tC’s reliability and common problems throughout the eleven years that the model has been in production.

Is the Scion tC Reliable?

Despite the Scion tC’s high depreciation rate, it has gotten high scores for its reliability. RepairPal gave the tC an above-average score of 4 out of 5. There were only a few instances where the vehicle encountered catastrophic issues throughout its eleven years of production. Most of the issues that did surface were minor.

The vehicle’s affordable price, its sporty-looking interior, and great performance made it very attractive for younger markets, particularly college students. The Scion has the form factor of a two-door sports car while still having the features of a practical, compact sedan. It also has a roomy second row and a spacious trunk. The first-generation Scion tC saved the sinking company on its release because it became the brand’s best seller.

2013 scion tc
The Scion tC is a sporty, two-door compact sedan that has an above-average reliability score of 4 out of 5.

Under the hood, the Scion tC is practically a Toyota with a different badge. This is mostly because Scion is under Toyota, and the Scion tC has the platform and engine of Toyota vehicles. As a result, the tC also inherited Toyota’s characteristic reliability. The tC may have been known to have a very cheap interior made of plastic and have less technology than its competitors, but it made up for this by being incredibly reliable.

What Makes the Scion tC Reliable?

Besides the affordable price, here are some of the advantages of driving a Scion tC:

  • It’s powerful for its size
  • Roomy hatchback area
  • Improved suspension and handling
  • It has an auto-manual feature
  • Available in manual transmission
  • Excellent gas mileage

Scion tC Problems

Despite the tC’s reputation for being reliable, it still encounters hiccups now and then. Some problems are more common in certain model years.

Clutch Failure

An owner has noticed that the gear lever of his 2011 Scion tC was kicked out of position while the clutch was disengaged because of a hydraulic problem. Later on, his clutch pedal got stuck in a halfway position and, as a result, his clutch blew. He later found out it was caused by the transmission’s master cylinder. To fix the issue, he replaced the vehicle’s worn-out clutch and the broken master cylinder.

Water Pump Seal Failure

Owners have reported that the water pump responsible for cooling the engine failed, causing their car to overheat. This problem has occurred both in the 2008 and 2006 models. Some owners were able to get away with just a simple overheat, but some weren’t very lucky and the overheat caused the engine’s head gasket to blow up. This resulted in an expensive engine repair. Instances of this particular problem occurring don’t seem common, as it only happened to two people. When it does occur, replacing the water pump seems to do the trick.

2016 scion tc trunk
Many Scion tC owners have reported a broken trunk door handle. Image source: Toyota

Excessive Oil Consumption

The 2004 to 2016 models of the Scion tC were known for their engines excessively consuming oil. Owners have reported seeing low oil levels between oil changes. The oil levels would sometimes be so low that the engine’s oil warning light would turn on in the vehicle’s gauge cluster. The issue is known to be caused by worn piston rings or engine sludge caused by infrequent oil changes.

This is the most common issue with the Scion tC, with 54 reports in RepairPal. Owners have reported that they needed to add a quart of oil every 1,200 to 1,500 miles to keep their engine running.

To fix this issue, the oil sludge in the engine needed to be cleaned out. If the excessive oil consumption persisted, then the engine’s piston rings or other internal components had to be replaced. It’s also recommended that the proper grade of engine oil be used, and it should be changed every 3,000 miles to prevent oil sludge from building up in the tC.

Head Gasket Failure

Because of a manufacturing defect, the pressure from the cylinder block can leak through a failed head gasket. When this happens, your tC will experience overheating, white smoke coming from the exhaust, rough running conditions, or an inability for the engine to start or idle. The oil on the dipstick can also turn white and appear milky as a result of the oil mixing with the engine coolant.

The head gasket failure is caused by the head bolts pulling the threads out of the engine block, which causes the cylinder head to lift slightly. This small lift is enough for the head gasket to fail. Repairing the issue is as straightforward as replacing the faulty head gasket and repairing the broken bolt holes on the engine block. However, the cost of labor may not come cheap. Twenty-one people reported having this problem with the 2005 to 2008 Scion tC model years.

Broken Trunk

The trunk door handle on the Scion tC is notorious for being very fragile. This is because the handle is only connected to the body with plastic clips. While this is a clear design flaw, owners have prevented their trunk door handles from breaking by opening their trunks by putting their fingers under the trunk lid instead of the handle. It’s a good thing that some Scion dealerships will replace a fragile trunk door handle for free.

Rattling Noises

Many owners have reported that vibrations from the road can cause the plastic in the cabin to creak or rattle. This is because the Scion tC’s interior is mostly made up of cheap plastic materials. This doesn’t affect any of your vehicle’s functions. But if you don’t want any distracting noises while driving, then this could certainly be annoying. However, this isn’t something that can be fixed by replacing a faulty part, because the rattling and creaking will often come and go. Most owners just accept that the rattling is a quirk of their tC and just live with it.

How Much is a Scion tC?

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the 2016 Scion tC is a little over $20,000. You may be able to get a used one for as low as $9,500.

How Many Miles Can Scion tC Last?

The well-maintained Scion tC can last more than 250,000 miles. There are even reports of their Scion tCs lasting over 500,000 miles.

As long as you’re aware of the common problems of the particular vehicle you’re planning to buy, you’ll know what to look out for. If you inspect the components that commonly fail on a Scion tC, getting the model should come with little risk. Knowing about these problems can help you look out for them so that you can fix them to prevent further damage.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Automotive Features Reviewer at CarParts.com

Lisa Conant grew up in Canada around a solid contingency of gear heads and DIY motor enthusiasts. She is an eclectic writer with a varied repertoire in the automotive industry, including research pieces with a focus on daily drivers and recreational vehicles. Lisa has written for Car Bibles and The Drive.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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