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Legacy rear susp sags when loaded


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15 replies to this topic

#1 harborseal55

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Posted 11 November 2003 - 10:16 PM

I have a 1996 Legacy L sedan, with a 2.2 MT. When I get the trunk fully loaded with all of our camping equipment, the rear end sags significantly, probably nearly two inches, which is a lot of ground clearance to loose on a car that is already really low without carrying any loads.

With older cars with old-fashioned shocks, this problem was easily fixed with a pair of air shocks. It seems to be a different story with struts.

What is the best way to deal with this "sag when loaded" problem (if any)? A 1-inch lift kit would raise the whole car, but still sag when loaded, I think. Larger diameter tires (70-series or so) I think would also result in the same (higher clearance but still sag when loaded), although I may try this when the car is due for a new set of five tires (four plus full-size spare).

Hmmm....any ideas?

#2 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 11 November 2003 - 10:20 PM

maybe move some gear to the roof to distribute some weight to the front?

get a small trailer?

UPS some gear ahead 'hold for pickup'?

other than that, unless they make 'load leveler' struts I'd guess you're looking at installing heavier springs.

#3 Hocrest

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Posted 11 November 2003 - 11:18 PM

How much weight are you talking about?
I have loaded hundreds of pounds of oxygen tanks and other work stuff and haven't noticed that much drop.

#4 99obw

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 12:11 AM

How many miles on the car? At 145k miles our 99 outback sags noticably with groceries or camping gear in it. Oncoming traffic flashes their lights at us because the car is tilted so much. I am putting on new springs with the struts and strut mounts tomorrow. Hopefully the springs will straighten things out.:D

#5 Setright

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 01:55 AM

Start with new OE springs - struts too, if you can afford it.

Stiffer springs tend to lower the car " for a sporty look" and would probably not help.

#6 Hondasucks

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 02:03 AM

try some wagon struts, I replaced the completely shot rear struts in my 91 with wagon struts, and they made it sit about 1" or so higher in the rear (muffler tips didn't scrape anymore)

#7 meep

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 10:01 AM

cheap fix, works well:

Buy spring stiffeners at the local car store... they are clamps that can either pull 360 degrees of the coil together (cheap lowering) or spread them apart. Quick install:

1. jack it up,
2. squeeze the clamp between the coils (2 per spring) opposite each other,
3. "open" it up until just past finger tight, then tighten the bolts to lock it down.
4. remove jack.

Now, if your struts are worn it will bounce more--- this effectively increases the spring rate. Also, steering will provide just a bit less feedback with the rear higher, but still very driveable, but this is easy enough that you can remove them after the trip if U want.

Mike

#8 harborseal55

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 10:43 AM

Regarding the amount of weight I load into it, our last 7-day car-camping trip had maybe 200 pounds of camping equip (lots of groceries, tent, etc) and a full tank of gas.

My Legacy has nearly 160K miles on it, and no suspension parts have been replaced to my knowledge (I got it at 115K), so do you think that the sag problem is primarily worn springs?

If I replace the springs, do people generally recommend OEM springs (I certainly don't want it riding any lower than it already is)? I noticed some recommendations for using wagon springs instead of sedan springs - any recommendations?

It is also probably due for strut replacement too, especially if the springs are to be replaced, so any recommendations for types of struts? I'm not looking to make the car a little racer (it actually handles fine for me the way it is) but to make it a bit better to use on those dirt Death Valley roads (my last camping trip).

Also regarding ground clearance, the first part that scrapes is the catalytist which hangs down about an inch or so lower than anything else, and it seems to hang lower on this car than on other newer Subies that I see. Did 1996 Legacies have a lower catalyst or different heat shield than later years? I've done well so far not to have a rock tear it off.

#9 frag

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 12:17 PM

1stSubaruparts has struts and spring at a good price.
https://www.1stsubaruparts.com/
I've already bought four struts from them but might add at least rear springs as a preventive maintenance.

#10 99obw

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 12:19 PM

I would say the sagging is primarily worn springs. If you are at 160k with original struts they are most likely ready for replacement.

Tonight I am going to install OEM springs, struts and strut mounts. I have found the OEM parts to be expensive, but your subaru will be happiest with them. Every single time I try and put a non-OEM part on our car I end up regretting it.

Jason at Auburn Subaru does a great job, and their prices are better than the local dealer.

#11 Setright

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 05:55 PM

Wagon rear springs will alter the handling balance, making oversteer more sudden and more pronounced - but not deadly.

Yes, the springs alone are responsible for ride height.

#12 harborseal55

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Posted 13 November 2003 - 10:21 AM

It seems like I hear on these posts that the struts are responsible for ride height, and that springs are responsible for ride height. Are both responsible?

I'm still not sure if I want to change the ride height, but am tempted to perhaps look at gaining one inch out of it to increase ground clearance, but don't want to affect OEM handling too much. I guess if I wanted to "test" an increase in clearance, I could first add the cheap spring spacers mentioned above on the front and rear springs. If I didn't like it, then I could buy OEM springs and struts to maintain the original clearance and ride, and if I did like it, I could look at wagon springs and struts to raise it about one inch. How does this approach sound (or is this a sound approach)?

#13 Hondasucks

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Posted 14 November 2003 - 05:50 PM

the wagon springs did not increase the height of my car all that noticably, it didn't sit "raked" or anything, it maybe raised it a half an inch to an inch. The only way I could tell that it raised it up was that the muffler tip didn't scrape pulling into my driveway anymore.
And yes, the springs ALONE are responsible for ride height; the shock does not support the vehicle weight, it only prevents the spring from oscillating (i.e., keeps teh car from bouncing up and down when you go over a bump)

#14 alias20035

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Posted 14 November 2003 - 07:38 PM

Originally posted by meep
cheap fix, works well:

Buy spring stiffeners at the local car store... they are clamps that can either pull 360 degrees of the coil together (cheap lowering) or spread them apart. Quick install:

1. jack it up,
2. squeeze the clamp between the coils (2 per spring) opposite each other,
3. "open" it up until just past finger tight, then tighten the bolts to lock it down.
4. remove jack.

Now, if your struts are worn it will bounce more--- this effectively increases the spring rate. Also, steering will provide just a bit less feedback with the rear higher, but still very driveable, but this is easy enough that you can remove them after the trip if U want.

Mike



These spring expanders are not recommended for Subaru's. I have seen two problems with them:

broken springs (the expander creates a stress point)

spring comes out of spring cup and slashes tire

My 1993 Legacy needed new rear springs after six years. Seems to be a common problem. The rear springs are not that expensive. I did switch to KYB GR2 struts and ride height did improve, but I still needed new rear springs to correct the stance.

If you think Subaru springs squat a lot, check out the older Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth minivans....

Overseas most Subaru's have rear air suspension, wish we had that here in North America. I did find extra electical connecters near both of the rear springs on my 2001 Outback, I think they are for the air suspension that is on the Australian Outbacks which also have dual range (low/high gear) 5MT transmissions.

An ideal setup would use a steel spring for reliability and an air bag to assist with heavy loads.

I am working with a friend in Australia trying to identify the components of the Australian rear air suspension. Hopefully it is something I can retrofit.

I did see some aftermarket air springs for Subaru's on the web, but I can't find the site anymore. Not sure if they were replacement air shocks for the 90-94 Legacy LS models....

#15 lefty42303

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Posted 02 November 2004 - 09:35 PM

My '90 Legacy also sags when loaded or popup camper hitched. I can find springs that lower but not for overload. Keep posting possible solutions. I will let you know if I find anything.

Jim

#16 lefty42303

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 07:28 AM

I ordered shock overload springs from Parts America for about $23. I threw the mounting hardware away & put the springs over the rear struts & inside the original springs. They fit nicely & kept my '90 Legacy sedan level while carrying a trunkfull of firewood & towing popup camper.

Jim




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