Jump to content
Ultimate Subaru Message Board

long travel Outbacks or making Subarus faster and more reliable offroad


Recommended Posts

Went to the UP the last weekend of July with three Subarus and five people.  B wasn't able to join us.  Before the trip I was checking my notes and realized there was a crack in one of the rear uprights of the black outback so I welded that.



The rear tires on the white Outback were almost completely bald so I put some less bald tires on it.


I had looked before we went and saw a large area of public land east of Sagola we hadn't explored. There were several fire towers and the ELF (extremely low frequency transmitter) in the area too. Didn't expect much of those but gave us something to roughly wander towards. Fire towers turned out to not exist or be on private property which is about what I expected. When we went to where the ELF was originally marked on my GPS we couldn't find anything. Later Z looked it up and we did make it there but it's some kind of secure gov't facility so we didn't get to see anything.

On the way up I was driving the black Outback when suddenly I looked down and the coolant temp gauge was pegged. It had been right where it normally is for hours so I figured it might be the sender or gauge or something. Pulled into a shady spot in a parking lot. Realized it was the same hose that had rotted out on us out west and replaced it with a spare I had. The oil leak there keeps eating those hoses. Left that skidplate off for the time being figuring we'd just reinstall it at camp.


Crossed into Michigan and started wandering off pavement. Z got his Forester high centered and stuck on a stump (between engine skid and trans crossmember). Lifted it off with the high lift and threw some wood under the tire.



This part of the UP was rockier than most of the UP but not like the Keeweenaw.


Trying to follow a powerline grade Z got his Forester stuck in some soft mud.


Good reminder that any time you see even a slight trickle of flowing water up there the ground is probably going to be super soft. At this point I realized I'd left my brand new speed strap and folding recovery ramps at home. Then we broke my 2” speed strap, it's seen a lot of abuse but I was still a little surprised. Z had a tow strap and with a combo of that and my marginal speed straps we were able to get his car out. One of those situations where we tried about ten iterations of straps thinking each one would work, might have been just as fast to winch or jack him out of there. Went the other way on that powerline grade which had some good rock ledges and climbs but didn't go very far before going off into the woods. Before one fairly big drop we decided we should put the one skidplate back on the black Outback so we did that while V cooked the burgers since it was supper time. Maybe the first time we've cooked supper before getting to camp.





Saw a (juvenile?) porcupine standing in the road, got a few good pictures of it before it walked off into the brush.


Late in the day the black Outback started making some fairly high frequency drivetrain noises proportional to wheel speed like a gear in the transmission was rubbing on something. M was driving and I played with the shifters and then it went away. Found a FS campground and stayed the night there.

The next morning we did a little more trail riding but the transmission noise was back.





It was making enough noise even in neutral that we didn't think flat towing it would be a good idea. We discussed a few options and decided the best would be to try to fix it. I have been carrying a stock DCCD so plan B was to install that and plug the shifter holes. We went back to the campsite we'd stayed at the night before since it was decent, close to toilets, and there had been no one else in the whole campground. Of course during the day two other campers showed up and occupied the spots on either side of us. Disassembly went fairly smoothly but time consuming. Realized we'd need gear oil so Z and V drove to town to get that and some groceries so V could cook us some fajitas since we knew he'd have plenty of time. The main problem seemed to be thrust forces (from the helical gears I assume) wore out one of the snapring groove lands to the point that one of the snaprings was just floating around in the middle of the low range. We just removed the snapring, the part it'd been holding on was already galled/peened in place. M and I tried about ten times to put the low range back in the trans and then put the cover on with no success. Finally we put the low range in the cover and put the whole thing on and it went right together.



One trick we used was to tie the split needle bearing on the front output shaft on with a blade of grass since it would instantly dispose of itself, before that those bearings kept falling out of place during assembly even though we'd greased them. As it turned out the grass fell out during assembly but did its job.



Then we put everything else back on and I took it on a test drive around the campground before dark. Seemed to work fine but still a little noisy. Camped again in the same spot we had on Friday night, something else I don't think we've ever done before.


Sunday we had a solid day of trail riding with no major issues.



Found a stunt area, unplugged a culvert that'd been dammed up by beavers, then Z got properly stuck in the mud in a clearcut area. Probably over 100' from the nearest fairly solid ground. Set up the winch and swapped the Anderson connector from the white car on to his battery. Winched off of several different stumps with the snatch block and eventually got him on to solid ground. Good reminder that having a winch you can put on either end of any car is far superior to having it permanently mounted to one end of one car.  He was then able to drive through the clearcut along the trail back to where we were parked. The whole thing took under two hours with surprised us.



I got the black Outback stuck after turning around and trying to climb up a steep bank.  A backed the white Ouback back to where we were. By then I remembered I had a proper elastic snatch strap and soft shackles so we used those. They hit much softer than the speed straps. I couldn't really even feel when it hit even though A was taking a 10-20' run at it. He eventually pulled me up the little bank. Somehow the rear bumper cover of the white Outback had come off so we cobbled that back on and continued.




Monday morning while we were following the black Outback it seemed like the rear camber on it would be both tilted to left, then both straight. Eventually A decided to pull over because it was steering itself. The subframe had pulled out of the remains of the unibody on both sides. We also had brackets connecting it to the skidframe which had mostly ripped off. We sort of straightened out the brackets and hose clamped them back on and ratchet strapped the subframe up into place.






(We were able to ratchet strap the subframe back up to the body, not shown)


A managed to navigate us down a fairly long and almost entirely off pavement route south. Got to an abandoned railroad track.


Had to restrap the rear subframe a couple more times. The last time A came up with the idea of strapping the subframe to the skidframe laterally which helped a lot.


Black outback is probably finally and properly totaled. Needs a trans rebuild, radiator, coolant hose, rear diff is no longer limited slip, rear axles and wheel bearings are ticking time bombs, and most importantly needs some serious body/frame repair for the rear subframe. In the meantime it is still driveable if I need to drive it around town some. Really need to get the Impreza running.  Will try to post an update on that soon.

Edited by pontoontodd
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love these epic updates! Kudos doing the gearbox work out bush! Was it difficult to keep it clean from the dust? 

That black outback is definitely looking pretty cactus! Over here in Oz that would’ve been condemned a loooong time ago!! 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, el_freddo said:

I love these epic updates! Kudos doing the gearbox work out bush! Was it difficult to keep it clean from the dust? 

That black outback is definitely looking pretty cactus! Over here in Oz that would’ve been condemned a loooong time ago!! 



I'm not going to say it stayed extremely clean (we tried) but there wasn't really any dust to worry about.  Dirt falling off the bottom of the car, yes.

If not for the cage we would have parted the black Outback out a long time ago.  Or so I keep saying.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bummer about the low range, that helical gear looks roached! Get that thing sorted; I want one that can handle even more thrust force and a similar driving style. Whenever you get to disassembling and rebuilding it, I am curious to find out if there are any additional parts with excessive wear, or if it is just that one gear.

I think it's time to focus on the first gen, right? You should be proud of the years of use and abuse you got out of the black Outback.

Gorgeous up there.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

20 hours ago, travelvw said:

Bummer about the low range, that helical gear looks roached! Get that thing sorted; I want one that can handle even more thrust force and a similar driving style. Whenever you get to disassembling and rebuilding it, I am curious to find out if there are any additional parts with excessive wear, or if it is just that one gear.

I think it's time to focus on the first gen, right? You should be proud of the years of use and abuse you got out of the black Outback.

Gorgeous up there.


Really need to make straight cut low ranges over the winter.  The plus side is that the low range was still working fine all weekend just making a ton of noise.

Yes, trying to get the Impreza going, then part out the black Outback.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some last minute rust repair before the last trip I forgot to post.  Black Outback's muffler is quite rusty and started leaking.  This is after hitting it with the wire wheel, a big chunk of it evaporated.


Welded on a patch.


High temp paint.


Maybe a waste of time but did make the exhaust significantly quieter.


On to the Impreza.  Most of the fab work is done.  Bumper and skids about as welded as they can get on the car.  Made mounts for the stock turn signals (without those they blink fast).  They'll be mostly behind a sheet metal panel below the bumper.  B made fan mounts, only have one right now but you can see the tabs for both sides.  Headlights and a few other things I just set in place for pictures.


Made mounts for light bars just under the headlights.  B figured out radiator mounting a while back.


Obtained the right section of harness for the PS, alt, and AC compressor.


B mounted the airbox a while back, I popped another hole in it.  Might epoxy a tube on that eventually, still need to cut a hole in the hood scoop blockoff panel for those.


I had the exhaust mostly laid out and then B reminded me about the gas tank guard.  Pressed a divot in the skinny muffler to fit that.


Probably won't restrict flow too much.  Also made the ends out of round but phased 90 from the middle (you can kind of see in picture below).


Skinny muffler in place.


If/when I fab a rear bumper I can raise the big muffler an inch or two.


Front portion of exhaust is basically done.  Going to add a flange/gasket where this will meet up with the skinny muffler.  If anyone has a recommendation on a 2.5" flange/gasket I'm all ears.


Have to remove the various crossmembers/skids/bumper for finish welding and paint.

Still need to find power steering lines and reservoir (2015ish H6 Outback) if anyone has a line on those.

Also need to swap in DBW gas pedal and manual brake/clutch pedals and clutch hydraulics.

Most of what's left is wiring.  I think I have that mostly figured out.  Might mount the Haltech where the passenger air bag was and make that panel easily removable. 

Edited by pontoontodd
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

M finally decided the old Impreza wasn't worth fixing.  Compression had gotten so low the car would roll in gear with the engine off.  In a way this is the one that started all of our Subaru off pavement adventures after I hit a deer over a decade ago.  A little disappointing it didn't hit 300,000 miles.  Certainly the most entertainment per dollar of any car I've ever owned.




inside of the gas tank:


Some of the parts we scavenged.  The main things I wanted were the wheels (and tires), shifter/console (although most of that doesn't fit my '98), and the front axles and knuckles.  The knuckles had been upgraded to the bolt on wheel bearing style and it had the big front wheel drive style axles.  We considered removing the transmission (since it's the older style 5MT with the top inspection plate) and a few other things but had to draw the line somewhere.


That left us with the question of how to make it roll.  The simplest/cheapest idea I could come up with was to weld a tube to the bottom of the control arms (they're kinda rusty and I already have a few pairs of good stock ones).




Then I welded some short pieces of tubing inside some space savers to act as hubs.  These weren't centered or anything but it was just for getting the car out of the garage and on the flatbed.



"hubs" were retained by tack welds.


Gave us some hot Carolina squat action. Don't worry we kept the chrome lug nuts and only used a couple old rusty lug nuts per wheel to put some crappy tires on the back.


M specifically told the tow company they should come with a flat bed but they didn't.  He insisted the guy look at how poorly the "front axle" was attached but the guy was unconcerned.  Put the front end on a dolly and dragged it out of town.  Frightening.

A day or two later when I unloaded the parts the one taillight still had plenty of blinker fluid in it.



Have made some progress on the green Impreza too.  Will try to post a few pictures sometime.  Unfortunately I've been busy with other things.  Mainly buying a building to move my machine tools into.  In the long run that should be great but it's kept me from finishing the Impreza.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

That was awesome. 

Geez that outback cops a flogging! Amazing to see that low range doing its thing, the H6 makes easy work of it and even more importantly is how controlled you were during that climb! 

Thanks for sharing! 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

B and I are finally back to spending more time on our Subarus.

Replaced the tie rods and rack boots in the white Outback and set the front toe.  It's been running well.  Definitely has some ghost walk on slippery surfaces but feels very stable on clean pavement.  I think at least one of the trailing arm bushings is pretty sloppy.

Did some work on B's Foresters including some tie rods and rack boots.  Revalved all of his shocks and replaced the fluid in most of them.  Went back to basics, I think we'd kind of gone down a blind path the last few years.  He says it rides better and is less noisy on the street including a small jump.  We now have significantly different valving in his car, Z's FXT, and my Impreza but the same size tires and springs and similar weight and wheelbase so we're curious to see how they compare off pavement.  Would like to get the long travel struts tuned better this year.  We also got a good start on a rear bumper for B's Forester to match his front bumper.  We'd already bent a template out of conduit so we made two copies of that out of 1.5x.095" 4130.  Longitudinal body mounts are 1.25" receiver tubes spaced up with 3/4" square tubing.  Figured we had to use something to mount to the body and it gives us two more solid jack/recovery points.  A little hard to see in the pictures but the stock bumper and hitch are just bolted in from the bottom.  We drilled all the holes all the way through and ran long bolts all the way through the body.


Mock up of the two bent tubes.  Lateral square tubes are also 1.25" receivers.  B wants a 2" receiver on center and can then just use a 1.25" reducer to fit our winch, hitch, etc.  Need to shorten that up and add some diagonal braces.  Will also miter vertical tubes on the ends, probably add a few more short vertical tubes too.large.IMG_8512s.jpg.849f23608fc54066fdbc95d8c4a7f545.jpg

Needs some tweaking but this is where we left off with that project.  Another good day on that and we should be able to get it ready for paint.large.IMG_8513s.jpg.a398a2dc9b298168f9fe21c13b840848.jpg

Been doing some "reverse shopping" as my brother calls it.  Went through my mostly bald and leaky mud tire inventory and took the worst seven to the tire shop to get disassembled.  Had a few that didn't leak and had some tread on them but were worn funny (every other block worn down, blocks worn at a taper, super noisy, tire in foreground is a perfect example).




Edited by pontoontodd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Been making some progress on the Impreza too.  Shifter was interfering with one of the low range shifters (I think lock/unlock) so B welded in a different tube and cut the stock one.




Welded in a front receiver for winch or jack under the front bumper.



Hangers for rear muffler.  Should probably brace those a little better.



Fit the middle 2.5 x .095 4130 exhaust section and tacked in a V band clamp.


Welded main portion of the exhaust.




STI pedals basically fit but seemed a little off.  We tightened it down and seems OK.



Got a lot of the wiring done.  Engine harness connector mostly pinned out from the Haltech, need to add a few powers and grounds.



Pretty sure I figured out the gauge wires (oil press light, temp gauge, tach), main ignition switch wires, and fuel pump power wire running to the back.  Getting fairly close to running I think.

Haltech recommended running a pressure regulator and return line rather than trying to control fuel pressure with the pump.  The EZ30 does have a pressure regulator on the end of one of the fuel rails but the rails and injectors are completely different than the EZ36.


EZ36 supposedly has higher flowing injectors.



Apparently most people either buy billet rails (which cost money and would also require AN feed lines or adapters) or just drill and tap the stock rails.  I drilled and tapped them 1/2-20 and chamfered them for O ring boss AN fittings.


Have all the fittings, line, and regulator, just need to put it together.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Mounted regulator, assembled and installed fuel lines.



I think I have the engine harness plug pinned out well enough to get the engine running.


Pinned out the connector for the DBW pedal.  Which doesn't look like it will directly bolt in place of the Impreza gas pedal, will have to figure out something there.



The rear brumper for the Forester just needs to be welded and painted.  And yes that's road salt.



Made tubes running forward from the bottom of the bumper to the swaybar brackets.  Made the one on the right side easily removable, should protect the carbon canister.



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

B finished welding the rear brumper yesterday.





We also finally got the EZ36 running in the Impreza.  Seemed to be running on all six, the only leak we noticed was one of the injectors so I should get new o rings for those.  Cranked it for a while to get some oil circulation and maybe pressure.  Even without the fuel pump running it started to fire when we plugged in the ECU.  Fired right up with some fuel pressure, responds to throttle pedal.  Only ran it for 5-10 seconds a few times.  Still needs a lot of little things but a bit of a relief to hear it run.


I'm going to try to put all the details of the engine swap on this thread:

Will probably start copying some of the relevant info from this thread into there and use this thread for our usual fabrication, repairs, and trip reports.  Thought it might be handy for future reference to have all the engine swap info in one place.

Edited by pontoontodd
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

B and I finished the remaining fab and paint on the skidplates and bumpers.  Round tube bumper is for the rear of B's Forester, everything else is for my Impreza.  Dropped it all off at paint today.  Didn't listen to slammo and travelvw and asked the paint shop to match the gold color on the bottom part of the body for the front bumper and skidplate.  Everything else will be black.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mostly unrelated but B and I stopped by C's shop.  Standard EJ25 with a rod sticking out.  Has another one with rod knock, in his dreams he will eventually make one good engine out of two.


The main reason we were there was to remove and disassemble a CVT out of a 2014 Outback.  C bought the car pretty cheap knowing the transmission was bad and since he's cheap he wants to try to fix the trans rather than just replacing it.  It still ran and drove but made horrible noises.  Car has 208k miles on it but has minimal rust.  Previous owner supposedly pulled his 18' pontoon boat in and out of the water with it regularly, which may not have been a good idea.  Once we removed all the bellhousing bolts, the transmission wasn't too hard to remove.

We first tried unbolting the front/bellhousing from the trans but that didn't seem to work.  Then we unbolted the top cover and removed this valve body which also didn't accomplish much.


Figured it was a long shot but removed this front cover and oil pump, also no real progress.


These screws are pretty crazy though.


Took the tailhousing off, standard Subaru auto trans clutch pack for the rear drive.  Didn't really look at it at the time but seems feasible that some kind of planetary low range might be possible.


Took the pan and filter off and some kind of splash/windage tray.


Then we were able to split the case.  Transmission is pretty simple really.  Sheaves still look very smooth.  Some burs/wear on the top edge of the pulley on the left, I'm guessing that's what was causing the intermittent nails on the chalkboard noise C told us about.


Pretty sure we found the root of the problem.


This used to be spherical.




C plans on replacing that bearing, a sensor we broke during disassembly, and putting it back in the car.

Edited by pontoontodd
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

B and I made more progress on the Impreza too.  Got the headers welded.  Seems like getting them ceramic coated would cost $350+ so I'm just going to skip that.  They are stainless and as B pointed out, they'll probably fail due to mechanical damage rather than corrosion.


Did some welding on other portions of the exhaust.  Should have tacked more things together before removing all the tube work underneath the car.


Sprayed the welds with a little high temp paint, most of it is already aluminized.


While we were at C's shop he gave me a radiator and fans that had the right plugs I need so I spliced those in to my fans.  Note the polarity is reversed since we're using them as pushers.  Will put more detail on that in the swap thread.


Painted the mounts and bolted the fans in.  Spliced wires from Haltech to where they went to stock ECU to switch on the relays.


Siliconed a grommet for an air temp sensor in the air box.  Definitely not pretty but wanted to get something in place.



Wired in the connector.


Made a couple of tabs, welded them on the bumper and painted them.  Drilled a couple holes in the bumper beam.


The Outbacks have hoods on them so the light only shines down but they have a different wire connector.  The Impreza lights don't have hoods so I painted all but the bottom of them.  Need to fab a rear bumper for this thing sometime but this seemed like the simplest and cleanest solution for now.  Open to suggestion on how to do this when I fab a rear bumper.  Planning on 2x4" steel tube like the front sticking out at least a few inches beyond the hatch.  On my old Impreza I just screwed the plate and some aftermarket license plate light to the hatch but I'm not keen on doing that to this car.


Edited by pontoontodd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ceramic coating the headers would have the biggest benefit of reducing heat in the engine compartment

No comment on the color choice

I picked up an aftermarket rear plate light for my impreza, will let you know how that goes

Edited by slammo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

B and Z and I worked on the Impreza Sunday.  No pictures at the moment but we made some good progress.  Ran the engine more but it seemed to be running rougher than before.  We were getting an error message about the crank trigger.  Tried reversing the wires on that and then it wouldn't run at all.  Tried a few base maps, they all ran rough.  We were getting a lot of unburned fuel in the exhaust.

On the plus side I fixed the fuel leaks by replacing some injector o rings.  The fuel pressure, air temp, and coolant temp sensors all seem to read accurately on the Haltech now.  Wideband and MAP sensor seems to be working.  Tach on the Haltech and gauge cluster work, alternator is now charging.

Still not sure exactly how we're going to wire the AC.  The compressor on the EZ36 seems to be some kind of solenoid controlled variable displacement job normally controlled by monitoring both refrigerant flow and pressure but the one from the EZ30 does look like it will bolt in place.  Pretty low priority at this point but it'd be good to do as much wiring as we can up front.

Will post more pictures and details later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...