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Hi everyone,

I'm sure there are plenty of threads out there discussing suspension lifts on the BG body Legacies. I don't want to add to a stale, broad topic, but simply to document my process in the hopes of helping anyone in the future do what I did and help anyone that has questions. Feel free to ask. I just finished this project tonight, 3/4/2016 at roughly 243,7xx miles. With the spacers and struts, it resulted in roughly a 2" additional ride height over the saggy stockers. Will update with any finds or problems.

 

-I lifted my 1998 Legacy Outback Wagon with 2003 Forester struts and 1" spacers. Here is my story.-

post-51430-0-63614500-1457156401_thumb.jpeg

 

BEFORE YOU BEGIN-

Make sure you know what you have. This may seem arbitrary, but these instructions only apply to the Outback model Legacy wagon. I cannot guarantee the same process or any advice for the SUS.

IMPORTANT: again, Outback only. The Outback comes from the factory with a inch/inch and a half lift over the standard Legacy. Thus, it has spacers between the front and rear subframes, trans mount, and differential mount. These are important and change suspension geometry, most importantly the angle at which the lower control arms will flex and stress the ball joints. The more angle, the more stress.

IMPORTANT: know your rig. Lifts will stress ball joints, bushings, and axle shafts more than they were designed to accommodate. Mod away, but mod at your own risk.

IMPORTANT: This applies to vehicles keeping the stock tire size. This will work with the original 205/70R15 tires, or 215/65/16 (such as Forester steelies.) Increasing tire size is possible, but more on that later.

 

[here is the "I am not responsible for any issues caused by what you did to your vehicle or their side-effects, improperly aligned headlights, injuries, failed inspections, missing sway bars, unrelated concerns, oil leaks, or other 'ever since...' concerns. This is a modification, not a repair. Nothing is guaranteed. Things may not go as planned and I am in no way responsible for that" disclaimer thing. Happy modding!]

 

WAHT 'SPECIAL EQUIPMENT' YOU WILL NEED ACCESS TO

-Spring compressor (rear strut dissassembly)

-Alignment equipment

-Air tools or high powered battery/electric tools (such as Milwaukee M18 tools) recommended

 

TOOLS

-1/2" ratchet or impact

-3/8" ratchet or impact

-19mm or 3/4" Socket

-19mm or 3/4" wrench

-12mm socket

-14mm socket

-14mm wrench

-multiple prybars

-hammer

-flat-head screwdriver and/or punch and/or chisel

-cut-off wheel

-tricking someone to help you before they realize what you're doing is recommended

 

WHAT I USED:

Forester struts

-Forester struts from 1999 to 2008 will bolt up no problem. However, 99-02 struts are actually shorter than Outback struts, so using them to gain ride height would be counter-intuitive. I know for a fact 03-04 struts will work, that's what I used.

1" strut spacers

-available from many distributors online, such as Gorilla Offroad Company, Subtle Solutions, or nameless eBay sellers. I got mine from Gorilla Offroad. They sent me the wrong rear spacers which I noticed well before installation, but they were very good about correcting my order. No matter who you order from, make sure they fit before you get your rig all apart. Another bonus of getting Forester struts, you can test fit them out of the vehicle.

 

BEFORE INSTALLATION

You will need to replace the mounting studs on the struts. You should have gotten hardware with your spacers, which include 12 (at least 2" long) bolts and lock nuts, or longer studs. If you are using the struts currently in your car instead of forester struts, you can skip ahead and come back to this once dissassembly is complete.

The front struts are easy, since the mounts spin. You can simply pound these studs out with a hammer, or use a press. The mount can spin to allow you to remove the old stud and install the new stud or bolt. My spacers from Gorilla Offroad came with hardware, as in 12 bolts and lock nuts. The spacers had provisions in them for the nuts to sit in once the spacers were in place. I re-used the top mount nuts.

The rear struts are where it gets tricky, since the top mount doesn't spin conveniently out of the way. Therefor, you need to separate the strut mount from the strut assembly, and the rubber insulator from the metal mount. Use a spring compressor for dissassembly. Spring compressors are very dangerous, as they use thousands of pounds to compress the spring. If the spring is not secured properly, it could come loose and cause serious/fatal injury, not to mention property damage. If you do not feel comfortable using a spring compressor, it's better to find a friend who is or bring it to a shop for disassembly/reassembly. If you are comfortable using a spring compressor, compress the spring until you can grab the bottom of the shock absorber and shake it gently so it moves free of the spring. Remove the 17mm nut at the top of the strut, in the middle. If the nut does not break free of the shock absorber, use a pass through socket and a hex socket in the provision in the middle of the stud, or gently grip the shock absorber shaft with pliers to prevent it from spinning (NOT recommended, as it could damage the shock. Only for desperate or brave individuals.) The shock will fall out, so remove the top mount from the spring, pull back on the rubber insulator (it grips around the center, spray with silicone lubricant to break free) and replace the studs. Re-assemble strut. Repeat for other side.

 

THE DIRTY WORK

-hoist vehicle off wheels

-remove front wheels

-remove the 12mm bolt holding on the ABS wheel speed sensor wire. Be careful not to let the mount twist and break the wire. (ask me how I know)

-use a flat head screwdriver and a hammer to remove clip holding on the break hose to the bracket.

-you may find that the brake hose passes through the bracket, which cannot be removed, and must be opened to be removed. I recommend against this as it could lead to more problems, such as bleeding the brakes, bleeder screws breaking hose fittings being too damaged/corroded to reuse, etc. In that case, I used a cutoff wheel to notch the bracket, being careful not to damage the brake hose, until I could use a screwdriver/chisel/punch to break the mount and bend it out of the way.

 

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-Remove the 19mm (3/4") nuts and bolts holding the strut to the knuckle. The top bolt is the camber adjustment bolt, so it is cammed. Be careful not to spin it with an impact to avoid damaging it.

-remove the three 12mm nuts holding the top of the strut to the vehicle. The strut will fall out the bottom, so be ready to catch.

-install the new lift strut, reversing the removal procedure.

NOTE: resecure the brake hose to the bracket. Zip-ties will most likely fail a safety inspection, just as a side note.

-getting the knuckle bolts in is where a helper comes in handy. You will need to pry and push and jiggle the strut and knuckle around until you can line up one of the holes and put the bolt in. One one is in, it goes easier. Remember, the TOP bolt is the cammed, camber adjustment bolt. Since camber goes positive during suspension decompression on a macpherson strut system, install this so the camber is most negative, as in the top of the knuckle moves away from you as much as it can be adjusted.

-tighten all of your mounting bolts and double check your work. Move to the rear.

-remove rear wheels and repeat removal process. You should not have an ABS speed sensor to worry about in the strut this time, though.

-disconnect the rear sway bar by removing the 14mm nut and bolt. Remove the mounts, and the sway bar if you wish. You will not be able to reconnect it after the lift using the original end links. It's not that much more body roll, I promise.

-to gain access to the rear mount studs from the interior, fold the backseats forward and locate the access trim panel over the strut tower. Remove the Christmas tree style fastener closer to the seat, on the side, then pull up to remove the trim. Remove the insulation set on top of the mount.

-to remove the strut, you will need to wrestle the lower part away from you, down between the trailing arm and front-most control arm, so the strut can be moved down enough to pull the top out first.

-once the strut is removed, it is a good idea too inspect your shock towers for rust. Here in the salt belt, every Subaru I see in they junkyard that doesn't have a hole in the block has a rear strut tower blown through from rusting out, unusually the left side. Look carefully both on the inside and outside of the vehicle. Pull back the carpeting and insulation in the cargo area a bit to check for rust. A coating of rustproofing while you're there isn't a terrible idea.

-before installing the new strut, clean, buff, and slightly spread the lower mount bracket for ease of installation. Use a cut off wheel or a sawzall to remove the brake hose bracket. If left in place and used, it will pull the hose too far down and stress the upper section of the hose. If left on and not used, it will rub against the hose and cause risk of hose failure. The lift will cause the hose to be pulled down more, so there is less slack and actually ensures the hose won't go anywhere it shouldn't.

-reverse removal procedure to install.

-there is no easy way to get the rear knuckle into the strut. There just isn't. I used a 54" prybar against the trailing arm and the center of the rear subframe, and jostled the knuckle around until the holes lined up. This is the hardest part. Again, where a helper comes in handy.

-complete the reassembly, double check everything, and put the wheels on.

-alignment time!

 

ALIGNMENT

-I actually found the alignment is not affected as much as I thought it would be for a lift. When I put my car on the machine, the rear camber was out of spec, positive by only one tenth of a degree on the left, and less than a tenth on the right. Rear toe was still in spec. Front camber was also surprisingly in spec for a blind adjustment.

-due to differences in setups and vehicle condition, your alignment may be different. If it is out of spec, have it fixed. Camber causes excessive wear on the inner (negative) and outer (positive) shoulders of the tire. Rear toe could cause dog-tracking or diagonal wipe (which destroys tires something fierce).

 

I hope this helps anyone considering the project and wondering how involved it is. Having the studs installed in the struts beforehand, it took me between 3 and 4 hours with shop air and a vehicle lift.

 

Any questions, I will answer to the best of my ability. Happy modding!

Edited by pginter96

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Great post man! I am going to do this setup with 215 65 16s when I get some extra cash. I did lots of research on this but I never saw anything saying the rear sway bar links wouldn't work,do you know any that will?

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Great post man! I am going to do this setup with 215 65 16s when I get some extra cash. I did lots of research on this but I never saw anything saying the rear sway bar links wouldn't work,do you know any that will?

Thanks!

Unfortunately I don't. Leave the sway bar links connected until you're sure you need to remove them. I really had to fight the knuckle to get it to go into the strut, so any more room I could gain, the better. When I finally got it in, the control arm was at such an angle where the actual sway bar link would have to bend sideways about an inch. The bushings in mine were already shot, so this would just destroy whatever was left of them, so I decided to go without it.

If you really want a sway bar, you could try using one from a non-outback. I'm not sure about the mounting, as I haven't done one before, but IF it bolts up it is a smaller diameter and might provide the flex you need for the ends to bend enough to attach. I'm not sure though.

My advice, leave the links connected until you're certain you need to take them out to get more movement. Once they're out, they're out. There's not too much more noticeable body roll. There will be some obviously as the cars center of gravity is much higher, but it's not a dangerous amount. Besides, if you're lifting to gain ground clearance for off-roading, removing the sway bars would provide more suspension travel and allow the wheels to move more independently of each other, giving better crawling ability.

Let me know what happens. Good luck!

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Disconnect the Sway bar links. Makes it 100x easier to get the new struts in. If you don't disconnect them you're fighting the sway bar trying to push the knuckle down.

 

 

After the lift, install the sway bar mount brackets from a Forester. They move the sway bar down an inch or so which allows you to reconnect the rear sway bar.

 

Its also easiest to get the bolts through the links and into the sway bar with the wheels on the ground. Plenty of room under the back once the lift is on, just crawl under and re-attach.

Edited by Fairtax4me
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