2005-2009 Outback Suspension FAQ - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums

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Old 10-09-2010, 11:52 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 2005-2009 Outback Suspension FAQ

The purpose of this thread is to collect info about parts and techniques used to modify the 2005-2009 Outback for the North American market. Many of the items here will also apply to other regional markets, but the info is specifically geared towards USA audiences. This is a work-in-progress. Please comment with any new information or corrections.

General Info
The 2005-2009 USA Outback has 8.4" of ground clearance (8.7" for turbo models). This is ~2.5" more than a comparable Legacy GT and ~1" more than Australian/Japanese Outbacks. Perhaps this added ground clearance allows the USA Outback to compete better with more traditional SUVs. But that added inch certainly does not improve handling capabilities for street driving especially since Subaru did not optimize the suspension geometry for this raised height.

Dampers (shocks/struts)
The factory dampers on the 2005-2009 Outbacks are tuned very conservatively to offer a plush, somewhat floaty ride. After 30,000-60,000 miles, especially on 2005-2006 models, the dampers are already wearing out and compromising ride quality. When comparing cars with brand new dampers against worn dampers, you really notice the difference in the back seat. The worn-out factory dampers don't control the oscillations properly in the rear and you can easily get that carsick feeling and compromised handling especially when hitting a bump in the middle of a corner. The front dampers don't seem to be quite so sensitive though they wear out as well. There are several options to address this issue:
  • KYB GR-2/Excel-G 2005-2009 dampers ~$210 shipped from Suspension or AJUSA Reported to be slightly stiffer than a brand new OEM spec damper
  • KYB GR-2/Excel-G 2002.5-2004 dampers ~$250 shipped from Just Suspension or AJUSA
    - while not 100% physically identical to their 2005 counterparts, both front and rear 2002.5-2004 dampers are compatible with the 2005-2009 model. The damping rates are different and presumed to be tuned to the weight distribution and spring rates of the 2002.5-2004 cars. KYB engineers have not been entirely straightforward about the differences in damping between 2004 and 2005. It is believed that rebound damping is higher on the 2005, but compression damping is higher on the 2004. This has not been confirmed via independent testing on a damper dyno. KYB has a different model number for 2000-2002 dampers in their catalog which cost more but may be compatible as well. It is unclear what the differences are.
  • Mix'n'match dampers: Front KYB 2005-2009 damper with rear KYB 2004 dampers reported to offer good results
  • Monroe SensaTrac $300 shipped from various national parts stores - perform the same as OEM
  • OEM replacements $350 at Subaru dealer
  • Legacy GT/Koni yellow cut'n'gut conversion Koni Insert Install Step-by-Step you need to find Koni inserts that are longer than the LGT/Impreza versions. Not sure if anyone has successfully done this conversion and preserved the USA outback ride height.


Springs
  • OEM 4-cylinder springs rates approx 196# front / 308# rear and are approximately 2.5" - 3" longer than Legacy GT springs depending on the model
  • H6 front springs swapped into 4-cylinder models may result in slight increase in ride height and better driving dynamics. The theory is that the extra weight of the H6 engine up front requires stiffer springs. The rear springs between both models are reported to be the same, so no advantage from swapping H6 rears into 4-cylinder models.
  • Rallitek overload rear springs RallITEK Overload Springs 2005-2009 Outback Wagon these are a great option for folks who frequently tow or have lots of passengers & cargo. They will also firm up the ride and handling for folks who carry light loads as well. Note that these are different than the 2000-2004 springs offered by Rallitek in spring rate, free-length, and top-hat seating configuration. They are not interchangeable.
  • King Springs - King Spring Automotive Aftermarket Springs l- reported to raise Australian model 1 inch which is similar to OEM USA height. Do not raise USA model, though stiffen the ride considerably.
  • Legacy GT swap? Possible but involves swapping a lot of components in addition to the springs.


Coil-overs & spring/damper kits
Coil-overs are pretty much the same as a spring and a damper although they allow height adjustability. The height adjustability allows corner-balancing to finely tune the handling characteristics such that the responsiveness of right-turns is equal to left turns. The ability to raise and lower the car several inches is a side effect and generally considered an aesthetic modification rather than a performance modification.
Anti-sway bars
After tuning a suspension with dampers and springs, swaybars allow finer tuning of the understeer/oversteer characteristics. Outbacks typically understeer from the factory and to optimize handling, a stiffer rear swaybar can be used. In many cases, swapping the front swaybar is not necessary. The thickness of the bar is not the only indicator of relative stiffness. The attachment points and swaybar material (hollow vs. solid) affect the effective stiffness. If you upgrade the swaybars, you should also upgrade the end-links and reinforce the chassis mounts as well. Legacy GT and some WRZ swaybars should work on the Outback, though modification to the bushing/mounts may be required to prevent the bar from slipping laterally. Good quality hose clamps positioned inside of the bushings will prevent the bar from slipping.
Anti-swaybar end-links and mounts
Lift spacers/Lift Kits
Alignment
  • The factory alignment settings are not optimized for handling, they are optimized for highway tire wear. For maximum street performance, try maximizing caster and negative camber. To adjust beyond factory spec, see the camber and bushing options below.
  • Some cars are particularly susceptible to a "ghostwalking" handling issue in cold weather. It is believed the increased ride height of USA models contributes to a rear suspension geometry issue where to toe-angle can go out of spec depending on how much the car is loaded down. To combat this situation you can throw 100-200 pounds of sandbags in the back of the trunk and then get an alignment to 2007+ spec. Upgrading the rear spring rate with RalliTek springs and upgraded dampers like KYB may also help limit the amount of toe change during normal driving. Some folks have stated that the Whiteline rear camber bushing helps dial in a little more rear camber and improves the handling.


Front LCA bushings
For the front-LCA there are several aftermarket options. In general, the rear-position bushing should NOT be replaced with polyurethane because the joint is designed to rotate on an axis that is perpendicular to the bushing-through-bolt. In this configuration, the OEM rubber bushing flexes while polyurethane binds. A spherical bearing is the most robust solution but has a noise/vibration/harness and maintenance penalty. The front position bushing may be safely replaced with polyurethane since it pivots on the same axis as the through-bolt and isn't designed to flex.
LCA bushing thread
Other bushings:
  • Whiteline rear upper control arm camber bushing kit adjusts rear camber up to 1.25* link
  • OEM Group "N" upper strut mounts

Camber kits/Camber bolts
  • Cusco front camber plates Cusco Front Camber Plates - Legacy BL/BP - Legacy Suspension - these rely on a single spherical bearing to both allow the strut to turn when steering and withstand the shock load of the whole strut. This class of camber plates do not last long compared to the more robust bearing in the OEM mounts or in camber plates from companies like ground control who opt for a dual bearing configuration with the spherical responsible for steering and roller-bearings responsible for shock load. The good thing is that all these camber plates are re-buildable with replacement bearings as long as you know the size of the bearing.
  • Ingalls Engineering 81260 14mm camber bolts (for front struts)
  • H&R Triple C 14mm camber bolts (for front struts)
  • SPC EZ Cam 14mm camber bolts (for front struts)
  • Whiteline rear upper control arm camber bushing kit adjust rear camber up to 1.25* link
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Old 10-09-2010, 11:53 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Reference Links:

Brief overview of Legacy GT suspension stuff

LGT suspension guide
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Old 10-09-2010, 11:54 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Old 10-09-2010, 11:55 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Old 10-09-2010, 08:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default King Springs and AUSTRALIAN rear KYB dampers

To clarify the effect of King Springs on ride height, as per "?" in post #1, I have fitted raised King Springs to my Aus spec 2.5 litre 05 Outback, which raised the suspension ~ 1 inch.

I understand that King Springs also manufacture standard length replacement springs.

For what it is worth, raised King Springs and AUS Specification KYB rear dampers [part no. 341354, other code on box 9A29] give an excellent ride. Presumably this same combination would give a similar result on the US Spec.

It might be worth asking KYB to advise which of the US spec rear struts is the equivalent of the Australian part number / code. It may well be the US 2000-2004 dampers

(MODS: Hopefully this feedback on an actual installation is useful in this FAQ thread. If not, please delete / modify.)
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Old 10-12-2010, 11:10 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Had Kings on my '09 and the ride height was exactly the same as stock.

Also, the 00-04 dampers are mechanically identical to the 05-09 dampers. The rebound damping force differs somewhat according to an unsophisticated bench test I did myself. There will be NO change in ride height if using them. The 00-04 dampers appear to have more rebound damping.
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Old 10-12-2010, 05:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Good idea. Here's a few bits that might help -

Stock spring rates are 196 front, 308 rear. OB springs are approx 3" longer than LGT springs.

Rear spring perch KYB replacement - SM5214 (around $25 on Amazon)
Front bearing plate (AKA tophat) - Moog part # K9559 (around $60 or less, several manufacturers)

Common mistake when re-assembling the front struts - the pyramid shaped washer points up! Meaning the narrow surface should contact the bearing in the tophat.

Coilover options -
Lift Kits -
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Old 10-12-2010, 06:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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any info for lowering an ob 1+" ??

thx
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Old 10-15-2010, 02:17 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Rear sway bar

My selection for the RSB was:
Whiteline RSB BSR39Z - 22mm - Heavy Duty adjustable - 2 link points at each end - under $200 for the part. (see pics)

Whiteline also offer the BSR39, again 22mm, H/D but single attachment point at each end.

Whiteline also offer Front sway bars and rear camber adjustment kits (+/- 1.25degrees).

Website is
Whiteline - Performance Suspension Products for Maximum Grip, Handling & Performance. Whiteline Adjustable Whiteline Sway Bars Adjustable Anti Roll Bars Anti-Roll Bars Stabiliser Bars Stabilizer Bars Anti Sway Bars Anti-Sway Bars Camber Kits Caster K

Other options are
Rallitek

Possibly also
Subaru WRX rear sway from what I've read on posts...
Attached Thumbnails
2005-2009 Outback Suspension FAQ-rsb-001.jpg   2005-2009 Outback Suspension FAQ-rsb-002.jpg  
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Old 10-15-2010, 03:11 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AFB77 View Post
My selection for the RSB was:
Whiteline RSB BSR39Z - 22mm - Heavy Duty adjustable - 2 link points at each end - under $200 for the part. (see pics)
That is alot of bar for the stock chassis mounts to deal with. It seams some spirited drivers even report problems with the chassis mounts bending with the stock bar, so you might want to consider reinforcing those mounts, either with a kit like AVO's, or some other means..
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