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2005-2009 Outback Suspension FAQ

655420 Views 1747 Replies 269 Participants Last post by  ChecksOut
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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· Registered
08 Outback XT
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Right...as the weighted *ss end pin-wheels you off the camber or ledge you were counting on.

(disclaimer...I have NOT ever witnessed the above 1st hand in an overlanding rig....Actually...yes! I have had a wild ride or 2)

It isn't pretty...or cheap. And I almost lost Frank on Loveland Pass once due to running the big fat AVO rear and the WL front...too much rear bias...almost too much lost wreckage.
As someone who often visit family in CO (Buena Vista) I know exactly what you are talking about (Been on that pass). I assume the 22mm Whiteline should be fine. Worse case if I find the issue of not enjoying the driving characteristics I can go back to smaller size ones as I kept the stock. That is unless I am misunderstanding how the larger rear bar helps cause the oversteer with the springs etc.

22mm Front with the 20mm rear sound good?
Thanks again for your input. It is much appreciated
 

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2005 Outback XT limited
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384 Posts
When it comes to wheel bearings and control arms, OEM or MR would be my only choice. Cheap wheel bearings can be the death bringer down the road, I believe there are several posts years ago about aftermarket wheel bearings going after only a couple months of driving on them. It's always a gamble what you get, even OEM's can fail.

After 3 years mine are humming so I know its getting time to change em out. Or its the magical unicorns singing as they poke holes in the manifold.
 

· Registered
2005 Outback L.L. Bean
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23 Posts
Mar 07, 2017 · #1374
"The Subaru Parts Warehouse has the complete front shock assembly on sale for $104 plus shipping. That's a pretty good deal, especially if you can't do your own spring swap out."

Can you please share a link? I know my struts are blown and would love to save a few bucks!
 

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I'm not having luck post my vehicle info to my sig so I'll just put it here:
2009 OB 2.5 Ltd 4speed trans
I bought it used in 2010 with 11k miles; it currently has 54k.

I also should provide some background: It's a daily commuter here in Dallas Tx where we get an annual ice storm. It doesn't get loaded down much except for the occasional trip to Home Depot. I don't really take it off-road much, however I prefer to climb curbs rather than wait in line at a traffic light.

Over the last 6-12 months it has developed a clunking noise when on rough pavement. The front strut mounts (not the struts themselves) are cracked. The mechanic initially advised it would be a good idea to go ahead and replace the front struts since the labor is the same. He backed off that a little when he put it on the rack to check the back ones. He pointed out there was no fluid leaking out of any of them so they might be fine for a while.

Goals in order
1. Give it to my son in 10 years when he gets his learners permit
2. Beable to fit a tougher tire (all-terrain) on it. The Michelin side-walls don't respond well to my curb climbing proclivities
3. Give it a little more aesthetically appealing off-road look and make it easier to enter/exit

The ADF spacers seem to be the right fit for my immediate needs. It appears the ghost-walking incidents occur when loaded in icy conditions which wouldn't appear to be impacted by these spacers.

Should I go ahead and replace the front struts? rear struts? Both?
Should I have them change out the bushings while they are in there?

Thanks again
 

· On the Super Mod Squad
2002 3.0 VDC Wag + 2018 2.5 Leg Ltd
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26,929 Posts
I'm slow...but I'll get there. This is a long *ss thread.
maybe 3 threads:

going up,

going down,

and just fixing what subaru screwed up in the original design, and keeping the same height.
 

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OB 3.0R
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22 Posts
Anybody running poly bushes? I think after 100k miles my bushes need to be replaced. Worthwhile spending the extra?

Sent from my SM-N910F using Tapatalk
 

· Master Caster
🖤💔💙 3 Beautiful OBXTs
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Anybody running poly bushes? I think after 100k miles my bushes need to be replaced. Worthwhile spending the extra?

Sent from my SM-N910F using Tapatalk
Yes

I have poly in many locations on both cars. There are some locations I prefer hard rubber upgrades to poly. It depends where you are talking.
 

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2005 OBW 3.0 L.L. Bean - "Spam MuSubi" @ 150k miles
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175 Posts
From reading half the thread, it sounds like in terms of maintenance/improvements to a Gen 3 OB, the order of operations is

1. struts: https://www.amazon.com/gp/huc/view.html?ie=UTF8&newItems=C18VYJSVI3NJXE%2C1

2. springs: rallitek

3. RSB: multiple choices, leaning towards whiteline

If I'm just experiencing extra bounce in the rear when going over bumps and roll when cornering, can I just focus on installing RSB and rear struts?

Just double checking my thinking.

Thanks all!
 

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515 Posts
I'd do reinforced mounts before the rsb. I did it the other way around and just the bar did basically nothing.

But yes to the struts. The rears usually wear out before the fronts. And I'd do springs all the way around if you're going to do them.
 

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2005 OBW 3.0 L.L. Bean - "Spam MuSubi" @ 150k miles
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175 Posts
I'd do reinforced mounts before the rsb. I did it the other way around and just the bar did basically nothing.

But yes to the struts. The rears usually wear out before the fronts. And I'd do springs all the way around if you're going to do them.
10-4!

What reinforced mounts do you have?
 

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I have AVO because they were available. TDCK doesn't like their design because they lock down the rear cradle but I don't have a billion other urethane and solid links back there like he does. They work great for me. The slack they eliminate in the swaybar is great and the movement they kill in the cradle doesn't affect my car at all.
 

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2006 Subaru Outback Wagon LLBean 3.0R Automatic
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1,176 Posts
If I'm just experiencing extra bounce in the rear when going over bumps and roll when cornering, can I just focus on installing RSB and rear struts?
imo you can focus on new shocks/struts/dampers and new swaybar mount bushings.

fwiw, your shocks link does not work for me

Imo regarding sway bars, the most noticeable change I made was to install new stock swaybar mounting bushings.

if you are going to change to stiffer springs, consider going to stiffer shocks also. Imo they belong together. Imo you should do both front and rear, with matching springs, shocks, swaybars and bushings. I strongly recommend against only changing rear parts.

If sway bar bushings do not eliminate the body roll, I suggest you check your lateral link bushings in the rear. And lower control arm bushings in front.

I look forward to your follow up sharing your impressions of the changes you make, and which parts you ended up installing.
 

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2005 Outback XT limited
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384 Posts
Rear bouncing is the oem struts being shot. New struts and if wanted new springs will eliminate some bounce but again you are talking about a car thats 3700 lbs and 8" off the ground. Swaying and bouncing will happen. We are not racecar. Well, some of us are hahahaha. The rallitek springs will help a lot as well.

Proper tires with stiffer sidewalls will plant the car firmly - NOT all seasons, they are too soft.

Upgrading sway bars and bushings will not remove all body roll, some but not all. It's balancing everything - sways, beefy endlinks, better tires, brace bars, etc will help. Going to stiffer springs/struts will only transfer overall weight in the body roll as that weight will transfer to the tires.

TBH it comes down to tires. Get good tires, get good results. Logical upgrades will help but it's still about the tires.
 

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2006 Subaru Outback Wagon LLBean 3.0R Automatic
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TBH it comes down to tires. Get good tires, get good results. Logical upgrades will help but it's still about the tires.
all good points
that reminds me that when I went driving with more2life, he was overinflated

so I will get on my soapbox about tire pressure now
start with factory inflation, get to know your car in stock configuration
if you increase tire pressure, you will increase bounce, and shock activation

it is possible to defeat the shocks and springs by over inflating

suspension function is directly related to tire pressure
 
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