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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
INTRODUCTION:

This is to chronicle the restoration activities to get my 2005 XT back on the road. I am starting this mid-project but I will start from the beginning to better explain start to finish all I have done. I like to take quite a few pictures if I have clean hands or a helper to snap some pics while I am doing the work. As I have gotten older I dont stop and take as many photos as I did before. This is my 9th project build and my 3rd Subaru. I am a complete Subaru fan and love the Outback platform. I have 5 Subaru's currently in my garage (2020 OB Onyx, 2020 BRZ, 2005 OBXT, 2005 Fozie, 2000 OBX sedan) these are my wife and kids cars as well as my BRZ which is my "daily driver" until I get Blue Smoke on the road.

I purchased Blue Smoke off of FB Marketplace in September 2020. In the middle of a pandemic I needing a project to take my mind off of all the craziness going on in the world. I had been looking for an XT flavor for sometime and my wife stumbled upon this car while helping me look. I stalked the car for 3 months and it wasn't getting any movement and there were a couple of price drops. The exterior and interior looked to be in decent shape, the only question was the mechanicals. I contacted the owner and started talking about all that was right and wrong with the car. Talking it over with my wife I went and had a look at it. It was raining when we got there and the vehicle was parked on a wonky hill. Because of the rain, I didnt do my due diligence normally done when purchasing a car. The pandemic was bad enough and I really needed a project. There were parts in boxes and it was not running. The car came with a brand new Turbo in a box and other turbo related parts. Not much was known about the car as this owner never registered it and he bought it from a younger person who had done some "mods" to the car to include, lights, tune, Air Box, lowering suspension, other things that would need to be undone. The current owner was a nice fellow who was a Subaru Mechanic and he was mostly forthcoming about what the car needed. The price he was selling it for I knew there would be significant wrench time involved to get it back on the road and in a state I would be willing to drive it. We left and I let him know I would think about it. My wife and I discussed it and we said because it was not running to make an offer based on that fact. The next day I made the offer and it was accepted. Now that we had a deal and I had to arrange a tow to get the vehicle back to my house.

This is where our story begins. I arranged a tow and the truck showed up on time (shocking but I have used them before) we got it hooked up and delivered back to the house. First order of business was a bath. So I pressure washed the vehicle top to bottom as best I could.

 

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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
WRAP REMOVAL:

I got the big parts cleaned up and now I wanted to remove the front wrap. I will say a heat gun and patience are required when removing a wrap. I dont know if I will ever wrap another thing after taking this off the hood. This process took me about 2.5 hours to get everything off. The results were worth the effort. The paint underneath was perfect. A little paint correction and it will shine. This was just something small that would make a difference when I looked at it in the garage. Having not taken stock of everything it needed it was just a small thing to make a start.

 

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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
PARTS, PARTS, MORE PARTS:

There were quite a few obvious needs facing Blue Smoke. First and foremost was the suspension. The lowering springs on the vehicle were not my style. This build will use mostly factory Subaru Parts where possible. So a list was started and send off to the good folks at Stivers Subaru in Decatur, GA because they had some very aggressive pricing.

Front/Rear Springs
Front/Rear Shocks/Struts
SPT Air Box (Funky Intake already on the car)
Blow off Valve
Spark Plugs
Filters - Oil and transmission
Wiper Blades
Center Vent Panel (Broken)
Headlamp Assemblies
Battery Hold Down Parts


Then from Ebay I found the rear fascia panel that was a direct color replacement for the broken one on Blue Smoke.
 

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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
REAR HATCH FASCIA:

A few days later the rear fascia panel arrived from North Carolina. What a joy to get a used part in fantastic condition. My hats off to whomever pulled the part. All the tabs were intact as well as the mounting bolts. This made the replacement that much easier. Taking off the inside panels and replacing this fascia panel took about an hour or so.


The difference was dramatic considering the original was in pieces. I also removed all of the badges and stickers off the rear of the car. I like clean, the badging and stickers make my OCD go into over drive. I took the BRZ off my car the first day I had it.
 

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2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
HEADLIGHTS:

Next up was replacing the original headlights. The PO decided to add flame thrower lightbulbs to delaminating lights. The housings were well cut up and there were wires everywhere. I wanted clean and OEM so I removed all the aftermarket lights and replaced the headlight assemblies with the OEM versions with OEM lightbulbs. Also, replaced the foglight with a factory replacement Sylvania bulb. This was much better in the end. The light was not "muddy" and the pattern was much better.

 

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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
INTAKE TUBE:

The car needed to be running so the turbo in a box was looked at then diagnosis was started. The intake tube that runs from the air box to the turbo inlet tube had significant damage at the Turbo end. The worm clamp had eaten into the rubber and there were a lot of holes present. I ordered a factory replacement and started some research on how to swap this over. Of the projects I have done in my life this replacement was one of the more difficult. Getting all the hoses off and the clamp on the recirculating pipe was an absolute bear to get off. This job took the better part of 6 hours. Lots of swearing and blood later the new pipe was in place. If I ever have to do this job again I will remove the entire intake manifold rather than snake the pipe in again and replace the hoses.

 

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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
SUSPENSION: (Part 1)

Next project was to get the suspension to an appropriate level. I didnt take any "during" pictures as I was doing this job alone. If you have ever done this job before you know getting the top strut nut off can be a challenge. I struggled to get it off with my battery powered Milwaukee impact driver. I have wanted a corded impact driver for a while. A quick trip to The Home Depot and I had a corded 1.75HP Milwaukee impact driver. By far one of the best tools I have ever bought and it made quick work of all of this suspension swap. It got the nut off instantly, ran the spring compressors down quickly and had everything off and on the vehicle in no time. This job took me about 5 hours start to finish. When I was done and put the car down off the Quickjacks (Best tool I ever purchased) The rear was sitting significantly lower than the front. This would require some further research.

 

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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
PAINT CORRECTION:

The car was so dirty so I had my 4 teenage boys help me push the car outside so I could wash it and start paint correction. This is a 5 step process I do on all my cars with fantastic results. I use all Griots products to include, Concentrated Car Wash, Griots G9 Buffer, Clay Infused Surface Prep Pad, Complete Compound, Polish, Best of Show Wax. This is an all day affair. I have been detailing cars for 30 years. In my younger days I would do it for others, now its only for me and the family. This is one thing I really enjoy. The car had been outside for quite a while and because of the exposure the paint had a lot of embedded trash. The buffer, Clay Pad and best of shine removed all of the contaminants from the paint. This did finish off my well worn clay pad. Next up was to switch the pad to a cutting pad and some of the Griots compound. The paint needed cutting on the roof, hood, and rear hatch. This removed a lot of dirt and a layer of garbage to give me something to polish and really make shine. My oldest joined me to finish off the car. We polished the whole car and removed all the fine scratches and really conditioned the paint to shine. Last we applied the Best of Show wax to seal in that shine. When we were done it was night and day difference. Even my wife commented it looked like a much newer vehicle than its 15 years.

 

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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
ENGINE and EXHAUST:

All during this time I was working towards to goal of getting the car started. I took a days vacation from work to get the engine sorted out so I could start it and make sure there was nothing further wrong with the motor. (This post is about four weeks of engine/exhaust work. Remember this car came in boxes so It was not put together when I got it.

I got the intake tube replaced, and mounted the turbo onto the engine. I struggled a bit getting the turbo on the motor due to the turbo needing to be clocked so the intercooler would fit. I replace the BOV on the intercooler back to factory and remounted the intercooler on the motor. I put the factory down pipe on and went to install it to the exhaust and there was none. When I mean none I mean there was no cat, no mid pipe and no mufflers. This was very perplexing. At this point my frustration level was significant because more than anything I wanted to start the car.


Next I went to install the air intake and it was the wrong one. It was obviously off a different Subaru Model because the SPT shield I bought from the dealer didnt fit. I looked up the part and saw the one I had was for a WRX not an Outback. So I had to order the replacement from Subaru. I had wanted to go back to the factory system but the shield was cheaper than buying a used intake/air box off eBay. So I went the cheaper route. When I had to order the SPT intake pipe and filter from Subaru it eclipsed the cost of the use air box. Since the car has the SPT air filter system it puts Blue Smoke at a Stage 1 worth of equipment.

Back to the exhaust; this is an expensive set up and very confusing for reasons I will talk about. The XT has two mufflers, mid pipe, catalytic convertor, then the downpipe to finish off the exhaust back to front. The downpipe, mid pipe and mufflers are the same for both the Automatic and Manual Transmission cars. The catalytic converter is different. The cat from Subaru is $1900, yes thats the right number. Thats almost what I paid for the vehicle. The Manual transmission CAT is about $800 from the dealer. They are NOT interchangeable. I didnt know this at the time. Research brought me to Magnaflow and they had a replacement for $388. Thats a far cry from the $1900 Subaru wanted. I was also looking at replacing the downpipe with a Cobb 3" downpipe for the automatic transmission but could not find one anywhere in the US. I tried 10-15 different retailers both online and brick and mortar locations. This caused a lot of thought and contemplation because the costs were really starting to mount on this project quickly. Getting in touch with Magnaflow they said they had sold a lot of these cats and there was no "notes" to say it there was a difference between the auto and manual transmissions. I believe them because I wanted to believe I had a "economical" answer to my CAT problem. My engineer brain knew it wasn't going to work because the OEM has two part numbers. The engineer brain was right. It didn't work. The mount was the same but the rear tube was significantly longer and the front was significantly shorter so it would not work. There were 3 more days lost trying to see if anyone had the Cobb pipe in stock and still nothing, 10 weeks backorder. Around the corner from my house is a very good muffler shop and they said they could get me in and make the cat fit.

I got the car started after charging the battery and getting 5 gallons of premium gas to add to whatever was in the tank. Thankfully, there was almost nothing in the take and the fresh gas made up the bulk of what was in there. The car fired up first time with just the downpipe on. There was a lot of blue smoke from burning oil so I figured that after a few miles that would burn off. I finished refilling the radiator because it had been drained when they replaced the turbo and changed the oil. I took it around the neighborhood to make sure it was road worthy. It seemed to run well but the smoking didnt stop. I let it idle for a while to no avail. I figured it just needed a few miles and it would be OK. Engineering brain stepped in again and said "Nope thats not it".

Blue Smoke billowed from the car on the way to the muffler shop to have the cat fitted. At this point the car has no tag so I am driving without a license plate. Its fully insured but I didnt want to meet up with my local constabulary for not having a tag with a really loud exhaust. They shop got the CAT installed and the drive home was much more pleasant albeit it still the blue smoke. He cut the rear of the CAT and welded the flange back on. On the front he cut in the middle and stitched in an extension and welded it back together. Nice work and for $100 it was a welcome relief to have a car that would idle quietly.


The blue smoke was bothering me! Its obviously dripping down on to the up tube/exhaust header but I cannot see where.
 

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2006 OutBean, 2005 LGTW
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1,598 Posts
Man.. that car was LOW! Can't wait to see how this car turns out!
 
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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
INTERIOR WORK:

The interior needed some attention even though its in great shape. The glove box would open and immediately slam to the floor. The shifter surround was stained, had stickers on it, and would not come clean. The Drivers seat bottom plastic had popped off the frame and was loose. The center vent was cracked and in pieces. It had wonky window tint on all the windows and a double layer on the front windows. Finally, the drivers side window would not go down.

The glove box was a pretty easy fix. I went to the pull a part to get a few assorted screws and such and I found a 2006 Legacy with the glovebox intact. I needed the string brake off the box and this one had it. I knew it was only a couple of bucks so I grabbed the whole thing. The Legacy was pretty picked over otherwise I would have gotten the window motor to try. So glovebox, door handle screw cover, and a handful of misc screws and fasteners I was out the door for $14 dollars. I swapped all of that over and changed the air filter while I had the glovebox out. Something I have learned, the videos online to change the air filter is much more difficult than pulling off the side panel and sliding the entire glove box out as a unit. 6 screws and 3 push pins and I can get to the air cleaner. Maybe I should make a video.

When I finished the glovebox I noticed the window tint was wonky at best. The reason the interior looks so good is someone had the forethought to tint the windows. This tint was old, tired and brittle. It came off fairly easily and the residual glue was almost none existent. Not a hard job and now you can see out the windows again. I will most likely have them tinted again to something darker than they were originally. Living in the south you want to have tinted windows especially if you have black leather interior.

The drivers seat needed two of the green interior pins that are only available from Subaru or online. The parts counter for these were $.89 a piece. Thankfully, something cheap that fixed the issue right away.

The center vent replacement wasn't a hard job to do since the original was in pieces. I carefully took the original out and separated it from the car and swapped the clock over to the bottom of the panel and reinstalled it.

The window replacement was one of two things. I ordered both a master switch and a windows motor from Amazon. These parts are just too expensive from Subaru for what you get. I can buy 3 master switches for the cost of a single one from Subaru. Same goes for the window motor. This is one place I was willing to compromise on the cost of the parts. The switch came first and after a quick check, it was the motor (of course). The motor came and 1A Auto has a great video on how to replace the window motor. It took about 1.5 hours to get the motor swapped and the window works like a charm.

Last was the center console. I found an aftermarket part off eBay that was the surround and the ashtray. It was obviously from a lower than Limited Model because I had to swap the light on the lighter and the electronics from my original one to the new one. 15 minutes and job done. I was left with the gear selector surround. This was still stained and after putting the new to me surround on it became evident this needed replacing as well. I remember that Legacy at the parts yard had a nice surround so I went back and picked it up for $4. All told this job took about 20 minutes but was one of the most visible changes to the interior.

 

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2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Rear Suspension Redux

I was at the parts department of the local dealer and I asked the question about the rear springs. The parts person told me I obviously had the wrong part. After some conversation around the other dealership ordering the part based on my VIN she did a look up to verify. Sure enough, they were the wrong springs. She ordered the right springs and 2 days later I had the right springs in my hand. My son and I tore the rear end apart and put the new springs on and sure enough the car is sitting where it should. This was a frustration since the other dealership got it wrong and they would not refund the money because they had been installed. OK I spent $4K at your dealership on parts and you want to walk away from me for $80. No problem.

 

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Premium Member
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
VALVE COVER GASKET:

Searching for my oil leak and reading the forums the common area for a significant leak is the passenger side valve cover gasket. I order the Six Star gasket set from out west and it took a few days to come in. I made sure that the half moons were included as well. This job is not that difficult but it is time consuming. I can do this job without lifting the engine nor removing a lot of extra stuff. The key to me for this job is to remove the air intake, loosen the Upper Coolant reservoir, unclip the O2 Sensor and let it hang out of the way. Other than those few things the valve cover comes out with little fuss. The gaskets, as I suspected, were hard and brittle. The new gaskets and half moons were installed and everything was put back together. I use Permatex Back on the Half Moons. I learned about this stuff about 10 years ago doing my Datsun Z car project and will use nothing else.
 

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2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
SCARY TEST DRIVE:

I took the car out for a drive and the smoke was still there. Granted I dropped a lot of oil changing the valve cover gasket and spent a lot of time cleaning it up and I anticipated some smoke for a few minutes. It was still as prevalent as it was before. I got on the turbo a little bit and BANG the car cut fuel and I popped a P0244 code (Check engine/Flashing Cruise Control). I limped the car home and the car is still smoking... GRRR The code worries me a bit and I found a broken pipe and hose connector at the front of the intake manifold. I will have to see about repairing that to see if that clears the code. I will also check the T-Connector on the back of the motor to see if that popped off. I know these things are prone to the code if there are leaks. My main concern is the PO said the guy "may" have had a tune on it. Since I have a Stage 1 I am going down the path of an Cobb Accessport to load a better map and perhaps do some further troubleshooting. I need to fix that broken nipple first and see if that clears the codes.
 

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2006 OutBean, 2005 LGTW
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1,598 Posts
Rear Suspension Redux

I was at the parts department of the local dealer and I asked the question about the rear springs. The parts person told me I obviously had the wrong part. After some conversation around the other dealership ordering the part based on my VIN she did a look up to verify. Sure enough, they were the wrong springs. She ordered the right springs and 2 days later I had the right springs in my hand. My son and I tore the rear end apart and put the new springs on and sure enough the car is sitting where it should. This was a frustration since the other dealership got it wrong and they would not refund the money because they had been installed. OK I spent $4K at your dealership on parts and you want to walk away from me for $80. No problem.

Sounds about like my local dealer. They'll never admit fault or ever try to make it right.

So did they sell you LGT rear springs? Did you end up going back to stock outback height?
 

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2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Sounds about like my local dealer. They'll never admit fault or ever try to make it right.

So did they sell you LGT rear springs? Did you end up going back to stock outback height?
I still have the springs in my garage. I did go back to the stock ride height.
 

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2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Nice work so far! I too saved an XT, you just can’t buy cars like these anymore. The size is right, manual transmissions are dead and the newer outback’s are trying too hard to be SUVs
My wife's 2020 Outback next to my 2005 dwarfs it in height and size. I agree I think the mid oughts were the perfect size Outbacks.
 

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2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Going back to the smoke...perhaps I missed it, but is this coming out of the tailpipe or the engine bay?

The exhaust work looks very good. You've got yourself a good muffler shop.
Coming out of the engine bay. Passenger side. The factory heat shields are in the way of seeing the bottom of the engine. I am going to have to take them off to determine where the oil is coming from.
 
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