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2004 Outback Wagon, 2.5, 4EAT, All weather package.
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Discussion Starter #1
Well I think it is about the time for some new struts. Mine certainly aren't terrible yet, but I've got a little bit of a bounce over rough roads and I hear a little noise coming from the front end over bumps, too. It certainly hasn't reached the point of being floaty or annoying yet, in fact the car just passed safety inspection with flying colors in October and was just aligned in December, neither mechanic (inspector has been my trusted mechanic for years, alignment guy is a coworker) mentioned anything about the struts, so they aren't bad yet. But I just rolled 116,000 miles last week, and I think it is just about time to start thinking about it. I've done a little research here trying to find answers to my questions and I've gotten a few conflicting answers.

First of all... I am considering lowering the car just a little bit. Not much, I don't want it to be as low as a Legacy, I like the little bit extra ground clearance, but I'm getting new wheels in the spring and doing a few appearance mods, I want a little bit sleeker look. I've read that leaving everything else stock but using Legacy struts will give me a small drop in height. Is this true? Anyone who has done this before on a 2nd gen, do you happen to have pictures?

Secondly, I LOVE the way the car rides right now. Soft enough to be comfortable, firm enough to have excellent road feel. How much of that will I lose going to Legacy struts? My example is my '99 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP, it is lowered on stock struts with aftermarket B&G lowering springs. I'd say overall its about a 2 inch drop from stock. And it rides... stiff, to say the least. A lot less comfortable than my dad's nearly identical '03 Pontiac Grand Prix GT, same suspension/body/chassis. I don't want that to happen with my Outback.

Thirdly, while I am in here, should I look into upgraded swaybars or the like? I'm not unhappy with the way the car handles now, I think it handles very well, especially considering what kind of vehicle it is. Nimble enough for me to get in and out of busy traffic, as well as handles well enough to take the long, windy, narrow back roads around here at speed without fear of losing traction. But there is always room for improvement, right?

Even though I am getting new wheels, I am keeping with the same outside diameter by keeping the stock size tires, 225/60R16s. My concerns with the Legacy struts would be the possibility of rubbing on full lock or over bumps... anyone who has done this care to chime in on this as well?

Thanks in advance for replies. I plan on doing this probably sometime in the spring.
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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You will notice a change in the handling whether you lower it or not with new struts. Use KYB Excel G struts for a comfortable but firm ride and control.

I used Legacy struts, OE Outback springs and got a 1.75" drop. I took off the 16" wheels and replaced with 18x7.5-45 and mounted 245/45/18 tires. The wider rim with identical offset put the tire closer to the strut, but there is no chance for rub. If I had gone with a larger sidewall, it wouldn't have worked as the tread would have rubbed on the spring seat of the strut. The tires are quiet and ride smooth. As far as turning, no rub either. Also, if you lower it, it changes the angle of the lower control arm so you will have to loosen the lower rear control arm bushing nut, settle the car and retorque the nut with the weight of the car on the wheels. Then realign it.

Sway bar replacement is easy so it would be up to you whether you do it at the same time or later.

Be sure to spray all the bolts and nuts heavily with PB Blaster to eat up any rust for a few days prior to doing the work.

Here are pics
 

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2004 Outback Wagon, 2.5, 4EAT, All weather package.
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Discussion Starter #3
Looking into the swaybars... it seems like Whiteline is the only company making an upgraded swaybar for these cars. And they want an arm and a leg for them, too.

I figured KYB was going to be the best candidate, that is what is recommended for the W-body world too (GTP will be getting a set of 4 KYB AGXs though, and Eibach lowering springs... should be a better ride than the B&Gs). They seemed to work well enough when I put a set of four of those on my '95 GP.

I like the ride height of yours I think. Just a little more sleek, still good ground clearance for the snow in the winter. Now what should I be aware of when putting these in? You mentioned the control arm... does anything else need to be modified? Are these just drop in?
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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Drop in. The lower control arm rest position on the rear bushing needs to be reset for the new angle prior to realignment. So while its on the alignment rack, loose the nut and bolts, jounce the car a few times, re torque it and align.

Front camber @ -0.5, no camber adjustments on the rear without Whitine's kit. Set the toe at 0.0 each wheel.

You get a lower Outback with the same spring load and weight on the cheap. Took me 2.5 hours start to finish doing it in the shop, including realignment after.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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Looking into the swaybars... it seems like Whiteline is the only company making an upgraded swaybar for these cars. And they want an arm and a leg for them, too.

I figured KYB was going to be the best candidate, that is what is recommended for the W-body world too (GTP will be getting a set of 4 KYB AGXs though, and Eibach lowering springs... should be a better ride than the B&Gs). They seemed to work well enough when I put a set of four of those on my '95 GP.

I like the ride height of yours I think. Just a little more sleek, still good ground clearance for the snow in the winter. Now what should I be aware of when putting these in? You mentioned the control arm... does anything else need to be modified? Are these just drop in?

I THINK some folks have found a Baja swaybar that's heavier - can anyone confirm?

might check with Dale Teague at Welcome , they have some suspension and other bits for legacy/outback vehicles.
 

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2004 Outback Wagon, 2.5, 4EAT, All weather package.
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Discussion Starter #6
Cardoc, how well does your car ride now? I'm just afraid of losing very much ride quality with the crappy road conditions around here. Very bumpy.
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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Cardoc, how well does your car ride now? I'm just afraid of losing very much ride quality with the crappy road conditions around here. Very bumpy.
Whether 40 mph or 120 mph, smooth. Lowering it just changed the stance of the car. It rides like an Outback with new KYB struts all around. The wider tires help it grip since the tire patch is larger than OE. That would be the only noticeable change.
 

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2004 Outback Wagon, 2.5, 4EAT, All weather package.
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Discussion Starter #8
Good! As I said, that's why I hate the lowered ride on my GTP (on the rare occasion it is actually running), it rides like a brick. God it looks good though, but I digress :p.

I don't think I'll be changing size in wheels. I'm sticking with a 16 for my new wheels, in just a nice basic 5 spoke. I'm not paying the insane amount of money bigger tires command, plus I don't like the options available in 17 inch+. Also, my Yoko all seasons I run on the summer only have one season on them.
 

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DIY-Turbo 2.2l OBS 12.89s 1/4mile @ 106.17MPH
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Just in case someone is interested in Lower than Legacy Ride Height H&R springs ride very nice smooth even on the pot-holed streets of NYC - Drop is about 2" below normal Legacy Ride height on my '03 Legacy L-SE Wagon.

Ride Height from highest to lowest on a 2000-2004 Legacy / Outback (I'd get the last model year springs for Lifts) :

OEM Baja XT Struts / Springs (Turbo/Auto = the heaviest Bajas)
OB H6 Springs / OB Struts
OB Struts / Springs (OEM Ride Height)
Legacy Struts / OB Springs - ? Vise Versa
Legacy Struts / Springs (OEM Ride Height)
Legacy Struts / Lowering Springs
 
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