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Old 12-13-2002, 09:20 PM   #1
JonR
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Arrow The Ultimate "Help Me Spend $$$" Answers Thread

Recently revised to reflect new engine management, etc.

I posted this for another thread, but I think it will be more useful as a thread in itself...hopefully, this will answer some questions for those who wonder about the correct beginner's upgrade path and will reduce the number of "I have $1350.47 and want to know what to do with it" threads.

Here it goes...after much research...this is for anyone who wants to systematically upgrade their 2002-2005 WRX and doesn't have the alfriedesq type of money/knowledge/time to spend on engine management. So, in other words, this is for the guy who wants good old simple reliable bolt on stuff but doesn't have the time or the knowledge (or the fat wallet) to be constantly refining and re-tuning their ECU.

1)DON'T get a K&N filter-no gain whatsoever-dyno proven (Shiv)

2)Tires-Get some good all season if you see snow (ie BFG G-Force T/A KDWS W-rated *all season* 400 tread rating ~$400, Conti ExtremeContact ~$350), Hankook Ventus S212, RE01R are some good ones if you don't see much snow

*important*- "summer" tires are great on the pavement but suck for off-road driving, so think about that when you buy tires

3)DON'T get some heavy 19's to try to look cool like your friend Jimmy with his GS-R. There are great light wheels out there...but do some research before buying just to say you have wheels.

4)Gauges-boost and EGT at least...Omori or Greddy, Greddy 52mm electronic boost and EGT are ~$300 from online. Mechanical boost gauges are fine.

5)Go Catless...Up-pipe (6-9hp) $200-300, Down Pipe $200-400 (10-15 hp) ($200 if you want to just remove 1 cat with a shorty downpipe)

6)Again, DON'T get a mo'frikin K&N

7)Don't get a CAI, you'll lean out your A/F unless you have engine management

8)Dont' get a BOV, you'll run a rich A/F on shifts

9)Remember, it's a RALLY car, not a Mustang meant for dragging, so keep in mind that this car was not meant to get 600WHP to the unforgiving pavement, but instead ~400whp to the *gravel* AND also remember that, while it's fun to beat your friend in his Z28, you will likely break stuff (ie tranny) if you intend on dragging it continuously

10-10,071)DON'T get ANY of it if you and all your friends know that your only REAL driving skills are displayed on Gran Turismo and you aren't sure of the difference between an apex and an inertial drift

So, now we have a catless (or at least 2 cats removed) car with 2 gauges and some sweet tires. We've gained a conservative 30WHP as well as lost some spool up time and we know a whole lot more about how the car works (if you DIY). Even catless, as long as you keep the stock axle-back, you will be at near-stock noise levels, just for your info.

These are the NECESSARY modifications for a stock car before going for anything more that has to do with power, IMHO. Now you're at about $1100-1300, and should decide if you want to go for more power or better handling or better braking...

The cheap way to get power and keep a quiet exhaust...keep the stock muffler and get...Samco/Prodrive/Perrin IC hoses (5-7hp)-$100, and MBC set 1-1.5psi higher (7-10hp) ONLY WITH a 2002 AS WELL AS BOTH GAUGES AND THE KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT THEY MEAN(!)- $60 and save up for an AccessPort ($600) or ECUTek or a new turbo and AccessPort if you have too much extra money. Some would say skip the MBC and save for an Accessport from the beginning since the AP will manage boost for you and some people are stupid about setting their MBC too high. Again, realize the MBC is really mainly useful with the 2002-03 which did not have the open-closed loop delay. Don't slap a MBC on an 04-05 without engine management.

Power and loud...save up for a good catback (~$500) or at least muffler (prodrive, $380) (prodrive isn't as loud as others, but still pumps substantial db's if catless) and again Accessport (AccessPort plus turbo-back exhaust is a ~50-60 HP gain).

or

Handling...Rear Sway Bar-$150, new end links-$75, tranny and motor mounts ~$150-200, Kartboy short shifter and bushings ~$200, and save up for coil-overs and a full brace system. Springs/struts can be changed if you don't mind altering your ride height and sacrificing some comfort. Coil-overs are great but you have to pay to get valving good enough to truly go between good ride quality and good performance. The Koni strut/Prodrive spring setup is a good one, as is a set of V8 takeoffs from a USDM STI along with JDM pink springs and Group N top bushings.

or

Braking...Stainless Steel brake lines ($100), Good brake fluid-Valvoline SynPower ($10) is good enough for most, or get Motul, ATE, etc. if you see a lot of track time ($50 for enough to replace it all), brake pads (do a search on brands). You can also upgrade your rear brakes by switching to the larger rotors from the Outback H6 which will fit the WRX.

AccessPort ($600) is IMHO the way to go as far as engine management for the untrained tuner because it is easily adaptable to your new mods as you go on, is invisible to the dealer, and doesn't involve cutting any wires. Basically, you just plug the thing into the port under you steering wheel, download maps from the Cobb website based on your mods, and load them onto your ECU. There really isn't much of a comparison, although simply reflashing the ECU with for example ECUTek each time to account for your new mods will work but gets expensive and means you have to drive somewhere to get it done rather than just downloading a new map. UTEC is OK but is more expensive and not as easy to work with for the untrained. Old Unichips (now about $200-300) will give you a cheap 30HP or so, but are not widely supported anymore and are therefore not easy to upgrade. Accessport on a stock WRX will add ~30HP and will even out your torque curve while at the same time giving you more peak HP (AND you don't have to mess with the FUN of tricking your HAL 9000-like ECU).

Accessport plus turboback, uppipe, and IC hoses should net you around a 60-65 HP gain over stock and cost you about $2000-2500 depending on how much you spent on your turboback (that price does not incluse the basics...gauges and tires which you should already have).

ALL of the mods I have listed to here are very SAFE and RELIABLE and will not give you constant hours of trouble.

If you do every mod I have listed here, your car will be quick, handle gracefully, and brake powerfully and you should not have any reliability issues (again, unless you are an idiot with the boost with a MBC). You won't outperform the top tuners and you won't know as much about how your car's internals work, but the bottom line is that you should have a fast, daily drivable, trouble-free car.

The mods left after this (ie injectors, fuel rails, big turbos, FMIC, flywheel) are almost all projects that will require not only a serious monetary investment but some serious time investment as you will almost certainly run into problems from which you may need professional help to extricate yourself.

The safest next step would be a new turbo (VF series is widely used), STI injectors, and Walbro fuel pump (all three for about~$1300) and then a new intercooler (~$800-1800). (note: With Uppipe, turboback, IC Hoses, new turbo, STI injectors, fuel pump and AccessPort altogether about a $3000-3700 investment, you will be running around 100 HP above stock.)

My recommendation is you don't upgrade your turbo/injectors before upgrading your brakes and suspension with the above suggested mods or more.

Also...expect to replace a clutch here or there if you go heavy on the power or if you like to drop at 5K often.

Oh, and one more thing. Don't take my word for it...call or visit someone like Cobb, Gruppe-S, Topspeed that has some actual experience with this stuff and isn't some anonymous idiot like me that has too much time on their hands.

Feel free to add to this if you aren't inept.

EDIT: The pros and cons of lightened/underdriven pulleys are debated below...also, if you plan on going off road much, think about getting a skid plate, which will protect your oil pan, tranny, EGT sensor, etc. from that one fun-ending pointy rock. This is discussed below as well. Also, uppipe choices and philosophies are discussed below.
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Last edited by JonR; 11-03-2008 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 12-13-2002, 09:33 PM   #2
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That is seriously an informative post and kudos to putting a lot of great info into a single source. hopefully everyone will take it with a grain of salt and use it for what it is...... a guide to help them not ask as many repetitive questions!!!!
Thanks

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Old 12-14-2002, 12:30 PM   #3
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Thanks. Hopefully it will make things a little easier and cut down on the number of people that are completely unaware of how to begin upgrading and need some advice from the collective knowledge of the forum.
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Old 12-14-2002, 01:35 PM   #4
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Good thread! I'm gunna bookmark this one for easy point-teh-noob-to-success-action.

One thing to change is that bov's make the car run slightly rich between shifts, not lean. The ecu is designed to use the air thats released into the inlet pipe and squirts a bit of fuel to get a good a/f mixture. Might wanna add dont get a CAI a few more times as well, since these are the noobs favorite "power mods". Make it bold
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Old 12-14-2002, 01:37 PM   #5
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If you are like me and aren't planning on a whole lot of mods (maybe an axle-back, pullys and IC piping kit), because you don't want to tear your car apart every couple years to pass smog inspections, here's my plan:

1. Ecutek reflash from Vishnu. $750 and another ~25whp on an otherwise *stock* car! No downsides except for increased fuel consumption under spirited driving.

If still not happy with that:

2. Pully kit ~$170 and 5-10whp. No downsides to this mod.

3. IC piping $170 and 5-7whp. No downsides to this mod either.

4. Axle-back exhaust. Cost is variable $350-500, don't know power gains but probably in the 5hp range. The worst bang for the buck mod but will sound great.

With keeping it mild it shouldn't be necessary to reflash the ECU after the initial flash, any further gains I would guess to be minimal by further ECU tuning given the high amount of adaptability in the ECU. If you want to make sure you get the most out of the setup, you can get a reflash for another $175 or so, or even take the car and get it dyno tuned.

Anyway, as far as power mods go, that's the order I'm planning on going with. If you're planning on more upgrades (up-pipe, turbo-back, etc) I probably wouldn't do the mods in this order.
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Old 12-14-2002, 01:52 PM   #6
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There are definite downsides to pulleys if you underdrive the alternator...namely that you lose lighting. Some have had no problems with this, some have. Suffice it so say this mod MAY give you electrical problems, especially if you will be running aftermarket lighting. That is why I didn't include pulleys; people think that they are all the same and that there is no downside, then they try to put a full rack of Hella's on the front or run aftermarket stereos and realize they are seeing power drops due to the underdriving.

Oh, and I wouldn't call swapping the downpipe and midpipe for stock to pass emissions "tearing apart the car" as it is really about a 20-30 min procedure if you've never done it. Remember, the uppipe can be left in for emissions, as it only helps emissions at start-up and has no use when the car is warm (which is when you will be sniffer-tested).

But, you are right...if you NEVER want to touch your car again and emissions is an issue, then don't mess with the post-turbo cats. I'd say that is a minor issue though...

Last edited by JonR; 12-14-2002 at 01:58 PM.
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Old 12-14-2002, 02:16 PM   #7
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If you run aftermarket lighting which draws more current, then yes, I would expect the pulleys to cause the lights to dim, though only at idle or low (less than 1500) rpms. If you're running aftermarket lighting, then you're also probably doing some good racing and you wouldn't be worried about smog checks, either.

Even if its only 20-30 min to swap out the post-turbo cats, its too much of a hassle for me. I don't want to mess with it other than installing it. Besides, I do like the environment and don't want to spew unburnt hydrocarbons around un-necesarily. Same goes for the up-pipe, though I certainly am tempted to replace this anyway given that it really is only there for startup emissions and the fact that it could break apart damaging the turbo. The decrease in turbo-lag and EGTs and increase in spool-up and power are tempting!

BTW, anyone actually dyno an axle-back? I would love to know if the Prodrive unleashes any power or not...
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Old 12-14-2002, 02:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by drees

BTW, anyone actually dyno an axle-back? I would love to know if the Prodrive unleashes any power or not...
no but the stock muffler is enough of a restrictor to where I noticed spool up was faster... that alone is enough proof of worth. and there is a picture of the stock muffler cutout floating around this site.
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Old 12-14-2002, 02:27 PM   #9
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If that's the case, I may need to do the axle back first in my list of mods... Would love to have a bit more sound, too.
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Old 12-14-2002, 02:57 PM   #10
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Just so you know, its not "unburnt hydrocarbons" that are the main thing the cats "convert", it is carbon monoxide, nitroxide, and other monoxides (byproducts of the gasoline combustion process), which they convert to more stable, less harmful dioxides (ie carbon dioxide) and diatomic nitrogen through Platinum/Palladium/Rhodium catalyst plates. The unburnt hydrocarbons are called VOC's (volatile organic compounds) that, to make a long story short, end up contributing to low-level ozone, which is the main component of smog, however, these are the least of the concerns of the cats.

You are correct, though, in saying that the removal of cats is not a "good" thing for the environment...but I would argue that there are much worse things....namely the monoliths disguised as transportation known by such names as "Excursion", "Suburban", "Yukon", "Navigator", and "Denali", to name a few. Catalytic converter removal is the LEAST of the environment's concerns as long as we have "vehicles" in which we can measure fuel consumption in terms of gallons per mile. Not buying a fuel gulping SUV does more for the US then anything!!

Ah, but we digress...each to his own. If you are worried about the environment, I respect that. I'll shut up about all of this so this thread doesn't go too far OT!! Let's keep this one useful for the masses.
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Old 12-14-2002, 03:06 PM   #11
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Good discussion Jon.

-Dave
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Old 12-22-2002, 08:59 PM   #12
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This is a great thread and I will definitely bookmark!! I don’t know if you have been doing this or not, but adding info as people ask questions might be a good idea.

In your post you indicate to save up for a coil over system. For “most” people the STI suspension should work perfectly. (I am in the process of trying to decide which system to get myself.)

Also, if you are afraid of the smaller pulley there has to be one that is the same size but lighter that would definitely help. Personally, I think the power gains are in the removal of the rotational mass anyway.

One last thing, how difficult would you say the up pipe install is? Is it shade tree mechanic level?

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Old 12-22-2002, 09:30 PM   #13
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this is good info (I printed it out so I wont loose it )...I think it should be a sticky. How about spark plugs? I'm coming up on the 30,000 miles service and I don't know if I should get different plugs

Pedro
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Old 12-22-2002, 10:01 PM   #14
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I agree on the sticky part
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Old 12-23-2002, 03:37 AM   #15
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HIDs. It'll make your night time driving much more enjoyable. Traffic on the opposite side might not like you, though.
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Old 12-23-2002, 07:02 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by drees
If you are like me and aren't planning on a whole lot of mods (maybe an axle-back, pullys and IC piping kit), because you don't want to tear your car apart every couple years to pass smog inspections, here's my plan:

1. Ecutek reflash from Vishnu. $750 and another ~25whp on an otherwise *stock* car! No downsides except for increased fuel consumption under spirited driving.

If still not happy with that:

2. Pully kit ~$170 and 5-10whp. No downsides to this mod.

3. IC piping $170 and 5-7whp. No downsides to this mod either.

4. Axle-back exhaust. Cost is variable $350-500, don't know power gains but probably in the 5hp range. The worst bang for the buck mod but will sound great.

With keeping it mild it shouldn't be necessary to reflash the ECU after the initial flash, any further gains I would guess to be minimal by further ECU tuning given the high amount of adaptability in the ECU. If you want to make sure you get the most out of the setup, you can get a reflash for another $175 or so, or even take the car and get it dyno tuned.

Anyway, as far as power mods go, that's the order I'm planning on going with. If you're planning on more upgrades (up-pipe, turbo-back, etc) I probably wouldn't do the mods in this order.
Pulleys??
ARGHHHHHHHH.
I think the best first mods are catless up and downpipes,EMS,EBC.
Tuca
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Old 12-23-2002, 02:15 PM   #17
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sun-of-a-@*@*@*, people always overlook the stickers, each stickers is worth at least 5whp.....esp. those nos and type-r ones, those are the special 10whp ones j/k

but seriously, just to re-iterate, stick w/the basic to start, for power....up/down-pipe, silicon hoses, mbc(w/guages)

handling........sway bars and tires

knowing your car.......driving school

looks...........stickers (couldn't help it)
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Old 12-23-2002, 02:26 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by tuca33

Pulleys??
ARGHHHHHHHH.
I think the best first mods are catless up and downpipes,EMS,EBC.
Tuca
Depends on your priorities... If your priorities are to go for the max in terms of power output, then yes, you may want to rethink, although as far as bang for the buck goes, pulleys really are a good deal.

However, my priorities in modifying my WRX are: 1. Keep it legal so I never have to worry about SMOG. This means keep all cats. 2. Keep it relatively mild, so I don't have to worry about blowing the engine or tranny.

Anything more than 270hp or so to the crank and pushing their engine is looking for trouble on stock internals. I want an engine that I can run at max power all day without worrying about it.
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Old 12-23-2002, 04:24 PM   #19
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God is pushing 390 HP with pump gas for some thousand miles and its running fine.
A well tuned WRX engine is very strong and wont break easily.
Tuning wrong may be the cause of most blown WRX's.
Tune it right and dont worry about it.
TUca
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Old 12-23-2002, 05:48 PM   #20
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Some thousand miles is not how long I want my engine to last, I am hoping to keep my engine in it's original form with just maintenance for at least 100k miles, I'm hoping to get 150k-200k miles out of it.

Now maybe God also has internal engine mods, at that point I would not be surprised to see that amount of power and still be fairly reliable, but pushing that much power reliably with a 2.0l engine is not easy.

I doubt it will last 50k miles if you push 390hp thourgh it for any amount of time, especially if you happen to experience any amount of detonation because of bad gas or hot temps for some reason.
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Old 12-23-2002, 07:36 PM   #21
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Come on,,THis EJ20 engine is very very strong.
It failsonly when people load them in a wrong form.
If its properly tuned the Subaru engine can handle pretty well about 350 to 400 crank HP..
The problem is certainly the tranny will fail before that..
Tuca
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Old 12-28-2002, 06:32 PM   #22
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Wow. People on this board never cease to amaze me. I take all this time to type out all of this stuff and try to initiate a cogent thread that will be helpful to people as well as to allow for intelligent, relevant discussion, and you people decide to come in here and hijack it with your completely unrelated conversations, all of which have been hashed and rehashed in other threads. I wish I could just remove your posts from this thread. PLEASE, people, take your personal arguments to other threads and only post INTELLIGENT, empirical data or questions on this thread so that we may keep it based upon fact and not OT. If you disagree with what I have said about the topic of this thread, state why in a SUBSTANTIATED manner...that means....with EVIDENCE and reasoning, and we will discuss it. Otherwise, you are welcome to start your own thread. Please don't destroy what began as a perfectly USEFUL thread about upgrade paths. Thanks, kids!
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Old 12-28-2002, 07:34 PM   #23
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Hey Jon...I though this was a "discussion" forum not a "only post what I feel is pertinent" forum....


...give everyone a break..
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Old 12-28-2002, 07:49 PM   #24
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anyone know of HP gains from installing the STi replica scoop? or is it purely a cosmetic upgrade. I have heard *rumors* that the increased air volume gives you a few HP? Any truth to this.

Also i am curios about the replacement plates you see to mount between the scoop and intercooler they are supposed to redirect more air into the intercooler and down over the turbo. Do they work or are they once again purely cosmetic?

If so its a very easy upgrade and quite inexpensive.
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Old 12-28-2002, 08:52 PM   #25
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Did you even read my last post? I specifically said that I did want this to be a discussion post, but only that I didn't want to talk about things outside the scope of what this thread is about, which is...the nature of the correct bolt-on upgrade path....ie what is good/safe/easy and what is harmful/dangerous/difficult. I want everyone to add to or contest my proposed upgrade path as outlined above, and also to ask any questions related to it. If you have been following this thread, you see that we have had some very useful discussion so far, and I don't want to ruin that by digressing to discussions of the same ol' "How much HP can the stock engine/turbo/tranny, etc. produce??" questions. Those are addressed in SO many other threads! All I am asking is for this thread to stay on topic, so we all don't have to scroll through tangents and digressions to get to the info relevant to the purpose of the thread. No offense meant!! Really!!

Now, on with the relevancy!!

Torch: You are correct, the STI suspension is a sweet setup (Road and Track reviewed one this month, actually, I think it was) and will suffice for many, but is just so darned expensive coming from the dealer that many may decide that they just want to save up for a fully adjustable coil-over system. Road and Track concluded with their test between the STI dealer-offered suspension and Bilstein coil-overs that they actually liked the STI better because it took away all of the floppiness of the stock setup while still keeping a smooth daily drive over speed bumps and such. The coil overs they looked at they said were just simply too rough for anything but the track. This may just be the particular coil-over setup though (Bilstein) because I have driven 2 cars with coilovers (one with Leda and one with Cusco) and they have both had the ability to have a less stiff setting dialed in for the benefit of the girlfriend or the occasional smooth road trip. I personally haven't driven a WRX with the STI setup, so I can't personally vouch for it, but it seems that there are many who think it the optimum setup for stiffening up the chassis "just enough". However, if you're going for the ultimate in adjustability and/or want more suspension travel, coil-overs are the only way to go.

As far as the pulley, you are correct, but just be aware that there are many opinions out there concerning the pros and cons of a pulley.

As far as the uppipe install...it is not as easy as changing your oil, and will take a novice a good few hours, but it is extremely rewarding and worth it as you will not only be more confident on the next install, you will become MUCH more familiar with how your car works and which parts are which. Also, you'll know how to fix the problem if you get a leaky uppipe! Following the Vishnu and Perrin instructions is really pretty fool proof provided you take your time and have the right tools. But, I digress...I recommend you do a search on the install and download the instructions from the above vendors and check it out yourself. I didi it myself, and it was only tough because I had some siezed bolts I had to deal with. Also, I'd guess that you could find someone in your area that has done one or two before that would love to help you out.

wrxmontao!!- Spark plugs...the short answer is that plugs are not a necessity...but, before I get flamed...let me just say that is my opinion and that you will get much more info about why I think that by doing a search for the issue and reading through the posts about replacement plugs...especially about the pros and cons of getting colder plugs. There is a lot to know about this issue, so I'll just leave it at that. The Subaru manual says not to replace them until 60K, and there is no reason to do it earlier if you're sticking to mainly bolt-on mods. Again, do a search and you'll get more complete info.

Hope all had a good Christmas.

Last edited by JonR; 12-30-2002 at 11:46 AM.
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