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2016 Forester 2.5i
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All! Been lurking the forum for a while doing some research and think I have a potential setup + path in mind to get my Forester off-road ready but would love some feedback given the wealth of knowledge here and to make sure I don't do anything unnecessary or stupid as this is my first go at something like this. This is a bit of long one, but I've tried to be as thorough as possible :)

A little background, I recently purchased a used 2016 2.5i (Non-turbo) with ~30k miles on it, have since put on an additional 5k miles (almost time for service) and made a few minor upgrades. The car gets about 80% highway/on-road and 20% off-road/FS/OHV use. Not looking for too hardcore of an off-roading setup, but do want the car to be fairly capable off-road and still comfortable on road. My wife and I go out camping or off-roading (FS/OHV/scenic routes) just about every weekend in the New Mexico area, and will do longer car camping trips throughout the Mountain / West Coast region every other month or so. We're just hauling gear, no trailer or roof-top tent so not too much weight. Although we do load the car up pretty heavily on the longer haul trips and have noticed some sagging in the back which makes me a little worried on some roads. We're in Santa Fe so we get lots of snow during the winter, but also have access to some sand dunes by just driving south a bit so want to maximize performance across these conditions. The car is our daily driver as well so don't want to do anything that significantly decreases the life-span of other components or makes driving on road a pain.

Budget is flexible, but don't want to go too crazy. I have fairly limited experience working on mechanical/electrical stuff so the more challenging installs will likely require me to go to the local shop, but I'm willing to give the easier things a go and try to learn something new.

Open to any and all suggestions for things I should add/remove from the list or any suggested swaps in manufacturers for better quality parts. Also open to any general performance mods or useful car camping-related mods/gear that would be worthwhile. Definitely don't want to mess with anything that'll void warranties though (e.g. coolers for the CVT).

What I've done so far:
  • Falken Wildpeaks (link) 225/65/17
  • K&N Air Filter (old filter was trashed when I got the car)
  • RokBlokz Mudflaps (link)
  • Roof rack for hauling gear
  • General recovery gear (x-bull traction boards, shovel, patch kit, compressor)
What I'd like to do:
  • ADF 1 inch lift (link)
  • Replace the struts - Bilstein B4 or B6 can't decide or just the KYB GR2s/Excel-G's
  • King Springs standard height (link)
  • Primitive Skid Plates (engine, trans, diff) - rock sliders seemed excessive for what we're looking to do
  • Additional fog lights either using something OEM and popping out the plastic inserts (there are no fog lights ATM) or doing a rally bar or ditch light brackets

Proposed order of remaining upgrades:
  1. Skid plates for protection
  2. Lift kit, sprints, struts or some permutation thereof - whatever I do it'll be in a single go because this will likely need to go to the shop
  3. Lighting stuff
Questions:
  1. I'm a bit worried that I might be pushing the ride height between the tires, springs, struts, and ADF lift - none of the linked struts should have an impact on ride height, but the tires have given an additional .9", the springs will likely provide another .5" despite standard size and the ADF kit is 1" for a total around 2.5" -- this seems to be above the recommended increase of 2"? Happy to pare back some of this to invest in what's really going to improve both longevity + performance off road under the conditions we'll be driving, thinking maybe just struts + springs?
    • Planning to do a 4-wheel alignment with this, but are there any other parts necessary to round out this setup? Want to avoid putting too much wear and tear on other surrounding parts so if additional changes (have read CV axle?) or upgrades to avoid excessive wear and tear or issues down the line, I would like to invest in those now as this work will likely be done by a local shop and the car is a daily driver
  2. Any feedback on the strut options and which will provide the best handling both on/off road?
  3. For the lighting, while the ditch lights are cheaper all-in I've heard wide-lenses like for fog lights mounted here can cause glare because of the positioning and that a rally bar or OEM location lights would be more advantageous particularly for snowy conditions
Appreciate all the help in advance!
 

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2013 Forester 2.5i
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9 Posts
What you’re doing
-Great tires.
-Ditch the K&N; stick with OEM or WIX air filters.
-Mudflaps your choice; I actually prefer stock mudflap delete all around.
-Yes.
-Yes.

What you’d like
-Don’t do a 1” lift.
-KYB’s.
-King Springs are awesome.
-Primitive skid plates are the best investment I’ve ever made for my Foz. No rock sliders.
-Fog lights your choice. I personally am not a fan of rally/bull bars.

Suggestion:

STI Aluminum Front Lower Control Arms. The bushing in the rear of the OEM LCA’s is prone to damage for vehicles used in a more “camping” way. Plus, they make daily driving considerably smoother. Do the OEM end links too.

Cheers!
 

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2016 Forester 2.5i
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
What you’re doing
-Great tires.
-Ditch the K&N; stick with OEM or WIX air filters.
-Mudflaps your choice; I actually prefer stock mudflap delete all around.
-Yes.
-Yes.

What you’d like
-Don’t do a 1” lift.
-KYB’s.
-King Springs are awesome.
-Primitive skid plates are the best investment I’ve ever made for my Foz. No rock sliders.
-Fog lights your choice. I personally am not a fan of rally/bull bars.

Suggestion:

STI Aluminum Front Lower Control Arms. The bushing in the rear of the OEM LCA’s is prone to damage for vehicles used in a more “camping” way. Plus, they make daily driving considerably smoother. Do the OEM end links too.

Cheers!
@2013ForestUser - Really appreciate all the feedback and suggestions. A couple of follow-up questions:

Air Filter - Any specific concerns with K&N or just not worth the extra $?
Rear Bushings - Do the Front Lower Control Arms impact the rear bushings in some way or is there an upgraded bushing I should replace the stock ones with? Any chance you have links for the parts mentioned in your suggestions? Even if they're the 2013 compatible parts, just want a reference to ensure I look into the right things.
Thanks again :)
 

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2014 2.5i Limited CVT
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3,236 Posts
You're already planning on the Primitive skid plates - good choice.

There are a lot of fog light options out there - I'd suggest going with something made specifically for the Forester and then doing the wiring and all. Know that it will be switch on the dash and not be a replacement of the switch on the turn-signal stalk.

A few other suggestions -

For ditch lights - I'd suggest buying these brackets from SMK Fabrication. They mount in the little plastic triangle at the front of the door and you get no glare on the hood and wasted light and you don't have that block of a lamp right in your line of sight.

Vehicle Automotive lighting Hood Grille Automotive tire


I ordered the optional "action camera" mount (the top) for your Go-Pro or other similar. It was an extra 25 bucks or so. I think total was under 200 bucks. I installed some BodyArmor spot lights on there.

On the front, I got a mini-light bar from Amazon (under 50 bucks) that screws to the license plate area on the front bumper. I used longer screws and tapped into the bumper support for strength and solid mounting. I have a set of Nilight flood lights there and the single "cyclops" light bar (may also be Nilight but not sure). Both lights from Amazon, also.

Automotive parking light Car Vehicle Grille Motor vehicle


I also added a set of lights on my roof-top basket (Oedro?).

Here's fully lit -

Tire Automotive lighting Vehicle Automotive tail & brake light Automotive tire


Tire Wheel Land vehicle Vehicle Car


I did the Primitive plates and I know that they've protected the underside a time or three.

Get some good all terrain tires - I chose the Continental Terrain Contact in the stock size and they're good hybrid for on and off-road use.

A lift may not really be needed. I'm at stock height and have had no real problems clearing most rocks and debris. If you're going on moderately maintained "roads" and tracks, that extra 1" is not going to get you too much. It will affect your ride some.

One thing to know is that ALL of these updates and upgrades will impact your MPG (for the worse) and you're drop a few MPG for sure. My driving is mostly all around town and using the AC a lot from about April through September; like you, I'm in the desert southwest (near Palm Springs). And I see - during the summer - about 300 miles from a tank of gas (so just about 20 MPG, sometimes a bit less) and then see a bit more - maybe 340 - during the cooler months. But again, I'm mostly around town, short trips and no commute (work from home).

I've done trails in the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area to cam sites, around the Calico Ghost Town area (Yermo), Ocotillo/Anza Borrego deserts and more.
 

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2016 Forester 2.5i
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Craig (@FozzieBalou) is the switch and wiring something that's pretty easy to do? Any good resources/videos showing how to wire this all up? Also, how have those Nilights worked out, the price is attractive as I was otherwise looking at Diode Dynamics which is like 10x the price.
 

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2014 2.5i Limited CVT
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3,236 Posts
I actually went the "easy" route for my wiring - none of it goes through the firewall - it's all handled by remotes for each light set... except the door mounted as they just go through an existing opening in the door panel area. The lights on the roof I sliced into the rubber "hose" that runs wiring and/or rear wiper wash fluid into the liftback and then wired it to the 12V power source (aka cigarette lighter) in the rear cardo area.

I've been looking at the wireless trigger kit set ups that many Jeep users have - it's a box that bolts to - for example - the top of the under-hood fuse box and wires to the light units and then you just have a wireless control panel in the cab with you. My current set up is powered by individual fobs - one for each light unit.
 

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2013 Forester 2.5i
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9 Posts
@2013ForestUser - Really appreciate all the feedback and suggestions. A couple of follow-up questions:

Air Filter - Any specific concerns with K&N or just not worth the extra $?
Rear Bushings - Do the Front Lower Control Arms impact the rear bushings in some way or is there an upgraded bushing I should replace the stock ones with? Any chance you have links for the parts mentioned in your suggestions? Even if they're the 2013 compatible parts, just want a reference to ensure I look into the right things.
Thanks again :)

K&N: They’re a little dirtier downstream than others and gum up the throttle body quicker.

Front LCA’s: You can buy just an OEM bushing and pop it in. It’s the same material and will crack again. Also, the labor cost(it requires a hydraulic press) coupled with the fact that the whole arm needs to come off to do this means most people replace the whole arm and start anew. And alas, that bushing is gonna crack again. Skip the problem. Get the benefits of a better quality rear bushing and the strength of aluminum. Use the search bar because somewhere around this forum is a fitment guide regarding 2008+ WRX STI LCA’s and how they line up with the different generations of Foresters. I’ll see if I can find it. For the end links just use OEM Subaru. Half the time when people upgrade to the STI control arms the end links are actually in pretty good shape, but they just like the idea of starting from scratch.
 

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2015 Forester 2.5i CVT
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31 Posts
That all looks like a pretty sensible mod list and order of installation. As others have said, ditch the K&N and go back to stock; they allow a bit more dust in, which isn't what you want in high-dust environments. Mud flaps are prone to catching and getting ripped off if you're going over more aggressive terrain, so I would skip them, personally. Your overall lift height might be pushing it a bit; conventional wisdom is that anything over 1.25-1.5" is going to stress the CV joints unless you add subframe spacers (tire lift doesn't count, since that doesn't change the suspension geometry). I'd do the spacer or springs, but not both.

(Sidebar: your tires only give ~.5" of lift; they're 0.9" taller, but only half of that is below the axle :))
 

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2016 Forester 2.5i
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@chowaniec

Thanks! And good catch on the tires ;)

I think I'm going with just the struts + springs to increase load capacity for camping trips.
 

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2016 Forester 2.5i
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Alrighty, so after all the feedback here's what I'm thinking for the suspension. It doesn't look like the STI LCA will fit the SJ models so found another option from Moog that looks like an affordable upgrade over stock. I've also included what I think is a comprehensive parts list but if anyone notices anything missing please let me know, I'd like to do this in one swoop as this is our daily driver:
  1. KYB Excel G Struts (Link)
  2. KYB Strut Mounts + Boots (Link & link)
  3. Mann 1" Lift Springs (Link)
  4. Front LCA from Moog (Link)
  5. Moog Front LCA Bushings (Link)
  6. Having my mechanic inspect the end links and will replace with OEM if needed
Two last question - anything worth doing for the rear upper control arms/bushings as well? I'm also debating whether the rear subframe spacers (link) are needed since I'm running 225/65/17 A/T tires which might end up pushed too far forward, don't want any alignment / camber issues.

@2013ForestUser Would love your thoughts on this too.
 

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2013 Forester 2.5i
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9 Posts
Okay. Yeah. Right. The STI LCA’s do have a different geometry on the SJ’s because of end links. Sorry I sent you down the wrong rabbit hole. Looks like you’ve found the MOOG’s, which are a better replacement than OEM.
As far as the rear control arms are concerned; I feel they hold up pretty good. I do clean mine religiously. One upgrade is a larger sway bar, but that really only makes a difference on road. So, quite honestly I haven’t felt the need to do anything with the back end except King springs on the rear struts to keep my saggy bottom up when loaded with gear. Well, that and the Primitive rear differential skid plate. Basically what you’re planning if I’m following all this correctly.
Now, I’m not 100% positive, and I have been wrong as recently as this thread, but I do believe you won’t need the subframe spacer without an actual hockey puck style lift. Even with the tire “lift” and progressive rate springs your geometry should be alright. The beauty of the Falken Wildpeaks are the OEM sizing. When I put mine on with my progressive springs there was no alignment/ geometry angle problem, AND my mpg actually WENT UP 3 Miles a gallon! (Old tires were shot!).

Good luck with your build, it sounds like it’s going to be amazing
 

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2016 Forester 2.5i
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
@2013ForestUser No worries, it was good learning, lots of helpful info in that thread. Looks like we'll have similar setups, I going to go for the lifted Mann Springs, generally about the same lift (maybe a touch more than the standard height kings).

Here's the post on the wheel shifting forward: ('14-'18) - 2014 - Mann Engineering Lift Springs? --- not sure it's significant enough to warrant spacers but I the slightly larger tires I have are already cutting it close.

Will look into Carrier Bearing, is this more peace of mind or actually has an impact on driving performance?
 

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Will look into Carrier Bearing,
Don't! Not for off-roading anyway ;) You need flexibility for off-roading and that product would seem to stiffen the carrier: "will replace the OEM Rubber mounts with billet aluminum pieces. " Mine is still original - so are my LCAs BTW ;)
Don't go overboard for, as you say, "Occasional Off-roading".
 

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2013 Forester 2.5i
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9 Posts
My carrier bearing bushings were shot. The toque solutions all aluminum carrier made a world of difference. As far as the flexibility for off-reading I agree it’s important on the corners, but I like my driveshaft to be as stiff as possible so it delivers power properly going up steep trails and going down washboard roads. Since my car is also a daily I don’t like making it too soft anyway. That highway drive to the trailhead needs to be comfortable. Just my thoughts, definitely not scripture. Especially considering “soft” is subjective and is totally up to the driver.
 
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