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04 Forester XT 5MT
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I purchased my 04 Forester XT 5MT on December 16, 2019 as the Daily Driver replacement for my wrecked 05 WRX Wagon. It was in pretty great shape, had 133K miles on the clock, and was completely BONE STOCK except for a Magnaflow muffler. It had a set of snow tires on it, and also came with a set of brand new all seasons on some aftermarket rims, as well as fresh brakes and rotors on all four corners. The initial plan with this FXT was to drive it until I repaired and rebuilt the 05 Wagon into a V8 STi Wagon, then give it to my wife as a Daily Driver to replace her Honda Pilot. But, I fell in love with it, and the journey began.

All items highlighted blue are links to the items I used in this build, or links to some of the sources I used to complete these mods. I'll do my best to keep everything current, or if something is no longer available, edit accordingly.

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I began my mods with a drop in K&N panel filter, just like in my WRX. I pulled my Cobb AccessPort from the WRX after uninstalling it and began saving up to have it sent to Cobb to be reprogrammed with SUB 002. I figured I might as well because it would be a while before the WRX was completed and back on the road. I had a bunch of 168 T10 LEDs sitting around from when I replaced all the interior bulbs in the WRX, so I proceeded to swap out the boring "Warm White" incandescent bulbs on the interior, and proceeded to order the rest of the other bulbs that needed to be replaced. I also ordered some red 74 T5 LEDs to replace the dash instrument lights and the clock light, but half of the bulbs ended up being defective and some diodes weren't lighting up. I only found this out after checking all my bulbs, flipping them 180 degrees, and testing way more than once. During this time I also replaced the three 168 bulbs in the cluster with some red diffused Sylvania LEDs, which had a much more even output than the T5s I got from amazon. Unfortunately, Sylvania doesn't make any T5 LEDs, so I couldn't match the same lighting I was getting on the speedometer and tach, which frustrates the crap out of me.

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At this point I decided I was going to go all out with the lighting. I ordered three red NEO4 bulbs for the HVAC lighting, and three red NEO3 bulbs for the foglight, cruise, and heated wiper switch lights. No more soft green lighting, except for the odometer/trip display and the indicator LEDs on the HVAC. At this point I also decided that my color scheme would be red and black with some carbon fiber accents here and there. I really wanted a Forester STi gauge cluster, but I felt it was too much money to spend, and I could get other items I wanted for way less.

I bought a 5-speed STi duracon shift knob and installed it. I was amazed by how smooth the shifts became with the lightened knob. I had always used weighted shift knobs in my other vehicles, so this was a pleasant change. It also perfectly matched my color scheme.
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Along with the shift knob, I also purchased some OEM Aluminum Pedals for an 02-07 WRX. I really missed the way these pedals felt, and the current pads on the FXT pedals were worn out and needed a refresh. I'll post some pics and a How To when I get them installed. In the meantime, I managed to score an STi intercooler with couplers and y-pipe from an 08 STi on Facebook Marketplace for $100, so I ordered some OEM intercooler gaskets because I planned on breaking the intercooler down, degreasing it, and resealing the y-pipe and bypass valve to the intercooler. I also ordered a Mishimoto 2" 90 degree silicone elbow because the STi turbo coupler won't reach the turbo in the FXT. I'll get around to installing it in the next few weeks.

The other day, I noticed the notorious end cap seepage all stock Subaru radiators are known for, so I will be ordering a Koyorad aluminum radiator to replace the leaking one. This decision is a no brainer for me, and I still don't understand why Subaru puts inferior junk into some of their best vehicles.

Also, following the red, black and carbon fiber scheme, I ordered some Forester F Emblem Overlays in carbon fiber and red. They will cover the Subaru emblems on the front grill, rear hatch and steering wheel and give the FXT a subtle change that not many will notice.

That is where I'm at right now, but as with all vehicles I've owned, I'll never be finished.

I'll also be adding all the parts I hadn't yet installed on my WRX, which include:
Perrin Turbo Inlet
Perrin Afta-MAF
Perrin Intercooler Coupler
Perrin Short Shift Adapter w/bushings
Perrin Turbo Blanket
Perrin Turbo Heat Shield
No Brand Catless Uppipe

I'm going to be creating links to all of my sources, as well as links to all the specific items I used. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to message me.
 

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04 Forester XT 5MT
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42 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
The hill holder mechanism had been giving me some issues ever since I went for an emissions test. It locked up on me on flat ground at a stop sign, and again later the same day at a stop light in the middle of traffic. Both times I had to throttle the bejeezus out of the car to get it to move, and both times I could smell the breaks starting to burn, so I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. Got some help from my local facebook Subaru groups to figure out what exactly had to be done, but all of a sudden the problem didn't come back.

Or so I thought.

Then one evening, after going to pick up my kids from school, it engaged on flat ground again, in the parking lot of the school. I attempted to move it back by hand, feeling a lot of resistance in the actuator arm, but no luck. Every time I stepped on the clutch, it would engage and not release. The return spring was bad also. I had my tools in back, so I figured I'd grab my 14mm socket and wrench, 8MM socket and driver to fix the problem for good. Or so I thought.

My 8MM socket was nowhere to be found. I had three 10MM, which seemed strange, but in no way shape or form could I locate the needed 8MM, so I had to leave the car overnight and come back with an 8MM socket, and some vice grips to grab and hold the wire to remove the lock nut.

Returned the next morning and five minutes later I had disabled the hill holder for good.

I regained 2+ MPG, and most likely will regain more that I noticed I was losing.

I'm glad it's gone. Thought it was an annoying feature to be honest.
 

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04 Forester XT 5MT
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42 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I get bored and do stuff to my cars that may not necessarily be needed, but help to compliment a theme or look I'm going for. Sometimes it's subtle, and not noticed by anyone but me, and sometimes it makes everyone look and go "what is different, but better?".

I snagged some of the carbon fiber look upholstery fabric from an 05 WRX at the local u-pull it yard that was the same as what was in my 05. I was hoping it would be thin enough after removing the backing foam to work for a shift boot and match the seats and door cards.
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Unfortunately, it was too thick to work for a nice looking boot and I tucked it away before I wrecked the WRX over Thanksgiving weekend. Then, in my boredom, and after reading 2.5X_sleeper's write up on making cup holder inserts out of the Subaru floor mat coasters, I figured I'd follow suit and make some out of the carbon fiber upholstery. My FXT came with one rubber/textured insert for one cup holder that was just an annoyance visually. I pulled it out, traced the shape (making sure that I had it aligned straight with the fiber of the fabric) and proceeded to use a fresh blade from a utility knife to cut out the shape, minus the finger sized cut out to be able to remove it.
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My technique for cutting the second one was better than the first, as I realized if I cut right on the inside edge of the sharpie I traced with, I would get a perfect fit. Now, I wasn't too worried if they weren't perfect because I had more than enough upholstery to make more if needed, but the fit was pretty spot on.
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It may be something that only I notice, and maybe no one ever will besides me, but I like the accent it gives to the carbon fiber on the shift knob. I also realized these would be great at absorbing small spills when they occur, and I can just remove them and wash them if needed. I think I may do one for the inside of the armrest cubby.

Sometimes it's the little things.

Big thanks to 2.5X_sleeper for his contributions.
 

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04 Forester XT 5MT
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42 Posts
Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I got my red NEO4 and NEO3 twist lock bulbs from SuperBrightLeds.com on Friday, so I figured why not replace the HVAC lights today, as I recently had the center light burn out and I wanted everything switched over to red to match the dash and accessory lighting. Removal was a fairly simple process, with the most difficult part being nothing more than finding a better way to press the push clip on the larger wiring harness connection. I found that by turning the HVAC control all the way left and vertical, you could push it easily with a flathead screw driver and it would just pop out.

I followed the instructions to disassemble the HVAC controls in This Video. The NEO4 twist lock LED bulbs were almost a perfect fit. I say almost perfect because you had to adjust the socket ever so slightly counterclockwise so you were right on the power contact. If you twisted all the way to lock, you wouldn't get power and the light wouldn't light. The sockets still held firmly in place, so I didn't really see this as a problem, just some fine tuning that had to be done.

If you notice in the pic, the LED on the right, and is just a millimeter or so smaller in diameter than the OEM on the left. It hasn't been locked down yet, and if you give it a full 1/4 turn to lock, the leads to contact will no longer be in the right place to complete the circuit. I turned back just enough for the leads to be touching to get it to work and be firmly in place.

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All the bulbs lit for my test. They look pink in the picture, but are a nice bright red, especially in the center of the dials.

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Here they are at night. Still looks pink in the pic, but they are a rich, bright red.

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I'm really happy with how this turned out, and how it is completing the look that I was going for. I'm going to pull all the switches to the left of the steering wheel tomorrow and replace them with the NEO3 bulbs.

This is a very easy DIY project that can put some life back in your interior, especially if you have a bunch of burned out bulbs, or just want to change things up. SuperBrightLeds.com has the NEO4 bulb available in white (3 tones), amber, green, blue, and red.
 

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2004 Forester XS 5MT
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656 Posts
Great read, awesome work! I may put my stock HVAC back in as I did them along with everything else, red in mine a while back, but am running a newer HVAC panel.
Long story, tried some wrap on the center stack, but it was a hassle to get right over the stock unit.
 

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04 Forester XT 5MT
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42 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Got some goodies in the mail yesterday evening. My Forester F anodized aluminum license plate delete arrived. Got right to work this morning mounting it. Looks clean.

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These Forester F emblem overlays came as well. Going to have to wait for it to warm up a little before I mount these, but they look really nice in my opinion.

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On a side note, I must have blown a fuse for the blower motor somehow when I was testing the HVAC LEDs, or when I reinstalled everything. At any setting the fan doesn't turn on, so I have to check some fuses. Hopefully it's just a fuse and the blower motor didn't die.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well, I was feeling very automotivated today, so after a short trip to the junkyard, I decided to begin the breakdown and degreasing of the 08 STi intercooler so I could get it mounted in my the FXT next week.

The y-pipe was pretty bad, and left some oily black filth after I soaked it in Purple Power and scrubbed it down.

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But, it's clean inside and out now. I'm going to clean the rest of the old gasket off with a razor blade and a little gasoline

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The intercooler didn't look too bad on the outside, I mean, it wasn't covered in sludge like the underside of the y-pipe, and I had very few fins to really have to straighten out.

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The inside, however, was where the degreasing really needed to happen. The first two pics are the y-pipe openings. The exit to the throttle body wasn't nearly as bad, but still needed degreasing.

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I'm going to soak the intercooler in gasoline, let it sit overnight, and flush it the following day until the gas runs clean. I figure that is the best way to ensure there is no more oil inside the intercooler anymore.

I also got around to putting some of the parts for the WRX into the FXT. Actually, just one part, the Perrin Afta-MAF silicone hose, but I'm happy with it for today. It was a complete pain to install, and I ended up using the existing clamps from the stock pipe because the Perrin ones were just a mm too small to get to function the way they needed to. After I tossed those aside, it went on a lot easier, but still required a few adjustments to get right so the airbox could clamp down.

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I took a test drive to check for leaks or any CELs and everything was tight. There was a small decrease in spool time, and it also felt like the build to boost was a bit smoother. Or so the butt dyno told me. I need to install the Perrin turbo inlet as well, but I'm saving that for the day I do the intercooler because you have to take it out to do it. I will most likely be installing the turbo blanket and heat shield that day as well because they require intercooler removal as well.

Happy to make some forward progress on at least one vehicle today. I really need it to warm up so I can start on the WRX.
 

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04 Forester XT 5MT
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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited by Moderator)
I got them from emblemoverlays.com. You can do just about any color scheme you can imagine. The nicer finish backgrounds, like CF, gold flake, and chrome cost a little more. But, for right around $25 shipped you get every emblem covered, including the steering wheel.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
My son was home sick from school, and I had an eye doctor appointment, so I didn't really get around to doing anything today.

Here's a Fozzie in a Fozzy for good measure.

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Discussion Starter #13
I decided last night that I needed a "Stuff I know I'm going to need at some point" box. Nothing too big, but able to store a variety of bits and pieces I know I will have to use on the road at some point. I made a late night trip to Walmart looking for a few specific items that I knew I would need along with the "stuff" box. I found exactly what I needed, a clear small craft/jewelry/bead storage box, and it was cheap too. I knew I needed some 11" long needle nose pliers to get to the hose clamp off the return hose to the BPV on the WRX. I needed both it, and the return hose to install the STi intercooler this week. Found some with a 45 degree bend at the end, which were perfect for pinching the clamp, and they were $4.00, $0.44 cheaper than Harbor Freight. Last, I wanted the smallest aerosol can of WD40 I could find. Turn around and it was right there in front of me. Escaped Walmart for $11 and change.

Today I started collecting some of the bits and pieces for the box, and then it all just kind of came together and fell into place as I pillaged all the stashes that I had. A lot of it was parts off the WRX and assorted bolts and fasteners from the junk yard, because sometimes stuff falls off. After I got everything laid out, I started adding to it, including some shrink tubing, extra relays, extra LEDs and incandescent bulbs, fuses, hose clamps, zip ties, and an extra radiator cap, because, you know.

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I lined the bulb areas with some foam liner to stop them from bouncing around. It works pretty well to hold everything in it's place.

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Then I finished everything up with some stickers. Finally, a place to put one of the dozens of Perrin stickers that I've accumulated. I usually prefer to put stickers on other things besides my car because I don't like to advertise what people can steal.:cool:

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I figure this will work for now, and it will most likely grow in the future. I still plan on adding some different sized zip ties, some bailing wire, more fuses, a small tube of 15 minute epoxy, and a small tube of sealant of some sort.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Yesterday, on top of gathering stuff and building the STUFF box, I proceeded to dive into the blower fan problem I'm having with the HVAC system. Ever since I pulled the HVAC controls to swap in red LEDs, the blower fan no longer operates on any setting. Although, the previous week I had noticed an obnoxious noise coming from the blower at full speed, like a bunch of pebbles spinning around and bouncing on occasion, I still think it had to do with something electrical connection related. Before I tore apart the center console to check my connection to the controls, I decided to inspect connections and wiring from the blower back. In the process, I decided to check and see if the cabin air filter was in need of replacement.

So I popped the cover off and...

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That's right, there was absolutely nothing in there. I admit, I should have checked this first thing when I swapped out the engine air filter because it would have been a good a time as any to replace. But no, I put it off. It's filthy in there. The picture honestly makes it look better than it is. I added the deep clean of the Cabin Filter Housing to my list of things to do sooner rather than later. I also need to grab a cabin air filter.

Back to what I was doing...

I began checking some of the Usual Subjects that I had read about recently in my quest deeper into sf.org. I had replaced the fuses first thing, and both 15A fuses were not popped, but were tinged and lightly burnt, so I figured I'd replace them. No change. I went to the blower fan harness connection to look for burnt connections or wiring, the notorious shrunk back insulation, but nothing. At this point I figured it was time to grab the multimeter and see if I was even getting power to the fan, as well as pull the fan motor and test it on the battery. Went to grab the multimeter from the garage.

I looked where I thought it had been, in a tool bag full of electrical tools, but it wasn't in there. I looked some more, behind, under, on top, inside, you get the idea. Any logical place it would be in the garage. But it was nowhere to be found.:confused:

I was running out of time and had to go get my other son from school, so once again, this project was going to have to wait. I threw everything back together and got the glove box secure and snug. Can't diagnose squat without the multimeter, so that is going to be my first priority.

I really need to get this issue locked down. I need defrost and heat in the morning, as it's been 23 degrees or so in the mornings, and the kids have been freezing their behinds off without the ability to circulate warm air. I'm not necessarily frustrated, because I'm learning a ton as I'm digging deeper into the problem, but I'd like to get it solved ASAP.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
So today I began to try and fit everything in all the cubbies and free space that I had in the rear of the FXT. Mine came with the full size spare, and the two bin bucket insert, but it wasn't really going to work for what I wanted. I have a set of 20FT 4 gauge jumper cables that I couldn't seem to fit anywhere except in the spare tire, which didn't allow for the two bin bucket to fit. I did however have a foam insert for the jack and tools from another Forester I had picked up at the junk yard a little while back. Not really sure why I bought it at the time. I think, maybe, that it would come to some use at some point.

Today I reached that point.

The foam insert fit right into the spare tire, on top of the jumper cables, and just enough so the cover would close properly. The problem was, I didn't want to take any of the spare tire tools from their current locations and put them into the foam insert. They were in good locations already, and I couldn't really find another purpose for their molded insert locations. I decided I would modify the foam insert to suit my needs. My first task would be to cut out enough foam to slide my new STUFF box into a secure location. I traced the shape of the box onto the foam, then cut as deep as I could with a utility knife. I then took an electric multi-tool with a multi-use blade and continued to cut out the rest of the deeper cuts needed to remove the chunk of foam.

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After removing the main chunks of foam I cleaned up my cuts and smoothed out the new surface, then test fitted the box. It fit nice and snug, so on to the next cut out. I decided I needed a place to keep a multi-bit screwdriver, both the two sided driver insert, and the handle it slid into. Once again, I traced the handle shape, but I just rough cut the opening for the driver insert with the utility knife. Used the multi-tool to clean up, and everything fit in snug

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I kept trying to decide what would be useful and beneficial to me in all sorts of scenarios. I added a knife in sheath below where the box sat, as well as 25ft of paracord, bundled and taped.

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Then I remembered one more thing. I had an extra throttle body coupler from the STi intercooler, and it fit right into this opening. I've had these develop holes on me before, and it left me with a not so fun to drive turbo Subaru. This is definitely an extra to have on hand.

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All in all, it came together quite well. Should fit perfect. I'm going to pick up some extra fuel hose and vacuum line to stick in this as well because I think they are both great items to have on hand for a turbocharged car.

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2004 Forester XS 5MT
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IIRC there were some posts about the connector to the ac blower motor that got cooked and needed replacing, and that seemed to cause issues with the blower.
 

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04 Forester XT 5MT
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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited by Moderator)
I checked the usual spots and didn't see anything. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with my HVAC control connection, but I'll figure it out in the next day or so.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
It's been a slow few days, as far as car stuff was concerned. Both my kids ended up with strep, which put a stop to any forward motion with anything.

I did manage to get the BPV off the WRX for the STi intercooler swap. All I need is a recirculation hose to plumb the BPV back into the inlet. I attempted to remove the one from the WRX because it will work for exactly what I need, but it had plans on staying for a while. I had to remove my STi Spec-C titanium strut bar to move the intercooler, so I'm going to put it in the FXT.

I also bought a new multimeter and am determined to get this whole blower fan issue worked out by tomorrow. Not having heat is a total bummer for the kids on these cold Colorado mornings.

Made a trip to the u-pull it yard today, and right there in all of it's crashed glory was a unicorn - a gold 04 Forester XT that was a manual. I snagged the HVAC controls just in case it is the switch mechanism in my controls that failed, and also the rear spoiler (someone will want it, I know). It was dirt cheap too, so why not.

I had a pretty good haul at the yard. Snagging all sorts of goodies off of Foresters, Imprezas and Legacys. I fund everything for my builds off of flipping used parts online, not only Subaru, but Infiniti, Acura, Ford and more. The FXT will be the second car completely funded in this manner.

Fresh start and a new day tomorrow. May install my Perrin short shifter adapter. May install the last LEDs in the accessory switches. Might not do anything except get the blower issue figured out.
 
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