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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First off, I'm a little curious if anyone has some guidelines on how long the shocks will last on a forester. I picked up an 03 XS a few weeks ago and promised myself no suspension mods until something wears out :) One of the things I loved about it, over the newer outback I was looking at, was that it was much more fun and agile. This has given me the itch to make it even better. But, I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I'm nearing the end of life for the stock setup...

It's in the shop right now having the sunroof fixed (which luckily the dealer is paying for), and in the meantime I'm driving a 2010 Outback. I've noticed driving this tank around that it rides much much nicer. Not handling wise, still feels numb and heavy, but it soaks up bumps a lot better. I've never driven a forester other than mine so I'm not sure if it's handling is normal or if the struts are just getting worn.

What I'm seeing is that it rides and handles mostly fine, however it's very jarring over bumps. Not really bouncy, but I guess I would most describe it as 'jittery'. It doesn't really smoothly soak up bumps. Maybe this is just how it is? Or does it sound like it could be due for new shocks? I test drove an 02 STi a few years ago and my car kinda reminds me of that, in terms of it being a big jittery over bumps on the road. Which seems odd since the suspension on the forester is nowhere near as stiff as the STi.

Any good clues or average lifespans for the stock struts?

Secondly, since I'll get around to it eventually... From reading the great big sticky above, it seems like the JDM Forester STI takeoffs would be about ideal for me. Except the link to them is dead, and I can't find them anywhere. I found the springs at some places, but no shocks.

For my usage, I'm mostly driving around town on often imperfect roads. I'd like something that does a good job of smoothly soaking up bumps, while minimizing body roll and improving handling (will probably get a rear sway bar on it at some point too). I'd like it to be sportier than stock, while still being reasonably comfortable (for reference, my last car was a 08 BMW 328i and I thought that was about an ideal comfort/handling compromise). I'm also fairly active outdoors and a few times a month I'm likely to find myself on a forest service road, or poorly maintained gravel road in the middle of nowhere. I don't really plan to offroad more than this, and these type of roads can have traction issues but ground clearance isn't usually a huge deal.

I'm considering going the WRX takeoff route, since I could likely score the parts pretty cheap from someone who is upgrading their WRX, but honestly a 2-3" drop might be more than I'd want. The 1" drop of the Forester STi sounds about ideal. Anything else I should look into, or anyone know where the forester STi shocks can be found? Another option would be to buy the forester STI springs and pair another shock with them, but I'm not sure what a good shock match would be...
 

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you will soon find that there are lots of options out there, and tons more if you are willing to lose some height and go with Impreza gear..

Sounds like you are looking for a bit stiffer ride but more comfortable, the JDM Forester STi stuff is going to be harder to find than your locally available parts. If it were me I would look at swift or forester pinks springs and a forester specific strut to keep your ride height close.. and a rear sway bar to turn flatter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yeah, the JDM forester stuff does seem hard to find...

How do stock WRX springs compare to the swifts and pinks? I just bid $10 on a pair on eBay, from a 2004 with 25,000 miles on the springs... I figure for $10 what the heck. Would something like that (assuming I win) matched with the KYB GR2's make a significant improvement?
 

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The 2010 Outback has an independent suspension on the rear while we and the older STi have struts -- that probably makes a good amount of difference in the ride quality that you felt.

As far as stock damper life, it'd depend on how aggressively the car is driven over potholes, speedbumps and such, but I'd say 60K they are done for sure. They may not clunk, will still feel great and comfy and will dampen, but they won't rebound (if you push the strut rod in, it won't come up on it's own). Your car may feel boaty and a bit harsh over bumpy surface. I just removed a set of most likely original struts/shocks (100K on the car) from a '97 Passat -- all 4 were gone -- the car still rode great, handled acceptable and make no clunks.

As far as what setup to go for -- this is the million dollar question which many of us here are searching for an answer for. Forester Swift or JDM STi springs over stock struts is a popular nice setup, but I would argue that it won't come anywhere near your 328i in feel and performance. Unfortunately, there aren't many choices of struts in Forester-specific fitment.

Stan
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
As far as stock damper life, it'd depend on how aggressively the car is driven over potholes, speedbumps and such, but I'd say 60K they are done for sure. They may not clunk, will still feel great and comfy and will dampen, but they won't rebound (if you push the strut rod in, it won't come up on it's own). Your car may feel boaty and a bit harsh over bumpy surface. I just removed a set of most likely original struts/shocks (100K on the car) from a '97 Passat -- all 4 were gone -- the car still rode great, handled acceptable and make no clunks.
Ok, forgot to mention it's at 85,000 miles. Presumably original shocks. I think it's safe to say harsh over potholes is exactly what I've noticed.

Back in the day I was an auto crosser and had coilovers on a 99 maxima, lots of fun, but times have changed, have a family, do a lot more outdoors stuff in the backwoods :) I'd say overall I'm not looking for BMW handling (I mean that's just not going to happen) but just to make the car a bit sportier around town. Cheap as possible is good too :)

I'm thinking if I win that auction for WRX springs for $10, they'll do for now. Maybe I can find a set of very barely used WRX struts too and get it done super cheap, throw on a rear sway bar and call it good. For struts are there any year restrictions? I know the sticky says 04+ but the WRX was redesigned a year ago. Would current struts still fit? Seems like the best option would be to find someone who just got a WRX and is upgrading the suspension, so I can buy the stockers almost new, cheap.
 

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JDM Forester springs are easy to find, they are just not as cheap as the Swifts. BMW-like handling and ride quality isn't that hard to achieve with good dampers, but it will cost close to $800 with springs. Newest WRX takeoffs you'll find are from '07 WRX, the later ones won't fit as they have independent suspension on the rear just like the Outback you drove. '07s are getting up there in mileage.

Stan
 

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I'd say the forester stuff generally will last 80-100,000 miles.

I would probably go KYB gr-2 with swift springs. It will have a somewhat stock feel, while handling better, and still have decent ride over bumps. Impreza parts will be harsher over larger bumps, but seem to soak up small road imperfections a little better. I have wrx sedan struts and wagon springs, and while its fine most of the time, on harsher gravel roads I have to be more careful, its enough that I generally leave the forester at home and take the gf's jeep even just to get to trail heads and to go down gravel roads now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ah ok, so WRX takeoffs would be cheap, but I'd be stuck buying struts that have at least 3 years of wear on them. Which might not be so bad if they are low mileage, but obviously buying used 3 year old struts I'd have no way to verify the mileage put on them.

The JDM Forester STi springs are readily available, found a few places that have them < $400 which makes them not much more expensive than the swifts. They have less of a drop right? Ideally I'd like to lower as little as possible to keep ground clearance for backwoods roads.

What would be a good strut match for the Forester STi springs? Obviously the Forester STi struts but I can't seem to find those anywhere... How do the swift springs compare to the jdm forester pinks?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hmmm, so the more I read...

I think it seems like I'm really not going to get much better handling without sacrificing my ability to traverse backwoods roads. I mean, I don't mind spending money, but I don't want to slam the car either. Most of the roads I'm thinking of aren't bad, but mostly poorly maintained rutted gravel/dirt roads and I don't want to get jarred to death driving over them, or have parts start falling off the car :)

Come to think of it, I'd be happy with just not having it be so harsh over potholes and bumps, and a little flatter cornering.

It sounds like the best compromise might be the swift springs and GR-2 shocks with a rear sway bar. This would likely set me back around $800 it seems, which isn't bad considering I'd guess it'd probably be around $500 to have the dealership just replace the stock shocks. I guess my only concern is that it sounds like the GR2's and swifts are mostly designed as slightly better stock replacements, so am I likely to notice much of a handling difference? If those combined with an RSB would get me sportier handling with a minimal drop and preserve backroads abilities it seems like it may be the best compromise.
 

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^^ You got it. GR2s and Swifts should be a nice setup, but lower and stiffer. It's all a tradeoff. If you are really set on keeping the stock height, there are some creative things you can do like using Impreza-fitment suspension with lift blocks, but you are still loosing suspension travel due to using shorter Impreza shocks. Some have done Koni inserts in stock Forester strut bodies. I really wish there was a simple answer, but there isn't. There could be some Forester-specific coilover options available that would accomplish what you are looking for.

Stan
 

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It sounds like the best compromise might be the swift springs and GR-2 shocks with a rear sway bar. This would likely set me back around $800 it seems, which isn't bad considering I'd guess it'd probably be around $500 to have the dealership just replace the stock shocks. I guess my only concern is that it sounds like the GR2's and swifts are mostly designed as slightly better stock replacements, so am I likely to notice much of a handling difference? If those combined with an RSB would get me sportier handling with a minimal drop and preserve backroads abilities it seems like it may be the best compromise.
If I had to do it all over again thats what I would do for a stock like, but better handling forester. The stock STI rsb alone made a very noticeable difference even after i had my WRX parts on for a while. It would handle well, and still ride well, probably the best for a daily driver that is taken off pavement occasionally. The GR-2's are about 15% stiffer than stock, so not much but they're a quality part. Anything further than that and you're on the never ending modding trail to the "perfect" setup.
 

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I have an '03 X & I waited way too long to upgrade the front & rear sway bars. The change in the handling was "night & day"! More details on here. BTW, still running the original shocks on all our vehicles. :wink:

Bobby...

['07 FSXT MODding Journal] ['03 X MODding Journal]
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well crap, so I won those $10 04 WRX springs on eBay...

What could I expect with those vs swifts combined with GR-2 struts? I mean, for $10... And I'm stuck with them :)

I might just try to resell them but curious how they'd compare if I threw them on rather than shelling out $300 on new springs. Probably a much more significant drop. Ride and handling wise though?
 

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Well crap, so I won those $10 04 WRX springs on eBay...

What could I expect with those vs swifts combined with GR-2 struts? I mean, for $10... And I'm stuck with them :)

I might just try to resell them but curious how they'd compare if I threw them on rather than shelling out $300 on new springs. Probably a much more significant drop. Ride and handling wise though?
You'll have to pair them with impreza spec struts. You'll blow the stock or forester GR-2 struts very quickly.
 
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