Firing on All Cylinders – Still in Need of TLC and Cash

by Zach Billings on July 18, 2011

Subaru STiSince my Subaru STi got back on the road in early June, it’s been running well; It has been better and better as it’s been tweaked and modified over the 6 weeks. Of course victory with an STi is never complete and does not come without issues.

The first thing we did after breaking in the car was flash the ECU up to Cobb Stage 1, with my Cobb AccessPort. In theory this makes the tune more aggressive and slightly increases boost. At that time, however, we had the lines running to and from my turbo’s wastegate configured wrong and the car was peaking at only 11psi of boost, compared to the stock 14.5lbs. This meant that although my tune was more aggressive, my power was limited by a lack of boost. As 1500 miles rolled around, we installed my 3″ downpipe and flashed my ECU up to Stage 2. This, theoretically provides 350hp and 385lb-ft of torque at the crankshaft. All this is supposed to be done at 18-19lbs of boost, but sadly I was still peaking below 12. This is when we discovered the issues in wastegate lines. An hour under the hood later, and the STi was faster than it’s ever been during my ownership. My AccessPort, while hooked up to the car can read dozens of parameters, including boost. I was now peaking at 20.3psi of boost. This means I was likely making around 390lb-ft to the crank, and because I now have a lightweight crank pulley, clutch, and flywheel, more of that power is getting to the ground. Good stuff on the performance end!

Since stepping up to Stage 2, it has generally been very hot and humid out. When it is, my car barely even idles right, never mind making full power. The one or two days that have been cool and dry, however… Oh…My…God… The car makes stupid, insane, monsterous power. It is face ripping and absurd and I’ve not even done a launch yet to get the full experience. All this further exemplifies the fact that on a hot and/or humid day, my STi runs like shit…

That said, I actually don’t mind the poor running on the bad days. It reminds me that I drive a car that is high enough in performance that it has to be tuned for a specific environment. I like cars that are rough and finicky due to things like weather and on-board weight fluctuation. What I don’t like is the other issues my car has. Most are small and insignificant, but all are infuriating just the same.

Issue number one, which sits at the top of my list of things to remedy are the TGVs. These are small valves in the intake tract, placed just before the intake valves. They close during idle to reduce emissions, however mine are stuck in a middle position. This is limiting power and causing the car to run roughly. $125, plus a little installation money will get me some TGV deletes. An easy fix that just requires a little money.

Close in second place on the list is brakes. My brakes never quite revived from being rusted over when the car was off the road. BOOO! My brakes are one of my favorite parts of the car and I use them frequently on the highway, as I’ll burst up to speed, then slow back down. When a cute girl (or really any one at all, for that matter) is sitting shotgun and they hear “guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh” and feel a vibration from whatever brake component needs replacing, it really doesn’t do the image of my car any favors. I’m going to begin tackling this problem by getting a new set of ceramic pads for $250 installed, and will move to rotors for $1000 installed after that. If neither of those fixes the issue, I will do one of three things: Kill myself, kill the car, or pay someone to find the stupid f*cking problem and deal with it!

After brakes on the priority list comes wheels. At some point I need to get new wheels, as mine were scarred by the previous owner. That will be about $1500 with getting my tires mounted.

A catback exhaust comes after wheels on the list, but might come sooner on the purchase list since it’s only a few hundred bucks. The horsepower gain is unlikely to exceed 10hp from the extra flow, but I will finally get the wonderful Subaru sound I yearn for.

Last on the list is the electrical this’s and that’s. It would be nice to get power to my DC jack so I can, oh, I don’t know, power some shit? I’d also like to connect my steering wheel someday so I could have a functioning horn and cruise control. Not that I use either very often, but having the option would be novel.

Once all that is done, I should be arriving at time to make a decision. To keep the STi, or not to keep the STi. That is the question. If I’m financially able to buy a second car at that time, I will be keeping it. If I’m not able to, I will sell mine and buy a new STi (this would suck). In the event that I keep mine, I would at this point begin a new list of things to do to it. This list would be the items that will generate no increase in vehicle value. I would be doing them, knowing that I’m not planning on ever selling the car and that I’m sinking money into the car just for myself. The first and most important thing would be to do a complete cosmetic overhaul. I would have every body panel replaced or repaired (minor dents that only the trained eye will see) and I would get every square inch of the car repainted. Total cost? Somewhere in the $7,500 ballpark. Past that, who knows, but that would take the STi to where I really want it to be.

There are of course a bunch of regular maintenance jobs to be thrown into the mix. I need new differential fluid and at some point my syncros may need replacing. The car drives hard and is a blast as is, but the reality is that if I want it to be the car of my dreams it will need about $12-15k worth of work to get there.

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