$1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

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$1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby BrosephStalin » Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:10 pm

Hi everyone

I've recently become a proud owner of a 2006 MY06 2.5i manual car. It had pretty low km relatively (117000) and the engine, transmission seem fine (timing belt replaced at 100k) - the previous owner seemed like he didn't neglect the car. It was also nice having a sunroof and leather seats and some other cosmetic goodies which weren't in some other cars I was looking at in that price range. I was considering a 2.5T but those with low kms are getting rarer these days and I couldn't justify forking out at least an extra $6000 for a car with many more kms but a better engine (yet ;))

Of course, as I see many people have commented in this forum... I'm beginning to want something a little bit more from the 2.5NA engine. The 0-50 acceleration seems a little 'draggy' if I'm taking off from a red light on a highway, and I'd like a bit more throttle responsiveness.

The first question I'd like to ask is, is Matt McLeod still around? Being an MY06, I'm guessing my subaru has a hitachi ECU. I've read comments from this forum dated several years ago that Matt has managed to find a way around this and I've looked at his facebook page Throttle Happy tuning but his last post was in 2018. Have there been recent developments in the mechanic circle where people have cracked the Hitachi ECU and so you could get it tuned without the need to go specifically to Matt? I've also been told from a trustworthy mechanic that a tune would get almost basically next to nothing in terms of ecu re-map because it's a single cam engine and it won't be a worthwhile upgrade for $450 (which he quoted for me)

What other things could you Liberty enthusiasts suggest to improve drive-ability of the car? Would an aftermarket exhaust, or a K&N air filter, or a combination of these and other things add some power to the car? My expectations aren't high - just so long as it's a noticeable improvement from stock. My budget would be $1500 - $2000.
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Yowie » Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:43 pm

I would focus on handling and braking with that starting point and budget. Eg GT brakes, bushes, swaybars and/or coilovers. Don't underestimate the enjoyment to be had from a car that handles and stops really well.

If you end up grabbing a same-chassis Liberty GT you could even bring over some/all of your undercarriage upgrades to the new car in due course.

Swapping exhaust components might make it sound faster (and be more enjoyable to drive) but probably won't add any power. If that floats your boat, go for it.

The other alternative is to keep saving your cash for a faster car (Liberty GT or otherwise) and just treat the current car as a perfectly good, comfortable, reliable way of getting around without over-capitalising it too much.

Trying to make the 2.5L NA engine more powerful is likely to take an excessive amount of money for minimal returns.
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Stifull » Sun Sep 06, 2020 10:35 pm

My thoughts are it's a heavy car and a non turbo 2.5 is just too small for it to perform well compared to the performance models. All you can do is do what people have been doing for as long as I can remember to make non turbo cars perform better and that is extractors, exhaust and a tune. With only 2k you will need to hunt down 2nd hand parts. All a turbo does is force lots of air into the mix enabling a lot more fuel to be added as well which makes for a bigger bang (more power). There is no other way to achieve a bigger bang. Installing bigger fuel pump wont help, different bigger injectors also wont help because without the volume of air that a turbo supplies nothing really will make any difference . The stock air box with filter is as good as a pod for a non turbo ..The extractors will take away any boxer sound that a non turbo has but it will assist in slight power increase. On a track, the previous comment about suspension and brakes makes for a quicker lap that extractors and exhaust but if you want off the mark performance you are going to struggle to make much difference with only 2k.. The larger 6 cylinder non turbo Liberties are also quick cars but non turbo 2.5 as you say is very laggy off the mark. Just be sure that pouring money to get very limited performance increases is a worthwhile exercise as it won't increase the value of your car should you decide to bite the bullet and get either a turbo or H6 type engine.
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby bigBADbenny » Mon Sep 07, 2020 8:43 am

GT brakes, the best quality dampers and springs you can afford, even a new set of KYB's.

Our libs use Shockworks and Koni Sport Yellows.

As for power and response, just health checking the car will go a long way towards making it enjoyable to drive.

The main culprit will be, other than regular maintenance items, inlet vacuum leaks.

Do an inlet pressure test to find these, using a 1psi max low air pressure source, soapy water spray or smoke, and dont give up until you've found all the leaks from the crank case, inlet manifold gaskets, sensor orings and inlet & pcv pipes...
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Stifull » Tue Sep 08, 2020 12:06 am

Hi.. I am not sure of your location but if you are anywhere near brisbane I have an 07 Lib GT Dual exhaust you can have. I don't know if it is any bigger or better than the one you have but you are welcome to it. Cheers..
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby BrosephStalin » Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:36 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions, guys! I'm taking the car to the mechanic in a week just for a 5000k service and I'll get his thoughts as well. Stifull, unfortunately I'm in Sydney but thanks a lot for the kind intentions!
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Turbo Lag » Mon Sep 21, 2020 3:27 pm

I think Yowie hit the nail on the head here with the handling/braking suggestion.

The 2.5i, within any practical reason, hasn't got any upgradability with regards to power unless you go F/I which is another rabbit hole in itself that is usually not worth the $$$/time/hassle. I've gone through the same ordeal over many years now, unfortunately there's not really many practical options considering 3.0/GTs are so cheap now.

With $1500-2000 purely focused on driveline, what I would personally do is replace the god awful Dual Mass flywheel setup for a Single Mass conversion with an Exedy clutch to suit. You'll find the engine feels a lot more responsive without losing any driveability (I found mine better to drive in traffic post-install). This way you'll also replace a wear component that you otherwise would likely do anyway, plus improve the car.

My engine felt pretty sluggish and non-responsive, and just felt slow in general too. I spent a hell of a lot more than this to rebuild the entire thing and gained a huge (in context for an N/A EJ25) low down power and responsiveness. I would not recommend this to anyone unless you're willing to dump 3x what the car is worth into it as I ended up doing.

You can also remove your intake resonators for free and throw in a K&N panel filter for the tiniest gain in responsivness (I felt a tiny difference going from a clean OEM type filter to K&N). Can easily delete your exhaust heat shields without much worry unless you park on hot tall grass all day to remove some weight.

If I had similar budget to improve the car overall:

Buy GT/H6 brakes (will generally set you back $3-400 used for all the components) + cheap rotors + new pads (likely around $800 total).
Buy a quality set of used coilovers for around 1.2k-1.3k.

Have a look at my 2.5i for the mods I'd recommend.

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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby BrosephStalin » Wed Sep 23, 2020 5:20 pm

Thanks for the input Turbo Lag

How was the vibration and general smoothness of the ride after you converted to SMF? Can I ask what did you do to the engine in the rebuild to make it more responsive? Just out of curiosity haha. I took a look at your other mods - it's a beautiful looking car you got there.

My mechanic pretty much said what you guys have said in that it's not much value for money to try and get power out of the 2.5 NA. The most sensible thing is to save for a couple of years and then get a 2.5T.

That said however, I don't particularly want a racing car. I'd just like it to be a BIT more enjoyable to drive as a daily car (and I don't see myself being the kind of person to have both a daily and a fun car). Rather than owning a performance vehicle and lusting for speed and power, I just like the idea of driving a really good 'normal' car. One that is relatively powerful when compared with its other 'normal' car cousins on the road. One that is modified practically and tastefully so that it makes the most advantage from what there is to work with. I'm a big fan of your work Turbo Lag... your my04 lib encapsulates much of this idea :)
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Turbo Lag » Thu Sep 24, 2020 1:37 pm

BrosephStalin wrote:Thanks for the input Turbo Lag

How was the vibration and general smoothness of the ride after you converted to SMF? Can I ask what did you do to the engine in the rebuild to make it more responsive? Just out of curiosity haha. I took a look at your other mods - it's a beautiful looking car you got there.

My mechanic pretty much said what you guys have said in that it's not much value for money to try and get power out of the 2.5 NA. The most sensible thing is to save for a couple of years and then get a 2.5T.

That said however, I don't particularly want a racing car. I'd just like it to be a BIT more enjoyable to drive as a daily car (and I don't see myself being the kind of person to have both a daily and a fun car). Rather than owning a performance vehicle and lusting for speed and power, I just like the idea of driving a really good 'normal' car. One that is relatively powerful when compared with its other 'normal' car cousins on the road. One that is modified practically and tastefully so that it makes the most advantage from what there is to work with. I'm a big fan of your work Turbo Lag... your my04 lib encapsulates much of this idea :)


Thank you!

Any NVH etc. was improved - there was 0 drawback from the switch from DMF to SMF. However it's very important to stress the fact that I used the OEM SMF conversion, not an aftermarket kit. The OEM SMF kit is a rebranded Exedy kit that has the flywheel and clutch to suit. I highly recommend this kit assuming it's the same one you can buy today (I don't know the part numbers, sorry!). After around 90kkms I've switched to an Exedy HD clutch with the SMF, and it's lost some driveability due to the 'upgrade' in clutch. The OEM clutch still probably had 50kkms+ left in it but I decided to swap it out after I threw the new gearbox in. My previous DMF completely failed (it cracked) and was an absolute PITA to replace according to my mechanic. The throwout bearing was also done for and got very loud just before it happened.

My head gaskets were starting to let go and it started using a stupid amount of oil, and eventually during an oil change I noticed coolant had baked itself onto the block. The engine never failed and kept going with oil and coolant being topped up, but at the time I couldn't afford another car and also didn't want to keep a paperweight for a few more years. There wasn't anything non-OEM used in my rebuild as I wanted it to work without hassle. It's just that it had degraded so much over those 12 or so years and had lost its performance. I went as far as reconditioning all the internals and got the block toleranced etc. I also replaced plenty of components along the way with OEM parts that were 'may as well' once it was opened up. Basically everything that was necessary to return it to a brand new engine was done, and that meant having a break-in period on the engine too. I'm not too familiar with all the work carried out but it's how the car would've left the showroom when new. I've never dyno'd it but it dropped around 1.5s to 100.

Considering what you're after, IMO go down the quality-of-life and handling route.

This means investing in:
A quality set of coilovers (this is literally all you will need in terms of handling - do not bother with sway bars/non standard bushings etc, and you can always transfer these to another car in the future).
A relatively cheap upgrade to brakes (GT/H6 brakes will give you all the braking power you ever need, they've stood the test of time on street/track for me).
A new set of wheels/tyres in a better size (2010 WRX wheels are by far the cheapest upgrade, and you can fit 235/45/17 tyres which are also usually cheaper!, I've actually made a net profit on these by selling them instead of running stock wheels).
A double-din fascia kit + headunit (audio setup goes from a 2/10 (outdated/unusable) to a 6/10 (content) for not much money).

The 2.5i is a very nicely balanced car which is hard to out-drive compared to its counterparts. I've driven every engine except for the 2.0T and still feel that the 2.5i is what feels at home in a Gen 4. Sure you may not be as quick as others in a straight line, but hey you get to enjoy full throttle just about everywhere without too much worry.
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby bigBADbenny » Thu Sep 24, 2020 7:49 pm

I always get scadenfreude making a post immediately after a very thoughtful and considered post. :good:

All I can add is that HD rear swaybar mounts, eg AVO or diy even, are essential for any lib that’s driven with conviction for the driving experience.

I want to add that all the relieved oem suspension & diff bushes are or will be crapped out.
These are the ones that came stock with holes in them, for nvh reasons. These are perfectly acceptable to replace with quality aftermarket solid items from WL, AVO etc...
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Yowie » Thu Sep 24, 2020 8:49 pm

'd just like it to be a BIT more enjoyable to drive as a daily car (and I don't see myself being the kind of person to have both a daily and a fun car). Rather than owning a performance vehicle and lusting for speed and power, I just like the idea of driving a really good 'normal' car. One that is relatively powerful when compared with its other 'normal' car cousins on the road. One that is modified practically and tastefully so that it makes the most advantage from what there is to work with.


Sounds like a 2.5L turbo will work well for those plans.

The next challenge will be to pick a sensible point to stop modifying once you've achieved the quoted goals. It's easy to fall into the "more is better" rabbit hole and spend silly money pushing past the goal. Once again, the laws of diminishing returns apply as you keep turning up the power.
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby BrosephStalin » Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:21 pm

Hi everyone, it's been a busy few weeks! I'm keeping in mind your suggestions and have been looking into some handling mods.

I found on Facebook Market some GT brakes (includes rotors, calipers, brake pads, lines, and rear backing plates/hubs... everything except the mounting bolts which the seller has lost). They're stock and have done around 130,000kms before the seller upgraded. Do you think these would suffice as an improvement or are they too used already to be much good? Seller was asking $225. What's the typical lifespan of these brakes?

I've been looking into whiteline swaybars also which I could transfer to an upgrade vehicle 1-2 years down the track (I've got my eyes peeled for an H6). Where would be the cheapest place to get a hold of them?
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Turbo Lag » Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:32 pm

BrosephStalin wrote:Hi everyone, it's been a busy few weeks! I'm keeping in mind your suggestions and have been looking into some handling mods.

I found on Facebook Market some GT brakes (includes rotors, calipers, brake pads, lines, and rear backing plates/hubs... everything except the mounting bolts which the seller has lost). They're stock and have done around 130,000kms before the seller upgraded. Do you think these would suffice as an improvement or are they too used already to be much good? Seller was asking $225. What's the typical lifespan of these brakes?

I've been looking into whiteline swaybars also which I could transfer to an upgrade vehicle 1-2 years down the track (I've got my eyes peeled for an H6). Where would be the cheapest place to get a hold of them?


The calipers on the brakes are what you're paying for. The lines are useless if they're not braided, and rotors/pads depend on brand and usage. Generally used rotors, unless they're high end or at the bare minimum slotted, are almost worthless - I've binned plenty since nobody even wants them for free. Unless your pads are of very high value, they are also near worthless. You don't need the backing plate/hubs either, not sure why they're being included. The whole set up will bolt on without any issue and handbrake will still work fine.

$225 is a decent enough price for the whole set though, you can probably find it for less but it isn't worth your time. I would perhaps ask if you can only get the calipers, and then get some VMAX rotors and pads of your choice to suit and spend your money there instead.

Personally wouldn't recommend larger sway bars if you're planning on getting a set of coilovers in the near future - see my profile thread for my thoughts. IMO the OEM setup is excellent for these cars and reducing body roll makes them handle worse. I'm going to be selling my Whiteline rear bar if you're interested but not something I can recommend (hence the sale!). I would instead focus on the sway bar mounts and bushings if they're not in great shape.
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Yowie » Sun Oct 18, 2020 7:49 pm

For what it's worth, different opinions/experiences (albeit based on a SH forester) as follows:

The calipers on the brakes are what you're paying for. The lines are useless if they're not braided, and rotors/pads depend on brand and usage. Generally used rotors, unless they're high end or at the bare minimum slotted, are almost worthless - I've binned plenty since nobody even wants them for free. Unless your pads are of very high value, they are also near worthless. You don't need the backing plate/hubs either, not sure why they're being included. The whole set up will bolt on without any issue and handbrake will still work fine.


Rubber brake lines are fine. There is an autospeed article out there on the internets where they tested the expansion under extreme pressure of rubber versus braided brake lines and found half a flyshit difference.

If you acquire used rotors and pads with enough meat on them - use them and save some money. I'm still using the 2nd hand Liberty GT front brake rotors that I acquired with the brakes bundle from the wreckers.

Backing plates (your current ones or GT ones - whatever fits) are designed to be a heat shield protecting other parts in that area. I would run them if they fit.



$225 is a decent enough price for the whole set though, you can probably find it for less but it isn't worth your time. I would perhaps ask if you can only get the calipers, and then get some VMAX rotors and pads of your choice to suit and spend your money there instead.


Agreed that's a great price. Grab everything then you can pick what you need to actually fit.


Personally wouldn't recommend larger sway bars if you're planning on getting a set of coilovers in the near future - see my profile thread for my thoughts. IMO the OEM setup is excellent for these cars and reducing body roll makes them handle worse. I'm going to be selling my Whiteline rear bar if you're interested but not something I can recommend (hence the sale!). I would instead focus on the sway bar mounts and bushings if they're not in great shape.


I have never had coilovers, so this opinion must be weighted against that deficiency.

A front & rear set of thicker swaybars can transform the stability of a car through corners. For the full-height forester the rear swaybar was a great start but adding the thicker front swaybar dramatically improved the grip (reduced understeer) on high speed sweeping corners. There must be a reason why the "hot" version of a given car from factory has a thicker front & rear swaybar set.

I recommend grabbing the offered Whiteline rear bar, then looking to upgrade the front when time & budget permits. Agreed the mounts & bushings are important.

I prefer regular springs & shocks on a road car for longevity reasons, but that's personal preference.


Good luck whatever you do. There are many "right" ways to make the car more enjoyable.
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Re: $1500 - $2000 on improvement suggestions

Postby Turbo Lag » Sun Oct 18, 2020 8:40 pm

It'd be boring if we all were the same :lol: As you said, plenty of ways to change the car to what you want it to be, and it's really up to each person to figure it out. This is why I'm against modding for the sake of it, but to solve deficiencies instead 8)

Yowie wrote:Rubber brake lines are fine. There is an autospeed article out there on the internets where they tested the expansion under extreme pressure of rubber versus braided brake lines and found half a flyshit difference.

If you acquire used rotors and pads with enough meat on them - use them and save some money. I'm still using the 2nd hand Liberty GT front brake rotors that I acquired with the brakes bundle from the wreckers.

Backing plates (your current ones or GT ones - whatever fits) are designed to be a heat shield protecting other parts in that area. I would run them if they fit.


Not disagreeing on the lines - just wouldn't pay more for stock ones if included since IMO the stock ones are fine as you said. Wouldn't call it a value for money upgrade either. There's nothing wrong with the used pads/rotors, but I wouldn't go out of my way to pay more especially if they're got 130kkms on them already! I'm actually not sure if the backing plates are any different to GT on the 2.5i - regardless I've never had an issue with the stock ones after all the track days and abuse etc. Interesting to note that the Lib setup works on the Foz too - wonder if the Tribeca also fits up directly since I think they're the same. But all up, $225 is a good price, I'd go ahead with it. Good opportunity to rebuild the calipers if you're into that sort of thing too!

Personally wouldn't recommend larger sway bars if you're planning on getting a set of coilovers in the near future - see my profile thread for my thoughts. IMO the OEM setup is excellent for these cars and reducing body roll makes them handle worse. I'm going to be selling my Whiteline rear bar if you're interested but not something I can recommend (hence the sale!). I would instead focus on the sway bar mounts and bushings if they're not in great shape.


I have never had coilovers, so this opinion must be weighted against that deficiency.

A front & rear set of thicker swaybars can transform the stability of a car through corners. For the full-height forester the rear swaybar was a great start but adding the thicker front swaybar dramatically improved the grip (reduced understeer) on high speed sweeping corners. There must be a reason why the "hot" version of a given car from factory has a thicker front & rear swaybar set.

I recommend grabbing the offered Whiteline rear bar, then looking to upgrade the front when time & budget permits. Agreed the mounts & bushings are important.

I prefer regular springs & shocks on a road car for longevity reasons, but that's personal preference.
[/quote][/quote]

I've never tried the bars without coilovers installed so I can't compare. I think it depends on where OP decides to go with the suspension setup and how much $$$ he's willing to put in. I'd be pretty curious to try a car with only the sway bars changed as I've been spoiled silly by Shockworks :lol:. There's definitely a reason the highest models had thicker bars, but I think they got it pretty right for each model specifically in terms of balance. If anything on the 2.5i the GT-B size might be perfect, and also keep the balance that IMO they got right.

OP if you're after the Whiteline bar, let me know as I was planning to sell it soon now that lockdown is eased. It'll come with the bushings to suit. It's a bit scratched up from the install though. PM me if interested. 8)
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