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Lifted 2006 subaru forester

2006 Subaru Forester: Cheap Beater To Off-Road Trail Machine

By Ben Boxer

Last updated on May 13th, 2024

The SG Forester (2003-2008) has quickly become one of the most desired platforms for people who want a reliable car for off-road trails. This generation of Forester came with a refined interior and Subaru’s popular 2.5 liter boxer engine. Our content manager, Ben, chose an 06 Forester as his starting platform for a lifted Subaru build. He shares the process of installing a lift kit on it, fitting bigger off-road tires, and the reasoning behind some of the modifications.

“I’ve always been a huge Subaru fan and naturally decided to lift one as soon as my hiking trips began taking me on challenging forest roads. My first lifted Forester was a 5 speed manual but I really didn’t like burning the clutch to slowly crawl over obstacles.

Finally I decided to sell it and find an automatic Subaru. I found this 2006 Forester that needed a little work and drove it home for under $2000.”

Current 2024 Mod List On The Forester:

  • 2 inch front & 2.5 inch rear Anderson Design Fabrication lift kit
  • ADF trailing arm spacers
  • ADF rear diff brace
  • ADF 4EAT (anti-wobble) transmission mount bushing insert
  • Black Rhino Boxer 15×7 wheels
  • Accellera MT01 235/75R15 mud tires
  • ADF sway bar link spacers (one of my favorite mods)
  • Low profile Magnaflow muffler (this added over an inch of clearance for departure angle)
  • Relocated ECU (moved up away from any possible water exposure)
  • Rear differential breather tube extension
  • Torq Masters Torq Locker in the rear diff
  • Low profile roof rack
  • Custom front bumper built by Austen Westphal
  • MeLe Design Firm 1200 series rally battery mount
  • Full Throttle AGM battery upgrade
  • MeLe Design Firm strut tower brace
  • MeLe Design Firm oil cap


  • Cheap 14 inch LED light bar
  • Ni-lite yellow LED fog lights
  • Osram Night Breaker headlight bulbs
  • LED interior lights
lifted subaru forester SG in the rain
lifted subaru forester with all terrain tires and lift kit 2006 in the woods with lights

Trying 3 Different Tires On The Forester

First, I was running a set of Federal Couragia MT’s on it. They were 29 inches and were really aggressive. They looked great and they held up against even the most abusive terrain. However, they weighed 38 lbs and were just a bit heavy for the 2.5 boxer paired with the 4EAT transmission.

I started thinking about switching out for a slightly less meaty tire. I finally decided to pull the trigger on a new set after taking the original MT’s in the snow and realizing how bad they did in cold temperatures.

I did a bunch of research and looked around for a tire that would be large, aggressive, 3 Peak Mountain Snowflake rated, and have a good appearance. A lot of people run the Falken Wildpeak and the Ko2’s but I wanted to try something a little different. I didn’t see a lot of Subaru guys using the Kumho Road Ventures, so I thought it could be a great tire for our cars. They weighed in at 34 lbs in the 235/75/15 size and had a really good tread pattern, and are severe weather rated.

Even though performance is most important to me, I also wanted a tire that also looked good. The shoulder pattern on the Kumho’s looked great without being too bulky. The main tread pattern also looks good and is very functional in offering grip and quieting road noise.

UPDATE 2024: I’m now running Accellera MT01 mud terrains. They are a lightweight, affordable mud tire. I still own the Kumho’s and have them on a different vehicle. But the mud terrains allow me to drive through almost anything!

Check out my Accelera Review to see how well they’ve held up.

lifted subaru forester with mud terrain tires and lift kit

Fitting Bigger Tires

The 235/75r15’s rub a lot without doing some things to the wheel well area. I had to make a few modifications in order to fit them.

Here’s how I fit the bigger tires:

  • Remove mudflaps
  • Remove sideskirts
  • Trim back the fender liners
  • Fold the front pinch welds over with a mini-sledge
  • Use a rally style wheel with a low off set to pull the tires away from the struts (I used the Method MR502)
  • I also cut my front bumper a little. This helps reduce rubbing but I liked the look and the ground clearance on my front corners.

It’s hard to see in the photo, but this is a picture of my mud terrain tires rubbing against the wheel well at full lock even after folding the pinch weld over with a hammer. It’s hard to tell what’s going on, but the tire is on the right side of the picture, and the fender liner and pinch weld are on the left.

Custom Offroad Bumper

lifted subaru forester with custom offroad bumper

Getting someone to agree to build a custom offroad bumper for a Subaru was more difficult than I assumed it would be. This was during the 2021 era which meant most shops were overloaded with business. But even after offering to pre pay for their time, I had five different shops essentially “ghost” me after asking them to build the bumper.

I finally ran into a fellow Subaru owner who had some experience building bumpers. So I drove it out to him and he got to work on it. Now I have a spot to mount a winch and two solid recovery points that I can use for dynamic recoveries.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I feel more confident pushing the car into obstacles or going into situations that might require being pulled out.

What are your wheel specs?

Black Rhino Boxer 15×7 with hub centric rings

I was initially running the Method MR502 VT spec wheels. I know everyone has them, but they really are a great wheel and a fellow Subaru owner needed to get rid of them. So I took them off his hands and ended up loving them.

They’re a great fit right out of the box. They have the perfect offset for clearing big tires without wheel spacers. But I then found a great deal on a set of Black Rhino Boxers.

I think the Boxers are a good looking wheel and they’re extremely light. The MR502 is probably stronger for anyone doing rally events. But for driving trails I think they’re perfect.

I also had to buy a set of hub centric rings to bring the hub bore to 56.1mm so that they would fit the Subaru properly.

lifted subarus in the forest with snow tires and offroad tires

Getting the best fitment with a lift kit on the Forester

I shopped around for kits to see what was available but I ultimately decided to go with the Anderson Design and Fabrication kit. I’ve used their stuff before and really wanted the peace of mind that comes with getting a good kit. They’ve been making quality products for years and always offer good support.

I got the 2/2.5 inch strut spacers and installed them in my driveway before the weather got too bad to work in. The install was pretty straight forward with basic mechanic’s tools. I did it in about 3 evenings after work but I also installed new front brakes and took my time fixing little issues that I found as I went.

TIP: check your strut tops before you get started with the install. Some people have run into issues with non-OEM spec strut mounts during the installation.

Capability Of the lifted forester

lifted forester plows through deep snow

I’m fully aware that Subarus are not rock crawlers, but I’ve been extremely surprised by how far I can push this thing. I’ve been able to drive through 2 feet of fresh snow without stopping.

I have right around 12 inches of clearance at the rear diff. This makes navigating rocky forest roads very doable. I’ve been out on trail runs with lifted Toyotas and Nissan trucks without much issue at all. I drive the car well within its ability, but there are a few times when I’ve had to winch out in deep snow. I think most lifted Subarus have the ability to keep up with almost anything on mild trails.

Check out the write up I did explaining why my Forester is the best offroad car that I own.

2006 subaru forester with 23575R15 accelera mt01 tires

Torq Locker Installation Was A Capability Game Changer

In 2023 I decided to take the plunge into the Torq Locker life. A company called “Torq Masters” is the only group currently producing a locking differential for Subarus.

The reason for this modification is that a locker allows both left and right axles to “lock” together regardless of traction. In most stock differentials, the tire with the least amount of resistance will be given power. This means that if one wheel is up in the air, it will just spin and do nothing for getting your Subaru unstuck.

Installing the diff locker was a relatively easy process since I have worked on Subaru differentials before. But it took a little time and attention to detail.

The locker cost me about $450 but has made a huge difference in how well the Forester handles offroad. I can climb up uneven terrain very easily now without getting stuck.

You can see the locker components here. They essentially replace the spider gears inside of a Subaru open diff.

subaru torq locker unboxing

Here is a video of me performing the installation of the Torq Locker.

Despite rumors that the Torq Locker would make driving more “harsh,” I actually forget that it’s there sometimes. It does click in parking lots when turning at low speeds. But I actually kind of like that. It hasn’t affected the enjoyment of driving the car negatively at all.

What kind of gear do you carry with you?

Most of my adventures are just day trips. So I typically pack really light. However, there are a few things I never go into the wilderness without taking in the Forester.

This is my bare minimum kit:


This is an ongoing build, but the Forester has traveled over 25k miles since being lifted and handles it really well! The car has been on multiple sections of the WABDR in the Pacific Northwest and is constantly being used to explore all around the West Coast. If you want to follow along with the progress of this build, find it on Instagram below!

Check out the build on Instagram @clappedforester