Subaru drivers are typically drawn to the versatility and efficiency of the Outback, Forester, Impreza, and Legacy. The symmetrical all wheel drive and factory ground clearance are ideal for anyone wanting to take their daily driver into the woods for a hike, or the mountains to ski or snowboard. But what about those who want just a little extra lift? Is it expensive to lift your Subaru? Is it hard to do it yourself? We’ll explore some of the options and the best routes to getting just a little more air under your car.
Install bigger All-Terrain tires on your Subaru:
This is the most basic and easy way to add a little more off-road capability to your Subaru. While it will require some minor modifications to ensure proper fitment, you can typically add about an inch to most Subarus by simply upgrading tires. For example, on our 2000 Forester we were able to fit up to a 28.5” tire without a lift kit. This gave over a half inch of new clearance and we only had to massage fenders, remove mudflaps, and trim the pinch weld- all things that most people can do with basic tools and some elbow grease.
While the tires will give pretty minimal ground clearance gains, using a bigger and more aggressive tire will allow you to tackle more rugged terrain without hesitation; even if you have not yet installed your lift kit. So it may be a good idea to purchase a bigger tire first as it may fulfill all the requirements for your desired driving.
An aggressive all-terrain tire will also provide peace of mind on long off-road trips and forest service roads. A highway all-season tire simply doesn’t have the same durability or reinforcement to hold up against rugged conditions. This will allow you to confidently make your way deeper into the backcountry without worrying about losing a tire.
As always, double-check your measurements prior to installation and ensure that you are ready to make any necessary modifications.
If you want to take your Subaru to the next level, strut spacers are the best option. They come in a wide variety of sizes and allow you to add ground clearance relatively easy. Many Subaru owners simply install a 1” strut spacer lift with aggressive tires and call it good. This creates more ground clearance and allows for slightly bigger tire fitment within the wheel well. Most manufacturers offer strut spacers from 1 inch all the way up to 4 inches.
You will need a set of trailing arm spacers to make sure that your rear wheels are centered in the wheel well after the lift. Some owners have done a small lift without them, but we recommend using them for any lift.
Anything above 2.5 inches is usually a little more involved and can take a little work to restore proper suspension geometry. In these cases, you’ll want to install a subframe spacer kit. This will bring your CV axles back into proper alignment. Failing to use a subframe kit could put unnecessary strain on your driveline.
Installing an aggressive set of springs in your Subaru’s suspension is another way to get extra ground clearance without losing as much pavement performance. They will typically be stiffer and counteract the body roll that you experience from a lift.
However, you will notice a bumpier ride off-road and less suspension travel with lift springs. This means that certain obstacles will be harder to attack with a spring lift as the struts will not have as much effective articulation ability.
Most people choose a spring lift if they are planning to only occasionally drive their Subaru off-road. The in-town performance is great, but not as comfortable in the dirt.
Choose a Combination That Fits Your Off-Road Needs:
You can install all of these components, or a select combination that fits your needs and budget. A good option is to talk with others who have used these on their Subaru and get their personal feedback. When we lifted our first Subaru, we read endless forum discussions and watched YouTube builds to learn everything we could. The results were exactly what we expected, and the parts fit our budget.
Remember, it’s your build. Do it in whatever way makes you happy, but do it wisely and with safety in mind. Always double check your ideas with a professional to ensure proper performance.