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lifted subaru crosstrek with primitive racing parts

5 Things That Made My Subaru Even More Capable After Lifting

By Ben Boxer

As I’ve made my way through ten years of offroading in Subarus, I’ve found things that make a huge difference. I want to share a few crucial upgrades that can take your lifted Subaru’s offroad capabilities to the next level.

If you’re like I was in the beginning, you may think that a lift kit is all you need to hit the trails. While a lift kit is a fantastic starting point, there are several other modifications and accessories that can significantly improve your confidence and capability offroad. Here’s a rundown of what I believe are essential additions to your build list if you plan to leave the pavement routinely:

  •  Offroad Tires
  • Skid Plates
  • Torq Locker
  • Rear Diff Breather Extension
  • ECU Relocation
For a more dynamic exploration of the ideas in this article, I’ve prepared a video that goes a bit deeper into these reasoning behind these mods:
YouTube video

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All-Terrain Tires

subaru outback wilderness with offroad tires

The first thing I recommend, sometimes even before installing a lift kit, is upgrading to all-terrain tires. If your Subaru is currently running on all-season tires, swapping them out for more aggressive ones will be a game changer.

Offroad tires provide better grip, increased durability, and good performance on rough surfaces. They are designed to handle the challenges of off-road driving, allowing you to climb over obstacles with ease and reduce the risk of tire damage from sharp rocks.

For me, offroad tires are a non-negotiable for anyone serious about off-roading. They are the first modification I make on any Subaru I plan to lift, ensuring I’m ready for any trail conditions right from the get-go.

I like to install them in conjunction with a lift kit. But they can still benefit those who don’t have any plans to lift their Subaru.

Skid Plates

adf subaru skid plate

Next on the list are skid plates. At a minimum, you should install a front skid plate to protect your engine’s oil pan from damage. If your Subaru has an automatic or CVT transmission, consider adding a transmission pan skid plate as well. Two excellent companies that manufacture skid plates are Anderson Design & Fabrication, and Primitive Racing. I’ve used both, and you can’t go wrong with either.

Skid plates have given me the peace of mind to tackle more challenging terrains. They protect critical components from rocks and other debris, saving you from potentially costly repairs. The confidence I gain from knowing my Subaru is shielded by skid plates allows me to enjoy my off-road adventures without constantly worrying about damaging my vehicle.

Torq Locker

subaru torq locker box
subaru torq locker installation

One of the most impactful upgrades you can make in any offroad vehicle is installing a locker. This device locks your passenger and driver axles together, ensuring both wheels spin simultaneously. This is crucial for off-road driving, as open differentials can leave you stuck with one wheel spinning uselessly in the air while the other remains stationary.

Up until recently, we didn’t have any locker options for our Subarus. However, Torq Masters put in the time and money to develop a Torq Locker for Subaru rear differentials!

The Torq Locker isn’t a quick or easy install—you’ll need to pull the differential and may want a mechanic to handle the job. But it really isn’t bad if you know your way around the garage.

Despite the initial investment and effort, the improvement in off-road performance is worth every penny. My Torq Locker cost around $460, and it has dramatically increased my Subaru’s ability to navigate tough trails.

You might notice extra noise with the locker. But this is totally normal. The clicking noise you hear at low speeds while turning is just the locker doing its job as designed.

Rear Diff Breather Extension

subaru rear differential extended breather hose

Offroading often involves water crossings, and your rear differential is vulnerable to water damage. The stock breather cap on Subaru differentials can get clogged with mud or allow water to enter, which is a recipe for disaster. A simple and inexpensive modification is to install a rear diff breather extension.

When installing your Torq Locker or performing other differential maintenance, you can add this extension. Remove the stock breather cap, drill out the hole, and install a barbed hose fitting. Attach a silicone tube to the fitting and route it to a higher, safer location, such as the spare tire well. This setup ensures your differential can breathe without letting water in, preserving its functionality.

I installed this mod about 4 years ago and have experienced zero water contamination in my gear oil. I highly recommend doing this if you ever find yourself pulling the rear diff for any reason.

 

ECU Relocation

One of the worst places for an ECU (engine control unit) is in the passenger floorboard, which is exactly where Subaru places it. This location is vulnerable to water damage if you encounter deep water. Relocating the ECU to a safer spot, such as inside the glove box, is a straightforward modification that can save you from an expensive repair.

Unbolt the ECU from its bracket and, if there’s enough wiring, route it through a small hole cut in the glove box. This simple relocation can prevent catastrophic ECU failure if you accidentally get stuck in water. I relocated my ECU and, within a month and a half, ended up stuck in a pond. The relocation saved my Subaru from severe damage as an ECU failure will cause your car to be completely immobile.

You’ll need to determine for certain where you Subaru’s ECU is located. Mine have always been in the passenger foot well. But newer Subarus may have them in a different spot and not be suitable for relocation.

 

These mods—upgrading to all-terrain tires, installing skid plates, adding a Torq Locker, extending the rear diff breather, and relocating the ECU—are easy alterations that significantly improve the offroad capability of your Subaru. They have provided the durability and confidence I needed to tackle challenging trails without breaking the bank.

Offroading is an inherently expensive hobby, but these upgrades are affordable for anyone who budgets wisely. If you have any questions about these mods or need further advice, feel free to leave a comment. See you out on the trails!

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