What to Know BEFORE Swapping a Subaru
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
This is an iWire PSA - Don't let your swap dreams die! Too many times we have to be the bearer of bad news. This happens enough that our owner Brian has started calling himself the "Wet Blanket." Unfortunately we get a lot of customer calls from people that started a project based on bad information on the internet, bought an engine from an importer that mislabeled the engine, or a friend who has never done a swap said something was a lot easier than it is. Below we talk about some of the most important things to research and consider before doing your swap in an effort to make swapping your Subaru easier.
The first and most important thing we can recommend is do not swap your only car. I repeat, DO NOT SWAP YOUR ONLY CAR! Yes once the car is done it could be reliable for a daily driver, but the process to get there is not generally quick. So unless you are walking distance from your school or work it really is not a good idea. Most Subaru swaps take weeks or months to complete. Between sourcing parts and unexpected issues, the time and money adds up quickly. We've heard many stories of people needing rides or using Uber to get to work and we don't want that to happen to our customers.
The second most important thing we can recommend is to do your research BEFORE starting your swap or purchasing anything. Just because there is a great deal on a turbo EJ20, does not mean buy it and hope for the best. Not all EJ20's are the same - learn more about that here. There is a lot of bad information on the internet so make sure to ask a trusted source like a car shop or experienced professional. Things to research for those who are putting in a stock replacement (like an EJ20X in a Legacy GT) are camshaft sensor compatibility or being equipped with drive by wire. If the swap is a non turbo to turbo engine confirming features like DBW or non DBW, immobilized or non immobilized, CANBUS, AVCS, OBD2, smoggability, and most importantly knowing exactly which engine you have.
The third most important thing is to have a budget in mind and tailor your project for that budget. An inexpensive engine does not mean an inexpensive swap. Consider just how much money you are willing to spend to get that extra horsepower. After purchasing parts, an engine, wiring, and the tune needed to make everything run properly, costs add up quickly. Researching the cost of your project before starting can help you avoid purchasing bad or incompatible parts and hopefully set your expectations correctly for what your project will cost.
Another important factor to consider before starting your Subaru powered project are the laws in your area. Will it need to be smogged? If so that early JDM engine or a 6 cylinder swapmight need to be reconsidered. Are they sending loud cars to the state referee? Maybe don't put in that non catted downpipe. If you can't drive your car on the street, what's the point of putting all the time and money into it?
Make sure before cutting the wiring harness or dremeling the engine for those 3 wire cam position sensors that this is the best route to accomplish your goals. It's a heck of a lot cheaper to get the right parts that are designed to work together the first time than it is to modify things or exchange for parts that do work.
Basically, our biggest tip is to research. The more research you do before your Subaru swap, the better your car will turn out.