A Work Baja story

General talk about the Subaru Baja.

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Spaghyeti
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Location: Idyllwild, CA

A Work Baja story

Post by Spaghyeti » Fri Jun 07, 2019 6:59 pm

Hello all and greetings. I am the proud new owner of my very first Baja. I sold my nicer 05 Outback H4 4EAT and moved to the city but soon returned to the mountains and in search of a fuel economic vehicle I could use for work; manual labor, yard abatements, wood hauling, object removal and hauling people transport etc.

I had fallen on hard times and was graced with this gently used (read beat to crap) automatic Subaru Baja with 170k for a very fair price. She came a long way from Vermont to CA and her rear end is totally cancered out, her parking brake doesn't work and I suspect the u joint needs replaced as well as a couple wheel bearings and perhaps sometime soon her transmission bearings. The windshield bucket leaks and the axle boots are on the way out. The power steering pump complains at full lock and whistles sometimes, the ac compressor will not keep it cool above 85°. The exterior is a mess.

But the engine and transmission and are strong and have been lubricated properly, she is up to date on her timing service and the valve cover gaskets and head gaskets were done; it also came with new filters, oil all around and new spark plugs and wires, she is not leaking any fluids and doesn't burn any oil or a negligble amount.

It's just perfect for a hard life in the mountains and I'm going to treat her well but she's going to earn her keep.

Only things done are new affordable all season tires until I can afford a set of 5 ko2 and a wheel and basic floor mats until I can afford weather tech. I also purchased a donut spare for now for emergencies.

So far I've already purchased every piece of the rear frame including a new subframe. I had to get a duplicate LH lateral support because they don't make RH any longer and I ended up with the crossmember of a wagon variant but my welder assures me he can make them fit if they're not close/exact already. I chose not to purchase a rear bumper beam and to instead have something similar in shape but strong and reinforced made to mount a hitch in a bit higher than aftermarket because of the poor departure angle and terrain, then just slap the foam absorber back on and stock cover.

I'll also be having a headache rack made because I haul a lot of cargo and live in very steep terrain.

I have 00-04 legacy King lifted uprated springs and new GR2 struts waiting to be installed. I'm barely managing with the blow rear struts and sagged out rear springs but she is holding up fine. I also have an ADF 2/2½ lift and trailing arm spacers en route as well. I also have brand new Raybestos element pads and rotors plus new parking brake shoes waiting to be installed.

As for cooling I am waffling on a Mishimoto vs Spectrum or similar brand radiator. I am also unsure if I need an aux trans cooler or if a fresh OEM rad will be sufficient. I don't typically exceed 300# and most of my hauls are around 100# but temperatures here can be extreme and it's very mountainous. Opinions?

Everything else will wait and be fixed as I can afford. I would like to Raptor line the whole vehicle this Summer or fail once the more important items are taken care of.
Attachments
Mm, crunchy.
Mm, crunchy.
20190607_190158.jpg (4.09 MiB) Viewed 682 times
Saggin. About 200# in there.
Saggin. About 200# in there.
20190607_190131.jpg (4.04 MiB) Viewed 682 times
One of these things is not like the other.
One of these things is not like the other.
20190522_102526.jpg (3.09 MiB) Viewed 683 times

mike-tracy
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Re: A Work Baja story

Post by mike-tracy » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:29 pm

Thanks for sharing! You are really giving this subie some love. From owning turbo and nonturbo subarus, I feel the OEM radiators are the best. Perhaps the Mishimoto or other brands have more heat shedding capacity, but from a longevity standpoint OEM can't be beat.

I think the OEM design works fine, as it brings the trans ATF up to temperature with the engine coolant, and dampens any temperature spikes. If you're towing a lot, and especially in the mountains, I would probably go for a trans cooler though. My non-turbo Forester came with the towing package, and while it didn't have an external trans cooler, it did have the factory oil cooler (only NA car I've owned that came with it).

I can't remember exactly when I did it, but if you search this or "other" subaru sites, there is an O-Ring in the power steering pump, that when it degrades can "aerate" the power steering fluid. Replacing it will keep that fluid and pressure back in the system.
1992 Legacy SS, 5mt and heavily modified
2000 Impreza RS Coupe, RSTI swap in progress
2003 Baja, 4eat & NA. Bone stock and loving it!

Spaghyeti
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Location: Idyllwild, CA

Re: A Work Baja story

Post by Spaghyeti » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:06 am

Great info thanks so much!

Spaghyeti
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Re: A Work Baja story

Post by Spaghyeti » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:25 pm

Thanks for the info and sorry for the curt response. I made a huge post but lost it all right before bed. I will keep notw of that for the power steering pump rejig.

I picked out an OEM radiator a small auxillary trans oil cooler and a bypass thermostat to help it get up to temp. I will order those once my frame job is done.

Speaking of which here is my entire rear frame replacement. My welder is going to cut everything out he doesn't like and replace em. You will notice two identical Lateral supports that go beside our spare tire carriers. I had to order two identical LH side ones because they don't make RH any longer. They are the same except for the extra exhaust hanger on the RH side which can be removed. The center horizontal crossmember is from a wagon variant but I just checked and it is identical to the Baja variant crossmember.

You will also notice two entire Lateral RH and LH frame pieces. I got the entire unit just in case anything forward of the rear diff is bad and needs replaced.

Also pictured is the inner rear skirt and outter rear skirt. My buddy will be making me a new beefier bumper to carry a 2" hitch instead of going oem, he said he'll probably tie it into those identical Lateral supports like aftermarket hitches do. It was going to cost $300 for that rear beam so I figured for the cost I'd have him whip something up and zip tie the foam absorber to it and stick the stock cover back on.

I have a replacement rear subframe too but it's too heavy to keep moving so I banished it to the outdoors. I also purchased a replacement rocker panel and rear sill (not pictued) so if he finds rust he can replace those without wasting time.

In case any wondering this is the entire rear frame sans the spare tire crossmember (which was good cause it was shielded from road salt), rear LH sill piece and forward crossmember and it cost a total of $1,300. My welder approximates it will cost $1,200-$1,500 for everything I've asked for. I can see how autobody work is so expensive!

Threw in a pic of the new suspension too!
Attachments
New suspension. Kyb gr2 and king lifted springs 00-04 legacy.
New suspension. Kyb gr2 and king lifted springs 00-04 legacy.
20190608_130720.jpg (3.38 MiB) Viewed 652 times
Anyone like puzzles
Anyone like puzzles
20190608_131441.jpg (2.51 MiB) Viewed 652 times

mike-tracy
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Joined: Wed Jun 05, 2019 9:30 pm

Re: A Work Baja story

Post by mike-tracy » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:54 pm

Those parts look fantastic. To be clear, are those struts the 2003 Baja KYB's ones? I'm curious to see the difference in ride height with the Outback King springs.

My last "adventure" Subaru was a 1998 Impreza Outback sport, and I did brand new KYB's and King springs on that. Since that car had a factory 1" lift compared to the normal wagon, sedan and coupe, the King Springs only lifted my car approx 0.5" higher. But they were significantly stiffer than factory (the brand new struts played a part in that I'm sure), so the car handled on and off roads with aplomb. I really like that suspension combo.
1992 Legacy SS, 5mt and heavily modified
2000 Impreza RS Coupe, RSTI swap in progress
2003 Baja, 4eat & NA. Bone stock and loving it!

ZUBAJA
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Re: A Work Baja story

Post by ZUBAJA » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:59 pm

From your initial description, I was expecting to see a total beater. From you rpics, it really doesn't look that bad. Love to see an "unloved" vehicle get some TLC. From your parts pics, this one should come out nice. Dennis

Spaghyeti
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Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:59 pm
Location: Idyllwild, CA

Re: A Work Baja story

Post by Spaghyeti » Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:52 pm

mike-tracy wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:54 pm
Those parts look fantastic. To be clear, are those struts the 2003 Baja KYB's ones? I'm curious to see the difference in ride height with the Outback King springs.

My last "adventure" Subaru was a 1998 Impreza Outback sport, and I did brand new KYB's and King springs on that. Since that car had a factory 1" lift compared to the normal wagon, sedan and coupe, the King Springs only lifted my car approx 0.5" higher. But they were significantly stiffer than factory (the brand new struts played a part in that I'm sure), so the car handled on and off roads with aplomb. I really like that suspension combo.
They are the uprated 03 Baja KYB Excel GR2, yes. I'm not certain if they are stock length. If they are I might lose a little suspension travel with the +1.1" King Springs due to preload but the +30% stiffness definetely helps with loads and the mountain roads so it's worth the trade off. King Springs are also lighter than oem so frees up some weight in the corners. Sounds like a sweet little ride! I had a similar setup on my 05 OB. I do love this combination as well!

I will take measurements before and after the install.

I also have a 2" front and 2½" rear lift by ADF coming in. I don't know how it will effect body roll in the corners but stock 8.4" height isn't enough to keep my undercarriage off the ground especially in the rear with the poor departure angle.

I weighed these stock rims and they weigh about 17# so no plans for aftermarket wheels. I am waffling on the LT ko2 in 215/65r16 vs At3 in 215/70r16.

I find the best way to make these cars a bit quicker is to tighten up the suspension and pitch stops and free up lost momentum but also to keep the wheels and tires light.

The enviornemt is pretty brutal up here so I kind of want the LT rating of the ko2 for the stiffer sidewall but not the weight. Makes the at3 temping at 29# vs the ko2 at 35#.

ZUBAJA wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:59 pm
From your initial description, I was expecting to see a total beater. From you rpics, it really doesn't look that bad. Love to see an "unloved" vehicle get some TLC. From your parts pics, this one should come out nice. Dennis
Thanks!

I guess it's not so bad; the front bumper and plastic fender flares have been replaced and were not painted correctly so they're faded. It has some significant dents and lots of scratches. But it's going to get a lot more dings and scrapes in this environment up here and being used for work.

This summer I'd like to pull those dents and bedline the entire vehicle with raptor liner!


I'm working on a roof basket and some tool mounts to carry some additional tools without taking up bed space, plus some lights for those days that just don't end.

This thing is honestly the perfect work vehicle!

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