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Subaru Restoration 101: Starter’s Guide to Restoring Your Subie

Subaru enthusiasts, it's time to roll up your sleeves! Whether it’s a classic model or a well-lived ride that has seen better days, restoring a Subaru to its former glory is bound to be an exciting journey and this is where it starts. 

A huge shoutout first goes to the Subaru community, with a diverse and dedicated group that made this journey possible for us. From rally racing fans to off-roaders and casual cruisers, we’ve seen it all and ultimately created this guide for all of you.

It’s only fair to note this is a journey that requires a lot of hard work and dedication but don't worry fellow Subie fans, we're in this together. With this guide, we'll cover all the essentials to help you bring your ride back to life, including:

No point standing around for much longer, right? Let's dive headfirst into a Subie restoration project.

Sussing Out Your Subie

First things first, let's assess the condition of your Subaru. You are not wasting time while you’re checking it all out, as it’s a crucial part of the project. Once you've identified any issues, make a checklist of what needs to be repaired or replaced. This will help you set realistic goals for your restoration project. 

Take a close look at the bodywork and look for rust spots, dings, and scratches. Check the engine and transmission for leaks or other issues. Test the brakes, suspension, and steering components to ensure they're functioning properly and don’t forget to check the electrical system.

You don’t want to overspend so it's important to set a budget based on your checklist and plan accordingly. We all know how easy it is to get carried away with mods (don't get us started). Stick to your budget and prioritize what needs to be fixed or upgraded first.


Scoring Parts and Tools

Now that you know the condition of your Subaru, it's time to score parts and tools. Quality parts are essential for a top-notch restoration. Always be sure to research OEM, aftermarket, and used options. 

Modern times make it as easy to get value for your money as ever. Join online forums, connect with local suppliers, and network with other Subaru enthusiasts. Exploring these options will ease finding those rare or hard-to-find parts but it will also be useful down the line.

Investing in the right tools and equipment is just as important right now. Your restoration project is bound to be smoother and a much more pleasurable experience. Must-have tools include a socket set, torque wrench, hydraulic jack, and a multimeter. 

You may also need special tools depending on the work you'll be doing. While you sometimes just can’t escape consulting professionals, don't be afraid to dip your toes in complicated tasks. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can get the hang of it!

Bodywork Bliss

Now we’re getting to the biggest chunk of work, as repairing or replacing body panels must be physically the most demanding part of our project. Tackling rust and achieving that flawless paint job is a close second. 

Still, these are essential to making your Subaru stand out. When it comes to painting options, there are plenty to choose from. You can choose a DIY approach or hire a pro for a flawless finish. Make sure to get the right paint match or consider a custom color for a unique touch.

If you're not experienced in bodywork, consider consulting with a professional. After all, the best jobs are done by these gurus of body and paint jobs. And while you're there, why not consider taking a course from them to learn the ropes?

This is where your personality will shine together with your car. In the wise voice of Bernie Mac, "There's a mystical bond between man and machine". So make that bond count. Achieving that jaw-dropping finish takes time and patience. Sanding, priming, and applying multiple coats are all part of the process. Don't rush it, take your time, and enjoy the journey.

Many Subie-heads turn to stickers and decals. It's not a far cry to say that we all adorn our rides with these. Expressing love for the brand or simply showing off our sense of humor, Subaru stickers unite us.

So if you're looking to purchase car stickers in bulk, check out our guide on where to source wholesale stickers and garments

It's important to exercise caution when putting stickers on your Subie though. Don't stick them on painted surfaces that can get damaged with removal. Make sure to thoroughly clean the area before applying any stickers. 

If you're not sure where to place your stickers or where to get custom and licensed RS stickers, take a cue from other Subie-heads. Remember that stickers are fun but don't go overboard, as your ride is still the center of the show. Use them sparingly and thoughtfully!

Have you checked out our list of the top 10 must-have Subaru stickers and shirts? These accessories are perfect for any Subie lover looking to showcase their passion for the brand.

Mechanical Magic

Bodywork may be tedious work but here's where it gets technical. The Subaru boxer engine is an iconic feature that sets Subarus apart. Restoring or upgrading it as well as transmission, suspension, and brakes is the focus here. 

Getting all these parts in order will greatly improve your Subie's performance. Rebuilding or replacing engine components can be a challenging task. Still, it's doable with the right tools and just enough knowledge. 

Consider upgrading to performance parts for an extra boost of power. Maintenance is still key to keeping your Subie running like a dream. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule. Stay on top of routine tasks like oil changes and tire rotations.

As for brakes, Brembo brakes are a popular choice among Subaru enthusiasts. It's a go-to for high-performance stopping power. Brembo brake calipers and rotors are known for their superior quality, while the distinctive red color is a must for any Subie restoration.

If you do go for Brembo, you can also show off by adding Brembo brake stickers to your ride. These stickers are available in a variety of sizes and designs, placed on the brake calipers, wheels, or elsewhere on the car.

Electrifying Electricals

Now let's get the lights on! Since you upgraded your engine, why not go for electrical upgrades too?  One of the most popular options here is installing modern infotainment systems. Subaru models from the 90s and early 2000s often lack the modern conveniences we've come to expect. 

They may be stylish cars but they're still a product of their time. They won't have Bluetooth connectivity and touchscreen displays for starters. The good news here is that plenty of aftermarket options are available. They can give your Subie a tech upgrade without sacrificing that classic look.

As with any electrical work, proper wiring is crucial for safety and reliability. Make sure to use high-quality wires and connectors. Also, take the time to route everything neatly and securely. If you're not comfortable with electrical work, it's best to leave it to a professional.

Interior Overhaul

Your engine roars, your body shines, and so do the lights. What about your interior, though? It’s where you'll be spending most of the time so it's important to make it a comfortable and enjoyable space. 

Start with reviving or replacing worn components like seats, carpets, and dashboards. It can make a huge difference in the overall look and feel of the cabin. There are plenty of aftermarket options for upgrading the interior too. 

Either go for sports seats or custom steering wheels, the choice is yours! Consider installing a new stereo system or touchscreen display as a start for an immersive modern experience. This can be a great way to add features while still looking sleek. You'll be using these while driving so make sure you put in something you'd actually use.

Of course, it's not just about looks. Keep your interior clean and fresh so you can always return for additional touches. Vacuum regularly, wipe down surfaces, and treat leather or vinyl with a conditioner as often as you can to keep everything looking and feeling like new in the long run.

Final Words

Restoring a Subaru to its former glory is a labor of love that requires hard work, time, dedication, and ultimately patience. We strongly suggest investing in quality parts as well as professional help or even training when unsure.

Bodywork, painting, and engine rebuilding are all critical components of the restoration process. Finishing touches come off just as important when adding personality to your ride, whether it’s a unique decal you’re getting or part of your community’s wholesale sticker purchase.

Regardless if you're restoring a classic Impreza or upgrading a newer WRX, the key to achieving a show-stopping result is attention to detail and thorough planning. Take the time to assess your vehicle's condition and approach the restoration process with a serious plan, care, and attention. 

Follow those and you can create a one-of-a-kind ride. Share your restoration story and experiences with us and other Subaru enthusiast communities. We’ve seen this as a great way to connect with fellow Subie fanatics, showcase, and get better results too! Be sure to revisit our blog for more tips and resources as we dive deeper into the restoration journey, and good luck with your project.