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Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/27/20 9:11 a.m.

An opportunity has come up for me to buy an original owner, unmodified, approximately 2004 WRX wagon.

I've only wanted one of these for as long as they've been imported, but that's not enough reason if it's going to be a difficult or expensive car to own.

What do I need to know as I consider this?

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
2/27/20 9:21 a.m.

Do you enjoy head gasket repair?

Duke MegaDork
2/27/20 9:38 a.m.

In reply to Fueled by Caffeine :

2004 I believe has the 2.0 which is commonly viewed as having less of a problem with headgaskets than the 2.5.

If the price is good enough that you won't cry too hard about passing it on if it doesn't pan out, and it is not rusty, I'd definitely try it.  They are nice little useful cars that are also fun to drive, and an original owner, as-built WRX is a rare commodity these days.  I like the 2004 nose, too.

Look all around the rear wheel arches and strut towers for rust.  That's what gets 'em.  Also check the LCAs.

If you need to replace the LCAs, I believe switching to sedan control arms in the front gives you a little more static negative camber in the wagon.


Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/27/20 10:42 a.m.

Florida car, no rust. 2.0 engine, five speed.

I would have to sell my current 2004 wagon, a Mitsubishi lancer ralliart.

I've had it for 10 years, and it's been a great car for me. Mitsubishis don't seem to have a great reputation, but this thing has been one of the best cars I've owned. It's been a lot better car than the 95 Accord wagon it replaced.

The dependability of the lancer makes it a tough decision. 


Fitzauto Dork
2/27/20 11:09 a.m.

My daily driver is a 2002 Wrx with the 2.0 and 5 speed. Has never left me stranded from anything drivetrain wise (I've blown a tire but that was my fault.)

They are really fun and from what I can tell reliable as long as you keep up the maintenance and if you do mod it, keep them within reason. Mine gets beat on every day and goes to autocross occasionally and never misses a beat. It's currently sitting just under 200k miles as well.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/27/20 11:18 a.m.

In reply to Fitzauto :

This is the reply I'm hoping for. Modification plans: zero. I would use it for commuting, to share with my truck. Likely about 5,000 miles per year. Possible rare track day, but since I've never done a track day, that may never happen.

I've got a miata for autocross, though the lancer has served for a backup a couple of times.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
2/27/20 11:22 a.m.

I owned a 2002 WRX wagon (same engine and trans) for a few years. They have less of a head gasket problem and more of a spinning main bearings problem. They can be finicky cars, but I had decent luck with mine for over 60k miles of modified driving. Some stuff to look for/think about:

-Rust is an issue with these, at least in places where cars rust. Check around the rear shock towers and rear underbody.

-2.0L is less powerful than the later 2.5L, but they don't have as many issues. Still, as mentioned previously, they LOVE spinning those bearings. I ran Rotella 5W40 synthetic in mine for a long time, and it loved it.

-Transmissions have a reputation for being fragile. Run good fluid (like Redline), don't shift like a meathead, and it will be fine.

-Mine had a weird harmonic vibration from the rear end around 60mph. Other early cars had this issue. They fixed it in later cars by attaching a harmonic dampener to the housing.

-Interior in the 2004-05 holds up a little better than the 2002-03 cars, so it has that going for it. 

-Even if it says unmodified, check for evidence of mods. I looked at a few "unmodified" cars before buying mine, and they had clear evidence of hackery. Look around for things like blow-off valves, cut and spliced vacuum lines, and extra wiring. If it was modded, I'd probably pass, although it is hard to find one that wasn't modded at this point.

Now for the fun stuff. The aftermarket for these, as you probably know, is insanely huge. They make all sorts of stuff, from the useful to the stupid. I highly recommend a few mods:

-Kartboy shifter and bushings: Get all of them, trust me. If Turn In Concepts is still around, they made some nice bushings as well.

-Better brakes: I had Hawk HPS pads and stainless braided lines on mine and they were the best brakes I've ever felt to this day. 

-Better suspension: Subaru's own STI "pink" wagon springs were a nice upgrade. I ran these with Tokico D-Spec struts, and it lowered the car just enough but didn't compromise ride quality at all. Also, get a 20mm rear sway bar, which will liven up the rear a bit.

That's pretty much it. Keep the fluids topped off with the good stuff, don't be a goon, and it will last you a while. smiley


clutchsmoke UltraDork
2/27/20 12:21 p.m.

If you decide to stick with old trusty Mitsubishi don't forget to pass along the details to the hive... devil

_ Dork
2/27/20 1:30 p.m.

My buddy's is at 340k, original head gaskets, original TIMING BELT. Don't believe all the hype. Sure it's an issue, but not always. 

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/27/20 1:34 p.m.

Oh, now I remember what enablers we all are. I want it.


clutchsmoke UltraDork
2/27/20 1:36 p.m.
Floating Doc said:

Oh, now I remember what enablers we all are. I want it.


It's a turbo wagon. I have a hard time swaying people away from them.

ProDarwin UltimaDork
2/27/20 1:37 p.m.

These can be very fun & practical cars.  You can put one in near-STX trim and make it significantly more fun, but it costs some $$.  Probably one of the biggest deterrents for me is I don't think I could buy one without doing this.

The trans issues are hilariously overblown.  Just need to use the clutch if you are going to launch it hard.  And if you don't launch it hard, there really isn't much to worry about :)

They get terrible gas mileage though.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/27/20 2:23 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

Premium gas, I'm sure.


Patrick GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/27/20 2:38 p.m.

I get 22mpg on my stock 243k mile 2002 5 speed.  For a small car it's horrible, but my DD is an 8000 pound truck, so meh.  I change the oil and maintain stuff when it breaks, which so far has been the o2 sensor and the radiator.  Valve cover gaskets are on my to-do list.  

fanfoy SuperDork
2/27/20 2:55 p.m.

The only hateful job I had to do on my 2005 Saabaru Aero was changing the power steering pump. It was a really pain to bleed the air out after. Except for that, I really liked that car. Sold it for a fat profit, but I kind of regret selling it.

Go for it.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
2/27/20 3:06 p.m.

I got 21-22mpg on 91 when I was being nice to it. That was on a "stage 2" tune with turbo-back exhaust though. And I was rarely "nice" to it.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/27/20 3:37 p.m.

I'm waiting for a reply from the owner

Brett_Murphy GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/27/20 3:49 p.m.

I loved mine. It had 250k miles on it when I bought it, and I wasn't worried because it was well maintained.


Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 SuperDork
2/27/20 8:58 p.m.

I loved my 02. And the headgasket problems were on the sohc 2.5. And way overblown. As it were. 

newold_m New Reader
2/27/20 9:12 p.m.

Another positive vote. I had an '02 wagon that I kept for 10 years and zero issues. Was tuned to stage 1 pretty early on (EQ tuning) and had it at stage 2 (full 3" exhaust) for a number of year before going back to stock down pipe. I had stock shocks and Eibach springs (progressive)  which lowered it a tad and still kept it comfortable. 

All it needed was routine maintenance and got 23 mpg on average. Transmission issues overblown as others have said, don't do any crazy launches or power shifts. I did try the Kartboy bushings/shifter but went back to stock bushing and Cobb double adjustable shifter. 

Super comfy seats and interior was basic but functional. 

Still miss that car. 

Edit: sedan stock rear sway is a an easy and mostly free upgrade 

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/27/20 9:31 p.m.

I'm getting a lot of encouragement here, and Mrs floating doc is on board. 

Both wagons are the same color, and I toyed with the idea of selling the lancer, buying the Subaru, and seeing when she noticed.

Logistically impossible, but a fun idea. Also pretty much impossible for me, since I've never kept a secret from her. 

I've talked to the owner, who has confirmed that it's a 2004 which he bought new here in Central Florida.

It has about 155,000 miles, so it's the same age and the same mileage as my lancer. Garage kept. The only aftermarket parts are a silicone intake hose, and some shifter bushings.

He said he would send me some pictures, so that's next. I was ready to go look at it, but I'm going to let him set the pace. He's still not sure what he wants to replace it with.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/29/20 10:07 p.m.

Text from the owner today, said he has some unexpected expenses and isn't going to do anything right now. 

He said he's still going to send me some pictures and offered to have me come look at it.

I'm confident that I'm still first in line.

I've been waiting for literally years for this car, so I guess I can sit tight for a while longer. I was really hoping to have it happen soon. 

93gsxturbo SuperDork
3/1/20 8:09 a.m.

I had a WRX wagon for a few years as a winter beater.  

The good and the bad:

  • I bought it cheap since it had driveline issues.  Needed a new center diff, throw out bearing, and a rear axle put back in, along with rear brakes from sitting.  
  • Center diff could have been a huge expense but I was able to locate a perfect used one locally.  Still needed around $500 total in parts, bearings, and gaskets.
  • Relatively fun to drive
  • Was lifted on Forester XT suspension and General Grabbers.  STI hood scoop, silver with all tinted windows.  Looked pretty cool.  
  • Quite reliable, never left me stranded.
  • Interior was in good condition but still super cardboardy and awful.  No comfort options, terrible stereo.  Made commuting not enjoyable.
  • Had some mods (full exhaust, up pipe, accessport tune, intake, some other geegaws) and was still a slow turd in the grand scheme of things.
  • Drank premium fuel like it was its job.  For the amount of fuel it used it should have had 600 horsepower.
  • Interior was pretty spacious and wagon style trunk was pretty handy.  
  • Power door lock actuators quit working.  Instead of spending real money to repair them I pulled them out, drilled a small hole in the plastic casing, and cleaned them out with CRC contact cleaner.  Worked great after that.
  • Sold quickly but the amount of idiots it brought out of the woodwork was staggering.
  • Was easy to work on.  
Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/1/20 8:14 a.m.

In reply to 93gsxturbo :

Thanks for the input. It will probably feel fast to me, since I don't own anything faster than a stock 99 Miata. It's all relative.

Useful tip on the door lock actuator repair. I'm going to try it on my gmt400. The actuators for that are $65 a piece.

shelbyz Reader
4/1/20 3:03 p.m.

A month or so late, but figured I'd add my $0.02...

Daily drove a 2002 5-speed WRX Wagon for somewhere around 4 years and 40k miles.

The good:

-A beast in the snow, even on worn all seasons

-Comfortable on long trips, swallows a lot of stuff with the back seats folded down

-2.0 motor really is the exception when it comes to issues notorious to turbocharged Subaru's. I beat the snot out of mine everyday and it never left me stranded

-Loved driving it. Filter, canned tune, up-pipe and eBay turboback and it ran 14.4's with some garbage 2.5 second 60' times

-If you don't count gas, it was pretty cheap to own. Insurance for the wagon was considerably less than the sedan. I loaded up on some cheap Purolator oil filters that were supposed to be identical to the OEM filter, and Rotella T6, which always seemed to be on sale and with some mail in rebate at my local department store. It probably helped that I owned it in between timing belt change intervals, though.

-They hold value tremendously well, and at least in my case, are super easy to sell


The bad:

-Gas mileage. Given what it was, I didn't mind it on long trips, where I'd get 25-28MPG. Otherwise, on my 100% city commute and generally 95% city driving, I'd get a little over 20 most of the year, and then it would dip below 20 in the winter. At the time, premium was up around $4/gallon, which ended up influencing me to get a different car to DD.

-They like to corrode. And not just the body. I had to replace my rear diff after 12/13 suburban Detroit winters and 180k+. A lot of the rear suspension/driveline bits were fused together and I ended up having to replace a lot more than just the diff. I also needed front CV boots and would try a couple times a year to free the axles from the hub without success. After I stopped DDing it, this was kind of what influenced me to sell it.

-Even though the owners manual says you can use the space saver if you get a flat, don't do it.

-Don't do donuts in the snow with the steering at full lock to one side.

-The cup holder high up on the dash sucks if you have the heat on but want to keep a drink cold.


I miss it from time to time. If I had to do it again, I'd buy one that's never seen salt.

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