**Complete WRX Tuning Guide**
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This is a discussion on **Complete WRX Tuning Guide** within the Engine Modifications forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; ok this serves as a rough outline of good modifications steps that people who are new to modding should take ...

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    **Complete WRX Tuning Guide**

    ok this serves as a rough outline of good modifications steps that people who are new to modding should take note of...here we go..yes its a long read....ignore the fact that im talking about the old wrx motor, it has good info regarding the new wrx motor and the sti motor as well...

    WRX mod guide

    1) Engine
    Going Faster - Engine and Drivetrain modifications

    Here is your complete guide to getting more horsepower from your WRX motor. These steps are best followed in order, although they don't have to be. Have you got a NON-turbo late-model Impreza? See our Non-Turbo Guide.

    The Subaru EJ20 turbo 2.0-liter motor is an amazing high-tech power plant with a huge capacity for increased performance. Straight out of the box, it generates 227 horsepower, but simple bolt-on modifications can increase that to over 400!

    To unleash the increased power from your turbo-charged motor, you need to allow the turbocharger to breath more freely, on both the intake and exhaust sides of the motor. Generally, you should start from the ends of the system and work inward. When you have opened up the intake and exhaust as much as you can, you can switch to a larger turbocharger for even more power. Then there are additional ways to add power to the motor, including electronic add-ons. Note that none of these modifications involve taking apart the motor itself ?most of these add-ons can be put on by an amateur mechanic.

    All horsepower figures in this catalog are measured at the crankshaft (as opposed to at the wheels) unless otherwise noted. Horsepower figures we quote here are approximate; as always, our mileage may vary.

    Stage 1
    Here we bolt on the simple modifications. These are generally easy to install and get some quick horsepower, but they don't change the basic nature of the car. It remains civil and easy to live with; it just has 30% more horsepower.

    Boost Gauge
    The key to getting horsepower from the turbocharged motor is to increase boost pressure produced by the turbocharger. More pressure means more air and fuel can be stuffed into the cylinder on each stroke, and more fuel in the cylinder means more power produced.

    But too much boost can be bad. At some point the fuel system will not be able to deliver enough fuel to match the air that is being forced into the cylinder. The fuel-air mixture will become too lean, and will burn very hot. Those extremely hot temperatures can severely damage pistons and valves, and can destroy your engine.

    This is not much of a problem early on in the modification process, but to be safe we urge you to install a boost gauge (if you don't already have one) as the first modification to your WRX.

    The boost gauge can be installed in a number of locations, but the A-pillar (the one that connects the dash to the roof) or the center dash are great locations.


    High Flow Intake
    This used to be an easy way for owners of turbocharged cars to add gobs of power. Just slap an open-element air filter on a turbo Eclipse, for example, and you get an instant 10 or 15 horsepower. Technology advances, though, and the newest factory-built intakes are much better. Horsepower gains from intake systems on the WRX are smaller, but there still are a few horsepower (maybe 5) to be gained, and as other modifications increase, the added power will go up as well.


    Rear Section or Catback Exhaust
    The stock exhaust system uses small-diameter tubing and a fairly restrictive muffler in the effort to combat noise. We hard-core performance buffs actually like that trademark Subaru boxer motor exhaust thump, so it's an added bonus when you can bolt on 10 horsepower and get a nicer sound at the same time.

    The exhaust system is built in multiple sections. The smallest section you can replace extends from about the rear axle to the outlet. (Blitz and TurboXS make systems like this.) You can also get "cat-back" systems, which add a rear-mid pipe to extend all the way to the rear catalytic converter.


    Downpipe and catalytic converter
    The front two sections of the turbo-back exhaust are the downpipe and the front-mid pipe.

    The downpipe bolts directly to the turbocharger outlet, and collects exhaust gas from the turbine wheel as well as the wastegate. The wastegate outlet part of the downpipe has one of the worst layouts ever in exhaust-dom, with the wastegate gas running directly into a flat plate. That gas has to somehow find its way over to the main section of the downpipe. It's obviously not a high-flow layout, so upgrading this pipe is great for performance, as well as for preventing "boost creep" (uncontrolled increases in boost) from poor wastegate flow.

    The factory downpipe has a catalytic converter in it. Some aftermarket downpipes also do. Some don't. A cat-less downpipe will generally out-flow one with a catalytic converter in it.

    The front-mid pipe has a catalytic converter after it. Many manufacturers offer larger-diameter replacement pipes with higher-flowing catalytic converter sections, or with no catalytic converter. It's good to keep at least one cat in the systems for a lot of reasons, one of which is good citizenship and keeping the air clean. Another is that there are two oxygen sensors in the exhaust system, and having a cat between them keeps the ECU happy and not throwing "Check Engine" lights.

    Of course, it is against federal law to remove any working catalytic converter from the car.


    Boost Controller or ECU upgrade
    At this point we add power by increasing the turbo boost pressure. There are two ways of doing this, both of which have some tradeoffs.

    The "easy" way is with a boost controller. You basically remove turbo boost control from the car, and put it in the hands of a mechanical or eletronic device that YOU set, so you can specify whatever boost pressure you want. The benefits of this are complete control, low price, and ease of install and use.

    The downsides are...well, possible destruction of your motor if you aren't careful. Sending too much pressurized air into the motor, especially at high rpms, can have very serious consequences.

    The other approach is to get a whole ECU upgrade. This will increase boost levels, as well as change a whole bunch of other stuff, including timing maps, rev limits, speed governers (bye bye!), and more. The benefits are that you get a known-quantity ECU program with proven results, and you get the most horsepower you'll probably be able to make with a certain set of modifications on the car.

    The downsides of this choice are lack of control (many ECU mods don't allow you to adjust the boost), and large to VERY large cost. Few ECU modifications cost under $1,000.

    Stage 2
    These modifications start to carry the car away from your average street-driver, into the realm of the street/track warrior. More horsepower awaits!

    Header(Exhaust manifold) and Up Pipe

    The factory manifold and up pipe are another source of restriction in the flow of exhaust out of the car. The manifold is the stuff that gets exhaust gas out of the heads, and most of the way to the turbo. The up pipe is the last piece of tube that consolidates all the exhaust gas from the four manifold tubes and carries it into the turbine housing.

    Tubular header manifolds are very expensive to build. There are many bends, and the tolerances are tight. For this reason, the header upgrade is a pretty expensive way to make power.

    The up pipe is not very long, but it does contain yet another catalytic converter. If one were (not legally, of course) to remove this cat, one could gain some more horsepower. Theoretically.


    Turbo Upgrade
    The factory turbo has limited air flow capability at high rpms, and high boost at high rpms is how you make lots of horsepower! There are many turbo choices you can make to solve the high-end wheeze. Most of them are IHI products, and bolt directly onto the factory intake and exhaust piping.


    Fuel Injectors (or a complete fuel system)
    The factory injectors probably won't be able to deliver once you bolt on the bigger turbo, so you'll want to thread in some larger ones.

    The stock fuel pump seems to be able to do quite well even with high horsepower demands, so that can stay in place for the time being.


    Front Mount Intercooler
    For ideal intake charge-cooling, the top-mount intercooler just doesn't cut it. Airflow from the hood scoop is limited, and the core size isn't very big. A front-mount intercooler is just what the doctor ordered. It gets a blast of fresh cool air, and we can fit a huge core up there.

    There are downsides to the front mount i/c, of course. The much longer hose routings will lead to some additional turbo lag. And if you're planning to use the car on a road race track, you may run into problems with the intercooler blocking (or simply pre-heating) the radiator. Not to mention that installing an intercooler means removing your fog lights, and in most cases carving up the steel core of your front bumper.


    Upgraded Flywheel and clutch
    Your factory clutch is probably slipping pretty badly by now. You'll need a tougher one, probably with a stiffer pressure plate and a more heat-resistant friction surface.

    While you have the tranny off the motor, you might want to pop in a lightweight flywheel, which allows the car to accelerate faster in low gears. There's a little sacrifice in slow-speed driveability, but it's not bad. There's also a little sacrifice in your cash flow, but hey, you knew that, right?

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    Stage 3
    Okay, forget the driveability concerns, forget noise, forget comfort. Forget passing the smog test. You just want the most powerful WRX there is. These modifications go way beyond "bolt on."

    Let's begin...


    Even bigger turbo....
    You don't care about lag, so we can bolt on a turbo that has a HUGE compressor section, for unmatched efficiency at high boost levels. This will probably be some kind of Garrett product, and it probably will call for some underhood modifications to fit.

    Most T3/T4 (T3 turbine side, T4 compressor side) turbos require specific up pipe and downpipe parts to fit them on the car, and the majority use external wastegates.


    Internal Engine Upgrades
    Once you get to a certain horsepower level, the factory rods and pistons may not like to continue to cooperate. At this point, forged replacement items are in order. And while you're at it, we might specify an increase in displacement. 2.2 liters seems to be the most popular size, but you could go bigger...

    If the head is off, we'll probably want to have it ported, and swap in some high-performance valve hardware, too.


    Cams
    More aggressive cams can add tons of top-end power, although there's often a corresponding loss at the low end. What? The motor never sees anything south of 4000? Okay, you can keep reading.


    Transmission upgrade
    The factory U.S.-spec transmission is somewhat notorious for a weak second gear. If you are going to be drag-racing the car, or otherwise abusing the transmission, you may find this weakness.

    One solution is to bolt in the upgraded transmission from the WRX STi. It's a newly-designed six-speed unit with stiffened casing and upgraded gears that SHOULD take whatever amount of power you can dish out.

    It's obviously not cheap.

    2) Suspension and handling

    Turning better - suspension, wheels and tires

    The stock suspension is biased more toward comfort than all-out handling. We think the handling can be improved greatly without sacrificing too much ride comfort. All these modifications apply equally to turbo and non-turbo cars.


    Shock Absorbers
    Installing high-performance shocks provides a great improvement in handling on the WRX. As with other parts of the car, the engineers went with a compromise here that favors comfort over performance on the stock vehicle. Firmer shocks are one of the most effective ways to improve the handling of your WRX. The fancier shocks offer adjustable dampening at the click of a knob. Drive to the track on "soft," crank up to "firm," and humble your unsuspecting competition.


    Springs
    If you can stand a firmer ride, and/or if you like the way the car looks when it sits down a bit lower, aftermarket springs are for you. Youl sacrifice some comfort, but the car will hunker down with a lower center of gravity on the road race or autocross course, and it looks really good!


    Coil-overs
    Coil-overs combine the spring and shock into one threaded-body unit that has continuous height adjustment. You spin a threaded spring perch to raise or lower the car.

    Some coil-overs include adjustable shocks as well, so you can adjust the dampening firmness as well as the ride height. Setups like this are perfect for a track car, because you can tailor the suspension to the track conditions. It's also great for a weekend warrior -- high and soft on commute days, low and firm on track days!


    Strut Tower Bars
    The body of the WRX flexes slightly in turns. Strut tower bars connect the tops of the strut towers to make the body more rigid under turning loads. The result is improved turn in and more controlled wheel movement.

    The front of the car benefits most from a strut tower bar, because the engine bay has a huge open space to hold the engine (duh). The rear of the car is more rigid, but a strut tower bar there will still increase chassis ridigity.

    Wagons and sedans have the same strut tower geometry, so bars will fit either car. Wagon owners may have to trim interior plastic, however.


    Sway Bars
    A sway bar, or anti-roll bar, connects one wheel motion to the wheel opposite, to decrease body roll in turns. Larger-than-stock sway bars can help your car to corner flatter without sacrificing ride comfort.


    Wheels and tires
    The factory wheels are very narrow ?six inches on most cars. As you may have noticed, the stock 205-width tire bulges out from the narrow wheel. A wider wheel will give you much better turn-in response as a result of the wheel matching the tire width better. A wider wheel means you can also increase the width of the tire.

    While you are upgrading wheels, you may want to increase the wheel diameter by an inch or more. A larger diameter wheel means a tire with a lower aspect ratio, and a shorter sidewall. The thinner sidewall can have some drawbacks in decreased ride comfort, and if you live in an area infested with potholes, you may not want to get too extreme. But a shorter sidewall gives more responsive handling on the track, and it really improves the looks of the car.

    Options for WRX include 16x8?wheels with 225/50 tires, 17x7.5?or 17x8?wheels with 225/45 tires, and 18?wheels with 225/40 tires. There are even cars out there with 19" wheels and 225/35 tires, but we don't know if they have driven very far before those rims bent.

    (Wagon note: The narrower fendered wagon should stick with a 215 width tire instead of 225, in most cases, to avoid fender rubbing.)

    With certain wheels you can go wider than 225, but the offset has to be just right.

    3) Brakes
    Stopping faster - brake upgrades


    U.S. WRX customers don't miss out on too much compared to the rest of the world, but in the braking department, we Americans did get short-changed. In the interest of cost savings, the U.S. WRX gets a two-piston front caliper, and a single-piston rear caliper (compared with four and two for Japan), with smaller rotors all around.

    Upgrade parts are just the thing to make up that deficit.


    Performance brake pads
    Performance pads will withstand the heat of spirited driving better than standard pads, and their higher-friction material can help you stop faster. They can be dropped right in factory calipers, so they're the easiest and most cost-effective brake upgrade.

    You should select a pad material that best fits the driving you will be doing. Street pads perform well even when cold, while track pads require warming up before they'll stop well. Track pads also can be quite noisy -- not a problem at the track, but annoying as anything in stop and go traffic.


    Cross-Drilled or Slotted Rotors
    For the look of a racing car, go with cross-drilled rotors. The holes in the rotors allow gas to escape from between the hot rotor and pad, and also serve to reduce the weight of the rotor. The holes may also contribute extra ite?against the pad. If it good enough for the Porsche 911 Turbo, it good enough for your car.

    Slotted rotors provide the same benefits as drilling, but without leaving holes that can develop stress cracks. Slotted rotors don't look as dramatic, though.

    Whether or not drilling or slotting actually provides better stopping is a matter of great debate. Many high-performance cars come with non-drilled, non-slotted rotors, and stop just fine. Some factory machines do come with drilled rotors, though. Porsches do, and we think those Porsche engineers are pretty good at what they do...




    High Temperature Brake Fluid
    If you head to the road-race track, do yourself a favor and use a brake fluid that can better stand up to the intense heat of racing.

    Always bleed your brakes before doing any kind of race driving. Change your brake fluid once a year, and more if you are using the car at the track. Brake fluid absorbs water over time, and water boils easily, rendering your brakes weak and mushy. New fluid will return them to rock-solid.


    Stainless Steel Brakelines
    Racers have known for years that stainless steel brake lines improve braking feel and performance by eliminating the expansion of conventional brake lines. Braided stainless lines give you a firmer pedal feel and deliver more of the pedal pressure to the brakes. They resist abrasion for safety at the track. And they look nice, too.


    OEM brake upgrades
    Upgrading to the Japan-spec OEM brakes means you get factory parts and factory fit. Front calipers bulk up from two-piston to four, and rears from single-piston to two-piston. You don't need super-large wheels, either; the OEM big brakes fit under most of the Subaru 16" factory wheels.

    If there's any downside to converting to Japanese Subaru brake bits, it's the cost. By the time you buy all the hardware, you could usually afford an even BIGGER aftermarket brake upgrade.


    Aftermarket brake upgrades
    For the biggest, baddest brakes, look to an aftermarket kit. These usually include monster-sized rotors, often with race-style two-piece construction for weight savings. They normally have a large four-piston (or more) brake caliper, and brackets, lines, and pads to hook everything up.

    Brakes like these serve two purposes. First, they're big enough to stand up to hard track use without breaking a sweat. Pad life will be longer, and there'll be no brake fade even after repeated 100-mph-to-30-mph braking.

    A second purpose -- the primary one for some people -- is appearance. Nothing fills up a large, airy 17" or 18" wheel like a 13" brake rotor and some shiny red brake calipers. Yeah, it sounds like a pretty expensive cosmetic upgrade, but it does impress.

    Keep in mind that most of the big-rotor upgrades will require a wheel upgrade to a 17" or larger rim.

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    Thanks for this good info...makes me realize I can't afford anything past a stage 2
    - Gone

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    There is some good information here but there are a few things to keep in mind. On a WRX headers are not something you really need, or is worth the $$, unless you are pushing some substantial power at that point, and even then the issue is still debatable. If you are upgrading the turbo to an IHI 34/22 series or comparable and fuel injectors to something significant (most often the sti injectors or in some cases even larger) you will definitely need a larger fuel pump. Front mount intercoolers do create more turbo lag than top but if you aren't using a large turbo, it isn't necessary and a larger top mount with an STi hood scoop will do just fine and minimize lag. During all of this don't forget that getting some kind of engine management is a MUST.

    However like I said there is important, relevant information here such as getting a boost gauge when increasing psi levels. That is critical. You also included that you will need to rebuild your internals and replace the tranny when you get to the really powerful numbers. I like the fact that blow off valves are not mentioned (aka "show off valve") which most newbs want to dive in right away but can cause your WRX to run rich and mess up your idle. Also remember when considering turbo timers that a WRX's turbo is oil cooled and a turbo timer is not really necessary, although some people still get them to be on the extra safe side. Just don't redline up a mountain and turn the car off at the summit or anything like that and you'll be fine. I'm also glad that you included suspension here because many people overlook that issue when modding their car. It all starts with the tires, and the stock WRX tires are garbage if you are going to be performance driving.

    I am not knocking you in any way, I know you are just trying to help the newbies out and anybody who is a WRX enthusiast is ok by me. Just remember to do LOTS of research before you start modifiying this great car. I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground when I starting researching the WRX and I am still learning more all the time on this forum. Oh yeah and read this:
    Engine Performance FAQ [[[READ ME]]]

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaCauseMan
    Also remember when considering turbo timers that a WRX's turbo is oil cooled and a turbo timer is not really necessary, although some people still get them to be on the extra safe side. Just don't redline up a mountain and turn the car off at the summit or anything like that and you'll be fine.
    I thought WRX turbos are water cooled not oil cooled and thats why we dont NEED turbo timers, or am i wrong?

    Very informative, i like how you mentioned that the factory intake is much better than any aftermarket intakes.
    Last edited by bkzshabbaz; 02-03-2006 at 11:57 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkzshabbaz
    I thought WRX turbos are water cooled not oil cooled and thats why we dont NEED turbo timers, or am i wrong?
    You are correct. The setup is engineered so that no cool-off time should be necessary.
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    Nice write-up for the new kids.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayfieldsWRX View Post
    You are correct. The setup is engineered so that no cool-off time should be necessary.
    Guys, this is wong! And dangerous.

    WRX Turbos (other than STI) are oil cooled. The cooling is a secondary function of the "fluid bearing" that the shaft sits in (as opposed to a ball bearing turbo). This is why a cooldown period is absolutely essential. If you're driving under light load then the cooldown isn't neccesary, but do this experiment for an eye opener......!

    Drive your Rexy around at night and take it somewhere where it is as dark as possible. Turn the car off and quickly open up the bonnet (hood for all you Americans!), look at the turbo and what do you see? A faint red glow. Yep, they heat up to glowing and you don't have to be driving that hard.

    The reason you need to cool them down is because they are oil cooled (via the fluid bearing), they need to have the engine running to pump away the hot oil, and the heat along with it. If you shut the engine down while the turbo is hot, the oil doesn't move and it "carbonises" or "cokes". The oil breaks down and leaves a carbon deposit. Which is bad, bad, bad! Next time you spin the turbo that carbon is grinding away on your shaft and housing inside your turbo. Bear in mind that the turbo spins at up to 150,000rpm, so any slack or "shaft-play", is going to cause vibration at 150,000rpm. BANG! One dead turbo. So while, nine times out of ten, you don't need a cooldown, I would recommend everyone, particularly those running higher than standard boost, to get a turbo timer fitted. They cost a tiny fraction of what a new turbo will cost and provide much needed "peace of mind".
    Last edited by tigerpjm; 09-21-2008 at 11:48 PM.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by tigerpjm View Post
    ... but do this experiment for an eye opener......!

    Drive your Rexy around at night ...
    No. Open the bonnet during the day. That way, you can take a long hard look at the area around the turbo. Or even a passing glance.

    look at the turbo and what do you see?
    With any luck, you'll see a coolant line.

    The reason you need to cool them down is because they are oil cooled, they need to have the engine running to pump away the hot oil, and the heat along with it. If you shut the engine down while the turbo is hot, the oil doesn't move and it "carbonises" or "cokes".
    There is no history of Mitsubishi water cooled turbos coking. The units are reliable and neither the Subaru owners nor the owners of other cars that use these turbos (for example, Mitsubishi's own cars) are reporting turbo failures -- we're talking many millions of km covered cumulatively.

    The oil-related failures that have been reported are either due to a bad choice on Subaru's part (filter screens where filter screens were probably not the best option) or owner modifications (or both).

    I would recommend everyone, particularly those running higher than standard boost, to get a turbo timer fitted. They cost a tiny fraction of what a new turbo will cost and provide much needed "peace of mind".
    There is no need for a turbo timer.

    Guys, this is wong! And dangerous.
    No, RayfieldsWRX is correct. In any case, discussing it isn't half as useful as looking at the car. Have a look. You'll see the coolant reservoir above the turbo, the lines connecting the two, and you'll also be able to see how the coolant cools the turbo whether the motor is running or not. BTW, depending on what year you own, the manual covers the topic (my 02 WRX's manual does, for example).
    Last edited by SD_GR; 09-22-2008 at 12:00 AM.
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    Is this the case on MY93-98?

    In any case, this doesn't change the fact that coking can still occur (I agree that it is less likely) once the pumping effect ceases on shutdown.
    Last edited by tigerpjm; 09-22-2008 at 12:29 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tigerpjm View Post
    Is this the case on MY93-98?
    During those years, a number of turbos were used, sourced from either Mitsubishi or IHI. Both firms offered water-cooled turbos.

    In any case, this doesn't change the fact that coking can still occur (I agree that it is less likely) once the pumping effect ceases on shutdown.
    I see no reason for concern. Circulation does not depend on the pump locally; differences in temperature alone drive it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SD_GR View Post
    differences in temperature alone drive it.

    That is interesting, I wasn't aware of that.

    In any case a timer can't hurt!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by tigerpjm View Post
    In any case a timer can't hurt!!!
    Age old reply...

    Use of a turbo timer for 99.99% of WRX owners is a waste of money. Many use the "it can't hurt" justification but simply want it to have some extra little cool looking bobble in there car to impress friends or freak people out because their car keeps running as they walk away... The only exception to this would be if you are actually racing your vehicle on a track regularly but even then you do not need a turbo timer, you just may have a legitimate use for one.

    The truth is while it won't hurt "the car" very much, it is certainly not an efficient use of money and it wastes a significant amount of fuel over the life of it's use. This last point may not have been that big of a deal in some years past but these days it is certainly worth noting. Yesterday, I went to 16 gas stations to find gas and when I found one, they only had low octane and I had to wait in line for an hour to buy it. On top of that I was only allowed to buy $30 worth of gas and it had to be prepaid, in cash...

    ...Forget about the overwhelming number of people that have never used a turbo timer and had zero trouble with the turbo on their WRXs for +100k to +200k miles, think about the following:

    Subaru NOT ONLY doesn't even see the need to install turbo timers in any turbo vehicles but they don't even list a cool down procedure in their manuals and have not for many years... That should tell you something.
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    Ray's post: 02-03-2006, 01:56 PM
    tigerpjm's post: 09-22-2008, 01:21 AM

    /thread
    2005 WRX STi (Mods | Virtual Dyno)

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  16. #15
    Moderator Donkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tigerpjm View Post
    Is this the case on MY93-98?

    In any case, this doesn't change the fact that coking can still occur (I agree that it is less likely) once the pumping effect ceases on shutdown.
    Also about 99.9% of most forced induction vehicle owners run synthetic oil.Why?Significantly less coking due to higher temp thresholds.Plus the 02+ WRX also come from the factory with a water-air oil cooler as well.Think about this.How many people drive balls out WOT/full load and just immediately cut their car off?It's almost impossible.On a highway you still have to get off somewhere.On a street,just sitting at a light afterwards or actually turning into a parking lot and finding a space is more than adequite time for the turbos to circulate that heat away.The coolant in the CHRA acts just like the coolant running through a cylinder head.
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