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Murderer & Drug Dealer
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This thread was created to help people looking to buy an STi that's be "pre-loved." The forum is often full of threads asking what to look out for and tell-tale danger signs as well as "known issues with X model year car." So I'm putting together this thread.

NOTE: There is no pricing advice in this thread, as that changes a lot over time and with individual cars.

Help me out here, peeps. Read this post, and if you have something to add, post it and I'll ammend it into this post.

General STi Information (all USDM model years)

The 04-07 STis all share common platform. When buying a used one, sometimes a well-maintained and unmodded car with higher miles is a better investment than a heavily modded low miles car. In fact, aftermarket parts rarely increase the value of a car compared to a stock car. Here's a checklist you can use for the STi:

Is it modded?
The most common modifications to the STi are powertrain and suspension mods. When I say mods, I don't mean an aftermarket spoiler or tint. I mean a mechanical alteration of the car. So, check to see if the exhaust is stock - from the turbo to the axleback. Make sure the car has its catalytic converters (any more details here, guys?). Does the car have its stock Bypass Valve (BPV) or an aftermarket Blow-Off Valve? By and large, the latter is a poor modification to the car (on the stock turbo).

Another quick check is to look behind the engine on the passenger side, where the turbo and downpipe should be covered by a heatshield. If this is missing it may be a sign that the car was modded and someone tried to put it back to stock. There are a lot of bolts that make it tough to get that back on correctly. It may not be a huge deal, but it tells you a little bit about the person selling the car. Another place to check for correct heatshields is the exhaust manifold. If someone had headers on the car and decided to sell them when they sold the car, they may have been lazy and not put the heatshields back on.

If the car has the balance of a factory warranty, take it to a dealership for an inspection. If the car was modded, they may deny you warranty service in the future. If the car is out of warranty, you may still wish to have the car inspected so you know more about what you're getting yourself into.

How does the car sit? If the wheel gap front and back is even, the car's suspension has been futzed with. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but bear in mind that a suspension mod is likely indicative of other modifications. Stock STis have MORE wheel gap in the front than they do in the back. The stock struts and springs are black, with the exception that the 04 struts are actually pink. Stock swaybars are black for all model years.

Pop the hood. Is there an aftermarket intake, intercooler, or even turbo? Check the fluid levels, especially oil and transmission fluid. They should be clean. If you have ANY doubts whatsoever about the condition of the engine, have a leakdown/compression test performed by a trustworthy mechanic.

Is it complete?
Does it come with everything it should come with? Lots of people slap aftermarket wheels on the car. The stock BBS wheels are fantastic pieces, and are hard to beat. Does it have its spare? Many people remove it. Does it have the front undertray? Many people also remove that. How about a huge wing on the trunk? Are the brake calipers gold (they should say "Brembo" on them)? Owner's manual? The car should come with two keys and two remotes, plus one grey key (valet key). *ASK FOR MAINTENANCE RECORDS!

What's the paint look like?
Subaru chose to paint our road-going rally cars with crayons. Don't be surprised if there are a few nicks and scratches. Stock colors include: World Rally Blue Pearl, Java Black Pearl (04 only), Obsidian Black Pearl (05-07), Aspen White (04-06), Satin White Pearl (07 only), Platinum Silver Metallic (04-05), Crystal Gray Metallic (05+), Steel Grey Metallic (06 only), and Urban Grey Metallic (07).

How does it run/drive?
The car should idle smoothly, though idle RPM can vary a bit with ambient temperature and oil weight. If you hear a "clicking" noise while running, and this clicking increases with engine RPM, the car may be throwing a bearing. That would be bad. Does the clutch really grab? Do you get a bit of shift shock? Fine, the stock clutch is a little grabby in low gears, and the gears themselves are very close ratio. The car tends to be notchy. The gearbox may feel stiff when it's cold. If the clutch is iffy or the gearbox grinds a lot, you may be looking at a large bill.

How does the inside look?
On the interior, the gauge cluster is amber/red from the factory with most everything else green. Don't let it freak you out. If it's all red, the car has been modded. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.

The seats should be black with blue alcantara fabric inset. The STi logo should be visible. Some people dislike the stock seats and swap them out. Not necessarily a bad thing, but bear in mind the the side airbags in the STi are contained in the seats. USDM cars do not have fold-down rear seats.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
--It is not uncommon for these cars to burn a little oil <1 quart every 3k miles
--The DCCD (Driver Controlled Center Differential) is not a toy, but can turn the car into one. :D I'll let you read about its use elsewhere. However...
--The drivetrain makes noise in these cars. Don't panic at every sound you hear.
--When turning very sharply (steering wheel turned to lock), you're going to hear some noises and maybe feel a little shudder through the wheel. The car has three differentials, and they will complain about this maneuver. Place the DCCD in "Auto" or "Open" when turning in this way to reduce the complaint from the drivetrain. You're not really hurting the car. It's just a noisy bugger.
--Speaking of noises, be prepared. This is NOT a Lexus. It has very little sound deadening material, and it is going to be loud.
--Read this thread concerning a possible problem emerging with axle nuts. May affect all model years.
--For cars on stock tires, 1) They're loud and they have stiff sidewalls. Good for performance, bad if you had road noises. 2) If it's below about 40 degrees outside, driving on stock tires is not recommended - they're summer performance tires. Snow is right out.
--The types of differentials Subaru uses in the car have changed over the years. If this matters to you, the information is available if you're willing to dig.
--If the brake calipers on the car look discolored - the so-called "Brownbo" effect - then the car was almost certainly on the track at some point, and heat caused the caliper paint to discolor.
--The following things belong on the car, in case you're wondering: hood scoop, TMIC, big wing (except Limited), BBS wheels (except Limited), HID headlights, "STi" stamped on exhaust tip, pink STi stickers, intercooler sprayer, and the hood is made of aluminum (not the stock USDM trunk, not the fenders)
--The following things do NOT come on the car from the factory: Sunroof (except Limited), window tint, leather seats (except Limited), strut bars.
--The following things are optional: fog lamps, steering-column mounted boost gauge, short throw shifter, titanium shift knob, auto-dimming rearview mirror (w/ or w/o Homelink), STi all weather floor mats, security system w/ shock sensor, and wheel locks. There are various SPT parts available from the dealership as well.

KNOWN ISSUES
--04-07 STis are plagued by "rear strut clunk" eventually. There are lots of threads on the subject.
--During highway driving, many people experience a "bobblehead" effect, being bounced around in the seat over seams in the road. This is commonly attributed to the seat springs, and can be lessened with aftermarket seats, or aftermarket springs (on the suspension, not the seats). Currently, folks including myself are testing a way of curing bobblehead cheaply.

These are just general guidelines, but they apply to all STis (Limiteds are slightly different as noted, and see below). Now let's get more specific.

04 STis
The OG of the USDM STi is it's most raw entrant. The 04s were somewhat lighter and a little more savage than later iterations (or so I'm told ;)).

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
--Did not come with a stereo from the factory, though one was available as a dealer installed option.
--Did not come with floor mats.
--There is an issue regarding the filters in the manifold oil line, including a TSB.
--Was the only year for Java Black Pearl.
--Was the only year with 5 x 100 PCD (bolt pattern) wheels (17 x 7.5")
--The default torque split is 35/65 front/rear, making the car rear-biased.

KNOWN ISSUES
--Steering rack bushings were kinda bad from the factory, but much better ones are available
--Wheel bearings tend to burn out on tracked cars
--Fourth and fifth gear syncros are known to be problems and have a TSB.
--The cars do NOT have an engine immobilizer theft deterrent, and as such are targets of joyriders and car thieves (buy a security system).

05 STis
The last of the peanut-eye body style, the 05 is the choice of many enthusiasts. It's only slightly heavier than the 04, but the interior was freshened.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
--Comes with stereo from the factory - 6-disc in-dash changer (subwoofer optional)
--Was the first model to come with 17 x 8 wheels in the 5 x 114 PCD.
--Was the first model year to use an engine immobilzer theft deterrent
--Java Black Pearl replaced by Obsidian Black Pearl

KNOWN ISSUES
--???

06 STis
The first of the "flying V grill" STis. There were a few styling updates in 06, but the cars is very similar to the 05s mechanically.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
--The only year that offered Steel Grey Metallic.
--The Subaru logo badge on the trunk is held on by screws, which leave holes in the trunk if it is removed.
--The first year to include the "roof vane" spoiler, which is stock.
--First year of "Altezza" style brake light assemblies.
--Default torque split was changed to 41/59 front/rear, increasing the front bias slightly.
--Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) became standard (though owners sometimes disable them).

KNOWN ISSUES
--Early build 06s came with liquid-filled motor mounts that tended to break under sudden stress (launching the car, for instance). Subaru reverted to solid mounts later in the production run. There is a TSB on the liquid mounts, and Subaru will replace them if they break.

07 STis
The last of the "flying V grill" STis. The last STi of this platform, as the 08 is a complete redesign.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
--iPod jack where the lighter and ashtray used to be.
--First year for Satin White Pearl and Urban Grey Metallic
--New Engine Control Unit (ECU)
--Upgraded turbo wastegate actuator
--Slightly shorter wheelbase
--First model with rear seat pass-through (USDM)
--Longer 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gears.

*The 07 model year also included the STi Limited, a run of 800 cars. They were available only in the two colors mentioned above. While mechanically the same as their standard STi brethren, Limiteds offered more sound deadening material, leather interior, front lip, sunroof, a small lip spoiler in lieu of the larger stock spoiler, black Brembo calipers, and Enkei wheels.

KNOWN ISSUES
--Some 07s have suffered from a hesitation issue. Subaru released a reflash for the ECU in attempt to correct the problem, but the reflash has not cured all cars with the problem. Many owners report that an aftermarket EM reflash, such as with the Cobb AccessPort, cures the issue entirely.

I encourage you to read this thread, which contains more minute details regarding the changes between model years, among other things. You can also read the Wikipedia entry for the STi. You can also use this thread to decode the VIN of the vehicle. Paint codes can be found on a plate on the front of the driver's side strut tower. Here are a few more links about buying a used Subie.
How to inspect a used WRX before buying? - General Community - NASIOC
Buying a Used Subaru or Any Vehicle Great Tips - Newbies & FAQs - NASIOC

If you have information to add to this post, please post it. I will ammend this post and add your name as a contributor.

This Sticky brought to you by:

boondocksaint
06SpecC
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06EvoMR
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Bump for an awsome stickie!
 

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Murderer & Drug Dealer
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11,940 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Wow, great info... really helped me out a lot!
IWSTI is glad to help. :)

Super read & great info!! Thanks
Thanks.

Bump for an awsome stickie!
Thanks again.

This is a great thread, and I constantly link people to it. boondocksaint, could you update the original post and fix all of the formatting (since HTML has been disabled)? Also, I think it deserves to be stickied here:

http://www.iwsti.com/forums/faq-newbie-forum/24548-newbie-threads-interest.html

Thanks.
Done. :domo:
 

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Immoderate
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what about problems w/ 2007 STi?...there is a good chance i'm getting a used one tommorrow
Read the whole thing. 2007's are in there. The only thing I don't see listed is the crap factory tune. Maybe it's there as "hesitation" but if you intend to drive the car for mucho miles you should factor a Cobb Accessport into the purchase price right up front.
 

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Great write up! I am definitely getting an 05 now! I love IWSTI!:tup::tup::tup:
Thank you boondocksaint...... God bless you, bro. :)
 

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It may be worth noting as a difference that the 2004 model was the only one to get the AP Suretrac front LSD.
 

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Murderer & Drug Dealer
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Discussion Starter #19
The diffs changed every year. That kind of detail is covered in the links to additional information at the end.
 

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Ok, wasn't sure how specific you wanted to be since you listed details like torque split and wheel bolt pattern.
 
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