Fitting a replacement exhaust when yours perishes is a good idea, after all they are reasonably crucial to things. But it can be a more exhausting issue than you first realise.
Take my Forester for example. It uses the 2.0-litre turbo Boxer engine from an Impreza and has a burble waiting to escape; a burble that an aftermarket exhaust would surely help unleash.
When I first picked up the car it needed a new exhaust and I should have upgraded to a stainless steel one then. To save on expenditure though I went for a standard replacement part and a few years down the line, guess what, that’s decided to fall apart too. So that’s about three years of muted soundtrack and reduced performance.
With the front pipe splitting from the centre pipe, the one bonus is the noise. It might be childish but I love a loud car (a ‘good’ loud car). At that point it was a good car and it was loud, but not good loud if you get my meaning…more amusing loud.
So I decided to search for a stainless steel system, which I figured may have been quite difficult until I hit upon the joys of eBay. A lot of people talk about Impreza wagon backboxes fitting and changing centre pipes etc, but I didn’t want to take the risk, especially when one seller was offering a full stainless steel system specifically for an S/tb Forester (like mine). It was made by Magnex apparently (although I thought they weren’t about any more!) and would come in at a touch under £400 delivered – that’s everything from the turbo back.
Almost two weeks later and a missed delivery later and it turned up, meaning my initial thoughts about fitting it myself had to be canceled due to time constraints…and I’m kind of glad that’s the case.
It took a local and trusted garage almost a whole morning to take the existing exhaust off, the bolts into the turbo causing particular problems as they broke when attempting to remove. It’s amazing the tools garages have for this kind of event, but it still involved blow torches and a lot of effort.
The new exhaust didn’t come with gaskets or bolts either and the old ones either perished, broke or didn’t fit. By mid afternoon the front and centre pipes were on though and it was looking good. Then they offered up the new back box. This is when things get really annoying. You can forgive the rest of it as bolts and gaskets are bound to cause grief after almost 20 years of service, but you can’t forgive promises of a ‘perfect fit’ only to find the opposite.
With the new box in place it was clear that somewhere along the line everything was about and inch and a half too short. If the back box was bolted to the centre section the silencer would be touching the rear anti-roll bar. The tailpipe – in a central position on the back box as opposed to a lower down position on the original exhaust – also couldn’t hook up to one of the hangers at the very back because it was obstructed by the tow bar brace and rear bumper.
Ideas were thrown around on how the new back box could be made to fit, but ultimately they all seemed like a step into a world where there was no other option should we try it and it fail. In the end it was decided the original back box should be fitted to the rest of the new system, but even that meant cutting an inch or so from the old centre pipe and welding it to the original back box to ensure it was the right length. Talk about a mission.
In the end then, after almost two weeks of waiting to get it fixed and an entire day spent in the garage I’m left with a shiny new back box in my shed, a quieter Forester than ever and I’m about £500 down. The plus of all of this is that the turbo does seem to spool up a little further and I didn’t ruin the new back box by trying to weld anything onto it. When I get a chance I’ll need to head to an exhaust specialist and have a stainless steel section added between the centre pipe and back box, plus a longer rubber hanger on the end. I’ll also get them to pop the rivets on the tailpipe surround as the fluted section that surrounds the actual exhaust is ridiculously large.
Moral of this story? I’m not too sure to be honest. It certainly isn’t to not modify as a stainless exhaust is better in every aspect than a mild steel one. However, perhaps it’s another case of doing your homework properly and perhaps allowing for a slightly larger budget than you initially planned.