January 29, 2018

WRX Oil Change


wrx , guides

Earlier this month the WRX rolled over its 7k mark, meaning it was time for a second oil change - the first DIY! While I have planned to do as much DIY maintenance as possible, for the first oil change back at 3k I redeemed a freebie with the dealership. Unfortunately, the technician must not have been familiar with the feel of the Perrin shift stop and completely loosened it out of alignment prior to handing the car back over. Needless to say I was excited to do my own oil change this time around…

After a few days researching various oils online, I came to the realization there is absolutely no consensus on the best aftermarket oil for the FA20 - as evidenced by a 130+ page discussion on oil over on NASIOC.

Owners of older EJ motors insist that Rotella T6 5W-40 is better for the engine, but I remain unconvinced a lighter oil is better for the FA than the factory recommended 5W-30. Similarly, it seems people have had good results with Penzoil Ultra Platinum 5W-30, but it’s difficult to find and not much cheaper than OEM in many places. In the end, I decided to play it safe and roll with the OEM Idemitsu oil for now. If bought in bulk, it’s pretty affordable! I picked up a case (12 one quart bottles) of oil, two filters, and two crush washers from my dealership for $94.48 - just under $50 per oil change.

Supplies from the dealership

Everything ready to go

I backed the car into the garage and chocked the rear wheels. Having only jacked the car up once (in the dark), I took some time to familiarize myself with the jacking points on the car. Unfortunately the only jack I had on-hand was my Harbor Freight 1.5 ton racing jack. While this worked perfectly for the gumball-sized Fiesta ST, I quickly realized I’d need to upgrade to a heavier duty jack this spring. Nonetheless, I was able to fit both the jack and jack stand under the passenger side front jacking point.

Chocking the wheels

Jacking up the car

NOTE: I realize that jacking up one side of the car isn’t ideal, and there’s a decent possibility not all of the old oil was able to drain out. However, given the circumstances it was a compromise I was willing to make.

Next, I popped the hood and unscrewed the oil filter. I seriously want to kiss whatever engineer at Subaru designed the top-facing oil filter. Even though I needed to break out the filter wrench, breaking the thing loose is INFINITELY easier standing up than it is laying on your back. Ford engineers, take note.

Loosening the filter

Filter removed

After a quick horse kick to the front tire to make sure the car was stable and I wouldn’t be decapitated, I pulled out the creeper to check out the underside of the WRX.

Ready to roll under

My first impressions were that everything is much more accessible and intelligently laid out than on the ST. Clearly Subaru is catering to the weekend mechanic here! My favorite part was this sweet, stamped “DIT Forged” logo in the support arm of the aluminum skid pan:

DIT Forged

After a few minutes of ogling the mechanical wizardry that is the AWD system, I got to work. Accessing the drain plug was pretty straightforward, and breaking the seal took a little heft from a 14mm socket with extension.

Drain plug

14mm socket

Having done numerous oil changes on my ST without covering myself in oil, I was pretty confident I’d be able to perform a similar feat on the WRX…

Oil draining

Well there’s always next time…

While I let the oil drain, I ran over to the workbench to replace the crush washer on the plug. As I learned, the OEM crush washer has a rounded and flat side; the flat side faces the flat face of the bolt, while the round side is designed to crush against the rounded drain hole in the oil pain. Thankfully I double checked this prior to reinstalling everything!

Crush washer packaging

Old vs new crush washer

Correctly oriented crush washer

After rolling back under the car, I skillfully proceeded to drop the drain plug into the recently drained oil. Sigh. Once I fished it out and cleaned it off, I FIRST moved the full oil pan out of the way and screwed the drain plug back in place by hand. I wasn’t sure if there were specific torque specs for the drain plug, but a quick search online revealed there was - (34.3 ft-lb). However, since I didn’t have the right extensions for my torque wrench, I elected to simply tighten everything down snugly with the socket.

With the drain plug and crush washer reinstalled, I rolled back out and hopped up to install a new filter. No rocket science here! This I tightened by hand.

Filter packaging

New filter

Getting the oil cap off presented a bit of a challenge, as it simply wouldn’t budge! Nothing a little gentle persuasion from a vice grips can’t fix! I then positioned my funnel and dropped in 5.4 quarts of delicious, fresh 5W-30 (per the owners manual).

Loosening the oil cap

WRX owners manual

Oil cap reinstalled, I dropped a paper towel on the ground under the drain plug area to expose any leaks and grabbed some lunch. After 20 minutes or so of sitting and no evidence of leaks I lowered the car and started everything up. With no explosions, grinding noises, or horrific shuddering, I gave myself a high-five and went inside to drink some beer.

Overall the oil change experience on the FA20 is super straightforward. Everything is laid out in a very user-friendly way. Coming from the rats nest of piping and knuckle grinding that was the ST oil filter placement, it was a welcome relief.

If you’re attempting your own oil change and have any questions about anything, please feel free to hit me up at [email protected]!


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