Cars

Mod Chronicles: STi Intercooler

During some free time this weekend, I installed the STi intercooler you see above. The process was not traditionally frustrating as jobs in tight quarters with stuck bolts are, but had its own brand of frustration attached. As you can see from the photo, the intercooler is on top of the engine, and (as you may not be able to see from the photo) it can be removed by taking off four bolts and loosening two hose clamps. The stock hoses make reinstalling the intercooler a pain in the ass, but since I’ve put in Samco silicone hoses (the blue ones) the job has become much easier.

Due to both experience and good prep, removing and reinstalling the intercooler is minimally difficult. However, there was some minor fabrication involved which dramatically increased the time needed. The intercoolerhas air from the turbo fed into it via a metal y-pipe, which is attached to the turbo with an elbow pipe. The stock elbow doesn’t fit the WRX due to differences between the turbos in the STi and WRX, so you need a new one. Aware of my color scheme, I bought a Samco elbow that matched the ones already in my engine bay. The problem was that this elbow had two inches of pipe both before and after the actual bend, which was way too big. So, I trimmed some off, test fit it, trimmed some more off, test fit it again, trimmed some more off, test fit again. Though the actual process of putting the intercooler in takes 10-15 minutes, the job took two hours because I had to cut the elbow to fit.

After the intercooler was in, I installed the hood scoop splitter from an STi so that I’d actually have enough airflow to make use of the new intercooler. 7 screws, one plastic retention clip, easy as pie.

The impetus for installing this piece really came from the tuners at Wicked Innovation, where my new turbo was installed and my car was tuned. I was given a very conservative tune, as the stock intercoolers (which have plastic endtanks) are known to burst under the pressures created by an upgraded turbo. The STi intercooler is all metal, in addition to flowing more air, so I should be all set for a more aggressive tune once I find time to bring the car to Rhode Island.

The STi intercooler is a fairly modest modification, compared to many huge top-mount intercooler upgrades (not to mention the option of going to a front mount) on the market. My reasons for going with the STi upgrade were the same as my reasons for going with a Blouch 16G instead of a larger turbo: It’s a less expensive path, and I know my goals for the car. For all the money I’ve spent on modifications and all the different ordeals I’ve had installing components, my car is still intended to be a daily driver. I could spend the money needed to own a 400hp WRX, but why? The car is not more fun to drive, it’s way more expensive to operate and maintain, and it won’t even be faster for all practical purposes (too fast for the street, and I’m not a good enough driver to make use of the power on a track). I still have some dreams to dream when it comes to modifying this car, but I do think that the power chapter in the WRX saga is closed. The 16G setup is perfect for my needs, and the STi intercooler is all I need to feed that setup.

As always, there’s a question of what’s next. I have a few ideas for engine mods that could be neat projects, after I save up a little more:

  • Grimmspeed Air-Oil Separator: Less fiddly than most catch can systems, but still a good upgrade for a street-driven setup. There was definitely some oil in my intercooler, so my long-term reliability would benefit from this mod.
  • Intake (probably Cobb SF): Not really needed for power, and definitely something I’d have to consult my tuner about. However, it may free up a horse or two, and it’ll sound good.
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