Subaru Forester is a compact SUV having unibody construction built on the Impreza car platform.
Since 1998, its 5 generations have been introduced so far. Most of them share the matching parts across their generations that are interchangeable with slight or no modifications.
What Year Subaru Forester Parts Are Interchangeable? According to our research and customer reviews, you can interchange different parts of the Subaru Forester from 1999 to 2022. You can swap their transmission systems as long as they have the same gear ratios and the same mode. EJ20 and EJ25 engines between the 1999-2011 model years are also exchangeable with slight modifications to bypass certain advanced features. Body parts, wheels, the fuel tank, and brakes are mostly interchangeable in the same generation models from 1998-2002, 2003-2008, 2009-2013, 2014-2018, and 2019-present. In addition, ECU and instrumentation cluster are compatible with the same model year Subaru SUV with programming changes.
In addition, you can visit junkyards, online stores, and forums to look for compatible parts and seek advice from experts regarding the matter.
However, most of them have similar components in consecutive years with slight modifications. Therefore, you can swap them between the models by adopting recommended procedures.
Subaru Forester has 4-speed automatic, 5-speed manual and automatic, 6-speed manual, and Lineartronic CVT transmission options across different models.
You can swap them between model years from 1999 to 2022 if they have the same shifting mode and gear ratio.
However, 4-speed automatic transmissions in the turbo SUV models have direct electronic control and will not be compatible with models missing that control system.
Despite the case, you can use the mechanical parts in the transmission system in other models with the same gear ratio.
It has CV axles across all of its models. If their length and other fittings are the same sizes for the two models, you can interchange them.
2000-2004 model SUVs have similar axles because their ABS rings have the same size and will not come in contact with their housing, causing any damage.
However, you should also check whether you want to swap the front or rear axles. I find them from identical model year vehicles to ensure an exact match, as different models can have length differences.
Although you can replace them, it will not be a perfect fit. Similarly, you can swap the rear differential across model years with the same ratio. They are the same for all S models except STi and XTI from 2004 onwards.
Subaru Forester has 2.0-liter EJ20 and 2.5-liter EJ25 engines from 1998 to 2011 model years with multiple variants and upgrades.
You can interchange them between the same model years. If later model years have advanced technologies like an active valve control system, don’t connect it with ECU, and the engine will work fine without that feature.
However, you will need to do a few modifications like intake assembly, sensors, and oil pan, to name a few.
It won’t be easy to swap SOHC engines with DOHC as it requires a lot of wiring modifications to work them properly.
Since 2012-onwards, models also have motors with the same displacement with extensive electronic upgrades.
Therefore, it will be better to find the engine from the same model year with ECU to swap in your SUV.
Body parts, including hood, fender, headlights, doors, and windows, are interchangeable between the same model years and trim levels.
For example, you can swap them between 1998-2002, 2003-2008, 2009-2013, 2014-2018, and 2019-onwards models.
Moreover, within the same model years, trim levels have different body styles and slight differences in dimensions.
For example, 1998-2002 models have S and L trim levels, and they have changed designs for specific body components like bumpers and body cladding with different textures.
The seats are the major interior part that you can swap in your vehicle. Front seats are interchangeable across all Subaru SUV models.
There can be slight differences in rear seats’ size, but you can still swap them. For best fit, replace front seats in 1998-2008 models.
The latest models have power-adjustable seats with ventilated and heat/cool options. Therefore, they will not be compatible with older models.
However, you can use them just for sitting purposes without advanced electronic features. Moreover, side airbag options in the seats will work if you install them in compatible models.
ECU between different model years is not a directly swappable option. You will need to change wiring connections and programming to work them correctly.
From 1998 to 2005 models, you can swap them in vehicles with the same engine and transmission system.
But in the later models, they have linked it with keys, VIN, and immobilizer or anti-theft options.
Therefore, you cannot interchange them without extensive modifications that make it a non-feasible choice.
Even reprogramming an older ECU from another SUV model from an authorized dealer will not work perfectly due to a mismatch in specific configuration settings.
Wheels between different model years are easy to interchange if they have the same bolt pattern and locking hubs.
Generally, the wheel size between model years 1999-2011, 2012-2018, 2019-2020, and 2021-present is the same.
Therefore, you can swap between these SUV models without any modifications.
I suggest using OEM wheels of compatible size if you require replacement instead of taking used ones from another model with fitting issues.
Subaru Forester has suspension parts, including shocks, struts, and their springs and coils are interchangeable amongst same or adjacent year models.
However, they should have the same top hat bolt pattern and height; otherwise, they will not fit properly. 2009-onwards it has multilink rear shocks, and you can swap them.
The STi version of the SUV has identical front and rear struts from 2005-onwards, but they don’t fit other trim levels due to the misfit of the bottom strut mount.
Suspension system, including coilovers, can also interchange between 2003-2008 models of the vehicle with slight modifications.
1998-2002 models also have well-matched top hat bolt patterns, springs, and struts attachment.
Fuel tanks between two models can change if they have the exact location of the filler neck, size, and identical style of filler lid.
Fuel tanks between 1998-2002, 2003-2008, 2009-2013, 2014-2018, and 2019-onwards have similar sizes and filler lids.
Therefore, they are a direct swap between them. You can swap them between model years from the next or previous generations, but it will not go well due to different lid styles.
Instrumentation clusters will be different for the two model years with an automatic or manual transmission, turbo or non-turbo option, and other electronics design changes.
Therefore, swapping between them will result in partial functionality. Moreover, fob keys and odometer are specific for every vehicle, and some state laws require you to note them on registration for every change.
Furthermore, it will not work until you add immobilizer keys to it. So, generally speaking, for swapping it with the same model year, you have to find a solution to register the fob keys and odometer to make it work.
You can interchange the brakes between the 1998-2002 models because of the matching dimensions and design.
Similarly, 2003-2007 year brakes are also the same. Moreover, you can also swap them between 2009-2013 model SUVs.
From 2013 to 2018 and onwards, the latest models have the same pads, rotor, and caliper design and are replaceable.
Suppose you have any doubt regarding brakes compatibility between different models while purchasing online.
It is good to buy the used brakes from an older vehicle of the same model year.
Keep the parts, including rotor, bracket, and caliper, while installing the new pads of the same size available in the market.
2014-2018 Subaru Forester has steering wheels that you can add.
2017-2018 model SUVs have differences in airbag and wheel controls, but you can install them in the 2014-2016 model years.
However, you should be careful while reinstalling the airbag to ensure that it will work properly.
Earlier models have fewer electronics, and the mechanical assembly of the steering wheel is swappable across identical generation vehicles.
Moreover, you can also find controls separately on online stores, and you only need to take the leather steering wheel assembly from the compatible model.
What year did Subaru Forester body style change?
In the first two generations, from 1998-2002 and 2003-2008 model, Subaru Forester has the same exterior design and body style as a compact SUV.
However, in 2009, the manufacturer changed it to give it the proper look of a crossover SUV and increased its dimensions to have more space.
The rest of the models from 2014 to 2021 have similar body styles to their predecessors with minor changes.
In 2022, Subaru added a facelift to change the vehicle’s look. The body style on the front end has a new look and a slight change in the rear bumper.