In this blog post, we discuss the issues with swapping a Single AVCS CANbus (shortened to CAN for the rest of this blog) equipped engine like a 2008 WRX into an older non-CAN equipped chassis like a 2002 WRX.
The only way iWire will perform this type of conversion is if all of the parts are swapped to modify the engine to match a non-CANbus-equipped platform. This would include the intake manifold and harness so we can wire it with the matching ECU. For example, a 2006 Legacy GT could be converted to a 2004 Forester XT that uses the same basic setup but doesn't have the complexities of CANbus.
This can only be performed on CANbus platforms with 2.5L of displacement because there are no equivalent USDM models that are 2.0L. For example, the EJ20XY is a 2.0L model, so even after switching the parts to a USDM platform, it would not pass emissions because the displacement wouldn't match the engine that the parts switched over would have.
iWire recommends sticking with non-CANbus platforms to keep your swap project as simple as possible. See below for our suggestions!
When swapping with a CAN-equipped single AVCS engine, the biggest issue will be dealing with the CAN system (read more about that here and part 2 here). After working through this a couple of different ways, we have determined the best way to do this is by swapping out the CAN-equipped ECU with an equivalent NON-CAN ECU. More details about how and why are below.
Which models come with Single AVCS engines and are CAN equipped?
2005+ Legacy GT
2008-2014 Forester XT
What do I need to do if I want to swap this engine into an older non-CAN chassis?
Let's take a scenario with a 2008 WRX engine going into a 2002 WRX. There are three options. First is that a standalone ECU could be utilized either with a model that offers a plug-and-play for the turbo ECU (IE Haltech has a 2008 WRX jumper harness for their Elite ECUs) or custom fabricate a harness from the standalone out to the engine and merge that in. The second option could be utilizing a CAN Emulator. We have done this a few times but, for now, have found the process cumbersome due to the immobilizer circuit running through the gauge cluster. The third and best option is to move away from the CAN ECU and switch to one with the same capabilities to run the engine without the CAN-related issues.
If you have a 2008-2014 WRX, 2009-2014 Forester XT, or 2008-2012 Legacy GT/Outback XT engine
You could run these models on a 2007 WRX ECU with a 2008-2010 WRX harness so that the wiring at the ECU matches the non-CAN-equipped 2007 WRX ECU and the engine plug matches the newer engine. 2007 WRX models have all of the secondary air pump wiring and emissions equipment the 08+ model does, so this could pass smog without a reflash.
If you have a 2005-2006 Legacy GT or Outback XT Engine
These are the only ones with CAN-equipped ECUs but do not have the secondary air injection system, making it a little more complicated. We would run these engines with the same 2007 WRX ECU. However, it would be paired with a 2007 WRX harness, unlike the above example, due to the layout of the engine plugs. If smog is not a concern, this would allow the 2005/2006 LGT/OBXT intake manifold and harness to stay. Tuning would have to be done with Opensource because check engine lights would have to be shut off for the secondary air injection system that does not exist on the 2005/2006 LGT/OBXT Legacy long blocks.
If you live in a state like California where you can't reflash the ECU to pass smog or want to use a Cobb Accessport, the 2007 WRX ECU would not be a good option because it would require shutting off check engine lights. The better route for these applications is to swap the intake manifold and harness to either a 2004-2006 STi intake or a 2004-2005 Forester XT harness because they are Single AVCS models with drive-by-wire but do not have the secondary air injection system. We'll then wire your swap with a matching XT or STi ECU and harness.
What about dual AVCS engines like a 2008 + STi?
Unfortunately, there aren't any great options at this time because no NON-CAN OEM ECUs can run exhaust AVCS. You could wire this to a standalone ECU like a Haltech Elite 2500 that can utilize the exhaust side AVCS, but due to emissions concerns, this is not something we are currently doing. We suggest wiring it up like the 2008+ single AVCS models with a 2007 WRX ECU and ignoring the exhaust AVCS.
2 wire to 3 wire Coolant Temperature Sensor
For all the above scenarios, a conversion will need to happen with the coolant temp sensor from the 2-wire model found on CAN-equipped cars to the 3-wire version that comes with the non-CAN models. This change is because the 2 wire sends the temperature signal direct to the ECU, and then the ECU transmits that information to the cluster via the CAN system. On non-CAN-equipped models, there are 2 separate wires for the coolant temperature signal. One to the ECU and one to the cluster directly from the sensor.