This blog reviews options for removing your stock Subaru gauge cluster to install a digital dash.
What is a Digital Dash?
A digital dash is a small computer that replicates the inputs of your stock gauge cluster with a digital display. They are a universal product, so installing one into your Subaru will require custom wiring and solutions. Common products would include the Haltech IC-7, AEM CD-7, and the AIM series of digital dashes.
Digital Dash and the Alternator Circuit
In a stock Subaru, the gauge cluster has a warning light to turn on the alternator (alternator excite wire) when starting the car. When you remove the stock gauge cluster, you also remove this excite wire, so you must find a way to trigger the alternator circuit to have it run properly.
More about alternator wiring can be found by clicking here.
Does the Year of my Subaru Effect the Digital Dash Install?
The short answer is YES! Subaru has changed a lot to its wiring system between 1993-2022, so there are different options based on the technology in your car.
1993-2007 Impreza (includes non-turbo, WRX, and STi
1998-2008 Forester (includes non-turbo and turbo models)
2002-2006 Baja (includes non-turbo and turbo models)
This is a non-CANbus car so removing the gauge cluster is possible. You would send us the upper dash harness (or cluster sub-harness, depending on the vehicle), and we would wire in the necessary inputs for the digital dash
2008-2022 Impreza (includes non-turbo, WRX, and STi)
2009-2022 Forester (includes non-turbo and turbo models)
This is a CANbus car, and removing the gauge cluster is not recommended. In CANbus cars, the immobilizer circuit (security system) runs through the gauge cluster. If it is removed and there is not a standalone ECU in the vehicle, the car will not start.
As noted, to run a digital dash in this car and have the cluster removed, you would also most likely need to run a standalone ECU (more about standalone’s can be found by clicking here) because the standalone ECU effectively bypasses the immobilizer system.
However, removing the stock gauge cluster or stock ECU from a CANbus car can lead to issues for the car’s electrical system because each module sends and receives information on the CANbus network. So depending on the model and year of the vehicle, this may lead to a feature that no longer functions right, like SI-Drive or DCCD.
We are happy to wire up a digital dash in these cars, but only with the warning that we don’t know exactly which features you'll lose until the cluster is removed from the vehicle. If those features no longer work, we currently do not have any solutions to get them to function again.