Review: 2003 Subaru WRX ABS Disabled

Subaru brakes, outside of Brembos, aren’t known for how impressive they are. Pedal feel, is generally ok at best and brake fade can happen under spirited back roads driving, especially at roads like the Tail of the Dragon. Many of these issues can be remedied with stainless steel braided brake lines, upgraded braked pads, and DOT 4 brake fluid.

I have remedied my own brake fade issues with LGT rear brakes, DOT 4 brake fluid, and with weight loss or weight transfer to the rear of the car.


Installation of 4th Gen Legacy GT rear brakes on a 2003 WRX.

Other than the lack of brake feel and a still long-ish pedal travel, both of which I have plans to fix, my biggest gripe was the ABS system. It is terrible. It can be triggered when you hit a bump or if there is a change in elevation on one side of the car during light pedal applications. And unfortunately, living in East Tennessee, this happens almost every single day.

It is absolutely annoying to go from a light pedal application to full court press because one wheel found a dip in the pavement.

I have been researching ABS full-delete options for some time now, and before I get to that point, I thought I may as well disable the ABS system now and make sure this is something I want to do. If the wheels are locking up and legitimately prompting the ABS unit, then maybe I need to fix whatever is causing the issue.

Disabling the ABS is pretty simple, you just need to pull the 20a fuse under the dash. You will get an ABS light on the instrument cluster. Most people pull the bulb out. I’m leaving it alone for now, I like the reminder that I’m driving without ABS just in case something weird happens.

On my first outing with the ABS disabled, I completely forgot to pay attention to the normal spots that trigger the ABS system. Turns out, when abnormal things don’t happen in normal situations anymore, everything is just normal.

I have only had the ABS disabled for a couple of weeks now. While I can lock up the tires up in the rain now (while actively attempting to do so), it’s a pretty high threshold on my Bugeye; these 255 Comp-2A/S tires are great in all weather conditions. So that is something to keep in mind.

However, if you are concerned about the brake bias of the LGT rear brakes, the front tires lock up before the rears.

Otherwise, the brakes feel the same as before. No better or worse. The braking performance is the same, however, the performance could be a lot worse if you are not ready to modulate your braking at the limit. Locked tires only stop shorter on loose surfaces like gravel or snow. Most people just stand on the brakes in panic situations, I have unfortunately witnessed this first hand.

Before you run out and disable your ABS, keep in mind that ABS is primarily a stability control system. It is designed to prevent yaw and allow the driver to steer during a panic braking events. For your average driver, maintaining control of the car is more important than the ABS system kicking on in a false positive situation.

However, don’t just take my word for it; Mr. O’Neil explains ABS in this quick little video.

I also don’t like running aggressive brake pads; I generally run ceramic pads as they have a linear braking effort. If you like high bite pads, your ABS-free life may result in a different experience. Basically, if you can lock up your tires (or trigger ABS) often, then disabling ABS might not be a good idea. Outside of snow, I would say nearly all of my ABS events were false positive situations.

Once I get to the point where I am absolutely positive that I want to delete the ABS system completely, this will be my overall plan of attack.

ABS System Removal (Plans)

For a full deletion, I will remove the ABS unit, control module, ABS brake lines and possibly the wiring. I’ve read somewhere that the ABS unit alone is about 10 lbs; I will confirm that myself one day. Ten pounds off of the nose of the car should make a decent difference in steering response.

I also want to rerun all-new hardlines (or try to salvage the existing ones), using an ABS delete block mounted under the master cylinder from either Aluminati (no longer in production) or PRB Machining. Chase Bays makes a delete kit, but it is rather spendy. I do like the Chase Bays S/S lines and I see that they sell custom braided lines so I may use a combination of a delete block, CB S/S braided lines, and hand bent hardlines.

I also want to relocate the power steering reservoir as well. I am thinking about grabbing a reservoir from a GR STi and placing it on the strut tower. This should relocate some weigh off of the nose of the car and free up some space for a custom airbox that I have planned.

As far as a timeline for the full ABS deletion goes, I don’t really have a set schedule planned. Hopefully, sometime in 2019.

Time will tell…



ABS Data

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