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The 1st gen TC (2005-2010) is a fun car to drive and modify. Sure, “it’s just a Camry with a different body” and “it’s a slow front-wheel drive car” are common complaints you will hear about it – but still, it’s a great car to modify when done right.
A stock TC looks better than most cars from 2005-2010. There was even a supercharged version that boasted 200hp, which was a lot faster than the regular 161hp. It’s disappointing that the TRD supercharged model was not as reliable, and most have blown engines by now. Turbocharged is definitely the way to go when it comes to these cars.
The basic 2AZFE Camry engine in the Scion TC is known for having an oil consumption problem, so be careful when buying a used one. Make sure they have the paperwork to prove the problem was fixed, otherwise you’re in for a big headache.
When Toyota was doing the recall and fixing the oil consumption issue they would sometimes offer to fix more stuff while they’re “in there”. If you, or the previous owner had everything possible fixed and replaced then the car will no longer lose a drop of oil between oil changes. If you just had the basic recall fix, then it might still lose a little bit of oil, although not nearly as much as it would before.
With that said, let’s talk about modding a 1st generation Scion TC!
Intake + Header + Exhaust = Performance?
As of now, all performance mods for the Scion TC are easy to find, and more affordable than ever before. In fact, this is probably the best car for a beginner to modify, as it’s easy to work on and parts are affordable.
Anyone who knows anything about modding a TC will tell you the only way to get real horsepower is to turbocharge it – and this is definitely true. The engine doesn’t respond well to bolt-on mods. However, you can still get a noticeable performance increase from upgrading the intake, header and exhaust.
Since most people will be using it as a daily driver, it’s safe to say that upgrading the intake, header and exhaust is more than enough to make the car fun to drive. In fact, just upgrading the intake will make the engine breathe better and give it a better sound. The car will accelerate a little faster, but definitely not enough for those trying to race.
Your next step should be a performance header. A low-end performance header for a 1st gen Scion TC sells for around $150, with more higher-end brands selling for around $400. Usually the best bolt-on for increasing horsepower in your Scion TC is going to be an upgraded 4-2-1 header like this one.
If you just want noise, then get an axle-back or cat-back exhaust. The performance from the cat-back exhaust is minimal, and it’s more of a sound enhancement than performance. The primary catalytic converter is in the header, and the secondary is in the midpipe. Removing the secondary cat by getting a cat-back exhaust is going to give you some performance, but removing the primary, which is the most restrictive, is going to give you the best results. (NOTE: Removing catalytic converters is illegal in most states for street driving. This is a track-only modification unless you’re willing to take the risk of a sizeable fine.)
Keep in mind that most aftermarket exhausts for the TC are kind of obnoxious, and you will hear a lot of rasp. Make sure to check out different exhaust setups on YouTube to hear what it’s going to sound like before you install anything.
Other cars respond better to bolt-ons, but the Scion TC is stubborn and getting to 200hp is nearly impossible without getting a turbo installed. A turbocharged Scion TC is a great car, just keep in mind that the reliability will go down. If you plan on using this car as a daily driver, it’s recommended to stick with the bolt-ons.
Throttle Body Upgrades
How about upgrading the throttle body? This has been discussed in many Scion forums and there really isn’t a throttle body upgrade worth purchasing. So delete this thought from your mind! No one has ever proved an upgraded throttle body increases performance on the 2AZFE engine. However, if you dig deep enough you will find that many tuners have switched their stock throttle body with one from an RX-8.
Lightweight Pulley Upgrades
This is a controversial topic, but let’s say you have already installed the typical bolt-on mods and you’re looking for something extra. Lightweight pulleys are probably next on your list, and if they weren’t before, then maybe they are now..
NST makes the best, most trusted lightweight pulleys for the 1st TC. You can read reviews and DIY guides in various Scion forums, but you will also come across some debates. Some people think they will damage your engine in the long run, and they might be right. It’s hard to find a case where someone has blamed pulleys for damaging their TC’s engine, but it is a possibility. Do your research!
Now, installing these pulleys is not extremely difficult if you’re comfortable working on a car. You can buy an entire set and have them installed within 4 hours.
It won’t make your car super fast or anything, but it will free up horsepower for sure.
Some of the best mods for a Scion TC are suspension mods. Ask around, or do a quick Google search and you will find that most TC owners prefer their suspension mods over everything else. These cars can’t go that fast, but they really shine when it comes to handling and cutting corners.
So what are the best suspension mods? Your best bet is to start with a stiffer sway bar kit like this Hotchkis sport kit. However, if you can’t get your hands on the Hotchkis kit, then try a TRD or Eibach kit. These are all great.
Next, would be lowering springs or coilovers. If you want better handling, then a good set of quality lowering springs is what you need. It will also improve the aesthetics of your car, getting rid of that wheel gap. You can find all kinds of lowering springs from manufacturers like Tein and Hotchkis. We suggest these Scion TC lowering springs from Godspeed on Amazon.
If you have very old struts, then consider replacing them before installing the lowering springs. However, the Scion TC has incredible stock struts and they have been known to last for 200k+ miles.
When you lower your Scion, the rest of your suspension will be tested, and you will immediately notice any worn parts. It would be wise to buy a full set of new ball joints and end links when you have your front suspension apart. If you start to hear a clunking noise every time you hit a bump, then it’s most likely the end links. Trust us, it’s WAY easier to do this while you’re doing the front sway bar and springs.
Don’t forget to get an alignment after lowering your ride, it will make a big difference!
A strut tower brace is just for eye-candy on a Scion TC, and isn’t as effective on these cars as it is on other cars. It’s still a great upgrade, but it shouldn’t be your priority over more effective suspension mods like the rear sway bar and lowering springs.
Drilled and Slotted Rotors
For better braking, you can always upgrade to drilled and slotted rotors. They look awesome, and they make braking even easier. You can actually get a quality set of rotors with ceramic brake pads for less than the cost of stock rotors. The ones you see in the picture here are from R1 Concepts.
The drilled holes on these R1 rotors are actually counter-sunk to prevent cracking, which is common in drilled rotors. What’s even better about them is that they’re already zinc-coated to prevent rust and corrosion. This is especially great for those who live where it snows.
Spark Plugs, PCV Valve and Proper Maintenance
Believe it or not, having new spark plugs will increase the performance of your car, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve had a tune up. The best overall spark plugs to get for a 1st gen TC are the NGK 4589s. If you don’t get them on Amazon they can be found at O’Reillys and most other part stores and they’re super easy to install.
If you’re TC has over 75k miles on it, then you should also replace the PCV valve. This will make your engine run smoother, and most definitely idle smoother. In fact, if you notice your engine is idling rough then replace the PCV valve right away. It’s a cheap part – so no excuses!
Don’t miss oil changes, and constantly check your oil as these engines are known to burn oil. It helps if you run a good synthetic oil, so try to pick up some Amsoil 5w-20 synthetic or Mobil1 5w-20 full synthetic.
Once your TC starts getting near the 200k miles mark, pay attention to your CV axles and motor mounts. These things will typically start to go bad around this time, but of course it all depends on your driving conditions and how the car has been driven during the course of its life.
Cosmetic mods for the Scion TC are everywhere online, and there are many different body kits, spoilers and other aftermarket items to choose from. And honestly, the parts for these cars are so cheap now it’s almost ridiculous.
This is why the 1st gen Scion TC is the best car for a young person to start modding and learning from. Check out FastScions and CarID.com for exterior and interior mods.
There are a ton of wheel options, but we won’t get into details as wheels can become an entirely new article due to the different fitment options. Between different wheel sizes, spacers, wide-body kits, etc. There’s just too much to cover.
However, if you don’t have the money for new wheels, you can always perform a solid DIY project and paint your existing ones. That’s right, the Scion TC comes with a nice set of 17″ wheels already, and they look good when restored and painted. Check out this article on painting your wheels for more information.
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