Everything We Know About Modding a 1st Gen Scion TC

Forget the fact that it has a basic 2AZFE Camry engine known for burning oil! 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 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. 

Want to make it louder? Get a performance header and/or axle-back exhaust! A performance header for a 1st gen Scion TC sells for around $100, with more higher-end brands selling for around $400. The performance increase is similar no matter which you go with, and many dyno tests have proven this. In fact, the best bolt-on for increasing horsepower is going to be the upgraded header. 

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. 

Keep in mind that most aftermarket headers 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. 

Suspension Upgrades

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? Number one is definitely the TRD rear sway bar! However, if you can’t get your hands on the TRD sway bar, then find the Eibach, which sells for around $150. 

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, as well as some good ones by Godspeed from Amazon.

lowering springs on a 1st gen scion tc

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.

After you’ve lowered the Scion, the rest of your suspension will be tested. It would be wise to buy new end links before or immediately after lowering the car. If you start to hear a clunking noise every time you hit a bump, then it’s most likely the end links.

Don’t forget to get an alignment about a week after lowering your ride, it will make a big difference! 

The strut tower brace is most certainly 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. It might be shocking to find that you can 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 above are actually from R1 Concepts and they sell for about $155.

The drilled holes are actually counter-sunk to prevent cracking, which is common in lower-end rotors of this type. 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. They can be found at Autozone 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 selling for less than $10 – 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 or Mobil1 5w20 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

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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