CorkSport Guide to Mazda 3 Suspension and Handling

Corksport Mazda 3 racer

I want to know…who is excited for summer to begin!? The Pacific Northwest has given us a rollercoaster of a winter and just doesn’t seem to want to let go of the rain, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and that light comes in the form of car season. In preparation of the summer (that is welcome to show up any time now) I thought I put out a summer setup guide for all you car enthusiast to consider. This week I’m going to start with suspension and handling, then move on to power and styling in the coming weeks. Grab a beer, take a seat and let’s get started.

Mazda 3 garage mods

For the sake of helping car enthusiast at any level of modification, let’s pretend I just bought a brand new 3rd Gen Mazda 3; a clean slate to modify and define as my own. I have had the car about a month now and love it. I’ve put it through it’s paces on the back roads and really appreciate what it can do in stock trim, but I’m ready for more. Now here comes the first big decision; what do I do first? This could be highly debated and I’m sure there are many paths to success so I’m just going to right to how I would proceed, but first some technical backstory.

Going through college and being a major part of the Portland State Formula SAE program, I was taught that suspension that moves is suspension that works. Long story short, slamming the car to the ground with overly stiff coils is not the path to a complaint suspension that also performs. There are three major aspects to your vehicle’s suspension: bump, roll stiffness, and damping. Bump (and/or squat) are mainly managed by the spring rates. Stiff springs are great for the track where you have a very smooth and consistent surface, but out on the public streets this is not the case so let’s not go crazy with the spring rates.

Next is the roll stiffness of the vehicle. This is managed by the springs and the swaybars, but ideally mostly by the swaybars. Sway control is important to keep the body roll in check while entering, apexing, and exiting a corner as well as many other vehicular maneuvers. The front and rear roll stiffness also dictates the oversteer and understeer characteristics of the vehicle so this can be a major tuning tool. Lastly is the damping of the struts and shocks. This is the fine tuning of the springs and swaybars and also the main reason why your car does not continually oscillate up and down like a boat after hitting a bump. These are very important.

Mazda 3 for summer

First modification I would do is…swaybars! Here’s why. Bumping up the roll stiffness has two major benefits. First, it’s a great way to “tidy up” the body movement without adding much harshness to the ride quality so you’re not giving up much for this modification.

Second, most passenger cars are setup to understeer from the factory. There’s good reason for this as the solution to control understeer is to apply the brakes which is most people’s automatic response in an adverse situation. If you’re more experienced, then getting the car to a more balanced under/oversteer setup will be great. The vehicle will be much more alert and predictable. Side note: to me both of the benefits mentioned above also inspire more confidence while driving which is a huge bonus.

So what do you need for this? A new performance Rear Swaybar would be the first choice and I would set it on the softer setting. This will make the car more balanced while still defaulting to understeer. If you are really serious then step up to the Front Swaybar as well to really get the roll stiffness in check with the rear bar on the stiffer setting. I know, I know we don’t have a front bar out yet…soon my friends 😉

Mazda 3 swaybar

The next modification I would do is a set of performance springs and shocks/struts. I really suggest doing these at the same time because that is how you are going to get the most out of them. The performance springs are going to add a bit more roll stiffness and bump/squat control while also lowering the car a bit which will help with the center of gravity. You will sacrifice some ride quality, but your car is going to feel like it’s on rails.   (Earlier I said don’t go to stiff and that holds true, most performance springs range from 10%-40% stiffer than OE which is usually still softer than a coil over setup).

Now the shocks/struts combo is important because with the higher spring rate you will need more damping to keep it under control and with the rebound adjustability you will be able to fine tune the damping. It’s a win-win.

Mazda 3 shocks and struts

Now you’re probably wondering if these can be broken down and purchased separately. Yes they can. There is no issue with purchasing the shocks/struts first as they will complement the swaybars and work fine with the OE springs. For example, the CorkSport Adjustable Shocks/Struts are design with this in mind. The softest rebound setting basically matches OE damping, but you also have the adjustment range of up to 70% stiffer rebound to accommodate fine tuning and stiffer performance springs. Now doing the springs first may result in some compromise.

Due to the stiffer spring rate you will have a bit bouncier ride quality since the OE damping was not designed for the higher spring rate, but you will survive, I promise. So if you need to break it into chunks then I would start with the shocks/struts first. Do note that its recommend you get some rear cambers arms and front camber plates with lowering springs so you can get the camber back to OE specs or to have the ability to set the camber.

Mazda 3 rear camber arms

Lastly and arguably the most important handling modification is tires! If you have never indulged in a set of high performance tires then wow, you don’t know what you are missing. Tire technology has improved leaps and bounds over the last decade and because of that there are many performance all –season tires available, but a jack of all trades is a master of none. I highly suggest this tire and wheel combination.

Get yourself a set of performance wheels (I know there are atleast a few brands that can be had for less than $200/wheel and weight less than 20 lbs each) and throw some high performance or ultra high performance tires on them for the summer. These tires are usually in the 200-300 treadwear rating and cost $200-$300 each depending on size. Do this NOW! I’m serious! And keep you OE wheels for some dedicated winter tires which again will blow you away with how much better they are than all-seasons.

mazda 3 big brake kit

Let’s wrap this up with one last suggestions if everything above isn’t enough for you. Brakes… The best way to go fast is with better brakes. There are a few options you can take here. A set of performance rotors and pads would be a great budget friendly setup with great benefits. If you want to step it up even further than I suggest a Big Brake Kit like the one above.

Performance breaks are a great addition to any vehicle for both performance and safety. Performance wise you can dive into corners later and harder without worry. Safety wise I think it’s pretty obvious. Have you ever rear-end another vehicle and thought “if only I could have stop five feet sooner”, well there you have it.

Alright one last thing before we wrap this up. Now that we have a really well setup Mazda 3 go to a track day! Yes, take your daily commuter to the track one day so you can find you and your car’s limits. I can express this enough. First off its so much FUN! Really it’s a blast and it’s safe. Most track days like High Performance Driving Education (HPDE) events even provide you with an instructor. This also gives you a chance to safely push the car to the limits and even past them. This provides much more confidence on the public roads and avoiding accidents.

Corksport Mazda 3 racer

Alright I’m done. I hope you enjoyed this and look forward to the next blog! I’m going for a drive!

 

-Barett @ CS

CorkSport Joins Christmas Toy Drive 2016

A couple of weeks ago, CorkSport was contacted about a toy drive put together by a local car group called Tuner Coalition. They had heard about a group of kids at a local hospital that had hardly ever experienced a true Christmas. CorkSport loves to give back to the community, so we wanted to make some kids super happy this holiday season.

We all know that Christmas is about giving, so that’s what we did. I learned there is no better feeling than knowing your contribution will make a world of difference in someone’s life. That is our main goal here at CorkSport. We strive everyday to help our customers meet their goals and enjoy their modifications. It’s all about bringing happiness to others. And just look at how happy these kids will be.


This was not only a toy drive, but also a car meet. I brought my Mazdaspeed, and there was a first generation Mazda 3 that had some cool exterior upgrades. I also had the pleasure of meeting some really cool people. Even though we drove different cars, we were there for the same reason and shared the same passion for cars.

I had the pleasure of talking to a guy that owned an Ecoboost Mustang. He had a lethal performance turbo kit installed on the cusp of making 500whp. Needless to say, his engine bay was really clean; it had been meticulously hydro-dipped by a friend of his. I always liked the Ecoboost Mustang for its indirect relationship with Mazdaspeeds. The car definitely looked cool, and drew a lot of attention. He was a very humble guy and only had nice things to say about the my Mazdaspeed. He saw the front mount intercooler on my car and instantly had to know what was under the hood.

CorkSport loves to be a part of these types of events, and we encourage anyone to participate as well. We are here to help our community in any way possible. We would love to hear about some of your holiday car meets, and any kind of fundraisers you may have attended this holiday season! Get in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter to share your mods and stories.

Cheers,

Luke

My CorkSport Mods: Keith’s Mazda 3 Sport

I’ve met a lot of amazing people thanks to my Mazda 3 Sport, but Yolanda Sampson (Instagram: @bluehalogirl) is the one I blame for this addiction we call “modding.” When we met, I hadn’t done much to my car yet, just a couple minor things like tinted windows and tinted taillights. She had a feeling I’d be into meeting some more like-minded locals and invited me to a meet. We got along like only two Mazda nuts could, and it was game over for me.

Mazda 3 Sport

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Mazda 3 Carnage

Last year we embarked on a new race car project: the Mazda 3. Our goal was to develop the car into a frontrunner in the T4 SCCA class and have a shot at the national title at the SCCA runoffs in 2016. Along the way, we’ve been making changes to the car and working on improving the setup, along with testing out products. One of the products we developed and built along the way was our Big Brake Kit (BBK). We never really explained why that kit was so important. So let me explain.

CorkSport Mazda 3 Carnage

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