Let’s Get Chilly: CorkSport Intercooler for SkyActiv 2.5T

It’s time to break down our design for the CorkSport Performance Intercooler Upgrade for the Mazda 6 2.5T. We have covered both the OEM intercooler and piping, and our design plan for the upcoming Sky-T intercooler piping upgrade in previous blogs, but today’s focus is the intercooler itself. Intercoolers are a delicate balancing act between size, cooling efficiency, and pressure drop so naturally things can get a little complicated. Buckle up and stay with us, and be sure to drop any questions you may have down below.

Taking a look at the stock intercooler mounted on the Mazda 6 (shown above) shows us quickly where our size constraints lie. With the large crash bar, we cannot go too much larger in height without trimming the crash bar, bumper, or both. However, there is a ton of room for added thickness and better end-tank design that can really help increase the width of the intercooler. The stock intercooler core is 24.5” wide, 5.5” tall, and 2.625” thick. Our plan is to fit a 27” wide, 6” tall, and 3.5” core without any trimming. This sizing combined with a low-pressure drop will be good for 400WHP with no issues! Because the Mazda 6 comes with just around 200WHP from the factory, this sized core provides plenty of room for upgrading down the road without causing excessive boost lag that can occur if an intercooler is simply too big. Check out a prototype CorkSport intercooler mounted on the car below.

Now that size is taken care of, let’s move on to cooling efficiency and pressure drop of the CorkSport intercooler for the SkyActiv 2.5T. These are tied closely together as getting extremely high cooling efficiency usually means high pressure drop and vice versa. Just so we’re on the same page, cooling efficiency is how well the intercooler cools off the pressurized air that passes through it. So a highly efficient intercooler will be able to bring the boost temperatures down similar to the ambient air temperature. Pressure drop is exactly what it sounds like, a loss in pressure from the inlet to the outlet of the intercooler which can be caused by a number of things: poor end-tank design, too many intercooler fins, or simply poor flow distribution in the intercooler. Too large of a pressure drop means lower boost pressures reaching your engine and/or your turbocharger working harder to achieve the same boost levels.

Pressure drop and cooling efficiency are influenced primarily by two things: fin density and end-tank design. Fin density is basically how many fins the boosted air must pass over when traversing the intercooler. More fins = better cooling efficiency, but also more pressure drop. To choose the best core for the SkyActiv 2.5T we plan to use multiple different fin densities and test each for power, cooling efficiency, and pressure drop. While we can get pretty close based on our work from the CS Mazdaspeed Intercoolers, it’s always best to test and identify the best one for each platform. With this extensive testing, we can reach our goal of improved cooling efficiency, lower pressure drop, more power, and no CELs.

End-tank design is critical as it determines how the air reaches the core of the intercooler. Sharp bends, poor air distribution, and small inlet/outlet size all adversely affect the performance of the intercooler. To fit the core size we want, we had to do away with the plastic inlet and outlet pipes of the stock intercooler. This was advantageous as it gave us more room to have a smooth flowing end-tank that distributes air well to all the runners and does away with the sharp corners present in the OEM end-tanks. In addition, we were able to increase the inlet and outlet size of the intercooler to 2.5”. This is a fairly standard size that has shown to work well for the Mazdaspeeds with stock power and without choking flow way up to Barett’s 600+ WHP.

Those of you with a keen eye have realized that the connection between the CorkSport front mount intercooler (FMIC) and the OEM Intercooler is not the same. As shown in the CAD rendering above, each intercooler kit will come with the silicone and custom adapters that are needed to work with the OEM piping. If you decide to upgrade to the CS intercooler piping kit, later on, the CorkSport Intercooler for SkyActiv 2.5T will not need to be removed, and you will only need to change some silicone parts.

We will have more info on this kit coming soon, with the next blog covering our testing of the different core designs using a few new toys from AEM Electronics. Be sure to check out the product listing for more info, and to be notified when the intercooler is available. Last but not least, CX-9 Turbo and CX-5 Turbo owners, we are 99% sure this kit will also work on your rides but we plan on validating fitment before release!

-Daniel @ CorkSport

Mazda 6 2.5T Stock Spring Evaluation

Today we’re taking another dive into OEM Mazda parts to better understand how they function. Specifically, OEM suspension springs, since there are CorkSport Lowering Springs coming soon for the 2018+ Mazda 6 2.5T. While a simple concept, springs are very important to the handling, appearance, and comfort of your vehicle.

The new Mazda6 Turbo uses a lot of the same components as the GEN3 Mazda3 and Mazda6, however the suspension has been optimized for the new “premium” feel and to deal with the extra weight that comes when adding a turbo. The SkyActiv chassis has largely remained the same though, with the same MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension shown below.

Now, onto the springs themselves; both the front and rear suspension of the Mazda 6 use standard compression springs. The springs job is to support the weight of the vehicle when at rest and adsorb impacts when hitting bumps or going quickly around a corner. That’s it. Seems simple enough right? Since the springs are the parts of the suspension that “suspends” the vehicle though, their characteristics and how they interact with the rest of the suspension system are critical.

There are two main characteristics that define a spring: rate and free length. Both are pretty easy to understand. Free length is simply the length of the spring with no weight or force acting on it. So set a spring by itself on a table, measure how tall it is, there’s your free length.

Spring rate is a little more complex, as it is the measure of how much weight it takes to compress a spring a given distance. So, if you have the same weight and put it on two different springs the one with the higher rate will compress less. The rate is usually measured in kg/mm (often shortened to K) or lbs/in.

For example, if you had a 2K spring and a 4K spring and applied 100kg to each, the 2K would compress 50mm and the 4K would only compress 25mm.

What do these measures mean for your car though? If we keep the rate the same but only change free length, the shorter the spring, the lower the car. For a given car, a spring can be too short, causing poor ride (sitting on the bump stops all the time), or the risk of a spring coming out of place, causing noises or at worst, the spring falling out of the vehicle.

If we change the spring rate and leave the free length the same, things are a little more complicated. The higher the rate, the stiffer the ride is, plus your ride height will increase. Since the weight of the car is not changing, the higher rate spring will now compress less when the car sits on it, meaning your car sits higher at rest. Too large of a rate and your OEM shocks cannot keep up causing a bouncy ride, and vice-versa if too soft you are hitting bump stops over the smallest bump. Obviously there is a balancing act to get the spring rate and free length correct for the application for the best in appearance, handling, and comfort.

Now that the basics are covered, let’s look specifically at the Mazda 6 2.5T. The OEM springs give a good ride as to be expected (likely very soft spring rates) as this can be a huge issue for potential customers if the car ride quality is harsh. Handling is decent overall but has a few quirks. When going around a corner quickly, the car rolls over onto the rear springs excessively before settling, and getting through the corner. When at the limit of traction, the car understeers severely, like most cars sold today.

Finally the ride height is pretty high, likely to prevent any issue with driveways saying hello to the new front fascia. Interestingly, the MZ6T sits a little higher in the rear; we think to ensure enough suspension travel in case there’s a full load of passengers and a full trunk.

For further analysis we also had the OEM springs tested for rate and ended up with the following: 3.05K front, 5.05K rear. While these numbers are fairly arbitrary right now, they are a necessary data point to have when designing lowering springs. These rates also contradict a very common misconception. Many people think that because there is less weight in the rear of a front wheel drive car, the spring rates must be softer in the rear for a good ride & handling. This is simply not true in most cases, after all why would Mazda do the opposite? Due to the design of the rear suspension, the spring is basically being pushed on by a lever. This means the spring needs to be stiffer in order to support the same amount of weight as if the lever wasn’t there.

So overall, the OEM springs are good, but have plenty of room for improvement. I just touched the surface of suspension design and as we go through more of this project we’ll get into dampers, natural frequency, and much more. Stay tuned for more info and if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!

-Daniel @ CorkSport

Inside look: CorkSport Turbo Design

The development and evolution of the CorkSport Performance CST5 and CST6 turbochargers are uniquely intertwined.   We’ll be honest, we started with the goal of a single larger turbo than the CST4 in mind, but as development progressed we were not getting the exact results we wanted. We wanted fast spool & transient response, huge power, and to retain the internally wastegated system.  Something had to give…we realized that we were asking too much from a single turbocharger, thus we redefined what we wanted and realized that two separate and focused turbochargers for the Mazdaspeed platform was the ideal choice.

Today we will focus on the design around the glorious CST5, specifically the theory and design around the wheel selection for the CST5 and why it works.  

The compressor wheel utilized on the CST5 is the well-known and trusted GEN1 GTX71.  Compact and efficient, this compressor is rated for 56 lbs/min flow rate with a relatively high-pressure ratio threshold.  Paired with a 4-inch anti-surge compressor housing and we have a very versatile and responsive compressor setup.

Now here is where the design begins to deviate from the standard path.  The turbine wheel is a MHI TF06 design that is designed for high performance applications.  The TF06 turbine wheel is the key to the performance of the CST5. Let’s see how and why below.

If you are unsure of the turbine wheel size don’t worry, that will get covered shortly.  For comparison, the MHI TF06 is very similar in size to the well-known GT30, but there are a few very specific differences that affect performance.  

The first and most obvious difference is the number of turbine blades; this difference has a couple benefits. First, less weight; even a small difference is weight can make a significant difference in the spool and transient response characteristics of the turbocharger.  Second, reduce flow restriction; with one less blade the “open” area through the turbine wheel exducer is increased which increases the peak flow potential for top-end power.

Next are the less obvious differences.  The GT30 has a 60mm inducer and 55mm exducer which equates to a 84trim turbine wheel vs the TF06 with a 61.5mm inducer and 54mm exducer which equates to a 77trim turbine wheel.   

There are two key values to pull from this:  First, the turbine wheel inducer directly relates to the peak flow of the wheel and the overall wheel size balance which we will cover next.  Second, the turbine wheel trim affects the spool and response characteristics of the turbocharger. The smaller the wheels trim the faster the spool and response.  

Alright here is the most important and commonly overlooked aspect of a turbocharger.  There is a rule of thumb when sizing the compressor and turbine wheels for a turbocharger.  

If the turbine is too large then the turbocharger will be very “lazy” and have trouble building boost.  

If the turbine is too small then the compressor may be overpowering the turbine wheel causing excessive exhaust gas buildup that can rob power even though you may be running a very high boost pressure.  

So what is the right balance?  From our experience in turbocharger design, development and validation along with industry professionals we have consulted there is a rule of thumb we have found when sizing the compressor and turbine wheels.  The exducer of the compressor wheel should be 10-15% larger than the inducer of the turbine wheel as shown in the image above.

So why does this work?  Well let’s look back a bit first.  Many think you can just install a larger and/or higher flowing compressor wheel onto the turbocharger to make more power.  Now that is true to a point, but quickly the approach becomes very inefficient for the engine. Forcing more air into the engine without improving the flow out of the engine can only go so far.  

Everything that goes into the engine must come out right?  Increased A/R sizing and turbine wheel sizing is the key to exhausting all the gases from the engine efficiently, and efficiency is key to making power.

With both the CST5 and CST6 development we focused on the overall performance of the engine, not just the development of a high performance turbocharger.  

Thanks for tuning in with CorkSport Mazda Performance, more to come…

-Barett @ CS

CorkSport Mazda6 2.5T Boost Tube

We are proud to release the https://corksport.com/2018-mazda-6-2.5l-turbo-boost-tubes.htmlCorkSport Upgraded Boost Tube for 2018+ Mazda 6 2.5T and 2016+ CX-9 2.5T. The CorkSport boost tube is larger, stronger, more reliable, and of course better looking than the OEM rubber tube. Increase throttle response down low, hit boost targets easier and future proof your ride for mods down the road with a simple 1-hour install. Read on for full details and be sure to check out the R&D blogs here and here for the backstory.

In case you haven’t read the previous blog installments, the CorkSport Boost Tube improves on the OEM boost tube by first strengthening the tube. Instead of using rubber with one reinforcement layer, the CS boost tube use silicone with 5 layers of reinforcement. Aside from the extra layers of reinforcement, silicone stays strong at high engine bay temperatures that may cause rubber to flex excessively. In addition, silicone lasts longer and will better resist cracking as your Mazda 6 Turbo ages. The OEM boost tube is made from materials very similar to the OEM Mazdaspeed 3 boost tubes that showed signs from aging extremely quickly, especially when subjected to higher than OEM boost levels. Cracking or splitting of the OEM tubes results in boost leaks and a poorly running car, definitely not what you want from your brand new SkyActiv 2.5T.

The added strength prevents the CorkSport Upgraded Boost Tube from expanding excessively when subjected to pressure. When pressure tested at 20psi (the largest pressure we have seen at the intercooler outlet), the OEM tube was shown to expand 12% at the internal cross-sectional area. The CS tube tested under the same conditions expanded 3x LESS. This difference would get even larger when subjected to the same pressure at a higher temperature. What does this mean for performance though? When you get on the gas, the boosted air will have to expand the tube before it can enter your engine. The less the tube expands, the easier it is to hit boost targets, and the better throttle response you have, especially down low in the RPM range.

The CS Boost Tube also is a larger inside diameter than your OEM tube. It is 3” through the middle vs. the OEM ~2.44”. Since this area of the charge piping system is directly ahead of the throttle body, this large volume of air has the same effect as it does with our GEN2 Mazdaspeed3 FMIC kit, reducing boost lag and increasing throttle response. For full info on why this happens, check out the release blog for that kit here. As a basic overview, the large volume of air right before the throttle body fools the engine into thinking it has a larger intake manifold plenum than it really does. While not as severe of an effect with just changing this boost tube, try it for yourself and see what you think!

Installing the boost tube is a little tricky due to where it is located, but we include high quality installation instructions to make it easier. Even so, it can be installed in an hour or less in most cases. We also include polished stainless steel T-bolt clamps to ensure a complete seal and add a subtle visual boost.

Be sure to check out the product listing for more pictures, the install instructions, and a detailed product video. Let us know if you have any questions, we’ll be sure to help you any way we can!
Lastly, if any of you are looking for a more serious upgrade, stay patient, our FMIC upgrade & full piping upgrade kit are coming soon!

OEM Part Breakdown: 2.5L Skyactiv-G Exhaust Header

If you’ve been paying attention to the CorkSport channels, you may have seen rumors here and there of a race header for the GEN3 Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 2.5L. While I can’t say too much on that just yet, I can give you a breakdown of the OEM exhaust header that’s hiding in the back of your engine bay. Analyzing the OEM part is usually our first step in creating a new performance part and I wanted to bring you all along for the ride. It’s surprisingly complex for an OEM manifold/header and some serious engineering went into it.

Excuse the dirty part, this OEM header has had a hard life! I imagine many of you have not seen the stock header as it’s in the back of your engine bay covered in heat shields. Taking the heat shields off gives us a glimpse of the craziness that is the stock header. Mazda has gone with a true 4-2-1 design (also known as tri-y) with an integrated catalytic converter and what appears to be equal length runners. Stay with me, I’ll explain what all that means.

The image above hopefully helps you visualize the 4-2-1 design. Starting at the engine, there are four exhaust ports from the head. Each exhaust port gets its own pipe, known as a “primary”. The primaries then pair together to form two “secondaries”. Finally, the two secondaries combine into one collector pipe, in this case heading directly into the catalytic converter. The three unions or “y’s” are where the tri-y name comes from. The 4-2-1 design was chosen by Mazda for a very specific reason. Check out the image below and Mazda’s explanation HERE.

Essentially, using a very high compression ratio causes very high exhaust gas temperatures. If too much of this exhaust gas is leftover in the cylinders for the next combustion cycle, knocking can occur. In addition, if you have a short 4-1 header or a log-style manifold you can suck exhaust gas into a cylinder before combustion as one cylinder can be on an intake stroke while another is on an exhaust stroke (see the upper image in Mazda’s diagram).

The 4-2-1 has two benefits to fight this. First, the long length means the exhaust gas takes longer to traverse the pipes, so one cylinder sucking in another’s exhaust is drastically reduced. Second, the cylinders are paired correctly to one another (1 with 4 and 2 with 3). Since the firing order is 1-3-4-2, each secondary is receiving an exhaust pulse at a regular interval. If you paired 1 with 3 for example, you would receive two pulses quickly, and then a large gap as the other two cylinders fired. This helps with exhaust scavenging as the pulse from one cylinder helps “pull” the leftover exhaust from the cylinder it’s paired with. These benefits can also be present on a long tube 4-1 if designed well but, there is a good reason why Mazda did not choose this option.

Typically a well-designed 4-2-1 will make more power and torque in the midrange while a well-designed 4-1 will make more power way up at the top of the RPM range. Since normal driving does not involve being at the top of the RPM range all the time, it makes sense that Mazda went with the 4-2-1. We will likely do the same as we want to retain the low knock characteristics of the 4-2-1, high midrange power & torque, and because the SkyActive 2.5L is a fairly low revving engine.

It appears that Mazda also went with close to equal length runners. This means that each primary section is the same length and each secondary is also the same length. This ensures the exhaust pulses are arriving to the collector or Y at uniform intervals. The easiest way to explain why this is a good thing is to visual the entrance ramp to a highway.  When the cars entering the highway follow the “zipper” method for merging, the cars currently on the highway do not need to slow down. The high and entrance ramp merge and flow in a smooth and consistent rate.

However, if a surge of cars come down the entrance ramp to merge onto the highway you will get a back-up of cars on the entrance ramp and will disrupt the flow of cars on the highway.  If the cars are exhaust gases and the highway is the exhaust pipe, you can understand why equal length can help. Again, we will adopt this strategy with the CS race header.

So far so good then, as Mazda has put a lot of thought into making a high quality stock header. However, as usual there are a few areas we can improve on. That’s coming in a later blog though so you’ll have to stay tuned for more details! Let us know if you have any questions or thoughts down below.

-Daniel @ CorkSport