Where Do You Start With Your Mazda – Suspension

One common thing I hear from customers is “What should I do with my car?” My reply normally is “What are you going to do with your car? What are you plans and what do you want it to do?” Having some idea of the end plan for your car can really help you out when deciding what to purchase. Let’s take a look at the suspension first.

Suspension is something which there is wide range of options available for most Mazdas. One of the questions I ask customers “Are you just going to drive this on the street, or will you also take it to the track?” This really gives me a good idea of what to suggest for modifications. The difference between the street and track suspension normally comes down to how stiff the suspension is. Most track suspensions do not work very well on the street because the bumps in the road cause the car to ride really rough, because of the higher spring and dampening rates of the shocks and springs. A good street suspension will have a stiffer ride compared to stock but still be reasonably comfortable when driving on public roads.

A good track/race suspension will set you back $1500+ depending the on the shocks/springs or coilover options. A good street suspension will run about $1000 or less for springs and shocks. The advantage of coilover suspension is the ability to change ride height, shock dampening and spring rates. The ride height adjustment is good for lowering the center of gravity on your car. Being able to change the shock dampening allows you to fine tune the ride of your car. The ability to change the spring rate allows you to make larger changes to how the car performs under cornering. Street strut and spring suspensions are comprised of a lowering spring which matches the original dimensions of the stock spring but with a different compression rate. Most springs sold lower Mazdas from 1-1.5 inches. Upgraded struts also fit the original dimensions but have different valving to change the rebound and compression. This makes the strut either move slower or faster than stock depending on the application. There are street coilover suspensions available as well from some manufactures like AutoExe.


AutoExe 2010+ Mazda 3 Street Coilovers shown above.



Upgraded suspension arm bushings can give you better feedback with less deflection or give but the trade off is a more vibration into your Mazda due to the increased stiffness. A commonly upgraded bushing is the front control arms. The advantage of the front control arm bushings is less deflection in the bushings making the steering response faster since the bushings have less give. The upgrade bushings also help in launching the car from a standstill by decreasing or eliminating wheel hop. I recommend looking at our tech article on urethane bushings to get more information.

Sway bars are another option to upgrade in your suspension. The sway bar keeps your car body flatter under cornering but it can also affect the balance of the car. Installation of a larger rear sway bar can create over steer which to simplify things make the back of the car slide first under hard cornering. This is great for autocross and rally cross where you need very tight rotation of your vehicle to get around cones. On a street car this can be handy but it can also catch you out if you are not experienced enough to know how to counter the change in surprise situations. The last thing you want to do is call a tow truck to pull you out of a ditch when the back end of your car becomes the front end when it slides out.


H&R Swaybars above



The last item to bring up is suspension bracing. What the braces do is supplement the vehicle chassis to make it stiffer. You really start to notice the improvements for braces on uneven surface roads or under hard cornering. In open top cars like the Miata/Mx-5 and open trunk hatchbacks like the Protege 5/Mazda 3 the addition of the braces can be noticed in day to day driving due to the additional stiffness in the chassis Check out our tech article on strut tower braces for more specific details.


CorkSport Rx8 Aluminum Brace with and without the engine cover above



For most street driven cars I recommend a good set of lowering springs and upgraded shocks/struts and move forward from there with braces and swaybars. If you have any questions on suspension feel free to email me at Derrick@corksport.com or give me a call and I can give you specific information for your model of Mazda.

I will cover engine modifications and brake upgrades in future blog posts.

Derrick

The Right Tool For The Job

My history as a wrench wielding mechanic in a goon suit is almost exclusively as an enthusiast, and over the years I have spent a lot of time making mistakes using the wrong tool for the job, as well as sourcing reliable tools at the best prices so that I could make otherwise difficult jobs substantially easier.

Because of this, I most certainly do not own a $10,000 6′ tall rollaway SnapOn toolbox. Most of my tools are Craftsman, and a handful of my tools came from the dreaded Harbor Fright. Typo intentional. I figured this week I would take some of what I have learned and pass it on, as well as recommend a few tools that I have found indispensable.

Feel free to discount anything I say or condemn me for being a cheap bastard, but I have managed to get by with a lot of cheap tools and a number of really high end ones where they were necessary.

Where to Buy?

A few things to think about when it comes to purchasing your tools are the level of customer service you can expect when the quality of the tool fails to exceed it’s mission in life; the amount you’re spending for that extra assurance and the risks associated with using a tool for the application in question that is substandard. These questions make my buying decisions simple. If I use a Harbor Freight air saw on a piece of plastic radiator core support and it fails, I do a local warranty return or throw it away, no harm no foul. But if I have to choose a torque wrench or a hand tool that I’m going to be using regularly , I’d be better off going high end based on the job I’m going to expect it to do and the frequency I use it. In the case of the DeWalt pictured below, I know all of the replacement parts are reasonably priced and available online. And, I can talk directly to a DeWalt wholesaler locally to remedy Warranty claims, so Overstock.com might be a perfectly fine place to source that item to save an extra $20-60.

Battery Powered 1/4 or 3/8 Drive Impact Wrench





There are two options here for a small versatile impact system: the 1/4 Hex Drive (like an Allen Wrench but has square drive bits) and the 3/8″ Square Drive (Like a Ratchet). The Square Drive is going to deliver more torque and generally runs off an 18v or higher battery, where as the 1/4″ Hex variety runs 18v maximum for the most part. The benefit of the hex drive is that it runs screwdriver bits and some hex drive drill bits and is a little more versatile…but you pay for that in lack of torque. The Rigid hex drive we use around here will break loose most chassis brace bolts and almost everything in the engine compartment aside from head bolts, turbo bolts, etc. It won’t always break loose exhaust nuts/bolts, so it requires breaking those loose by hand. But that DeWalt pictured above, it cracks out 110ft lb of torque with a Max RPM of 2700. It’s not cheap by any means, kitted up at a retail (read: you can get it cheaper) of ~$350, it’s a big pill to swallow, but when it cuts your time drastically on projects and replaces half of the tools in your box before you even buy them, that’s a heck of a deal.

Either way, these are cordless, airless, versatile, have the potential (depending on brand, drive style, and voltage) for being extremely high torque (some even available in 1/2″ Drive with 36v A123 Li-Po Batteries that punch over 300ft lb of torque).

Universal Impact Sockets





These are awesome and get into some harder to reach spots, even if you use them on the end of a ratchet/extension combo or with a breaker bar. Generally, they have a less aggressive universal joint so they work well at getting into a tight space, but don’t promote rounding off of the heads of nuts and bolts due to that aggressive angle. Don’t have a wobbly socket and want your standard universal to stay put better? Use some electrical tape and wrap the universal section to keep it from turning 90 degrees away from the work while you’re lining things up. On these sockets, I almost always go Harbor Freight Pittsburgh Brand or some other Taiwanese Made manufacturer. Why? Because I’ve never had an overseas impact break or round off a nut/bolt. Perhaps I’m just lucky so far, but I’m not spending more than I need to on a tool like this.

Long Extensions.





I don’t know why I never owned a two foot long 3/8″ Drive Extension until recently, it is by far one of the handiest tools in the box – allowing me to get into places I couldn’t in the past. This combined with a universal or a wobbly impact socket gets my hands out of the engine compartment where I’m guaranteed to bloody my knuckles, and into a place where I can add lots of torque with a breaker bar or a larger ratchet to get the fasteners loose.

Silicone Spray & Pentrant Spray
(Both of these are always in close reach when I’m working on cars)





The silicone spray is excellent to help lubricate tight parts like exhaust hanger bushings, polyurethane suspension bushings and silicone hoses. Also works well on rubber parts that have become brittle. Keep it OFF of your paint, it has a tendency to soak in and prevent adhesion of future paint jobs. If you must use it to clean black rubber/plastic trim on your vehicle, don’t spray it on, spray it on a cloth and wipe it on. WD-40 is often used in place of silicone spray, but true silicone spray is substantially different than WD-40….which is a bit of a cross between penetrant and silicone spray. If you’re bored – check out 2000+ uses for WD-40.

The penetrant spray is a must-have on the workbench. In half of the bolts or studs I have seen broken off due to a seized nut on the other end, I can confidently say most of those would have cooperated had they been thoroughly soaked with PB Blaster or Aerokroil. Both are top of the line penetrating sprays, although I prefer Blaster, because the ‘kroil is freakishly expensive out here (although from my experience with it I am very impressed). Tapping on fasteners that have been soaked does help the penetrating action and if the nut starts to back off and re-catches, spray it again, tighten it a turn or so and then back it off again.

Ratcheting End Wrenches (especially the pivoting ones)





I tend to work on nothing but metric fasteners in cars and because of that I cut my tool budget in half. Which allows me to splurge every once in a while with things like these pivoting head ratcheting end wrenches. They come from a number of different companies: GearWrench, Craftsman, Snap-On, Husky, etc.

There are a few things to look at when you evaluate a ratcheting end wrench set: toggle, internal strength, overall thickness and other features. Toggle is whether or not you can change directions without flipping the wrench over. In my opinion this is useless – especially if you have a set of ratchet wrenches which lack the canted angle of the box end that you find in standard non-ratcheting box end wrenches. The next option is internal strength – this usually goes hand in hand with quality but also with the number of detents in the ratchet mechanism – so ask around to your tool counterman as to which they have seen returned broken the most often. Thickness is also important. A strong ratchet wrench that is nearly as thick as a standard ratchet isn’t going to be helpful in 90% of the places where you need the functionality of a ratcheting end wrench. Finally there are a number of different features in ratcheting wrenches: Some have interchangeable heads so you can get the effect of a ratchet with a through-hole in it. Others have pivoting heads (as shown in the photo) which pivot up to 90 degrees to get into a variety of areas for tough jobs. That set in the photos evidently can actually lock the pivot angle.

Want to read some more about cool tools for your shop and which tools are the best for the job? Check out some of these forums where people regularly discuss tooling and shop layout and practices:

https://www.garagejournal.com/forum/

Got some other forums that you like to browse when choosing tools or choosing plans for your shop? Make a comment here to share with others.

Jason

CorkSport Dyno Day

Last Saturday at our CorkSport Swap Meet, we had a great turnout for the Dyno Testing. With 16 people signing up ahead of time and 5 signing up on site, we got some great runs in from a diverse group of participants. We even felt sorry for a handful of non-Mazdas and let them participate as well!

DYNODAY

High horsepower of the day was Jason O’Neill with his ’01 Miata. Jay’s car made 393hp to the rear wheels with a brutal 368 ft lb of torque. A week earlier he had the motor out to diagnose some issues with the variable valve timing as well as try to get the head into the shop for new valve guides and seals and couldn’t make it in time so he threw it back in just to drive down to the event on a set of beefy drag radials. Later in the evening he ran an 11.51 at 124mph out at Portland International Raceway. Brutal. I’ll say this much, when a lightweight little Miata pushing 400+hp (it was uncharacteristically chilly out Saturday night) on a cold track makes a 1.6 second reaction time, it’s driver has had some practice. Hats off to Jay for his awesome car and sticky launch skills.

Close behind was an LS2 powered FD RX-7 that was unbelievably clean. The install was gorgeous, with little over 1000 miles on the clock since the swap, and the powerband was equally beautiful. Dropping an Earth shaking 300ft lb of torque at 1600RPM and following that up with a 45 degree horsepower curve topping out at 376hp, this car would be more adrenaline pumping fun than a barrel of monkeys in an AK-47 factory. And the owner’s passion for Mazdas goes way back…he bought an FD off the lot new in ’93 as well. While purists will wince at the addition of Chevy Power to one of the crown jewels of Mazda’s Rotary history, I would guess anyone who saw the meticulous install and the owners passion for making this an all around amazing car would give it a thumbs up. The drivetrain wasn’t the only amazing thing about the car – the suspension and bodywork were phenomenal as well.

We had a pair of Speed3’s and a Speed6 on the dyno as well, with high HP numbers in the high 260’s and high torque numbers in the high 290’s. The dyno runs on these cars are all over the map, preferencing torque on one run, horsepower on the next. One car ran 257HP w/ 296ft lb followed by a run of 269HP w/ 282ft lb. And I always thought the less the driver could effect the run the more consistent the output would be – not so with the MZR 2.3 DISI powered sedans.

The rest of the pool consisted of two FS Powered Mazdaspeed Protégés, a BP Turbo Powered Protégé, Four Miata’s and two eardrum scalding FB RX-7’s that both gave the LS2 a run for its money for smoothest powerband.

Whole playlist – wraps up with the RX-7 and the miata.

All in all it was a great day, and we had some good opportunities to talk shop and discuss opportunities for more power. The Seattle area group from MazdasNW.com came down and were able to meet up with more of the folks on the forum who are from the Portland Area. All in all, it became clear that a lot of these Mazda enthusiasts are hungry for opportunities to spend time discussing their wrenching projects and spending time with like minded people. I look forward to future opportunities like this. Thanks again for everyone who came out to the event…without such great participation, none of us would have had as much fun as we did.

P.S. If you have video of your car on our Dyno during the CorkSport Dyno Day and it’s not included in the above video playlist, fire over a copy for me and we’ll add it! Sorry for not getting all of the cars on video, I had a few different hats I was wearing and wasn’t able to get them all.

Jason

State of Business

Employees

Challenges abound in selecting employees that meet our internal needs and are capable of delivering exceptional customer service.

We find ourselves in a transition once again. Our good friend Chris T. has left us to pursue his dream of being a real estate agent. I fully support his effort to chase a more lucrative career, but still lament the loss of his contribution to operations and his cheery personality. Best of luck to you Chris!!!

As most of you probably realize from reading this blog, we brought Jason Griffith on as a Product Development Engineer a few months back. He’s already made a mark in the Northwest Mazda scene. His enthusiasm for performance engineering is inspiring us to look at all sorts of new products. I expect many exciting products to be released in the coming months and a few ‘I can’t believe they did that’ products in the next year or so. You won’t believe what we’ve got in store.

Customer Service

The remaining six of us continue to truck along, providing excellent products we stand behind with exceptional customer service. Providing the highest level of customer service is our top priority. We have not yet been able to solve all issues with 100% customer satisfaction, but hey, some of you are a bit demanding 😉 and we are human, but we won’t stop trying. We’ve got a great new system to track these issues and are bringing them to a close even faster than we used to.

Economy

Recently, we heard that a relatively new company in our industry went of business. In all reality, it was probably a product issue that did them in. My point is that we have been here for over 11 years, we know how this business works, and we know what it takes to succeed and continue to provide you, our customers, with the highest quality performance parts, and the best price. I believe there is value in that to you, our customer. If you have a problem, we will be there trying to fix it.

The economy right now is horrible, there is no doubt about it. I expect more businesses to fail. We are entering the slow season for sport compact performance parts, as less people modify their cars during the winter months than during the sunny summer months. Cash flow tightens, the bills keep coming in, and eventually you can’t pay UPS to ship parts. Being able to ride out the slow times and still make significant progress and develop new parts is one of the things we here at CorkSport pride ourselves on.

Protect Yourself

We’ll be fine. We’ll never take a customer’s money then close up shop without a refund as long as I’m in charge! My recommendation, regardless of what kind of purchase it is, is that you make sure that you purchase from strong companies in this economy. Or you could be left out in the cold when they suddenly disappear. It’s happened to me personally, and it sucks.

Our policy (except in the case of special orders where a down-payment is collected) is that we don’t bill you until we ship the part. This protects you from paying credit card interest on parts you don’t even have yet and also reduces the risk of your money disappearing. Of course, if you chose PayPal, we have little control over that. For this reason, recommend credit cards versus PayPal; it makes everyone’s life easier.

Finally, keep buying parts for your car! Chicks dig modified cars, I mean, look at all the import magazines, they’re all over them! 😉

– Rich

CorkSport Goes to SevenStock XII

We attended Sevenstock XII down in sunny Irvine, California on September 26th for a fun day of Mazda rotary-powered goodness. The event was held at Mazda’s headquarters which has plenty of parking and provides a great backdrop for the biggest rotary event in the world. As you can see below, when we arrived we were greeted with a reminder of what Mazda is all about.



There was plenty of Mazda’s favorite catch phrase on display at the event. Row after row of rotary powered vehicles were in the parking lot, and the enthusiasts who drove them there could be found wandering around taking it all in. The people in charge told us that there were more cars at this year’s event than there had been at any previous Sevenstock.




Sevenstock always has people who had travel long distance to reach the show, but this year we saw some people who travelled especially far. RE-Amemiya and Knightsports flew in from Japan to get more acquainted with US rotary fans, and hopefully spread the word about their parts. We drove 1000 miles to setup a booth at the event and show off some of CorkSport’s new parts for rotary vehicles. A lucky RX-8 owner won the newly released CorkSport RX-8 Racepipe we donated to the Sevenstock raffle.


There were some really outstanding cars at the event. I particularly liked the white FD below with the 99 spec front end conversion installed. The car even had a rare Mazdaspeed vented hood.




In my opinion, the best sounding engine at the event was a 4-rotor in the time attack RX-8. The best way to describe a 4 rotor engine sound to someone who has not heard one is that it’s like an F1 engine only better. The motor has wicked fast throttle response and took maybe a second to redline while free revving.




It was great getting to talk to everyone at the event and chatting with customers about their cars. I look forward to next year’s event to see great cars and great people again. If you have the means, please stop by our booth at any of the shows we attend!

Derrick