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

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!

SkyActiv 2.5T Cold Side Boost Tube Part 2: Testing

In case you missed it, we have been working on improving the flimsy rubber tube that comes stock on the cold side of your 2018+ Mazda 6 2.5T. Check out the first part on the cold side boost tube here and the full OEM piping & intercooler breakdown here. Since our last installment, we have been busy testing a prototype CorkSport Boost Tube and would like to share some results with you all.

Starting off we tested and data logged both the OEM tube and CorkSport Performance Boost Tube on the dyno. We were not expecting to see too much of a difference to power with just the boost tube changing however, we did see tiny improvements here and there, most notably way up at the top of the RPM range.

Check out the graph below, OEM=red, CS=green. We tested on the same day in identical conditions and the car had a CorkSport Intake and Cat Back Exhaust installed for both tests. PLEASE NOTE: the variations below 2800RPM are due to inconsistencies associated with dyno testing an automatic car.

After noticing these changes, we went to the data logs to see how the boost changed between the OEM tube and the CS Boost Tube. The graph below shows the engine RPM versus the manifold pressure in psi. Both lines have the same smoothing done to the raw data. As you can see, the CorkSport tube (green) holds about 0.5psi through the midrange (3500-5000RPM) and is almost 1psi more when above 5500RPM. This correlates well with what we saw while dyno testing.

The small increase in boost pressure is likely due to the CorkSport tube not expanding as much when under pressure. To confirm this, we capped off both ends and pressurized the each tube to 20psi. Note: do not try this at home as the caps can easily fly off and injure you.

After measuring multiple locations both before and during pressurization, we found that the OEM tube expands about 12% in internal cross-sectional area while the CorkSport Boost Tube expands 3x less at 4%. Keep in mind that this would be an even larger difference if the same test was performed with the tubes installed on the car due to the heat of the engine bay. Since silicone is more stable than rubber at high temperatures, the heat of the engine bay will not soften it nearly as much as the rubber OEM boost tube. A softer rubber tube would mean even more expansion when pressurized and even more inconsistent boost pressures.

This data may not show drastic changes but it does not tell the whole story. The larger diameter and thus larger volume of boosted air of the CS tube provides a little bit better response when low in the RPM range. While this may just be a placebo effect on our end, there’s not too much of a wait before you can try it yourselves! Stay tuned for more information. If you want a more serious upgrade though, keep your eyes out for information on the upcoming CorkSport FMIC kit and Piping Upgrade kit!

P.S. 2016+ Mazda CX-9 owners and future Mazda CX-5 2.5T owners, don’t worry we will be checking this for fitment along with other CS goodies!

-Daniel @ CorkSport

SkyActiv 2.5T: Let’s Talk Intercooler Pipe Upgrades

We recently went over the stock intercooler & piping system for the 2018+ Mazda 6 2.5T. If you missed it, be sure to check out the blog HERE.

Today, it’s the first look at the CorkSport parts that will be coming in the near future to remedy the issues we found with the OEM system. We are not covering our upgraded intercooler just yet though; today’s focus is piping upgrades!

As you can see we’ve been busy getting the upgraded intercooler piping designed & 3D printed for test fitting (while you can’t see it I promise the cold pipe is hanging out in there too!). I’m happy to say there’s plenty of room to fit the upgraded piping sizes that we were targeting and hopefully they will net us a few HP gain without any other changes.

These horsepower gains typically comes from removing sharp bends and diameter reductions in the stock piping that cause pressure losses. Then, the turbocharger can operate more efficiently to reach the desired boost level. Now how about some more detail on how and why each pipe has changed.

Starting off with the hot side of things (piping from turbo to intercooler), check out the CAD image above. As you can see, the OEM piping (left) is smaller than the CorkSport piping (right). In fact, we plan to use 2.25” piping for the hot side. Note that the plastic OEM piping is much thicker wall than the CS aluminum piping so even if the outer diameter looks similar, the inside diameter is much larger.

In addition, we keep this same inside diameter throughout while the OEM piping has a major diameter reduction through the middle. For those of you coming from a Mazdaspeed 3, 2.25” is the same size used on the hot side of all CS intercooler kits and has proven itself to support 600+WHP on Barett’s car (more info on that HERE). While we know the Sky-T may not be to that level just yet, 2.25” is a great size that gets the hot air to the intercooler as fast as possible while retaining high horsepower capabilities.

It’s not all about size though. Instead of using many tight radius direction changes like OEM, the CorkSport hot pipe uses smooth, large radius mandrel bends throughout. This means smoother and faster airflow to your intercooler. Lastly, you may notice the CS hot pipe is significantly longer than the OEM hard plastic unit (the OEM rubber tube starts at the connection point circled in the image above). This reduces the amount of flexible connector used, limiting what could expand at high boost levels. That being said, the CorkSport kit will use high strength silicone with four fabric reinforcement layers to prevent any expansion anyways.

The cold side of the system was already a decent diameter from the factory, but as you can see, we went even larger. The rubber OEM cold pipe will be replaced with a 3” diameter aluminum pipe. This large diameter pipe and huge volume of air that comes with it right before the throttle body has proven to help throttle response and reduce boost lag on our GEN2 Mazdaspeed 3 FMIC kit. We hope to get much of the same from the SkyActiv 2.5T. The cold side also uses large radius mandrel bends for smooth and fast airflow.

Lastly, the cold side piping reduces the amount of flexible connector used. And just like the hot side, each end of the pipe will use 4-ply reinforced silicone to prevent any expansion under high boost levels.

Those of you with a keen eye will have realized that our planned silicone connectors do not use the same connection style as the OEM intercooler. This is for good reason: we believe that the OEM intercooler will run out of cooling capacity before the OEM piping really becomes an issue. So a piping upgrade by itself wouldn’t show too much of a performance advantage.

In addition, we were able to design the piping to be the best it can without using the constraints of the OEM intercooler. So yes, the upcoming CorkSport intercooler upgrade will be required for the CS piping upgrade to work, but it’s so the CS piping & FMIC combo can be the best it can be for you all!

For those of you that have stuck around this long, check out this tease of a CAD model of the CorkSport FMIC & Piping kit.

And just because we like teasing you, check this early prototype out. Testing to come soon!

Stay tuned for more, as next time we will cover the intercooler itself. Also let us know your thoughts down below, we love your input!

-Daniel @ CorkSport