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

OEM Part Breakdown: 2.5L Skyactiv-G Exhaust Header

Analyzing an OEM part is usually our first step in creating a new performance part. We’ve been looking at the Mazda 2.5l SkyActiv-G Exhaust Header, 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.

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, but I can give you a breakdown of the OEM exhaust header that’s hiding in the back of your engine bay.

The OEM Exhaust Header

Stock Gen 3 Mazda 3 Exhaust Header
Stock Gen 3 Mazda 3 Exhaust Header

Excuse the dirty part, as 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 surrounded by 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.

SkyActiv-G Exhaust Manifold Flow Path
Exhaust Flow Path

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.

Mazda SkyActiv-G Exhaust Chart
Residual gas reduction by 4-2-1 exhaust system – From Mazda.com

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).

OEM Design Efficiency

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.


2.5L Skyactiv-G
2.5L Skyactiv-G

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.

OEM Exhaust Header 4-2-1 Design
OEM Exhaust Header 4-2-1 Design

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 section is the same length. Having equal length runners ensures the exhaust pulses are arriving at the collector (or Y) at uniform intervals.

The easiest way to explain why this is a good thing is by visualizing the entrance ramp to a highway.  When cars entering the highway follow the “zipper” method for merging, the cars currently on the highway do not need to slow down. The highway 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 CorkSport 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