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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just a fresh from install, preliminary report, but initial impressions on lumpy SoCal freeways and, most importantly, BUMPS that I'm all too familiar with, are very, very good!

I can't speak in depth yet for their affect on cornering grip or twisty road handling, because the tires were rotated during the installation. It takes time for tires to scrub in to their new location. I know some people who never rotate their tires because it makes their car unstable, they just replace whichever ones that get worn out first. But I digress.

But I can comment on high speed body control and ride quality. Both are a major improvement over the stock MS3 dampers in every respect!

85mph heaves on the highway that used to just toss the car into oblivion are not a major problem anymore. Neither are rough, rotted surfaces that the car used to give up on, the tires stay planted, and I don't have to avoid every rough patch in the road anymore to maintain grip.

That said, the car still bounds a little bit more than I'd prefer, but at least the dampers catch it quickly and there's no oscillation anymore. IMO, the low frequency rebound is still a bit too soft for the MS3 spring rates, but it's a HUGE improvement over the stock dampers. I absolutely would not use these on stiffer or lower springs. The damper shafts are longer than stock, and rely on suspension travel for the FSD valving to do it's thing. They might be a good match for MZ3 ProKit's but I wouldn't recommend them for MS3 ProKit's. In fact, neither does Koni.

The good news is that even when the body stretches it's legs, so to speak, there's about another 1/2" of rebound travel in the damper to keep the tires on the ground. This is a good thing - suspension travel is your friend, on typical roads, and even lumpy race tracks. I think they put their off-road and rally experience to good use on these, they really seem to keep the tires planted over a variety of surfaces.

Low frequency compression damping is much improved. Less brake drive, less squat, and it doesn't just dive into a dip and slam into the bump stops anymore. Very happy about that, hope it keeps up as they wear in!

Meanwhile, ride quality is still firm but...better quality, is all I can say right now. It's MUCH better on poorly maintained, rutted, and eroded pavement. SoCal freeway hop is not a problem. Koni's advertising is no lie, they're just excellent road shocks for a daily driver. Overall ride comfort is better than stock, less jiggle on the small stuff but still firm. Like I said I'm going to refrain from comment on cornering until the tires scrub in, but even so, I already have much better confidence in the car. What felt like 60mph before kicks in at 90, and I'm glad the CHP had other things to do while I figured that out. I'd look down and the speedo and think, "no way." No float, no hop, no leaps and bounds, just much better stability.

There were some installation issues. The lovely gold metallic paint makes them thicker than the stocker's, which made them hard to fit into the control arm. If I were to do it again I would grind all that pretty paint away from the contact area with the front control arms and just coat it with anti-seize. From watching the install, my guess is that the coating (metallic paint, not powder coat, I suspect), is at least 1-2mm thicker than stock. Why?

Also, the kit I got had some zip ties in the packaging that are useful for nothing. A call to Koni confirmed that they were useless. The bottom of the OEM dust covers have big yellow seats for them on the OEM dampers that the FSD's lack, so they just press against the lower coil mount and don't seal as well. Koni assured me that it won't be a problem, many of their products don't even have dust covers (including all of their coilovers and the rear dampers too), and that I shouldn't worry about it. OK. I was tempted to toss them but figured that something is better than nothing.

What they failed to mention, when I had them on the phone, is that the bottom bracket of their rear dampers are just slightly too narrow for the mount on the rear end. They also have cryptic instructions and torque specs that make little sense. The lower mounts on the rears are narrower, (we didn't measure it but the wrench tells no lies) so we just cranked the bolt and hoped for the best. After 35 miles they started to rattle a bit. I don't think they'll come unhinged, but as soon as we figure out a proper fix for that, I'll let you know. Boo on Koni for that. Not good, but we'll remount them with some aircraft-grade fender washers to take up the slack.

Overall though, so far so pretty good. Once the installation issues are resolved I don't expect any problems. I'm a little tweaked at Koni for the fitment issues, cryptic instructions, and useless tech support, but the dampers themselves seem to be very good!
 

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Good to hear.

If I could be satisfied with the piss-poor stock spring rates, this is probably the route I'd take.

As it stands, I'm saving for the MS Coilovers.

I look forward to hearing an update once you've assessed the cornering improvements! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
What's wrong with the spring rates? They seem good to me. I didn't want to lower the car because I haul a lot of stuff in it for my work. I also haul my wife around in it sometimes, and she drives a Lexus, so ride comfort was a definite consideration. Er, I shouldn't really use the word "haul" when she's a passenger, should I. :)

Alien3T, who did a very good job installing them for me with my, um, "oversight," and I were talking about coilovers. We both agreed that MacPherson struts are designed to be a stressed component of the whole front suspension, so if you replace them with a coilover, you're likely to lose some rigidity in the front suspension. Besides, struts essentially are coilovers anyway!

On the rear suspension, the damper is substantially offset from the spring. Why? Ford/Volvo/Mazda engineers know but I sure don't. I suspect there's a good reason for it though because it would have been simple to just put another pair of struts back there.

I can definitely appreciate the adjustments they offer, which are great for tuning a car to different race tracks, but for road use, I'm still not sold on the idea, especially for a daily driver. Just my humble opinion. Besides, I'd miss out on the FSD technology, which is pretty impressive. I wish they fit the car better but that valve tech is pretty cool.
 

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Simply put, I'd like a bit more roll-stiffness without having to put huge swaybars on the car (since doing so reduces the overall compliance of the suspension by making it less independent from left-to-right).

Ideally, I'd like springs with a better F/R rate ratio as well, as it is my belief that a bit stiffer rear spring rate in relation to the front would really make this car shine on the track (this theory is based off of my experience tuning the suspensions of multiple Ford Focuses - two of which were mine - over the past 7 years, a C170-platform car that shares its same basic suspension layout with the C1-platform driven MS3). Unfortunately, nobody really has come to market with such an offering. It's been found with the Focus that as the overall rates increase, the F/R ratio becomes marginally less important, so I've come to the conclusion that the MS Coilovers probably offer the best rates for what I'm looking for out of what's available, along with having idependent compression and rebound adjustments (icing on the cake).

I'm also not really looking to lower the car much if at all (I don't want to sacrifice precious suspension travel or risk negatively affecting the roll center of the car, as camber gain is already an issue with the front suspension on this car with stock ride-height). The MS3 coilovers will allow me to lower it as little as 7 mm, which I think might be just about perfect.

I've never been too hot on height-adjustable coilover setups (I've never used one on any of my previous cars) because I believe that in most applications they are overkill, but in this case I've made an exception for the reasons I've stated.

I don't believe, however, that the KW-produced MS coilover setup sacrifices any rigidity over the stock front struts (like you said, they're basically the same thing).

The rear suspension on this car is designed the way it is for a couple of reasons:

1. Packaging of the springs inboard and lower than a conventional MacPherson rear setup increases rear interior volume. The amount of space taken up by the rear shocks is much less intrusive upon cabin space than a spring-over-strut design.

2. The way the rear SLA "Control Blade" multi-link suspension positions its mass (very low in the car) lowers the car's center of gravity, and reduces brake dive and other weight-transition-related movement as a result.

If you've never studied up on this car's rear suspension, I'd suggest a little light reading if you're interested:

http://www.carbibles.com/suspension_bible.html <-- scroll down to the "Ford Control Blade" section. Keep in mind this was written shortly after the suspension was designed, so the author's comment at the end about the ability to customize should be taken with a grain of salt...

Also, there is a plethora of information about this type of setup in the archives on a Ford Focus enthusiast site that I frequent (here's just a sampling):

http://forums.focaljet.com/suspension/375108-control-blade-suspension.html

http://forums.focaljet.com/suspensi...r-steer-question.html?highlight=control+blade

http://forums.focaljet.com/suspension/374864-control-blade-sla-what.html?highlight=control+blade


Like I said, I respect the route you took, and have strongly considered doing the same thing. I think the stock springs are reasonably adequate for daily driving duty, but definitely need higher quality, more appropriately valved dampers. I think the FSDs are about as close as you can get right now. I just like to take my car to the track from time to time, and want something a bit more aggressive that has also been at least somewhat intelligently engineered.

:)
 

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I am ordering my set next week so I can get some seat time before our SCCA Trans-Lousiana Auto-Cross series gets under way. The struts really seem to be the achilles tendon of the MS3's handling and I'm REALLY looking forward to some improvement in that area. Have you checked your alignment since their installation? Theoretically, alignment should not be affected but you know how theories can pan out sometimes :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
One thing about coilovers has always impressed me - virtually no OEM cars use them, to my knowledge, not even a non-adjustable system, which would be no more expensive to produce than a standard strut. I know some exotic supercars use a link to drive a horizontally mounted coilover, like purpose built race cars, but in this design, the coilover doesn't have to deal with lateral or longitudinal loads like a Mac strut does.

I noticed that with the strut out of the control arm, the arm can be flexed a bit by hand, fore and aft. With the strut mounted, that doesn't happen. The struts definitely need to be rigid to prevent that. Point being, the front strut itself helps locate the wheel. This is not true in the rear, where the multilinks keep it from moving around.

Maybe the KW's are as rigid as the struts are, I don't know, but there's gotta be a reason that coilover's aren't more common in OEM applications. If rigidity isn't an issue, maybe it has something to do with the narrow diameter spring, perhaps it isn't as sensitive to road irregularites as the wide diameter springs used in virtually all road cars? Don't know, I just notice the lack of OEM interest in the design.

As for the rears, I can see why F/M/V located the components where they did, there isn't enough room above the wheel for a wide spring. Or more to the point, if they made room, there would be a bit less cargo space to use a wide diameter spring. Also, I just glanced at the photo in the Mazdaspeed catalog, and the rear's aren't coilovers, they appear to use a wide diameter spring in the stock location. There are no spring perches on the rear damper. Is that true, or is the image wrong? The text also says the minimum drop is 25mm, not 7.

BTW, for anyone thinking about FSD's, the rear shock's smaller bottom bracket turned out to be a real a problem - after about 50 miles they started to rattle. On another forum there's a how-to that says to use a washer to prevent that from happening, or just crank the lower bolt enough to bend the suspenion mount and take up the slack. I'd read it but forgot about that, and the site was offline when we installed them, so we just tightened it as much as possible like the other guy did and all was well...but not for long. Anyway, the car is about to be parked for a week but we're gonna take another look at that when I get back. We might even re-do the fronts to grind the paint away from the seating surface. Koni really should have masked that off for sure. Boo.

Oh, and about alignment, I haven't checked it. The car goes straight but after a few hundred miles I'm gonna have it looked at anyway.
 

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Is there any way you could take an estimate as to the gap between the rear mount and the actual strut? I'm not scared to bend the mount brackets in BEFORE mounting up the strut. One reason simply cranking it down does not work is because there is still a residual, spring-like affect that is essentially pulling the bolt out. If one were to bend it before mounting, it may eliminate that natural outward pull. Also, Loktite is probably not a bad idea regardless of the issue. Are you absolutely positive the rattle is from that mounting point in the bottom of the strut?
 

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25mm is the MAX drop with the MS Coilovers. They are listed as having ride height adjustment anywhere from 7 mm to 25 mm lower than stock.

Regarding "coilover" applications in OEM designs:

I think you're somewhat confused by the terminology.

All MacPherson strut suspensions are "coilover" suspensions. The term "coilover" simply means that the spring coil is mounted around the outside of the damper body. You are correct when you say that the rear is not a true "coilover" setup on the MS3. The MS "coilovers" merely utilize double-adjustable shocks coupled with a spring that is shorter/stiffer than stock and that sits atop an adjustable perch that sits in the spring seat in the lower control arm. The term "coilover" came to mean something other than its literal meaning somewhere along the line, and is now used to describe ride-height-adjustable suspensions (which rely on moving the springs' vertical positions - and therefore ride height - via a perch) regardless of whether they are based off of the MacPherson-strut design.

The reason you don't see "coilovers" (meaning ride-height-adjustable suspensions) utilized on OEM suspensions is because aside from ride-height-adjustability (and therefore corner-weighting ability), they offer no real advantage over a conventional design. Most OEMs aren't interested in putting a suspension that is user-adjustable to that degree on their factory offerings, for a multitude of reasons (warranty claims related to misuse, incorrect setups leading to sketchy handling, etc.).

Narrow diameter springs (by their very nature) are stiffer than wider diameter springs of the same length and spring wire diameter. OEMs probably end up with wider springs because they can use spring wire of higher diameter (and stiffness) while still achieving the goal of a lower, more liveable rate. If they used narrow diameter springs the springs themselves would need to be made of thinner gauge wire and therefore might be more prone to deformation. This is just my best guess.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
[quote author=MicaGT link=topic=135975.msg2932061#msg2932061 date=1234461565]
Is there any way you could take an estimate as to the gap between the rear mount and the actual strut? I'm not scared to bend the mount brackets in BEFORE mounting up the strut. One reason simply cranking it down does not work is because there is still a residual, spring-like affect that is essentially pulling the bolt out. If one were to bend it before mounting, it may eliminate that natural outward pull. Also, Loktite is probably not a bad idea regardless of the issue. Are you absolutely positive the rattle is from that mounting point in the bottom of the strut?
[/quote]

You could, but we didn't, now it's too late. A stainless steel washer inserted to fill the gap would be the best solution for sure. I think you're right about the "spring effect" since it took some time to cause a problem.

Anyway, I decided to pull the rear wheels and honk on those bolts pretty hard. I did the right side, then dropped it down to turn it around, driving half a block in the process. Rattle gone, it was just that one side! Hopefully it stays that way, we'll see.

I also took a look at the top bolts up front. The driver's top mount slipped. We marked the washers to keep the proper alignment so it was easy to spot. I think all that paint Koni uses just gummed up in the control arm and they didn't seat exactly right. I tightened the top bolts down a bit but the noise still happens, so we're gonna re-do that side at least.

If I'm right about the paint thing, well, I'm pretty tweaked at Koni for doing something so stupid. A thin layer of powdercoat would have been preferable to the thick, clearcoated metallic paint they use on the FSD's. At the very least, they should have masked it off there, it's a critical area. If there's uneven pressure from scraped paint balling up in the control arm, it could theoretically lead to a stress fracture in the control arm down the road. Bad dog, Koni, bad dog!

If they used narrow diameter springs the springs themselves would need to be made of thinner gauge wire and therefore might be more prone to deformation. This is just my best guess.
Seems reasonable to me. Probably cheaper to manufacture consistently, as well. BTW, many OEM cars do have ride height adjustments, either passive via auto-leveling, or manually via electronics, like the new S3. And 911's have had a mechanical height adjustment for years via adjusting the torsion bars.
 

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Glad you like them. They are even better after 1000 miles. Now you see the problems I had with that little thicker paint. I left front went OK but right front was a bitch.

Anyway give them time and give us an update.
I like mine more everyday. Not perfect like I said, but way better than stock.

Anyone who wants to can read my impressions here:
http://www.mazda3forums.com/index.php?topic=120242.msg2783651#msg2783651
 

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[quote author=kwsmithphoto link=topic=135975.msg2932706#msg2932706 date=1234479599]BTW, many OEM cars do have ride height adjustments, either passive via auto-leveling, or manually via electronics, like the new S3. And 911's have had a mechanical height adjustment for years via adjusting the torsion bars.


[/quote]

You are correct, though those types of systems are still pretty idiot-proof and aren't as "tweakable" as a system that has (near infinite across its range) ride-height adjustability independently at each corner, which was the type of system I was referring to specifically.

;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I know what you're saying, but like I said, even a non adjustable, narrow spring strut setup is still very rare among OEM cars. Universally, they always go with wide diameter coils instead of the skinny noodle springs you get on typical coilovers.

There's a reason for that. I still think that stiffness and spring diameters are the main reason why. If cost is the only issue, BMW still sticks with Mac struts on the front on the 3 Series, and they do pretty well with them. I haven't heard many complaints about the handling or ride of M3's even though the M division has enough budget to do whatever they want.

Please keep in mind that I respect your opinion, but I still wonder if the basic, narrow coil, coilover strut design is so great, why they aren't more common in OEM apps.
 

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[quote author=kwsmithphoto link=topic=135975.msg2933380#msg2933380 date=1234495470]
I know what you're saying, but like I said, even a non adjustable, narrow spring strut setup is still very rare among OEM cars. Universally, they always go with wide diameter coils instead of the skinny noodle springs you get on typical coilovers.

There's a reason for that. I still think that stiffness and spring diameters are the main reason why. If cost is the only issue, BMW still sticks with Mac struts on the front on the 3 Series, and they do pretty well with them. I haven't heard many complaints about the handling or ride of M3's even though the M division has enough budget to do whatever they want.

Please keep in mind that I respect your opinion, but I still wonder if the basic, narrow coil, coilover strut design is so great, why they aren't more common in OEM apps.
[/quote]

Maybe you're not understanding the fact that changing the suspension to a "coilover" setup doesn't change the fact that it is still a MacPherson strut setup. The "coilover" just uses an adjustable spring perch on the strut body and a narrower spring...There is no inherent design difference as far as geometry or overall suspension design.

As for BMW, I believe their engineers have stated repeatedly that they use the MacPherson strut setup in the front because of packaging/weight issues. A double-wishbone or similar setup is inherently better from a driving dynamics standpoint (no inherent camber gain, less lateral flex, etc.), but takes up significantly more room than the MacPherson strut setup and is significantly more costly to produce. They are able to make the MacPherson strut setup work wonderfully in their applications, and it bolsters their profit margin, so they're not ashamed to use it (as they shouldn't be).

Like I said, a narrower spring is a stiffer spring, all other things being equal. Honestly, I think that most "coilover" systems use the narrower spring primarily because it makes the perch easier to adjust along the strut body. It also probably has to do with the fact that "standard" race springs are 2.5" diameter (the same diameter used on most "coilover" setups), and so therefore not only does it allow suspension companies the ability to use springs during their development phase that are "off-the-shelf" so-to-speak, it allows the end user to easily change out the springs (since their form-factor adheres to a standard). The ability to change springs is important to race teams using the high-end stuff (since different courses/surface dictate different spring rates often) and probably just carried over to the more street-oriented "coilover" setups...

I appreciate this back-and-forth, and I'm not trying to argue with you at all. I'm just trying to bring us all to a mutual understanding. We need more conversations like this around here. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
[quote author=FreeFlyFreak link=topic=135975.msg2932892#msg2932892 date=1234484678]
Glad you like them. They are even better after 1000 miles. Now you see the problems I had with that little thicker paint. I left front went OK but right front was a bitch.

Anyway give them time and give us an update.
I like mine more everyday. Not perfect like I said, but way better than stock.

Anyone who wants to can read my impressions here:
http://www.mazda3forums.com/index.php?topic=120242.0
[/quote]

Did the front end lift on your car ever settle down? We didn't do any before/after measurements but my car looks a bit like a boat that just started to plane. Seems to work well, I like suspension travel, but it's kinda bugging me. I'm tempted to name it the "SS Mazdaspeed." :)

BTW, can you post your how-to from the other forum here? Moderators don't like it when we link to other forums, but it's a really good write up with photos and everything.

I also want to comment on it with my own experience. I think we're going to go ahead and remove all the paint off the bottom of the front struts, and add a washer to the lower rear mounts because both issues caused problems on my car.
 

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[quote author=kwsmithphoto link=topic=135975.msg2934472#msg2934472 date=1234545048]
Did the front end lift on your car ever settle down? We didn't do any before/after measurements but my car looks a bit like a boat that just started to plane. Seems to work well, I like suspension travel, but it's kinda bugging me. I'm tempted to name it the "SS Mazdaspeed." :)

BTW, can you post your how-to from the other forum here? Moderators don't like it when we link to other forums, but it's a really good write up with photos and everything.

I also want to comment on it with my own experience. I think we're going to go ahead and remove all the paint off the bottom of the front struts, and add a washer to the lower rear mounts because both issues caused problems on my car.
[/quote]

Front end lift, IIRC, is about the same as initial install, it may have settled a little.
I cant say exactly as I have been in DFW (have not driven or seen my car) for 3 weeks and wont drive my car again till end on March probably.

Regarding posting the "How to" here.
I thought about it, but IMO it is a mistake by the management of this forum to not allow linking to other forums and that is the reason I do not contribute much here anymore. I think it is bad policy to discourage the free exchange of information for fear of losing members, and will not encourage it. It would involve a lot of work to repost all the pics to a different server, therefore I have decided not to encourage bad policy by reposting the "how to" here.

If anyone wants to see my write up I encourage them to visit (remove the 4 spaces):
http: //www .mazdaspeed forums .org/forum/mazdaspeed-3-how-tos/16472-koni-fsd-shock-strut-damper-install.html

I would like to tackle the thick paint problem and rear mount (though they were tight last I checked, I do need to check again though), but I am not taking my struts off again, unless Stretch (or someone) comes up with a spring setup that would work. Even then it would have to have little or no drop, other than something to level the stance a little (pref. raising the rear 1/2") I am happy enough for now not to mess with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Update:

Went on another 50 mile local canyon run, after re-mounting the fronts to grind away all the paint (actually, it's a gold powder coat with a shot of metallic and clear coat). The struts went back in a lot easier this time. the LF still didn't line exactly line up with the index line cast into the housing, but the inner tab is where it's supposed to be. A clunk sound at low speed, parking lot maneuvers went away, and that side has held it's alignment, after the most aggressive driving I've done on them yet. So if you get these, definitely remove all the coating at the mounting surface before you install them.

Apparently I have a damaged LF upper strut mount. Nothing critical, it just rattles a bit over rough surfaces. Off the car it rotates fine and seems OK, but once on the ground, you can feel the damper shaft shift around a little if you turn the steering wheel lock to lock when the car isn't moving.

I doubt it has anything to do with the Koni's or installation, I think I just got a bit over exuberant on my testing (let's see, how much faster can I go over this bump now). Right side seems fine. Oh, and I fixed the rattle in the rear by tightening one of the rear lower mounts a bit harder. Washers are the best way to go but it worked. I hope I can still say that after a few years.

Also, the front has settled just to bit to the point where the car is nearly level, and doesn't look so odd now. The roads I took ranged from 80mph sweepers to 25mph corners, with some very lumpy straights and corners at even higher speeds.

The car behaved extremely well. Sooooo much better than the same roads on the OEM shocks, and since I was confident that the installation was correct this time, I pushed the car harder than I ever had before. On my first trek on these roads with the OEM dampers, I was so busy trying to control the car and not smash it that the tires rarely got pushed very much (except for a bout with snap oversteer, thanks to the rear end bouncing off the ground). On the second pass, I was a little concerned about the install so I pushed it pretty hard, but left a big margin.

This time, there were sections where I could safely see what the car could really do. Awesome is all I can say. So awesome that I need better tires now! The chassis is so much faster that it suckered me in to several corners and I over-drove the tires several times. That's actually a good thing - the car can really take advantage of more grip now. In stock trim, the chassis was the main limiting factor, now it's the tires.

Low speed understeer is still there, of course, but it gets neutral around, oh, 50-60mph or so, depending on the radius and camber of the turn. I found myself in a couple of plows that I had to brake my way out of to bring the rear around, but at higher speeds I could simply tighten the line or induce some oversteer by modulating the throttle. Good setup for the road, but for autocross or tight tracks, I might want a bit more rear spring and/or sway bar.

Anyway, I'm gonna swap the upper strut bushing soon ($38 part), but the OEM tires will have to wait a while, and that's fine. All I know is that the car feels much safer at speed, has a firm but compliant and high quality ride feel to it - it drives like a more expensive car - and is quite a bit faster and easier to drive in anger. And I definitely need more tire now. Just from a damper change. Not too shabby!

Just a reminder: these are not for people who want to lower the car for looks, and are not approved to work with the MS3-specific Eibach Pro Kits. You can use the MZ3 Eibachs, but why? They're softer than the OEM springs. If you like the way it drives and looks from the factory, and just want it to do everything better without compromise, the FSD's will make a very big difference for a relatively small investment (I paid $629 from shox dot com, shipped).
 

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Thanks for the update.

Mine have improved the car even more with a few miles on them, I'm estimating 1000 miles, not sure if there is a break in period on struts, but it sure seemed that way to me.
They are not perfect, but close enough for me, and for the $600-650 IMO they are way better than just springs and less hassle than coilovers, for the driver, not the poser, that is
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The correct spelling is "poseur," (it's a French word for dumb ass, I think) but ya. I just want the car to work and it does now, very well.

I can only imagine what an MS3 handles like with stiffer, lower springs and the $10 dampers they put on it. Definitely a bad move, don't know what people are thinking when they do that. I guess they just don't know enough to know what proper handling is. The FSD's, even though they aren't an exact match for the stock springs rates, are in a whole different league than the OEM dampers.

I'm still tweaked at Koni for the fitments issues though, expected much better from them, but at this point I can say is that the FSD technology with the stock springs suits me quite well, and the car is much faster now without any ride comfort penalty.

I'm hoping a new strut mount will fix the rattle. If the new mount doesn't fix it then I got a bad LF strut from Koni. I'll know soon enough. I'm having a serious love/hate relationship with Koni right now. If I tear into the car and throw another $100 at it without solving the problem, I'm going to have a very serious talk with Koni NA.

Unfortunately, there's really no way to know exactly what the problem is without throwing new parts on it first. Basic diagnostics, rule out the apparent, and hope for the best. The parts guys at the dealer said that their techs do this job to Mazda3's many times a week, and always replace both parts of the top mount, which is encouraging. Kind of.
 

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I would find someone who has done coilovers on this site and ask them if they still have their stock struts. When I was having problems with my Mazdaspeed Miata, someone from "another" site simply mailed me a MAF sensor without my asking. Of course this didn't fix anything and I sent it back. I paid for shipping both ways but it was a lot better than paying for a new part when I wasn't sure.
 
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