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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I bought my Galaxy Gray 2008 Mazda 3 i sport new in 3/2009. It came with four wheel ABS, side airbags, and A/C as the only options. Although I wish that I had gotten the hatchback, I’ve enjoyed this car quite a bit, despite its lack of power options and occasionally needing more cargo space. I considered buying a Mazda 3 hatchback and test drove a 2013 Skyactiv, 2010 MS3, as well as 2009 and 2010 s models.

But since my car still drives like the day I bought it (62k miles as of 2/2014) and gets 29 mpg through Orlando traffic, I’ve decided to keep my car as long as it makes economic sense and meets my needs. To me, this justifies the improvements detailed in this thread, which are hopefully worthy of publication on this forum despite not being novel to the Mazda 3 community.

Suspension/wheels/tires
Interior
Other
Maintenance
On Racing Beat/Koni yellows

 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
How to install power locks

Installation of power locks
This is not too difficult. Everything is plug and play, and as long as you take your time when disassembling, there is not much risk. Door disassembly is well characterized, but there is not as much detail about adding power locks. Here are a few links:

Door disassembly:
http://www.mazda3forums.com/showthread.php?t=302422
http://www.mazda3club.com/showthread.php?t=41318

I was mainly following this thread for part info:
http://www.mazda3forums.com/showthread.php?t=279805

My overview:
I bought my parts on eBay from wrecked Mazda 3s.
-Four wiring harnesses from 07 MS3 - $130
-Lock actuators for both front doors from 08 MZ3 – $140 (but it came with the inner door panels, right front wiring harness, and a left front power window motor and arm, which I will try to sell).
-Lock switches and door handle trim from a MS6 (it’s the same part number) - $28
-Right rear lock actuator - $34
-Left rear lock actuator -$50
I will probably also sell the original lock actuators, trim and harnesses.
-power window sold for $32, so I’m at ~$350.

After I removed the outer door panel, the speaker, the inside door handle, and all of the bolts holding the inner panel in place, I disconnected the wiring harness from the original, manual lock actuator. Once this is done, you have access to the back of the inner panel, but the hinge side is still connected to the front of the door by the wiring harness.

Then I disconnected the door wiring harness from the inner panel, which is much easier now that I had access to the back of this panel.

The next step is to disconnect the door wiring harness from where it connects to the main wiring harness which goes behind the steering wheel. First peel the rubber away. There are four clips that were under the rubber that need to be undone. Two of them are easy, and two are on the other side of the piece. I used an allen wrench for the ones on the other side, like this:

Pull the harness out carefully to allow more room to work. The blue piece is a hinge. Swing it down to unclip the harness. There are clips on the white plastic that must be pushed in to allow the blue piece to move. Once it was disconnected, I used tape to prevent the main harness from being pulled back into the hole and getting lost forever (not sure if this would actually happen). Here is where the two harnesses clip together:

Once the door wiring harness is unclipped, it can be pulled out under the weather stripping.

Next, release the lock actuator from the door by unscrewing the three bolts holding it to the outer edge of the door. I needed a ratchet for extra torque, and I made sure to use the Phillip’s bit which fit as perfectly as possible in the bolt heads.

Once the actuator is loose, you can remove the bolt circled in red, which helps to keep the lock actuator secured into place near the bars which go to the handle and lock.

Now that the actuator can move freely enough, the bars which connect the lock actuator to the door handle and key lock can be disconnected. Swing the plastic pieces off of the bars and then pull the bars out. Unfortunately, the power lock for the front passenger side door does not have the bar for the key lock, so I can put the key into the door lock and turn it, but nothing happens.

Reassembly of everything is simple. Attach the power lock actuator bars and bolt it into place. Attach the new wiring harness to the power lock, and attach it to the inner door panel. Put the lock cables through the hole in the inner door panel and connect it to the door handle. Connect the door wiring harness to the main wiring harness, bolt the inner door panel into place, and snap the outer door panel into place.

Since I only added power locks, I had extra connections. There are two at the top right (one is for the power mirror), and three dangling at the bottom/center of the door (power window, switches for the power windows, and switch for the power mirror). I used duct tape to keep them secured to the inner door panel.

My finished driver’s door:

The rear doors are slightly different. However, the only thing to note is that it is difficult to get the lock actuator out of the door because of the black window guide thing that is between the two window panes and runs down into the door. It took a bit of finagling, but was possible to remove the actuator between the window guide and the interior side of the door.

Hope this helps someone.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Autocross summary

Autocross summary

Here is a summary of results (from raw times, not PAX) and short descriptions of my autox experiences:

1. 4/2/11 - Clemson Sports Car Club (CSCC) on Clemson’s campus. I should have sought the help of an expert. I took videos of my runs, and learned later how many terrible mistakes that I made.
2. 9/22/12 - CSCC. Just got back in the US after being in France for a year. I read a book on autox techniques, and started to learn to put them into practice.
3. 11/3/12 - CSCC. Made small improvements to my driving skills.
4. 12/1/12 - CSCC. Made big improvements. Kept cutting more time on every run, and pulled ahead of some more capable cars and another Mazda 3 on my last run. Despite the success, all I could think about were the parts of the course where I could have saved even more time, and therein lies the addiction of autox.
5. 12/15/12 - CSCC. Drove the club car, an FB RX7. My first time driving a RWD car at the limit, and I was learning the car on every run. It was a blast, although I concluded that it was nearly as fun to autox my 3, and therefore perfectly adequate as a DD/occasional autoxer. My brother drove my car at this event, so it was nice to do an event that didn’t feel as “solo.” It was his first time, and he did very well, no doubt thanks in part to my guidance :).
6. 5/12/13 - Martin Sports Car Club (MSCC) @ Lake County Tech Center (LCTC). Recently moved to Orlando, so this was my first time with this club. I was happy with the way I drove, but it was a power course. I got up to about 55 mph at the fastest part of the course, so I was probably losing quite a bit of time to the higher HP cars.
7. 9/14/13 - MSCC at LCTC. First time on the Kumhos. I was hoping for a simple course to get a good feel for the stickier tires, but got conefused repeatedly in two sections, and still didn’t have a clean run after 4 runs. On the 5th and final run, I had to be conservative, but it wasn’t bad considering how terribly I was driving on the first 4 runs. Hoping for redemption at the next event I attend. To be honest, I was expecting a bigger difference between the Kumhos and the other tires that I’ve used at past autox events.

Tires
1-4: 205/55/16 General Exclaim UHP on 7” wheels.
6: 205/55/16 BFG Super Sport AS on 7” wheels.
7: 215/45/16 Kumho XS on 6.5” wheels.

Suspension
1-7: Tri-point rear bar and stock suspension

Admittedly, I’m deterred from autox by the fact that it takes several hours to get your 5 or so runs in, so I can’t see myself doing this more than once every few months.



 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Suspension upgrade

12/14/13: Suspension upgrade: Racing Beat springs and Koni Sport dampers.


Change in ride height:
Front Left: -1/4" Front Right: -1/16"
Rear Left: -1/2" Rear Right: -9/16"

1-20-2014: Replaced rear sway bar brackets because the original Tripoint brackets were a mess after a few years. Some of the bolt holes were deformed such that the bolt didn’t really fit anymore. I decided to get the Hotchkis brackets since they seemed like a much better design and also have a Zerk fitting so that the bushings can be greased easier. The blue paint on the bar itself had also flaked off and allowed the metal to accumulate surface rust, so I sanded it off and repainted it with a nice dark silver colored engine enamel (which of course got scratched up during the installation, but oh well). Both locking collars were also cracked, possibly from me overtightening them, so I replaced them with new black oxide coated steel collars (not shown in pictures), hoping for more strength and adequate corrosion resistance.




After installation of the new brackets, the rear end is quieter over bumps, so I’m pleased. I also didn’t have to tighten the brackets down with insane torque to prevent clunking like I always had to with the Tri-point brackets.

Currently, I’m feeling like the Racing Beat springs are not stiff enough, so I may one day get a coilover system. One thing that I’ve found is that no matter what setting I have the front Konis on, there isn’t much difference in the responsiveness or feeling of stiffness, like I’ve heard others report. Since the only adjustment is rebound damping (and not compression), it makes sense that I wouldn’t notice a difference. I should definitely do a few autoxes on this setup before I make any decisions. I would also not want to go too stiff on my daily driver.

I also have some front suspension noises that are nearly driving me crazy. All of the fasteners are tight and there isn’t clunking, just a lot of creaks and general noise at low speeds. The front sway bar seems to have some preload so I wonder if some of the noise comes from the end links. Maybe someone has had similar a experience. Almost no aftermarket suspensions will be as quiet as OE, but it just seems too noisy.
 

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should separate the how to install part into a new thread, im sure the mods would be happy to sticky/ link it in the how to page
Your option. Check my build thread for how I organized it; first post is a mod list that hyperlinks to later posts showing the work done. Acts like a table of contents.

If you decide to separate how-to's we'll sticky them if it seams like something that should stick.

Btw, I can't see several of your pics. May just be an issue with me, may be bad links.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
should separate the how to install part into a new thread, im sure the mods would be happy to sticky/ link it in the how to page
Your option. Check my build thread for how I organized it; first post is a mod list that hyperlinks to later posts showing the work done. Acts like a table of contents.

If you decide to separate how-to's we'll sticky them if it seams like something that should stick.

Btw, I can't see several of your pics. May just be an issue with me, may be bad links.
Thanks, I fixed the pictures. I do like the table of contents, but we'll see what works best. At least the how-to shows up in Google searches even if it's not posted in the most appropriate section of the forum.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Rear camber adjustment

I installed my right rear adjustable camber arm over the weekend. I did the left rear a few weeks ago because that wheel had significantly worse camber and was also a much easier installation.

I wasn't able to find any information on how to set camber with these parts, so I'm sharing my findings. Here is how I measure camber:


Measure from the carpenter's square to the top and bottom edges of the wheel.

Camber angle = arctangent ((top - bottom) / distance between where those measurements were taken )

On my 16" wheels, the distance between the top and bottom edge of the wheel is 17". Make sure that your measurements are all in the same units, and that your calculator is reporting angles in degrees.

The camber on my wheel went from -1.7 (stock) to -1.9 deg after installation of the Racing Beat springs, and I wanted to adjust it into the low 1's. I first set the adjustable arm to the same size as the stock control arm, making both holes line up. It helps to put bolts through the holes of both arms to ensure that they are aligned. Then I turned the adjustable arm 5, 1/2 (180 deg) turns larger than stock, in the direction of less negative camber, which looked like this:


After installation, the camber was changed to -1.3 deg, so it seems that each half turn gives a little over 0.1 deg change in camber.


Coming soon:
Planning on changing the transmission fluid. I put Redline MT90 in about 20k miles ago at 42k. I may try Amsoil this time. Shifting from 1st to 2nd can occasionally be described as almost rough. I have James Barone solid shifter bushings, MS3 RMM and Roca PMM, all of which have helped, but only slightly. I have never checked the driver's side mount.

Also going to try applying vinyl on the Mazda logo on my steering wheel, which is flaking.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Got keyless entry installed by the Geek Squad since I didn't feel confident enough to try this kind of electrical work. They did a good job. The doors lock when I start the engine and unlock when I shut it off. There is no alarm system.


The location of the receiver (center of photo to the left of the metal bar thing).

Also been applying vinyl to the steering wheel emblem unsuccessfully. I bought a few samples and have two more left. If those don't turn out well then I might try Plasti-dip.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Vinyl over steering wheel emblem:

Top left: Flaking chrome, the reason that I'm doing this.
Top right: First attempt. Definitely not my taste but they included it for free so I used it as practice.
Bottom left: What it looked like after I removed the first vinyl.
Bottom right: Second attempt. Guess I didn't get enough practice.



The third attempt turned out well, but I'm not sure how much I like the gloss black yet.


The first two vinyls were from Vvivid Vinyl, and the black is 3M, which is thinner and easier to work with.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Turned my attention to the transmission and drained the 20k mile old Redline MT-90 and refilled with Amsoil synthetic 75w90 GL4. I used a syringe to refill it, which was a little tedious 50 mL at a time.


What the MT-90 looked like:

And into the book of maintenance records:

After a hundred miles I think I like the Amsoil better than I ever liked the MT-90. The 1-2 shift feels smoother and I think it warms up quicker.

To be thorough, I also got a new driver's side motor mount, which is the last one that I have left to replace. Is it possible to fill the highlighted cavity to make it a little stiffer or does this interfere with the location of other parts?

I miss the performance of the Street Unit 60 durometer rear motor mount I had, but the vibrations were way too much for me. I'm hoping to strike a balance by filling this and maybe also my Roca passenger side mount.

The Racing Beat / Koni Sport set-up is really growing on me. It feels very supple and perfectly damped on the highway. The front feels a little too soft when cornering, so I think a bigger front bar would be nice and also help match my rear Tri-point bar.

If I were to do it all over again I would probably get H&R coilovers and keep the stock sway bars, but I'm happy with the way things are turning out.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
To be thorough, I also got a new driver's side motor mount, which is the last one that I have left to replace. Is it possible to fill the highlighted cavity to make it a little stiffer or does this interfere with the location of other parts?
I've had the new driver's side mount installed for two weeks now, although the original mount was in good condition. I did end up filling the new one with some home window glazing gunk, but can't say it feels any different. For those interested in doing the same thing, you should put the filler material in the yellow area in the image below, so that the mount can sit properly on the tripod piece to which it bolts.



I also want to get my windows tinted to keep the car cooler. A local Mazda dealer is running a special on window tint for $98, but they only use Llumar ATC 35% and 15% transmission. After some research, I concluded that there are products that offer better heat rejection without the possibility of reducing the already short range of my keyless system.

I also just received the MS3 OEM front sway bar that I bought through this forum. I think it will work well with the other suspension modifications that I've made. The MS3 26 mm bar is 2.35 times stiffer than the 21 mm MZ3 bar.
http://www.whiteline.com.au/docs/bulletins/BL-281.pdf
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Got my Speed 3 OEM front sway bar installed over the weekend, and wow what a pain that was. Dropping the sub frame was easy, but I spent so much time wiggling the old bar out and the new bar in that I thought my wife was going to leave me.

The car does feel good, though. It's exactly how I want a daily driven car to feel, though I can't comment on handling characteristics until I do an autox. I have my Tri-point bar on the middle setting, rear Konis at half, and front Konis at full soft.

There is some creaking from the front when I go over speed bumps, but luckily I used Prothane 19-1182-BL greasable bushings with Zerk fittings so grease can be added without removing the brackets.

List of future work:
-high quality window tint
-replace right front strut mount, a source of annoying noises
-maybe try another aftermarket rear motor mount, or find a good way to stiffen up my mounts sufficiently
-I'm kind of tired of my current wheels and want something Mazda OEM when my tires are done (won't be for 30k miles or so)

After that, I should probably stop.
 

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Could always get Redline Leather Goods to brew you up some pieces. Think I paid just over $130 shipped for shift boot, e brake boot, and padded armrest cover. All black leather with purple stitching to match my car's exterior.
 
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