octavious Dork
2/2/18 8:26 a.m.

Long story short, I'm now DDing my wife's old Mazda 3.  And she got a newer SUV to be the family truckster and kid hauler.  It's interesting to me because I have never had a FWD DD before, but I was curious if there were ways to make it better on the cheap. 


The Mazda3 in question is a 2008, manual, 2.3 motor, wagon, right at 150k miles.   The car will stay as my DD and mostly be carrying me and my coffee to and from work.  I'd like to say it might see an autocross, because I think it would be cool.   I just replaced the front and rear brakes with a Powerstop setup of cross drilled rotors and ceramic pads,.  It has a broken front motor mount which I am replacing tonight, and I am doing a full tune up of plugs, fluids, filters, etc.  I think we are getting towards the end of the clutch life, so I am planning for that too.   


Because I can't leave well enough alone, and the 16 year old me smiled when I looked on the local CL and saw so some Eibach springs for sale.   But then I figured surely with this crowd someone has BTDT and could share some tips.    So before I mess it up instead of make it better I'm looking for suggestions.  

NickD UltraDork
2/2/18 8:38 a.m.

At 150K miles, if they haven't been replaced lately, I'd say the struts are probably junk, because if I recall, the Mazda3 is particularly hard on them. I'd look at at least replacing with new OEM struts, or maybe look into Bilsteins or some other performance upgrade. A bigger rear sway bar and better tires as well. Not saying jump straight to 200TW, but something a little performance oriented (Continental ExtremeContact Sport, perhaps?)

spandak New Reader
2/2/18 9:07 a.m.

The shifter on mine has never been....joyful. But removing the counter weight, shaving down the bushing inserts and adding a stiffer rear motor mount helped. Now that mine shifts properly it’s much better to drive.

Under the family car skin is the heart of an athlete. The car can hustle through a back road way better than it should. 

If you’re like me at all some sort of Bluetooth adapter makes the commute much nicer too. 

Edit: these are lessons learned from the Speed variety of Mazda 3. I assume the standard is similar. I spent some time in my BIL 3 hatch recently and it’s just as good. 

JtspellS SuperDork
2/2/18 9:14 a.m.

Struts, RSB, motor mounts (reliability  reasons) and a set of RX8 wheels with some good tires go a long way. 

They are great cars and with correct mods they can be quite fun, good luck!!

The0retical UltraDork
2/2/18 11:27 a.m.

If you can find a set of takeoff Mazdaspeed springs it'll drop it a bit and firm things up. I don't think the 2011 springs laying in my garage will fit an '08 but if they will you can have them for the cost of shipping.

A rear sway bar helps reduce understeer. Again if a 2011 bar will fit your 2008 you're welcome to the OE one in my garage.

Mazdaspeed wheels are a bit wider and take offs can be had pretty cheap, RX-8 wheels are the other option.

Heavy shift knob improves shifting feel > 400+ grams.

I really liked the 2007 GT that I had before the Mazdaspeed.

outasite HalfDork
2/2/18 1:13 p.m.


Adjustable rear toe arms will enable you to dial in rear camber/toe to desired specs whether you stay with stock springs or go with lowered springs. Several teams that race Mazda 3, Focus, Volvo have them available.

Hopsonn New Reader
2/2/18 7:35 p.m.

I would personally start with better tires, and a stiffer rear engine mount. I liked the feel of the one from CPE, but broke it and went with a part from damond motorsports instead, damond part was stiffer, louder, but apparently more durable too.

Next I would upgrade the shocks but leave the springs OE or get MS3 springs. I don't think you'll like the ride of a lowered 3 because you'll be on the rear bump stops all the time. Mine had shredded the bump stops by the time I changed the shocks on OE springs.

Bilstein B8's are where it's at for shocks, but make sure the bushings and shock mounts and whatnot aren't trashed. Mine were way before I got to your mileage. Rockauto is your friend for moog parts to fix the trashed OE rubber.

Parts I have that you might be interested in: upgraded rear mount (Damond motorsports), adjustable rear camber arms (SPC), full set of OE 2008 MS3 wheels in excellent condition with tires and TPMS sensors...

The0retical UltraDork
2/2/18 8:03 p.m.

Hopsonn brings up a good point. If you're going to change the rear arms on your DAD get the SPC ones. I love Corksport but the heimjoints are a little loud. 

spandak New Reader
2/3/18 12:23 a.m.

Just want to throw in my $.02 on the suspension. 

I have no experience with aftermarket stuff but I drove a MZ3 hatch on a road trip and then got back into my MS3 of the same year and the differences are profound. The standard 3 rides really really well. I think it’s way better at DD duty than the speed which tends to crash over bumps and use all 0.02” of its suspension travel immediately. The speed suspension is very good in the twisties but the standard 3 isn’t far behind. I’m actually looking in to ways to soften my car up a little now... anyway. I’m sure plenty will disagree but that’s been my experience. 

Sonic UltraDork
2/7/18 6:31 a.m.

Pm sent to the0retical about the rear sway bar

bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
2/7/18 8:20 a.m.

Another good set of springs that doesn't get you too low but adds some spring rate is the Volvo C30 comfort sport springs. They were an option in Europe and sold as an accessory here. I paired those with a set of B4 bilstiens and it made a great combo with the MS3 RSB. 

jstein77 UltraDork
2/7/18 9:23 a.m.

MZR motor?

The0retical UltraDork
2/8/18 10:30 a.m.
Sonic said:

Pm sent to the0retical about the rear sway bar

Got it, replied, and confirmed all the bushings and brackets are still there.

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