Installed rear shocks on Mazdaspeed

We had a rare free day this weekend, usually they’re filled up with softball, baseball and/or soccer games. I took the free day to do some car maintenance. I’m in desperate need of new shocks and struts, already ate through one set of tires. Saturday I replaced the rear shocks. It took me 4 hours, taking pictures and reading instructions that came with the parts.

It’s pretty difficult finding parts for the Mazdaspeed version of the Mazda 3, it’s either OEM parts from the Mazda dealer which is clearly $$$, or it’s some performance parts. I was trying to balance price with performance, so I ended up with the Corksport adjustable shocks and struts. They are the cheapest yet still offer some level of performance. I really wanted to get the spring combo but that was another $200.


Why not take it to a shop? Well the last 2 quotes I got were about $250+ in labor for the rear shocks. That’s too rich for my blood especially for removing 4 bolts. Here’s a high level description of what I had to do, see the Corksport site for detailed instructions and be sure to checkout the Mazdaspeed forums for advice as well.

  1. Raise vehicle onto jack stands, since you’ll need the jack for a later step IMG_0691
  2. Use the floor jack on the lower control arm to compress the rear spring, and to alleviate pressure on the shocks.IMG_0701
  3. Use a 17mm socket to remove the lower bolt of shock  IMG_0693
  4. Use a 12mm deep socket to remove the two nuts holding the top mount in place.IMG_0697
  5. Now you need to manually compress the shock to allow it to clear the lower bracket in order to be removed from the vehicle.
  6. Once removed, used a 13mm socket to remove the nut holding the aluminum mount to the shock. I had to use a pair of vise grips to hold the shock bolt from moving while removing the nut. The stock bump stops were shot.IMG_0704

That is the standard removal steps. Now the rest are Corksport specific. For the Corksport shocks you only need to keep the aluminum mount.

  1. Retain the stock aluminum mounts, remove the stock bump stops (they’re probably trash anyway), and the stock dust cover.
  2. Place the aluminum mount onto the Corksport shock. You will notice there isn’t much bolt that comes through the mount. This took me a while to figure out. Press the mount down onto the shock, you might have to compress the shock, then put the nut on the bolt and start turning until it latches. This took a bit of pressure and patience. Tighten the nut to 18 lb-ft of torque.
  3. The bump stops pre-installed on the Corksport shocks will compress to allow you to properly torque down the nut and install the mount.

At this point the old shocks will have been removed, the new ones have the mounts installed, and you are ready to install the new ones on the vechicle.

  1. Manually compress the shocks so you can get the shocks into the wheel well.
  2. Insert the top mount onto the 2 mounting bolts.
  3. Align the bottom to the lower bracket. You have 2 options here.
    1. Let the bottom go through the bracket to be compressed by hand later
    2. Keep the shock compressed while you insert the 17mm bolt to hold the bottom of the shock in place.IMG_0702
  4. Install the 12mm nuts on the top mounting bolts. Torque them down to 18 lb-ft.
  5. Now install the 17mm bolt on the bottom and torque it down to 50 lb-ft.
  6. Lower the floor jack to relieve the pressure on the spring.
  7. Re-install the tire and you’re DONE! IMG_0699 IMG_0698
  8. Repeat for the other side.

Now I need to replace the front struts. Those are not as trivial since they involve compressing the springs on the strut, and lot’s of penetrating oil. We’ll see if $250+ is worth it for the front or if I feel inspired to do this myself.

Replaced brake pads & rotors on the Speed3

Back in August when the Speed3 was in the shop, the service advisor told me I’d need new brakes. I got the usual ‘performance pads’ spiel, I heard the same thing when I had the Trans Am. The dealer quoted me $275 for the Mazdaspeed brake pads (OUCH!) that’s more than the $110 Pontiac quoted me for the Trans Am pads. Then it would be another $180 EACH for the rotors, plus labor about $100. That’s $735 EEK! Back when I had the Trans Am the total for the rear brakes would’ve been $270 (including labor), I got the pads for $49.99 and replaced them myself on a Saturday afternoon. So there was no way I’d pay $735 for a brake job. That’s just utterly ridiculous.

I went with the Hawk HPS street pads from at $85 a pair plus shipping. Savings about $180 savings just on the pads. Instead of resurfacing the existing rotors, I chose to replace them with new ones. While I would’ve really liked some slotted and cross-drilled rotors, they were more or damn close to the price of the Mazda rotors. I went with the Centric plain rotors, at $69 each plus $23 shipping that’s a savings of $199. So far I’ve saved $379 on parts alone. Today I decided to spend the afternoon saving the labor costs by doing the job myself. 🙂

Want to see how I did it? Of course you do 🙂 First, thing is to loosen the wheel lug nuts before you jack up the car.

Now let’s see where we can jack up the car (I recommend using a good floor jack and jackstand).
I placed my 2 1/4 ton Craftsman floor jack in the pit of the rail. I jacked the car up enough to put a jackstand behind the jack. I left them both there while I worked on brakes. I first removed the wheel making note of where the valve stem was positioned and the wheel lock as well. Not sure this is necessary but just in case it affects the balance I wanted to put the wheels back the way they were when I started.

jack point

After the car is jacked up and wheel is removed, now it’s time for the fun to start. Remove the 2 17mm bolts which attach the caliper to the strut. You will probably need to use a breaker bar or poll on a socket wrench to give you leverage to loosen the bolt. Trust me you need to give it a good push to get these bolts loose (wear mechanix gloves to avoid busting a knuckle or two).


Don’t remove the Torx screws, they hold the caliper together. You might have to give the caliper a bit of a smack with a mallet to remove the caliper (my second one did), the first one did not. Then make sure you hang the caliper with a coat hanger (or other strong wire) from the strut spring to alleviate any pressure on the brake line. You definitely don’t want to break that line or you’ll have brake fluid spewing everywhere. That would be BAD! 🙂


Before removing the old pads take a C-clamp and compress the inner brake pad (the one connected to the piston) and compress the piston. Might want to loosen the brake fluid reservoir cap to alleviate the pressure.

Once you have compressed the piston back in, you can now remove the pads. Using a screw driver pry out the inner pad (the one on the piston). It should pop out relatively easily. Now you can remove the outer pad. On the Trans Am the outer pad was EASY, it was simply held in place by the caliper body, but on the Speed3 it is held by a spring clip. Let me warn you springs + screwdriver = POTENTIAL EYE LOSS. Thankfully, I had it pointed towards the inner wheel well when it sprung out. 🙂

Once I had the spring removed, I used a screwdriver to push the pad out.
Spring retainer

Clip installed

I figured out the best way to remove and reinstall the spring. Use a C-clamp to clamp down one side of the spring, then wrap a wire around the other end loosely, then use a flat head screwdriver to pry it loose. The clamp and wire keep it from springing it out and potentially putting your eye out. Putting it back in is very similar. Clamp one end (making sure the end of the spring is lined up correctly near its final installed place). Then use the screw driver to pry the other one back down into place. Be VERY CAREFUL this is the dangerous part and the spring is a bit lively.

Now you can remove your rotor. These usually get rusted on, so you need to use either a rubber mallet or a regular hammer tapping the rotor hat. The hat is the part where the rotor gets placed on the bolts. Don’t be afraid, sometimes you need to give it quite a good whack. Pull it off.
Here is what it looks like with everything off.


Scared yet? It’s really not that hard to put humpty back together.

Examine your pads, as you can see I really needed brakes bad. But remember I was told I needed them back in August of 2009. It is now January 2010. So sometimes when you’re told you need something fixed on a car, you still have more time. 😀

The old pad is on the left it was completely worn down to the metal. I probably needed to replace these last month. The new pad is on the right, see how much material should be on the pad?

Old vs New pads

Now it’s time to put this back together. I like to put the pads into the caliper before putting on the rotor. Best way is to put the pad on the piston first, then the outer pad. Be careful putting the spring clip back on. See my comment above.

new pads installed

Now you want to put the rotor back on, make sure you push it flush with the wheel hub and use 2 of your lug nuts to hold it in place. Simply hand tighten it but make sure it is flush. Now you can slide the caliper with the new pads onto the rotor. You’ll probably have to remove it form the coat hanger be careful not to put too much pressure on the brake line. Hold it in place and put the bolt to hold it in place. You only need to hand tighten this at first, then get the second bolt on. Alternate tightening each bolt until they’re tight. Now use a breaker bar or poll on a socket until it’s very tight. If you have a torque wrench that’s probably the best thing to use. I’ve always just tightened them really tight 🙂 Maybe I’ll add a torque wrench to my wish list.

Here is everything all together:

Rotor and pads installed

Now repeat for the other side 🙂 It took me about 4 hours to do both sides, I started around 3pm and finished about 7pm. The first wheel was the hardest as I tried to figure out what I needed to do. The second wheel took about 45 minutes.

Mazdaspeed in shop

The Speed 3 developed a weird clanking noise when you start the car cold. Since it already has 33,282 miles I figured I better get it taken care of before I hit the end of the 36,000 mile warranty. The good news is they found the problem but had to order 1 of the 5 needed parts and the order takes a week. Probably has to fly in from Japan. 😦 This means I have to go back again to get the actual problem finally fixed. I also had them rotate the tires while they had it there.

While picking up the car I got the obligatory, while we were rotating your tires we noticed you need new front brake pads and rotors. I immediately knew what that meant, wait for it, wait for it, I know I’m going to get the same line I got when I had the Trans Am. “Unfortunately, these Speed 3 pads are not cheap, you’re looking at $275 for the pads, $180 for the rotors, and 1 hour of labor.” It was all I could do to keep from laughing at her. Like I would let the dealer do my brakes.Ten years ago Pontiac told me the Trans Am pads were $110 a pair, I found Performance Friction pads for $49 which were better than the AC/Delcos.  A quick search today found Mazdaspeed 3 brand for $193 (still way to much for my tastes) and Hawk brands for $84.  So I know I can find them much cheaper than $275.  Then I’ll save the labor costs by doing it myself.

Weekend projects

This weekend I changed the oil in both the Grand Caravan and the Mazdaspeed 3. I used Mobil 1 for both vehicles. While under the van I noticed that the power steering bypass hose the dealer put on a few months ago was hanging below the frame in what looked like a dangerous situation.

I ended up zip tying the hose to the frame to keep it out of danger, the thought of ripping out the power steering hose seemed like a bad idea 😉

The other project I did this weekend was to replace the Kenmore 1/3 hp disposal with a new Kenmore 3/4hp disposal. The installation was pretty easy, I only ran into one issue, the drain hose for the dishwasher was cracked, so I had to run to Lowe’s to get a replacement. I was almost done putting it back too.

The disposal wasn’t ‘disposing’ very well, and the rubber seal at the top was completely malformed and didn’t cover up the drain very well. Plus it was just time for a new one. Here is the old one before I ripped it out:

The new Kenmore 3/4 hp disposal ready for installation.

Everything is out, time to start the installation of the new disposal.

ALL DONE! So far no leaks, and it works pretty well. I’ll monitor it for the next few days to make sure we don’t start leaking.

Shuddle [sic] service

On Thursday (June 4th), I scheduled an appointment with a nearby Mazda dealer via email (using their web form). I scheduled the appointment for today (June 10th). As of Wednesday morning I had not heard anything so I assumed my appointment was not confirmed so I drove straight to work.

During my morning routine email checking I see an email from the dealer confirming my appointment. I got the email at 5:44pm on Tuesday evening. It’s a bit annoying they would wait that long to confirm an appointment for the following day. But what really got me was the horrendous spelling and punctuation of the email I received. Based on the email alone, I wonder if I really want to take my car there for service.


I think I’ll try another dealer nearby.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

My favorite car of all time has always been the 1969 Chevy Camaro. I’ve always thought that the perfect car would be a first generation Camaro with today’s engine technology and transmission. This new revival of the Camaro is an excellent rendition and one of the better retro cars available today.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro
2010 Chevrolet Camaro (Courtesy of