Author Topic: Living with Mazda3 Diesels - Performance  (Read 3914 times)

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Offline The Bun-yip

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Living with Mazda3 Diesels - Performance
« on: March 13, 2013, 11:28:41 AM »
Modern diesel owners have the option of making some reasonably priced changes that will improve the performance of their engines. In this section I will discuss only a few simple changes. I will not be exploring the the pros and cons of attempts to modify the aerodynamics, suspension, brakes etc.. Such modifications are the province of the enthusiast and require more research than we have room for here.

1.1 Tuning In order to comply with Emission Regulations and the variability in fuel and oil quality that a car may meet in the many markets in which it is sold all motor manufacturers tend to set up the tuning of their products in a conservative way so that they do not push components to the limit and, I suspect, leave room for future facelifts.

1.2 Methods for Tuning There are two methods for altering the "Tune" of an ECU controlled Turbo Diesel. The first method is to adjust the performance maps in the ECU and is called Chip Tuning or Remapping. Alternatively install a Tuning Box that intercepts ECU signals and modifies them using a map or choice of maps stored in the box. Both methods will increase fuel to the engine in what should be a carefully controlled manner. A good Remap will also adjust the Turbo boost pressure slightly too according to a modified map providing more oxygen for the extra fuel.

Until recently Tuning Boxes did not achieve the same performance gains as they only adjusted fuel. There are now Tunings Boxes which adjust both parameters and deliver results much closer to a Remap.

Unfortunately researching such products is not straightforward. There are reputable expert suppliers of both types of solution as well as those who may be incompetent at best or downright criminal at worst. These bad suppliers are capable of destroying your engine by overstressing key components.

If you do a little research you are almost certain to meet suppliers of one method who will disparage the other method. I would avoid them. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. After some research you need to decide what your aim is. Safe maximum performance for a road car, risky ultimate performance for track use, improved torque for towing and improved fuel economy are all possible as well as a careful blend from skilled developers. A good Tuning Box can now enable switching between maps while driving. e.g. Urban traffic/economy cruising/performance.

Should you plan to consider some form of tuning a good site covering "THE DEVELOPMENT OF ENGINE TUNING IN A NUTSHELL!" is worth including in your research is

These FAQs are worth reading too.

1.3 Suppliers Choosing a supplier of a remap or a tuning box is something of a challenge. Googling for either will reveal a large choice. Then you have to undertake your own "Due Diligence" checks to discover if the supplier really has been around for long enough to trust. If buying a Custom Remap visiting a few premises first during your search would appear a wise investment as would checking to see what warranty, if any, you can expect to get. Traceable testimonials and published test results should be part of the search if at all practicable.

As in so many fields the word of mouth from trusted friends is often the safest route. Get it wrong and you may have a lot of expensive damage to pay for. Get it right and the pleasure from achieving your aim may make you an unpaid advertisement for your supplier. The only thing to watch out for is to guard against the enthusiasm or outright bias of one satisfied user blinding you to the potential advantages of the alternatives on offer. OK, OK, I admit it. I love my Tuning Box.

As a result of increasing competition/demand prices for both approaches are now more reasonable than they once were.

2 Fuel quality Knowing about the range of things that can and do go wrong with fuel supplies should probably have us all riding bicycles. Not only do we have to cope with the fact that the oil companies all tend to offer a standard and a premium fuel but the Supermarkets try to compete on Price as well. The starting point for us is that the fuel we buy is supposed to meet precise standards.

In Europe we now get Ultra Low Sulphur fuels containing up to 15% Bio diesel to provide lubricity protection to fuel system components. See: The reduction in Sulphur combined with the higher levels of Bio Diesel is seeing the instances of Diesel Bug contamination increase.

Fuel distributors also add quite a package of extras including ignition improvers, detergents, biocides and anti gelling agents in winter. From premium grade to supermarket basic the additive package is kept secret apart from the occasional marketing claim.

2.1 Fuel Grades
The common perception is that we are offered three grades of fuel. Oil Company Premium, Standard and Supermarket is too crude a distinction.  Premium grades like Shells V-Power or BP Ultimate may start with the same basic fuel but the additive packages are different. BP makes a lot claims for an anti foaming agent to make refueling easier as well as a cleaning agent to remove deposits from the combustion areas. Shell's V-Power contains an unknown proportion of its Gas -To-Liquid (GTL) synthetic diesel which burns much more cleanly with far fewer pollutants. Which is best for our cars? I express no opinion... serious forum flame wars have erupted on such opinions.  ;D

The quality of the fuel we burn is also influenced by transport and storage issues as well as pollution of the fuel. All of which changes the performance of our cars. Generally speaking I think we get good quality fuel most of the time in the UK. However the fuel distribution system is a human one so mistakes do happen. Dirt and water does get into our fuel before it reaches the fuel injectors.... some of the time. So steps to clean injectors are worth considering. Misfueling diesel with petrol is not just a driver problem it also happens with delivery operatives sometimes too.

2.2 Fuel Additives
All oil companies mix additives with their fuels. Do they produce the perfect fuel? Of course not!  There will always be room for improvement. Up to this point I think I am on safe ground. Can we purchase additives that will be beneficial? Ah there is the rub. Opinions that claim product X is wonderful or all additives are snake oil are just that opinions without the benefit of much, if any, objective data to back them up. Is it possible that the worldwide industry offering all manner of additives are all snake oil salesmen? We just do not know. I find it hard to believe that they all are. What seems likely is that it is quite hard to offer additives, at an acceptable price, that will make a general improvement that works in all circumstances. When some consumer body carries out any sort of test most retail additives do not do that well. The problem for honest producers is that objective tests without revealing details that would compromise Intellectual Property are difficult to do and expensive to fund especially as the particular engine, the driving conditions, the weather and the habits of the driver's right foot all have a very large impact.

So we can only go on word of mouth opinion. I use Supermarket fuel for a number of reasons. I would genuinely prefer some of Shell's V-Power with GTL goodness if I had a Shell station near me and I did not think the price premium over the top. Having read a mixture of bad, neutral and good opinions on Millers Ecomax (formerly Power Sport 4) I decided that it might just compensate for the lower additive mix in supermarket fuel. Does it work? Objectively I do not know. Do I think so ?… yes. I did try to compare performance and smoothness of the engine sound when I first started as well as keep an eye on consumption. The result... I thought the engine ran smoother... could be my imagination. I do think I detected slightly better fuel consumption than 'Branded' fuel but only by one or two mpg at most. In the purely subjective hope that I get a cleaner burn I have persisted.

2.3 Fuel Storage
Whenever you keep a few litres in a can for emergency use or have to take a diesel car off the road for some time you have a storage issue to address. All fuel deteriorates over time. The problem is discovering how fast and how badly it will deteriorate. I have found assertions that it is only a matter of weeks and that the fuel delivered to filling stations has already begun to deteriorate to some extent.

If your diesel is exposed to the atmosphere through some kind of breather the air space above it will result in water condensation. Full tanks and cans are a good defence. The fuel almost certainly arrives with tiny amounts of bacteria which can grow to produce filter clogging gunk. The atmosphere not only contaminates with water but also the range of microbes, and even fungi that are known collectively as Diesel Bug. Fuel distribution systems are huge customers for the Biocides that try to kill off these bugs before they do damage during distribution. When we fill up and take the fuel home we are on our own. With reasonable rates of usage it is rarely a problem. But left to sit...

The yachting and boating world has faced this problem for years and are great customers for suitable products. Older additive products would kill the BUG but leave nasty sludge to contaminate the works thus making filter changing a regular pastime. Today enzyme based products that avoids creating sludge are used. I have used one called 'Star Tron diesel fuel treatment'. Details from the American producer here. It is available from many UK Boat Chandlers and from eBay too.

A few years ago I had to take my Mazda 3 off the road for six months from the end of summer into the winter. I returned to a Mazda 3 on a freezing February day with a tank of summer fuel that should have gelled. It had a dose of Star Tron in the tank. I disconnected a trickle charger got in and pressed the starter. My pride and joy fired first time and ran trouble free for the whole tank. My boating friend did not believe how well the car ran. He uses Star Tron now.

With the increased quantity of Bio Diesel now blended in our fuel increased Diesel Bug problems have begun to emerge. See: The Millers Eclipse products mentioned are also available from Opie oils in commercial sizes. Marine16 from Swansea supplies a suitable product called Diesel Fuel Complete. See: It is available direct and from most boat chandlers.

3 Lubricating Oil
This is going to be kept brief. If you suffer rising oil levels in your sump you may need to consider an interim oil change. (see DPF post here) If not just make sure that you (and the garage who service your car) use the correct oil. The wrong oil can seriously damage your engine. It does not matter who manufactures it so long as we use the correct specification of modern oil. Trying to save cash by using a cheaper oil that appears to have some of the numbers match the Mazda spec will cost you.

3.1 Oil Specification For Mazda Diesels with a DPF Mazda specifies an oil that meets the following Specification. '5-30W JASO DL1 ACEA C1. The critical parameter is ACEA C1. Put simply it is a low ash oil that is designed to protect the EGR and the DPF from the accumulation of residues which shorten the life of the emission handling system. More details here: You will see that the specification for C1 oils was improved in 2010. It would be worth checking to see if your favourite oil in produced to the later specification. The Japanese DL-1 specification is not directly comparable to the ACEA C1 specification. Where they do overlap is a focus on the lowest practical level of ash.
3.2 Oil Manufacturers When C1 oils were first specified it was difficult to find supplies and many were forced to rely on Mazda Dexelia. Today it is much easier to find a supplier. Even the local discount car bits shop may be able to oblige.

A partial list:
Mazda Dexelia DPF...
Carlube triple R longlife Fully synth C1
Comma ecolife 5W-30  C1
Havoline Energy ef 5W-30 C1
Miller XF Longlife C1
Mobil Super 3000 Formula C1 5W-30
Morris multilife c-one 5W-30
Motorex Edition X-C1 5W-30
Motul 8100 eco clean+ C1
TB Elatus MA 5W-30 C1
Shell helix Diesel Ultra af-l C1
Valvoline SynPower ENV C1 5W-30
Note: At the time of writing Total does not offer a retail C1 oil nor does Castrol although I have seen an unconfirmed report that Castrol may supply one to professional customers, whoever they may be.
3.3 Forum Supplier The Forum sponsor Opie Oils sells a choice of four C1 Oils. However in common with many web sites if you use the site Widgit to select oils for a first generation Mazda 3 diesel you may be misadvised. Currently it recommends the wrong oils for my Facelifted 1st Gen 1.6 Diesel. It may be that the Widgits do not allow for the arrival of the DPF and the resultant upgraded oil spec for the 'Facelifted' versions starting from 2006. The Castrol web site is worse even with no C1 Oil to offer they recommended Castrol Edge a C3 oil capable of damaging my DPF with extended use. See:  
« Last Edit: March 13, 2013, 03:28:46 PM by The Bun-yip »

Offline Willpower

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Re: Living with Mazda3 Diesels - Performance
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2013, 05:25:17 PM »
Look at life through the windscreen, not the rearview mirror.
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Re: Living with Mazda3 Diesels - Performance
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2013, 05:25:17 PM »