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Mazda Mazdaspeed3 Engine Swap & More - Question It

Eric Hsu
Jun 6, 2011

Fact: Eric Hsu will be picking his favorite tech question for each installment of Question IT over the next few months, and we’ll be hooking up whoever submitted it with some new threads from our go-fast homies at Eat Sleep Race. Jose grabs the swag this month for asking if dropping a Mazdaspeed3 engine into his Mazda3 will work, and what all else would be needed to get the job done right. Eric lays out several option for Jose, based on how much funding he has for the job , and even offers tips on how to up the power if that’s in the budget.

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Calling Bluff
I own a Mazda3 hatchback and have been doing some research on a controversial subject matter I read about on the Internet, that the Mazdaspeed3 engine is a direct swap into the Mazda3. Is this true or are there just some lying bitches on the web? Also, are there any other engines that might fit into my Mazda?

The Mazdaspeed3 engine (DISI) will indeed fit into a Mazda3 (in place of the MZR engine), but the transmission, drivetrain, engine control, electronics, induction, and exhaust are all completely different. Could you spend the cash and the money to do a swap? Sure, but MS3 engine swaps aren’t nearly as cheap as a B-series swap in a Honda, so it probably isn’t going to be very cost effective. If everything you needed happened to drop into your lap and you had more time than money, I’d say go for it. Or if you wanted to do a barebones swap and use only the superior MS3 turbo block and keep your MZR head, transmission, ECU, and electronics, that would be a much easier and more cost effective plan. The DISI engine’s design in the MS3 is based on the MZR engine in the Mazda3 so the engine mounts will bolt to both engine blocks. The DISI cylinder head’s design is loosely based on the MZR’s, but the intake manifold and bolt pattern are completely different. The exhaust manifold bolt pattern is the same as an MZR’s so you can also run a turbo and exhaust manifold from a stock MS3, but you’re probably better off getting a turbo system from Tri-Point Engineering in Canoga Park, CA, for more power. Remember that the DISI’s block and head are completely different castings than the MZR castings and are superior in many ways since they are designed for both direct injection and turbo, and definitely the way to go if you’re planning serious power.

Junkyard Rebuild
I recently bought a ’92 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO I GSR (JDM) at a salvage auction. The Carfax indicated the car lost control and hit a pole just behind the rear door on the driver side. I have been looking for parts for it online for some time and have come up with squat. I am in need of a driver-side quarter-panel, rear window, taillights, and rear suspension. I hear that half-cut chassis are a good source, but I have been unable to locate any. Any help is greatly appreciated.
-Allan Westwood

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The parts you need are going to be relatively tough to find and/or expensive. You’ll need to either be able to read, write, and speak Japanese, or you’ll need to know somebody who does and knows enough people in Japan that are willing to go purchase the parts and then ship them to you. Ebay doesn’t exist in Japan for one reason: Yahoo Auctions, and it is the absolute best source for used JDM car parts. Unfortunately, the site is only in Japanese, and most people in the car business in Japan are located in suburban and countryside type areas and generally do not speak shit for English. You can try and call a Mitsubishi dealership or junkyard in Japan, but it is unlikely they will ship directly to you, not to mention many do not accept credit cards, and the Japanese banking system does not use ABA routing numbers so it may be difficult to wire money, too. There are people in the U.S. that have ties to junkyards in Japan that buy parts, have them shipped over in containers, and then resell on forums, websites, and eBay, but these people don’t work for free and are going want to make some money for their troubles, naturally. You might try some of the guys who sell JDM Honda parts, used JDM wheels, or companies who import a lot of JDM parts in shipping containers, like Bespoke Ventures. Shipping is only going to be affordable if your parts are shipped in a container due to the size. Companies and people like these are probably your best source. On a more positive note, many OEM parts for older cars are still available from dealerships in Japan. As an example, I have absolutely no problems getting various OEM trim and seal parts for my ’93 BNR32 Skyline GT-R from the Nissan dealerships.

Misfires from Hell
I own a ’91 Nissan 240SX hatch that is currently running rich as hell and idles rough at 1,200 rpm. The previous owner kept the car in an ugly state, adding green paint on the cylinder head and putting a 3.5-inch exhaust on it. If my memory recalls, he installed a set of Maxima injectors, which I believe is the reason the car runs rich as hell. The engine spits black smoke, misfires, and leaves the bumper full of black gunk. When I went to replace the spark plugs, they were full of oil and were pretty burnt at the tip. I replaced the plugs but the car only gets 10 mpg. I spend most of my time and money trying to fix the car but am limited to additional funding since I attend college and pay bills. What would you suggest for some moderate upgrades for the car? The engine has 180K on it. I’m not looking for top-of-the-line products, but more affordable parts that will allow me to have fun in the car.
-Jonathan D.

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First of all, why the hell would you buy a pile of shit like that if you knew it was a pile of shit already? You said yourself the previous owner kept it in an ugly state, has performed some questionable repairs, and it is visually obvious that it runs like shit with black smoke and misfires. I’m not sure you want to be thinking about upgrades at the moment. You probably ought to be thinking about how to unload that pile of shit on some other unsuspecting idiot. You’re going to spend way too much time and money, if you haven’t already, so I’d cut my losses short. Use this purchase as a lesson in life and move on.

Fried ECU?
I own a ’99 Sentra GXE 1.6L that doesn’t run. I’ve had to replace the engine and now it won’t turn over. A few of my buddies and I performed some trouble shooting and found that there is no power to the distributor. Would a bad ECU cause it not to fire or is the power wire to the distributor fried?
-Brendan Gallagher

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First, get yourself a factory Nissan service manual for your car. Second, open it up to the ignition circuit diagrams. Third, refer to the ignition circuit diagrams and start tracing all wires in that power circuit. You’ll want to check the fuse, all wires in the circuit, and each connection with a volt meter checking for continuity. It’s not rocket science. With a factory service manual, a volt meter, and some common sense, you should be able to figure it out even if you think somebody can tell you how to fix your car over email with absolutely no details.

I currently own an ’04 Subaru STI, which is using a 2.7L custom stroker kit, Perrin fuel rails and exhaust, 740cc/min injectors, AEM EMS, Walbro 255-lph fuel pump, BC Stage 2 camshafts, Exedy multi-plate clutch, and 20g turbo. The problem is my car seems slow and I’m getting my ass handed to me by other STIs with basic bolt-ons. The car sat in a shop for a year and a half before it was finally built and tuned. I am assuming he did a piss poor job of building and tuning the engine since the shop didn’t even bother dynoing it, even though the tuner claims they did. I should mention the engine began smoking and leaking tranny oil on my 500-mile drive home from the shop, which was traced back to a faulty main seal. When I called the shop a few days later to ask why the car seemed so slow, the tuner claimed the motor is too big for the turbo. I understand my STI isn’t the fastest car in the world but to have my ass handed to me by an STI with a turbo-back exhaust and intake is ridiculous! (Ed.’s note, unedited text) i wanna get a nitrous kit but the safest shot like a 25-50hp shot because i wanna run methanol/water kit still, so any suggestions would be nice...

First, take the car to a reputable shop. I don’t mean some forum tuner guy who is the latest hype with the latest and greatest open source ECU flash maps. I’m talking about a legitimate tuning shop like Titan Motorsports, Jotech Motorsports, Injected Performance, Cobb Tuning/Surgeline, etc. It sounds like you have the money so take your car to a reputable tuner who can A) diagnose your car in its current state to verify whether or not it is in fact performing poorly, B) document how the original guy f-ed up your car so that you can have your lawyer set him straight, and C) fix your car and make it right. There’s no reason why you should accept your car performing sub-par. As for the smoking issue, if you’re telling people that it is transmission oil leaking, have any of the mechanics bothered to check the transmission seals or front axle seals? If it is oil burning on the exhaust then it would have to be a valve cover gasket, a leaking hose attached to the valve cover leaking engine oil, the right-front axle seal leaking transmission fluid, or possibly right-rear axle seal leaking diff fluid. It could also be a power steering hose or any other hose if the guy who built the car used the wrong type of hose and oil started sweating out after 30 to 45 minutes of driving. It’s tough to find these kinds of problems so you’ll need to take it to a reputable shop with real mechanics like the ones listed above. Don’t even bother with the nitrous until the car is right. If you’re not going to listen to me and still get the nitrous installed before getting the car fixed, then you’re just going to prove that you’re as dumb as your spelling and grammar suggest you are.

The Right Choice
I own a ’95 Civic with a B18C1 and an Integra Type R S80 transmission swap. I’m trying to figure out what type of intake, intake manifold, and header will work best for this setup. I have narrowed down my choices to an AEM hybrid cold-air intake, Password:JDM Power Chamber short-ram intake, and Skunk2 or Blox intake manifold. I am still unsure on which header to choose since this is my daily driver that sees occasional drag racing and autocross events. Any help would be appreciated.

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You can go to the Import Tuner website and check out the Power Pages section to see if any of these parts have been tested before. If so, then you can base your recommendation around them or bitch to Senior Editor Scott and ask him to test the parts. If the parts haven’t been tested, then you might want to try the Honda forums. You’ll probably have to filter out the bullshit there, but you may run into people who are really happy or dissatisfied with some of those parts and they can tell you why. AEM has been making quality intakes for a while now so you probably can’t go wrong with that route. I’ve spoken to people who have been happy with both Skunk2 and Blox intake manifolds. Don’t forget to include a larger-bore throttle body to go with that intake manifold. Edelbrock, Skunk2, and Blox all offer throttle bodies as well. As for the header, I’m pretty sure you’ll find plenty of different headers in the Import Tuner Power Pages database. In general, 4-1 headers provide more top-end power with some sacrifice in low-rpm torque. 4-2-1 headers are typically opposite and provide a bit more low-end torque, but sacrifice some top-end horsepower. A pair of cams, cam gears, a Hondata ECU, and dyno tuning at a reputable shop can help maximize your engine’s power. Stock B18C1s typically make anywhere from 138 to 150 hp at the wheels. With all the parts we’ve discussed here, you should be looking at 180 to190 whp. Good luck!

By Eric Hsu
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