Archive for the ‘Mazda3’ Category

Fix for Audio Noise

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

For me at least, nothing passes the time on the daily commute or road trip better than listening to podcasts and music. My droid phone doubles as my MP3 player, and nothing sounds better than hooking it directly into the audio system. My previous car had no such luxury – requiring a small FM transmitter to get the audio through the car’s radio on an empty station. It was a rudimentary hack at most, since audio was so-so, finding an empty frequency was difficult, and power was limited to 13.3 milliwatts per the FCC – pitiful compared to the massive 10,000 watt transmitters of most radio stations.

The 2007 Mazda includes an aux-in jack hidden in the arm rest. All you need is a standard cable with a 3.5mm jack on one end and a 2.5mm or 3.5mm on the other (depending on what your phone has). There’s a specifically-designed hole to route it out from inside the armrest and to your phone – sitting in the cup holder or attached to the dash.

But one thing Mazda cheaped out a bit on is the quality of the audio connections. The audio sounded great alone, but if any device was plugged into the cigarette-lighter, electrical noise ruined it all. Which of course is a problem if you want to charge and use your device at the same time. Turns out I was not alone, and a little goggling found that most people solved the problem with a ground loop isolator.

This little thing plugs in-line with the audio connection you would normally make between the jack and the phone/mp3-player. It’s simple, easy and no power needed. I keep it tucked away in the console and routed the cable out to a phone mount on the dash.

I picked up the Peripheral PGLI35 from one of Amazon’s merchants. It’s still sold there as of Spring 2011 if you need one yourself.



Front Wiper Blade Replacement

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

There were two things that bugged me about the stock wiper blades on the Mazda3:

  1. The blades at rest sat high on the windshield, which obstructed my view across the hood.
  2. The wiping coverage on the windshield was relatively small compared to the overall service area.

So to fix #1, I found a way to adjust the placement on the windshield – effectively lowering them closer to the cowl and out of my normal vision. For #2, I decided to go for a larger wiper blade on the driver’s side. This post outlines how to accomplish both as part of a routine wiper blade replacement.

First things first: the plan. I wasn’t positive that a new blade would work, so I went with a small increase on my first attempt: 22″ driver/19″ passenger versus the stock 21″/19″. On the 2nd replacement a year later, I felt comfortable going with a 24″/19″.

As you can see I went with a very low-tech solution on the 2nd try: cut a post-it note into a strip, marked 1″ from the edge and attached it to the top of the wiper. Increasing a blade size by 2″, only increases each end by 1″. The theory is that if the other blade hits the post-it note, I’m out one crumpled piece of paper and not a wiper jam with possible motor damage. Turns out it worked ok.

The passenger was already very close to the edge. No need to increase the size there.

The Mazda3 wiper blade attach using a fairly standard mechanism so aftermarkets were easily installed and available. At the recommendation of Consumer Reports, I gave Anco 31 series blades a try. Overall they were of good quality, very cheap, and the first set lasted 5 months with no problems.

Love the Rain-X stuff by the way. It keeps the windshield much cleaner day-to-day because the water doesn’t accumulate on the surface – leaving dirt/residue behind.

Removal: The Anco blades disconnect by rotating the blade into a “T” shape, pressing the release lever, and sliding down.

It then pulls down and off with little trouble. In case you’re interested the J hook size is 1/2″.

Granted some of that is dirt, but the rubber does start to decay over time and you can see a bit of that in the picture. The summer sun and winter sub zero temperatures are not kind.

Installation of the new one is the reverse of the old. Slide it up and on to the hook until it faintly clicks into place, and rotate it down into normal position.

Next we need to adjust the placement on the windshield. There is a plastic cap on the nut that is held in place only with friction. A gentle pry with a screw driver and it came right off.

Scavenge up a 12mm socket wrench and it can be loosened. Notice I said “loosened”. You don’t have to take it all the way off. You just need some play to adjust the blade.

I didn’t put the driver’s side all the way down to the plastic at the base of the glass because I didn’t think the wiper would clear the path of the passenger side blade in time. Besides it was already below the level of the hood – any further would be of no benefit. A check of the wiping path shows that the two blades cleared by a couple inches. All that’s left is to apply the Rain-X and we’re set.


Cabin Air Filter Replacement

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

My 2007 Mazda3 has a cabin air filter, and according to my dealer its recommended for replacement every 15,000 miles. Unfortunately I didn’t even know the car had such a filter, and the maintenance schedule said nothing about changing it regularly. After perusing some of the forums online, I discovered it’s existence and looked into replacing it at 30,000 miles old. It was my first major dissection and, for the benefit of all, here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Get your replacement air filter. They are not always easy to find for some reason. I had to have mine special ordered at the auto parts store. It was a Wix 24482 if you want to use the same one as I. It will come as two separate filters.

Step 2: Disconnect the negative terminal on the battery. Death by electrocution is not advisable.

Step 3: Open the glove compartment and remove the silver trim above it. There are several plastic latches that keep the trim invisibly secured on. If you slip a flat-blade screwdriver underneath and gently pry on it, it will come loose. There’s also another on the far left next to the LCD display. Once loose, remove the right side by sliding the trim to the left.

Step 4: Detach the glove box. There are 2 screws holding it in under where the trim was, along with two more latches on either side. You may need to fiddle with the trim plastic dash on the right a bit to get the box loose.

Step 5: Unplug the glove box light. There are two clips – one on either side. Using a flat-blade screwdriver you can pry them apart to release the light. This should allow you to remove the glove box completely and put it out of the way for the next few steps.

Step 6: Remove the dark plastic panel near the the passenger’s left foot. There is a plastic grommet that holds it in place. Again, a screw driver will allow you to pry the middle portion off and then allow the whole plate to come off.

Step 7: Remove the other plastic panel directly beneath the glove box area. It is held in with two clips on either side. It should come right off and expose more of the underside.

Step 8: Remove the large, beige plastic panel that holds the plugs for the wiring harnesses. There are two clips (Mazda seems to like the number 2), which need to be rotated. The plastic will come down. Notice how the rear rests on a round piece of plastic in the back – allowing the unit to rotate down.

Step 9: Unplug the wiring harnesses. There are three – one large green, one large blue, and one small blue. They are all held in with the same design: Squeeze the sides in, pull up on the latch, and pull the plug straight out. Needless to say be careful not to bend any of the pins or force anything in/out of positions. Let the harnesses dangle – threading them out from around things as you pull the plastic panel down.

Step 10: Remove the metal piece that the wiring is held in place on. A 12mm socket wrench took care of this easily enough. Just drop it out of the way. If you need more slack in it, the wiring can be remove from the metal piece by squeezing the clip on the back.

Step 11: Finally! Gain access to the air filter compartment. There are two screws on the bottom, one wiring latch on the top, and a really hard to see screw on the far upper right. The plastic piece will come off.

Step 12: Remove the two filters. Yes, there are indeed two filters stacked on one top of the other. Pull one straight out and the other will fall down. Remove the 2nd the same way. Now might be a good time to note how they go back together. There is a groove on one that allows the other to slide into place – making essentially one big filter that can be taken apart to slide through the small hole.

Step 13: Realize how dirty your air filter is and wonder what lung damage you have after breathing all that ick in. Reassembly is the reverse of disassembly. Slide in the top piece and while holding it up with your hand inside the cavity, place the bottom portion in the groove and slide it in. The rest is straight-foward. Enjoy cleaner air.


Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

I present: my 2007 Mazda3. Bought it new 3 1/2 years ago. Enjoyed it immensely ever since. This is the first of hopefully many posts that will outline the tweaks, maintenance, and changes I’ll make to it.