By on January 5, 2018

 

2018 Mazda 3

Felix writes:

Got a Mazda 3 hatch to replace my 29-year-old MR2, and while it’s no MR2, it has its own benefits. But I detest Hill Launch Assist, and the power steering is the biggest reminder that it’s no MR2.

The Mazda power steering is better than I expected, but it’s still the first thing I notice when I start it up and always makes me want the MR2 back, three years later. I tried turning the engine off on a private road with just enough slope to keep moving, and it’s kind of scary to imagine that happening on a freeway, it’s so stiff and jerky. Is there any way to disable it and having just plain manual steering, to see what it’s like?

As for Hill Assist, what annoys me the most is not knowing if a slope is enough to trigger it or not; if I expect it, and it didn’t engage, there’s a tire chirp for no reason, and if I don’t expect it but it did engage, I sometimes kill the engine unless I’m paying attention. I can understand its attraction for weenies who are just learning stick, but I don’t need it and don’t want it.

Sajeev answers:

Calling this a disorder is a bit much, so perhaps let’s just do it, to it.

Regarding the (intrusive?) Hill Launch Assist, considering these links (here, here) and what little I know about SCT’s tuning parameters, there’s a slim chance a performance tune could disable Hill Launch Assist while giving you a few more ponies. Better ask SCT, as I had the opportunity to 100 percent kill AdvanceTrac on my 2011 Ranger. But my tail-happy little rig should default to implementing mindless, stress-free control on slick roads. I am rather surprised you’d defeat Hill Launch Assist for similar reasons.

But hey, I live in a flat city so who cares what I think?

As previously mentioned, you can probably pull a fuse/disconnect the plug at the steering motor to experience manual steering on a car with big-ish wheels and a small tiller.  I suspect you will regret it the minute you take a low speed, high steering input, parking maneuver.

[Image: Mazda]

Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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40 Comments on “Piston Slap: A Self-defeating Technology Disorder?...”


  • avatar
    Tim

    There is a big difference between a depowered rack and a manual one. Just pulling the fuse won’t give you the same experience as a properly ratio’d manual rack would. I’d recommend trying to find an aftermarket shop that specializes in engine swaps, and asking them about putting a manual rack in your 3.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Exactly. Trying to use a goat for camel’s job. And what about turning off engine and losing brakes?

      • 0 avatar
        guardian452

        He’ll lose ESC and I bet the ABS will be in a bad way too. Fully electric racks are often where the steering angle signal comes from. (instead of the clockspring like electrohydraulic units).

        You may be able to make a black box to make the ESC think the rack is still there and turn off some warning lights but you’ll have no idea what the steering angle is.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The clock spring just transmits power to the steering wheel it is not a sensor.

          • 0 avatar
            guardian452

            I just said that steering angle comes from the rack LOL. He has an electric rack.

            But on most cars that have an old-fashioned hydraulic rack, the hall sensor for steering angle is either in the clockspring (most common) or sometimes one of the stalk switches. Sometimes it’s on it’s own but rarely. There’s no electronics in any hydraulic rack or gear that I’ve ever seen.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            I thought that the “older” way of doing it was that the hall or optical sensor had a dead ahead position. Rotating the wheel accumulated counts and speed of the counts which gave both the steering angle and rate of how fast the steering wheel was turning.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    ” I tried turning the engine off on a private road with just enough slope to keep moving”

    Only grave will fix an idiot

  • avatar
    scdjng

    Felix,
    I went from a 88 Fiero (no power steering) to a 13 Dart. Exact same thoughts, except my power steering failed on me while on the highway. Really miss non assisted steering.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    If only one manufacturer offered a sedan and crossover on the same platform with a really good manual steering rack, do you think the take rate would justify it?

    I’d buy one of each, and my car/kart history shows that I have already paid premia for better steering.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      Ummm… The difference between having the weight of the engine over the front wheels and not? The MR2 steering effort is ridiculously light. My old Mk1 GTi hardly weighed anything at all,but it was a chore to parallel park without any steering assist.

  • avatar
    guardian452

    The great thing about the MR2 steering pump is how dumb it is. It’s a really popular part for shade-tree EV conversions, because you just give it 12V and ground and it runs. The transistorized speed control is a separate module.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the 1990’s MR2 was one of the first (if not THE first) cars with electro-hydraulic power steering.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    They put power steering on the Smart City, a 2,000 lb car with all the weight on the rear wheels and 145 width front tires. I can only imagine Smart did this because wussy girls and metrosexuals were complaining that they had to work their arms to park their big heavy Smart. Same with power windows – awful tiring to wind that crank.

    • 0 avatar
      guardian452

      It was an option. No idea what the take rate was.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Spoken like someone who’s never had an injured arm or hand, or had a reason to open any of the windows of a car that aren’t adjacent to them.

      *Power is good*.

      It’s not 1980 or even 1990; power windows are cheap and reliable. The main failure point of windows in a car seems to be the regulators, and they don’t care what’s driving the motion of the window.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        I like power stuff, but when I see frequent comments stating they wished automakers would make a good basic car with no power stuff, no A/C, rubber floor mats, manual transmission, and low, low sticker price, the reason no automaker does is because there about 5 actual customers for such a vehicle. Power stuff is what people want, and since they also tend to add profits, power stuff is what they get even on Smart cars.

      • 0 avatar
        guardian452

        Not to mention, have you ever even seen a smart car? That side window is YUUUUGE. Like half of the side of the car. You’d be cranking for hours.

        Or maybe it seems huge because the rest of the car is so small? It’s certainly not claustrophobic inside.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      They probably have power door locks too, like it’s so tough to reach across and push the button down. Never understood power door locks on a standard pickup either, for the same reason.

  • avatar
    Esophagus Cancer Survivor

    Alfa 4c

  • avatar
    acehunter

    Picture on left looks like a 6 not a 3.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Stupid me – I’ve never driven a manual with hill assist but I simply assumed that any slope enough to make the car roll back would trigger it. It would be a blessing to tool around the side streets of Gallup NM.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Try the steering while the engine is running and see if you notice any difference. When I used to drive stick in my Wranglers, Hill Launch Assist would often be provided by vehicles that were tailgating me.

  • avatar
    mzr

    Mazda doesn’t have a switch off for the hill assist? I have a 2009 Mazda5 manual and no hill assist at all, my 2014 Fiesta S does have hill assist and can be turned off via the settings menu in the center stack. Oddly enough, Ford sent it out with traction control off.

  • avatar
    Mc40

    How does a Mazda know if it’s on a hill? I suppose it’s the same way my phone knows I’m holding it upright versus sideways… If this accelerometer-type gadget is separate from the computers and perhaps bolted on somewhere (the way crash sensors are) could it be spoofed? Could you bend its bracket up so that the hill-hold threshold is at a much steeper angle?

    • 0 avatar
      guardian452

      The accelerometer and gyro are in the ESC module, also called the ABS pump. If you mount it downwards (along with bending all of your brake lines), the hill hold will engage when it’s in reverse. And not much longer after that it will probably recalibrate itself.

  • avatar
    Rick

    A few months back I need to buy a “cheap” new car. I ended up with an “Ace of Base” 2017 Honda Fit. Actually a pretty nice car.

    But it also seems to have some sort of hill assist technology. I tested it by sitting on a slope, leave the car in 1st, push in the clutch, hit the brake, wait a couple of seconds and then let the brake go but leave the clutch pushed in.

    Sure enough the car waits about a second or so before drifting back.

    Somehow, it doesn’t seem to release the brakes right away. There is a delay of about a second or more.

    The “cure” seems pretty simple. Hill assist only seems to engage while in gear. So, when at a light, hit the brake, let the clutch out and sit in neutral.

    When the light changes, hit the clutch, select first, dump the clutch and let the brake go. The car will start up with no “delay”, at least for me.

    My first car back in 71′ was a Z/28 with the world’s heaviest clutch.

    I got into the habit then of sitting in neutral at lights when in traffic.

    Anyway it works for me. Your mileage may vary.

    • 0 avatar
      guardian452

      If I don’t want to use the HLA on my MX5 for some reason (which is probably the same as the 3), just let the clutch out 1/2 inch before releasing the brake. You need to release the brake with the clutch all the way in for HLA to activate.

      There isn’t a switch for mazdas to know whether it’s in a gear, or what gear it’s in (unless it’s R).

    • 0 avatar
      focus-ed

      “My first car back in 71′ was a Z/28 with the world’s heaviest clutch.

      I got into the habit then of sitting in neutral at lights when in traffic.”
      ??? And you’d just ride the clutch (or throwout bearing) if it was not “heavy”? I pity the AT crowd for having to stay on brake pedal and would never consider doing so to the clutch (none of my vehicles had a heavy one). Major benefit of MT equipped cars.
      Regarding the hill assist – likely little fancy logic to it, more of a delay like valve setup. Likely contributes to the vague feel when moving up from the stop (still my biggest gripe with GTI)

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      Never sit at a light, or on a hill, with the clutch engaged – unless you’re going to race someone from or up it.

      • 0 avatar
        turf3

        You mean “disengaged”, i.e., with your foot on the clutch pedal. When you let the clutch out by taking your foot off the pedal, the clutch engages, i.e., the friction surfaces come in contact with each other.

        Another point: if you are sitting at a light with your car in 1st gear and the clutch in, and you have a moderately powerful car, and the clutch cable picks that instant to let loose, you will be launched. It’s certainly rare but it’s also not impossible.

        Just put the freaking thing in neutral and take your foot off the pedal. The time it takes to put the clutch in and shift into 1st will also help yellow/red light blasters clear the intersection. And as noted it will extend the life of the throwout bearing and pilot bushing.

        You know, now that few people in the US know how to drive a standard transmission, there’s a whole body of knowledge that everyone’s grandmother used to know, that is being lost. Things like not riding the clutch, how to start up on a hill, etc. The relevant one to me in this conversation was : “Neutral is a gear. When you shift from 1st to 2nd, you shift from 1st to neutral, then you shift from neutral to 2nd.” If you think of neutral as a gear it’s easier to understand sitting at a light in N with the clutch out and your foot on the brake.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          Heh! You mean, ‘Let the clutch in’, then.

          • 0 avatar
            turf3

            Here’s the correct old guy terminology.

            “Put the clutch in” means to depress the clutch pedal, disengaging the clutch.

            “Let the clutch out” means to take your foot off the clutch, engaging the clutch.

            It may not be totally congruent with “engage” and “Disengage” but this is the usage.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    A typical EPAS uses a small electric motor running at high speed, and a gearbox with a huge reduction ratio. When you switch the power off and turn the steering wheel you then have to back drive the motor through that enormous gear ratio.

    It’s more or less the equivalent of trying to wind up a clockwork clock’s spring by turning the hour hand.

    • 0 avatar
      guardian452

      It’s not that high of a ratio. There is an episode of wheeler dealers where Edd takes apart the rack of a 1st gen Honda S2000 and spins the motor by hand. It’s worth watching for that segment alone. You can easily push it by turning the tires if the car is in the air, even.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Power steering became necessary/common with the advent of front wheel drive. Hill assist is another one of those things that have shown up with the mandated traction control to help the clueless.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Not just for the “clueless”. I’ve had idiots pull so close to me on hills that there is probably a foot of space between us. Hill assist is better than excessive clutch slip though a bit of rollback does induce a funny look on the idiot’s face…

  • avatar
    ryanwm80

    So there’s nothing malfunctioning, it’s doing what it was designed to, and as stated “I don’t want it and don’t need it” – so why punish yourself and continue to live with it? There must be a car out there you’d enjoy driving more. Ford Focus ST?

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    My ’08 5 series has hill assist. I had no idea when I bought it. The first time I expected it to roll and it didn’t I thought I left the parking brake engaged or something else was wrong. Definitely a weird feeling.

    After 19 years in manuals I don’t need it, but I can see it being convenient in some of the steeper areas of the SF area. Hopefully having it doesn’t completely erode the hill start skill.

  • avatar
    NG5

    Surprising that there isn’t a menu option to disable Hill Assist. There is on the Ford I drive.

    I curbed a wheel the first time I experienced it because I was parallel parking on a hill and didn’t want to shift into reverse. I didn’t realize what the car was doing. The system completely fooled me about where the clutch catch point was, and as soon as you touched the throttle the brake would drop entirely. Very disorienting first experience. I turned it off for months, but now I leave it on because I think it’s better for clutch wear on hills. I hate having to move quick to avoid rolling back in traffic, and the temptation to ride the clutch if traffic is creeping uphill is too great. I’d recommend learning the system and getting used to it for those reasons.

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