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Not So Nice Tribute to a 2003 Mazda

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Elizabeth M
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Blogger
It's good to know people like you
Elizabeth M   4/8/2015 8:22:01 AM
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I have a friend who is like you except his skills specialize in VW cars and buses, one of which I happen to have (a 1999 VW Transporter). He does all my mechanical work for me at probably a third of the cost of a proper shop. Reading your story gave me a glimpse of some of the hard work he puts in on my van and the trickiness of the job, even if VWs are built differently (and, being German autos, certainly more practically) than Mazdas.

Critic
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Platinum
Front Wheel Drive
Critic   4/8/2015 8:42:26 AM
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I submit that in general, front wheel drive cars are not easy to work on.  Car manufacturers decided to put the engine, transmission, and differential all in the front to reduce manufacturing cost.  It was not done to make the car easier to service.

fredsay
User Rank
Platinum
Knock Sensor?
fredsay   4/9/2015 8:37:52 AM
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My wife used to have a 2002 Millinia. At 40,000 miles, the check engine light came on, so I hooked up my code reader which said it was the knock sensor. Unfortunately, it is located deep in the bowels (or rather inside of the "V") which required that most of the top of the engine needed to be removed (thankfully, not the heads). So the new knock sensor lasted about 40,000 miles, then went out again. After changing it 2 more times (30,000 & 35,000 miles), I sold the car.

I've had other cars with knock sensors which lasted a much longer time before crapping out (her replacement car is an Avalon, still going strong at 180,000 miles). That was the last Mazda I'll ever buy.

Hacker
User Rank
Platinum
alternator replacement
Hacker   4/9/2015 9:22:57 AM
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"She came to me with the task of replacing the alternator in her 2003 Mazda Tribute with a 3-liter V6. How difficult could that be?"

To be fair, it WOULD be extremely difficult to replace an alternator with a V6.  They're entirely different components. 

But seriously, folks . . . I agree.  IMHO, certain electromechanical components in the engine compartment need to be easily serviceable -- the alternator, the water pump, the spark plugs (and maybe coil packs), and the thermostat.  Along with hoses, belts, and fluid reservoirs, these parts are prime candidates for replacement.    Is it too much to ask that they be accessible?

mattd
User Rank
Gold
That's nothing
mattd   4/9/2015 9:36:16 AM
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That's nothing!

My mother-in-law seems to love Kia, first an '04 Sportage, then an '11 Sorento (V6 of course) and now she has a Kia Soul. I am her goto when problems arise after the warranty is expired.

As for the Sportage, replaced the starter. While this was a four banger and normally mounted (rear wheel drive), some idiot thought it a good idea to use bolts through the bell housing and into the starter rather than through the starter and into the bell housing as most manufacturers do. This placed the bolt heads pretty much up against the firewall. I finally called a mechanic (at a Kia dealership) who was more than happy to give advise in exchange for the opportunity to vent. Short form...it requires two hours and involves removing the rear cross bar where the transmission mounts and lower the transmission to access the bolts.

As for the Sorento, the alternator went out at 65K (the warranty on it went out at 60K). Kia calls for dropping the engine out of the vehicle to change the alternator! (how I would rather remove a front axle). Suffice it to say, I found an exit/entry path for the alternator that only required undoing the upper engine mount and the air conditioner compressor and lifting that side of the engine about 4", plus a little fandangling.

I dread the warranty running out on her Soul. Maybe by then she will reach the point that it is time to quit driving and we can just get rid of the thing.

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Re: alternator replacement
Larry M   4/9/2015 10:34:17 AM
Hacker wrote "MHO, certain electromechanical components in the engine compartment need to be easily serviceable -- the alternator, the water pump, the spark plugs (and maybe coil packs), and the thermostat.  Along with hoses, belts, and fluid reservoirs, these parts are prime candidates for replacement."

"Belts" of course includes the timing belts. Every transverse engine vehicle has these right up against the frame horn. Replacement is always an ugly combination of reaching down over the fender and reaching in and up over the front suspension. There has to be a better scheme. The only one who seems to have gotten is right was GM on the Lumina APV mini-van. They used a steel timing chain with no scheduled maintenance requirements. Why couldn't all those other manufacturers do that? (Rhetorical question--no need to answer it.)

Hacker
User Rank
Platinum
Re: alternator replacement
Hacker   4/9/2015 11:23:17 AM
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Regardless of any other factors in favor of timing belts (quieter, less weight), steel timing chains should be mandatory with any interference engine. 

Many times I've wished for an unboltable inner fender.  It seems to be taken for granted that the engine must be serviced inside the restrictive box made by the firewall, radiator, and fenders.  If you could just unbolt an inner fender from a frame, you wouldn't need to pull a halfshaft to get room to work on a timing belt or alternator that's boxed in by the fender.

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Re: alternator replacement
Larry M   4/9/2015 11:47:51 AM
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Better yet, a tilt-up assembly including hood and both fenders, including liners, analogous to those on the cab-over delivery trucks.  See the image at

www {dot} commercialmotor {dot} com/big-lorry-blog/the-worlds-first-ever-tilt-cab-1

for example. Imagine how easy it would be to work on little sedans if the front-end opened like this, especially transverse V-engines.

Scroll down to the middle of this page:

www {dot} trifive {dot} com/forums/showthread.php?t=20285

to see a custom job.

bob from maine
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Front Wheel Drive
bob from maine   4/9/2015 3:58:53 PM
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Yes, front wheel drive is a wonderful thing. A car manufacturer can have the engine/transaxle assembly built at a factory that specializes in that one thing, then ship that package to the assembly plant and it can be installed in the chassis using 6 bolts, wiring plugs, fuel and exhaust and be done in less than 8 minutes; much less than a rear wheel drive with engine, transmission, driveshaft, differential all taking 8 minutes. This fairly dramatic time saving (not to mentiion parts) reflects literally millions of $$ to the car companies. Post assembly repairs can be born by the customer and thus do not effect the manufacturer's bottom line. Pickups and SUVs are no better.

Wayne Eleazer
User Rank
Gold
Re: alternator replacement
Wayne Eleazer   4/9/2015 4:27:27 PM
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$400?  Sounds like a real bargain.  They must have liked him or something.

My neighbor's Isuzu had an alternator failure and the dealership wanted about $300 just to troubleshoot the problem - not including the actual repair.  I did it in 5 min with a military surplus volt-ohm-meter; my Dad ran his own auto electric shop for years.  

We found a new alternator on ebay for about $110.  I have no idea what the whole job would have cost if the dealership did it.

Next on the Isuzu the clutch master cylinder went out.   I told him that was an easy job we could do ourselves, no problem.  He bought a new master cylinder - and then I figured out that the only way to put a new one in required removing the clutch pedal and the steel "cage" that attached it to the firewall.  Most people hang the clutch pedal from behind the instrument panel.  Isuzu attached it to the firewall.    

 

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