By on December 28, 2009

Without a paddle? (courtesy:msprotege.com)

Shawn asks:

I have a 2006 Mazda5 GT which has blown it’s second rear shock in less than 87,000 km. My question is whether I should just replace it with yet another Mazda part, or whether I should go aftermarket and replace both rear ones at the same time. My concern with this option is whether or not the ride quality will be maintained. I do not want to end up with a harsh ride with an aftermarket part. Does anyone have any suggestions? What is a good brand for shocks? Does anyone have any experience with the Mazda5 or have a suggestion for shocks? I am also tempted to just rid of the car altogether :( This would be the fifth repair related to the suspension in three years of ownership.

Sajeev replies:

Everyone justifies the need for a different vehicle, but don’t do it because of this problem. Repeat after me:  shocks and struts are normal wear items…even at this age and mileage.

And replacing them one-by-one is a terrible, terrible idea.  If one fails, odds are it’s buddy on the other side of the axle is just as worn out. (Unless you drive on roads with potholes on only one side of your lane, of course.) More than likely, you are experiencing something normal in an aging car.

I’d recommend getting a new pair (two, please!) of rear shocks from the same manufacturer this time ‘round.  There are plenty of good shock brands, and most offer a comfort shock for your needs.  Not that I’d recommend an expensive pair of KONIs, but the Bilsteins mentioned in a previous Piston Slap are right up your alley.  The Monroe Sensa-Tracs are probably softer and easier on the wallet, and might make you just has happy for years to come.  If you like the feel of the Mazda shocks when they were new and don’t mind the extra cost, go for them. There’s no wrong answer.

Provided you change your shocks in pairs, that is. So just do it.

(Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com)

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34 Comments on “Piston Slap: It Takes Two, Baby...”


  • avatar
    Juniper

    I think these parts don’t justify a new car but  that is not competitive durability. Mazda is getting a free pass from Sajeev. You have to judge your own tolerance. Keep replacing parts till you can’t   stand it anymore. Then hopefully you have enough miles to have gotten your moneys worth.

    • 0 avatar

      Shocks shouldn’t “fail” this early, but a shock with 50+k isn’t gonna perform like a new one.  I’ve seen cars that need new shocks after 70k, even if the owner begs to differ.

      These things ARE wear items. And I’ve seen some junky OEM shocks…but replacing them with nicer stuff usually makes the car a whole lot nicer than the MSRP implies. Just an opinion from a wrencher who likes to make things better than stock.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Do a little online research first and find out if Mazda has a TSB or recall on these shocks. Honda replaced the struts on my Odyssey at 50,000 miles (14K out of warranty).  I simply paid the dealer for labor.

  • avatar
    Orangutan

    According to TrueDelta there are lots of suspension problems with the M5, especially the 2006 models. Looks like your experience is not uncommon.

  • avatar

    You beat me to it, I was going to note the same.

    The question, then, is why the 2007 and up do not have as many suspension problems. Would new shocks have the necessary changes, or were the changes to the suspension design?

    The repairs that have been reported:

    http://www.truedelta.com/repair_histories.php?stage=pt&bd=Mazda&mc=173

  • avatar

    Good info, as usual!  If the Mazda 5 is as bad as it looks, replace the shocks with high quality aftermarket units like Bilsteins and aftermarket shock mounts from a TRW or MOOG type of company.  Problem solved? 

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      This would echo my experience with ball joints on my 94 Club Wagon.  Ford replaced all of them under warranty (less than 36K).  When those started to fail at around 60-70K (imagine that – same part lasting the same amount of time) my mechanic replaced them with Moog parts.  Still fine when I donated the car at 164K.  I would go with good aftermarket over OEM on virtually any suspension part.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Hello all!
    The poster said he had “blown shocks”. I’d like to know exactly the nature of his issue.      Mazda has released a TSB outlining shock replacement based on a  leakage concern. If there  are oil stains that do not extend below 1/2 the length of the lower portion of the strut, this condition is deemed “normal”, and no further action is necessary. Naturally if there are performance , noise, or leakage that extends the length of the shock, it should be replaced.
    Yes, there are some  suspension issues with the Mazda5, but most pertain to noise. Again, the exact complaint would be helpful.
    Terry   28 yr Mazda Master Tech/Dealer Shop Foreman
     

  • avatar
    changsta

    Hey thanks for the responses
    I’m the owner of the Mazda5 Gt. I actually had quite a dispute with Mazda Canada over the shock. They refused to cover it as I was 4000km out of warranty when the shock blew, despite the fact that I purchased the extended warranty. I outlined my issues here (www.mymazda5lemon.blogspot.com) as well as Mazda’s surprisingly rude responses.
    By blown shock, I mean that there was a large puddle of oil in my driveway, and the vehicle was bobbing around and had dramatically less path control.
    Under the recommendation of a mechanic friend, I put two Monroe Sensa-Tracs in the rear, and I am pretty happy with them. They are a little softer than stock, and were about half the price. They also have a lifetime parts warranty, and one year labour, which is reassuring.
    The latest issue with the Mazda5 is that the vehicle has begun to rust… despite my rustproofing and undercoating of the vehicle. Mazda at this point has refused to cover the rust because it has not perforated the sheet metal!! Why would they wait for it to perforate the sheet metal when they can fix it now? Yet another frustration with Mazda Canada…..

    • 0 avatar
      Ernie

      Sounds to me like it’s time to invest (current canadian first-class stamp value)*5 here and go old-guy on their arses.
       
      Start writing letters; physical ones.  Have a CC list that drops onto the next page . . . if nothing else it will make you feel better and make more work for them (having to respond to any outside inquiry).  Send it to any “better business bureau” (CA version) and consumer advocacy group that might return you a form letter saying “they’ll look into it”.  Most likely, these groups won’t be able to do anything tangible for you, but sometimes it encourages the company that’s giving you the run around to make nice with you and shut you up.
       
      Everyone complains on the internet (and on the phone).  A letter says “I’m still complaining to everyone that will listen about this”.

    • 0 avatar
      gsnfan

      Why is your blog a “lack of good faith?”

  • avatar

    FWIW, my ’99 Accord, with 168k, has almost certainly never had new shocks (I say almost certainly because I bought the car used at 5 yrs old and 67k) and the ones it has are fine. The car takes New England washboard roads with aplomb.

  • avatar
    changsta

    By the way, I just wanted to point out that my mileage is stated in KM, so really, my second rear shock has blown at about 54,000 miles!

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    Not to get off topic but…I had to sell my delightful little 1991 Honda Civic LX sedan to move across country this year…At 154,000 miles and 18 years old, and one michigan winter, the shocks still felt good on the car.
    Honda, please get back to making cars like this.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    I have a Jetta TDI with 178,000 km’s on it and I haven’t changed a shock yet. It was just at the mechanics and he gave the suspension a clean bill of health, too.

    Are you hauling heavy? Frequently? Anyone know who makes Mazda shocks?

  • avatar
    p00ch

    I have a 2006 GT as well with 87,000 km. I’ve had it in the shop 3 times for suspension work, but those were just noise issues and were apparently related to the bushings. Seems to be a first-year production problem.
    The rust sounds worrisome though – which part of the car is affected?

    • 0 avatar
      changsta

      For me, both rear wheel wells were starting to form rust. If you look at the sheetmetal edge in the wheel well, it does not seem to be properly finished. Take a look at yours… the only reason I noticed was because my car was up on a lift for the shocks…

  • avatar
    krazykarguy

    Once concern I would have with aftermarket shocks and a recent vehicle is compatibility.
    I used to work the parts counter at Mazda when they still used a microfiche for parts lookup. For the 2000 Protege, there were no fewer than 12 DIFFERENT front shock absorber part numbers (6 different configs, different left to right). Things that affected the part? AT or MT? ABS or no ABS? AT with ABS? MT with ABS? it went on and on. I couldn’t figure out why Mazda spec’d it out so many different ways!
    For one customer’s car, it took three tries before we got the right one. All I am saying is that an aftermarket shock may seem like it’s cheaper, but when it’s missing a mounting point for a speed sensor, or the brake hose is no longer attached to the strut because there’s nowhere to put it…

  • avatar
    Andy D

    20  yrs and 350k mile on the original rear shocks in my 528e. The fronts lasted about 225 k miles.  When the fronts go on my  528es, I will replace them with OE , in this case Boge hydraulics.

  • avatar
    Orangutan

    ConsumerReports gives a “Poor” rating (full black dot) to suspension reliability for 2006, 2007, and 2008 Mazda5s but an “Excellent” rating (full red dot with white bullseye) on 2009.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I would definitely keep the car. I don’t think you’ll find anything with those dimensions and anything like as much steering feel.

    Honestly, I can’t think of a single (non performance variant) mainstream car that I would want to buy OEM suspension parts for. Billstein’s are fantastic (I have a set on my own car) but I’ve seen good results from many other brands with my friend’s experiments. The only time I’ve seen people go wrong is when they didn’t call the parts manufacturer themselves for an educated recomendation, or when they adjusted the ride height for aesthetic reasons. Keep ride height stock, don’t dick around too much with spring rates and replace all your rubber and mounting points on the install. That should fix the reliability concerns while improving your car and giving you a lifetime warranty on your dampers (They most definitely ARE wear items).

    In regards to the Honda testimonials: If you run a car to high milage on still functioning dampers you will see an immediate improvement when you replace them. Just because they don’t feel obviously shot doesn’t mean they aren’t bad, you’ve just likely lowered your expectations without realizing it. I’ve never not noticed a damper change, at any milage, truck or car.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Could not have said it better myself.  Struts/shocks with six digit mileage are not “still fine”, at least compared to a new premium unit.  They wear out so slowly that you just don’t realize how much your ride or performance has deteriorated.  Change them and you will amazed how good your car has become.  Some OEMs do build more life into their shocks (Honda would be one of them) but 150K and “fine?”  No way, unless your commute is on salt flats.
      KrzyKar’s comments regarding specific combinations has merit, so you do have to be careful when ordering parts.  But most premium aftermarket shocks blow away OEM stuff; they don’t have the price considerations that the OEM suppliers have to deal with.

  • avatar
    ffdr4

    Unfortunatly the Japanese automakers have started cutting corners on some parts. The front shocks of my Acura went at 70k km’s and weren’t covered under warranty as it is a “wear item” and recently the front shocks went on my neighbours 4 year old Corolla with low miles. The extremes in hot and cold of Canadian weather along with winter, road salt and pot holes (if you live in either Montreal or the Toronto area take its toll). Ironically the shock/supension system in my ’04 CTS is still holding up well. My advice, stay away from Japanese OEM shocks and go high end aftermarket like Bilstein, Tokico or Koni Your van will be a much improved driving beast.

    BTW….did your Mazda 5 GT come with high profile tires and big rims? I believe GT models came standard with them. That could be part of the problem. Low profile tires with big rims are hard on suspension components and lead to premature wear.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Busting two shocks within 4 years? i’m afraid it’s not changing shocks that is the issue here but rather they way the car is driven…
     
    perhaps the 5’s setup does not fit your actual needs and a replacement that does is a more fitting solution.
     
    Roads in Lebanon are known to be some of the worst in the world, potholes all over the place, and i have never ever heard of anyone changing his shocks so early in a car’s life, unless he tried to pull a Richard Burns style WRC jump…. and i don’t think large rims and low profile tires shorten the lifespan of a suspension by that much…they do have an effect but it is not destructive….
     
    So Shawn get yourself a heavy Duty pick up truck or some SUV based on it because a car based MPV is definetly not cutting it for you.
    when used properly, and not overloaded the Mazda 5 is a good car, unless Shawn’s has a fundamental manufacturing fault of some sort

  • avatar
    tedward

    Here’s a question I can’t believe no one has asked. Who else drives the car? Namely, you got any kids or young in-laws?

    • 0 avatar
      Ronman

      Actually, I busted the shocks twice on my dad’s old Chevy when i discovered a jump on a rally stage that snakes near my home. and that was before i got my license. my dad was a bit savvy second time around and i eventually got grounded..severely
      I own that car now, and still don’t believe that i even dared to do what i did with it’s flimsy handling and mushy suspension….
       
      so yeah tedward abuse is an option

  • avatar
    Orangutan

    Why would the driver be at fault, instead of the vehicle, when the problems experienced are apparently widespread?

  • avatar
    shaker

    Is the Mazda 5’s suspension the same as the 3’s? That might be the problem, with the extra weight having to be sprung and damped.

  • avatar
    FordDude

    I have had excellent luck with TOKICO shocks for import cars.

  • avatar
    Riz

    My ’06 Mazda 5 GT only has 62k kms on it, but I haven’t had the problems you describe.  I just had the back driver wheel off recently (flat at the in-laws, had to drive the tire in), and no rusting on mine (only driven in Alberta, though).  I did have the bushings issue, and I’ve heard the newer ones learned from the redesign (don’t crib Mazda 3 parts for a heavier car).

    That being said, we’re not buying it out from lease – time for a Toyonda minivan, despite our dislike for the minivan format.
     
     
     


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