Piston Slap: Mazda Protege5: In God We Rust?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Motorlegends.com‘s motor legend David Holzman forwards an e-mail:

My six year old 2003 Mazda Protoge5 is rusting out pretty bad [see: attached]. I had the left rear panel repaired two years ago (I didn’t realize then that the body was still under warranty). But the panel has continued to rust, to the point where the bracket that holds the bumper failed. From my online research, rust seems to be a problem with some vehicles of this model. I have seen some on the road with similar rust and others with none at all. I called the dealer and they told me to go away. Mazda has washed their hands of this problem and left those of us unfortunate enough to have bought the vehicle from this particular batch up the creek. We obviously can’t sell the car for anything near what others are selling for and I doubt it can be on the road for more than couple years before the rust renders it useless. Do we have any recourse?

Sajeev answers:

OMG, those pictures are scary! Et tu, strut tower?

Legally speaking, Mazda’s rust proofing warranty is for five years with no mileage restrictions. Unless the car sat on a dealer lot for a year, that warranty expired. So your friend is totally screwed.

Mazda could rectify the situation, going after the vendor of toothless chemicals that caused this problem. But body rot isn’t a quick fix for anyone involved, nobody wants to touch that problem. It’s tragic, actually.

Getting lawyered up might work but don’t expect a quick resolution. Talk to a lawyer that specializes in class-action lawsuits and ask (on various car forums) if anyone else is interested. If your query gets downplayed/deleted on a Mazda forum, there’s a strong manufacturer-sponsored undercurrent behind the scenes. And that’s gonna make things tough.

But you can do it: if street racers can sue and (ultimately) bitch-slap Ford for something as trivial as underpowering the 1999 Cobra, nothing is impossible. But it is worth the trouble to get book value for the car and your legal fees back? As someone who believes cars can live forever, I hate saying this: just deal with it. Drive this Mazda until it falls apart.

In your driveway. Literally.

Sajeev Mehta
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  • Lug Nuts Lug Nuts on Jul 28, 2009

    One or two major problems, both very bad. The entire strut tower is rusting from underneath the paint and/or from the wheel well into the engine compartment. Looks downright dangerous, like the entire strut assembly could let go one of these days and pop up through the hood if it hits a big pothole. Are the fender liners installed? Regardless, I would get rid of the car ASAP and buy something different. It's not worth risking your life driving it. The rust damage and structural compromise underneath the paint is probably far worse than what's visible.

  • Escapenguin Escapenguin on Jul 28, 2009

    This isn't as bad as it looks, but it's still inexcusable. My '98 Prelude doesn't have any rust at this level... just on the aftermarket front fender. I would recommend that you raise a stink, as that's the only way any sort of recall will be issued. I mean, this is a structural component of the car-- pretty important. Do they want to pay now or when they get sued when cars are collapsing?

  • MaintenanceCosts Absolutely. Most old classics are not Boss 429s or Busso Alfas. Most of them have powertrains that are just crap by modern standards. I'd love to have a classic without the pre-emissions stinky exhaust or the need to futz around constantly with points and jets to maintain drivability.
  • Ravenuer No, I wouldn't be interested in doing this at all. Seems like it would be quite expensive.
  • Tassos Why buy either when you have two matching 2007 diesel e-classes with combined over 950k km. NO ONE SHOULD WANT MORE THAN I HAVE SETTLED FOR.
  • FreedMike Depends on the used car. If we're talking a numbers-matching GTO or something like that, then hell no. But if we're talking about something like a six-banger '67 Mustang, it'd be cool to make it into an EV with modern suspension, brakes and electronics. Call it an electro-restomod.
  • Billccm I think history is repeating itself. In the late 1980s the French acquired AMC. They discovered no easy money in that deal, Chrysler took AMC and Jeep is all that remained.Present day the French acquired FCA, discovered no easy money in the deal, and some Asian manufacturer will take what remains of Chrysler, and Jeep and RAM will be all that survived.To understand the future study the past.