Piston Slap: Mazda's Planned Obsolescence: Zoom-Zoom-Scrap

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

John writes:

My mom’s 2001 Protégé lx 2.0 automatic was nice when new, 15″ aluminum rims, nice motor, sunroof, etc. Now at 98,000 New Hampshire miles, shipwreck rusty underneath from salt, it needs new suspension. Soup to nuts.

It has horrible rattles from loose suspension fittings, and it floats like a boat, soaring and zooming with mind of its own over gentle rises. Needs new OEM springs, shocks, all bearings and bushings. All local shops say it’s not worth it. Don’t even want to provide a quote. Is it worth it to spend about $1,500- 2,000 on all new suspension? What if it weren’t rusty? What if I did labor with my weekends and spent $800 at Napa for everything new?

Really what I am asking is why do cars wear to point where not fixing, suspension wise? Is it really a throw away car?

Sajeev replies:

I normally say any fun-to-drive car is worth a suspension restoration, but a previous Piston Slap about the Protégé 5 gives me pause. That, and living in rust-free Texas skews my perspective: where I live, no car deserves to die.

Let’s assume rust won’t ruin this Mazda for another 7-10 years: right now, you’re ready for new shocks, replacing any rubber bushings that fails a visual inspection and perhaps other wear points (per inspection) like ball joints. This might be less than $1000. While coil springs can be an issue, it’s usually not until you double the car’s age or mileage.

But as Steven Lang and others on TTAC mentioned, today’s depressed used car market means a rust free car is cheaper than ever. I’d kiss this Mazda goodbye (hello scrap value!) and hope your next rust free purchase (from a more Southern State in the Union) has a decent set of springy bits too.

[Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Accs Accs on Sep 26, 2009

    Ya know... What does this say about future Mazda's??

  • Bullmoose Bullmoose on Oct 18, 2009

    Metals used in Japanese cars were a mixture of re-cycled - so - not being pure - dissimilar metals - they were bound to corrode. North American cars used to have an advantage there until they too started (or were forced to start) using recycled metal. The thing that irks me is the designed obsolescence. You know - pitman arms - ball joints - with non-lifetime grease cups and no grease fittings but there are grease fittings on the replacement parts. It has been years and years since I've found a North American car/truck that didn't do this sort of thing. So, unfortunately, it has been years and years since I've been able to buy one. If the serial number doesn't start with J (made in Japan) I'm not buying it but would change my mind in a heartbeat if they ever get the message. Right now I think that Detroit thinks I’m as dumb as a sack of hammers. My Dodge caravan – 4 engines and 4 transmissions. Camry – after 17 years – one set of front brakes – two rear – two batteries and a set of spark plugs. 350,000 KMS NO – NO shocks – struts – oops yes two boots. Antenna quit but all electronic gadgets still work and seats and paint look like new still – including the drivers. I have a Chev S10 and replaced all the steering parts at 100,kms with greasable – no more problems – of course head gasket – water pump alternator – everything that can be designed to be replaced. I’m not doing it again. I understand Toyota tried the North American way about 2,000 and dropped below Ford in reliability. Their sales will never recover once the word is out. Good. Chev has nowhere to go but up. They alone can decide their future. Listen to Merle Haggard and start putting real quality back in and don’t make Monday and Friday cars. They used to be able to do it. I’m sure they can again.

  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
  • CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .
  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.