By on September 8, 2010

TTAC Commentator Supaman writes:

Hey Sajeev, I drive a 2006 Mazda 6s and as cheesy as it sounds, I love this car. No better combo than a V6/manual for driving pleasure, plus the car is practical and has given no mechanical problems (current mileage is 47000). My problem is twofold.

First, the headliner: I noticed around the top corners where the headliner meets the rear window, the material is slowly peeling away.Whenever I power down the rear windows, I can just about see the headliner fluttering away in the wind, perhaps peeling away even more. As a result I try not to drive with the rear windows down, but it’s becoming a nuisance now. I’ve researched the Mazda 6 forums and seen all types of recommendations from 3M glue, to staple guns to a complete headliner replacement. I’m a DIY guy but a complete headliner swap sounds a bit out of my league. The jarring thing (as I’ve found on the forums) is that this is a widespread problem that Mazda has failed to acknowledge (seems to happen right around my car’s age and mileage).

The second minor problem is the dashboard storage bin. It’s a practical place to store stuff but the door itself is quite flimsy and one of the hinges broke off. Again I inquired at my local dealership and was told it can’t be fixed (!?). Any suggestions?

Sajeev Answers:

You’ll never need to apologize for loving your car ‘round these parts. Especially if it’s a Mazda6 with a V6 and a stick. Uber cool, extra stealth: this is one ride that will stand the test of time, be historically relevant, and worth your time to keep pretty looking and functional. So let’s do this thing.

I’m also surprised that a four-year-old car needs a headliner, but they tend to fail sooner if you cruise with the windows down and/or smoke in your ride. Anyway, using thumbtacks works for a while, but look totally ghetto. Glue (3M’s Super 77 comes to mind) is an alternative, but its only a short term solution: the glue can’t replace the (failing) bond between the fabric and the padded foam that’s glued to the backing. Headliners are cheap to re-do, especially if you pop out the liner yourself. Which isn’t has hard as it sounds, fold the seats down, unbolt the seat belt harnesses (usually a Torx head bolt) and pop off the plastic trim around its perimeter. Many places will re-do a headliner for less than $100 if you do the “tough” work yourself.

The second concern isn’t as easy for me to swallow, since I wildly praised it in a previous TTAC review. Which saddens my heart, since an OEM replacement will fail in the same way. The only way to “fix” it permanently is by replacing the failing plastic part(s) with metal instead. Sound ridiculous? One guy did just that for the ashtray in the now famous 1987-1993 Ford Mustang, and not only did he make a healthy profit, he inspired several competitors. If you aren’t mechanically savvy (or don’t want to buy sheetmetal, a dremel, and misc manly-man stuff) I would encourage someone in the Mazda6 Internet community to do this. Because it will pay off, in a couple of years. If not sooner.

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21 Comments on “Piston Slap: Ingenuity in the “6”...”

  • avatar

    Buddy u got to count your blessings if headliners & glove box were the two big issues.
    We have some not as looky owners,  tranny or  engine went, electrical gremlins, ECM gremlins.
    Those owners will never have the head liner issues as their cars wont be going anywhere at speed any time soon.
    I hear thsoe Sports V6 are purty fast too. Turboed up.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Storage bin depends on how much material there is to bite into to drill and replace hinges with metal units.
    Dang, I thought headliner issues had been fixed years ago.

  • avatar

    I loves me my ’03 6s manual. Just hit 85k and had to have a clutch put in (which I didn’t love, but it was time). Wouldn’t say it’s been maintenance free, but like Sajeev says, it’s a car that’s worth maintaining. Not that I’m selling it, but I checked the resale value the other day, and it had only shed a couple of hundred bucks from what I paid for it a year and a half ago. So much fun to drive, for a car that my kids can get into without having to climb over anyone.
    I once used a Dremel + sheet metal etc. to make new window up/down switches on my old Nissan when they broke. It’s not that hard to do. He should give it a shot!

  • avatar

    re: Bin
    I have been surprised at my own ability to repair plastic parts, using those marine-grade fiberglass and resin repair kits they sell for 10 bucks at the hardware store.  In most cases, the repair is stronger than the original.  A patient person can even fabricate entirely new parts, using play-dough molds and other tricks. And when plastic doesn’t work, the scrap-metal-and-Dremel technique usually does.

  • avatar

    This is the second time I’ve seen a posting that makes me seriously question Mazda’s quality.  Modern cars should not rust in the first century of life, and their headliners should not collapse or fall apart.  The last time I’ve seen a headliner fall down was in a 20 year old Volkswagen. Nothing quite gives as bad an impression as when your passengers have to hold the headliner up with their arms.

    • 0 avatar

      I dunno.  In a world of sludged engines, rotted truck frames and blown transmissions (and that’s just Toyota and Honda… two of the supposed quality leaders) a loose headliner doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

    • 0 avatar

      A fair point – I’ve owned two Mazdas, and have had minor issues with the trim and the paint.  I own a Mazda and a Honda now, both ’09s, and the Honda is clearly holding up better from a nick/scratch/smudge/rattle perspective.  Mazda is about on par with GM or Ford – worry free drive train, but some iffy details around the margin.

    • 0 avatar

      My ’06 6S, bought new, has had one major mechanical failure — the transmission (6-speed auto) decided it wanted to downshift to 1st when kicking in passing gear at highway speeds, at 19000 miles. This happened in the middle of a 650-mile trip; using the manu-matic to downshift got me to my destination without incident, and the local Mazda dealer replaced the whole tranny under warranty. No further issues since (I just turned over 40K today) though according to the dealer, the tranny is a weak point.

      The interior has a lot of minor quality issues — for example, the silver “metal-look” paint scrapes easily, there are more squeaks and rattles than there should be for a pampered, import-branded (but alas, UAW-assembled) car, and the leather wrapping on the steering wheel seems very thin and of poor quality — but overall the car has still been a joy to own and drive.

  • avatar

    Thanks again for posting this Sajeev.
    I don’t usually drive with my windows down (well, the rears anyway) but on a recent trip back from the Keys I had them all down (passengers 3 – driver 1) and it was when I noticed the entire rear of the headliner fluttering around. Embarrassed? You betcha!
    Anyway, I do have a can of 3M 77 in my garage I’ve had my eye on for a while and yes, I know it’s just a short term fix but this shouldn’t happen to a 4 year old car (ANY 4 year old car).
    One guy on the Mazda6 forum suggested I drill a screw in where the lid meets the hinge for the storage bin but metal to plastic has me weary of that fix. If I didn’t love the convenience of the bin that much I’d have glued it shut and called it a day.
    Thank goodness for dark (legal) tints.

  • avatar

    Definitely get a pro to do the headliner. $100 – $150 sounds about right and it will be totally worth the money.

  • avatar

    As dolo54 said, 100-150 sounds right and you don’t have to mess with it.  Plus it’ll come with some type of warranty.
    Thumb tacks are available in a variety of “heads” and on a new car, would look absolutely ghetto chic.  I recommend the glow in the dark stars I got my niece for her bedroom ceiling.  Better than those silly star stickers that fall off after 5 years.

  • avatar

    I found the following forum thread (gotta love Google sometimes) with link to an online Mazda parts house:

    Looks like you can replace the entire bin assembly for just a tad over $100 shipped.
    The wife and I rented a 2008 Mazda6i auto for an anniversary getaway two years ago.  I really liked that car, especially as rentals go but it would have been more fun in manual guise.  The dash bin was brilliant, and the only way it could be better was if it had a couple or three 12v power points added to it (I would definitely make this a DIY project were I ever to acquire a 6).  My sister has an 06/07 6s loaded (essentially the speed6 but with FWD, V6, and unfortunately the auto), and while I’ve only driven it a couple miles several years ago I thought the engine sound and thrust was wonderful.  Hang onto your ride it’s a nice one.

  • avatar

    I don’t really have a solution for either problem.  I have a friend who bought a 2011 Buick Regal and they recalled the car for bad smelling headliners (precision German assembly?).  They replaced the entire headliner pretty easily.
    But I would comment that those dashboard storage bins (especially on top of the dash) have always struck me as being of questionable quality.  All that sun/heat on the plastic parts doesn’t exactly encourage a long life.  And those bins seem to appear in more models.  And the cost accountants won’t ever allow the proper hinge.

  • avatar

    Will JB Weld work on the bin’s hinges?

  • avatar

    HAve you asked the stealership it they have the headliner panel? In modern cars is a single piece, usually made of compressed cardboard and covered with fabric.

  • avatar

    I don’t have a suggestion other than have a pro do the headliner, but I thought I would chime in on the Mazda lovefest.  I have an 04 Mazda6s with the V6 and manual that I bought new.  I love it, love it, love it, even after all of these years.  I had to have the clutch replaced at 70,000 miles or so (though I admit my robust driving might have something to do with that), which was not pleasant for my pocket book.   On the trim front, I have had to reglue the door ding strips on the driver’s side, and the passengers side door light cover has a bad habit of falling off.  The cloth driver’s seat could also stand to be made of a more durable material, as it is starting to show wear as well.  HOWEVER, whenever I hit the freeway after accelerating through the 270 degree turn on ramp near my house with the poor Accord and Camry drivers way in the distance behind me, I’ve just got to smile.

  • avatar


    Nice read. I owned 2 Mazda Protage sedans. They will be the last Mazdas i will ever buy. Great engines and the transmission was OK. The rest of the car was junk. To this day i question myself i put up with not one but two pieces of s**t. I must have thought the second had to be better and could not be as bad as the first one. Both were for my wife’s use. I could go on for pages. Leaks radiators and the brakes, I wont go there. But the worst of it was dealing with the local dealer. The owner should have been locked up. The price of Mazda parts at the dealer made the price of parts at my VW dealer a giveaway. Strange but when i sold the lumps i found a sucker both times. I pray every Sunday that they lost my phone number.  

    • 0 avatar

      Parts cost has long been a Mazda problem.  They actually made efforts in, oh, 2003 or so to cut prices to their dealers, but the dealers held the line and increased their margins instead.  I had a lot of experience with dealers working as a consultant and Mazda was the only non-European marque with a consistently shady service network.
      I’ll agree on the brakes, too: my P5 ate rotors far too frequently (stopped like a champ, though) and the dealer pricing was nothing short of criminal.  In the Protege’s case, though, it’s sufficiently similar to the Escort that Ford dealers can service anything really problematic and anything else is easy for the independents.

  • avatar

    I replaced the headliner in the Corsica I had in college, it’s not hard at all if you can get a roll of headliner fabric from AutoZone that matches your interior.  Peel the old one off, run an orbital sander with a light grit over the backing to get rid of any left over glue, spray both liner and backing with adhesive, apply the headliner, and cover with books to maintain pressure.  Then go watch a movie.  After the movie finishes, reinstall the headliner.  Mine lasted at least another 4 years (sold it), and it was a no-AC-windows-down-constantly car in MA. 

  • avatar

    Thanks for the help B&B!
    I’m going to take a Saturday to tackle the storage bin. However, I think I’m going to go with a replacement OEM bin instead of the sheet metal route (not that mechanically savy). I’ve browsed more forums and a few more parts sites and found the bin is actually pretty easy to switch and takes an hour or two.
    The headliner will be my own DIY project from start to finish. I’ve already made some calls and found one guy who can do the refinish for $115.

  • avatar

    This is funny. Just last week, the headliner in my 2004 V6 5M started flapping around. I am a windows down/roof open driver too. I’ve been able to secure it with a healthy application of spray adhesive (not sure which brand, it was $5 at HD) but it seems the whole thing is delaminating so I need a longer term solution, as I have no plans to sell this car. 73k miles, replaced the battery twice, front struts once, but other than that it has run like a top and still makes me grin like an idiot. I’ve never driven another front wheel drive car with better steering feel and cornering poise. It’s tempting to just leave it in 3rd gear around town. Mazdas seem to catch heat for reliability but I guess I’ve just been lucky with mine- 626, Tribute, currently my 6s and wife’s CX-7. I know, I know, lots of Ford running through the fam but who cares?

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