Piston Slap: 2 More Years From the (Mazda)3?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Mike writes:

Hey Sajeev,

Long time reader first time writer. So here is my dilemma.

I have a 2007 Mazda 3 sedan 2.3L with a 5 speed manual that currently has 97,000 miles on it. It is modified with a Mazda branded CAI and cat back exhaust. It’s been a pretty much trouble free car for its life. I’ve always maintained it in terms of tires, brakes, suspension, and oil changes every 4,000 miles. This summer I recently even took the car round trip across the country. Before leaving for that trip I had the power steering fluid, brake fluid, and coolant fluid flushes and new spark plugs. I also had the strut mounts replaced and the rear shocks done.

So after getting home from my cross country road trip I let the car sit for two days. When I went to start it up it would crank a bunch but no start up until I cranked, stopped, and cranked again. The mechanic confirmed my suspicions when he said it was the fuel pump, more specifically the check valve. He said replacing the pump could be close to 800-1000 dollars.

Now I’m not entirely sure what to do with the car. On KBB it shows the car is worth about 5,000. But I have other costly things that need to be done. I also need to do the clutch soon which I understand is close to a 800 dollar job, I have to replace a lower control arm in the front which is about 400, and I need a new set of tires.

I really like the car a lot as it is still fun to drive, but economically speaking I don’t know if I should cut my losses now and look into leasing or purchasing a new car, purchasing something lightly used, or keeping my car. Realistically I wanted two more years out of it. I like not having a car payment each month and if I did purchase my cap price would prob be low to mid 20s.

Any insight would be great.



Sajeev answers:

Unless you’re being coy and actually want a new car, do the basic repairs and keep for 2 more years. But only you know how worn the clutch/control arm is on your Mazda. Clutches, when driven properly with lots of highway miles, can last longer than 100,000 miles. This may, or may not, apply here.

Let’s assume the converse: your Mazda 3 does need tires/clutch/control arm. It’s worth anywhere from $4000-6500 (wide range on purpose), be it trade-in or private party sale. You won’t get the repair money back ($2000 or more) and could easily sell as-is. This is a well-cared-for vehicle with tasty modifications that won’t scare off anyone.

So punt, give up, trade-in for another vehicle. Maybe even the original fuel pump is good enough for a top-dollar trade!

So maybe you are right, it’s time for Panther Love a new machine in your life.

[Image: Shutterstock user Budimir Jevtic]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
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  • Nichjs Nichjs on Nov 13, 2014

    Mike, don't know if you'll read down this far, but I had a very similar issue with my Mazda6 2.0 MT diesel hatch (gray not brown, not SW, so close but no cigar... maybe a panama)which would not start after the weekend if we used the wife's car. Letting it sit unused for > 24 hours gave cranking issues, which after a few tries, got it started. I have never replaced the batters, the car's done 90000 miles, so I switched in a new battery (£100!! owch) and haven't had any issues since. I think it was down to the age of the battery. but it was weird that a few tries got it going. Maybe borrow a battery to test this theory before either buying a new one, or dropping a grand on pumpworks. Good luck J (also a LTR-FTW)

    • See 1 previous
    • VoGo VoGo on Nov 14, 2014

      @DeadWeight Good point. I replace my batteries at 4 years/50K miles regardless of whether "it needs it." An extra $30/year is worth it to me not to have to ever worry that I or my wife will be stranded by an old battery. I also replace the motor oil every 6K miles - not 10K - and use synthetic, but that's my personal paranoia, and not a recommendation for others.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Nov 14, 2014

    My buddy encountered this problem with the wife's '05 Mazda3. He instructed her to leave the key in the ignition position until the pump stops priming before trying to start - a good practice on any vehicle regardless of the condition of the pump - and it was fine for at least a few more years after. They split up so I stopped receiving any updates on that car.

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