By on November 12, 2014

fuel pump. Shutterstock user Budimir Jevtic

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.
Thanks,
Mike

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 [email protected]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.

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127 Comments on “Piston Slap: 2 More Years from the (Mazda)3?...”


  • avatar
    Scott_314

    The 3,000 or 4,000 mile oil change interval has to die, people. Please. Use Synthetic and go 8K or more, check the oil once in awhile to ensure the level is good.

    • 0 avatar
      vtecJustKickedInYo

      Not really, especially if you are running a turbo’d car, which is increasingly becoming common place (small oil passages with high heat). I would rather do a 5k with the added comfort of knowing there is less sludge/coked oil in engine then doing an 8k change.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Especially not if one does a lot of city driving. I do more hwy now, but when I did a lot of hard city miles I changed my synthetic oil every 3k or so. Better to pay for a few extra oil changes than wreck the engine.

        • 0 avatar
          SatelliteView

          Well, by the same logic, would it not be double-better change your synthetic every 1.5k or so the wreck the engine vs 3k intervals?

          But if you think that 3k is reasonable and 1.5k is trolling, what makes you think 8k is unreasonable on a modern synthetic?

          There are enough additives in synthetics to prevent sludge for rated oil-change intervals

          • 0 avatar
            anti121hero

            In a motor with 250000+ miles I prefer the added comfort of knowing that I am cleaning out whatever sludge is in there and creating more by changing my oil more frequently than recommended. I run full synthetic Shell diesel oil in my one jeep and high mileage synthetic blend in the other jeep. My experience has shown that on motors of such age, full synthetic tends to be too thin and leaks out of places it never would of before.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Unless you’re doing *oil analysis* that suggests your oil is critically depleted in additives, you don’t need to exceed the manufacturer’s hard-duty cycle with *conventional* oil, let alone synthetics.

          It’s not going to wreck your engine, honest.

          (Given the price of synthetics, it’s probably worthwhile to pay for an analysis, in fact, to get *actual data* about oil lifespan and match your interval to your actual needs.)

          • 0 avatar
            mikeg216

            If he has an old jeep like I do, it’s going to be 19 this year. The lifters start to clatter when it needs new oil.. A quart of Lucas and a bottle of St zinc additive and she’s good for another couple thousand. Only change my filter twice a year, all old jeeps burn oil 4.0 5.2 and 5.9.. Even the really old 304 burning oil was part of the design when they were being developed in 1959…

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            I find that people on the internet put too much emphasis on these oil analysis that companies such as blackstone do. At the dealership I work at we had a V6 diesel engine grenade at 20K miles. What we drained out of the engine did not have any properties you would expect in engine oil, especially diesel oil. It had a greenish hue, was very thin, and very clear. I have never seen oil come out of a diesel engine this clean. Mercedes requested we send an oil sample out, because the warranty claim was going to be declined. The test came back all good, claiming the viscosity tested correct for 5W-40 oil, the additives were supposedly still good, acceptable metal content (even though there was all sorts of debris in the pan and filter)

            Even if they actually do something, they can only analyze what’s drained out, and not what’s still stuck in the motor. There is no one correct oil change interval. I change mine at 3K because me commute is very short, and I put many cold starts on it. That’s when most engine wear happens. If I had a more average commute, I would do the manufacturers recommendation, which is the best interval for most people. If I drove an hour each on the freeway, I would do 10K plus. Oil capacity also has a factor. Do you think something like the Nissan Sentra I used to have with 2 7/8 quarts capacity can go 10K like a Mercedes with 8.5 quarts?

    • 0 avatar
      Scott_314

      Myths galore, both of you. City driving? Turbos? Cold weather? Hot? Dusty in your state? Your dad’s old Chevy lasted 8 million miles with oil changes every 3k? All. Myths.

      Just spend the extra $40-$80 every few months on beer, and thank me later.

    • 0 avatar
      Scott_314

      Let me put it this way: Dealers and mechanics want you in there every day if they can get away with it. Manufacturers will play along with them, plus they want to be conservative as hell (screw your pocketbook) to limit their possible damages. And they STILL recommend, on average, 7,800 miles between oil changes.

      Worst scam is mechanics in Canada telling us we’re on ‘severe’ interval. No we’re not, the engine runs at the same temperature and under the same load in Canada as anywhere else.

      • 0 avatar
        DeeDub

        I disagree. Take for example, the common “sealed” transmission and its “lifetime” fluid. What the manufacturer wants is a car that is as hassle-free for the original owner as possible during the 3-year lease or 5-year warranty period, and second owners can go eat a bag of d*cks. If 10K oil changes make the original owner happier, but screw over the third owner 10 years later, so be it.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          But they’re not doing that.

          “10K oil change” cars are quite commonly over 10 years old now, and I’ve never seen any reason at all to believe that they’re failing.

          (Note that those same companies are doing “free maintenance” with their leases precisely to ensure oil changes so that their CPO customers are happy with cars that don’t fail.)

          • 0 avatar
            CobraJet

            Probably a lot of you have heard stories like this. I met a man years ago who was a travelling consultant. He had a big 68 Buick that would have been about 8 years old at this time. He had over 100,000 miles and claimed to have never changed the oil. He told me oil doesn’t wear out, just gets dirty. He said he changed the filter from time to time and added a quart. Not sure I believed him, but that was his claim.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          There’s also environmental issues they have to contend with. The more often they recommend a fluid being discarded, the worse it is for a Manufacturer. They don’t give a damn about the techs or dealership profits.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        An engine in Kansas let alone Miami never sees – 50 like last year.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    If a car needs a fuel pump, clutch, tires, and suspension work, you might as well toss the blue book out the window after you’ve dunked it in used motor oil and set it on fire.

    Yes, done as a DIY, those repairs are much cheaper, but no DIY that puts some thought into it is going to give his/her labor away for free to the seller.

    Let’s say you put $2k into the car, which keeps it running for another couple of years, and still leaves you with a sell-able vehicle… that’s what, 4-5 months of payments?

    If you want to ditch the car, fine, but don’t pretend it’s the financially prudent thing to do; this car has plenty of financially viable life left in it. If we were talking a new engine or transmission, or major body work, you could be asking if it made sense financially, but those repairs small (okay, medium) potatoes. This car ain’t anywhere past middle-age by modern standards.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      He JUST wants to sell it for top dollar while not fixing it, what’s wrong with that!?

    • 0 avatar

      Is the clutch really worn? If it is, you probably need clutch lessons. The only car I ever had to change a clutch on was the ’62 Ford Falcon. I got 161k on the ’77 Corolla, 147k on the ’93 Saturn, 200k on the ’99 Accord, and never changed the clutches, and they weren’t worn.

      I second sirwired on the issue of financial prudence. I bought the ’77 Corolla used with 91k on it (I knew the prior owner, he’d never had the clutch done) for $450 (around $900 in current dollars). I put around that much into it every year I had it (8 years). My total spending on that car for everything was probably slightly under 20k for the 70,000 miles, or $0.28/mile.

      My guess is you could probably get another 100,000 miles out of that car. But if it starts to nickel and dime you to death, that’s the time to junk it.

      Unless you really just want a new car now.

  • avatar
    S1L1SC

    I would shop around and see if you can get a discount from a mechanic to do everything at once. It also helps if they let you bring your own parts (order online = cheaper).

    That said, 100,000 miles is a magic number, so if you are going to sell, sell it before it crosses that threshhold. For some reason people get really worried about cars with more than 100,000 miles vs. cars with 99,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar

      And the prices fall accordingly. Some places just send 6 figure mileage vehicles straight to auction for that reason.

      • 0 avatar
        S1L1SC

        I have never understood that, but then my newest car is a 1994 model with 249k miles and the oldest is a 1987 with 169k miles.

        The lowest milage model in the fleet has 145k miles… I normally just suspend insurance on what I am not driving at the moment, so costs stay low, even with 4 vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Around here, you can get bank financing on a car with less than 100,000 miles. Over that, the banks won’t touch it. That may be the reason

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      If you’re mechanic let’s you buy the parts he’s not a mechanic but a parts changer. Fire him and find a professional. You bring your own breadsticks to the olive garden too?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You WENT to Olive Garden, there’s your fatal mistake.

      • 0 avatar
        DeeDub

        If your mechanic doesn’t let you buy the parts he’s not a mechanic he’s a markup middleman. Fire him and find an honest person.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Exactly.

          A “mechanic” is not a parts salesman; a mechanic is a person who works on cars.

          “Parts changing” is part of that, though so is diagnosis.

          What is not part of that is “believing only their own special magic parts are good enough to put in a car” – that’s exactly being a markup middleman.

          (Exception: I don’t blame brake guys for not wanting to put in random pads, but that’s about it.)

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The problem with that is that there are so many sub-standard or counterfeit parts out there. You can’t blame a mechanic for kicking-out a customer who brings him an ill-fitting $15 ball joint that won’t last a season.

            They need have some level of confidence in the parts you bring, knowing that the customer’s insurance company will go after the shop if something goes wrong.

            Before somebody complains: OEM and hard-to-source parts are different. OEM for obvious reasons, and hard-to-source because sometimes you need to do the leg work. No shop wants to spend half a day looking for a fuel filler neck for your 98 Contour; you’ll need to get the part yourself if you want it installed.

        • 0 avatar
          mikeg216

          Look I’m an honest person and I sell cars and employ a mechanic and we charge msrp for parts no 300% markup on top of labor. I’ll sell you the Moog parts for less than you can buy it for because I buy $325,000 of parts a year and the delivery man is there 4 times a day. With my volume discount you can’t beat my parts price even ordering it online. If you think Imma let some Mook off the street put their eBay Chinese knockoff parts on their vehicles in my shop where I hold the Liability… You sir are a moron. Do it once do it right, the same time every time .

          • 0 avatar
            mikeg216

            Also nothing is hard to source. If it’s older or obscure it just takes a little longer and a little harder to source. But I’m talking two days instead of two hours. I’ve never ever called my parts guy and have him tell me he can’t get it. That’s what the parts guy is for.. But I have an independent parts man for that exact reason.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        If your mechanic isn’t working to give you a reasonable price on parts or is marking them up excessively, then he isn’t leaving his customer’s much of a choice. They’ll bring him the parts bought at a reasonable price or walk altogether. Customers don’t have to tolerate gouging when there are other options.

        • 0 avatar
          S1L1SC

          My go-to guy tries to give me a ggod price, but even with his “garage” discount he is buying from someone that want to make a profit.

          It is much cheaper for me to buy directly from an online clearing house / wholesaler such as Rock Auto. Most of the time he can’t even get the parts that cheap – sometimes online is 50% cheaper!

          He still makes money on the diagnostic portion and labor, although I get a lot of that discounted due to the relationship I have built over the last 5 years – anytime I can’t do it myself the car comes to them.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I have never heard of a service facility not allowing you to install parts you provide. You won’t be in good favor there, but almost everyone allows it, even dealerships. I have installed many customer provided parts over the years. In the places that I got a cut of the parts price, I was obviously not happy when someone provided a part. Places I don’t get a cut, I don’t really care as long as it’s a decent part. Usually your loose any kind of guarantee on that part though.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “Usually your loose any kind of guarantee on that part though.”

          The dealer/installer won’t warrant the part for you, but the manufacturer of the part will if they have a warranty on the part. Many bought at the retail chains carry a lifetime warranty which is even better than most OEMs will offer on the majority of their parts. At that point, it’s up to the vehicle owner to take care of making a claim.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Worst case, this car costs you $1,500/year in maintenance/repairs and $1,000/year in depreciation. Essentially $200/month.

    Check out leases for new cars in your area with $0 down and $200/month – you are looking at a Sentra, Dart, Yaris kind of situation. That doesn’t feel like a step up to me.

    Personally, I would stick with your current ride. Get it fixed right and continue to enjoy it.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “On KBB it shows the car is worth about 5,000.”

    I wouldn’t pay $5,000 for that Mazda, even assuming it was perfect and had no rust. Yours has lots of problems and things which are quite worn out from the sounds of it. It might be worth $2,800 on a good day, or $3,000 to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      “It might be worth $2,800 on a good day, or $3,000 to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.”

      Closeout, huh?

      I smell a loan in process. Does anyone else smell an auto loan being cooked up?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s a manual trans (a negative in this sedan segment) compact with nearly 100k miles, from a less-than-leading manufacturer, produced at a time when they were known across the country for rust problems. And it needs many repairs.

        • 0 avatar
          raresleeper

          YYYYYup.

          • 0 avatar
            mikeg216

            They have rust problems and obvious quality issues.. $2800 is what it’s worth.. Anyone who wants a Mazda knows about the problems and nobody drives a manual transmission anymore. Fix it and drive for another 100,000 she ain’t worth but $900 to me wholesale.

          • 0 avatar
            DeeDub

            According to Mr. Baruth, sticks are worth *more* on the used market, not less. Especially for (zoomzoom) performance-associated examples.

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/fixed-abode-stick-em/

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Here’s where I argue that a little Mazda 3 is not a “performance-associated” car, and win! Maybe if it were a Speed3.

            Little used Mazda buyers would turn away at the thought of a manual interrupting their texting – if they even knew how to drive one at all.

          • 0 avatar
            Mathias

            @mikeg:

            >> $2800 is what it’s worth.. Anyone who wants a Mazda knows about the problems and nobody drives a manual [..] she ain’t worth but $900 to me wholesale.

            That’s silly.
            This past April I sold a manual-transmission 2007 Vibe with 81k miles.

            I asked and received $6,800. The process took 24 hours and I had several people who were interested. I only met the one, but three others sounded like grownups and said they had cash at the ready.

            That may not have been typical, but I have no doubt this Mazda could be sold via Craigslist for right around $5,000.

          • 0 avatar
            DeeDub

            “Here’s where I argue that a little Mazda 3 is not a “performance-associated” car, and win! Maybe if it were a Speed3.”

            I don’t disagree, and I’m not calling it a 911, but it’s got the Zoomy branding behind it and some mild performance upgrades. That makes it at least as “sporty” as the Accord coupe Jack was using as his example.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hmm, maybe on the branding. RE: upgrades. Do buyers at this price point become wary of the owner mods? If it were me needing “OMG cheap transport now,” I wouldn’t touch something which had been modded.

            I don’t even look at used cars at higher up price intervals which have been de-badged.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            …..I don’t even look at used cars at higher up price intervals which have been de-badged….

            Why? I removed the Stingrays off the side of my car and it look a lot better for it. Someone who was willing to make non damaging changes to their car is likely to be the type to take better care of it.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Edmunds shows a similar valuation for that car, which is surprising to me. My experience is that Edmunds is pretty close, KBB is a little high, and NADA seems to be mostly useful to dealers trying to get an upside down buyer into a car and justify it to a bank, it’s so inflated.

      I had a stick shift 2002 Focus to sell this spring, I sold it to the first person who saw it, I could have sold five of them if I’d had them. If you have an inexpensive but decent older car, you can sell it on Craigslist in short order, and no, it’s not a big hassle.

      • 0 avatar
        fatalexception04

        I would remove the CAI and exhaust if I were to sell it. I agree though when I see modded cars for sale I move right along.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        @mathaias you’re vibe is a manual transmission hatchback possibly awd Toyota corolla. Apples to bananas comparison good sir. Also it’s discontinued and sells at a discount to its matrix brethren. Here in greater frozen salty Ohio any matrix or vibe dissappear within hours a Mazda 3 is just a commuter car with an obsolete transmission and known front end issues and rusting problems.. Wholesale price in the land of rust and snow is the same as a mitsubishi or a used up cop car for a reason. That fragile hecho en Japón front end is bent out of alignment after one wheel sized pothole at speed.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        Shhh my business model has been discovered! Average out the prices on what there selling for and subtract 200 dollars and sell on craigslist.

        • 0 avatar
          mikeg216

          Also, I have to state the obvious.. It’s got a cai and a fart can and the clutch is roasted 60,000 to early the front end is all wonky and when you try to crank it.. It won’t start. That’s 5 strikes for those keeping score at home. That’s not even accounting for the obvious Mazda quality defects obviously present in this economy sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Just because you wouldn’t pay $5000, doesn’t mean he can’t get that. Assuming the fuel pump and clutch are sporadic issues that won’t show up on a test drive, he can easily get $5000 for a clean car under 100K. I would like to see where you can find a rust free Mazda 3 with less than 100k for under $3000.

      I also don’t think it’s a clutch at this mileage. If he didn’t know how to drive a stick a correctly, It wouldn’t make it to where it is. More likely a slave cylinder.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    If it is the check valve alone, that should be an inexpensive fix. I did a bit of googling and it looks like the check valve itself is in the $30-50 range, possibly a DIY repair.

    I’m reasonably handy, but also value my time off with the kids, so a clutch and control arm replacement is something I wouldn’t touch.

    Tires are a consumable and shouldn’t factor into the decision.

    However, if you are looking at a new car, I got a 9th Gen Honda Accord Sport 6MT for under $22k. I looked at the Mazda6 and Mazda3 (a new 3s runs $28-30k fully equipped!) and the Accord provided the most amount of space and comfort for the least cash. I’m a firm believer in upgrading size and reducing electronic add-ons if you’re on the cusp of a loaded compact or a moderately equipped larger car.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      Control arm is really not that bad. It’s probably easier than dropping the gas tank to get at the fuel pump. I’d turn that $400 job into a $90 DIY job and pay a mechanic for the clutch and fuel pump.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        You have to drop the fuel tank to get at the pump in a Mazda? On a Subaru (of early 2000s vintage, anyway) you just have to lift up some carpeting in the trunk.

        • 0 avatar
          DeeDub

          I don’t have one so I don’t know for sure, but it looks like it from a quick googling:

          http://www.mazda3forums.com/showthread.php?t=365504

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            That thread does mention a hole in the floor, although a guy dismisses it quickly. I can’t imagine they made a whole in the floor just too access the electrical connectors, and not let you take the pump out.

          • 0 avatar
            DeeDub

            But that’s what it says in the thread – the hole is to access the electrical connectors so that it can be disconnected, but isn’t big enough to take the pump out. Someone downthread here said the same thing.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I see the question a little differently. Right now, the car is not in working condition, so it’s KBB value or whatever means very little. Any buyer of the car is going to immediately discount the price by the cost of the repair.

    So, I would repair the fuel pump regardless of future plans, because you’re going to pay for that one way or the other. The clutch may fall into the same category. If it gives signs of failure to anyone driving it, then a potential buyer is going to take the cost of the repair right off the price he/she offers you. In fact, regardless of how the clutch behaves, a smart buyer may simply figure in the cost of the clutch repair anyway . . . although there’s a question as to whether the KBB price does the same thing. Clutches, tires, shocks and brakes are wear items. You can count on needing to replace them after X number of miles. Finally, if you can demonstrate to your buyer that you just replaced the clutch, fuel pump whatever, then that makes the car more attractive.

    The real issue is the cosmetic condition of the interior and exterior.

    My feeling is that a car that is cosmetically good is just about always worth fixing, whether you keep it or sell it.

    The value of the car to you is not what KBB says it is, it’s what you would pay to replace it.

    Of course, if you just want an excuse to buy a new car — and have the money to do it — then go ahead. But I would still fix at least the obvious defects in your car, as a minimum to get it into running condition.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Keep the car going, but I’d get a second opinion on that fuel issue. No way that’s a $1000 fix.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    If you don’t fix the fuel pump, then the car is worth very little because it is inoperable. At the very least, you need to fix that.

    Tire replacement is a routine maintenance item. That isn’t a reason to junk a car.

    The suspension work seems modest. Not quite routine, but certainly the sort of the thing that should be expected with age.

    Clutches are also semi-routine maintenance items. Unfortunately, they aren’t necessarily cheap.

    Depending upon where you live, the sales tax alone for a new car purchase could exceed those repair costs.

    If the car has been reliable and is structurally sound overall (no rust), then I would be inclined to keep it.

    Otherwise, fix the fuel pump, give the car a good detail and dump it before it crosses the magic 100k mark, as stated above. If you’re going to get rid of it, then let the next guy buy the tires and replace the clutch, and let him do the front end work unless it noticeably impacts drivability.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      The car runs fine, the check valve lets fuel run back to the tank so it takes either extra cranking, or cycling the key on and off a couple times for it to start because the fuel pump has to prime the system if it sits very long. This would be an issue maybe if he has remote start.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I was in a similar situation a few years ago. I had a nine year old Focus, and over the course of the next three years it needed struts, brakes, tires, a timing belt, an alternator, a fuel pump, a clutch master cylinder, and because the clutch pedal broke while I was installing the master cylinder, a pedal box, and motor mounts.

    I did the struts, brakes, alternator, motor mounts, and timing belt myself. The fuel pump required the fuel tank’s removal, I couldn’t do that, so it was about a $700 job. The pedal box was about $800.

    I vote with Sajeev, maybe fix the fuel pump and punt it. If you keep it a few more years, you may find what I found, that I was only saving a few hundred dollars per year by keeping it, as opposed to selling it and buying something similar new, provided I kept the new cars for 8 years or so. If your budget is super tight, keep it, otherwise treat yourself to a new one.

  • avatar
    msquare

    Like Sajeev said, do you know for sure the clutch is about to go or are you assuming based on mileage? If it’s the latter, don’t. That clutch should easily break six-figure mileage unless you drag race.

    No way will you get anything close to a decent price for the car unless it’s running, so the fuel pump is a must, though at that quote I’d first shop around and second see how difficult it is for a DIY. Dropping a fuel tank is a PITA, but a $1000 repair bill is worse.

    Of course, what you’re going for next comes into play, too. Will your next car be that much of an upgrade from this one? If you’re happy with it, keep driving it and don’t sweat that clutch.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    I have to factor taxes in, which may or may not apply to the OP. In my state there is a 7% sales tax (net of trade-in if you trade to a dealer) plus an annual personal property tax (depending on the municipality, from 1% to 6% of market value – usually estimated grossly in favor of the municipality). So a low 20s new car net $5k results in more than $1000 sales tax bill. I live in New England and my goal is not to fund the place any more than necessary – YMMV.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    If you fix the car, will you want to keep it and drive another 50-75k? If so, fix it and drive it, as those items are normal maintenance(to some extent) on a 100k mile car. If you want something different, then dump it now and get another car.

    • 0 avatar
      fatalexception04

      I’d like to hang on to it for about another two years if I can. I like having no car payment. There isn’t much out there too that I really like at the moment. I like the charger a lot which I’ve seen good used prices on, or maybe another 3. But if possible I’d wait for the new speed3

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        That’s the fundamental answer to every question like this:

        If you want to keep it, keep it. Paying to replace a few parts is cheaper than paying to replace all the parts (new car). Until such time that it is so unreliable that it is not dependable (i.e., it doesn’t do its job as a car) and/or there’s something more desirable, there’s not much of a reason not to keep a car.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Do you have to drop the tank? Most Japanese cars made in the last quarter-century or so have access to the fuel pump either by pulling the rear seat bottom (FWD) or going in through the trunk (RWD).

    Control arm can be done in an afternoon with a jack, some stands, an electric impact gun, and some sockets.

  • avatar
    fatalexception04

    Thanks Sajeev for posting my question and thank you so far for the comments. So just for a little update. The car does run fine, what I’ve figured out is that I can start the car up by building up the pressure in the check valve. This is by turning the key to on a few times which allows the pump to cycle and build up pressure. Then I can start the car with no problem. Since my question I have bought new tires, and new lower control arms. So really the pump is the only thing I’m waiting on. It’s a pain of a job because you have to go in through the interior to get to the pump.

    Regarding condition the interior has always been vacuumed, leather conditioned and everything cleaned on a regular basis. The exterior has had the usual marks/dings expected for a car its age in NY, but the paint has always been polished/waxed twice a year. Most importantly there are no signs of rust at all and I was under the car just last month when it was on the lift. Still runs strong and handles well.

    I have also since turned over 100,000 miles. I’d like to have some value in the car though when I move to the next one

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I wouldn’t want to drive the car with a dodgy fuel pump. Should it finish failing you will be walking, and you’ll have to add a tow to the cost of repairs.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        A weak check valve is not a sign the pump is about to die. My 22 year old car still has the original pump and has had a marginal check valve for the last 4 years.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Going through the interior for the pump is a lot easier than dropping the tank. That makes it a DYI, if you are comfortable with such things. I’m sure you can YouTube it and see how it’s done.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      If you’ve already done the tires and arms then I’d bite the bullet and do the pump/check valve. No one is going to want to buy a car that you have to play games with to get started. If you do decide to keep it I suspect that the cycling trick you’ve been doing will at some time cease to work, probably at the most inconvenient moment.

      The car is 7 years old. There’s no shame in wanting something new[er]. As long as you didn’t get the best money-is-no-object tires everything you’ve invested will help sell the car for top dollar.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Sounds like you’ve already gone down the road towards keeping it, so you need to get the fuel pump done, one way or another. I held onto my Focus mainly because I didn’t see anything new I really wanted, sounds like you’re feeling the same.

      So, what’s the deal with the clutch? Is it showing signs of distress, or did someone just suggest it’s near being worn out? I had 127,000 mostly city miles on the Focus when I sold it and the original clutch was going strong. On a car the power and weight of a Mazda 3, the clutch could go 200K or more.

      As far as wanting to have some value in your car when you get your next one, you’re at the tail of the depreciation curve already. A nine year old compact with 130,000 miles on it isn’t going to be worth much, but it’s not going to be worth that much less than it is now.

      • 0 avatar
        fatalexception04

        I think the clutch is ok. I had read on the forums that a lot of people needed to replace them around this mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          If it’s not slipping and it’s not chattering it’s OK. Clutches don’t generally fail all at once unless they’re being horribly abused. If it starts slipping under hard acceleration in the higher gears, then you need a new one.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I don’t buy the logic of “I want to drop $25K on a new car so I can save up-to $2K on my current car.”

    It sounds like you want a new car. If that’s the case, do some minimal fixes on your current car and sell/trade it. No need to feel guilty about trading old for new, it’s just a car.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    If it is the same at the hatch, there is a little plastic cover under the rear seat to access the plugs and stuff for the fuel pump, but enough to actually get the pump out… It sucks pretty hard that these cars don’t have a normal in line filter…

  • avatar
    slavuta

    The question is, what did you do to your car to need all these repairs?
    I have 1998 Protege, 195K miles, which is Mazda3 before. And I have only replaced AC compressor, Alternator, CD player and 2 pieces of exhaust, and normal stuff – Brakes/tires/light bulbs/wires/distrib cap and rotor/spark plugs.

    The only time my car didn’t start was when battery died

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Modded it.

      Honestly, people that mod their cars, in both big and moderate (maybe not small/cosmetic) ways must suffer a 300% increase in problems and corresponding 300% decrease in vehicle longevity.

      This is just one of the reasons modded cars crash & burn in terms of resale values.

      • 0 avatar
        fatalexception04

        I’ve done nothing to the car to this point other than routine maintenance. Regular oil changes, tires, brakes, plugs, battery and fluids. Car hasn’t missed a beat ever. I’m surprised cause I drive it hard, but has been reliable. The mods have had not any negative effect on reliability.

        To me it was more of a question of value/money.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I may have read your comments about cat back change too quickly (or not; who did work?), but why the new shocks & struts @ 97k miles?

          If you were near me, I know someone that could properly replace your fuel pump cheaply if that’s the issue.

          It’s odd how these problems seem to pop up after people change out plugs/wires/coils.

          That car is way too young to be treated like a throw-away assuming no significant accidents or water issues or salvage issues. It’s a 200k mile car, easy.

          Any collisions or other issues?

          • 0 avatar
            fatalexception04

            When I replaced the plugs I used the same ones that came from the factory. As for the shocks, unfortunately it seems pretty common for them to wear out on these cars after like 50,000 miles. So these are my second sets. I also switched over to speed 3 factory struts/shocks after the factory ones went out. But the struts are good, only the shocks go. It’s just the crappy roads I have to drive to get to work suck as well. Seriously they are terrible

            No other issues though. I’ve never had any accidents or damage.

      • 0 avatar
        Jesse

        While it’s true that some modifications can be harmful to a car, it’s quite a stretch to claim that a Mazda-branded exhaust system would kill his fuel pump (check valve). Or that all mods kill cars. If I upgrade my car with Bilstein HD struts, it’s not gonna hurt anything. If I start messing with the turbo wastegate, that’s a whole other story.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          See my comments/questions above.

          OT, but if I were to upgrade my shocks, it would be with Bilstein HDs.

          • 0 avatar
            fatalexception04

            Oh and the dealer sold and installed the intake and exhaust when I purchased the car. They are mazdaspeed branded parts that mazda had for the 3 as well as their other models.

          • 0 avatar
            MZ3AUTOXR

            I bought my struts and shocks through the Mazdaspeed program. The Mazda branded performance dampers were a notch below Koni or Bilstein, but worth the money, esp with the Mazdaspeed discount.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        It’s called the hoon tax

  • avatar
    Trichobezoar

    We have the 2007 hatchback with 125k miles, also drove it across the US – one way – a few years ago. Been looking around for something to eventually replace it with, but haven’t found anything we liked that beats it in fun AND practicality. Recently spent a few thousand replacing the engine mounts after bottoming out on some gravel mountain roads, and a few thousand on a head gasket replacement after the thermostat failed one day. Haven’t regretted spending money on this machine. Our current plan is to continue driving it into the ground over the next few years, and by then we might be able to get a gently used 2015-16 Mazda3 hatch or even a 2. Maybe the speed version if we’re feeling frisky, but probably not since the wife has had bad experiences learning stick shift.

    If you really feel the need for playing with a new car, get an old PlayStation 3 , a Logitech G27 wheel, and Gran Turismo 6 for a few hundred. That’ll tide you over.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    $400 for a (one) control arm swap? Dang, I need to charge more for this stuff. The most expensive part (with the ball joint attached!) at the chain stores come out to about $100 retail and the labor to swap one should definitely come in under an hour.

    The fuel pump is definitely pricey at the chain stores at $500-$600, but if you can wait, order the Delphi part off rockauto.com for $300 and just pay your mechanic the labor and save a few hundred.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      That’s probably parts + labor + alignment afterward. It is a bit high but not unheard of if it is OEM control arm.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Ah yes, the obligatory $79.99 four wheel alignment for a part replacement that at most would require setting the toe. Gravy.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Why is $79.99 a bad price for an alignment, when an alignment machine and rack come out close to $30k? That doesn’t even include the guy doing the adjustment.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            It’s not a bad price for a full 4 wheel alignment with multiple adjustments. It’s about the going rate.

            I take issue with the fact that any car that gets driven onto the rack gets the full 4 wheel alignment charged, even if all that’s required is a minor toe ajustment or steering wheel centering. Many lower end cars don’t even have the ability to adjust anything beyond toe, so why charge them the same rate as trucks and vans that have a dozen ajustable joints, shims, bushings and other rusty crap? Because it’s gravy, like all menu priced items, that’s why.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Just because the place is taking a hit on the few cars that come in needing shims (some places charge extra) doesn’t mean the toe set isn’t worth it. Again, the alignment machine and rack cost about $30,000. Excluding any other expense it costs the shop to do this, it’s still about 380 alignments to break even. Do you have a problem with the large Coke McDonalds charges $2 for and only costs them 5 cents?

            Alignments are loss leaders. People usually don’t bring in their car for an alignment just because they feel like parting with $80 or more. They have a pull, or their steering wheel is off center, or they have uneven tire wear. When I get a car in for an alignment, the first thing I do is take the car for a test drive, and the second is lift it up a regular lift to see what’s loose in the steering and suspension. Very rarely is a car that the customer requests an alignment on able to be aligned without other repairs. Those are the repairs we make our money on.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            A large drink of any sort at McDonald’s is always $1, on the dollar menu.

            -Plays The More You Know music-

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I’m keenly aware of the cost of alignment equipment and overhead costs. I’m not disputing that a shop has a right to make a profit, or even use alignments as a loss leader. The issue in contention is charging the same amount for setting toe (which is little work) as for a 4 wheel adjustment (which can be a lot of work).

            I would take issue with McDonalds charging me the same for a small item as a large item, which is essentially what the flat rate alignment is on a modern economy car.

            I’m not sure if you do much warranty work, but most manufacturers won’t pay for a full alignment if something like a control arm was replaced only requiring toe be set. They’ll pay something like 0.4h to put the car on the rack and set the toe, which is reasonable.

            I realize the definition of reasonable to a shop or mechanic might extend to charging whatever they can to try and recoup the cost of their alignment rack. To a customer, paying for the alignment of 4 wheels when one tie rod was adjusted may not be just because it’s a misrepresentation of what was done. The manufacturers don’t pay it, why should an individual customer take it? Because a little extra gravy off the odd customer helps pay for the rack a little faster.

  • avatar
    doubleshooter

    had the same issue with my 2004 Mazda 3i albeit 2.0L 125K. After the car would sit for day or so. It would just crank and crank and then finally start. Cure was the a new fuel pump. My trusty mechanic said the design changed from 2004 MY. The pump was definitely different from the one he took out. No, it wasn’t a generic kind either. Was a worthwhile repair since the car runs like a champ now.

  • avatar

    I’d fix it and keep it. Assuming you knew you could get another two years out of it, it seems worth it to me to continue driving it. Otherwise, you’d sink that same amount of money into something that you’ve got no equity in, and probably something that you wouldn’t like as much as your 3. Then sell it privately, preferably to someone who knows exactly what it is and what its ownership entails. Don’t leave the 80% for the 20%, as they say.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    the fuel pump/check valve “issue” only happened after letting the car sit for a few days.

    the solution might be as simple as giving it an extra keyflick to pressurize the system if you let the car sit for a few days.

    on-off-on-off-on, start/run. and thats only if you let it sit a few days.

    • 0 avatar
      fatalexception04

      I have to do that each time I start the car.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Light bulbs & fireworks should be going off, as SoCalMike just possibly remotely solved/confirmed that the problem is definitely in the fuel pump or, if lucky, somewhere in the line other than the pump that’s easier to access.

        Did you get any codes?

        I wouldn’t be exactly shocked if it’s not necessarily the pump.

        You need to find a really competent, really honest indie mechanic pronto.

        There is no way this car isn’t worth another few grand than what you stated or another 100k miles if no collisions no salvage no rust (and no other serious skeletons).

        This year and model are pretty popular IIRC, especially in certain regions like Georgia, Arizona, California or countries like Canada.

        • 0 avatar
          greaseyknight

          If its every time the car is started, it should be pretty simple to hook up a fuel pressure gauge to see if its below spec. Odds are its the pump, but 5 minutes of diagnostic will confirm.

        • 0 avatar
          Exfordtech

          Unless you have a leaking fuel injector or an external fuel leak, the only possible place for the fuel to go is back into the tank past the failed check valve that is part of the fuel pump assembly. A leaking fuel injector would generate rich codes and likely misfiring on its way to taking out a catalytic converter. Fuel odor would likely be present under the hood as well, similar to a venting bowl on a carburetor. Modern vehicles evaporative emissions systems have virtually eliminated fuel odor. An external leak would be evident by fuel odor and or a visual inspection. A failed check valve may not set a code at all, but would be pretty quickly verified with a fuel pressure leakdown test.

          • 0 avatar
            fatalexception04

            The mechanic did fuel pressure tests and determined it was just the check valve not holding the pressure when the car is shut off. But he did say the pressure was fine when running. I believe you have to take out the rear seat to replace the pump.

          • 0 avatar
            Exfordtech

            If the pump is accessible under the rear seat then it is definitely within the realm of diy. Not sure where the $800 to $1000 comes from if that’s the case. A new pump is around $400 (must be made of unobtanium). Fuel pressure test at a 1/2 hour max, if pump can come out from under the seat that’s at most 1 hour. At $100 per hour that’s about $550. If the tank needs to be dropped then it’s a different story with corroded fasteners and tank straps potentially in the mix. Too bad no way of overhauling the old pump.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Please get clutch, control arm, and fuel pump fixed. Also keep on with the 4k oil changes. Then sell to me cheap in 2 years when my experiment of DD a E46 wagon fails miserably.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    This is a no-brainer IMO. If you don’t foresee issues coming up that cost more than the car is worth, maintaining an old car ALWAYS costs less than buying a new car.

    Replacing the fuel pump sounds like a one-time affair, at least in the average ownership experience of one owner. Something this expensive would have to happen 4-5 consecutive times, within 4-5 years, to economically justify a replacement car.

    Other potentially expensive weak points of any mainstream car include an alternator or a radiator going bad. Neither of those are financial car killers either.

  • avatar
    donutguy

    I have a lot of experience in keeping older cars running. If your Mazda cost you 2 grand in repairs…..look at it this way- that 2 grand is about 6 car payments. It’s well worth it to make the necessary repairs and get more use out of your car.

    I have a 16 year old Saturn with low miles (80K) and earlier this year, I spent over a grand replacing the A/C compressor, receiver, dryer etc. The car is probably only worth 2 grand at best, but it’s in great shape and I didn’t feel like sweating my ass off :-)

  • avatar
    MZ3AUTOXR

    160,000 miles on my 2007 2.3 5sp. It still has the original clutch. I do a lot of highway miles, but I also have autocrossed it since it was broken in. Clutch life is all about being smooth.

    AC compressor went this past summer – that was a grand. Would have been a lot less, but Mazdaspeed wouldn’t let me get a compressor through their program because it was not competition related.

  • avatar
    nichjs

    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)

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      ***This is a GREAT POINT, actually.

      It so happens that I had a conversation about this with a really competent Indie mechanic who I had inspect/look over a used car my niece recently purchased.

      He told me that he’s seen so many “thought to be more serious or expensive issues” (I’m really roughly paraphrasing him) be resolved with a new battery over the years that it’s something humans at the top of his always check no matter what list when diagnosing problems.

      With capacitive reserve and modern electrical systems that run so many accessories such as fuel systems off the battery, if a battery degrades, gets flaky or is on the cusp of dying, it can cause symptoms and conditions most people would not associate with a dying battery.

      I wonder how many dishonest mechanics have….oh boy, there I go getting cynical of human ethics, again.

      I need to stop doing that. Surely no boat payments were the catalyst behind unethical mechanic tactics (hat tip to Car Talk’s Tom, RIP).

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        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.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    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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