By on November 26, 2014

 

Or not? (photo courtesy: www.mazda3forums.com)

Sam writes:

Hello,

I have a 2006 Mazda 3 S with 120,000 miles on it. I live in Oakland Ca, where the pot holes shoot back. I blew out a front strut a last year and had both front struts replaced. After replacement, one of the struts squeaks like a rusty spring at slow speeds and is annoying. What is actually driving me crazy is a week ago the other front strut started making loud thunking under acceleration at slow speeds.

My mechanic, whom is one of the good ones, replaced both front shock mounts, assuming this would fix the problem. It didn’t, but one of them was all shredded. Now, I feel like I’m going down the rabbit hole, there are engine mounts and sway bar bushings that can be replaced, but this shouldn’t be so complicated.

My car is supposed to take my abuse and like it.

Sajeev answers:

Excuse me Son, but when in the history of Autoblogging did a (non-Ranger based) high mileage Mazda ever take suspension abuse? Have you not listened to my screeds re: Panther Love?

Stupidity aside, engine mounts are kinda easy to check and it’s likely your problem, as discussed before.  And sway bar bushings are cheap and usually easy to swap. This car is an 8-ish year old non-Panther with over 100k on the clock. Aside from big things like engines/transmissions/etc, be cool with any wear item failing at this point. It won’t happen often, but being “cool with it” is the right state of mind at this age.

Your mechanic is probably doing the right thing.  Problem is, cars aren’t built like they used to.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Not built like they used to? Damn right!  No more tune ups before 100k, engines are that good.  Suspensions don’t need regular lubrication, though DIY-ers wouldn’t mind a greasable zerk fitting renaissance. Read the owner’s manual?  Only if I can’t get the dash to talk to my smarty-phone or adjust the clock for daylight savings time.

How does this prove my original point?

Cars are now so good that we set ’em and forget ’em.  Even with tighter suspensions, higher revving engines, loads of fragile(ish) electronics and idiotically thin tires, a modern car with over 100k will be in better shape than one from 25+ years ago. Especially when applying the same amount of maintenance. Hell, good luck getting that older car to even run past 100k with a modern car’s servicing regiment. 

 

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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37 Comments on “Piston Slap: Take My (Suspension) Abuse And Like It?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Dear Sajeev,

    Ford has long conversations with my car through my smarty-phone, but I hear a lot of snickering, do you think they’re talking about me?

    Signed,

    Paranoid in Poughkeepsie

    P.S. The guy with the Mazda is lucky his wheels haven’t fallen off yet

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    Depends on the struts used. OE are pretty much the best besides super pricey aftermarkets, Gabriels from an auto parts store are OK and eBay chinese struts are absolute utter complete junk

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    “Excuse me Son, but when in the history of Autoblogging did a (non-Ranger based) high mileage Mazda ever take suspension abuse?”

    I’ll tell you what, old 1st gen Mazda MPVs (the 929/b-series truck based ones). My brother’s ’89 2.6 4cyl finally needed new front struts at 180k, and they still had damping life left in them, it was the spring perches that were finally rusting out. Amazingly, the car has original ball joints even now at 230k. And this is with him using it as his mountain biking rig, running up and down forest access roads with a full load of 5 people and bikes for the past 100k and 10 years. The rear shocks are a different story, he replaces them on a 3 year basis due to the harsh use and perpetual overloading.

    Conversely, my old ’98 MPV of the same body style but with 4wd and the heavier v6 in front, needed a new ball joint by 120k, and needed a new strut, swaybar link and balljoint in front after I nailed a very nasty pothole.

    Mazda really had something going with those old MPVs, if only they paid a bit more attention to rust proofing and gave them something more than a measly 155hp for the V6!

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The 626-based Tributes were pretty hardy as well

    • 0 avatar

      I totally whiffed on the MPV, those things are still used as work trucks here. Just like the Aerostar and Astro vans, but in smaller numbers.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Aha, the Astro Van/Safari. Was just admiring one last night.

        In Southern Ontario there are still plenty of them to be seen performing their duties with the stoicism and loyalty of a trusted working dog.

        I think that Murillee should dedicate a posting to an Astro/Safari.

        The Aerostar on the other hand, yuck.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Yep, used MPVs are pretty cheap to buy, very roomy, reliable, and the drive/powertrain stands up to overloading better than FWD transverse powertrain vans do. The only real problems I had with mine stemmed almost exclusively from rust. On my ’98, A few minor top end oil leaks due to brittle gaskets, noisy lash adjusters (just an annoyance), injector o-rings, the aforementioned balljoints and struts, and a driveshaft u-joint were the only notable repairs in 150k. Very easy to work on, and the 4cyl uses a timing chain. The timing belt on the v6 is super easy to change and the engine is non-interference. What keeps me from recommending an MPV to everyone looking for a do it all utility/workhorse vehicle are the hard to find and expensive parts. We’re talking Mercedes Benz expensive for certain things. My 4Runner has been a breath of fresh air in that regard, OE spec parts are a dime a dozen.

        Stuff that rust killed on the MPV:
        fuel lines, brake lines, rear coolant lines, rear AC lines, rear swaybar link mounts, e-brake lines, rear calipers, many brake rotors, fuel tank (just this past year started leaking finally). All of these things reared their ugly heads just in the past 2 years, when rust finally accumulated to a critical point. To their credit, European makes generally suffer none of the aforementioned rusted out components, they use a higher quality alloy, or copper tubing for lines. I learned my lesson and the 4runner has a thick layer of fluid film covering every nook and cranny on the underside.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        MPV should definitely get honorable mention.

        My uncle had one of the older MPV’s. Had it for well over 200k+ miles.

        It was quite a machine.

        Back in “the day”, the hip-hop crowd seemed to like MPV’s too. Don’t know why… dare I question to know!

        This was a response to Sajeev…. why the hell was it all the way down here! Sigh.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          As far as 1990s hip hop notoriety you are on the money,

          Tupac had one (see video where he spits on reporters then chirps out in a tinted out black MPV), Wu-Tang loved them enough to have one in the C.R.E.A.M. music video “rollin in MPVs, every week we made forty gs” as well as in the music video for Can it all be so simple “rollin in MPVs phat!” Biggie had one as well (Friend of Mine lyrics) “it was me, Dee, the MPV, blunts and brew thang, bumpin some Wu-Tang”

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        The unicorn MPVs are very sought after (by those in the know): V6, 5spd manual, 4wd with a low range transfer case and center locking diff. The stick shift really wakes the car up.

        • 0 avatar
          raresleeper

          I actually saw one of the early/boxy 929’s the other day.

          Every body panel was damaged/dented. Rear of the car was sagging badly.

          No smoke coming out of the tailpipe at all. The thing wasn’t even breaking a sweat :)

          Love those old Mazda’s.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Was their more rust than paint?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            The old JE series V6 was no powerhouse, but was a sturdy workhorse. Low compression, SOHC 18 valves. Of course the 929 also got the higher compression 190hp DOHC variant, which sadly was never offered in the MPV.

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        Got to weigh in on the MPV. My wifes 93′ was one of the best rigs we/I have ever owned.

        Competent handling, even with a load. Mid 20’s Hwy MPG. Comfortable on very long trips. And we never had any rust issues despite annual week long stays on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Only issue in over 250,000 miles, the main fuse blew.

        I would recommend one to anyone.

        In 93′ I bought the MPV for the wife and a Miata for myself. Still have the Miata, damn thing is indestructible.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I agree, our 89 and 98 both made multiple road trips south from Central NY down to the Carolinas and the Florida Keys, fit a family of 4 and camping gear splendidly. Later I used to to haul me and 4 buddies, and a canoe, and a bunch of tents and a bunch of beer (5 30 racks to be precise) upstate to the Adirondacks. Engine sucked wind on hills but like you said, the handling was very good even loaded to the hilt. The 98 had the load leveling air shocks, they started leaking after about 7 years. We put in the stock non-load leveling package steel springs, and put in Monroe adjustable shocks attached to the stock air lines, works great.

          The 89 continues to live at my brother’s shop in Central PA as a parts runner and still gets use as a MTB hauling rig, making a trip to the North Carolina mountains each summer for the grueling “Assault on Mount Mitchell.” The 98 is my parents’ sailboat hauler as well as their homestead workhorse (now supplemented by a small New Holland).

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    How can roads in Northern California be so bad? I guess Oakland has no money, but my sister’s Alero seemed happier in California than Michigan.

    I guess out country’s infastructure is so bad, roads are $hit everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      As a former California highway engineer, I can confirm even the roads in California are worse than they used to be. Some people complain it’s the diversion of money to bike paths and mass transit, but the maintenance budgets have been consistent.

      The problem everywhere is that roads have a useful life and the pavement must be replaced eventually, even concrete. There’s a highway in Connecticut that’s over 70 years old, but trucks and buses are banned. For full use concrete, 40-50 years is the maximum, and much of the Interstate system was built in the ’60s and ’70s. Asphalt is good for 7-12 years, but can be extended to 20 years with a couple overlays. Eventually, though the subsurface has to be dug up and replaced, not just the asphalt top layer.

      The bottom line is most of our roads and bridges have reached the end of their useful life and need major reconstruction. The cost is now many times the original. About 3-5 Trillion dollars over a 10-15 year period ought to get us back to 1975. Tell your Congress critter to appropriate the money.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I tell my Congress critter such, but I have no faith that it will get done. I can think of plenty of things we can divert money from to fix our roads, including military spending. I’d also be willing to pay more taxes, provided it actually goes to roads and not asinine pet projects.

        The Michigan gas tax may double in order to get an extra $1 billion a year for road repair.

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        My stepfather is a former Washington state Hwy bridge engineer, and he concurs with Lorenzo.

        Interesting note about him, he was in Kuwait working for a Japanese hwy builder using a new type of Asphalt, and building freeways to nowhere. Things were heating up with Saddam’s threats. I told him to get out of Kuwait, but he scoffed at the idea, saying the West was blowing the situation all out of proportion. He ended up hiding for weeks after Saddam invaded.

        When he returned, the state of Washington hwy dept. hired him under contract to develop and use the newly gained Japanese asphalt formulation for use on Washington hwy’s. Turned out to quite lucrative for him in his retirement.

        In the NW, road surfaces are mostly destroyed by studded tires which are used for safer driving in the Winter, but make the deeply troughed roads dangerous the rest of the year, especially when those troughs are full of water.

        And my step dad says, that soon, we will not be able to resurface roads due to the expense of asphalt and as Lorenzo mentions, the deterioration of the road subsurface.

        When California wanted to replace part of the Bay bridge damaged by the 1989 earth quake, the costs were exorbitant. It took the partnership of several international contractors, 6.5 billion dollars, and 11 years to get the Eastern section, only, done.

        Fixing all the bridges, tunnels, and highways in the US, is a daunting financial undertaking, but it has to be done and the benefits will be manifold.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I think they just refer to the degrading conditions they have witnessed in their lives. If they drove in MI it would be a wake-up call on what a bad road really is. It’s like the people that complain about the bad roads here in Seattle.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    The passenger side mounts on our cars are garbage… Of course stamped FoMoCo… When they fail it looks like a little trail of oil dripping down the side of the mount. There are a bunch of aftermarket mounts because of this. They will probably introduce a lot more vibration into the cabin though.
    The upper strut mounts are also pretty trash. They are like wedge shaped and need to fit onto the spring a certain way and the bearings have a tendency to explode and fall all over the place.
    The clunk is probably a not really really tight sway bar link though.
    mazda3fourums has a lot of info on all these things…

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    It ate my other comment… Tighten the sway bar end links again… Then tighten them some more…

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    If you can get under the car, you can do sometimes check sway links by simply grabbing the sway bar and yanking it side to side. If it bangs around, you’ve found your issue.

    It usually makes a sound almost like a golf ball being hit with a club when you’re driving. Usually replacing them is a fairly easy job.

    If you hear a creaking/squeaking noise it could be the sway bar rubber bushings. If you’re on a tight budget, you can simply unbolt them and put some silicone grease on them. Replacements though are usually inexpensive, around $12.

    All very easy for a DIY’er to handle.

    Usually strut mounts make more of a metal rattling noise when they’re on their way out.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    If you can get under the car, you can do sometimes check sway links by simply grabbing the sway bar and yanking it side to side. If it bangs around, you’ve found your issue.

    It usually makes a sound almost like a golf ball being hit with a club when you’re driving. Usually replacing them is a fairly easy job.

    If you hear a creaking/squeaking noise it could be the sway bar rubber bushings. If you’re on a tight budget, you can simply unbolt them and put some silicone grease on them. Replacements though are usually inexpensive, around 12 bucks.

    All very easy for a DIY’er to handle.

    Usually strut mounts make more of a metal rattling noise when they’re on their way out.

  • avatar

    Back in 2006, I bought a new Mazda 3s hatch, as far as I remember, there was a TSB on the front suspension, they were noisy at low speeds, I replaced them under warranty.
    I can’t remember how many times I replaced the top engine mount, probably 4 or 5 times, all under warranty.
    At 66k miles, the engine fan would never stop spinning at max speed but I did not fix it, I simply traded in the car for a new 2011 Mazda 3s, it was much better in terms of warranty repairs but the body hardware was not so great, lots of rattles and squeaks, since it was a lease, I replaced it after 2.5 years with a 2014 Accord, so far so good, beside the point that the Accord is a little boring, I like it better, no more noise, I can finally have a conversation in the car without screaming (-:)

  • avatar
    winodarko

    Replacing the motor mount fixed thunking, but it still squeeks. I think my mazda eats oil now. I guess a reliable car doesn’t mean you can drive around the city in 2nd gear @5000 rpms for over 100,000 miles.

  • avatar
    namstrap

    I think our MPV was a 1992. It was a great car, driven mostly by my wife.It had the 2600 engine which performed well, I thought. It’s undoing happened when a fan belt broke while she was driving. I asked her if the needle went into the red. She said yes, it did, but how was she supposed to get home? That was the beginning to the end for the cylinder head, although we still managed to coax a couple thousand more kilometres out of it, adding coolent at a rapidly increasing rate. Heads and engines were almost unavailable, and the ones that were were way too expensive.
    I remember at around 260,000 KM, checking the headlight bulbs because I couldn’t remember ever changing any of the bulbs in the car. They were the original factory Stanleys!


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