Piston Slap: Deep Six the 626?
I’ve been a reader of yours for years and greatly enjoy your style. (Woot! —SM)
My question is about my ’97 Mazda 626, with a hair over 215,000 miles on it, that’s been in my family for its entire life. It’s reliable, economical, and generally in good condition.
However, I am up for a registration renewal in October, and I need to complete an emissions test. I figured that it would be a good idea to check up on the codes behind the check engine light. The codes came up as an evaporative system and catalytic converter errors, which are both emissions fails.
I think that there may be a leak in the exhaust (I can hear a sort of rasping occasionally with the windows down), which could be the cause of the catalyst code, but I wouldn’t know what to do with the evap system.
I put a set of new (cheap) tires on it about 6 months ago and put in a new starter two months ago. How much further should I go, and how much should I spend on a car with so many miles?
I love that vintage of 626, which will explain the following answer: At this age and mileage, I suspect your check engine light repair is minor. Granted, it’s crucial to provide the actual code (not what it means), but I shall remain positive that it’s an easy fix.
Start with a basic tune-up and new vacuum lines. The tune up includes new oxygen sensors if they are 100,000+ miles old. Vacuum lines are an oft-neglected reason for catalyst/lean exhaust codes, and are a cheap (but labor intensive) fix. Also usually cheap are some of the rubber fittings (like the one that holds the PCV valve). Those are only available at a dealership, but some are often duplicated as plastic fittings.
If the exhaust leak is between the catalytic converters and the engine, then yes, that must be addressed to fix the code. Not that you’d refrain from fixing it otherwise … riiiiight?
And that goes back to your main query: how long do you dump money into this Mazda? The mere fact you wrote to me a fairly warm tale implies you like it more than anyone else with $1,000 and a need for a cheap beater. Provided I’m correct regarding the diagnosis/repair, it’d be foolish to not let the Mazda limp along for another year. Or five.
Best and Brightest?
[Photo courtesy: Shutterstock user Bjoern Wylezich]
Send your queries to email@example.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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