Piston Slap: Zoom, Zoom … Wander?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap zoom zoom 8230 wander

TTAC Commentator AbqJay writes:

A couple of months ago I bought a slightly used 2016 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with 18,000 miles. The car is my wife’s daily driver; I drive it about once a week, and for longer trips, such as a jaunt I took from our home in Albuquerque to southern California in December. It’s hard to believe, but this is my first wrong-wheel drive car. The Mazda 6 is roomy, has decent power, gets fabulous mileage, and has an interior filled with creamy leatherette seating and trim, and soothing blue LED lighting. Since no one wants to buy this car, we got a great deal on it. So far so good.

Then I drove it to Cali.

On the drive, I noticed the steering is heavy. As in really heavy. As in my wrists hurt after driving it for about 20 minutes on the interstate. It feels like I am wrestling with it, even though the steering appears to be dead center.

It doesn’t feel like it needs an alignment, and doesn’t drift when I take my hands off the wheel. Is this torque steer? I have felt it before in other front-wheel-drive cars where the manufacturer has been unconcerned about offering a decent driving experience, like the Mitsubishi Galant I once had as a rental, but I don’t remember it feeling quite like this. And in other front-drivers, like my mother-in-law’s 15-year-old Camry or the Ford Fusion we rented a couple of years ago, the steering was reasonably light and the torque steer minimal. I don’t think there are issues with the front suspension. The tires are the original Dunlops, and they don’t show any unusual wear. There’s some curb rash on the rims, but it appears to be cosmetic.

This is bumming me out because of all the issues with this car raised in the reviews I’ve read (rough ride, loud wind noise, smallish back seat), this wasn’t one of them. I thought this car was going to be a pleasure to drive. I bought this “certified pre-owned” from the dealer, so I don’t see any point taking it to them, since they are going to tell me there’s nothing wrong with it. (If there had been anything wrong with it, they would have caught it and fixed it, right?) Should I take it to be looked at by an independent shop?

Sajeev answers:

You don’t see the point in taking it to the dealer after paying for CPO warranty coverage? Son, you must be pullin’ our collective legs.

Go to the dealer, as this sounds like steering wander that’s a derivation of a known problem with a documented repair.

If that Mazda service bulletin doesn’t help, you’re up a creek without a paddle: what you describe isn’t torque steer (185 lb-ft isn’t enough to mess things up on the highway) and a matched set of tires (even bad ones) shouldn’t cause what you describe.

Any ideas, Best and Brightest?

[Image: Mazda]

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.

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2 of 45 comments
  • Salzigtal Salzigtal on May 01, 2017

    Doesn't CPO inspection mean "We asked an actuary how much we should wager that we'll get to ignore this post sale?"

  • Desertsoldier22 Desertsoldier22 on May 14, 2017

    There are a number of reasons for this problem. 1. Excessive positive caster, makes the car really stable on the freeway but a b%%^h to turn. (Unlikely unless you have two bent front struts or control arms) 2. Damaged front tie rods, if the boots are torn and are out of grease they can sieze and make turning difficult. 3.-most likely- The new Mazda 6 has electronically assisted steering that is a multi-ratio, multi speed unit. They are designed to reduce the amount of power assist to improve steering feel at higher speeds and increase assist at lower speeds. You can have a problem with any number of components to cause the system to do this. Anything from a bad can bus twisted cable to the module (because it needs speed information, etc), the programming of the module itself, steering angle sensor or the rack is wearing out...but usually you would have no assist at all if that was the case. Use your warranty get the thing on a diagnostic computer and they will find out whats wrong with it in an hour.

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