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Mazda Protege Maintenance and Repair



  • pjd58pjd58 Posts: 366
    I have owned 3 Protege's(91,96 & 01) with a total of 220,000 miles and not one single problem. The Protege is one of the most reliable cars on the road. My 86 Corolla GTS had numerous problems....head gasket,oil leaks, electical failure, not to say all corollas are bad cars.

    My point is any car can have issues, including the Protege. Statistically, as far as reliability, the Protege is better than most of the competition.


    P.S. Depending how the car was driven over 90,000 miles, ball joints could fail on any car.
  • I have 1993 Mada Protege and I am having a problem with the trasmisson in reverse, the car seems like its in foward and reverse and goes no where. It will only go to 1500 rpms because it seems like there is some kind of a lock up. Its like putting your foot on the gas to go foward with the brake on and goes nowhere. But put it in foward and no problem
  • I have a foul smell that i get now that it's colder out. Once the temp guage gets past 1/4 of the way up, I sometimes get a foul smell. After the car has fully warmed up, I usually don't get this smell anymore. I get the smell when I have the heater on usually as well...which is most of the time since it's winter. The smell doesn't seem to be comming from the exhuast becuase I've checked that a few times.

    I think the engine usually has some vents on the crankcase...maybe it's this? I don't know. Either that or there is a small exhaust leak before the rear cat which might make sense. The only other thing I think it could be related to is the ignition system. The rubber on the plug wires has come off a little on the top by the valve cover. I'm going to change the plugs soon too. I have 34500 kms on the car so far so I think it's due for that. Let me know if you guys have had this problem before and what it was.
  • mazdafunmazdafun Posts: 2,329
    I think you may have a stripped synchro gear in your transmission if you fully engage R and don't hear/feel anything coming from your tranny. The engine may be rpm-limited when the computer senses you've engaged (or tried to engage) reverse to avoid damaging the transmission (sounds like it's too late though).

    Better take it in. Quick way to see if there's mechanical damage is to lower the transmission pan and look for metal shavings etc. (not sure about this particular transmission, but most also contain a very strong permanent magnet to capture loose ferromagnetic bits of metal).
  • mazdafunmazdafun Posts: 2,329
    This smells quite foul. It's a quite acrid scent. Anyone who's driven through Toledo would know it. Check to make sure no hoses or wires are coming into contact with the engine block or exhaust manifold.

    Recently, I've had a brief whiffs of coolant when accelerating hard. I just recently had my dealer replace the engine coolant. Wouldn't surprise me if they spilled a little somewhere and didn't wash it off.
  • mdaffronmdaffron Posts: 4,421
    If you've got a 2000 automatic and it's slipping out of fifth gear, you've got a unique transmission indeed!

  • axjokeaxjoke Posts: 13
    Yeah, its a 2000 ES. As an update it hasn't slipped since that day. Even on the return trip it worked flawlessly. However it wasn't a 1 time thing... over about a 180 mile period, 1 day, it slipped out at least 10 times going about 75mph on an interstate with cruise on and about 20 times on country roads without cruise.

    Would you suggest taking it to the dealer? It runs fine now and i assume they willl just laugh at me and my story. As i might do if the roles were reversed.
  • mdaffronmdaffron Posts: 4,421
    What I meant by my message was, the automatic transmission doesn't have a fifth gear! It's a four-speed automatic. So if you've got an automatic and it's slipping out of FIFTH, you've got one interesting transmission, LOL!

    Are you nuts? I would DEFINITELY and WITHOUT HESITATION take it to the dealer. (I assume you're still under warranty.) That way, even if they can't duplicate the problem in-house, they can document it so you'll have a chance if your transmission goes south after your warranty expires. Don't give in; I had a 1994 B2300 pickup (piece of crap built by Ford for Mazda) that had numerous engine problems. Even though my warranty expired at the normal 3 years/50,000 miles, they continued to monitor and fix these ongoing problems -- at no cost to me -- until I sold the truck with 118,000 miles on it.

    Give 'em hell!

  • mazdafunmazdafun Posts: 2,329
    Was this happening on grades? The way the AT works is 1-2-3-OD-Torque Lockup. The TL feels like a fifth gear ratio, but isn't. It just locks the engine output to the transmission input so they don't slip relative to each other and bleed power.

    On grades, the AT can couple/decouple the torque lock-up as it senses torque in the transmission approach some limit. The lock-up mechanism activates below this threshold to increase efficiency of power transfer. It decouples to avoid damaging the transmission or engine by allowing the interface to slip (as in drive ratios 1,2,3 and OD). On long moderate grades, this can happen several times as the car's computer tries to maintain speed with the cruise control.

    This happens with my AT, especially when transitioning from a flat (or downhill) to an uphill grade, or if I step sufficiently hard on the accelerator (as when coming out of a turn or curve or to pass someone).

    Sorry for droning on if that's not the issue.
  • axjokeaxjoke Posts: 13
    That sounds similar to what was happening but it still seems wierd. I live in indiana, rather flat, but i was driving through a semi hilly area with lots of curves and was accelerating decelerating a lot. This is when the problem started. I drove about another 100 miles in the hilly/curvy type roads and then proceded on a major highway which was as straight and flat as they come.. the problem wasn't as severe but it did slip there too on multiple occasions.

    The bleed power sounds like a better discription than the slipping one i used as i didn't notice a shift in gears.. but rather i noticed the rpms going up rather quickly from the low 3,000's to the mid 6000's, over about 5 to 20 seconds, while maintaning the same speed. This seems a bit extreme.. almost like the car was severly overcorrecing...

    Mddaffron... thanks for the correction.. sadly i even put some thought into it before i posted about 4th and 5th gears... guess that example conveys my lack of car knowledge better than anything.

    thanks for the help
  • mazdafunmazdafun Posts: 2,329
    That is unusual. Sounds like it is slipping from OD to 3. In OD, low 3000rpms should put you at about 65mpg. Shifting down to 3rd would put you in high 5000s. I think your computer and the transmission sensors need to be checked out. I doubt any mechanical components in the AT are damaged.

    You might try taking it easy (no sudden accelerations/decelerations) for a while. The computer does try to learn your driving style and adapt to it. It may try to downshift more quickly to deliver faster responses to accleration demands, so it might make the acclerator a bit touchier. Still, take it in for a diagnosis. If there's anything wrong with the computer or sensors, they should be able to pick it up when they hook up to the computer. If not, then I'd check the sensors in the AT.
  • axjokeaxjoke Posts: 13
    Just got back from the dealer. They didn't tell me what was wrong, but did say that they ordered a new transmission and that it will be in in 10 days. The car has been fine since that one day where the transmission slipped.. but i guess the dealer found what was wrong.

    I'm none to impressed with my car, but recognized that even good manufactures can produce a lemon. No way will i keep this thing past the warrenty..
  • I have a 96 Protege ES bought new- has 45,000 miles.My Problem is the exhaust system does not hold up
    on this car. The factory exhaust rusted out and fell off the car a little after 3 years and the
    Walker replacement done at a local tire shop is corroded and leaking after 2 years.
    Does anyone know where I can find a stainless steel aftermarket exhaust or a chain who will
    make me a stainless one? This is getting a little tiring.

  • maltbmaltb Posts: 3,572
    If you pay for a Mazda OEM muffler it is lifetime warranty(parts and labor) at any Mazda dealer. Hard to beat that.
  • jrdwyerjrdwyer Posts: 168
    The muffler on my '95 Protege LX went out recently at 138,000 miles. The muffler itself was fine, but it cracked at the welded flange that connects the rear pipe to the muffler. I found a front end wrecked '98 or '99 Protege at the pull-apart/junkyard and got a good OEM muffler for $6. It was fairly easy to put on; I just used my ramps on the rear wheels. The muffler can be removed from the rubber mounts by applying a little grease and pulling. Although I didn't use a spring compressor, it would speed up the job.
  • I have a 92 Protege, 1.8L SOHC. Last year I noticed the engine light was on. It would stay on for a couple minutes, usually not long after I started the car. There was no problem detected at that time.

    But now the problems start to show. The light stays on for longer and longer time periods. And when the light is on, the RPM sometimes starts to go up and down between 0 and 1. Quite a few times it reached 0 and the car just died. This happens most often during a stop. The most recent one scared me to death: As I was slowing down toward a red light and not applying the gas, the car suddenly died when it was still moving forward.

    I took the car to a mechanic and he told me that the distributor is "leaking internally". I got two distributors from the junk yard and got different results. (BTW, my friend installed them for me. I am an idiot when it comes to mechanic stuff.) The first one was from a 93 Protege, when it was installed the engine light was off but the engine itself started knocking like hell. The second one got the same result as my old distributor. Nothing is improved.

    My friend then concluded that this engine light problem is probably NOT caused by the distributor, but more likely by the fuel injection.

    His reasoning is that since the problem seems to have something to do with temperature (when the car dies I have to wait for it to cool off for half an hour before I can successfully restart it.), and distributor is unlikely to be affected by change in temperature...

    So what are your takes on this one? I'd really appreciate it if anyone can give me some advice.
  • mazdafunmazdafun Posts: 2,329
    Well, not sure, but the sequence in the older Pro's distributor could not have matched your car's. This can lead to really hellacious knocking (as I discovered when I crossed spark plug wires once on my '89 323...oops).
  • maltbmaltb Posts: 3,572
    would be coil or ignitor(top pick).

    The knocking may be the wrong dist cap/rotor combination or the rotor was not all the way on the dist shaft.
  • Hi All,

    I have a '95 Protege LX with the automatic overdrive trannie.

    According to the Haynes manual there should be a drain plug on the bottom of the gear case beside the filter pan but I sure can't find it.

    Am I just blind or is there not one there?

    I just bought the car and was trying to get some of the old fluid out and replace it with new. I'll replace filter, etc. when it warms up.

  • ashutoshsmashutoshsm Posts: 1,007
    Sorry, I can't help you with your question - but I'm sure some of the regular gearheads on the forum (Mazda Protege) will tell you what you need to know!

    I wanted to raise the issue of the automatic transmission drain. If you bought the car used, how many miles does it now have? Do you know when (if!) the last transmission fluid change/replace.refill was carried out?

    I was told by my Mazda service advisor (when I had my 60K services performed a year ago) not to change the fluid if I didn't know if the fluis had been changed before. Something to do with the new fluid being less viscous and oozing through seated washers and seals. However, I think not changing the fluid would do more harm, over time - so I am considering getting this done (or doing it myself, who knows!) anyway.

    Opinions? (from others too!)

  • My Protege has 129,000 miles on it. The fluid looks somewhat brownish but doesn't smell too bad.

    I just wanted to get some fresh fluid in there to maybe keep things going til warmer weather gets here.

    Quaker State sells a ATF Dexron II compatible fluid especially for Japanese automobiles. I don't know if its better or not.
  • Just bought a 2002 LX and find that the suspension is pretty stiff going over bumps, more so than I recall from the drive in the demo car.
    Car is great on smooth surfaces, but in Washington, DC potholes abound! (Know the Protege has a stiffer suspension than most Japanese cars.)

    Does the suspension loosen up over time, or can it be adjusted to be a bit less stiff?

    Tire pressure is at 32 psi, the recommended level, should I drop that a bit?

    Any input would be appreciated. Thanks.
  • boggseboggse Posts: 1,048
    My 2001 Pro ES has about 10,000 miles on it. The suspension hasn't softened noticeably. You could potentially get softer springs from an earlier model. I'm sure that there are several 1999 & 2000 Pro owners who would trade with you.
  • mazdafunmazdafun Posts: 2,329
    That'll help. When time comes to replace them, look for touring or passenger-type tires, although this will usually slow down handling response.

    Other than that, you're looking at new springs and strut cartridges. Mucho mas $$$$.
  • chikoochikoo Posts: 3,008
    I changed over to 205/55/15 v-rated(BFG touring t/a V4) instead of 195/55/15 poortenza tires and then reduced the pressure to 28psi.
    The theory bieng that I get more rubber between the wheel and the road which would allow the tire to absorb road irregularities.

    Worked like a charm.

    No difference in steering response at regular speeds, although it does feel a bit heavy during parking which I attribute to the wider tire, which is ok by me if I am going to get a smooooth ride over road cracks, manhole covers and road joints.
  • dinu01dinu01 Posts: 2,586
    That's one of the MAIN reasons I bought the PRO. The best ride out of all small cars! The stiff suspension makes the ride firm and fun!
  • nematodenematode Posts: 448
    Yup, here too. I have the 01 ES and I keep my tires at 35psi. I dont mind feeling the bumps to get the additional sidewall stiffness and firm ride. So you cant have my springs!!! Oh, wait, you can if you trade me the MP3 springs.
  • The recommended manufacturers cold tire pressure is 32psi for the Protege. This is the optimal tire pressure determined by the protege design and engineering team taking into account the OEm tires, pro suspension, absorbtion, handling etc. I would recommend that if you want your PRO to handle and drive to the fullest of it's capabilities, set the cold tire psi to 32psi.

    You can actually deteriorate both the longevity and quality of your tires and suspension by reducing or increasing the psi in tires beyond a certain capacity.

    The recomended tire pressure can be found on the drivers side. Badging is either on the door or body panel. i think it's the door.
  • ashutoshsmashutoshsm Posts: 1,007
    Tires can handle a range of pressures, and that adjusts the hadnling and ride/feel of a car. manufacturers only sugegst one number to suit the majority - no reason not to adjust it to one's own preferences, within safe limits!

    A lot of people that autocross, and keep sporty tires on all the time (including street driing) adjust pressure to vary the handling characteristics (at the cost of slightly extra wear, of course).
  • we're agreeing on the same thing really. You can certainly adjust and vary tire pressure to suit your needs, but it is wise to find out the specific tolerances of the tire before doing so. Every tire has a recommended minimum and maximum tire pressure. Essentially, a safe range. However, they only usually place the recommended maximum tire pressure on the actual tire.

    The engineer's do recommend a specific tire psi for a car as based on it's OEM tires and suspension tuning from factory. They do this based on what they feel is their design specification handling, ride characteristics etc. Notice i said OEM tires. BY altering the type and size of tires, this completely changes the equation. Also, it is a known fact that by decreasing or increasing optimal tire pressures (it is a range as you indicate) you greatly can affect the wear to your tires or put you at risk of tire blow-out or loss of control in emergency type handling circumstances. It also affects the suspension reactions.

    Did that help clarify myself? I hope so.
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