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Bill Mesker
Bill Mesker Reader
3/6/20 5:25 p.m.

In reply to Redwalsh87 :

Indeed I have. I'm the third owner of the car. The story behind it was the first owner put the majority of the miles on the car, the second owners got it up to 198k which is when I bought it. I go with the conventional although I'm not sure what filters they use but they seem to be working fine. I also just recently switched over to 88 octane unleaded gas and she seems to like it so far. She seems to idle a bit smoother and has a little more pep. Seeing as she needs a few repairs, I'm surprised with the fuel mileage. 32-35 city and 36 on the freeway although I have a feeing that will improve once I get some things fixed. My biggest repair is going to be the exhaust from the manifold back. P0421 is the bane of my existence right now lol. Although now that I have a bluetooth OBD2 dongle, I can clear it whenever the need arises. My biggest gripe with the car is it doesn't have a coolant temp gauge. But now that I have the dongle, (one of those cheap Chinese ones that I got off of eBay for like 3 or 4 bucks. It's held up really well.) I have been using TorquePro on an old Android phone and I can keep an eye on vitals. I hope you won't have any issues in the future with your Mazda. A good friend of mine recommended the MZ3 to me when I was car shopping and this one figuratively fell in my lap.... ( just imagine if it was literally lol. That would berking hurt like hell!) so I jumped at it and here we are almost two years later. I do need to get a can of freon for the AC as it quit on me at the end of last summer and I have the black leather interior.... (gotta love having the top tier 3S Grand Touring model haha) Mine also has the 5 speed auto with sport mode which I love.

Sonic UltraDork
3/6/20 7:30 p.m.

These cars run forever with basic maintenance.  We have a 2007 3s hatch my wife bought new.  It is about to turn 246k miles.  During its life we upgraded to a 2.5 from a fusion (900 mile motor for $800) and 6 speed from a 2012 3s, along with speed3 front brakes and 5 van rear brakes, konis (3rd set now thanks to lifetime warranty), eibachs, etc.  It has been a wonderful car.  It is about to get retired for an e400 wagon, but made into a Lemons car. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
3/9/20 8:10 a.m.

Since it's going to be in the 60's here this week, I decided to toss back on the normal wheels.

While I was in there, I decided to investigate a few issues, namely the uneasiness of the front end and where the hell my brake fluid is going.

The outer tie rod boots were cracked, and they are getting a little loose, so those will be replaced soon. I've had a set banging around the hatch for over a year, so it's time I installed them.

Found my brake fluid leak. Strangely, the piston is dry; it's leaking out of the top, where the e-brake bracket is. A seal up there must have blown out. The other side is not leaking, but the pads are nearly worn out on that side, which is strange. I'm wondering if this caliper is not working, causing the other side to overcompensate.

So, I need a caliper. And of course, no one stocks them; all special order. I was considering grabbing one from a junkyard car; I think 2008-up all used the same ones, or just getting a seal kit to fix the one that's there. Either way, I'll have to fix that very soon.

EDIT: I just ordered up some caliper seals. I'm going to attempt re-sealing this one before I give up.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
3/16/20 6:44 a.m.

After I ordered the seals, I realized that I'd have to completely disassemble the crusty calipers to install them, so I ended up opting for some remanufactured ones from Autozone. As noted in my thread about rebuilding calipers, remans can be a crap shoot. The driver's side caliper was actually new: new body, bracket, piston, and even the e-brake lever was new. The passenger side one was... well... not great.

there was a chunk missing, and the seal around the piston was already bad. I returned it for another, and waddayaknow... that one was another NEW one.

Well, at least most of it was; the bracket was an original one, and it had the wrong slides. But it was much better, so I ran with it.

That brings us to actually replacing them. That was an ordeal. Here's what failed on the originals:

Turns out that seal that's under the e-brake lever was bad on both sides. Glad I bought them both!

The biggest problem, at first, was getting the e-brake cables out of the old calipers. After heat-cycling and being in there for 183k miles worth of New England driving, they didn't exactly want to come out nicely. I tried penetrating oil, hitting them with a socket, and then a punch, and that worked for the driver's side. It deformed the cable collar slightly, but a file and some sandpaper along with a healthy gob of anti-seize helped it go back into the new caliper on the driver's side. On the passenger side, the cable got so messed up that I had to cut a chunk of caliper off to get the cables out.

See where it mushroomed out? Yeah, not great. I would have gotten new cables, but they are only sold by the dealer as a set and they were a lot more expensive than the caliper core charge. Plus with all the Coronavirus shutdowns around here, I'm guessing it would be a long time before I got them. I chose the lesser evil.

Eventually, I got both on!

Oooh, shiny!

When it came time to bleed them, I screwed up. I didn't realize that the car had a crisscross pattern for bleeding, and the master cylinder was misleading (again) as to how full it was. I would fill it up all the way and start bleeding, but for some reason, the reservoir wasn't taking the fluid correctly. I later learned that I had run the thing near-dry! To fill it and get it to actually take the fluid, I had to tilt the reservoir toward the firewall. Before I figured that out (and the correct bleed procedure) I had a friend stop by with a scan tool to cycle the ABS pump and valves, so that happened as well.

Once all that nonsense was figured out, it bled and I have it stopping again. The pedal is a little softer than I like, but the car stops better than it did before, so I'll take it. I did pick up an air bleeder kit, so that will happen at some point.

Next up: replacing the valve cover gasket. It's leaking.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
3/22/20 10:59 a.m.

Yesterday, I tackled the valve cover gasket and the brake bleeding. Here's how that went.

For the valve cover, you'll need a ratchet, 8mm socket, 10mm socket, small flathead screwdriver, pliers, a panel puller tool, and a decent sized prybar. One tool that comes in handy if you have access to one is a pass-through socket set. The valve cover studs are long, and this really helps with getting them off.

Here's what we are working with. This engine bay shot should look familiar ro pretty much anyone who's owned a Mazda 3/6 with a 4 cylinder up to 2013. There are small differences, but it's largely the same for anything with a MZR engine (including Ford stuff).

Pop the engine cover off and this is what you see. There's a lot of stuff that has to be disconnected/moved to remove the valve cover.

I removed all of the coil plugs, the injector harness, the cam sensor plug, and more. You also have to remove the harness itself from the valve cover studs. Those white clips that hold them on can be a PITA to remove; use a small flathead and a panel puller to get them off.

Here's where most of the leak was. I'll explain in a minute why.

Coils pulled, and they all look fine, so they will be re-used. Kept them in order.

After pulling all the studs, and prying GENTLY on one of the corners, the cover came right off. This is a plastic valve cover that's been soaked in oil for years, so you need to be careful when pulling/prying not to break/chip anything. This is the first time I've seen the inside of this head, and everything looks clean enough for 183k miles. No sludging whatsoever!

Here's the underside of that valve cover. Surprise, it's another FoMoCo part! This time, it's actually well designed. There are 3 spark plug seals and one perimeter seal. Pull the old ones out, clean it up, and put the new ones in.

Now, back to why these leak. The timing cover is a separate casting than the rest of the engine (like most everything else) and the only spot where there's RTV sealant is where they mate. This shrinks over time and oil gets by. When reassembling, make sure to put a glob of RTV here on both sides to make sure it seals correctly.

I opted for a Fel-Pro "Improved Design" gasket. It's blue. Very, very blue.

After cleaning everything up, I checked for leaks (there were none) and tossed the cover on. Done!

Next, I bled the brakes using my new Hammer Store (Harbor Freight) air bleeder/flush kit. I tried this las week, but couldn't get it to work. That's partly because I was not paying attention to one major part of the instructions. To get it working, with the bleeder closed, pull the trigger, This creates a vacuum in the canister. When you crack open the bleeder and pull the trigger, it pulls through air until you get a solid fluid flow. It comes with an attachment that's supposed to self-feed the master cylinder while you do this, but it wasn't working well due to the design of the reservoir, so I kept an eye on fluid and filled as needed. This time around, I was able to get most of the air out and the car has good pedal feel again. This tool gets a thumbs up from me.

Next up: replacing the delaminating rear view mirror and tracking down engine mount noise for the 94th time.


paul_s0 Reader
3/22/20 11:22 a.m.

Thanks for the write up, I've got to do the valve cover gasket on my '08 2.0 at some point, it's leaking into #2 &#3... Nice to see it's a fairly straightforward job

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
3/26/20 12:45 p.m.

Taking my own advice with this whole #CoronaCars thing, I decided to go outside during my lunch and knock out a couple quick projects. One of them was replacing my rear view mirror in the 3.

The mirror has been strangely delaminating for years now, and it's been annoying me as of late.

It was getting really ugly.

To remove it, all you need to do is stick a small flathead screwdriver in a little slot at the bottom and push it off. There's a spring clip on the inside that holds it to the metal mount. Installation is easy: you slip the new one onto the mount until it locks in. Done.

Much better. Took 10 minutes, and that includes fumbling around in the garage to find a proper skinny screwdriver.


mcbacon New Reader
5/4/20 10:01 a.m.

It's been a hot minute since I logged in because I've had a ton of other things to do, but I wanted to thank you for keeping this thread active and maintained. I just got a decent but not great 2007 MS3 for a song so this has been most helpful. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
5/4/20 10:32 a.m.

In reply to mcbacon :

No problem! I couldn't find a reliable source for general maintenance for these cars on the internet, so I created this thread to help others. Most of the maintenance stuff is similar between the 1st and 2nd gen 3's. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
6/19/20 1:07 p.m.

I haven't been driving the ol' Mazda 3 much this year with COVID-19 keeping me home, but when I do drive it, the noises from the trans mount get worse every time.

Not this AGAIN...

It makes terrible driveline noises the most around 40-50mph, and is independent of what gear it's in. It does it at all speeds, but it's most annoying around that speed. I thought at first that it might be something internal, but since the noise is the same in every gear, I'm thinking that it's the mount again. Also, under hard launches, it makes a loud BANG sound, so yeah, bad mount. The rear and P/S mounts are nearly new, so I'm ruling those out.

This time, I'm springing for an OEM mount. There have been at least 4 revisions to this thing since 2011, so I'm hoping the latest one actually works. This will be mount #4 for this car. As far as I can tell, the most current part number for it is BBM439070D

Here's where it gets confusing: some sites say there's a difference between the early 2012 and late 2012 models. Mine was built in July of 2011, so it's one of the earliest ones. When a site says this, it does not list one for the early cars; the cutoff date is 9/1/11. Other sites list the same part number (with the notation for cars made after 9/1/11) all the way back to 2010 and through 2013. I'm hoping this mount supersedes the mounts for older cars and just works. I'm guessing that the aftermarket mounts I previously used were either based on the design for auto trans cars or an older revision of the manual mount.

I guess I'll just order it up and see what happens.



Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
6/20/20 10:22 a.m.


After calling the dealership and providing them the VIN, I learned that apparently my car uses Skyactiv transmission mounts. These ones have an extra vibration dampener on the side.

The ones I've used the past two times look like this:

So yeah, while the bottom mount technically fits, it's wrong. Just ordered the correct one. Hopefully this will be the last one I ever replace.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
7/3/20 3:25 p.m.

Today, I replaced the transmission mount with the one that's supposed to be in the car. 

Honestly, the old one didn't look all that bad. 

As you can see, they are slightly different. They both fit, but the factory part does fit a little better. 

So, how's it drive? Well, it drives slightly better, but the noise that I was trying to get rid of didn't go away. In fact, its now even worse! After replacing this mount, the noise now happens whether it's in gear or not, and it's dependent on speed. I jacked up the car again to check things out, and I'm at a loss. It sounds like it's more on the passenger side, and if I feather the clutch while standing still, I can make the car "creak". At speed, it sounds like something is stuck in a wheel and is knocking slightly. 

I don't think it's one of the mounts, but I could be wrong. I am thinking it's either an axle, something clutch-related, something internal to the transmission, or maybe even an output shaft bearing. Could even be a wheel bearing. I have honestly no idea what it is, but it's driving me nuts. I don't even know where to start. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
8/14/20 9:14 a.m.

Since the last update, I've been driving the car sparingly. When I do drive it, the transmission noise seems to get worse and worse. After doing some reading, I found a thread on a Mazda forum with someone exhibiting the same issue. They solved it by changing the transmission oil. As a result, I have 3qts of Redline MT-90 on the way. The bummer part is that I plan on doing a clutch in the next 20k miles or less, so I have to swap the fluid out again at that time. I figure $50 on fluid is cheaper (if it works) than $700+ on a used transmission. I really, really, really don't want to do that. I last changed it 3 years ago and nearly 50k ago, so it's probably due anyway. Again, the car drives 100% fine, and shifts as normal.

I'm also going to check out the shifter assembly itself and make sure everything is lubed properly. I also read that this noise could stem from dried-out shift components (joints, cable, etc). I have noticed that if I am in gear, if I touch the shifter (pull it back slightly, side to side, etc), the noise gets louder.

A quick note about the trans fluid:

Last time, I used Redline MTL, which is their GL4-spec 75W80 equivalent. This time I am switching to MT-90, their GL4-spec 75W90 equivalent. I am hoping the extra weight will help quiet things down in there. The 2010 and 2011 cars with the same exact transmission spec a 75W90 weight oil, so it shouldn't hurt anything. They changed it to comply with emissions ratings.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
8/17/20 6:23 p.m.

Changed the trans fluid today on my lunch break at work. Old fluid looked great, and no metal chunkies on the drain plug. Took it out again for a drive, and yup, noise is still there.


I took a video.



With the front wheels off the ground, I went through the gears. The noise is especially prevalent in 4th, 5th, and 6th gears. Wheel bearings and axles seem fine.

I'm stumped. It has to be either the input shaft bearing, output shaft bearing, or something really broken inside. The funny part is it still drives completely fine, like it always has. I don't get it.

I think my time with this car is coming to a close sooner than later. Well, as soon as I need to daily drive something again after the pandemic is over with.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
8/24/20 1:31 p.m.

If anyone saw my other thread about the transmission noise, I brought my car to my friend's place yesterday and put it up on the lift. After poking around and listening, we determined that the noise is in fact transmission-internal, and likely the output shaft bearing. Bummer.

So, where does this leave me, and where does it leave this thread?

Well, I'm going to look for a new transmission. The problem is that they are really hard to find. I've only found two used ones nationwide: one in NYC and one in Texas. Both are $700 before tax and shipping. I have found one on some shady site that says it's rebuilt, and it's over $2k plus a $400 core, shipping, taxes, etc. Mazda doesn't list a part number for the transmission assembly that I can find anywhere. After finding one, I still need to source a clutch, flywheel, and a new slave cylinder hydraulic line, since mine looks like it's ready to crumble. That stuff is available, at least. Transmissions apparently are not.

The good news is that the car still drives OK for now, and I don't drive much anymore since my day job transitioned to working from home until "sometime next year".

Whether or not it gets repaired, it's had a good run. In nearly 9 years and 185k mi of ownership, this is the first real problem. You can't really beat that!

Redwalsh87 New Reader
8/31/20 9:23 a.m.

In reply to Tony Sestito :

Yikes, that does sound internal, like a bearing that is just eating itself to pieces. I'm at 171k and no noise, fingers crossed. If you do figure it out please post in case the rest of us have the same issue. I'm not surprised with the trouble of finding a used manual transmissions. When I bought mine in the spring of 2010 mine was one of only two in all of CT with the manual and sunroof and sound package and obviously not the speed 3. Most ones I see around are autos (I always check when I see one in a parking lot I'm in lol)


Little update on mine, replacing the rear gas tank vent valve behind the passenger rear tire solved my check engine light. It was a pita to remove, had to cut the old bracket off since I was not dropping the exhaust to change this valve. So for a couple hours of struggling and $50 or so for the valve I was able to pass emissions. I also replaced the passenger side trailing arm bushing at home without using a press and it solved my shudder over bumps.  I'm hoping to at least get to 200k miles and another couple years before I have to say goodbye as I really do still love the car.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
8/31/20 10:11 a.m.

In reply to Redwalsh87 :

Yep, I know that valve! Mine went a couple years ago in the middle of the winter, so I had the dealer do it.

Still not sure what to do about the trans, or the car in general. I still like it and it drives ok otherwise, and not having a car payment is awesome, but finding a stock trans is damn near impossible. If I keep the car, the MS3 trans swap might be my only option. I've seen writeups of people doing the swap to 1st gen cars, but none for the 2nd gens. So far, I know I will need the following to do the swap:

-Trans (obviously)
-CV shafts
-Intermediate shaft
-Trans mount
-Clutch and flywheel
-Shifter assembly
-Shifter cables
-Clutch Slave Cylinder
-Clutch Slave hydraulic line
-Trans fluid

That's a lot of work, but it's close to the overall cost of the stock trans used, provided I can find one. Technically, it will all bolt up, but I'm still not sure on a few things:
-Will the speedo/sensors work with the MS3 trans?
EDIT: Yes, it will work, from what I've read. Speed comes from the ABS sensor readings.

-Is the starter the same?
EDIT: Yes, it is

-Will the heavier flywheel cause issues? A lightweight flywheel is out of budget; I'm probably getting one from the junkyard and resurfacing it since they are about $500 new.

Seems like there's only one way to find out.

onemanarmy Reader
8/31/20 12:06 p.m.

send it!

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/1/20 2:57 p.m.

On second look, I perused a build thread of someone who swapped a MS3 trans into a 1st gen. I really don't want to do this. It involves all of the stuff in my previous post, plus some people said they needed to swap their master cylinder, steering knuckles, and more. And even then, things were never right after the swap. I'd be better off just getting an entire MS3 parts car, gutting my shell, and swapping over all of the go-fast bits, fuel system, and wiring harness. I have enough projects at the present, so I'll either keep searching for a stock trans or trade it in.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/6/20 11:43 p.m.

Well, my time with the Mazda 3 has come to an end. 

My wife took this pic of us leaving the driveway for the last time. I was visibly sad, if you can't tell. I am still sad. This car has been the best car I have ever had by far. I bought it with 150 delivery miles on it (was driven from CT to MA in a dealer swap) and I went on to put about 185k more on the odometer. I took delivery on October 1st, 2011, exactly one week before I got married. It was a part of the family, and exactly the car I needed at the time; the 2009 WRX I had been driving was starting to fall apart at 60k miles and was becoming unreliable, and this thing ferried me on my long commute every day in every type of New England weather without fail for nearly 9 years. While it could have been fixed, the overwhelming cost in the end wasn't worth it. To get nearly 9 years and 185k miles with only one single trip to the dealer is flat-out unheard of. This car only needed regular maintenance, aside from that trip to the dealer to replace an evap valve on the side of the gas tank, until now. 

For the stat nerds, I spent $8056.20 on fuel over that time, with a total cost of ownership of $28,556.20 including purchase cost and most of my maintenance. Over that time, I averaged 26.136 MPG, which is right in between the 23city/28highway EPA ratings. Not too bad.  

Godspeed, Mazda. Hope whoever gets you at the auto wholesale auction gives you a little love so you can Zoom-Zoom some more. You still have some life left in you yet. 

I hope this thread helps anyone who picks one of these up with the ins and outs of the basic maintenance I did. These are great cars, and I would recommend one to anyone looking for an affordable, fun daily driver. 

Redwalsh87 New Reader
9/8/20 8:04 a.m.


I understand though. I've had mine for over ten years (bought in May of 2010), put all 171k miles on her (got it with 7 miles!), got married with it, first kid, probably second (due next month!), two house moves (yay for a hatchback), tons of home depot runs (FYI you can fit 6 rolls of insulation in the car haha), it is definitely part of the family. But at this point if something catastrophic like the trans was to go it would be hard to justify keeping it as well. Except a check engine light at around 3500 miles (loose gas cap) I have never been to the dealer for anything. Besides the AC condensor and gas tank vent valve the rest has been routine maintenance, brakes, suspension parts, tires etc. It owes me nothing and has been the best car I have ever owned.

My wife is on her second Mazda (almost 200k miles between two) with no issues besides a brake light switch which the dealership covered. They are great cars and I will be hard pressed not to get another Mazda. I could use more room so I'm thinking a manual 6 is what I want.

Sorry if I missed it but what are you replacing it with?

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/8/20 8:38 a.m.

In reply to Redwalsh87 :

Yeah, it was hard to make this decision. I really did want to keep it, but I couldn't find a single used trans in the continental US. Dealer quoted $3667 for a new trans assembly, plus they revised the shift fork and pilot bearing, so that had to be replaced with dealer parts as well. Then, the slave cylinder hydraulic line, clutch, and flywheel all needed to be replaced as well. Also, the front exhaust manifold/cat pipe was getting crusty and ready to pop; my car was a California Emissions model, so that pipe is about $1000 on its own. So, we are talking about $5-6K in repairs on a car that's worth about $4k in perfect shape on today's used market. And I'd have to do all the work myself.

I ended up going with a 2020 Kia Forte GT 6MT:

Doing the same deal with a build/maintenance log here: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/2020-kia-forte-gt-6mt-maintenancebuild-thread-into-the-unknown/176494/page1/

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