27th Jan 2014, 09:30
OP back again.
Just turned over 100k miles the other day, and I was busy crowing about how durable the Mazda has been. Short of some minor things like brakes, tires, signal bulbs and wipers, I've had very little to do.
Then the transfer case failed.
It appears that the TC on this car, as well as the Ford Flex and Ford Edge, had a problem with the seals and would leak the gear oil. Most people experienced a "puking" effect, where the vent would get plugged and the oil would puke out all over the garage floor, and provide a warning as to what was going to happen if they kept driving. I was not so lucky. I had a VERY slow leak that would hit the exhaust. Thusly, no spot on the garage floor, no evidence of a problem. Only when the TC failed did I realize anything was wrong. The 4wd light in the dash started flashing when I attempted to ascend my snow-covered driveway and the front tires spun helplessly. I put the car up on stands, put it in drive and spun a rear wheel. The driveshaft did not turn. I started the car and put it in gear. The front wheels turned, the rears did not. The driveshaft was not turning and it's my evidence that the TC is now dead. I have yet to take it anywhere, but I will shortly, as I can say this car is quite helpless without AWD. Got stuck on a few snowy hills that it would normally just run right up. Gives you an idea of how much better this car is with AWD vs FWD.
I called a Mazda dealer and they quoted a rough $1600 for the replacement (parts and labor). I will likely source something through Jasper, which should ease the sting a bit.
Though this repair is disappointing, I would otherwise stress that this car has had no other significant repairs at all. Just brakes, tires, rotors and other wear items. I've not owned a car that's gone 100k without repairs. If the TC issue is the only thing that comes up for a while, I can live with that.
27th Oct 2016, 14:59
Final thoughts from OP:
I sold this car about two years ago and thought perhaps some closure would be good for anyone who might come across this review.
For the transfer case issue, it's (now) well known that the PTU which is a Ford product is not very durable. It only has about half a quart of gear lube in it and the lubricant itself will lose viscosity and lubricating ability around 60,000 miles. After this, the lubricant will sludge, create extra heat and melt the case seals. In some cases this will cause a leak, but not all. Eventually the transfer case itself will fail outright because of the now-sludged gear lube. That's what happened to me. The now common knowledge is that regular PTU gear lube changes are required every 20-30k miles to keep it healthy. I wish I would have known.
I opted to sell the car when the remote starting system failed in spectacular fashion and rendered the car inoperable. Using the system would start the car, but you could not put it into gear (unless you manually defeated the shift interlock) and even if you could go somewhere, the alarm would go off so you'd drive around lights flashing, horn honking. Then the best part is that the car would not turn off, nor lock! I tried to bypass the remote start system, but couldn't find suitable wiring diagrams so opted not to hack up the wiring. I finally gave up on the Mazda when I could not fit an Ikea package into the car with my three sons and wife, despite the fact that the box wasn't very big. There just wasn't any way to have five people and any reasonable cargo at the same time. I had to strap it to the roof and it dawned on me that my bloated SUV was no more practical than a sedan or wagon with a roof rack. Thusly, I traded it off for a sedan and that was the end of the Mazda. Of course the sedan turned out to be a mistake and ended up later trading THAT on a used Navigator--which I should have purchased in the first place (either that or a minivan).
The lesson for me was that I tried to be cheap and buy the car that was JUST good enough and ended up spending 2x more to replace it later on. I don't believe in taking more than you need, but I've learned that taking less than you need will end up wasting more in the end.
Your mileage may vary.