16th Jun 2010, 09:52

Update, June 16, 2010

The odometer rolled past 155000 miles without further CEL episodes. That problem is solved!


The power lock on the driver’s side rear door wasn’t working properly. It took 3 “kicks” by the lock solenoid to open the door. I took the door panel off, peeled the plastic film back and sprayed some silicone on the lock mechanism. It’s fixed. It looks like I have to do the right rear also.

I found a misfire on one of the cylinders. Therefore I replaced the plugs and wires (about $70).

There was still a little throttle stickiness even though I cleaned that throttle body inside and out really well. I took the cable off at the throttle body and squirt some lubricant into the cable housing. Problem solved.

A heat shield rattled. I removed the heat shield and the rattle is gone.

The ‘09/10 winter was a really tough on cars. The rust is advancing from the salt, in particular on the rear wheel arches. Extreme low temperatures, rough, icy roads, ruts and potholes gave the suspension parts a major beating. The front end got really noisy and the struts leaked. I replaced the front struts, dust bellows and strut mounts for $260 in parts. Advance Auto Parts loaned me a spring compression tool. It took me about 3 hours. Now I am sure I could do it in two hours or less.

Even after replacing the struts there was still a significant knock. It was particularly strong on uneven slow paced roads, and less so when turning. This indicates worn sway bar links. When turning, these links are under load which inhibits the knocking. I bought Moog links for $62. The hardest part was removing the old links. Wrenches didn’t work. The impact wrench rounded the nuts. The 3” cut off tool didn’t go all the way there, and the air chisel was too weak. I succeeded with a die grinder and finished it off with a hand chisel and hammer. It was a great excuse to buy tools! It’s now all quiet in the front.

Hint: Moog brand sway bar links are quite beefy compared to the OEM links and have grease nipples. The problem is the joints are so big that the upper grease nipples will interfere with the lower ends of the struts. I took the upper nipples out and plugged the holes with pieces of rubber. (“No Honey, this is not junk, I need the torn bicycle handlebar grips for something eventually!” - “You are so resourceful!” – “Thanks!” – “Now, why don’t you paint the house?” – “It doesn’t have wheels.”)

Also, our oldest son got his driver’s license and promptly seized the Protégé. He cleaned out the interior and told me how messy I am. Next day he did something stupid at school. Consequently, dad took the car back. I appreciate the clean interior! After 2 weeks of suffering at the snide remarks of his peers I let him drive again. He doesn’t like stick shift, but he is getting good at it. The interior looks almost as messy as his room. I made him check the air in the tires and the engine oil… and let him pay for gas. The Protégé is fulfilling another purpose of the purchase.

The car kept pulling a little to the right. There was uneven brake wear because of sticking caliper sliders. I replaced the front rotors, pads and hardware. I whacked the rotors with a hammer to get them unseated. I took the slider sleeves out, cleaned them, sanded off a little corrosion at their exposed ends and gave them a new coat of high temp silicone grease. They slide with ease now. The hardest part was getting the rubber boots properly seated. Wagner rotors and pads by Rock-Auto: $113. You need 1 set of pads and 2 rotors. I accidentally bought 2 sets of pads. There are cheaper parts but I wasn’t to go that route. The brakes work great, but the slight pull is not completely gone. I assume I need an alignment, but I can live with it.

I just noticed: so far I spent only $42 on labor: tires mounted and balanced.

8th Dec 2010, 13:58

Those who read this far, realize that I am going into the details of repairs and fixes so that the posting becomes a resource for DIY kind of people. The car would still run, but not as well as it does if I left some of these things untouched.

A/C didn’t cool. I recharged it with High Mileage Refrigerant ($12). 2 months later and the A/C is not cooling well again.

Also I spent some time straightening the condenser fins using a chop stick. I cut the stick end to look like a flat screw driver. I placed the car on ramps to make the job easier. Several rows of fins were flattened by airborne objects. I think it helped cooling efficiency. I also found an oily film where a line connects to the condenser. I suppose there is my slow leak.

But now the compressor makes a noise, no matter if the A/C is on or off. I am sure it is the compressor clutch bearing. I held the stethoscope probe against the compressor clutch while idling with the A/C turned off, and compared with the noise with Youtube videos on A/C compressors. The bearing is $30. A bypassing belt is $10. I plan on having the A/C discharged, and then removing the compressor to replace the bearing. Using the bypass belt gives me the flexibility to work on it when it’s convenient.

The rear brakes made noise again, and I knew from the cleaning job last year that the drums were gone too far for turning. For the brake job, I got the parts from the local “O’Reilly’s” because I wanted to have the option to take the drums back for turning if they happen to be out of round.

After I was done, I noticed some drag and heat in one drum, because I missed a small but important step. There is a plate that incorporates the e-brake mechanism and automatic adjuster. The e-brake mechanism was stuck and prevented the shoes from returning. A shot of PB blaster and tapping with a hammer got them going again. Now I am thinking that I could have put the brake job off another year or so if I had fixed the stuck e-brake links only. (That’s a hint for you penny pinchers out there). The brakes are great now, and the car rolls on the slightest incline in neutral.

When doing the rear brakes, I found that the right rear wheel bearing is bad. It clacks once every turn. It also makes characteristic sound on the highway: “Whoop – whoop –whoop.” It sounds like a tire out of balance, but there is no vibration. I haven’t fixed this yet.

By the way, I took the “Mazdarati “ to an auto cross. What fun!

I fixed the trunk lock. I took it off and taped the hole shut to keep rain water out while I had the lock on the work bench. The trunk still opened with the remote release. The moving parts were completely caked up with dust and corrosion. I needed to disassemble the lock. I removed the bezel by drilling tiny holes near the tabs using a Dremel tool. Then I inserted a pin to lift the tabs and twisted the bezel off. With the key inserted, I pushed the cylinder out of the barrel. I was worried about dropping the gates out of the cylinder, but I figured I could use the key’s profile to sort out the sequence of the gates. Even after spraying the cylinder with brake cleaner and WD 40, most gates and their springs refused to move. I had to push them outward with a small screw driver. A few more squirts and they were clean and moved freely. The barrel needed scraping and cleaning as well. The lock works like new, and I think the 30 minutes were well spent.