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Mazda Protege: 10 Most Common Problems

What kind of problems does a Mazda Protege normally have? In this blog, we’ve outlined all the most important things you should watch for when you’re in the market for a Protege. However, let’s first start with a quick answer:

Most commonly, the Mazda Protege has rust issues and problems with the headlights. Also, the engine can have several problems related to bad spark plugs or ignition coils. Finally, the transmission can develop a slipping third gear, and the suspension can start making noises or tilts over too much while driving.

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the rest of the article, we’ll discuss every single problem in detail. Furthermore, we’ll tell you how to identify it, fix it and how much it costs to fix. Read on!

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Also read: The Complete Cost Of Maintaining A Mazda

Exterior Problems

Rust Issue

It’s an old car, the production ended in 2003, so the youngest one is just a little shy of 20 years old. Because of this, the appearance would not be that great as it will have dents and paint chips all over the place. The rust will also be a problem given how old this car is. The cost of professionally removing the rust is around $500-$1000.

You can remove the rust DIY given that you have the forklift or other stands to work under the car, some grinding tools, and rust removing products, i.e., rust reformer, WD-40/fluid fil, etc. After removing the rust, you would have to prime and paint the area as well. If you like working on cars, then it wouldn’t be that hard. 

If you are in the market and looking at a shiny twinkling Protege, then it’s most definitely repainted, so make sure that it has a clean title and hasn’t been involved in some major accident. Check the underside of the vehicle as well to see if there are some signs of an accident or some rust that is irreparable. Check the suspension components as well.

It’s not really a bad thing if the car is repainted. You might as well take a repainted one than to have a beaten-up one that you would have to pay extra for the paint job. The only thing to worry about is the title. You should know about the history of the vehicle and, ideally, the owner as well. The cost of a full-body paint job varies a lot.

Normal prices are somewhere around $1000-$3000 depending on the quality and finish. Some places offer even less price for a full body paint job, but their quality will not be up to the mark.

It’s also better to lift the floor carpet to see the condition of the floor panels. These old cars might also have a moldy smell which is very hard to get rid of. If there is this smell, you would have to pay a professional detailing company $150 to clean it and get rid of the smell, and at the same time, you will have a shiny car.  

Headlight Issue

Sometimes the headlight connections short circuit, causing the bulb to blow up as well. If the bulb is okay, then we have to change the electrical switch for the headlight. Given how old the car is, we would see many other electrical failures as well—the headlight switch costs around $80. So make sure to check all the electronics thoroughly.

Interior Problems

There are not as such any interior issues reported against Protege. Old interior, faded plastic, loose clips, worn-out seats, carpets, etc., are excepted. You will face these issues if the previous owner didn’t change anything and all of it is in stock. It’s just the time duration that affected the interior.

Blower Is Not Working Properly

This is a prevalent issue that you will face with a Mazda Protege, and the culprit is a failed resistor. If the blower speed setting is going crazy and is working one and not working on others, then your blower resistor is done for. Most of the time, it is due to corrosion that causes it to stop working, and this damage may cause the wires to go out.

The simple solution is to change the resistor, and if the connector and wires are burned as well, you can have a set of wires, have them connected in a similar way to the original, and you will be good to go. This resistor is located right behind the glove box. You can take out the glove box and remove the resistor held by two screws.

Take out the connector and replace the resistor with a new one. If the connector and the wiring harness appear to be burned, you can have a set of fresh wires and put them together in a way similar to the original harness, and you will be good to go. 

The cost will be around $50 for this blower resistor. The OEM resistor plus the writing harness and connector is priced at $1000+, so it’s better to have a custom harness if damaged rather than getting ripped off by these dealers. It’s super easy to change this resistor so that you can do this DIY without a hitch. 

Engine Problems

P0401/P0402 code

This code is generated when the ECU picks up a problem regarding the EGR. In most cases, it will need a cleaning job. EGR on the Protege is located behind the intake manifold and can be removed by a 12 mm socket. Remove the solenoid, unplug the connector.

Take the hose off and pull it out of the way. After making enough room, you will get to the EGR. It’s best to check for vacuum leaks and the condition of the solenoids. Check for any cracks in the hoses, if any. Check the gasket of the EGR valve, which might have been damaged.

Clean the whole EGR with the liquid we use for carburetors, throttle body, etc. A toothbrush can also do the job of cleaning all of the clogged areas. Spray WD-40 as well in it.  This job is a little complicated to DIY if you don’t have that much mechanical knowledge, so it’s better to let a professional handle this issue.

The labor cost can be somewhere around $100-$300, depending on your region and the auto shop you are going to. It might be more than this in some cases. With a clogged EGR, you won’t be able to pass the emissions test. You have to get it fixed to pass this test.

Idle Problem And Running Bad Under 3000 rpm

This is one of the most common problems that we face in the Mazda protege. It happens due to bad ignition coils. The symptoms you will experience include many vibrations in the car, which will occur even more when cold. After replacing the coils, this will likely go away. This coil problem is widespread and would require replacement if it hasn’t been replaced before.

If coils are not the case, then the next probable reason would be the intake manifold. The intake tube often punctures and would have holes in it to prevent smooth airflow to the engine causing poor idle and hesitation. This ruptured intake would confuse the mass airflow (MAF) sensor, and the engine wouldn’t receive the right air and fuel mixture, thus causing bad mileage.

So a car with coil problems causes bad idle and vibrations during a stop and causes the vehicle to give bad mileage. The coil replacement will cost around $300, including labor. The intake tube is around $20, which you can easily replace without a hitch. 

Cranks But Wouldn’t Start Especially When Cold

No check engine light appears when you have this problem. It mostly occurs in the winter, and you won’t be able to start the engine, no matter how many times you crank it. It might feel like it’s about to start, but it will die again, and cranking so many times can even drain the battery as well. So why does it happen in the first place? It’s actually an age-related thing.

Engines tend to lose compression after being used for some years. Cylinders’ wear and tear will form spaces where the compression can leak, and the ignition process won’t be carried out, it becomes more prominent in the winter as the oil thickness would prevent the smooth flow to the oil rings, and the seal will not properly form thus we will lose compression.

The engine oil has a lot of different categories of thickness, in winter thick oil will become more viscous in the crankcase and will not adequately flow to close the oil ring seals to make compression, so we can fix this temporarily by having a “thin” engine oil which would flow easily in cold temperature.

The permanent method is to rebuild to have properly sized piston heads that can seal the compression properly. It will also increase the vehicle’s power, and it won’t feel sluggish and won’t be struggling to move. These types of problems can also be diagnosed by checking the compression of each cylinder.

Normally all the cylinders would have almost the same compression with some margin; you can check the ideal compression for your specific trim and see if you have that compression level or not; if the compression is really low, then our diagnosis will be proved right. Make sure that the spark plugs and the coils are okay.

A rebuild can cost more than $1000. That is mostly labor cost because the parts are not that expensive, but the labor is expensive because of its time.

Cranks But Won’t Start After Driven For Some Time

This issue is mostly caused by the overheating of the coils, which have worn out and have to be replaced; a spark plug might have been burned as well, which you can check by looking at the color of the spark. If the color of the spark is orange, it means it has become weak and needs to be replaced, and if it is blue, then it’s okay. The coils usually go out in this case.

The spark plug replacement can cost around $70. 

Transmission Problems

Slipping Gears Especially The 3rd gear

It happens due to the transmission issue, and most of the time, the dealers and auto shops would want to charge you a lot more and rip you off when the problem might be a simple shift solenoid. In an old car like this one, it is not rare for these solenoids to go out.

These should definitely be considered before deciding to change the whole transmission. A solenoid costs around $50.

Suspension Problems

Clunking Noise Is Coming From The Front

A lot of these clunking noises are generated by the suspension components. Worn-out suspension components, especially suspension joints, would make these sounds. It can either be a rubber bushing or a whole suspension component. Make sure to check the underside of the vehicle and ideally check the suspension parts on a forklift.

If the noise is correlated to bumps, it is the ball joints most of the time. They would have a slight play in them, that movement is the culprit, which will cost around $200. If the car is having a bumpy ride and feels harsh and rough, the issue is with the shocks/struts, which cost around $600. 

Tilts Too Much When Cornering

If the vehicle feels as if it will roll over in turn, you have a worn-out sway bar responsible for keeping the body firm while cornering. Normally it wouldn’t feel out of control no matter how old it is. Make sure to make a tight turn to test the sway bar condition; a bad one would be prominent even with a slight steering turn.

The cost to replace it is around $100.