CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

EGR Valve and Rear Struts '95 Protege

So I bought a '95 Mazda Protege with 155k miles on it last fall for $600. I was hoping to get a couple years out of it without any significant repairs. I came in a year short.

I took it to the shop last week and was told it needed the rear brakes replaced, the rear struts (mounts and assemblies) replaced, and that it needed a new EGR valve, EGR valve gasket and throttle body gasket.

I think I can do the brakes on my own. Looking around online, I think I can handle the EGR and throttle body gaskets as well. However, the EGR valve is going to cost me over $100. I’m wondering if it’s reasonable to think that if I replace the EGR valve gasket and throttle body gasket, that I could get by for a couple years by thoroughly cleaning the EGR valve itself instead of replacing it. I should note, I only drive 3-5k miles a year as I bike every where I go from March through November.

As for the struts, I’m not sure that is something I can take on myself. What do you all think? I’ve never done any work on cars, but I’m pretty mechanically inclined and decently intelligent.

Lastly, the shop evaluation states that the rear sway bar links are loose. Can these be tightened, or easily replaced by a DIYer? They didn’t put anything in the estimate about the sway bars, just listed them in the inspection.

Thanks!

Sometimes EGR problems are caused by clogged passages so it’s at least possible that removing the EGR and cleaning everything up could solve any EGR fault. That would depend upon why the EGR diagnosis was given.

Changing rear struts cartridges out can be dangerous and especially so for the relatively inexperienced.
Seeing as how it’s claimed that you need both struts and mounts the most cost effective way to do this would be to buy Quick Struts. These are complete units ready to bolt on. There’s little if any danger involved with these and it’s much quicker to do.
I assume the rear end of the car is bouncing and possibly banging from strut mounts?

There’s no tightening sway bar links. If broken or worn out they must be replaced. They’re usually not difficult to do. The only hiccup might be removing the nut on the ball studs as sometimes the entire stud will turn freely due to wear and this may prevent the nut from unscrewing. A little prying or clamping in the right spot can bind them enough to get them loose in many cases. Extreme cases might require cutting them off.

Unless the car is bouncing horribly and wandering around all over the road you might consider taking a pass on the struts and sway bar links due to the limited amount of driving you do and the projected length of time you plan on keeping the car.
Do the rear brakes for sure and possibly the EGR. If the engine has a rattle on acceleration then I would definitely do the EGR.

You didn’t make out too bad. For 600 bucks you already got a year’s worth of use out of the car so you’re fine financially with this thing. Hope that helps some.

Thanks for the speedy response!

The rear end isn’t necessarily bouncing too much, but there is a definite banging out of the rear-right. Sounds like the frame is about to snap! I’ll look into the Quick Struts you mentioned.

As far as the reason for the EGR diagnosis:
The air intake hose is cracked and had been duct taped up. I’ve already looked into replacing that, seems pretty cheap and relatively easy. But the last couple weeks I drove this past spring, the car would occasionally refuse to accelerate above about 35-40 mph, and there would be a bit of smoking and the faint smell of burnt synthetics. My impression at the time was that this was due to the intake hose, but that changed when the shop told me about the EGR issue. If it is simply the case that the air intake is totally cracked and rotted out, would that in and of itself explain the difficulties in accelerating?

Right when I got the car, it would very occasionally stall out at a stop light after pulling off the freeway. But it stopped doing that after about a month. Again, my impression now is that was due to the EGR valve being a bit clogged up.

The car also idles very high right when turning it on and then settles down. Not sure if that is a clue to any of the issues already mentioned. I’m not too concerned about it unless it is an indication of something serious to come.

Thanks again!

The banging in the rear could be a strut mount or it could caused by a worn sway bar link.

An EGR doesn’t normally create much of an engine performance problem. The main problems that it can cause is pinging on acceleration (rock in a can sound) or possibly a rough/no idle IF the EGR valve sticks in the open position.

It’s unlikely that the EGR has anything to do with the refusal to accelerate. That more than likely has something to do with air leaks in the intake hose as that can affect the MAF sensor. Any air leaks in the intake tract or intake manifold hoses and so on can generate all kinds of grief.

An air leak in a hose on the intake manifold, etc. can cause idle problems also, although it’s possible the high idle when first starting could be due to an Idle Air Control valve fault.
If you remove the throttle body and EGR for cleaning that would be a good time to clean the Idle Air Valve as that is part of the throttle body.

Hope some of that helps.

(It might help to know what if any codes are present in the computer. If you go to the AutoZone website and register you should be able to go the the “Vehicle Repair Guide” section and that should provide any repair info you need along with how to pull codes yourself, how to change strut assemblies, and so on.)

Very helpful stuff here!

So what I am gleaning is that I could try replacing the sway bar links, replacing the air intake hose, cleaning the EGR and idle air valve and then seeing if that takes care of things?

The throttle body gasket and EGR valve gasket are super cheap online, so I was just planning on replacing them as long as I was going to take them off to clean…unless there is a reason not to.

I’ll register at AutoZone as you suggest and poke around there for some answers.

Thanks again for the help!

Before you replace the sway bar links, see if you can get the rear of the car elevcated SAFELY on jack stands on a flat, level, solid surface (parking brake on and front tires chocked) and try shakin gthe sway bar up & down. Often the bushings that hold the sway bar to the chassis (unibody) will wear and the bar bang in them with every bump, The metal bar turns within the rubber bushing constantly as the wheels go up & down, and I find that to be a regular weak spot.

If you do decide to replace the sway bar links, prepare yourself with a decent set of metric allen wrenches (6" in length) and a set of metric ratcheting box-end socket wrenche (see link)s. The center of the link’s “ball joint” will have a hex hole, and you’ll want to hold it with the allen wrench while unscrewing the holding nut. The nut itself will be fine-threaded and you’ll be glad you have the ratcheting wrench. It’s a self-locking nut and you’ll wear yourself out using a regular box end wrench.

But first get under there and shake things. If the links are bad, they’ll clunk. Or creak.

http://compare.ebay.com/like/280836052096?_lwgsi=y&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

If the air intake hose is ripped that needs to be replaced. The engine manangement system uses a Mass Air Flow sensor to determine the air/fuel ratio along with other inputs. The MAF sensor is mounted on the air filter housing BEFORE the intake hose. If air enters this ripped hose the MAF sensor doesn’t detect this extra air and it can confuse the computer all-to-hell.

Tester

There’s several possibilites to explain poor acceleration and stalling. But an EGR valve which opens when it shouldn’t, or opens too wide, can indeed cause poor acceleration. And it can cause sputtering and stalling when you step on the gas from low speed or a stop too. It’s because what the EGR does. EGR == Exhaust Gas Recirculaton. When activated, it routes exhaust gas back into the intake manifold. If this seems like a weird thing to do, you are thinking correctly. The reason for the EGR isn’t to make the car run smoother. It is to decrease nitrogen-based pollutants, which form during hard acceleration, especially when the engine is hot. Routing exhaust gasses back into the intake manifold displaces some of the gasoline and air, so it cools the combustion process, and while the downside is that it takes away some power which could be used for acceleration, the upside is it lowers the nitrogen pollutants. It’s a compromise.

The folks who designed your car, to avoid the problem you are having, the EGR is only supposed to open on accelerations (where there is low intake manifold vacuum), and only if the engine coolant is warm. So the EGR valve on most cars is vaccuum and temperature actuated. Your problem might not be the valve itself, but might be a problem with the controlling mechanisms. I’m guessing though the problem you are having is indeed the valve. With my Ford truck, when the EGR goes on the fritz, I’ve always had good luck taking it apart and just giving it a good cleaning. Usually I have to clean the passages where it bolts to also. That’s usually the hardest part of the job. I loosen the carbon deposits with a small screwdriver, then suck them out with a shop vac.

Thanks everyone for the responses, much appreciated!

I’ve ordered brake drums and shoes and will attempt to do that work myself. I’ve also ordered an intake hose, throttle body gasket, EGR gasket and air filter. I’ll replace all of those and clean out the EGR valve and passages. I figured I might as well do the fuel filter too as long as I’m at it.

As for the struts, I looked high and low for the complete “quick struts” that were mentioned above. Unfortunately, I can find plenty for Proteges from 1990-1994, but none that say they will work for my '95. So, I think I will probably order mounts, assemblies and sway bars and take it to someone to do the work. I found a little shop that said they would do it for $175 if I brought them the parts.

Looks like it’ll cost me a total of just over $500 for everything that I’ve listed, including the labor on the struts. I can live with that. Just hope next fall there isn’t much more than routine maintenance.

After all this I’ll be sure to come back on here and report how the little red devil runs.