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Engine Whine 1987 Mazda 323

Hey there car people! I have a problem I hope you can help me diagnose.

Car is 1987 Mazda 323 hatchback with 1988 engine and transmission (5 speed manual), tons of miles on it, but a lot of repairs and replacements over the years.

Had it to the mechanic a week ago to change out an axle on front left and ball joint on the right front. I hadn’t driven it for about a month before and now that I’m driving it daily again, it seems like the engine is really loud on the right front. In particular it seems to whine a lot right before I change gears (had the clutch replaced with aftermarket clutch in the last 6 months). After I get it to 5th, it seems really whiny like it wants me to change gears again, but I’ve got nothing left so I usually depress clutch and put it in 5th again, just to make sure that’s where I have it. When it’s in neutral it doesn’t whine at all.

While mechanic was replacing the axle and ball joint, we asked him to tighten up the gear shift since it tended to chatter a bit. It still rattles some in 3rd but the others are ok. Not sure if that could be related.

Mechanic had looked at the axle before and was afraid it was rusted to transmission and that he wouldn’t be able to get it out without damaging the transmission, but he was really happy when he could make the repair without hurting the transmission.

I spend 6 hours a day driving this car so I’m really sensitive to the different sounds and rattles.

So…any guesses on what the whine is?

We’ll be taking it to the mechanic in a few days, but any input would be greatly appreciated.

Is the engine configured cross-ways in the engine compartment, so the front of the engine is on the right side of the car then? If so, that could be a drive belt or timing belt or associated pulley making the noise. Check the drive belt tensions as the first step. Alternators can make a whining noise too. See if the noise gets worse with the headlights on bright.

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The engine is on the right side. It is front wheel drive.

It really doesn’t sound like a belt squeal (I’ve had plenty of those over the years).

We’ll have him look at the belt and I’ll check out to see if the noise gets worse with the headlights on bright. Kinda doubtful on that one.

It’s not so much a squeal like you usually get with belts but more of a whine like a high-powered race car makes when they are going to shift gears. This thing is far from a race car. In the past few months the distributor cap cracked and was replaced. It seemed like after that , the engine was a lot louder (more like a roar). I’m pretty sure the whine before shifting is new kind of like the RPM’s are revving up too much, especially after I get it in 5th and it doesn’t settle down.

Thanks for your reply.

I gather that you don’t have a tachometer, so you are judging engine RPMs by sound?

I’m pretty sure the whine before shifting is new kind of like the RPM’s are revving up too much

If the RPMs are overreving, then perhaps the clutch is slipping. There is a simple test for that, look it up.

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I am trying to understand why someone who spends 6 hours a day in a vehicle would continue to use a 1987 anything that needs and has had a lot of work.

Perhaps they like it. Perhaps they’re frugal… like me. :grin:
Me, I’d far rather have an '87 that I like than that (new at the time) '05 Corolla that was killing my bad back.
Ours is not to judge. :innocent:

The unfortunately thing is that with a vehicle this age that’s had numerous repairs over the years, there are countless possible sources of a whining sound.

I think this first thing I’d try is flooring the gas pedal while the car is in high gear on the highway… to test for clutch slippage. If the whine grows in frequency when you do this, that’d be a sign of a slipping clutch. While most aftermarket parts are fine, perhaps this clutch isn’t. Or, if the other parts weren’t changed (release bearing, pressure plate, etc.) or the flywheel was glazed (yup, this happens), the clutch might be slipping even if the clutch plate itself is fine. If the noise does not respond to flooring the gas pedal, that’ll eliminate clutch slippage as a suspect. HOWEVER, even if the clutch isn’t slipping, if the pilot bearing wasn’t changed that would in my mind be a main suspect.

And those are only comments on one possible area to be evaluated…

But I might be able to help more with more info on exactly what was changed when the clutch was done. :relaxed:

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So, 60 mph: in 5th…whining, push in clutch (engine to idle)…whining, put in neutral…NO whining, right?

Sounds like internal transmission problem

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Good idea by @insightful above, could be a transmission problem. Manual transaxles will definitely make a whining noise if the transmission fluid level is low. Suggest you ask your shop to check that.

I actually saw a Mazda 323 sedan of about the same vintage driving on the road today, right next to me

It had to be early to late 80s, because it had the 3rd brake light, and the trunk lid said 323, whereas the next generation was known as Protege

The thing looked pretty clean, good paint, not bashed up. Probably garage kept

But he had a hard time keeping up with the flow of traffic