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Fix or Junk?

Hi there,

I just want to know your opinions and see if the car I have is worth saving or should I just junk it. I have a 2007 Mazda 6 S 3.0L that I got a long time ago for free from a family member. The car was diagnosed with oil pan gasket leak, coolant leak possible from the water pump, and “transmission problems”.

I never fixed any of those problems because of the transmission. I just didn’t wanted to throw that money away since the car was free. When I first took it to a transmission shop they told me that the fluid was too dark and the transmission might be on its way out and that it is better to leave it like that, but I went ahead and replaced some of that fluid and the car still shifts without problems.

This, however created a new problem which is excess vibration in low rpms and first and second gear. I asked another mechanic to test drive the car and he thought it might be the transmission or motor mounts, which makes sense to me because you can clearly feel that violent shake when you put the vehicle in gear, but once you drive the vibrations will disappear.

He also gave me a quote for the water pump and I was planning on saving up to fix it. I drove this vehicle in this condition for over a month, topping up the coolant reservoir with coolant but eventually just replaced coolant with water because it was just leaking too fast.

Just a few days back I started noticing the heater was blowing cold air. The engine was warmed up but it took a while to start blowing warm air. The next day no heater at all.

Yesterday, I started noticing the low oil indicator blink, stay there bright red or disappear depending on whether I am driving or coming to a stop, so I drove home and shut off the engine because I could also hear either a tapping or clicking sound from the front passenger side and freaked out. I tried to start the engine again but it was difficult, so I bought some 5W20 oil and pour all of it on the engine. This time the engine started so I thought it was just the engine running low on oil.

Today, it started doing the blinking thing again. Smoke would come out from the front driver side of the vehicle. There is no coolant on the reservoir. Temperature indicator raises as I drive faster and goes down when I drive slower or idle. Heater blows cold air. The tapping or clicking is there again.

I know this is a lot to read and I apologize for that. If you have the time, I would appreciate if you can give me your opinion about this. Thanks a lot.

Did you check the oil level with the dip stick? You could check it now to see if it needs more or you overfilled it. BTW, does Mazda recommend 5W20 for this engine?

Change the transmission fluid now. I can’t believe a “mechanic” told you not to. Don’t flush the transmission, drain it and replace the same amount that came out. If your u pay someone, tell them to do a drain and fill.

When the engine is cold, like tomorrow morning, open the radiator cap and check if you can see coolant. If not, ad the mixture of the antifreeze listed in your owner’s manual. You can buy that antifreeze at WalMart, an auto parts store, or a Mazda dealer.

One more thing, being free to you doesn’t mean it should cost you nothing. That just gives you a leg up on expenses that come down the line. If you had treated the car as if you wanted to keep it a while, it may not be as messed up as you describe here.

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I would just nurse it along and do minimal repairs and drive it till it dies.

It does not owe you anything ,and you could fix all the things wrong with it and incur a big money pit. The car was likely not well cared for since a 2007 Mazda should not have any major problems if it had good maintenance.

My accountant sister would say: “Just drive it into the ground”.

Yes it requires 5W20, says right on the cap. I did change the transmission fluid. I did it because I could still see a little bit of pink on that dark fluid in a paper towel. It didn’t smell burnt either. The transmission still shifts.

I don’t see a radiator cap in this vehicle. I do add water every morning to the reservoir. I stopped adding coolant because it was draining too fast.

The car was given to me like this. I did performed regular oil changes, changed the transmission fluid and even replaced tires and a wheel bearing but the major repairs I never touched those because of out of 4 mechanics, 3 told me the transmission is on its way out and only one told me the mounts were bad.

I think you should have replaced the water pump before destroying the engine. Even a free car can cost $4000 to replace.


Either a coincidence, wrong fluid type, or over-filled.

No coolant in the plastic reservoir means there’s a cooling system leak and before driving any more your shop should check the coolant level in the radiator itself. Low coolant in the radiator can cause the heater to not work, and if it is low enough the resultant overheating can damage the engine. Another common cause of no heat from the heater is the coolant thermostat sticking open. If you want to keep driving this car, the cooling system problems need to be addressed asap. Meanwhile keep the engine oil topped off and the oil level monitored on the dipstick weekly.

I think this car has already been killed, driving with no coolant and letting it get so low on oil that it won;t restart are not well tolerated on modern engines. Given the OPs maintenance propensities I foresee a lot of “lousy” cars in the future.


So you know me very well I see… I drive a 17 year old vehicle with over 280,000 miles, well maintained and drives like a dream, except for all the rattles from all the lose plastic parts which is normal for a vehicle this old. So I am not sure how you can come to that conclusion so quickly.

I took a plane to Utah and drove the car all the way to my home in California because the vehicle was free. That’s 919 miles, and 14hrs 40 mins of driving back to home to be precise. I don’t have the money throw around and I took the decision to pick this car up precisely because it was free. So of course I would like to keep it well maintained, but as soon as I drove it I noticed a burnt smell on the front of the vehicle. This was even worse when I turned the air or the heater on.

I took it to a shop the day I got to California and they gave me a list of problems this car had. It was not properly maintained by the previous owner and I didn’t know it because he had no clue of what he had done to the vehicle. I took the car to different shops in my area and all had different opinions about the different problems the car had. Most would tell me to not throw any money on the car because of the transmission. Someone here replied saying an engine would cost $4000 to replace. Well the cost to fix all the problems here were I live was more than $4000! Replacing the transmission alone was $3000!

So I decided we would drive this vehicle to the ground instead, but I always had this feeling that the mechanics in my area were wrong about their diagnosis on the transmission. They told me not to change the fluid because the car would not shift anymore if I did. I didn’t wanted to spend more money on diagnosis, so I used that money to change the fluid. Well it’s being two years, since I did that and the transmission still shifts no problem.

Once I had enough money I took this car to the East Bay area in San Francisco. There they gave me some hope and told me that the transmission was fine and that only the transmission mounts had to be replaced. I initially didn’t know the leak came from the water pump, the mechanics over here told me the leak was caused by cracked hoses. They jacked up the vehicle and showed me that the leak came from the water pump and that it would cost $300 to replace vs $800 in my area!

So yes, I wanted to replace the water pump but apparently it is not too late. Sure, I should have fixed everything before “destroying the engine” but I had no way to tell if it was worth throwing all that money into a car that seemed fine but at the same time a felt like a lemon because of the different and non conclusive opinions the mechanics had about the vehicle. If I had the money I wouldn’t hesitate… nor drive a 17 year old car for so long!

Thanks anyways.

One confusing thing. If the transmission shifts fine, why take it to a number of different shops for transmission complaints?

My assessment was based on the fact that you drove around with a known coolant leak and let your radiator get low (heater intermittently getting cold) , and then really low (heater blowing cold all the time) and also that you don’t check your oil because you drove with your oil light blinking and continued to drive with it steady red and you let it get so hot the engine seized (wouldn’t restart until it cooled.)

Do I have any of that wrong?


Did you have the engine replaced in the Protege? From your previous posts the engine failed after you postponed the replacement of a failing water pump.

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