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Is it worth reparing (clutch, timing belt) my 1999 Mazda Protege with 165,000 miles?

My daughter, who was visiting us this weekend, was practicing driving my (bought new at the time) 1999 5 speed Mazda Protege DX with 165,000 miles on it (original clutch), after having recently learned to drive a stick shift (real lesson at a driving school vs me, thank goodness). Well after driving 2 days and practicing doing some hills and local roads (she did pretty well except hills), we noticed a burnt like smell emanating from the front of the car, no smoke.

The following day, after her driving it on the highway, it slowed down to barely moving once we got near our home. I tried to drive it home (just a few blocks away) and though the engine kept on revving high, the car stopped moving and we smelt that strong unique burning odor.

So it got towed to our local garage and the diagnosis rendered was a burned out clutch. Also is about due (every 60,000 miles) for a timing belt change in another 5,000 miles so the mechanics there (guys we use all the time) told me that IF I was to repair the clutch they’d also recommend doing the timing belt and the water pump.

Struts were replaced within the past 2 years. I do regular oil changes myself. I was told brakes are in ok shape.

Total for both(clutch and timing belt and water pump) is around $1400.

The car also needs 4 new tires and could use a new radio (present one barely works). Prior to this “event”, I (who drives it most often to local work) didn’t experience any major problems.

I was going to give this car to my daughter, who is going to grad school in Philly for the next 4 years(needs a car there for externships in areas not serviced by public transportation) so she could use it there without worrying too much about it getting stolen or damaged, and being small it’s easy to park in the city.

Question is: Is it worth fixing ? My mechanic say yes. I’m cautiously skeptical. How long do these cars realistically last?

Or should I call it quits at this age, mileage and above ailments,and look for another vehicle?



Sure, fix it. What else are you going to buy for $1,400? You know this car, you seem confident it’s solid and reasonably well maintained. These repairs are all just routine maintenance.

I would feel a LOT better at $1200 than $1400 for this job…A good mechanic using air-wrenches can have that clutch in there in about half the time the “book” allows plus they are making good money marking up the parts…Times are tight…Squeeze them a little. But yes, it’s worth fixing…

If you know the car is solid, I say fix it. It sounds like you have taken good care of it, and as long as it’s not a rustbucket, you may as well keep it going. I would also encourage your daughter to work on her clutch skills. Clutch wear is caused by slippage. The less time that clutch pedal has to be partially down at the friction point, the less wear occurs. Much of this wear probably came from the hills you said she was having trouble with. For future reference, the car couldn’t care less if she lets out on the clutch too fast and stalls the engine, but the car really cares if she lets it out too slowly or revs the engine excessively to try to keep the car from stalling. It is good she chose to learn stick, though. It is quickly becoming a lost art. Pass on these driving tips along with your car, and new clutch, to your daughter. She will get the hang of it and may even get another 165k miles out of this clutch. My father’s Cavalier five speed has 200k miles on the original clutch, and used that clutch to teach me to drive stick, as well as my younger brother and sister.

Sounds like you know the history of this car and have kept it up well. With that in mind these are pretty simple, reliable, economical, and durable cars, and I say fix it. With the new clutch and t-belt/water pump, the car should be a good car for your daughter for teh next 4 years…assuming she masters driving with a clutch!

Look out there and see what you can get for $1400 these days.

2nd place(friend of friend) gave me a quote of $1070 for all. Sounds good to me, and thanks for your suggestions and support.

Sounds like the perfect car for a couple years in the city. You got 165K out of the clutch which is very good life. Id definately do the clutch and keep it.

The timing belt could last 5 years if you don’t change it, or it could break at any time. If it breaks the car is heading to the boneyard. If you want it to last for the next 5 years I’d do the timing belt too. If you are a gambler and don’t really care about junking the car when the belts breaks; let it ride and save a few bucks.

Just to update y’all I had the repairs above done, including a new battery and new tires. Here’s the new problem.
Ever since the clutch and timing belt and water pump were replaced there’s been a new issue. (The mechanic told me he used mazda parts for all the work)
After about 3 minutes of driving there’s a significant squeak (sounds like a door hinge that needs oil) every time I depress the gas pedal. Now if I have the car in neutral, with the engine running, and I press the gas pedal, no squeak. If I’m driving, let off the gas, press the clutch all the way in and then press the gas pedal, no squeak. If the engine is turned off and I press the gas pedal, no squeak.
No squeak when I press the clutch in only or press the brake pedal only. The performance is fine, no hesitation or bucking, accelerates fine, and the gas mileage is still pretty good.
So what do you think is causing the squeak? The noise wasn’t there before the repairs.
Anything I should ask the mechanic to recheck?

Yes, ask him to check it out. Something’s not quite right, but I cannot hazard a guess without getting underneath it myself. It’s possible there are some bolts that didn’t get tightened correctly, possibly the transmission mount, I’m not sure.

Did he happen to suggest the tensioner for the timing belt? Did you say yes? :slight_smile:


Chase asked,
<<Did he happen to suggest the tensioner for the timing belt? Did you say yes? :slight_smile: >>

I don’t remember him asking about a tensioner or mentioning that, but I can ask. The bill says “Timing belt and Water Pump, clutch assembly, resurface flywheel, antifreeze”, among other things.

Is it just one squeak or is it continuous?

Check the transmission fluid level, which was probably drained when the 1/2 shafts were taken out.

Question asked- Is it one squeak or is it continuous?

It’s one very quick squeak every time I push in the gas pedal, but only starts after a few minutes of driving.

Dumb question on my part. Where, how do I check the transmission fluid level on this stick shift model?

To check the transmission oil level on a manual, you have to get down underneath on most cars, some (only a few) will allow you to check it from above. You have to remove a plug and see if the fluid is at the right level. If you’re not sure which one to remove, don’t remove any. A mistake could dump your transmission oil on the ground right in front of you. Well, some of it anyway. If they listed it on the bill, then most likely they did it, and the level’s fine, although you can always ask them to check it while you’re there.

Most mechanics will at least suggest changing the tensioner when they do a timing belt. You have to take the thing off, anyway, and then it’s only a bolt or two, and it’s done. They can fail, just like everything else, and it’s an easy PM thing to do. Costs vary, but typically in the $40 range. It also relieves the possibility of failure right after finishing the job. They did the water pump, so they were right there.

I think you have a throttle cable (it might be electronic, not sure), but it’s starting to sound like a cable, and it may be just getting a warm (or hot), due to not being put back in the support bracket properly.

No, check that. If it was the cable, it would happen whether you were sitting stil or moving, engine running or not. Have them check it out.


Oh, and good job for her learning a manual. I firmly believe everyone should start driving on a manual, and go from there. If you can drive a stick, you can drive pretty much anything with wheels - from a micro-mini to a large truck. I tend to use the E-brake on hills. It holds the car until I’m ready. Not everyone is coordinated enough, though, I guess. I know my SIL isn’t. :slight_smile:

Back again,
I spoke to another local mechanic who mentioned things that I know nothing about so perhaps someone could enlighten me.
Something about release bearings, 2 springs going to a fork that should have been replaced a the time of the clutch job.(I don’t know if they were) He mentioned having the original mechanic pulling the “tranny” and replacing these springs if this wasn’t done in the first place.
Make sense? If so please do explain in layman’s terms. Thanks

Could it have been “Throw out bearing” or “Pilot bearing”??

That’s a bearing mount on a …hub… in turn mounted on a fork, and that bearing pushes on the clutch pressure plate, easing the pressure allowing you to change gears. That’s the throw-out bearing.

The pilot bearing resides in the center of the flywheel, si easy to change, and is normally changed after a resurface, since the metal shards can get behind it and cause damage later on. This is a possible cause.

IMHO, If he went to the trouble of removing and resurfacing the flywheel, and didn’t change those bearings, then he’s not a very good mechanic. However, it’s possible that’s what’s squeaking, although I would think if it was, it would be more than squealing by now - it would be screaming, and all the time (after a minute warm up or so). Normally, throw-out bearings are sold as part of the clutch kit…although you can get the parts individually. Pilot bearings run ~$12. Silly not to change them for that little money, when you’re looking at a massive amount of work later if they fail quickly.

Not all clutches have return springs, but yours is hydraulic, so it might. You’ll have to ask him.

So your list is getting longer. :slight_smile: Sorry about that.


I would say no repairs unless you can do them yourself. The car is worth too little.

I spoke to the mechanic who said they did replace the throw out bearing and the pilot bearing. Did not replace the timing belt tensioner. He’s going to check it out in a few days. I’ll get back to ya’ll with the findings. Thanks again

Back again. I did bring it back and the mechanic did find the source of the squeak.(no charge) Turns out it was some sort of “brackets” issue just in back of where the exhaust starts exiting from the front of the car. Told me the brackets were very rusty and he “took care of it”.Showed me a digital camera photo of the area but it’s kind of foreign to me. No more squeak. Hopefully last you’ll hear from me re this issue. Thanks all again. PP

I was going to give this car to my daughter, who is going to grad school in Philly for the next 4 year

Then I’d DEFINITELY get the timing belt done.

There’s plenty of parts of Philly (or, heaven forbid, Camden NJ) that it would just not do for a young female to be stranded with an INOP car.