Need advice on my van


I purchased brand new Mazda van in summer 2001. I have the maintenance work done based on the schedules provided by the manufacturer. The engine light was one last Monday so I brought it in to the dealer. The dealer is telling me that I need a new engine. I can?t believe this van would die at 68K! I don?t know what options I have now. Could someone help me?


Ignore that shyster dealer. He’s behind on his boat payments.

We can help. First get back to us right away and tell us how your van drives. Does it run OK or are there real problems?


Take the van to Autozone and have the code read and post back here so these regulars can help you.

You only need to use a dealer for recalls and warranty work(that is covered). Find a good independent shop.


If there is not an Autozone near you, any chain parts store should have an OBD-II code reader that you can borrow for free. They give you the instructions, you do the test, and they will read the codes for you. You will probably have to leae your credit card with them, but how much can they spend in the 10 minutes it takes to run the test? ;^)


How about providing some details?
By an “engine light” do you mean a yellow Check Engine Light or a red oil light?

You “brought” it to the dealer. How did you “bring” it; drive it or tow it?
If you drove it, was it running rough, making noises, etc.?

Is, or was, the engine full of oil?

There’s a lot of story missing here so I would not be too quick to jump on the dealer just yet for delivering bad news.


Thank you for your assistance. To provide more background information - I had the major 60k tune up and work performed by the Mazda on March 17, 2007 and did not have my oil changed since then. On June 29th my yellow engine light turned on (blinked off/on), my van had trouble accelerating. I took the van to the Mazda service the next day and was told that all of my ignition cable was bad - they replaced my spark plugs and wires. The yellow engine check light turned on last Tuesday, the car acted similar to what happened to me a few months ago (i.e. trouble accelerating). When I started the car last Tuesday morning, the engine was running rough as though there was not sufficient power in the engine. The Mazda dealer tells me that the compression in my cylinders are 85 or 90 and that the engine ran hot - low oil and low antifreeze. However, the temperature gauge in my dash board never rised above normal temperature. The Mazda service manager contacted the Mazda rep and was him that they would not help with the cost of replacing my engine since I neglected on my oil change. I am still outraged at their response; even though that I didn’t follow the oil change schedule, I don’t see why the engine would die prematurely. My van is still at the dealership where they are suppose to give me an estimate for a re-built or new engine 2 days ago. I asked them if the van is drive-able - the answer was ‘no’ from the dealer. Need advice on what to do.


Compression readings of 85 and 90 PSI means you have a serious engine problem, no doubt about it.

Low coolant levels (anti-freeze) can indeed roast an engine and the reason why the gauge may not have shown this is because the temp sender that operates the gauge is usually mounted high. This means if the coolant was low there was no hot coolant flowing over the probe on the end of the temp sender; therefore, the gauge was not showing overheating.

Being low on coolant also has other symptoms related to overheating such as sluggish running, rattling or knocking, coughing, etc.
The fact the symptoms now were similar to months ago are irrelevant actually as ignition misfires and overheating symptoms can be near identical.

Are you saying you have not checked the oil level since last May? Just how low was the oil level?
You never answered the question about driving the vehicle to the dealer or having it towed either. Operating a vehicle with extremely low oil levels and/or coolant levels is not the vehicle’s fault.

If you have not checked the oil, say every 2 weeks or so, and continued to drive the vehicle with known symptoms then the repair is all going to be on you and this is as it should be. Don’t shoot the messenger.


I did not check the oil since March 17, 2007 - during the 60k service they suppose to have changed my oil/filter, check my antifreeze, tune up, etc. I drove the van to the dealer to have it service earlier this week. I assumed that the car problem that I experienced on June 29th was repaired. I had no reason to think that I was low on oil or antifreeze since the June repair.


It makes no difference. One should NEVER, EVER go from March to near November without checking the oil on a regular basis; even on a brand new vehicle. That’s going on near 8 months!
Coolant levels should also be checked on a regular level much like the transmission fluid.

Sadly, most full-service gas stations are now history and they used to perform fluid and tire inspections on every car that came in for gas. This led to self-service gasoline in a hectic world and people either don’t take the time to check fluids themselves or just flat forget it. Time can get away from you so this is easy to do, even for people who mechanically astute.

The June repair has nothing to do with fluid levels and is irrelevant to the problem you now have.

I sincerely hate to see anyone suffer a major financial car problem (more than you even know actually), but this problem is entirely self-inflicted and neither the dealer or their corporate HQs has any responsibility in regards to this problem.
Get mad at me if you want; just being brutally honest.


“I had no reason to think that I was low on oil or antifreeze since the June repair.”

Well, you also had no reason to believe that it wasn’t low. That is why regular checking of your fluids is necessary. And, in case you are not aware of it, your statement–“I have the maintenance work done based on the schedules provided by the manufacturer”–is not accurate, as the manufacturer’s schedule for maintenance surely does not include going 8 months between oil changes.

Well, now at least we know the source of the problem, namely inattention by the OP to the most basic elements of car care–namely checking the oil and other fluids on a regular basis, coupled with a failure to change the oil on schedule.

Sorry, June, but I have to tell you that this is all on your shoulders. Whether you choose to put a new engine in this vehicle or to buy another vehicle, now at least you know why you should never ignore any vehicle for 8 months. It’s a shame that you had to learn this the hard way, but I am confident that you will pay more attention to vehicle maintenance in the future.

It may sound like we are all attacking you about not checking the fluids.  In a way we are, but don't take it as a personal attack.  Today too few people are taught that they need to check certain basic things about a car or suffer some very expensive and maybe dangerous consequences.  We care and hope you can turn this into a learning experience so it is not as bad and maybe avoid something like it in the future.  

The basic checks you can do yourself.  They are really not hard and only take a few minutes.  Oil, coolant, tyre pressure brake fluid etc.  Check your owner's manual for the list for your car and likely specific instructions.  

I do suggest you ask around and see if you can find a good independent mechanic (not related to a name brand operation) and take your car there.  The repair cost is almost certain to be less that at the dealer and it is likely to be a good and maybe better.  Dealers are no better or worse than independents (some good some note) but they are different and usually the independent is going to be less expensive.  

Note: We all jumped onto the dealer at first because too many times they are pulling a fast one.  Your dealer may well have not been and may be very honest, some are, but a high percentage are not.  

Good Luck


I really appreciate all of your feedbacks. I guess I learned my lesson this time. Since I know nothing about a car, I have no clues as to where to check the fluids, I had solely depended on my dealer to take care of my car. Obviously I failed to do the basic checking or ask the dealer to do the checking for me in June’s repair. What puzzled me is that I also own another car, Honda Accord, which has much higher mileage and I paid less attention to this car, but it runs perfectly and I have never had problem with it. I had never expected the van would die before my Honda. - June


Have you changed the timing belt on that Honda?

It might be running very nicely right now, but the engine will sustain MAJOR damage the instant that the timing belt breaks. If you consult the Maintenance Schedule for the Honda and compare that to your maintenance receipts (you DO save them, I assume), you can see whether you are courting disaster with the Honda, to which you admit you have paid little attention regarding its maintenance.


Thanks for the reminder. I brought the Honda in last week and have the 90K maintenance work done and the timing belt changed the same time.