Should Mechanic Refund My Money?

You really lucked out. Most people who write in here about scenarios like yours are complaining about having to buy new engines.
Your shop sounds like a keeper.

@PrescottAZ, thanks for taking full responsibility for the problems. Many visitors are not nearly as adult as you are. It is refreshing to take these comments as an education instead of an invitation to fight.

+1 to jtsanders’ comment!

Over the past few years, we have encountered an increasing number of posters who only want answers that agree with their pre-conceived notions. And, as I have frequently commented in this forum, failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions is at an epidemic level in our society nowadays.

So, it is very refreshing to find someone like PrescottAZ who takes sincere advice (as well as constructive criticism) in the right spirit.

To NYBo: I needed the struts because I have taken the car on roads meant for off-road vehicles. We have a lot of so-called “primitive” roads around here, Forest Service roads as well as Indian roads (such as Navajo), and I just drive my car on them, anyway, sometimes at a fair rate of speed. I’m originally from a rural area in the South, so I’m used to dirt roads. Although these out in the West beat all. Actually, the streets here in Prescott are incredibly rough, as well.

The right front was leaking, and the car was handling like a boat. The new struts made a HUGE difference. It feels like it’s on rails compared to how it was. A real joy. The Mazda 6 is a superb handling car.

To DOCNICK: I’ll be checking under the valve cover in a few moments when I leave home to pick up my friend for holiday supper.

To OLDTIMER 11: I agree about my shop. And also, I was very thankful that all it took was putting a new chain on and reclocking it to the cam (or whatever). I have been, and will be, checking the oil religiously now. I got off real easy. I intend on keeping the car, hence, the tune-up, new brakes, new tires, new struts.

To VDCDriver: I am going to check the tire pressures from now on, as well. I did all this stuff when I was younger and had old cars. It’s like I was not adjusting to the fact that I now drive an old car again. 37 sounded awfully high to me, as well. Thank you for your advice.

To DB4690: I remember hearing that in years past, about driving the car fast on a regular basis. We used to call “blowing it out.” You believe that is still common wisdom? I have this seeming delusion about newer cars not needing that sort of thing. I will say that when I had the car in for struts and I told him about my MPG being so low, he checked the throttle body and said it was filthy. He told me he sprayed about a half a can of cleaner in there. It idles much smoother and is more responsive upon my releasing the clutch and putting the engine to work.

To EVERYBODY: I’ll keep checking back here. I really appreciate your guys’ help.


To EVERYBODY: What are your opinions about oil additives, gas additives, and so on, in my situation of very low mileage (500 miles per month, short trips)? I recall there being something called SLIC50 or something. And is every 6 months adding a fuel injector cleaner to the fuel enough to keep the fuel system clean?


Today’s gasolines have all the additives you need. Today’s high performance oils also have all the additives you neeed. Just change oil regularly and take the car for a fast cruise of 20 miles or so at least once a month. That’s all you need.

I would be particularly cautious about Slick 50.
Many years ago, the FTC settled some complaints against the company (related to far-fetched claims for their product), but I think that the company only had to agree to make slightly less far-fetched claims.

Quite a few years ago, I asked my indy mechanic about Slick 50, and he reported his experience:

He had bought a Lincoln (probably ~7 years old) from one of his elderly customers who had stopped driving, and because he had personally performed all of the maintenance on the car, he knew that it was in excellent mechanical condition. When he did the first oil change after buying it, he decided to dump a can of Slick 50 into the crankcase, simply because it had been given to him by a salesperson and he was curious about the claims made for this product.

The result?
Within about 15 minutes of adding Slick 50 to the crankcase, the engine seized.
As my mechanic said, he couldn’t prove that the Slick 50 was the cause of this catastrophic breakdown, but because he had no other possible explanation, he was of the opinion that the product was not just worthless, and–in fact–had the potential to harm engines.

@PrescottAZ–I am very glad to see that you are going to be more proactive regarding the car’s maintenance, but I am wondering…Have you taken the time to look at & digest the Mazda Maintenance Schedule? This could be contained in the Owner’s Manual, or it could be in a separate booklet with an appropriate title, but no matter where you find it, it is a very important source of information for you to refer to.

I think that one of the most important parts of that maintenance schedule is the part where they discuss the concept of Severe Service. Because the majority of the public probably uses their cars in ways that constitute Severe Service, this more rigorous maintenance schedule is important to adhere to…if your driving patterns fit that description (which I believe that they do).

All too often, people focus on 7,500 mile oil change intervals and supposedly maintenance-free transmissions, when it is actually much more important for most folks to adhere to an oil change regimen of every 4k miles or so, and to change their transmission fluid every 3 yrs/30k miles.

Please…take the time to read the maintenance schedule in all of its details, and compare it to your records of service that has been performed. You may need to play catch-up with some of your maintenance, based on the Severe Service maintenance schedule.

I have a ScanGauge on it---which I just did calibrate for mileage when this started---so I now know trip MPG, daily MPG,

No you don’t know the actual MPG. The ScanGauge and even those onboard trip computers are not that accurate. The only way to know is to do the math. Fill the tank record the odometer reading. Drive a couple hundred miles. Fill the tank, record the odometer and the amount of fuel used. Divide the gallons into the miles driven. Then you know the MPG.

Great explanation of your need for new struts!

No need to change your screen name to Mr… I agree with the others in commending you for owning up to your responsibility for the engine problem. As noted, lots of people who post here never do.


You really need to take a nice extended drive every so often

Romp on it

Clear out the cobwebs

You get the idea

As for the dirty throttle body . . . it happens. Throttle bodies really need to be cleaned out every few years.

Today, I worked on a truck that would sputter out as soon as I put in gear. Cleaning the throttle body took care of the problem.

I’m glad to hear that the new struts restored your ride

An engine low on oil might make some weird noises, but that generally wouldn’t affect the valve timing. Sometimes the valve timing will jump a link in certain situation with certain engine, but that is not related to the crankcase oil level. I think your low oil condition and valve timing problems are completely unrelated.

The good news is that it appears your engine wasn’t wasted by the low oil condition. I say this b/c otherwise they wouldn’t be working on the valve timing. The oil light on many cars doesn’t come on until the oil is so low the oil pressure drops. It is possible for the oil level to go completely off the dipstick and still be above what’s needed for oil to be pumped, and therefore not ruin the engine. It’s not good of course, but for just putting around town, as long as the oil level is high enough that oil is getting sucked into the oil pump, it’s quite possible to do that for a while before doing any serious engine damage. Don’t try that while driving at 80 mph across a hot desert though. And of course it is common sense to check/add often enough to keep the oil level always within one quart of full.

Going forward, with any oil change it’s always a good idea to double-check the dipstick before leaving the shop, then again when you get home, and again the next morning. And once more in about a week. You never know whether the shop mechanic was having a bad day, was interrupted by a phone call and forgot to refill, or forgot to tighten the drain plug, etc.

To VDCDriver: Thank you for steering me right. It’s that old adage of, “If all else fails, read the directions.” Which I have never read. I do, happily, have the owner’s manual in its nice factory zippered case, right there in the car. I will now be reading it. As you noted, jumping in, cranking it cold, running it for 5 minutes, shutting it off, letting it get cold, cranking, et cetera has to be hard on an engine. I will pat myself on the back for one thing I have done right. With almost no exceptions, I have not started the engine and immediately put a load on it. I let it idle at least 10 seconds, usually longer.

I’m pretty sure I had the transmission lubricant changed a couple years ago. I’ll check. Makes a lot of sense to change it, as a transmission obviously is a mechanical device that does a lot of work. It is a stick shift.

Thanks for the cautionary tale about Slick 50. Sounds like a really bad thing! I think that story might illustrate some conventional wisdom of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and in addition, “If an engine/machine is accustomed to a certain oil or maintenance regimen, don’t change up on it all of a sudden.”

To DOCNICK: Thanks for confirming what I thought I knew; that is, oil and gas have come a long way since the olden days. I do recall, however, that one time I had a fuel system clean-out done by one of the oil change places (you know how they’re always selling you something), and it seemed to run better. I think a good compromise might be to—as my maintenance supervisor friend told me–run a gas additive through twice a year to keep the injectors clean. Much cheaper than the thing the oil change place charged me, yet doing something to maintain the injectors.

Would a high-speed ride once a month essentially do the same thing? I’d rather not bother with remembering to run the additive (and paying for it!).

Anyone else want to weigh in on keeping injectors clean?

I’m taking it in for an oil change in the morning at 9:00 MST, and will ask them to take the valve cover off. I did take the oil filler cap off and ran my finger around, and there was no crud, metal flakes, or anything…just clean oil. Should I ask them to take the valve cover off, anyway?

I am also going to ask them about the mileage. The ScanGauge seems to actually be very accurate. I first noticed the mileage problem by using my trip odometer and fuel gauge to correlate miles driven with fuel used (I always do that, habitually). It was soon apparent that the mileage was way off. Then I began using the ScanGauge to monitor more closely; the calibration procedure (done at successive fillups) showed that the amount of fuel the gauge thought I had used was exactly the same as what I filled up with. Which is handy because I can now watch how the engine uses fuel on different trips around town. It also has an instantaneous function, which I had already been using.

The mileage has improved since increasing tire pressure, but I’m still watching it.

Stay tuned…

Thanks, GeorgeSanJose, for the education about oil levels and valve timing and such. And the advice about double-checking after having someone else change your oil is wonderful. It addresses my original concern about possibly something not quite right about the oil change prior to my breakdown–my shop, as good as it is, might have not tightened the plug enough, for instance.

That does not in any way negate my own negligence in ignoring a metallic rattling sound under the hood…especiallyafter bottoming the car out! And not ever checking my oil, again especially after bottoming the car out! I figure it is much more likely that I myself loosened the drain plug by bottoming the car out. Not my shop’s fault.

But in the future, nevertheless, I think your advice for a procedure following someone else changing your oil is very good advice, indeed.

As you might have noted from my posts and others’ posts in this thread, I am determined to act like an intelligent man who cares about getting my money’s worth out of the car I purchased new, and will be doing my part to maintain my equipment.

To PrescotAZ, My hat is off to you, you not only took responsibility but showed a sense of humor about a situation involving youself. I love that, all of my funniest stories are at my expense.

Yeah, it really is funny, thinking about it.

I think it was the first guy who wrote me back on this who asked if this were some kind of a joke. Really, it was laughable. :slight_smile:

Just curious, but you state the fuel mileage has dropped off considerably. Does the car appear to run well and more importantly, how is the idle?
Does it idle at what one might consider acceptably well or is it glass smooth with no hint of a stumble; even an intermittent stumble?

“I do recall, however, that one time I had a fuel system clean-out done by one of the oil change places (you know how they’re always selling you something)”

@PrescottAZ–That leads me to another point that will help you to keep your car running well, and at the least expense, namely to AVOID quick oil change places. If you frequent this forum, you will see a distressingly large number of posts from people who have incurred incredibly expensive damage to their cars because of a major screw-up by the poorly-trained kids at a quick lube place.

In addition to their failure to replace the required little 2 cent gasket on the oil drain plug (this leads to leaks and to stripping of the threads on the drain plug), we have seen all too many posts from people who had the following situations take place at quick lube places:

Draining the transmission, instead of the engine’s crankcase, thus leading to a dry transmission and an engine with twice as much oil as it should have. This leads to a ruined transmission w/in a few minutes and a potentially damaged engine w/in a few days.

Using the wrong type of transmission fluid when somebody is foolish enough to authorize them to do a trans fluid flush. Transmissions are notoriously “fussy” about the type of fluid used in them, and using the wrong (so-called “universal” fluid) is a sure way to destroy that $3,000 transmission.

Adding the wrong fluid (such as coolant or windshield washer fluid) to the brake master cylinder. This means replacing essentially most of the brake hydraulic system as a result of the damage.

“Double-gasketing” of oil filters as a result of not removing the old gasket before installing the new filter. This will lead to an oil leak which can quickly destroy an engine.

The use of extremely cheap “white box” filters that are made in China and may not even fit properly.

The business model for quick lube joints places much more emphasis on pushing cars through at maximum speed than it does on proper training and on being careful about their work. If they screw up, these nationwide chains have a full legal team to try to beat you when you file a claim for damage, and they are very skilled at this particular job.

So…if you value your car and if you want to save money in the long run, you should find a well-reputed independent mechanic in your area to use for maintenance. He may not even charge more than “Jerky Lube”, and even if he does charge a few $$ more, the probability is that he will be much less likely to damage your car than the poorly-trained kids at the quick lube place.

I recall there being something called SLIC50 or something.

Slick-50 is nothing but snake oil. Fantastic marketing. They turned a nothing product into a multi-billion dollar business.

If you take a look at their early advertising’s they said the active ingredient was Teflon. Now they don’t use Teflon anymore - instead they use PTFE - which is the chemical name for Teflon. Dupont (the company that invented Teflon) told Slick-50 to remove the name Telfon from their product because it’s nothing but snake-oil. There is no way Teflon can stick to cylinder walls to make it more slick by just adding it to the oil.