To Keep or Not to Keep

Hi Tom & Ray, I’m a long-time fan from Auburn, WA, “the little Detroit of the West.” I was named after a neighbor’s daughter, but my husband calls me LaDouce. (You’re both old enough to have seen the movie!) My dilemma is my 2004 RX8. It was 92,000 miles on it with the power train under warranty until 100,000. I love the way the car looks, handles and breaks, BUT here’s the problem: I’m currently on the THIRD engine, all having been paid for by Mazda, of course. This third engine with about 20,000 miles on it seems fine, but the Mazda mechanics have advised me to get rid of the car ASAP. Replacing the engine would cost around $9,0000. When I brought this up with the mechanics, their answer was that I know their opinion. My husband and I would value your thoughts on whether to keep this car or dump it. Thanks much, Irma la douce

Tom and Ray do not reply to posts on this forum, but there are a number of competent mechanics who do, myself included. The engine in your RX8 is not a traditional engine design. It is a two rotor Wankel, and they need special attention to keep them on the road. Check your owner’s manual under scheduled maintenance to make sure you are not missing anything important in the way of maintenance.

Older Mazda rotary engines did not make good commuter cars, and the same may be true with the newer ones. They would have to be driven on the highway and allowed to reach operating temperature in order to keep them serviceable beyond 40-50,000 miles. If you just putt-putt around town in it, never really warming it up, the design is susceptible to accumulating carbon deposits in the ports and apex seals, requiring engine rebuild or replacement. If this is the case, you may want to consider changing your driving habits or getting something else with a piston engine that stands up to that kind of driving better than a Wankel.

Perhaps if you told us what happened to the first two engines we could be of more help.

The Mazda rotary engine has a reputation for lasting 250,000 to 300,000 with little more than regular oil changes. What’s causing yours to self-destruct?

If no one knows what happened to the engines, then I suggest you follow the mechanics advice and sell the car before the warranty expires.


Maybe I spoke too soon. The original Mazda rotaries had the reputation I mentioned above. There are RX-7s from the 1970s and 1980s still running with their original engines. I remember my '85 RX-7 fondly.

Consumer Reports, however, lists the '04 and '05 RX-8 as having “much worse than average” reliability. That’s not a good thing. There are other sports cars. Why keep one that has a good chance of costing you a ton of money? Sell it.

Dear competent mechanic:
Thanks much for the Consumer Reports research. I think I’ll sell it!