From early July of '06, the Tracer was my DD with only modest maintenance. Oil, tires and wiper blades were about I bothered with.
Often my daily commute was over 100 miles, mixed highway and city. I averaged a pretty reliable 28 mpg.
At one point my mileage dropped and I found my tires had low air after the winter season had passed. I pumped them back up to 32 psi and the fuel economy bounced right back.
Jump ahead to June of 2009 when a variety of problems came as a run of trouble.
The cooling fan stopped working reliably, if at all. I spent a long period of time sweating the temperature guage.
The alternator went, leaving me in need of a tow.
And my great gas mileage just went away. Through the winter months I'm often below 20 mpg.
And so had begun the next phase... a slow rehab to hopefully regain the mileage I used to get.
As an extra consequence I do have a more reliable, smoother running car. One that I now expect to keep a good bit longer.
And so it was in July (I think) I found FEOA and with the knowledge here began bringing my car back to good health.
As I recall one of the pressing problems at the time was a stalling condition which had never been an issue before. With advice from the forum I went checking for intake leaks and found a hose knocked loose from the cruise control resevoir when I'd done the alternator a couple weeks earlier.
The next target was swapping out the two fan relays with aftermarket units - I think I bought them at Pep Boys but I am not sure.
I chose to keep the direct.wired toggle switch going to the fan, and it did come in handy later.
Next I changed out my spark plugs and used MAF spray cleaner on the intake components (MAF and IAC). (My log book tells me those old plugs had gone about 40k, so I guess they were due.)
In early August I put Seafoam in the oil and pretty quickly changed it out.
The bottom half of the bottle went into my fuel tank... and I did change my fuel filter after that tank of fuel had run through.
Again, FEOA had great advice... pull the battery out of the way. It does make that job so much easier.
Still in the month of August of '09, I flushed my ATF. The result of this wasn't immediate but after a time the tranny quit the mild slipping it would occassionally do. It was months later when I realized it hadn't done it a long time.
Still getting rotten mileage, I replaced the O2 Sensor, and made sure my brakes were properly greased.
The sensor is probably a good bet anyway with the high mileage on the car (189500 at the time) but it didn't change anything.
I'd actually done the brakes sometime over the summer and have been wise to the application of high temp grease but I double checked the caliper pins anyway.
The car did sit idle for a good bit of the winter. My GF drove it part time, but her RT to work is only 11 miles.
The one thing I did it over that time was to replace the ECTS... I don't recall my exact thought process at the time but I was still getting bad mileage.
Actually those winter months gave a good clue that carries over to the current status.
I think when the fan relays failed and the engine got hot, the thermostat (and that plastic plug?) melted down and I am currently in an Over-cooling situation.
Through the winter, the heat was only decent when sitting still or crawling in city traffic. On the interstate, the air coming up was so cool it just managed to keep the windows clear, while the cabin space stayed pretty wintery.
The weather warmed up and coincidentally the Tracer was again a daily driver. Very soon we learned that running the AC would cause the temp gauge to climb and that it was slow to cool back down when we turned the AC off.
We just worked around it for several weeks but the weather got hotter and so did the engine. I decided it was time for a water pump and a radiator swap.
The radiator was pretty much a no brainer. I went to the jy and picked one out off a car with under 100k, swapping it out at home in the cool temps of the following morning.
What a bunch of debris I found there!
I'm fairly experienced mechanically but I didn't want the complexity and headache of doing the Water Pump and Timing Belt change out. I've read the posts and stickies... and even though I had every tool except the strap wrench, I still deferred.
I priced it out to have Pep Boys do the job... I get tires and alignments there and a good bit of the OTC parts I buy. However, they priced themselves right of the conversation with the quote they gave me. Over $700!
Instead I shopped Craigslist and found a young guy that did the job for $300 including parts.
FWIW, he hadn't done one before and I soon realized I knew more about the project at hand than he did. However he wasn't totally green and I left him to it. He did end up calling out a guy more my age who knew the ropes and they knocked it out in a couple hours.
For a bit under $350 I replaced the radiator, water pump and the timing belt. Those are all long wear items and I don't expect I'll have to worry about any of them for a long time if ever.
And my cooling system is back to working as it should. /thumbsup!!
Minor repairs not listed previously:
I used a soft cloth and some polishing compound to take the haze off my headlights. Just a few minutes of elbow grease on each side and the light output is much better,
Patched up wiring going into the tailgate, getting the highmount brake light to work for Pa Vehicle Inspection. Fairly easy to do but tedious.
Replaced broken clips that were to hold the center grill between the headlights.
It had always been cockeyed, only well attached on one side. I took time to look things over while at the JY and realized how simple and easy to deal with those clips are. A real 'doh!!' repair... snap it together easy.
Battery tray removed and cleaned up, scheduled for replacement on a trip to the JY. Battery corrosion has been busy down there. I had to drill out two of the bolts for that tray, they were so rusty and messed up. The tray lost a molded corner in the process. And the ears that the battery hooks to are distorted, at best.
Frankly, the corrosion has eaten the paint off of the frame in the area beneath the tray, leaving it all pretty rusty. The damage there has me question the really long term prospects for this car.
Positive and Negative connections cleaned or replaced on all cables going to the battery, both battery terminals replaced with marine type. Gone is that odd plastic connector on the negative side. The main ground I drilled out larger and hammered it flat to sit properly beneath the nut for the battery terminal.
Tightened the starter mounting bolt which also holds the support for the small cooling system manifold behind the thermostat housing. Specifically, this fixed the grounding problem I'd developed on my interior temp gauge. This is a common topic on FEOA.
Replaced a very tattered driver's side sun visor with a replacement from the JY. Looking around, these visors aren't durable and are messed up in most Gen 2 cars I have looked at. The one I did find at the JY is not the correct color for my interior but it is in great shape. Am gonna grab the passenger side visor out there if I can think of it when I'm there.
An example of not taking care of my car....
The Trio has had an exhaust leak since the first test drive back in '06. I only got curious enough to find it was under the heat shroud that covers the manifold.
It was minor, and I just shrugged it off as a signature note to my car, it's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tick.
Well, most recently being on a car care roll, I finally took time to pull that heat shield and see what I'd find.
(Note... the EGR tube came loose with no problem... this is relevant later.)
I'd read on FEOA about loose manifold bolts and that is exactly what I found. Every fastener was loose. Some showed a visible gap from the manifold. I purchased the car with 135K and have put another 60k on it. I really wonder just how long those manifold fasteners have been like that?
That one furthest to the passenger side is well covered by the alternator. I really thought I was not going to be able to get at that one. Fortunately, I have a long Snap On offset boxend and that was just adequate to tighten that last bolt. One 1/8th turn at a time but I got it snugged up pretty well.
And the leak is gone- so simple a fix taking less than an hour and it took 4 years to look into it. My bad.
I'm to the point I need a list when I go to the jy, just so I don't forget something.
JY Parts - installed or on hand -
Sun Visor - installed $5
IAC valve - installed $5
EGR valve - on hand $5
starter - on hand $25 Coolant resevoir -installed-- $5
ECM - on hand $25 Washer resevoir cap - installed -$2
radiator - installed $35 Oil filler cap -installed- $2
AC relays (pair) -installed- $10
Thermostat housing -installed - $5
PCV valve and hose - installed- $1
Upper Radiator hose with clamps (like new)- installed $1
heater core inlet hose with sensor tube and mount - on hand - $5
Mazda 626 Console arm rest/storage segment - installed -$20
JY Parts to get
Passenger side visor
EGR Solenoids (pair)
Coil pack -maybe
fuel pump assembly- I have experienced the low tank/ hard corner stall out for years. An FEOA fix I need to get to.
As I said earlier, I do have a great running car now. I am looking forward to rolling it over 200k and beyond.
But, the mileage is still poor and I have an uncertain issue with my cooling fan.
My most recent effort to improve operations and mileage was to pull the EGR.
I knew the pipe had come loose from the manifold pretty easily so I expected as much when pulling the pipe from the bottom of the valve. It did, but not without some innovation. The TPS is right in the way of getting any of my wrenches onto the fitting. I had to go to Home Depot and buy a plumber's faucet wrench to reach down there to the fitting at the bottom of the EGR. With a 14" pipe wrench on the top of the wrench stem, the fitting came loose first pull. At least now when I pull the thermostat housing, getting the EGR tube and coil bracket free will be pretty straightforward.
The handle on the faucet wrench is bent. Initially I tried sliding a box end over that for extra leverage. Phail. Was does work is to put a 14" pipe wrench on the stem where the handle goes through and that gets a good grip.
As for the EGR itself, nothing much to report. The port wasn't blocked at all. There was some carbon but nothing crazy. After scraping with a screw driver, I used spray cleaner on the intake port and cleaned the valve as well as I could. The valve does function and the diaphragm holds vacuum.
If I have any questions about the EGR now, it's to wonder about the two solenoids that operate the valve including proportional operation.
But I don't think that the EGR is the problem causing my poor mileage.
The mileage probably won't improve until I get a working thermostat installed. I do have all the parts on hand now... I just need to overcome my dread of the housing bolts and their tendancy to snap.
Having said that, I have read more than one post on FEOA where others have used self tapping screws as a make-do and that is an idea I can go with if my situation takes an ugly turn.
More of a head scratcher is the odd behavior of my cooling fan.
The low speed function is ON way too much. Something is triggering the relay long before the temp is in anyway a concern. That wire grounding would do that... an incorrect signal from the ECTS would also.
As for the high speed operation- when the AC is turned on, the High Speed doesn't immediately kick it. And when it does come on, it doesn't stay on but cycles pretty unpredictably. As a result the engine starts to overheat. My work around has been to convert my old fan toggle to a grounding circuit... this now activates the High Speed operation of the fan, via the cooling fan relay combo.
My thoughts on this problem go to the wiring between the AC relay combo and the ECC that coordinates the fan operation. Others have had issues there...
Update. Changed the stat and the ECTS today. (See post in 1.9L forum) The bolts were no issue at all. And now the engine gets hot and the inlet to the heater core does too. Outlet side just barely hot at all.
So tonight I continued and did a backflush to the heater core.
I bought a 25' hose and a container of coolant flush at Walmart and a 5/8" elbow at Advanced Auto.
I started by disconnecting the hoses from the heater core, catching the flow in my drain pan placed well under the car. Glycol is nasty for pets and just a mess anyway, so I try to be very conscientious about not letting it run onto the ground.
The female end of the garden hose I cut at only 3 or 4 feet, and I attached it to the Out flow of the heater. (the passenger side). I then cut a longer peice, 6 feet or longer. That long end I put into a catch resevoir (a dedicated 5 gallon fuel jug) to capture what came out of the heater core as I flushed it.
I used our regular water hose with a pistol sprayer and pushed some water into the female end of the hose, giving the core a gentle but thorough back flow. I then poured Prestone Flush straight from the container into the hose and used my own lung power to push that into the core. I pushed most of the container into the core and let it soak for just a few minutes. Certainly no more than five; besides the fact that I'm impatient, I was using undiluted product... I had no idea how caustic that stuff might be.
Once I decided it been long enough, I used the hose again and pushed a gentle flow through the core. This time I let it flow for a few minutes flushing out the chemicals and hopefully a good measure of 'greasy wax buildup'.
Removing my new made flush kit was simple enough, as was putting the original heater hoses back to their respective inlet and outlet tubes.
I'm happy to say both hoses heat up very nicely now. Despite summer heat having it still 90 degrees at 8 pm, I did run the heat inside the car for a few minutes and the hot air has a nice bite to it now.
I've done virtually everything I can think of now.... I hope I see some improvement at the gas pump.
The fan still runs early and often, even though i've installed a new ECTS. That original ECM is looking more and more suspect. I do have a JY ECM to put in. I guess I should at least conncect it and be sure it's actually compatible with the Tracer, but I do want to drive the car a bit "as is" and see if I have gained anything.
A positive post for my blog.
I took a drive on the country roads of the Upper Delaware Valley. North threw New Jersey to Phillipsburg, across to Easton, Pa and south along the river to I-95.
It was a mixed bag for speeds; driving roving township roads at 35, tooling along country highways at 50, and about 30 miles of Interstate at 65 mph.
152 miles on 4.65 gals of gas. 32 mpg!
It is a level I haven't seen in over a year.
I am certain the new thermostat and housing, coupled with the flush of the heater core are the therapies that put me back at the proper levels.
At this point, the Tracer is almost a hobby for me; I am on a roll and looking for the next improvement. Right now, I'm looking at renovating the suspension and steering gear.
I've spotted an aftermarket set of rear struts on a wagon at my favorite U Pull It. I'm going out tomorrow with full intention of bringing those home.
I figure swapping those over will be a good suspension project to start with.
I've looked over the 2nd Gen cars at this lot and none of the front struts look new. I'll take some time and look over the 3rd Gen cars but if I come up zero, there's another lot just a short drive away that I'll go to.
These yards are close together but over 20 miles from my house. It is a run up the highway but they're rural and not too picked over.
One of the U Pull It yards is a graveyard for Mazda's... there were plenty of consoles to look at.
I settled one from a '94 626 - it had the most to offer in arm rest and storage area.
It's not a drop in replacement but it is an ugrade. I had to cut slots for the belts, and because of the spools and mechanism in that center area, I don't have all the storage space it originally offered. I can store smokes and bulky stuff in there, so it is better than what I had.
The lid is gone but the hinge is intact so it shouldn't be too hard to fabricate something. I do have some naugahyde on hand I can use to upholster it if it gets that far.
the jy struts I put on. ugly, yes, but a big upgrade in the quality of the ride
Aug 27th; I pulled two fronts struts off a 98 Escort. It was a wagon, fwiw. They're really clean.... look like they were only driven to church on Sunday's.
I think I got a full 1" inch of lift in the front.
The car sits higher, more level and is a lot better to drive. All matter of road bumps are less of a problem, it steers and corners better. Time and Money well spent. $80 for the set of four.
The jy struts have worked out great. I'm hauling lots of tools and materials and doing 65 to 100+ miles everyday and the ride and handling are fine.
If one reads this whole thread you'll know my biggest issue had been a loss of mileage. I have it fixed now and attribute it to two things- getting a replacement stat housing with check valve in place and flushing the heater core very well so that I get positive flow through the sensor loop.
My little wagon has been quite a trooper and with gas ~$3.85 a gallon, I'm so glad I have it. I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee I'd rather haul my business in but the mileage is so harsh by comparison (14.8 mpg), I can't justify it.
Am at 219560 miles, and just passed PA inspection.
Emissions were no problem; the only repairs that they wanted was new brake hoses, based on a crack in the rubber coating of one hose. I wasn't happy about it but it only took a couple hours to change those out.
I log every tank of gas and am still getting great MPG, which is the whole point of sticking with this car. (my neighbor recently referred to it as the "Old Grey Mare")
34 mpg is my best ever but I routinely hit 32 mpg on days of long highway trips. I average 100 miles a day, with many that go 125+. The majority is done on l-95 or the Pennsylvania Turnpike here in the Philadelphia / Delaware Valley area.