Mazda RX-7 Lemon Site
Frequently asked questions about the 3rd Generation RX-7s
Last Updated, June 23, 1997
Below are the answers to some questions I am commonly asked, it is not
intented to be the final word on all 3rd gen issues.
There is another 3rd gen FAQ
maintained by Troy Wilson so you might want to check it out also.
- Wow! I was considering buying a 3rd gen RX-7 but after reading your pages I'm thinking against it. Should I buy one or not?
If I were you I wouldn't alter my buying decisions based on one person's bad experiences. If you really like the car buy one. This is especially true if you feel that you have a good working relationship with your dealer (or an independent). Even better if you don't drive hard.
I have met many owners with problems, but most are enthusiasts. I have also met many average people who own touring models, etc. that don't drive them hard and either have few problems or don't realize they have problems.
The car was designed to be driven hard but it doesn't seem to hold up in those circumstances. I'm not sure that the delaers were ever adequately trained on the car and even a 3rd gen with a performance problem feels like a rocket to many technicians because they see so few of them. On the other hand, the dealers have seen a lot more of these things than they had 2+ years ago when I got my first 3rd gen and began having problems so they know better what to look for. Also, armed with the TSB list and the advice of the RX7Net you can guide a sympathetic dealer towards finding the true cause of problems with your car when they do show up. Don't expect a trouble free car - it is a twin turbo, designed to the edge for weight savings and performance but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy one.
It is the sort of car that one good day in it wipes out the memory of at least 2 dealer visits.
- I'm thinking of buying a 3rd gen RX-7 but am worried about the dealers after reading your site. Are they all bad?
- Of course not. I didn't have good luck but you can blame that on my attiitude if you want to (you'd be partially right). I have heard some good things about some dealers from people on the net and even got this quote from an employee at one dealership (which will remain nameless):
I have worked at a Mazda dealer about 2 years. In
those two years, I have witnessed alot of Mazda's misgivings. I have
seen alot of 7s come in and out, with their problems not repaired. I
have also seen alot of them repaired. We have some very happy 7
owners that have had only a few minor problems. Of course, these
are the ones that drive the car very timidly. They do not "play"
with their car. However, I have many customers that actually race
their car. Most of these guys, we are friends with. We know they do
it and don't hold it against them. In fact, we give them pointers on
how to safely "play" with their machine. I do have two customers in
mind that ruin it for you guys that have legitimate problems. These
are the guys that do bad things with their cars and expect us (the
dealer) to bow down to them every time they bring their vehicle into
the shop. I enjoy our 7 customers and try to give them the best
service that we can give. I just want you to note that just because
you guys are pissed with Mazda, that does not mean that the service
personnel are going to be the middlemen and take all of your anger.
I see that alot. Mazda does not pass along alot the information down
to their dealers. Sometimes we are hung out to dry. Often
times, customers get mad with the dealers because their hands are
tied. I am not saying, by any means, that my dealer is the best. I
know that we are not, but I am one who cares about the service that I
give to my customers.
Now, I think that is a reasonable attitude from a dealer. It points out that it takes reasonable people on both sides of the equation to have a good relationship and that often dealers are trying their best.
In my experiences, I saw a repeated trend:
- The dealers initially try their best to fix the car. They try hard. However, often they don't diagnose problems correctly and end up causing many repeated visits for the same problem.
- Frustration levels on both sides go up because the owner feels like he's being a complainer and is repeatedly inconvenienced and the dealer gets defensive about their ability to fix the car. One might argue that attitude plays a big part here and I'd say that is certainly true. A dealer or owner with a bad attitude can cause this frustration to drive up much faster. However, even with the nicest of people this trend seems common.
- The regional MMA rep eventually gets involved. In my experiences and those of others I've talked to, this is the person who rarely seems to have the customer's best interest in mind. They will either claim the car is operating within spec (especially true w/ hard to demonstrate and diagnose "lack of power" problems) or they will try to find some reason to deny warranty work (usually the existence of a modified part such as muffler, air box, etc.).
- I think I've got a case for the Lemon Law but I'm not sure. What do you think about... .
- I am not a lawyer. Everything I know about lemon law I have put on this site. If you
need advice regarding problems with your car and/or dealer I suggest that you Ask the Rep. He is a manufacturer representative who
offers free advice on lemon law situations. He can be found at: email@example.com or http://www.iquest.net/~scubapro.
- I noticed that most of the cars you mentioned were from the 93 model year with a few 94's. Were the 95's less troublesome than the earlier models? Or have you just not updated your page for a while?
1993 was the first year and by far the most problematic. Cars made in 1994 and on include many of the TSBs installed from the factory which will reduce the number of service visits. Additionaly some changes were made, such as the elimination of the EGR valve (a problematic item on the 93s), so you might find better reliability. However, by now most 93s should have gone in for most of the updates, so a well serviced 93 and a 94 should be largely similar in reliability. In my opinion, many of the fundamental flaws exist in both cars. However, many people have written me to say that they haven't had any problems with their 94s and I've never owned one myself so I can't say for sure (it could be just because there were so many more 93s sold). 95s are exactly the same as 94s. There were no 96s or 97s. FYI, here are the production numbers for the various years:
Model 1992* 1993 1994 1995
Base 763 1245 392 153
R-model 1107 1015 275 182
Touring 2991 2734 1010 648
P.E.G.** 0 53 533 416
* 1992 models were actually sold as 1993s, but released early in the model year.
** P.E.G. = "Popular Equipment Group" (leather and sunroof, basically)
- I noticed that you rarely mention any problems with the R2 package. Does the added oil cooler make a difference in the engine fire problem?
- Almost all of the info deals with R1s, because that's what I have always had. For the 94 model year Mazda renamed the R1 the R2 and they softened up the ride a bit and changed from Bridgestones to Pirellis. I prefer R1s to R2s, personally because 94s add stuff like passenger air bag and softer suspension. Both R1s and R2s have the extra oil cooler -- it doesn't seem to do much. Differences in reliability between R1s and R2s would be due to differences between 93s and 94s, not the R models specifically.
As for the extra oil cooler helping with the fire problems, no. My understanding is that the
fires were not caused by the coolant, it was caused by the fuel rails.
The rubber hoses that connected them did not withstand the heating
and the cooling of the turbo. Eventually, they corroded and allowed
fuel to ignite by the heat of the turbos. This problem is fixed by the 2nd recall.
- Are any 3rd generation RX-7s reliable?
- Yes, I have received numerous letters from owners who state they've had a few problems but not excessive. My informal owner surveys have show touring models to be the most trouble free but I suspect that's because the sort of person who buys a car with a trunk load of bose acoustic wave audio isn't really in tune with his/her car (heavy opinion there).
- My car seems slower now than it used to. How fast should my RX-7 be?
- The best thing to do is to install a boost gauge in your car and verify that your boost
characteristics are correct.
According to the official Mazda test procedure, boost should be as follows:
- Drive to third gear with normal acceleration
- Accelerate from 35 MPH at WOT until passing 4500 RPM
- A slight and smooth increase in power should be felt at approximatly 4500
RPM. This will be about 65 MPH.
Boost should be above 10 PSI up to 4500 RPM. The boost will drop to about
8 PSI just after 4500 RPM, and will begin rising towards maximum boost
depending on the length of time the throttle is held wide open.
As a benchmark, many owners were asked to time their cars from 40 to 70 MPH in 3rd gear.
To try the test yourself, simply cruise at 40 MPH in 3rd, start a stop watch and floor it.
On average, a stock car should do it in about 4.9 seconds and a slightly modified car
can bring it down to the 4.2 second range.
- How can I get the dealer to do all those TSBs to my car?
- In case you haven't seen it, there are a bunch of Technical Service
Bulletins on the 3rd gen RX-7s that address many problems with the cars, especially
the early ones. However, unless you or a previous owner complained about the
problem, the dealer probably didn't volunteer to tell you about them or apply
the fix. So, the question I always get is "now that my car is out of
warranty, does the dealer still have to apply all these fixes?"
The short answer is "no." However, a sympathetic dealer might do one or two out
of good will. And, if any of them compromise the safety of the vehicle, the
dealer would be stupid not to fix it for free when it is a known problem that
could result in safety-related litigation.
Keep in mind, none of this applies to the 3 RECALLs on the cars. The dealer
must apply the recall fixes for free since they severely affect the
safety of the vehicle and are scrutinized by the National Highway Traffic Safety
- I can't believe Mazda didn't put a boost gauge into the RX-7. How can I put one in my car?
They probably didn't put one in because if they did then everyone would know how often their
cars weren't running properly. I think a gauge is a must.
There are numerous ways to go. PFS, HKS and the like sell gauges that mount in plastic
cups that go onto the A-pillar (the post between the door and the windshield), in plastic
trim that mounts above the steering column, or in the box below the radio.
I researched for 6 months on a clean install and was unhappy with everything out there. The A-pillar cups don't seem to conform to the curves of the A-pillar properly and they only accept small gauges. The steering column mount is too expensive, takes too small a gauge, and seems a bit hokey around the edges where they recommend using black silicone to adhere it to the existing trim. The below radio mounts are again small and too far away.
I got my gauge through ASP Racing (Kevin Wyum) and used it because it is big and liquid filled. The liquid keeps the needle from bouncing, which is a big consideration given the Gs a 3rd gen will pull on the track. Mine reads soooo smooth. Kevin is such a nice guy that he told me to just post his source to the net so here's how to get yours:
It is an Autometer ProComp liquid filled boost gauge part number #1055401 and costs a whopping $53.99. This is a professional looking and operating gauge that is a readable size (about 2 1/2" dia). It features white letters on a black face with a red needle (just like stock). While it is true that the trim ring around the display is brushed aluminum rather than chrome, at least it doesn't look like some cheap little 1 1/4" Pep-Boys oil temp gauge. By the way, the mounting cup (part #1055202) is another $17.99.
These part numbers and prices are from Jegs Racing supply (1-800-345-4545).
Here's how I finally mounted mine:
I purchased the gauge and optional mounting cup, which is a black metal cup that the gauge fits into, with a metal ring that clamps around it and a mounting bracket that attaches to the ring and screws into some flat surface.
Kevin simply screwed the mounting bracket into the instrument pod of his car (well, actually it is expoxied on now -- see the description of day 2 of the One Lap from MIS for more on that story) but I was unwilling to permanently disfigure my dash so I was going to try to mount the bracket to my A-pillar, figuring that an A-pillar would be cheap to replace.
Upon closer inspection I realized that the curves of the A-pillar trim really didn't afford a good way to mount the bracket. Fortunately, I came up with a better idea. The metal ring around the cup has two tabs that stick out from it, with holes in each for screwing into the mounting bracket and thus tightening the clamp. I chucked the mounting bracket and used a utility knife to carefully cut two slots in my A-pillar trim which accomodate the tabs from the clamping ring. I was careful to position the slots properly so that the ring is very tight when slid into them. I then used a couple large screws through the holes in the tabs, on the back side of the A-pillar trim to wedge it into position and pull it even tighter against the trim.
The result is that the gauge sits at a great viewing angle, right against the A-pillar, almost as if floating in air a half an inch or so above the dash. The black cup finishes it off nicely. All in all, I am very pleased. Maybe someday I'll shoot pictures and post to the site.
- What did you buy to replace your RX-7 lemon?
I bought another used yellow 93 R1 to replace my old red lemon. But, I don't view it as giving Mazda a second chance. I bought it used from a private party and have it serviced exclusively at third parties. Mazda doesn't even know I own it. They may make a little money off me on parts but hopefully not much.
The rationale is that nothing else is as good looking or purposefully sporty for the $19k and that
I now know the car's weaknesses and can work around them by going to a capable independent shop,
not being dependent upon the dealer.
Reality has been different. Despite my knowledge, my extended warranty, and the fact that I had
used the car for NOTHING other than street driving to/from work, my new car cost me over
$2500 in repairs in the first 2 months and 1500 miles. A lot of this was been righting
things the previous
owner neglected but I went on to have more problems with lack of power, low oil pressure and fluctuating
idle. Since then it has had two new sets of turbos, two new motors, and a new transmission.
See the update to my saga for details.
I believe my rationale may have been flawed.
- I was thinking about buying a 3rd gen RX-7 but I don't want any headaches. What do you recommend?
- Obviously, you are getting my opinion here. If you really only have $22k or less to spend then you should
probably buy an RX-7. Drive it nice, take care of it, find a good mechanic, and have fun. There is nothing better
looking or performing in this price range. 300ZX TTs are too heavy. Same with the fat Supras. But, if you can afford to spend in the low $40k range then buy a used Acura NSX.
Their quality is amazing and they look and perform great. Check out my driving buddy's site, The NSX-Files and you'll see what I mean. Of course, you
could always buy a new Corvette. They stole the front-end design of the RX-7 and mated it to a push-rod motor. That's
America for you. Or, a Viper -- the RX-7 on steriods in cartoon flavor with a push-rod truck engine. Hey, they're both
fast and they have gobs more torque than an RX-7.
- What is different about the R models? Should I buy one? Aren't they too stiff?
- The reason I like the R models is that they delete a lot of stuff I don't want, like rear windshield washer/wiper, cruise control, fancier seats, and sunroof. Of course, the stuff that comes only w/ the R package (stiffer shocks, extra oil cooler, strut tower brace, spoilers, z-rated tires) is nice also but could be added later.
Buying new, I'd say that the R package is especially worth it because you get Z rated tires, extra oil cooler, strut brace, spoilers, stiffer shocks, etc. for only $1,100 (or whatever it is now). Buying used, I'd say it isn't as big a deal because the car is likely to need new tires and shocks anyway. The question would be whether holding out for a rarer car (the R2) would reduce your bargaining power or not.
My problem was simply finding any car that didn't have one of either: a sunroof, automatic transmission, leather, or non-black interior. I need the head room that is lost to a sunroof, I NEED a manual trans, I can't stand leather because it squeaks and is cold in winter or hot and sticky in summer, and I dislike the tan and red interiors because the door panels look cheesy in any color plastic other than black. Since all touring models have leather and sunroof, I was limited to basic models or Rs. Most basics have the "popular equipment group" which means leather and sunroof again so, it boils down to a few striped down basics or the Rs. The only way I was able to get a car w/out all that stuff was an R1. Of course, it helped that the R1 had the go-fast goodies and came in the bitchin' Daytona yellow color....
- I have a 2nd gen...?
- I don't know jack about 2nd gens try
RX-7 Heaven and home of the 2nd gen FAQ.
- Is there anything one can do to increase the reliability of a 3rd gen RX-7?
- I am still working on this one. With my new car I have decided not to put it
on the track, not to take it to Mazda dealers, leave it stock, and do some
specific things to increase reliability. Still, I am having power loss problems.
My best suggestion is to get one that either has had all the updates
(TSBs and recalls) applied or is still under factory warranty so you can get
them applied. This includes 5th gear grind, suspension arms, ECU, oil pressure
sending unit, clutch, etc.
Then, once you've got all that squared away, have a knowledgeable shop remove
your intake plennum and replace the rubber turbo to intercooler hoses with
silicone ones and have them remove, glue and wire tie every boost-sensitive vacuum hose on so they
won't blow off.
The other thing you should do is get rid of your pre-cat. These clog up and cause
a variety of problems. There are a variety of manufacturers out there who offer
downpipes. You should still be able to pass smog tests since the precat is only
used for cold-start and most states don't test that. I doubt anyone will
catch it on a visual.
- What tires should I put on my RX-7
- Tires are a personal thing. That being said, here's what I've found:
I have two sets of factory rims. One set has BF Goodrich TA R1s on them. These are DOT legal, treaded racing tires that you can only purchase through Team T/A. To join or get more info call 1-800-RACE-BFG. They work great but will wear quickly. I know guys who use them on the street all the time but I only used them to drive back and forth to track events and on the track.
For street tires I recommend the factory Bridgestone Expedia SO-7s that came on the 93 R1s. Unfortunately, that is not what is on my car now. I have had 3 sets of the S07s in the past but this last time I went on the recommendation of others and purchased a set of Dunlop SP 8000s. The Dunlops are a bit cheaper ($160 vs $200 ea) and were supposed to be better. I've found them to be harder and therefore not as grippy, although they probably will last longer.
The S07s stick very well and last about 16,000 miles with my driving style. The S07 is an OEM tire that was made exclusively for the RX-7, it is light weight and directional, with different part numbers left and right. Porsche uses an Expedia S0-2 I think on the new 911 Turbo, another specially designed OEM tire from Bridgestone. It is supposed to be even better but it is very expensive.
When Mazda switched to the R2s they went to Pirelli P-Zeros instead of the S07s. I haven't tried them but am told that they work no better and they cost more (about $240 or $250 ea). Of course, many people use Yokohama A008s or A008RSs. The RS is about the same as the BFG R1 -- a soft racing tire.
In all cases (except BFG R1s as mentioned above), Tire Rack seems to have the best prices.
- My car squeaks (or chirps) from under the hood. What is it?
Mine has done this many times, often it was when the car was either turning left (the first occurrence) or over bumps (the second). It has come back many times of the course of ownership. It has always been due to the hood squeaking on the rubber stops. This could conceivably happen at idle too.
Open the hood. Does the noise go away? If so, dab some lithium grease on the 4 rubber bumpers and on the hood where they touch. If that doesn't do it, you'll need to adjust the hood latch (2 or 3 nuts as I recall).
On the other hand, if opening the hood doesn't get rid of then it is something else.
- What the heck are all those solenoid things under the intake runners?
OK, this is a gigantic pain in the ass to describe but I'll give it one shot:
Looking at engine from front of car. All relations are with respect to this view
so driver's side is right in this case, passenger is left
(opposite of how you'd normally consider it).
All soledoids are under the extension manifold.
Directly behind the plastic vacuum chamber box are two solenoids.
The left one is turbo precontrol. The right one is wastegate control.
You can trace these down to the two acuators down low in front of the
turbo assy. The lower and more protruding one is the turbo precontrol.
The upper is wastegate control.
There's another solenoid directly under the intake plenum. It's near an air
control valve and a pressure regulator. It's directly readward of the turbo
precontrol and wastegate control solenoids mentioned above and it is the
turbo control 1 solenoid.
For good measure, here are the meanings of the solenoids that are in a row.
Starting from the front of the car, nearest to you:
The one remaining out-of-place solenoid under there is charge relief.
- Double throttle control
- charge control
- turbo control 2
- relief 1
- pressure regulator control
- How do the turbos work (or, mine don't work - how can I figure this thing out? Sequential Twin Turbo 101.
Here's RX-7 turbos 101:
The main valves or "flappers" in the system are:
There are three main states that are interesting:
- Turbo precontrol (allows 2nd turbo to prespool)
- Turbo control (controls how much exhaust goes to 2nd turbo)
- wastegate control (bleeds excess boost from the system, both turbos)
- charge control (controls whether boost from the 2nd turbo goes out the air cleaner or into the IC)
- charge relief (lets 2nd turbo boost leak into air cleaner or not)
In low-speed, the turbo precontrol valve is closed, preventing any exhaust gases
from going to the 2nd turbo. The turbo control valve is closed, also preventing
any exhaust gases from going to the 2nd turbo. The charge control valve is
closed, causing any boost from the 2nd turbo (although there is none yet) to go
to the air cleaner. The charge relief valve is open, not that it matters.
- low-speed, light-load
- medium-speed, medium load
- high-speed, heavy-load
In medium speed, the turbo precontrol valve opens, allowing some exhaust gases to
spin the 2nd turbo, but not the full effect (it is a smaller port than the bigger
turbo control valve, which is currently closed. Charge control is closed and
charge relief is open so all boost made by the 2nd turbo is wasted into the air
cleaner. Nice hot air into the air cleaner -- great idea, huh? All in the
name of keeping things nice and quiet.
In high-speed, thr turbo precontrol stays open but the turbo control valve also
opens, allowing a hell of a lot more exhaust gas into the 2nd turbo. The charge
control valve opens and the charge relief valve closes so that the boost from the
2nd turbo actually goes into the IC and makes the car go faster.
In all cases the wastegate opens when boost exceeds whatever the ECU deems
enough (usually 8-10 psi). Boost is boost, doesn't matter which turbo made it.
Now, go buy a damn manual.
- What should I use for performance-oriented alignment settings on my 3rd gen?
These are recommendations only. Use at your own risk. The
more agressive you get with negative camber, the more darty the
the car will be and the more it
will "track" grooves in the road and wear the inside edge of
the tires during street use.
|Course||F toe||F camber||F caster||R toe||R camber
|Long Track ||1/16" in||-1.5||+6.0||0||-1.3
- How can I get a Shop Manual for my 3rd Gen?
The Mazda Shop Manuals can be purchased through Helm Publications at 800-782-4356.
- My check engine light comes on sometimes. What does this mean? How can I tell what is wrong?
My check engine light came on a few times during ownership. It seems fairly common for it to start coming on after the 2nd recall is applied.
The check engine light is an indication of an error code from the diagnostic computer. The code will tell the dealer exactly what component in the system is complaining. They check the code by attaching a small computer to your car's diagnostics plug under the hood. This computer then reads a 2 digit number. Often the failed part is the EGR valve. But, on my car they replaced the valve 3 times before they noticed that the short vacuum line to it had a hole in it.
You can actually check the code yourself following these sneaky instructions. I list the meaning of the codes after these instructions.
First, at the diagnostic plug, located near the battery under the hood, short the TEN connector to a ground connector. I use:
o o @ o |
o o o o o o o |
o o o o o o |
o o @ o o o
@=pins I use for the short
Once connected, turn ignition to ON. I've forgotten the order the digits flash, but here's the definition:
Second digit of service code (ones position)=number of times the check engine light illuminates for 0.4 seconds.
First digit of service code (tens position)=number of times the check engine light illuminates for 1.2 seconds.
Delay between codes is 4.0 seconds.
In other words, one long flash, followed by 5 short flashes (or 5 short flashes followed by one long flash, I can't remember the order) means a code 15. This will repeat again after 4 seconds (or, if your car is really screwed up, a different code will follow).
The ECU will cycle through all the service codes. After reach the last service code the ECU will go back to the first service code and repeat the cycle until the ignition is turned OFF.
I wouldn't suggest you do this until the dealer has tried to fix your problem, but you can clear service codes:
Disconnect the negative battery cable. Wait at least 20 seconds then depress the brake pedal.
Reconnect the negative battery cable. Codes should be cleared. If not, a problem may still exist.
The codes are:
- 02 - Crank angle sensor (NE signal)
- 03 - Crank angle sensor (G signal)
- 05 - Knock sensor
- 06 - Speedometer sensor
- 09 - Water thermosensor
- 11 - Intake air themosensor
- 12 - Throttle sensor (full range)
- 13 - Pressure sensor
- 14 - Atmospheric pressure sensor (in ECU)
- 15 - Oxygen sensor
- 16 - EGR valve (California only)
- 17 - Feedback system
- 18 - Throttle sensor (narrow range)
- 20 - Metering oil pump position sensor
- 23 - Fuel thermosensor
- 25 - Solenoid valve (pressure regulator control)
- 26 - Metering oil pump (stepping motor)
- 27 - Metering oil pump
- 28 - Solenoid valve (EGR)
- 30 - Solenoid valve (split air bypass)
- 32 - Solenoid valve (relief 1)
- 32 - Solenoid valve (switching)
- 33 - Solenoid valve (port air bypass)
- 34 - Solenoid valve (idle speed control)
- 37 - Metering oil pump
- 38 - Solenoid valve (accelerated warm up system)
- 39 - Solenoid valve (relief 2)
- 40 - Solenoid valve (purge control)
- 42 - Solenoid valve (turbo precontrol)
- 43 - Solenoid valve (wastegate control)
- 44 - Solenoid valve (turbo control)
- 45 - Solenoid valve (charge control)
- 46 - Solenoid valve (charge relief)
- 50 - Solenoid valve (double throttle control)
- 51 - Fuel pump relay
- 54 - Air pump relay
- 71 - Injector (front secondary)
- 73 - Injector (rear secondary)
- 76 - Slip lock up off signal
- 77 - Torque reduced signal
Back to the RX-7 Lemon Site Main Page
All of the information on these pages is to my knowledge either an accurate
summary of events and facts or is my opinion. It doesn't represent the views of
Mazda (duh), my employer, my Internet service provider, or anyone else.