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Buy a 2003 Mazda MPV LX ?

Old 01-14-2009, 04:42 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2009
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Default Buy a 2003 Mazda MPV LX ?


I'm french, newly seetled in California and I need an advice.
I'm going to buy a 2003 Mazda MPV LX. It a one owner vehicle. Very good shape, extremely well maintained.
It's 144 K miles. Smog OK, CARFAX perfect.
What do I have to check before buying it ?

Thanks for your help.

Old 01-15-2009, 08:49 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2009
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Default RE: Buy a 2003 Mazda MPV LX ?

Check out

The common reliability issues in the 2003 MPV are:

1. Rear heater pipe leaks in vans equipped with the optional rear-heat ("four seasons") package.

2. A PCV hose prone to collapse/rupture. There was a recall that replaced the original design with a modestly reinforced hose but second generation PCV hoses eventually fail as well. Mazda revised the design by adding more reinforcement. I recently replaced my second generation PCV hose (installed by Mazda in the recall) with a third generation PCV hose because the second generation failed after roughly 4 years of service.

3. Coils that are prone to fail due to moisture penetration. The MPV 3.0l V-6 engine uses a coil-per-plug design and the rear three coils (for cylinders #1, 2, and 3) and their respective plugs are difficult to access because they are located under the intake manifold. I still have my original coils but I have already purchased three replacement coils in preparation for the possible failure of one or more of the rear coils.

4. Transmission "shift shock". Mazda has issued a TSB for dealers on how to reprogram the control unit of the automatic transmission to solve or at least ameliorate the problem. It appears to work for some vans and not for others. My transmission has occasionally exhibited a mild form of shift-shock but it has never been reprogrammed. I was never able to reliably reproduce the problem while my van was under warranty. So I have followed an aggressive maintenance plan instead which has worked surprisingly well. I completely change the transmission fluid every 30-35K miles and replace it with Mercon/Dexron III. (The mpvclub site also has an excellent guide on how to change your own transmission fluid using the oil cooler hose.) A few months after my most recent change (at about 70K miles), I added a bottle of Lubegard "red" (which is widely used by transmission repair shops) when my van began to exhibit occasional shift shock. The Lubegard red almost completely eliminated the problem. (I am very skeptical of additives. I decided to try Lubegard "red" only after thoroughly researching it on the internetparticularly at It was invented by one of the engineers who created Mobil 1 and purportedly mimics the properties of sperm whale oil which was used in ATF until about 1970.)

The most annoying maintenance issue on the 2003 MPV is spark plug replacement (scheduled every 100,000 miles) which requires removing the intake manifold. The site has an excellent step-by-step description with numerous photographs on how to change the rear plugs and/or coils.

If you can cope with these maintenance and reliability issues, the MPV is a great vehicle with the exception of mediocre fuel economy. The MPV weighs about 500 lbs. less than a Honda Odyssey but gets about the same mileage.

If I were advising a friend concerning the purchase of an MPV, I would look for a 2002-2006 model with under 100K miles. My impression is that used MPVs are inexpensive so low mileage vehicles should be very affordable. (My MPV has 80K miles on it and runs like new, yet Kelley Blue Book says its private party resale value $7000-7500.) I would have an independent mechanic check out the car, paying particular attention to the transmission and potential leaks in the rear heating system (if so equipped). Both are very expensive to repair.

2003 Mazda MPV ES
Old 05-19-2010, 05:04 AM
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Join Date: May 2010
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thanks for the information ponderosaTX
Old 08-18-2011, 02:37 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 1
Default GREAT info on 2003 Mazda MPV

I own a 2003 MPV and everything ponderosaTX says is exactly what I have experienced. He/she summed up this vehicle's issues perfectly. There's so much misinformation out there and I thank him/her for an excellent post!
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