Mazda5 at 54,000 Miles, an Update

Since the Mazda5 posts (presale, a few months in, and 7,500 miles in) seem to remain somewhat popular, I figured it is worth following up. I also recently did a decent amount of maintenance, so the car has been on my mind. So what has happened in the last ~45k miles?


The car started on fire. Yup. A relay in the under hood box shorted/melted and started on fire. We were driving home at night and I noticed a little bit of weird electrical stuff, dash flickered, headlights flickered. I figured something was up so I pulled over and opened the hood (slowly). The influx of air caused a little flame up and we had a small fire! Small enough that I was able to blow it out, so no need to get super excited. Called for a tow to the dealer and away it went. They ended up swapping the relay box and some wiring under warranty and all was fine.

Track Days

The Mazda5 has been on the track a couple times with the Audi Car Club Chicagoland Chapter. I am an instructor, on the Board of Directors, etc and I really wanted my wife to have some experience there, so we signed up to drive, me in the Audi and Rebecca in the Mazda5. On the way TO the track, I had a center diff fail, so we both drove the Mazda5 for the weekend. There are some pics of her and me driving. It was a blast and the car was actually really impressive. Sure it was a bit slow in the instrcutor group and I did a lot of pointing, as you can see at 1:27 in this video, but it hustled around pretty well. Handling was really solid. I did have a weird thing happen where, when using the “manual shift” mode of the auto, near the end of the session the number on the dashboard would disappear. I presume this might have been heat related. I eventually just left it in D and had no issues. We came back again in 2011 and a family friend drove the car as well, so the car has a decent number of track miles on in.


As I mentioned in this post, I am a big fan of snow tires. As such the Mazda5 has summer tires on the factory wheels and snows on a set of Mazda Tribute 5 spoke 16s. The summers are currently Sumitomo HTR Z III and the snows are General Altimax Artic. Both are decent tires.


The Mazda5 has been rear ended twice. First time by a box truck that needed about 6 more inches of room. Nothing noteworthy on the body, but scratched everything up pretty well. It spent a few days in paint and body, and we had a dent that we had created taken care of as well. Good as new. The second time a woman was stopped behind us at a light then somehow just hit the gas and drove into the bumper. More scratches on the bumper. Then she disappeared, so now we have a scratched bumper and a few broken clips, but overall nothing big. We live in the city and parking by feel is not that uncommon, so we haven’t addressed it yet. We also have a small amount of hail damage from a storm that we have to get it off to the shop to get repaired and we replaced the passenger side mirror.

Roof Rack

I love Yakima roof racks. I have lots of accessories. I don’t love clips. So I followed this post and used the control towers. The official word from Yakima is that the bolts are a hair too long and if over torqued, can damage the roof. I just used all the washers and don’t over torque them and have had no issues. And I get to use all the Yakima stuff I already have.


From a maintenance point of view, we’ve done primarily normal stuff since purchase. Oil changes have always been Mobil1 5w20. Nothing special on filters or anything. Brakes pads have been a mix of OEM, autozone specials, and Hawk HPS. Air filters have been normal. Headlights bulbs have been replaced a couple times with what ever brand was on sale.

Last week, the thermostat stuck closed, and thankfully it had been on the 40s, but we were still blaring the heat to keep the temps in check. Since that was problematic, I ordered up a bunch of other parts to round out the following list and headed to the garage:

  • Rear shocks
  • Thermostat
  • Air filter
  • Cabin filters
  • Front/Rear pads
  • Oil change
  • Swap summers back on

Rear Shocks

I primarily driving the car in the city at normal city speeds, so I don’t often get above 40mph. I’d made a few trips from the city to the suburbs on the expressway lately and realized that the rear shocks were no longer dampening anything. I felt this was a bit premature at 54,000 miles, but not insanely out of line. I opted to go aftermarket due in part due to cost, and in part due to the fact that I wasn’t terribly impressed with the factory units. I ordered up some KYB Excel-G‘s off Amazon as well as new upper mounts and boot kits, figuring if I was in there, might as well do it all. Between the service manual and this solid YouTube video, the job was as simple as it could get really. Just make sure you push the bump stop into the upper mount before you put it on the car. The car is much nicer to ride in now.


Since it stuck closed, this was somewhat forced. I was also a bit surprised to see this happen at 54,000, so I opted to also not purchase a factory part here either. Amazon again for a Stant replacement unit. The install wasn’t too bad, but like all projects, would have been MUCH easier with the correct tool. Which I didn’t have, but have been meaning to purchase since forever. The issue is that the hose clamps are never easy to reach and the OEM style clamp, while super easy with the right tool, is really hard without. So consider a cable operated hose clamp plier to make your life easier. Had this I remembered this, the job would have gone much faster. Money well spent, had I spent it. But I didn’t, so this job took a bit longer. There are a number of forum posts that lay out the procedure, pretty straight forward. I didn’t remove the belt stuff. Took a little bit of traditional tweaking to get the bubbles out and the heat working, but nothing special. Make sure you fill the radiator up at the cap as well as the expansion tank to keep the air bubbles down.

Air Filter

Once you have removed the plastic around the battery (I usually remove the negative terminal when I am poking around at an engine with a metal tool), the air filter is almost not even worth noting. 4 clamps, open, swap filter. I did a FRAM from Amazon.

Cabin Filter

I don’t think I was aware the car had a cabin filter, but it was in the “other people purchased” area as I was stocking up on parts and at $15 on Amazon, I decided it was a no brainer. The procedure is laid out very well in this YouTube clip and it took no time at all. And I am glad I did it, as when I pulled out the old filter, out came a nice pile of leaves and the filters were filthy. After vacuuming the cavity out, the new filters slid in. Like all jobs, the right tools are key. The forums were full of people complaining about the 4th screw, but a stubby screwdriver makes short work of that. I used a philips on a 1/4 rachet and it was easy. I will be doing these filters more often now. I had noticed a slight groan on the HVAC fan in the past, and I was fearing the blower motor might be at fault, but seeing how dirty the filters were, I have hopes that this solves that problem.

Front/Rear Pads

I’ve swapped brakes a million times, so this was easy. I had some front pads with over half life left (I think they were the OEMs before I swapped to the Hawks) so I put those on the fronts. Rotors still looked good. I started on the rears, but I could not get the rear pistons to retract. The rears have to be turned to retract, and I have a tool like this one for the job, but they weren’t cooperating and it was late and I was tired so opted not to fight them. It needs a bleed, but I wasn’t in the mood for that either. And I am not sure my power bleeder works on the Mazda cap.

Oil Change

So oddly enough, I have done very few oil changes in my life. I find it is an annoying job that others will do for a very small amount of money. It is often times worth the $25 to not have to put the car up, dispose of the oil, deal with all messy stuff, etc. But since I was going to be under the car getting dirty anyway, I opted to do it. It was exactly what you would expect. Thankfully Autozone had  5 qt jug and filter deal for $33… so that was nice.


With the recent work done, the car is feeling great. I still need to do the rear pads, bleed the brakes, and have the transmission serviced, but we are still really happy. We don’t love the 2012 body style (the taillights looks so sad) but we have no reason to move to a newer one anyway. I think the front suspension is next, as we have some clunking happening over bumps, but I saw nothing on a visual that was clearly the culprit. I have no reason to think we won’t hit another 50k happy miles!

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