really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
48,334 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Mazda Protege engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Mazda Protege Owner Comments

problem #13

Nov 012010

Protege 4-cyl

  • 107,000 miles


My son bought a 2003 Mazda Protege 5, back in late July 2010. Shortly thereafter, on August 3rd, 2010 in fact, he knowing of an open recall, had the car serviced at the local Mazda dealership. Apparently they performed part a of recall 3005C and did a compression check and slapped a "recall completed" sticker under the hood. Come late August, my son takes the car away to school. On November 1st, 2010, he calls complaining of a "'loud engine noise". 2 days later, we had the car towed to a nearby performance shop. They investigated and noticed the recall 3005C sticker under the hood. Knowing this, the performance shop recommended we take the car to the local Mazda dealership nearby my sons' school. This second dealership verified with a borescope that there was damage in cylinders 1 and 3. after much disagreement, this second Mazda dealership eventually opened the intake manifold and found 7 of the 8 screws and all 4 butterfly valves laying in the bottom of the intake. The second dealership then replaced the intake manifold but upon starting the engine found that the engine noise still exists. Now they claim the engine noise is due to "engine bearing failure" and not related to the 3005C recall. After forcing the issue with Mazda they claimed no further assistance can be offered. I was then forced to tow the car back to the performance shop. There they removed the cylinder head and found the missing screw embedded in the top of cylinder #2. bearing failure has not been verified by anyone yet. I maintain that the screw being embedded in cylinder #2 plus other metal filings related to the 3005C recall, must have caused the alleged "bearing failure". Mazda claims the so called "bearing failure" must have existed previously. Apparently, they think I was driving the car around with the bearing problem. Looks like legal action will be the next step. All of this could have been avoided had the first Mazda dealership replaced the intake manifold in the first place.

- Woodbury, NJ, USA

problem #12

Aug 192010


  • 101,000 miles
While driving on highway at about 60 mph for 40 minutes, the car began sputtering, jerking, making noises, losing acceleration and the check engine light came on. It initially felt like someone was taking their foot on and off the gas. We pulled off road and were towed to our garage. Mechanic found that the spark plug for cylinder 4 was smashed shut, he replaced it and told us to take it to the dealer since this was the 3rd time we had this problem. In Dec of 2009 the spark plug for cylinder 1 had same problem then again in Feb 2010 it was the plugs for 1 & 4. each time we were driving at 55 mph or higher when car began to sputter then check engine light came on. Mazda is telling us nothing is in the engine, the compression is fine and they have no idea why spark plugs are getting smashed. The first time it happened our mechanic thought it was bad spark plug and replaced it free of charge, the second time we took it to the dealer who could find nothing. It is now at the dealer again and they are saying the only thing they could do is take the engine apart and look but have no guarantee of finding anything and it could cost $1500. They removed spark plug, checked for debris and tested the compression. They also used a magnet to search for foreign body in cylinder and found nothing.

- Lemoyne, PA, USA

problem #11

Sep 232009


  • 107,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Mazda Protege. The contact stated that the vehicle exhibits a no-start condition. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, and a technician concluded that the failure was caused by screws that have fallen from the butterfly shutters inside of the intake manifold and that the repairs would cost $1000. No repairs were made. The manufacturer was notified; however, no assistance was provided. The failure and current mileages were 107,000.

- Provo, UT, USA

problem #10

May 182009


  • 72,000 miles


My 2002 Protege 5 (built December 2002) had a catastrophic engine failure, due to loose vics screws from the intake manifold coming loose and being sucked into the combustion chamber. These screws sheared off the top of my spark plug, and destroyed my piston and valves. The outward symptoms was a loud 'coin in the washing machine' sound coming from my engine, followed by a sudden loss of power and stalling. After the engine was opened, 3 of 8 vics screws were off completely, and the remaining 5 were loose. This is clearly the identical defect to a recall for Protege 5's built shortly after my vehicle (emissions recall 3005C), but my vehicle was not covered in the recall. Reading online boards for Protege owners, it is clear that this is a frequent defect effecting both owners in and out of recall range, and that this vics recall should be widened to include additional owners. Quotes from Mazda for repair are ~$5000 for a new intake manifold, valves and pistons, and labor to repair.

- East Setauket, NY, USA

problem #9

Apr 162008


  • 26,490 miles
The contact's son owns a 2003 Mazda Protege 5. while approaching a red light at an unknown speed, the vehicle stalled and had to be restarted. The contact heard loud noises coming from the front end of the vehicle. The contact pulled to the side of the road and had the vehicle towed to a service station. The mechanic diagnosed the cause of the failure as a blown rod. The vehicle was then towed to a Mazda dealer, who stated that there was engine failure and it needed to be replaced. The current mileage was 31,289 and failure mileage was 26,490.

- Saginaw, MI, USA

problem #8

Feb 212008

Protege 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles
Loud rattling noise at highway speed, engine light came on. Took to Mazda dealership, found problem to be butterfly valve screws backing out and falling into intake manifold. Estimated repair cost ~$900.

- Hillsboro, OR, USA

problem #7

Apr 032007

Protege 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 100,000 miles


I purchased vehicle new in Jan 04. While exiting the freeway, I felt a "hiccup" in the engine at which time it ran very poorly and check engine light came. The serpentine belt had also jumped about 25% off drive pulleys. I was traveling out of town at this time and took it to a local service station. Technician identified problem as an engine misfire and installed a new belt. I decided not to have service station perform any additional diagnosis preferring take vehicle to dealership instead. Dealership determined that a spark plug had failed and came apart. Dealership then replaced all spark plugs. Vehicle ran fine. Appx 1 month later, exact symptoms occurred - engine hiccup, rough idle, check engine light. Again I took to dealership. Master tech was assigned to my vehicle this time and determined cause to be shutter valve screws had come loose from the intake manifold and entered engine causing damage to spark plug. Technician informed me of recall # 3005C that had been issued and that he would contact his regional service manager to request the repair be covered by Mazda. Regional svc mgr declined to cover costs stating my specific VIN was not in the effected range and that my mileage was too high. I looked up the recall and determined the recall issue date to be 6/1/05. At that time my mileage would have been 40,000 to 50,000 miles. I then contacted Mazda usa customer assistance - reference number 112751060. I was told that Mazda would not cover the expense because my VIN # was not in the range of effected vehicles. I was also told that VIN range was determined by the NHTSA and not by Mazda and that it was illegal for Mazda to pay for the repair expense. I believe this to be a lie on the part of Mazda. I believe Mazda is not accepting its' responsibility to the consumer because this would be admitting the problem is larger than the original scope and will cost the company a substantial amount of money.

- Fairfield, OH, USA

problem #6

Feb 132007

Protege 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 26,131 miles
For over two and a half yrs, my car has had a rough idling noise and the engine often hesitates and wants to turn off. On several occasions the engine has hesitated and shut the car off. Very recently a loud noise was coming from my engine. (you could hear a rattling noise) it sounded like a piece of metal rattling around in the engine. A year ago I took my car into the dealership because of a recall (recall 3005C) to get it checked out (this is what the letter from Mazda asked me to do) my car was there only two hours and only looked at maybe about thirty minutes. I received an oil change and then they were to inspect it due to the recall. When I retrieved my car they gave me a certificate of correction, but informed me that nothing had been fixed and that they were only authorized to inspect. That if the part broke that I would be responsible for it even though it was a recall. Here I am one year later and I had my car looked at and it appears that two of the screws must have come loose due to the recall. (they were found in my exhaust) I got no help from the dealer. I found the recall instructions online from Mazda to the dealer which instructs the dealer to replace the parts if they have not been replaced on any previous occasion (which was procedure B). And if it has been previously worked on they are to proceed with procedure a which instructs them to do an air compression inspection for internal damage and give a certificate of correction. They did the wrong procedure on my car and never actually did what needed to be replaced for my car to be legal and ok to drive. They are now avoiding my calls and not returning numerous E-mails or voice mails. I have been trying the dealer and Mazda themselves. On tues.I received nothing but rude mocking from each place telling me that it was my problem. I have been trying everyday since and I have received no response. Updated 2/23/2007 - intake manifold shutter and variable tumble control valves.

- Reedley, CA, USA

problem #5

Jan 102005

Protege 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 14,475 miles
Car stalled at red light, there was a loud knocking sound coming from the engine. After stalling T more times the car ran for another 3 minutes to ge me home for the evening. I then to it to my local Mazda service center.

- Norristown, PA, USA

problem #4

Jun 062004


  • miles
Vehicle went backwards even after consumer put the gear into park. When the consumer got back in the car after leaving it running she noticed the engine oil pressure light was on, but thought nothing of it. The consumer was unable to stop the vehicle until it came to rest on its own after rolling in a ditch. The dealer was unable to duplicate the problem.

- Rock Island, IL, USA

problem #3

Mar 112004

Protege 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles


Engine has a very bad hesitation during exceleration, both from a standing and roilling start. Hesitation is bad enough to cause vehicle control problems durring the winter when driving on snow or during rainy conditions. Engine has already had the PCM module reprogramed as per outstanding service bulletin this fixed the engine missing under same circumstance but does not correct the hesitation. Dealer has looked at the vehicle 2 times and cannot find or fix the problem.

- Erie, CO, USA

problem #2

May 192004

Protege 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 7,250 miles
While approaching a stop sign, the engine stalled causing the brakes and power steering not to work. I was unable to stop at the stop sign and ran into the embankment on the other side. This car has had a history of engine stalling while running.

- Alpharetta, GA, USA

problem #1

May 202003

(reported on)


  • miles
When the vehicle was started a knocking noise was heard. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and was unable to determine the problem.

- Selden, NY, USA

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