2003-2008 Mazda 6: Common problems, engines, pros and cons, photos

Updated: November 14, 2021
The first-generation Mazda 6 is a rare sporty mid-size car. The 6 comes as a sedan, hatchback or a sleek-looking wagon; with a 4-cylinder or V6 engine.
Mazda 6 interior 2004 Mazda 6 interior
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The wagon comes only with the V6. Mazda 6 rides on the same platform as the Ford Fusion.

The manual transmission is available in both 4-cylinder and V6 models. Mazda 6 is one of the few mid-size cars with a double-wishbone front suspension layout. Thanks to this design, Mazda 6 delivers a great driving experience, especially on the highway. The ride is comfortable too. The interior is snug and sporty. Front seats are comfortable. The visibility is good all around. The BOSE audio system with the subwoofer, available in top models, sounds excellent. What are the common problems? Does the Mazda 6 have a good engine?

Mazda 6 common problems: Transmission issues are not uncommon in the early models. It might be a good idea to stay away from the 2003 model. Change your transmission fluid if you notice it becomes dark and dirty. Read out simple maintenance checklist to learn how to check the automatic transmission fluid and more.

In a V6 engine, misfire could be caused by bad ignition coils. If one of the coils failed, it's a good idea to replace all the spark plugs if they are old. Replacing front ignition coils is easy. If one of the rear ignition coils fails in a V6, it will take about 2 hours of labor to replace, because the intake manifold will have to be removed.
A faulty or clogged purge valve (solenoid) can cause the Check Engine light to come on. When scanned for trouble codes, it could be the code P0446. The purge valve is easy to replace and is not very expensive.

Oil leaks are common in a V6. Completely eliminating all the leaks could be quite expensive, so we would recommend starting from replacing the valve cover gaskets. Often, the oil leaks are coming from the place where the valve cover meets the timing chain cover.
2004 Mazda 6 wagon 2004 Mazda 6 wagon

Coolant leaks from various plastic outlets are not uncommon. Some plastic cooling system pipes become brittle with age and can break easily. This means it's good idea to keep an eye on the coolant level in the expansion tank under the hood and fix any leak before it can cause overheating.

A ripped intake snorkel (rubber boot) can cause a vacuum leak, which can result in the engine stalling and the Check Engine light staying on, with the code P2179. The repair is very simple, the snorkel must be replaced.

In some 2006, 2007 Mazda 6 the passenger side window might stop working after the battery has been disconnected or drained. The power window initialization procedure must be performed: with the ignition "ON" open the driver's window fully, then close holding the switch up for two more seconds after the window is fully closed. Repeat with each window.

The clunking or popping felt in the steering wheel could be caused by lack of lubrication in the intermediate steering shaft splines in the steering column. There was a technical service bulletin (TSB) on this issue and the repair is very simple; the steering shaft splines need to be lubricated. The steering shaft in question is located above the pedals under the steering column.

Faded headlights may be restored using a very simple technique. Here are a few YouTube videos.
2004 Mazda 6 wagon 2004 Mazda 6 wagon Mazda 6 3.0L V6 engine Mazda6 3.0L V6 engine

Engines: The 4-cylinder 2.3L 160-hp Mazda-designed DOHC is a good dependable motor. It has a timing chain and can last long with proper maintenance. There is no timing belt.

The Ford-sourced 220-hp 3.0L Duratec V6 is known for minor oil leaks, but otherwise is bulletproof. It's also equipped with a timing chain; there is no timing belt to worry about.

Transmission: Transmission choices include a five-speed manual and a four- or five-speed automatic. Late models have a 6-speed automatic.

2006-2007 Mazdaspeed6: Mazdaspeed6 comes only as a sedan; it's equipped with a manual transmission and a turbocharged 274-hp 2.3L direct-injected (DISI) engine. The 0 to 60 time is 6.2 seconds. Overall, it's an excellent car to drive, however expect to pay more for maintenance. The turbocharged engine is also very sensitive to lack of regular oil changes or poor oil quality. You will be well advised to use premium synthetic oil to avoid problems. This engine is expensive to replace. Read also: Pros and cons of turbo engines.

Pros: Sporty styling, interior design, excellent handling, comfortable ride, comes as sedan, sporty hatchback or wagon, available Bose audio system, affordable price, available with a manual transmission.

Cons: Fuel economy, large turning radius, poor crash test scores without side airbags.

Mazda 6 overall: Mazda 6 offers a unique combination of sporty styling and handling with reasonable maintenance costs and should not be overlooked if not too rusted.
Mazda 6 2006 2006 Mazda 6. Photo: Mazda
Among competitors, Ford Fusion is the closest; it's equipped with the same 4-cylinder and V6 engines. Toyota Camry is roomier and offers softer, quieter ride. Honda Accord is better on gas and more reliable, although it's also more of a family sedan than a sporty car. Nissan Altima is somewhat similar, although not everyone likes its continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Chevrolet Malibu is less expensive, but its reliability records are poor.

Related reviews:
Mazda 6 2009-2013
Toyota Camry 2007-2011
Honda Accord 2003-2007
Toyota Camry 1997-2001

What to look for when buying a used Mazda 6: When checking a used Mazda 6, test the air conditioner, see if the center display works. We noticed that in some high-mileage models parts of the center display don't work. Check under the hood; a burnt oil smell in a V6 is a sign of oil leaks. Check the engine oil level, low oil level may indicate that the engine consumes oil, which is something to avoid in a used car. During the test drive, watch out for a humming noise that may indicate a bad wheel bearing, which is fairly common in these cars. Pay attention to how the automatic transmission shifts between gears. If there is a jolt or delay, avoid the car. Read more: How to inspect a used car - illustrated guide. Watch out for rust. Have the car properly inspected by an independent mechanic before buying. Read also: What mileage is OK for a used car?