(Photo)Automaker says spots are stains caused by lubricant
By MARK RECHTIN | Automotive News
Mazda says a lubricant used during the installation of weather stripping contained a corrosive that seeped from door seams onto the paintwork on door sashes.
LOS ANGELES -- Mazda North American Operations is facing challenges from owners of 2003 Mazda6 sedans that have developed rustlike stains in the door sashes and trunk lids.
Mazda calls the problem a stain, but owners are calling it rust and say they are miffed that Mazda refuses to come clean on the issue. Many are turning to Internet car-talk sites such as Edmunds.com to air their gripes. One Mazda6-specific site by mid-week last week had registered 109 owners complaining that their cars are rusting within the first year of purchase. As many as 50,000 Mazda6s could be affected.
"The problem does seem to be getting worse, which seems contradictory to Mazda's implication that the problem is simply a stain," says Chris Arthur, a 27-year-old software engineer from Phoenix, who bought his Mazda6 in April.
"It's very questionable that this growing stain is not rust, especially considering that it is exactly the color and consistency of rust and is forming in intersections of metal welds and seals."
Mazda says the source of the problem is a soapy lubricant that was used during assembly of the 2003 Mazda6 at the Flat Rock, Mich., plant.
The solution is used to ease the installation of rubber weather stripping into the sedan's door sash as well as on the trunk lid. But Mazda discovered that the lubricant contained a "saline-esque corrosive" that seeped from door seams onto the paintwork, says Mazda spokesman Jeremy Barnes.
Mazda discovered the problem in mid-2003 and made an assembly line fix in time for the 2004 model year. It issued a technical service bulletin to dealers in November instructing them how to repair the damage, Barnes says.
The problem is limited to 2003 vehicles built at Flat Rock. Flat Rock built 64,102 Mazda6s in the 2003 model year.
This fix involves peeling back the weather stripping, treating the stain with an alcohol solution, repainting the area, refastening the stripping, then caulking the area to prevent additional oxygen from entering. "We put the caulk on the seam because you need moisture and oxygen to have rust," Barnes says. "If you remove the oxygen source, the lack of additional oxygen will stem any further rust or staining."
Mazda has taken some unsold 2003 models and shipped them to Japan for accelerated weather testing at the automaker's r&d center. Once the repair has been performed, there is no further evidence of staining, Barnes says.
The technical service bulletin allocates up to a $250 warranty refund per repair, with any higher amount needing approval from a regional service manager. "This wasn't intended to be a Band-Aid," Barnes says "It was to fix the problem."
But Mazda6 owners say they have been routinely disappointed with the dealership service to correct the problem, which owner Paul Kaminsky characterized as a "clean and cover-up" job.
"If they had offered the repair and additionally thrown in a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the doors covering rust, staining, or whatever, they would have won kudos from me," says Kaminsky, a lawyer in Miami.
Mukasa Ssemakula, a professor of manufacturing engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit, describes himself as an "average Joe" in terms of the recourse he felt he had with Mazda. But his area of expertise allowed him to be smarter in dealing with the service technicians.
"I told the technician, 'This looks like rust to me,' " Ssemakula says. "And he said, 'Yes, I think so, too.' "
Ssemakula insisted that the body shop sand the rust away, then reprime and repaint the affected areas. That is a far more extensive repair than outlined in Mazda's service bulletin. But the dealer followed through, sending the car to a nearby body shop. It turned out all four door sashes were so pocked with rust that the dealership racked up a $1,300 warranty bill.