On a cold January morning, I stepped out my front door and made my way down to my car. As usual, I attached the face plate on my stereo and started the vehicle. I gave the car a couple of minutes to warm up while I read a newly received email on my Blackberry.
In the back of my mind, I thought the car seemed to be idling a little rough this morning. I assumed it had something to do with the bitter cold it had been exposed to throughout the night and put the thought out of my mine. Once I felt the car had sufficient time to warm up, I shifted into first gear, let out the clutch and pulled out of my parking space.
As I accelerated down the street, the car felt as though it was bucking. If you have ever driven a car with a manual transmission, imagine putting it into first gear and gently tapping your foot on the gas pedal. The bucking wasn’t violent, but a gentle surge and drop in power as I held the gas pedal steady.
When shifting into second gear, the car continued to buck, although it was more difficult to notice. My immediate thought was that I had a dirty fuel injector which was limiting the supply of fuel, causing the car to surge instead of maintaining a steady flow of power.
More than nine hours later the morning routine was reversed and I hopped into my car to make the drive home. I experienced the same rough idle, but things were much different when I attempted to pull out of my parking spot. As I let the clutch out, there was an immediate reduction in power and the car almost stalled. I quickly stepped on the clutch and watched the tachometer climb.
Giving it a little more gas than usual, I was able to pull out of my parking spot without much trouble. The earlier bucking in first gear was now much rougher. When shifting to second, the reduction in power was more noticeable and again made me think that I was dealing with a fuel shortage problem due to a filthy fuel injector.
On my way home, I swung into an auto supply store to pick up a can of fuel injector cleaner. I wearily made my way over to the gas station to top off my gas tank and help mix the injector cleaner with my fuel. Once I finished filling up, I continued on my journey home.
The following mornings trip into work seemed as though it was slightly better, as was the trip home that afternoon. I assumed that I guessed correctly and the fuel injector cleaner was slowly doing its job throughout my ten-mile daily commute.
When Friday rolled around, I experienced a brand new problem which had me second guessing my fuel injector theory. About a mile into my five-mile commute to work, my check engine light popped on. When the yellow light came into view, I let out an audible sigh and began dreading how much this problem would cost to repair.
After returning home from work, I made way for my limited supply of mechanics tools to retrieve my code reader. Once connected, I discovered the warning behind the check engine light. My problem was a P0171 OBDII Code. After some research I learned that this was a problem with the engine running too lean.
With mixed signals, I picked up the phone to speak with my father. While not a mechanic by trade, he has forgotten more about cars than I know about them. The consensus was that since my research pointed to a dirty mass airflow sensor, we should start there and simply clean the unit. Being able to do this in a few minutes, it was the fastest and least expensive attempt at resolving my problem.
The following day my father and I got together in an attempt to remedy my problem. While trying to remove the sensor, something caught my eye. On the hose running from the air cleaner box to the throttle body, there was a rather black spot on a rather dirty hose. Upon further inspection, we found a large split hidden within the ridges of the hose.
Knowing immediately what my problem was, I called the nearest Mazda dealership for pricing on this dealer only item. I was happy to learn that the dealership had four hoses in stock, but I was disgusted to learn that they were nearly $100.00 each.
Without much choice in the matter, we drove over to the dealership to pay the insane rate for an intake hose. After returning home, my father had the new hose on before I could even tweet a photo of my problem.
Fortunately, the fix was simple and didn’t require much time or effort. The obvious downside was that the part practically cost me an arm and a leg, considering what it was that I was buying (a short length of hose).