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What should I do if my 1995 Mazda 323 is leaking oil?

Asked by Kellee

I bought an immaculate-condition 1995 Mazda 323 HB five-speed manual with a 1.8-litre engine. I'm the second owner of this dinosaur, and I love the car. The previous owner very much loved the car also and it has 239,000kms on the clock. But I've noticed in last two months it is lagging in performance when I drive it from first gear. It has two distinct oil leaks coming from the cylinder head cover, and is slowly losing oil obviously, but not a great deal. It blew white smoke at me when I started her first thing in morning. I'm sure the head gasket is leaking and needs replacing I just want to know what I'm up for or should I sell it?

Answered by CarsGuide

19 Sep 2021 David Morley

Your car is certainly exhibiting the signs of a car with a blown head gasket. The smoke from the exhaust is one symptom, and so is the loss of performance. The oil leaks, could be part of the same problem, but could also be from somewhere else on the engine. Oil leaks have a cunning habit of being able to hide their true source.

On top of that, even the exhaust smoke and lack of performance could be down to something other than a head gasket problem, so the next step is to take the car to a workshop and have what’s known as a TK test carried. This test will chemically detect if combustion from the engine cylinders is finding its way into the coolant. If it is, you can be pretty sure that you have a blown head gasket.

At that point, you need to weigh up the cost of repairs to see whether you think it’s worth doing, given the overall condition of the car versus the cost of getting into something newer. If you really love the Mazda as much as you say, then maybe the cost of changing the head gasket will be acceptable compared with how you value the vehicle. And even if the repairs cost $2000 or even $3000 (which they could depending on how deep into the engine you need to go and what else you find wrong) there’s not much out there in today’s market for that money that represents anything even remotely decent.

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