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Mazda acts on power steer failures

Tiller trouble: The previous-generation Mazda3, replaced in April 2009, has struck steering strife.

‘Service program’ to fix 55,000 Mazda3s with potential steering problem in Oz

Mazda logo23 Aug 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

MAZDA Australia has stopped short of a full safety recall for 55,000 previous-generation Mazda3 small cars with a potential power steering problem, instead issuing a ‘special service program’ request to owners to book their vehicles in to their dealer have the power steering fixed.

The company says the fact that the cars can still be steered safely under a fail-safe mode if the electro-hydraulic power steering pump fails means the problem does not require a full safety recall under Australia’s safety code.

The service program, however, will not start until November because Mazda Australia can’t immediately get sufficient parts to cover all 55,000 vehicles.

Worldwide, the company is preparing to fix more than 500,000 Mazda3s and Mazda5s in its biggest-ever recall. More than 215,000 of the affected vehicles are in the United States where the problem qualifies for a safety recall after three accidents were reported.

Mazda Australia says no accidents, damage or injuries have been reported here, although some owners have reported power steering failure.

A further 10,000 Mazda3s have be recalled in China, but in Europe, 70,000 Mazda3s and Mazda5 will be checked under the ‘special service program order’, similar to the Australian campaign.

22 center imageThe power steering problem – affecting vehicles built in Japan between April 2007 and November 2008 – is triggered by particles left in the hydraulic lines that cause the electric-powered oil pump for the power steering to fail, cutting power steering assistance. Apart from heavy steering, the driver will notice the power steering warning light on the dash.

Affected vehicles require the steering gear box and fluid lines to be flushed, and the power-steering pipe assembly to be replaced.

Mazda Australia public relations manager Steve Maciver told GoAuto the steering system’s fail-safe mode would ensure that the mechanical steering system would still function, although turning the steering wheel in tight spaces would be more difficult.

“Even though you do lose power steering, at no time do you lose functionality – you can still steer the vehicle,” he said.

“It is only at lower speeds that the steering actually gets heavier, such as in parking and tight spaces.”

Mr Maciver said Mazda Australia believed the problem did not warrant a full safety recall under Australian regulations.

Asked why Mazda was doing a safety recall in the US but not Australia, Mr Maciver said the legalities and compliance rules varied from country to country.

“I can’t comment on what the US legal system is and why that requires them to do a recall,” he said.

“One thing to note, though, is that the recall in the US is a voluntary recall on the part of Mazda North America.

“From our point of view, we comply with the (Australian) code. Our customers always come first, but it is not required to be a recall, so a special service program is what we have put in place instead.”

Mr Maciver said owners of potentially affected vehicles would be contacted by Mazda Australia from November 2010 onwards and asked to contact their Mazda dealer to make an appointment have the work done.

“In the meantime, if a customer experiences a loss of steering power assist, it is recommended that they present the vehicle to their local Mazda dealer for inspection where the issue will be rectified under the normal warranty repair process,” Mazda said.

According to Automotive News in the US, the same problem was the subject of a recall in Japan last year. Mr Maciver said he could not comment on the Japanese situation.

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