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Thread: New owner of nearly mint 03.5 MSP looking for advice

  1. #1
    Registered Member

    2003.5 Mazdaspeed Protege, 1989 MX6, 1990 MX6

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    Sep 2019
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    Post Falls ID
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    New owner of nearly mint 03.5 MSP looking for advice

    Hi all,

    Two days ago a bought a very nice MSP 2003.5. It's silver, and it only has 133k miles on it. It is 100% stock. The guy I bought it from said he was the second owner, and only owned it for a year. He bought it frrom the original owner a year ago, and he had the carfax to back that up. It felt great on the test drive. It has a CEL on, that I haven't had time to read yet. The previous owner claims it only comes on after filling up with ethanol gas instead of non-ethanol. The car drives beautifully, and I'm in my second day of work commute of 120 Miles a day round-trip. If I had to guess, the CEL is probably an O2 sensor or EGR; or else something emissions related. This is the newest vehicle I've ever owned (I highly dislike anything newer than say, 2007) and I know these OBDII vehicles have a code for just about everything.
    I should also mention this is the first turbo vehicle I've ever owned, so I do expect it to be a learning experience.

    I did a bit of research before buying it but all in all it was an impulse buy. I absolutely love the car, and regardless I plan on keeping it. It will be my daily driver, I don't plan on doing any heavy mods to it or making any type of big power. The largest mod I can see doing to it is an FMIC, and ECU. I have far too many other projects I can do that with.

    Since I bought it I've done a bit more extensive research. I've learned that the LSD most likely will break. This is the biggest thing I'm worried about. Given the MSP's unpopularity, there isn't a plethora of info on it, not even a simple FAQ like there is for 1st gen probes and MX6s. I assume I should replace the LSD with a better one sooner than later. But I've got no idea on what to get or where to get it.

    The second thing that concerns me, I read that it runs ridiculously rich. I don't like what I'm hearing about that given my driving style and how much I do actually drive. I already have to replace the plugs in my MX6 every 4-6 months. If the car is running rich I'll probably have to do it every 1 or 2 months with my commute. I've read about aftermarket ECUs or a piggyback (being honest I have no idea what a piggyback is). Again I'm not looking for power, just reliability. In the long I'd like the car to run like Mazda built it the correct way. I'm not quite sure what that entitles just yet.

    The last thing that concerns me is the noise of the suspension. Drive-ability, the thing feels great. I drive a mountain pass for my commute to work (4th of July pass in Idaho) and this thing corners better than my old Z32.
    BUT it sounds like I'm driving my 88 alltrac camry with blown struts and broken axles. My research leads that this is normal and common. Not the biggest issue ever but I'd definitely like it to not sound like a squeaky bucket as I'm driving down the road lol. I can't find too much info on how to fix this. A couple older threads referencing some new bushings but no links to what they actually are called or where to get them.

    I have no idea what the previous owners ran for oil, but I'll probably get 10w30 synthetic royal purple to be safe.
    The OE sparkplugs are NGK platinum, I see people recommend that we use copper instead. So I'll probably end up doing that on my next paycheck since I've got no idea when the last time it was done being I've only owned it 48 hours.

    All in all, I know I am going to love this car. I love the way it drives. I like the way it looks, I like that it isn't a stationwagon like the MS3 is. And I like that it's probably the only one I'll see in a given year. I'm not one to drive what everyone else does. Its sort rare which is a lot of why I'm intrigued by it. The only other car that I would be happier to have is an ST185 alltrac/GTfour celica which are arguably just as quirky if not more, than these are.

    I apologize for rambling on so much. But if you did take the time to read, I definitely appreciate any knowledge you fellow MSP owners have to offer me.
    2003.5 Mazdaspeed Protege
    1989 Mazda MX-6
    1990 Mazda MX-6

  2. #2
    F - L - O - R - I - D - A orlandomsp's Avatar

    03.5 MSP

    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Portland, OR
    Posts
    887
    Quote Originally Posted by josephlj945 View Post
    Hi all,

    Two days ago a bought a very nice MSP 2003.5. It's silver, and it only has 133k miles on it. It is 100% stock.
    Welcome! The MSP section isn't as active as when the cars were newer, but there's tons of info on here.


    Quote Originally Posted by josephlj945 View Post
    Since I bought it I've done a bit more extensive research. I've learned that the LSD most likely will break. This is the biggest thing I'm worried about. Given the MSP's unpopularity, there isn't a plethora of info on it, not even a simple FAQ like there is for 1st gen probes and MX6s. I assume I should replace the LSD with a better one sooner than later. But I've got no idea on what to get or where to get it.
    My 03.5 just clocked over 140K and i'm still on the factory LSD. If you're planning on keeping it stock or near stock, stop worrying and drive it.

    Quote Originally Posted by josephlj945 View Post
    The second thing that concerns me, I read that it runs ridiculously rich. I don't like what I'm hearing about that given my driving style and how much I do actually drive. I already have to replace the plugs in my MX6 every 4-6 months. If the car is running rich I'll probably have to do it every 1 or 2 months with my commute. I've read about aftermarket ECUs or a piggyback (being honest I have no idea what a piggyback is). Again I'm not looking for power, just reliability. In the long I'd like the car to run like Mazda built it the correct way. I'm not quite sure what that entitles just yet.
    Stock they do run rich, I've had a Unichip piggyback on mine since '08 or '09. Not sure what's available nowadays though.

    Quote Originally Posted by josephlj945 View Post
    The last thing that concerns me is the noise of the suspension. Drive-ability, the thing feels great. I drive a mountain pass for my commute to work (4th of July pass in Idaho) and this thing corners better than my old Z32.
    BUT it sounds like I'm driving my 88 alltrac camry with blown struts and broken axles. My research leads that this is normal and common. Not the biggest issue ever but I'd definitely like it to not sound like a squeaky bucket as I'm driving down the road lol. I can't find too much info on how to fix this. A couple older threads referencing some new bushings but no links to what they actually are called or where to get them.
    Swaybar links and bushings are probably needed. For the links, fronts are Moog 80258 and for the rear Moog 80869. For the front bushings I used the Energy Suspension 9.5129G set . I don't have a stock sway bar bushing mounts on the rear, so I'm not sure what you need there.

    Quote Originally Posted by josephlj945 View Post
    I have no idea what the previous owners ran for oil, but I'll probably get 10w30 synthetic royal purple to be safe.
    The OE sparkplugs are NGK platinum, I see people recommend that we use copper instead. So I'll probably end up doing that on my next paycheck since I've got no idea when the last time it was done being I've only owned it 48 hours.
    I've swapped between Mobil 1 5W30 and 10w30 since new, and used a larger than stock Bosch 3323 filter (ups capacity to 4 qts). Don't run copper, stick to platinum plugs and note that auto-parts stores don't have the right spark plug recommendations for the MSPs. If you have the owner's manual, there was leaflet added that noted that the MSP used different spark plugs. I'm using DENSO 3173 PKJ20CR8 plugs.

    Quote Originally Posted by josephlj945 View Post
    All in all, I know I am going to love this car. I love the way it drives. I like the way it looks, I like that it isn't a stationwagon like the MS3 is. And I like that it's probably the only one I'll see in a given year. I'm not one to drive what everyone else does. Its sort rare which is a lot of why I'm intrigued by it. The only other car that I would be happier to have is an ST185 alltrac/GTfour celica which are arguably just as quirky if not more, than these are.
    After all these years I still love driving the car, and short of an AC compressor failure and the recent timing tensioner failure it's been rock solid.
    Last edited by orlandomsp; 09-18-2019 at 02:24 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered Member

    2003.5 MSP

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    Mar 2018
    Location
    Calgary, Canada
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    6
    Oof, sell me your Alltrac Camry, like my childhood dream car xD

    Welcome to the forum! There is also an MSP Facebook group with tons of helpful info.

  4. #4
    Registered Member

    2003 mazda protege lx

    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Maui, HI
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    Welcome to the group and the MSP life. You made a good choice getting a speed protege and it seems to be well taken care of. 100% stock is great! Now to answer some of your questions

    The LSD is known to fail occasionally but isn't all that common. A cheaper solution would be reinforcing the stock LSD by having it welded at the known weak points. If you really want to upgrade you can get an Mfactory diff or a quaiffe diff. I believe diff's from a couple other mazdas can be used but couldn't tell you the model. Worst case scenario is you have to install an open diff trans from a base model protege. They are all interchangeable as long as it's from a 2.0l pro. I'm running an open diff on a fully built MSP5 and it makes for some fun trying to control the torque steer lol. I don't mind it though even without power steering.

    Running rich is just a safety precaution mazda took to prevent blown engines. Fuel economy is still pretty good, depending on how heavy your foot is. Fouling plugs is not really an issue for MSPs unless you have other problems. Go with the copper plugs and gap to .028"-.032". It is highly recommend to run at least a piggyback ECU for a little extra power and to smooth out the power band with a better/less rich tune. You will see some extra MPGs as well. Your options for piggybacks (connects to the stock ECU and modifies the signals to change fuel and timing maps) are limited to the Split Second Air Fuel Controller (aka SSAFC), the Split Second Fuel Timing Controller (aka SSFTC) or the Unichip. Split second offers enduser tuning capabilities and there is a map library in this forum which allows us to share our "tunes" or maps. Unichip is a good option but you cant tune it yourself and very few shops can tune it either. Best option is a Haltech elite standalone ECU which van be ran as a piggyback ECU also but that's quite the task.

    Overall it's an awesome little car that has a few quirks, like any other car. Work out these little problems and it will be a reliable, quick and agile vehicle. Hope this helps

  5. #5
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    I have an 03 MSP black mica, #253! Welcome! im not active aside from research, but yknow, glad to welcome a member! I have the same concerns as you, however i am having trouble with my manifold...I need to find a new one. I love this car, perfect for me.

  6. #6
    F - L - O - R - I - D - A orlandomsp's Avatar

    03.5 MSP

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    Quote Originally Posted by BullRacer1 View Post
    I have an 03 MSP black mica, #253! Welcome! im not active aside from research, but yknow, glad to welcome a member! I have the same concerns as you, however i am having trouble with my manifold...I need to find a new one. I love this car, perfect for me.

    Highly recommend the Pope Manifold, it's a thing of beauty. Kooldino sells them on here I think, and via speedcircuit.net.
    Last edited by orlandomsp; 10-07-2019 at 03:08 PM.
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  7. #7
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    2003.5 Mazdaspeed Protege, 1989 MX6, 1990 MX6

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    Post Falls ID
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    Thanks for the advice guys, I appreciate it.
    It's been a couple months now, and I've experienced the common hesitation. It's gotten progressively worse now that it's colder. It was throwing two codes; MAF sensor and running too lean. I replaced the MAF, and it didn't change a single thing. So I'll have to figure that out.

    Today there was a small accident. A truck lost what looks like an entire shed frame. It was raining and dark out side, so I didn't see it until it was too late. It was covering the entire lane. I ran right over all of it and actually caught air. Surprisingly, the car didn't have a scratch on it. Unfortunately, some debris did somehow put a giant hole in the radiator and destroyed the fan. In my research I found that the MSP radiator is nearly impossible to find. I'm having the car towed to a shop on Monday. I hope they will be able to figure something out, because I assume their supplier won't have the MSP radiator either. I have neither the skills nor the money to install an FMIC, and the only import tuner\shop in town only works on subaru's and refuses to touch anything else. So an FMIC will be a bridge crossed at a much later date. But because of this I'll need the stock radiator.
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  8. #8
    F - L - O - R - I - D - A orlandomsp's Avatar

    03.5 MSP

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    Bummer, that's some bad luck. Yeah there are no aftermarket radiators for the MSP, you can downgrade to a regular protege one and add an FMIC or get one from Mazda for ~300$. The part number is RF3F15200C.
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