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Can a 20 yr old MK3 be considered a reliable car anymore?

378 Views 20 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  mondy zetecs
Like the title says.... Can a 20 yr old MK3 be considered a reliable car anymore?

Here's a little light reading if you've got a minute or two.....

Mine is close to the end. 100K miles, which is quite low for this age, and the engine is good. Noisy alternator... not so bad. Aircon failed 5 yrs ago.... who cares. Ususal things like tyres, exhaust, battery... replaced them all as I would any other car. Auto box still sweet as a nut.

But... it's rusting away in front of my eyes. In fact, it's rotten.

I bought it 6 1/2 yrs ago. Paid over the top as I was in a rush and needed it fast. Wish I'd looked underneath. I can only imagine that as it had lived on the east coast the salty sea air had got the better of it. I hit the entire underside with rust killer and waxoil, and did it again 3 yrs later. That didn't save it.

One sill is made up out of 3 long patches, with blackjack bitumen primer slapped all over it. The other sill is starting to look like it needs the same treatment.

Every bolt underneath and around the sub frames and suspension that has not been previously removed has no hex left on the bolt head. I have to hammer an under-size socket unto it and pray.

All 4 springs have snapped in the last few years. The arches are all turning a bubbly brown.

The sub frame bushes are adviseries on the MOT. There's no chance of the captive nuts holding. The chassis is rotten.

I'm trying to complete a house move to more rural lands. I just need it hang on for another 6 months so I can put it out to pasture as a doner before the next MOT. If I can move before then I can take it with me. If not, it's going to the breakers yard in the sky as I can't take it if it's not a road legal runner.

If I can get it there, I plan to try to find another MK3 2.0 Petrol Auto, but without the rust.

Do such things really exist? Or are they rarer than rocking horse turd?
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If you find a good one then yes they can still be reliable. I have taken several diesel ones to 170k+ miles
one I sold and the next owner put over 60k miles on it in just 2 years. Neglected and abused by them
though which shows they don't all have injector issues.

I had a 2001 2L petrol manual and I sold that around 150k miles and it still ran sweet. Just checked the MOT
history it was still on the road in 2018 some 9 years after I sold it. 234k miles, not bad for a petrol engine.
No MOT in late 2018 though.

The 2004 diesel I mentioned went onto 2019 with the 2018 MOT at 267k miles.

My 2006 2.2L diesel was scrapped just requiring a clutch master cylinder @174k miles (2021). I really should
have saved that one. But the only place I can store it is at mums and it was a struggle to get it into her garage
last time. I had to remove the towball and the doot shut against the towbar plate. Late 1960's garages are
not designed for Mondeo's it seems. And the fact its a 250/260 mile round trip which I had already done the
year before. When they took it to garage they claimed doom and gloom that it needed a new clutch and
DMF at that mileage without even testing it.

Writing this it seems the newer my previous cars got the more disposible they appear to have become.

I have a MK4.5 now with 187k on the clock and its running sweet. Paid £3k for it in 2018 and last time
I looked there was nothing newer for similar money.
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My 23 year old 60,000 miles Mondeo was very good .........until white van man came along :cry:
and turned me into a pedestrian for two years
My '02 mk3 estate I bought in '06 and was oblivious to the underside being rusty till I was having new tyres and the fitter advised spray the underside with oil. I then woke up to the rust and started to try to waxoyl and Hammerite it, but needs doing at least annually! Was still going strong at >300k miles and am hoping to get it back on the road again after a hiatus of 3 years... (don't ask!) If you keep an old car and just leave it it rot away.... then it wii! You've got to keep 'on top' of the corrosion underneath with ideally twice a year checks and remedy. A stitch in time really is true!
I have now started to brush apply a mix of waxoyl and thick hypoid oil to things like springs and exposed metal. Other underneath surfaces if rust is breaking thro' I rotary wire brush, then apply rust convertor (dunno if it really works or is just snake oil) then paint over then waxoyl.
If you're handy and want to save your mk3, then you can get new sills welded on, you can drop both subframes and restore or replace them, renew corroded bolts etc... depends how the rest of the body shell is really.
Got any pics to show us?
The only bit of body that has rust breaking thro' externally is a section just below the fuel filler cap, which happens to be double-skinned, and the corrosion is in between the 2 skins - just can't get in to treat it!
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Well...the old girl has been laid to rest. Wasn't planned. Replaced the drivers side ball joint today. All seemed to go well, even though it was a real pig of a job. But when I started her up for the road test something was very wrong. Could feel this massive vibration through the whole car, even when standing still in neutral. What the hell is that? When I shifted to D the clunk was massive. The engine itself was as sweet as ever, but there is something going on in the box. I have no idea what, and I'm not even going to look for it. I think I must have screwed the diff somehow.

But she doesn't owe me anything. I've had plenty of years out of her and she deserves the rest.


21 gun salute please.
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I've put 'like', but I mean 'sad'.
Will you buy another mk3?
Popped the driveshaft out? Even when not in gear there can be enough friction for the internal cup to spin.

If it had partially popped out or some bearings had fallen out you would get a nasty noise/vibration.
It's unusual for them to rot that badly. I've only really seen it on ones from Scotland or Norway. I doubt it's to do with the sea, Mine has been on the south coast all its life and is fairly solid. It's more likely down to the winter salt and maintaince. We have paranoid councils down here that spread salt when it's really not needed, so I have to keep on top of it.

Usually the most rust prone spots on mk3s are the rear wheel housings and strut towers. The areas not covered by the arch liner get blasted by the wheels, and the inevitable results. The sills tend to get it just behind the front wheels (Note to self, fit mud flaps), and anywhere a careless jack bends them or rubs the paint off. If you have the ST sill covers, they make it 10 times worse.

What I did with mine was to take the rear arch liners and suspension legs out, sand off all the rust, treat and paint it over with as many coats of paint as I could, then smother the whole lot over in grease, and then renew that every year. It's messy and time consuming, but it's cheap and it works perfectly. Everywhere I treated 3 years ago has no signs of rust returning at all. If I hadn't have put the grease there, I think the paint would have not lasted a winter. Undeseal would be cracking off by now.

I try and avoid using the car in winter as much as possible, and when I do i try and wash the salt off frequently where I can. That certainly helps too.
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Popped the driveshaft out? Even when not in gear there can be enough friction for the internal cup to spin.

If it had partially popped out or some bearings had fallen out you would get a nasty noise/vibration.
That's very possible. And very likely. I had to pop the strut out of the hub to change the ball joint. Just couldn't do it any other way. After re-assembling I could only spin the shaft 1/2 a turn. Then it started lifting the engine! Figured I'd put something back very wrong. Seems obvious now. But I never expected the vibration while in neutral. And I did drive it round the block hoping the vibration would vanish.

Can it really vibrate that badly in neutral while standing still just because I screwed up aligning the drive shaft? If it really can be that I think it warrants one more day of investigating.

Is there a guide to fitting the front strut without special tools? I always end up with rachet straps and a trolley jack trying to persaude the b'stard to go home.
Will you buy another mk3?
My next car, which I'm alrady looking for, will be a MK3 or X type. It needs to be an estate auto, and must be 60k max. AND RUST FREE!!!!

My wife's car is a MK3. 2005. It's not pretty but there's not a drop of rust on it. It drives like a dream. Had it 6-7 yrs, same as mine. And paid well under a grand for it.

Can't believe the cost of used cars these days!!
Daughters 2012 KA was £4000 in 2017 with under 40k miles, equivalent today would get something 2 years older.

Bought my high mileage 2013 Mondeo in 2018 for £3k. Cheapest 5yr old Mondeo now is closer to £8k.
Yep. Bought my son his 1st car 2 yrs ago. Mazda 3 Auto, 56 plate with 56000 miles...£1500. Thought is was expensive then. Same car today almost £3000.
I've just watched a youtube vid showing the strut replacement. The guy removes the hub bolt and pulls the hub away from the drive shaft. Then unbolts the ball joint from the wishbone.

When I've been doing this... for years... I've never split the hub from the driveshaft. DOH!!! This has made the job a real pain and I end up with ratchet straps, pry bars, trolley jacks, and lots of swearing.

Got re-newed hope now. I just hope I've not done permanent damage to the box. If I can get the old girl limping along for a few more months till I move home that will be a real result.
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I jack strut out of hub, remove trackrod, driveshaft, hub knuckle just lifts off bottom ball joint non of that prising levering difficulty, clamp and rope spring and all slots back without dropping subframe.
Automotive tire Gas Nut Engineering Machine
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Seems there are many methods... all better than the way I've been doing it.

Before work this morning I checked and found a 32mm socket that fits the hub nut perfectly. Long torque wrench on that should do it.

I intend to leave the hub on the strut, remove the lower and steering ball joints, knock the spline out and remove the beast. Then get the whole drive shaft out and inspect.

BIG question.... if i pull the shaft from the diff will I spill the entire contents of the auto box?
Ah! Good point there! And excellent thinking too👍
As a precaution I say partially drain the gbox.... that oil is expensive and stinks too!
First time i pulled driveshaft out of manual gearbox no oil leaked probably had driverside jacked up high,last week i pulled it out i got a patch of oil on the floor topped it up but didn't take much.
And the old girl lives on to fight another day!!

Today I stripped the strut out of the car complete with the hub. That was rediculously easy because I followed advise and slid it off the drive shaft. Something I'd not done previously. However, before disturbing anything I felt for any play in the driveshaft and it was totally rigid. The passenger side had in / out movement of about 3mm.
When I seperated the inner CV the internal piece came out with only one ball-race attached. The other 2 were buried on the grease in the back of the cup. So it was clear that while I'd been faffing around last week, pulling on the hub, I'd managed to pull it so far out that the bearings fell off! What a total bozo.
The shaft was fully engaged in the diff all the time and I still can't imagine what was the cause of the hammer drill effect while in park or neutral. But I won't argue too much about it as it's running like a champ now.
One other tip I picked up from some vids of removing the strut was the arrow on the top mount. Never knew it was even there. And... it was in the wrong position. Re-aligned it during re-assembly to point front and back, and after about 20 miles today there's no bonking. Either the ball joint I was replacing last week when I screwed up or the top mount alignment seems to have done the trick. Either way... I need a beer!
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Failed to remove my stuck bolt from rear D-bush again but still had a beer Cheers!
I think we're all getting too old for this...

Failed to remove my stuck bolt from rear D-bush again but still had a beer Cheers!
So where does that leave you?

My son assisted today and the extra pair of hands was 'handy'.
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