If you are having trouble with some of the terms or abbreviations
used in this section, please feel free to click our acronym and abbreviations
We have tried to create this buyers guide to be useful for those looking to
purchase a potential FC3S turbo.  This guide will ultimately link with
a lot of pages already written for the "Problems" section -
http://fc3spro.com/TECH/PROBLEMS/problems.html, as alot of info is
cross-referenced between the two sections.  Information will try to narrow
to FC3S-specific areas, but we will include a "Preliminary" section to
address most universal topics on buying any used vehicle.
There are helpful resources on the web that allow you to get a good idea on
current vehicle prices.  Kelly Blue Book is located at:
http://www.kbb.com/ and is a good
place to start if you have no idea on prices.
Paint - Mazda paint back in the mid-80's was rather nasty.  Don't be
alarmed by badly faded or peeling paint.  A repainted vehicle (especially if
only parts of the car were repainted) should automatically put up a red flag to
signal potential cover-up of accident damage.  A car with (bad) original
paint is actually more desirable that a repainted car, as prior history of the
car is very hard to tell without large amounts of documentation.  Of course,
you should be adjusting the price of the vehicle for paint that's not
satisfactory to your standards.
In additon to the above, you need to do a thorough check of the chassis from as many
vantage points as possible.  This includes...
Tires - Tire should be in good shape.  I would usually like to have
a set of tires that can last me for the next 6 - 12 months.  If tires are
dangerously worn, I would deduct the asking price for a good set of replacement
Rims - Check stock rims for curb damage, as this should be most obvious from
outside.  Be very careful with aftermarket rims on the cars, as this could be
hiding accident damage to the hubs/suspension, especially if you're dealing with
"cheap" rims.  Extreme offset changes from stock (i.e. 16" x 7", +40mm offset)
can cause potential damage to the hubs and suspension.
Chassis - This pertains mostly underneath the vehicle and those that are
exposed to salting of roadways during snowfall in winter.  Road salt can easily
rust anything under the vehicle.  A quick check under the car should easily
confirm this.  The cars are pretty rust-resistant, but road salt will rust
most vehicle under chassis'.
Rust - Aside from the road salt problem described above, these are some of
the major rust prone areas:
The above rust problems are basically caused by insufficient "grounding" of the metal
part with the rest of the chassis.  Accelerated oxidation is due to a charge
potential that's unable to dissipate easily.  The following are minor rust prone
- Sunroof - The sunroof metal panel is one of the obvious rust prone spots.
Extreme rusting can cause perforation straight through the metal panel itself!
- Upper metal reinforcement on front bumper skin - this narrow strip of metal
deteriorates due to high exposure to rain water and easily inspected by popping
the hood open.
- Metal backing on rear license plate frame - there is a metal backing on the
black, plastic rear license plate frame.  You will sometimes see "chucks" of
rust falling just by tapping the bumper right under the license plate itself.
- Metal frame of rear hatch glass - Rust can "bubble" underneath the black paint,
so be very careful to inspect the whole frame.  Check the areas on the bottom
edge, as rain water tends to pool at the base of the glass.
- Outside door sill trim - This is the black, plastic coated trim that sits at the
base of the side windows on the outside.  The black, plastic coating tends to
split and allow water to attack bare metal.  Surface rust is easily formed then.
- Power antenna - The body metal area around the base of the power antenna is
another rust prone area.
Glass - Check to see if the glass is all original.  Original glass should
be stamped "MAZDA" on it; replacement glass could've been OEM Mazda glass, but it's
not very likely most people would spend the high cost on OEM glass.  Replacement
glass could hint at a potential accident.  Sloppy glass replacement jobs can also
cause water leaks during rain storms.
Fluid Leaks - There should be no leaks with the exception of water condensation
if the AC was recently used.  The engine has been known to leak oil pretty easily,
but there should be no engine oil leaks from an FC that is asking top dollar.
Coolant leaks are a big NO-NO!  Oil leaks from the transmission and/or
rear differential are also bad signs.  Keep in mind, transmission fluid is
typically red in color, and rear diff fluid is really smelly due to the high sulfer
content.  There should absolutely be NO fuel leaks or smell of fuel coming
from under the hood or anywhere else; flooding problems can cause fuel smells to eminate
from the tailpipes though.
Lights - In addition to the headlights, check all the auxiliary lamps, including
the interior ones.  Exterior aux. includes:  turn signals, hazards, license
plate, all running lights.  Interior aux. includes:  dome light, instrument
cluster, and hatch.  You don't want to bother trying to track down the proper
replacements - this is a safety issue.
Most of the above information in this Preliminary section can be applied to almost all
vehicles when looking for a potential used car to buy.  The subsequent sections will
cover more specific areas to the FC3S turbo!
- Under the hood - check the panels for wrinkling or signs of body work/repaint.
Also check the bolt heads for the both front fenders, hood latch, and any of the bolts
along the front edge right behind the front bumper skin - if the bolts were disturbed,
this is a good sign that there was front end damage.  Check also the alignment of
the flip-up headlights, as these get easy tweaked in a front-end accident.
- In the back hatch - try and see if you can pull the carpet panels in the rear.
Check for obvious signs of rear end collision in addition to water leaks into the
interior of the hatch area.
- Door jambs - paints jobs usually ignore the door jamb areas, so signs of repainting
is a red flag.
- Under the car - check for obvious damages, especially from the front, rear, and
corners of the vehicle.  Look also for damage from use of badly placed jacks, which
can crush subframes and dent floors!
The engine is about the most important (and expensive) part of the car.  If the engine
isn't in good working condition, the car is literally worth dirt.  A good rebuild will
cost in the neighborhood of $2,000 - almost everything else on the car can be bought for
several hundred dollars from a wrecker (if you can locate one).  J-Spec engines
(engines imported into the U.S. from Japan) can be bought for about $1,000, but it's
not a 100% guarantee those engines will be good; even with warranties, the hassles of
losing labor on removing and installing the engines and shipping it across country is a lot
Most of these vehicles are rolling over 100,000 miles or easily above that.  FC's with
original engines with this kind of original mileage will need a rebuild soon, especially
if you're going to chase higher performance output; the apex seals on a 100,000 miles engine
is too thin to take any more abuse, especially when boost starts to rise.  Replacing
these out-of-tolerance apex seals necessitates a complete tear-down, so you might as well
rebuild the entire engine at the same time.  Keep in mind, a full set of OEM Mazda parts
is going to cost you $1,000 very easily.  Add in the labor costs for an engine rebuild,
and it easily eclipses the $2,000 mark mentioned earlier.
It is very hard to ascertain the condition of the internals of the engine very easily, and
the agreed upon method is a compression test.  A rotary engine would normally require
a specialized Mazda meter, but most people don't have access to one locally; you can try and
contact your local Mazda dealer to see if they can do a "rotary engine compression test" for
you.  A piston engine compression tester is usually used as a substitute; we need to
bypass or remove the check valve that keeps the highest compression reading in the gauge.
By defeating the check valve, we can monitor the three faces of each rotor easily.  The
key to this "modified" compression test is to shoot for three, even bounces on the compression
tester gauge needle.  Uneven bounces would indicate a bad seal.  Readings between
front and rear rotors should be pretty close; the Mazda tolerance is around 20psi between
front and rear rotors.  "Good" engines should be able to hit around the 100psi mark.
Anything lower than 70psi is indicative of a tired engine that needs a rebuild.  Bottom
line is you want even readings from all rotors face and from front to rear rather than several
really high peaks mixed in with a bunch of lower ones.  Any uneven readings is a hint of
a possible blown engine.
Any hints of engine damage should discount the vehicle to the "under $1,000" category; the
car is only worth several thousand in "pristine" condition - check the KBB site mentioned
at the top of this page.  FC's with engine trouble should not be bothered with unless
you're able to do an engine rebuild and fit it in your budget.  A chassis with a blown
engine can be an economical path to owning an FC turbo, as J-Spec engines keep an engine
swap pretty reasonable.
It's only natural to mention the turbo right after the engine; most people seem to always
ask about them pretty early in the conversation.  The only real way to check the
working condition of the turbo is to take it out for a test drive.  If the car already
has an aftermarket boost gauge, that'll help a lot.  A stock Zenki FC turbo produces
5.5psi, while a stock Kouki FC turbo producs 7.5psi of boost.  On the stock boost
gauge this is about 1/2 to 2/3 up on the gauge sweep.  The power should come on
smoothly, with the Zenki producing turbo power at 4,000RPM, while the Kouki FC turbo
produces power a little lower at 3,000RPM.
ANY abnormal noises while the turbo is spooling is bad.  Cars running cone filter
intakes can produce higher levels of turbo noises, so don't be alarmed if your vehicle
has an open filter system.
The stock turbos usually last 80,000 - 100,000 with proper care.  Rebuilding is
relatively cheap as the stock Hitachi units are designed like the Garrett T04 turbos
units; any Garrett turbo shop should be able to sell you a turbo rebuild kit for a little
Zenki turbos are pretty cheap to replace, as good, used units are for sale for under $100;
you really should not pay more than $200 for a good Zenki turbo, as there are lot of them
out there for sale.  A good Kouki turbo, OTOH, is a bit more rare and commands more
money to purchase.  Typical prices for a good, used Kouki turbo is starts easily at
$300 and goes up.
While test driving, if the exhaust suddenly starts to smoke while under boost, the
turbo needs to be rebuilt.
Next to the engine, the transmission is probably the most expensive part of the car to
replace.  A transmission rebuild from a reputable transmission shop is at least
$1,000!  Note, all North American FC turbo only came with 5-speed manual
transmissions; be wary of owners who claims they have an "automatic turbo".
Outside of the U.S. and Canada, there were automatic turbo models, so this really
applies to any U.S./Canada vehicle.
The transmission is also one of those components that takes the most abuse from
(bad) drivers.  Synchros are usually the first to go then the gears themselves.
The transmission should not be making ANY noises at any time.  Under normal
driving, the transmission should shift gears smoothly and quickly.  Grinding
during shifting should throw up a red flag; the problem could be as simple as a
failing pilot bearing to a failing gear.  ANY transmission work is costly, as
labor rates for removal and replacement is usually set at $300 from the Mazda dealer.
This means you need to pay a minimum of $300 (to the Mazda dealer) to even look
at the problem!
A "sloppy shifter" problem can cause excessive rattling, but it can eliminated (when
trying to isolate the transmission or the shifter) by holding the shifter to see if
the abnormal noise goes away; the floppy shifter problem can easily be fixed by replacing
the worn shifter bushings:
A worn clutch can be easily diagnosed through this procedure:
Keep in mind that due to the big differences in ratios between
1st and 2nd gear, any shifts up at redline will result in a nasty grind from these
transmissions - keep shifts from 1st to 2nd under 6,500RPM.
Good, used transmissions usually go from $250 to $500.  New clutches are usually
around $200 - $350 for a "clutch kit", which includes the clutch disc and pressure
Rest of Drivetrain:
This would include everything behind the transmission.  For the most part, the
rest of the drivetrain is usually problem-free and can handle a fair amount of
abuse.  Unless the car was severly abused (transmission would tell you),
everything behind the transmission should be in good shape.  About the only
common problem is "clunking" during acceleration, which would point to a possible
failing front differential mount.  This would include:  driveshaft, rear
differential, rear axles.
The driveshaft is designed with non-rebuildable u-joints.  You can get the
original retrofitted with rebuildable u-joints from a reputable driveshaft shop.
The rear diff can take a lot of abuse, even from mildly modified engines.  If you
do hear definite grinding noises from the rear of the car, especially during turning,
then the rear diff needs to be examined - you really should stay away from a car that
makes grinding noises in the rear unless you're prepared for the worst, a dead rear
diff.  The FC turbos all came with LSD's in North America, but they do not exhibit
any noise during normal operation.  Even with this "bonus", most Zenki FC turbos
will already have worn LSD's, which usually kill their clutch packs within a paltry
30,000 - 50,000 miles; Kouki FC turbos run viscous LSD's which last a lot longer.
The axles do have CV boots on them, as the IRS design requires it, but these CV
boots are a little more robust than FWD vehicles due to the fact that the tires
never turn.  A quick peak underneath with a flashlight should show the CV joints
on the rear axles in good shape.  If the CV boots are torn, be careful as the
entire axle (side) could be bad.
Under the hood:
Keep in mind if you need to pass emissions or not.  If local emissions test require
a visual, you can't have things missing or have a lot of shiny, aftermarket parts under
the hood.  Typically, most FC's have lots of hard, rubber vacuum lines that are very
brittle; check for broken vacuum lines, especially over the turbo where heat is
concentrated.  Silicone vacuum lines is a good idea, even though it might pique
the interest in an emissions test.
The wiring is also prone to turning brittle; a quick visual check to
see if the wiring has been compromised is a good idea.  Check the area behind
the alternator, as the engine wiring harness tends to abrade easily back there.  As
with vacuum hoses, check the wiring in and above the turbo, as the heat causes the
wiring to fail easily.  Most suspect are the wires for the O2 sensor and ACV.
Very slow coolant leaks can sometimes be spotted for the tall-tale sign of white crud
in and around coolant fittings.  Check the radiator hoses (upper and lower), thermostat
cover (upper radiator hose clamps onto this), and the radiator itself.  The stock
radiator uses an aluminum core with plastic entanks, and the crimp edges can develop
Oil leaks can spring up from a number of places.  If the engine is pretty dirty, look
for really dirty areas where dirty and crud have accumulated.  Dirt and crud do not
normally stick to clean surfaces, so the oil helps them to stick to the engine and engine
bay.  A good-sized oil leak would still be wet with oil.  There are a number of
places that are common oil leak areas:
If you can get the engine to start and idle, the engine should run pretty smoothly.
If the idle is loping or lumpy, it could be due a number of problems.  While under
the hood, also check:
- Oil cooler lines - if the oil cooler lines are leaking at the fittings, it could
be a loose fitting or bad sealing washer.  If the stock oil cooler lines are leaking
at the crimps, they can fail at any time.  We recommend replacing the stock, original
oil cooler lines if you can afford to.
- Oil pan - they all typically leak on most FC's.  Trying to seal the oil
pan without producing any oil leaks is something of a miracle.
- Oil filter pedestal - this is a nasty one.  Oil leaking from here can
cause a heater hose failure which can lead to overheating and eventual meltdown of the
engine is not immediately shut-down.
- Others - there is a more comprehensive list of oil leaks (and other types of
fluid leaks) listed in the Problems section here:
Some specific parts that should've been changed by now.  Ask the seller if they have all
been changed or be prepared to pay for the maintenance yourself (i.e. start deducting more
from the asking price!).
- Spark plugs/wires - make sure there's no spark arcing or glowing parts on the
spark plugs wires or coils.
- Belts/pulleys - no squealing from belts or pulleys due to slipping or failing
- Leaks - no increase in leaks, with exception of AC condensation water run-off
- Brake/clutch fluid reserviors - fluid should be honey colored and very
transparent.  If the fluid is dark or black/brown, it needs to be bled.  Brake
and clutch bleed should've been done prior to sale by owner.  If the fluid (in the
brake master cylinder) looks especially bad, be prepared to fork out large sums of money
for a complete brake overhaul, as water-logged brake fluid can rust brake parts from
the inside out!
- Clutch hydraulics - all clutch hydraulics components should've been changed
by now, or they will fail very soon.  This includes the clutch master cylinder,
clutch slave hose, and clutch slave cylinder.  It is recommended that all three
be changed at the same time; you'll end up doing so within a few days anyways!
- Brake master cylinder - same deal with the clutch hydraulics, the brake master
cylinder is in the same category.
- Air filter - if the air filter is original, it should be nasty by now!
- Spark plugs wires - these should not be original by now!  If they are
original, it's highly recommended to change them now.
- Oil filter - this is a rather obvious one, but better safe than sorry!
Starting the engine:
The engine should crank and start in about 2 seconds (1 Mississippi - 2 Mississippi)
which would correspond to 3 revolutions of the engine, if you can count them by ear.
Keep in mind that the engine starts easier when it's cold - always remember to
to a hot-start (restart engine after engine fully warmed up), as it should start at
about the same time as a cold-start.  Any problems with a hot-start could indicate
potentially expensive problems with the engine; a hot-start problem could be simple
engine flooding (i.e. dirty fuel injectors) or a tired motor (i.e. bad compression).
Whatever the case, be very wary of an FC that has hot-start problems.
The idle should be steady and at 750RPM, which is Mazda spec.  Variation is stated at
+ or - 50RPM, so idle should read anywhere from 700RPM to 800RPM.  Be wary of cars
that have elevated idles, as the idle could be bumped up to cover other problems.
Intake vacuum leaks are notorious, and bumping the idle is a trick to get the engine to
idle steadily enough to mask them.  Whatever the case, an FC idling 1,000RPM is higher
should be considered suspicious.
When the engine is idling steadily, check around the car for any leaks.
Watch the exhaust for any hints of smoke.  A very slight trail of smoke is okay.
Prolonged smoking, even minute, is indication of a tire turbo or tire oil seal in the engine.
The "acid test" of the engine oil seals is to rev the engine to 4kRPM and hold for at least
15 seconds.  If smoking starts to pour out of the exhaust, the engine oil seals need
to be replaced.  Replacing the internal oil seals requires tearing the entire engine
apart - in essence, it's an engine rebuild.
The car should drive very smoothly from a stop.  Keep an eye on the tach to make sure
the engine revs smoothly down to idle speed when coming to a stop.  Keep an eye also
for the infamous 3,800RPM hesitation
by allowing the engine to rev repeatedly through that RPM range while driving.  The
engine should also pull smoothly all the way to redline; the engines were designed to rev
occasionally to redline, so a knowledgable owner should not be surprised by you trying to
do so.  High RPM hesitations can be indications of fuel pump/filter, ignition, or TPS
There should not be any abnormal noises coming from the chassis.  "Clunks" produced
from accelerating from a stop or slowing down can be indications of broken engine,
transmission, differential, or front upper strut mounts.
A quick test for the clutch is located here:
Brakes should stop the car quickly and smoothly.  The FC is known to have a fairly
"soft" top pedal travel, so don't be alarm if the top 1/4th of brake pedal travel doesn't
seem to be doing anything.  As long as the car repeatedly stops at the same pedal
travel point all the time, the brakes are fine.  If the brake pedal is "spongy" or
doesn't respond very well, that could hint at a potential brake job - at the very least,
a brake bleed.
Remember to boost the turbo a little and keep an eye out on smoking coming from the
Plastic trim pieces are very brittle, so finding broken or missing pieces should not be
A lot of the interior electronics are notorious for going bad.
- Center stereo/AC Logicon surround - Zenki FC's only.  Kouki FC's changed
to a softer, rubber material that is better.
- Power mirror "sail" covers - this is the black triangle piece that "backs" the
power mirrors on the doors.
- Side dash vents - these are the diamond-shaped vents in the extreme left and
right ends of the dash (top).
- Defroster vents - this is the thin vent that's at the base of the windshield.
The vent runs across almost the entire width of the dashboard (top).
- Warning cluster surround - although pretty thick, owners who don't know how to
remove this panel properly tend to damage this plastic piece easily.
- Arm rest console - this arm rest isn't as strong most other types.  The
whole assembly is secured by 4 small screws to plastic - not even a metal frame!
Too much pressure or a quick lean with the body (like when you're grabbing something
from the back) can easily crack the mounts.
- AC Logicon - this component controls the vent positions and heat/cold temps.
This is one of a list of components that are plagued by cold solder joints problems.
If climate controls is isolated to just heat/cold temps, then is could possible be the
air mix motor gone bad.
- Wiper cluster switch - any problems with the wipers can usually be traced to
the wiper cluster switch.
- Power window switches - dirty contacts on one (usually driver's side) or
both power window switches can cause intermittent power window operation.
- Stereo - it's a piece of junk!  Aftermarket stereos and speakers
provide better quality sound, period.
- Power antenna - they are very prone to failing, but a $40 replacement
antenna mast from the Mazda dealer will usually fix them.
- "CPU" - this component located in the driver's side footwell kickpanel
controls the horn, turn signals, hazard lights, etc.  Problems with these
components (especially the horn) is due to bad cold solder joints in the CPU itself.
- Warning cluster/clock - a flickering or constantly resetting clock is
a sign of even more colder solder joints problems in the warning cluster itself.
The car already goes through a self-test for all the warning lamps:  when you first
key the ignition "ON" before cranking, all the warning lamps should light up.  Any
lamps not lit might have dead bulbs or bad cold solder joints.  It's highly
recommended to resolder the warning cluster to fix all these problems.
- "The Bounce Test" - this is the test you do when you bounce each corner of
the car with car sitting still.  If the car is running original shocks, the rears
are notorious for failing by now.  Nothing short of an inspection by jacking the
wheels up and looking for the leaking hydraulic fluid can confirm their condition.
A quick & dirty test is to just push down on the corner of the car as hard as you can
and see if it oscillates a few times.  "Good" shocks should go down (i.e. compress)
come back up (i.e. rebound) and settle.  If you see the chassis bouncing a few
more times more than that, the shock is bad - make sure to test both rear corners.
To conclude, most Zenki FC turbos should go for about $2,000.  Kouki FC turbos should
go for about $4,000.  We regularly find "bargains" which include either blown engines
or other "major" problems (we rebuild engines or swap other parts) or ignorant owners
which cannot perform basic troubleshooting (problem turns out to be a flooded engine or
loose hose clamp).  These bargain cars are bought at $500 or cheaper!  I realize
that there are some people who have a hard time trying to locate these cars locally, or
they are just very rare to come across.  Try some of the online car selling listings
as listed below if you're having a particularly hard time trying to find one; these cars
also regularly pop up on eBay.
Classifieds 2000 Autos
RX-7 Forum - For Sale, 2nd Gen RX-7
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