• Jul 5th 2010 at 8:46AM
  • 25
2009 BMW Z4 sDrive30i – Click above for high-res image gallery

Following all the criticism federal regulators received earlier this year for letting Toyota safety defects go unaddressed, everyone is taking a closer look customer complaints. The 2007-9 Mazda3 and the 2003-5 BMW Z4 are both being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration following consumer complaints about a loss of power steering assist. Three Mazda crashes and one BMW accident are being blamed on the steering issue.

Although the specific circumstances vary for each of the vehicles, in either case the loss of assist results in significantly increased effort to turn the steering wheel. The Mazda uses an electro-hydraulic assist system and Mazda issued a technical service bulletin (TSB) in 2009 related to this issue. Contamination in the pump can cause it slow down reducing the available assist. A TSB is sent out to dealers to correct an issue if a car comes in for service or a customer complains but fall short of a full recall. The Z4 has an electric power steering system that seems to have issues at higher speeds and temperatures.

Photos by Sam Abuelsamid / Max Abuelsamid / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
[Source: BusinessWeek]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Its about time... the Mazda3/Mazda5 power steering issue has been going on for far too long.... and the heat of summer seems to have brought them back out of the woodwork. We dealt with a number of them at the Mazda dealer I worked for last year, a few over winter, but in the past few weeks the sheer amount of cars needing revised pumps and lines has been staggering.

      I was looking at the pile of old parts removed from the affected cars, wondering when this was going to turn into a recall....
      • 5 Years Ago
      Arrgghh the ghastly sea of red in that pic
      • 5 Years Ago
      If there was a remote possibilty of the active steering going into a failsafe or inoperable mode I am pretty sure there would be an innumerable amount of flashing lights and audible sounds to alert the driver of their impending doom
        • 5 Years Ago
        On the 3 a small power steering light turns on once our power steering goes out. No warning or anything.
        • 5 Years Ago
        On the newer bimmers there are over 400 check control messages just to overwhelm the drivers. I would prefer that there is one light that says ' problem '
      • 5 Years Ago
      Agent Smith: What good is an "Ultimate Driving Machine"...if...your unable to turn?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well I was just pulling your leg...

        "I love electronics."

        but really?
        • 5 Years Ago
        SimpleCar you have gone to far, we all know you drive a car that has power steering.............

        SimpleCar must get inside his car every day and point and yell at everything electronic in it then continues his day taking advantages of all of those electronics. He then comes home and vents about how his radio nearly god him killed.

        I'd hate to see what would happen if Pimp my Ride got a hold of his car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Agent Smith: What good is an "Ultimate Driving Machine"...if...your unable to turn?"

        At least you'll be able to "Zoom-Zoom-Zoom" in a straight line....
        • 5 Years Ago
        You are perfectly able to turn if the power steering fails. It's not like you're suddenly out of steering ability.

        The problem here is one that is most predictable: people who have no idea what power steering is and/or don't know what it feels like to steer without it on a car that has it, suddenly assumed that their steering "broke" and that they could no longer steer. In fact, you can, you just have to use a bit more force.

        If this happened at speed, most people wouldn't even notice. It only needs significant effort at very low (parking lot) speeds, especially with wide tires. At these speeds, a stomp on the brake pedal will result in an almost instant stop anyway.

        PS failing is not good, of course, but it's hardly the end of the world.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Tsk tsk tsk...FordGTguy, I thought you were better than that. I love electronics. I was merely poking fun at BMW. Not a big fan of built-in sat nav, and other complex for the sake of being complex electronics or dangerously distracting to the driver. I've said it before, my DAILY DRIVER is a 98 Mirage, power nothing except steering. I have my toys, though.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is the Mazda description accurate? This says it is fails to reduce assist quickly enough. That would seem to lead to overboosted steering, which isn't much of a safety issue and isn't the problem described here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ah, what a language we have. Try placing a comma after "slow down" and then re-read for completely different meaning!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks like I'll be the first in this thread to point at that many of these failures come down to inadequate maintenance as well as poor design.

      BMW, for one manufacturer, arbitrarily changed the maintenance schedule when BMW went to free maintenance for first four years and 50K miles....D'Oh! How is it that an expensive maintenance schedule alluvasudden went away with no change in component materials or design just because BMW now pays for it?

      For example, there has been virtually no change in power steering pump design or materials for ten to twenty years, yet no manufacturer recommends changing the frick'n pump fluid? Something as simple as using a turkey baster to extract the fluid in the pump reservoir and refilling the reservoir with new fluid can be done by any owner (mommy can use a turkey baster in the oven but not under the hood? Sheesh!) yet isn't in the manual? And now Mazda and BMW are on the hot seat for power steering failures? Due to 'fluid contamination' no less.

      The more it changes the more it stays the same.
        • 5 Years Ago

        “BMW, for one manufacturer, arbitrarily changed the maintenance schedule when BMW went to free maintenance for first four years and 50K miles....”

        Wrong the engine and maintenance system were slowly integrated over years the cars were specifically designed for lower maintenance. Your “arbitrarily” comment has no basis.

        “ For example, there has been virtually no change in power steering pump design or materials for ten to twenty years.”

        Wrong again, The Z4 2003-2008 was the first BMW to use electronic power steering.

        “yet no manufacturer recommends changing the frick'n pump fluid? “

        The trifecta, in wrongness.

        The Z4 has no power steering fluid to maintain

        “The more it changes the more it stays the same.”

        I guess not so much.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Electrical steering is too susceptible to environmental factors. This a really a bad idea which i never liked.

      Some parts of a car should remain as mechanical as possible.
      • 5 Years Ago
      For those talking about the loss of power steering and how it should be no factor, let me say that you all are correct, but you don't understand the scope of the issue with the Z4s. As an owner of a suspect Z4 with a NHTSA reported "sticky steering" issue I can tell you a little more about it. The problem has nothing to do with the boost. When the car gets hot (summer hot) the steering gets notchy in that when you put the car in a slight turn, like changing lanes or going around a slight corner, the steering literally sticks in that position causing the driver to apply opposite pressure to "break" the wheel loose from the turn followed by another stick wherever the wheel is brought back to. Problem is that it causes massive oversteering issues at high speed unless you are looking for it. Extremely dangerous at highway speeds! BMW knew about it and released multiple PUMAs (their equivalent of a TSB) and even redesigned the suspect column, but refused to replace the older ones out of warranty. These are $2600 before labor and BMWNA has flat out told me that they wont cover a single dollar of it. I guess we will see NHTSA forces their hand!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Would be nice if they would look into the first gen MINI. My pump went out at 50K and overheats on track days and canyon runs if it's over 90F outside.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have had this problem in my mazda3 several times. One was coming up to rush hour traffic around a bend and almost didn't end well. Can you send in somewhere that you have had a problem.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My 2009 Mazda 3's pump just went about a month ago and it was replaced by Mazda in Canada. Service was top notch (including the rental car), but this really should be a recall. The failure occurred when a teen-aged family member was practicing for her driving test, and needless to say, panic ensued. Thankfully it was while practicing parallel parking--and not highway lane changes!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I know when I threw the PS belt on my Z32 (300zx) it was just about impossible to turn the wheel by hand.
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