Cracked cylinder head while stationed overseas (2017 CX-9)

So we have an incredibly unique situation, and I’m hoping there’s someone out there who can help us, because we’re grasping at straws at this point…

When we arrived back in the States in 2020 after being stationed overseas, we wanted to find a good, reliable “mom car” to transport my son, and future children, around. We decided on a 2017 certified pre-owned CX-9. We thought this size car was great for our growing family, and we loved the advantages of certified pre-owned over new, since cars depreciate so quickly after driving off the lot. Plus we would have additional coverage for longer, since we planned on essentially running my car into the ground.

Last year, when we found out we were being stationed in Germany, I felt confident bringing my car with us because I knew it would be reliable and it would be a safe car for my two toddlers. We arrived in October of last year, and my car arrived the following month. In February, my husband was changing my oil and noticed a leak. After doing some research, he learned my car was notorious for having a cracked motor head. This is a common, expensive repair, but unfortunately it hasn’t been recalled by Mazda. Knowing my car was certified pre-owned and had a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, I reached out to Mazda Customer Experience to see how this could be fixed since we were overseas. I reached out to German Mazda, as well as the Mazda dealership where we purchased the car and the dealership at our last duty station, since they knew me by name and were always so helpful.

Mazda Customer Experience assigned us a case manager on February 21 and said they would be in contact with us as to what they could do to help us with our repairs. We were told since we’re outside the United States, they typically do not cover any repairs, but since we’re military on orders, they were looking into an exception to help reimburse us.

After a couple weeks of back and forth with Mazda Customer Experience, we were getting restless since I was without my car in a foreign country and really needed an answer. We were told by Mazda Customer Experience to even consider reimbursing us, we would need to take my car to a certified Mazda dealership for an official diagnosis. We towed my car to the closest dealership for them to look at it. We were warned by the German Mazda dealership that this wouldn’t be cheap. They wanted 2000 euro to even look at it, as my car’s engine would need to be disassembled to find the crack. We explained the costs to Mazda Customer Experience, and they again told us they wouldn’t give us an answer without an official diagnosis. Being the optimist I am and having a generally positive outlook about people and their ability to do the right thing, I trusted Mazda and hoped we would get positive news about them reimbursing us after the diagnosis. Indeed it was a cracked head. I gave Mazda Customer Experience the diagnosis and sent the estimates for repair in an email on Tuesday, April 9. Unfortunately, the cost to fix it was a little over 9,000 euro, since my car is not made in Europe and the parts had to be shipped from the US.

I was told I’d have an answer at the end of the week as to whether they could reimburse us for repairs or not. When Friday came, we were assigned a new case manager because of our unique situation and was told to give them even MORE time to figure out a solution. After a week of this, my husband spoke on the phone with the new case manager. She seemed somewhat positive about reimbursement and told my husband it wasn’t a matter of if they would reimburse us, but how, since they couldn’t send a check overseas or pay the German Mazda dealership directly.

Finally, the saga concluded this last Monday, April 29 with a resolution: Mazda would not pay for repairs. After two months of back and forth, after shelling out thousands of dollars for a diagnosis, we found out we will not be reimbursed for the repair that is a known issue with my car — that would be fixed for free in the States under my warranty — because we were living overseas on military orders when my car stopped working.

Needless to say, we’re upset. Yes, we understand we technically voided our contract by bringing my car overseas. Yes, we know we’re not owed anything for being a military family and don’t expect people to bend over backwards for us. Yes, we should have known we were not guaranteed reimbursement from the get-go. But we feel like we should be given a tad bit of grace. The only reason I brought my car over is because I love my car, it is paid off, and it’s a safe, dependable car to transport my children around. If I had the foresight to know my car would not be dependable and Mazda would not honor their promise to fix my car if we brought it with us while living overseas, I would have sold it before we left. Our biggest fault in this whole situation is having trust in Mazda.

I know our situation is extremely unique, but has anyone had a similar experience while being stationed overseas? Or does anyone have advice about who I could contact within Mazda to explain our situation? We spoke with our case manager’s supervisor, who told us the case manger(s) should have told us months ago they would never cover this and was extremely rude and unhelpful to my husband. (Would have been nice to know a couple thousand dollars ago, but I digress…) But if anyone can point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!
Terrible situation. This is a tough one because of how unique your situation is. Very few people have shipped US Mazda's to Germany and then to run into a huge repair really sucks.

One thing stood out as odd. The engine doesn't have to be disassembled to diagnose the cracked head. You shouldn't have had to deal with such an expensive diagnosis before even repairing it.

I can't offer much advice on getting this all sorted out with Mazda. Legally they have no obligation covering this overseas. It's going to hurt if you have to pay out of pocket if you even can. But since it's paid off, it's still cheaper than selling and starting a new car loan. A new engine block should be good to go for many years to come. Sorry you're on this mess.
melsee, you are in a tough spot. I agree with JPL, the cracked cylinder head can be spotted from the outside looking at the back of the engine where the turbocharger attaches; one will see dried green coolant. Disassembly of the engine is not needed for diagnosis. €2,000 = $2,150. €9,000 = $9,688.

A couple of thoughts...contract the Congressional representative in your home district and your state's Senators. They have constituent services staff who might intercede with Mazda North America to get you the parts you need and hopefully also pay for the labor. Imply that you, a service member's family member, will write a glowing letter to the editor of the main newspaper in their region and some social media posts before the election about how big their help was...if it works out.

Does your base in Germany have staff to help with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections for service members? Your situation is not exactly covered in the SCRA, but it's worth a try. (Or the SCRA may be valid only within the U.S.) Or maybe the legal staff on the base can help put some pressure on Mazda North America to make good on Mazda's bad engine design.

Is there social media that a very large number of service members or families follow? And you could make postings about how good...or bad...Mazda's customer service is to encourage...or discourage...them from buying a Mazda?
I agree the work for the diagnostic is strange to say the least. They shouldn’t meed to disassemble it to diagnose it.

Also, the common symptom of a cracked head on these cars is coolant leak (green fluid), not oil leak. This would indicate it might have cracked somewhere less usual than most everyone else.

What is the status of the car right now? Is it still disassembled?

- if they have already removed the head and stripped it, then that cost may already be paid for and you would only have to pay for the rest. (Instead of paying to have it put back together to send to another garage). Considering you are overseas and it would be near impossible to sell it locally. It would be worrh

If it is still assembled, i would see if.
- you can get the job done at a local mechanic, it would be significantly cheaper than at the dealer, but you have to find a good one that you can trust. (Easier said than done in a foreign country).
- if you are on a big base with military mechanics, you may have an automotive club (car club) with people willing to do it as a project.
- left field idea, but you could see if it is cheaper to have the car shipped back to the states to get the work done under warranty there. Ship it to a friend or directly to the dealer, get the repair done under warranty and sell the car. (As long as mazda still honours their warranty).

Also, since it is an american car, you may be able to get the unique parts cheaper through the US shipped to the base. You can ask the dealer a list of parts and order them online if they are willing to work with your parts.
You're in a unique situation. Super crappy.

I bought a new US-Spec BMW while living in The Netherlands. BMW NL did not recognize the US's longer warranty nor did they recognize the pre-paid maintenance. Also, some parts (like air filters) were unique and always a hassle. And when it was time to sell, nobody wanted a US-spec BMW. While I loved the car, I never bought another US-market car while I was over there.

How long will you be overseas?

I'd probably pay to have your car shipped back to the states while the car is under warranty. The engine replacement is going to be expensive regardless of your location. It will be cheaper to spend $1500 to ship the car and have the head/engine replacement done under warranty.
Kind of piling on here. Hate to hear about your situation and it is unique in some sense being in Germany. My wife and I had something similar happen too, but as your situation with Mazda Corporate isn't unique really at all. Mazda acted almost exactly like this to us as they did to you. Our CX9 had 61,000 miles and was 2.5 months out of the PT warranty. This was in late september of 2022. My wife and I were in the process of a move to a different state when we found the coolant spewing through the undertray. I called Mazda to see about "throwing us a bone" as we were just out of warranty. Like you, only to get stall after stall on any decision. Mind you at this point we were 2.5 weeks from closing on our house where the car was (in the state we were moving from).

We had no choice but to just pay for the repair as we needed the car and were stuck in a tight spot (sort of like you) with moving. We were able to limp the car to the dealer, but didn't want to take it anywhere else, as we just didn't have the time at that point. I called a couple other import shops where I personally knew the owners, and they didn't want to touch it. The Mazda sales people at the dealer it was as just told us to trade it I was like, "MF'ers I ain't buying another Mazda after this, because no one wants to help even a little bit". Everyone I talked to acted like this was no big deal at Mazda, whether local or corporate. Catastrophic engine failure IS NOT NORMAL!

That being said, the customer service people at Mazda corporate I talked to on the phone sounded like they had a 5th grade education at best. But, again, I waited and waited after phone call after phone call to get a decision out of them. So again, we just pulled the trigger on the repair as they said it would be done before our move.

The car is working and in our hands, but the story doesn't end there. So to twist the knife a bit futher, I got a call from Mazda corporate in February of 2023 out of the blue. Mind you this is 4-5 months after getting the car back. I thought maybe they were calling to help us out in some capacity. same idiot girl that I talked to multiple times back in September of 2022, called to tell us Mazda was denying our request for!

The following month in March of 2023, I go to change the oil, and I find oil all over on the undertray. The tech that worked on our car didn't seal the flywheel bolts as we had oil leaking from the bellhousing (Not to mention he broke countless clips, countless bolts missing, didn't tighten an alternator braket bolt in at all). To get the flywheel bolts sealed, it cost us another 2k as we had to have the engine and trans cracked back apart obviously. Mazda claimed the trans was leaking and needed a new trans at a cost of 6K. So I had a local import shop look at it, the tech knew right away what the issue was and they fixed it in a day or two. Just a mess of a situation altogether, and no one at Mazda gives a flippin crap about any of it.

This isn't normal, and it shouldn't be normalized like these car makers are starting to do with these kind of major issues. I hope Mazda fails at this point, as they deserve every bit of the hurt that is coming their way for treating customers like us, like this.

Anyway, I'm hoping you can in some odd way find some comfort in knowing you aren't alone in this.
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