Mazda Bongo Problems: Are They Reliable?

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In my opinion. the Mazda Bongo is a great little budget choice for a campervan conversion, but the reduced price comes at the cost of quality. There are some common problems that owners experience with these Japanese-made vans including overheating, starting issues, and gearbox problems. 

The Mazda Bongo problems mean that they depreciate faster than other makes such as VW campers but if you know what to look out for then you can possibly grab yourself a bargain.

Are Mazda Bongos reliable?

Mazda Bongos originate from Japan where they finished production in 2005. A cheaper alternative to VW campervans, they were quickly snapped up by bargain hunters who appreciated the cute classic styling for their conversions. 

Unfortunately, Mazda Bongo campervans have a poor reputation that has been earned due to the many technical failures experienced by owners. I have known them to fail completely after 10 years but it is possible to keep a Bongo on the road if you keep it serviced and have a little mechanical experience yourself. 

I think that Mazda Bongos are a labor of love with so many potential Mazda Bongo problems to deal with. If you are prepared to keep on top of servicing and look after the mechanics and bodywork you will enjoy years of traveling in this classic. There are plenty of Bongo enthusiasts in online groups who are willing to share their advice and expertise to keep you going. Be aware that you may need to source a garage that specializes in repairing these classics. You can usually source parts online. 

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Mazda Bongo common problems

I have found that many Bongos suffer from rust, and you do need to look after the bodywork if you are going to prevent corrosion. This can particularly affect the real wheel arches. Undersealing can help prevent corrosion.

You also need to be aware that Bongos are available as a diesel 4WD, but they have a low clearance that will not give you a traditional 4WD performance. 

The Mazda Bongo problems include mechanical and design issues. As well as the common gearbox issues you could experience difficulties with the elevating roof, starter problems, turbo issues, the thermostat, sliding door, engine cutting out, and the 2.5 diesel engine problems. Once you know what to look out for, you can try to prevent these Mazda Bongo problems from occurring and save yourself from incurring a sizeable repair bill.

Mazda Bongo gearbox problems

Often Mazda Bongo gearbox problems lead to the need for reconditioning the gearbox. To diagnose a fault in the gearbox you will need to take a look at the transmission fluid, gears, filters, and bell housing. 

Automatic gearboxes on Mazda Bongos are often caused by a solenoid issue that prevents the gearbox from engaging in top gear. If you are buying an Automatic Bongo you are advised to test drive it over 50mph to check for this particular issue.

Mazda Bongo elevating roof problems

Many Mazda Bongo owners complain that they have problems operating the elevating roof. This problem will almost always be down to a failed motor or a wiring issue. 

It is best to remember that the roof does not like to be opened if you are parked on a slope. The extra weight put on the struts can cause them to buckle and then the roof will not close. 

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Mazda Bongo starting problems

Starting issues are very common on Mazda Bongos. Usually, the problem stems from either the battery or a failure of the glow plugs. Replacing the glow plugs will often solve the problem but you do need to take care not to snap them when removing them as you could end up spending even more dollars. You might need a garage to check out the wiring to ensure that the glow plugs are not failing due to faulty relay switching.

Mazda Bongo turbo problems

If your Mazda Bongo is feeling a bit sluggish then it might be the Turbo that has failed. You will need to check out all the pipework around the back of the head to the turbo inlet. You can also check for damage to the intercooler, pipework, and scoop. If there is no visible damage to repair, then you will need to replace the turbo unit. 

Mazda Bongo thermostat problems

If you are having temperature gauge problems on your Mazda Bongo it could be down to a faulty thermostat. It is important to deal with this issue as genuine overheating can cause the failure of the head gasket which is one of the more common Mazda Bongo problems. If, however, you check your radiators and find them not to be overheating then a sticky thermostat may be the culprit and can be replaced to solve the issue. 

Mazda Bongo sliding door problems

Mazda Bongo sliding door problems are common especially as your model gets older. It is often caused by dry runners that make opening and closing difficult. You can easily apply some grease along the top, bottom, and rear side panels to help the situation. 

Mazda Bongo cutting out problems

If you have ever started driving your Mazda Bongo and then experienced the disappointing sudden cutting out of the engine that brings you to a standstill, then it may well be a simple fix. It is often caused by air getting into the fuel supply. You can try driving the Bongo with the fuel cap loosened but first check out the fuel cap as there is a tiny hole that needs to be kept clear of grime and debris. This is easily cleaned with a quick poke. 

If these ideas don’t work, then you can look at the thimble filter on the top of the tank as the valve may have become blocked. 

Mazda Bongo 2.5 diesel engine problems

The biggest problem with the Mazda 2.5 diesel engine is overheating which leads to a head gasket failure. You can diagnose this easily by looking under the hood and looking inside the header tank. Any oil inside means that the head gasket has failed. 

Dealing with overheating issues quickly can prevent the most common Mazda Bong problem: head gasket failure. 

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How many miles can a Mazda Bongo last?

Some Mazda Bongos do not last beyond five to ten years if they are not well maintained. As they stopped being produced in 2005 the classic versions still available have already survived the 10-year mark and will most likely have had maintenance and repairs carried out over the years to keep them on the road and solve common Mazda Bongo problems. 

You will see many Mazda Bongos for sale that have done up to 300,000km on the clock so you can expect to get plenty more mileage out of a model that had only done 120,000km providing you keep it serviced and are prepared to replace the parts that fail.