The 323 was Mazda's entry-level small car, lasting two generations from 1986 to 1994. Below are the common problems associated with the vehicle from 1988 to 1994, the years such information is available for.
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1988 to 1989
The last two model years from the 323's first generation were plagued with faulty front safety belt buckle release buttons. These red buttons--marked "Press"--broke easily, with the pieces falling into the buckle assembly and causing the buckle to operate improperly. If you are an owner of a 1988 or 1989 Mazda 323, you should periodically check the buckles by inserting each latch plate into its buckle and tugging on the belt to make sure everything is securely locked. Buckles can be replaced or repaired free of charge at your local authorised dealership.
With the debut of the second and last 323 generation, some cars of the first entry eventually developed faulty air conditioners due to leaking refrigerants, squealing brakes and clutch, steering problems, and water leaks in the passenger compartment.
The most persistent problem with the Mazda 323 for its last five model years, however, is with the front passenger-side automatic shoulder safety belts. Over time, the belt's rail can wear to the extent that the cable that retracts the buckle assembly can become jammed in the rail. This effectively renders the entire belt inoperable, and would be far from sufficient to restrain the seat occupant should a crash occur. Dealers can replace the defective belt with a dust lip and can inspect vehicles with properly functioning belts to make sure the rails are not worn enough to cause major concern.
1991 to 1992
Expect vibration in the steering wheel from these model years as well, which can be resolved by replacing bad motor mounts and radiator mounts.
Brakes with squealing and/or pedal pulsations can extend to this year; replacing the original car brakes would solve the problem. The same applies to the water leaks, which can be fixed by applying sealing material on the heater pipes.
Original clutch squealing and off-centre steering persisted to the last model year (and the end of the 323's production run). Disc replacement and repositioning or adjustment of the tie rods, can resolve the problems.
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