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Q: My wiper arms are showing their age. The paint is chipped, and rust is showing. Is it OK to use Hammerite? (Mike from Rotherham)
A: Hammerite will be fine but use the Smooth Black variety. Better still, use Smoothrite (if you can find it) as it does not dry “lumpy” like Hammerite does. You can do this without removing the arms. Use a fine Emery Cloth to get rid of the rust, then apply the Hammerite/Smoothrite, either by spray or brush, and allow plenty of time to dry.
Q: Why do Bongos suffer from rusty rear wheel arches and sills? Is it a known design problem? (Brian from Motherwell)
A: You must remember that unlike European spec vehicles Japanese cars do not have rust-proofing. So nless the Bongo is undersealed on arrival problems can quickly arise. At the rear of the vehicle things are not helped by the fact that the inner arch and outer arch start to come apart over a period of time. This lets water in which expands the spot welded seam further until rust gets going. As the wheel arch lets in more water it collects down on the sill this then rusts through and gets into to the sill full length. Moisture from a non insulated van also rots the arches from the inside.
Q: I’m thinking of treating the rust on my Bongo myself. It’s particularly bad around the rear wheel arches. Does anyone have any recommended treatments or tips? (Richard from Lincoln)
A: There has been a lot of discussion about this on the Forum recently and a search for “Rust AND Treatment” will take you to the relevant sections. But in a nutshell the product Fertan is recommended once you have rubbed down to the bare metal. This is a rust inhibitor and used widely on narrowboats. For surface rust some Bongonauts have recommended the American product POR15. But whatever you use, remember that proper surface treatment is essential, before during and after. All welds and repairs need sealing properly, and never use polyester based filler as this will retain moisture.
Q: What is a cross member? (Simone Jones from Salisbury)
A: A cross member is someone who receives their new membership card in the post, only to find that their name has been mis-spelt.
Q: Thanks for clarifying that. But actually I think it’s something to do with corrosion. My Bongo has failed its MOT due to a “rusty cross member”. (Simon Jones from Salisbury)
A: Oh, sorry about that. The front cross member is the box that the front radiator sits on. It’s at the bottom of the radiator and holds it in place. This should not be confused with the panel at the top of the radiator which is called a slam panel.
Q: Will the wheel arch trim sold in the Bongo Shop fit late edition Bongos? (Nigel from Leicester)
A: Although the cut of the wheel arch is the same on all models, the sills are slightly different on series 5 and series 6 Bongos (after 2001). This means they will not fit without modification.
Q: Do you know where I can buy new wheel arch panels? (Anna from Alton)
A: If you look at the side of a Bongo you will see that the whole side of the vehicle is one panel. Which means that even if they are available from Japan, the freight charges are prohibitive. But there is an alternative if you are prepared to have your old arches cut out and new ones welded in, and these are available from our very own Bongo Shop (see the Exterior section). These are the same panels used on a Mercedes Sprinter (year 2000). They will provide a snug fit. Other members have used panels from a 2000-06 Ford Transit (LWB). See here for pictures.
Q: Do you have any tips for colour coding the bumpers? Mine are grey plastic at the moment and I would like to paint them green or black, but when I tried this on another vehicle it looked really terrible. (Lee from Swansea)
A: You will need to use a plastic primer before getting to work with standard car paints. Otherwise the plastic will react. It is very important to apply this protective layer before you use the paint. Also, be careful as cold and/or damp may cause ‘blooming’ of the paint. You need a warm dry, preferably dust free atmosphere.
Q: Although it looks fairly secure, I have been advised that I might get leakage on my low top sunroof. Can you please advise? (Kirk from Orkney)
A: (Thanks to Kirsty for this): Anyone with a sunroof should always check the drain hole. Few people realise it’s there, assuming that a sunroof seals completely from the top. But it doesn’t, there is a drain hole which can block, as can the gutter, in the same way as the centre drain under the windscreen. Clear them all on a regular basis.
Q: My driver side window is intermittent. I have tried greasing the runners, but that didn’t work. I don’t want to buy a new switch as they are ridiculously expensive. Any ideas? (Greg from Whitby)
A: A couple of things you can do before taking the plunge and buying a new one:
1) The wiring that runs through the Bongo door is notoriously brittle as it is poorly insulated. Between the driver’s door and the main body of the vehicle, there is a plastic, corrugated channel. The wiring is in there, so have a look to check that the wire from the window switch is not cracked, or shorting.
2) If it is the window switch at fault, it is the same as a Mazda 323, and you might be able to find one cheaply at a scrap yard or second hand on eBay.
Q: I am trying to remove the door pulls. I have removed the screw in the middle but it simply doesn’t just lift out – are there other hidden screws? Is there a knack to it? (Paul from Shirley)
A: (Thanks to Tigger for this):- Remove the screw at the bottom. Then, using a small flat bladed screwdriver or similar probe, push the end in horizontally beneath the top lip of the door pull insert. You’re looking for the best place to apply pressure to ease the ‘snap in’ tabs over the retainer in the door trim. If necessary, use another implement on the other side to apply opposing pressure on the insert. If you’re replacing the pulls, you can apply a bit of brute force! Obviously, be careful not to damage the door trim. I think there are four tabs – two on each side. You know the sort of thing – a triangular piece of plastic that, when you push the insert in, eases over a lip as the insert bends inwards a bit, and then snaps into place once it clears the point of the triangle and the insert springs back into shape. Keep working it gently until it eases free. Putting it – or a new one – back in is a doddle. Total job time should be less than 10 mins!
Q: I won’t go in to the full details, but I have managed to put a plank of wood through my back window. Do you know where I can get a replacement? (Gary from Helensburgh)
A: Any good timber yard should be able to help you. I wouldn’t recommend B&Q though as you will pay over the odds.
Q: Thanks for your help. I managed to get a new plank. I’ve just got to sort out the rear window now. Autoglass said it could take 2 to 3 weeks. Is there anyone else I could try? (Gary from Helnsburgh)
A: There are several breakers who advertise on the main website, (see here) and they may be able to help you.
Q: I’m thinking of buying a Bongo, but I’ve been told that windsceens are difficult to obtain. Please re-assure me. (Sandy from East Yorks)
A: The Mazda Bongo/Ford Freda windscreen is unique to this vehicle. Therefore if you need a replacement, it will have to come through Mazda. However, there are numerous routes that can be taken, and it depends to a large extent on who your insurance company is. Usually, your insurance company will source it themselves by going direct to a Mazda main dealer, but often the answer will come back that they are out of stock for at least a week. Some other companies have stockpiles of windscreens, so you can try 321Away or phone 01189-788774), National Windscreens on 0114-2755141 (ask for Mr Barrell) also have large numbers in stock or try other suppliers on the main website.
Q: Every time I go over a bump or a pothole, I get a clunking and rattling noise. What on earth could it be? (Derek from Newbury)
A: In all likelihood your anti-roll bar drop links need replacing.
Q: Although I have had my vehicle undersealed, I’ve noticed a rust patch inside the wheel arch. There also seems to be a rust spot on my guttering, probably caused by an awning clip taking away some paint work. Is it too late to do anything about it? (Alan from Southampton).
A: The only true way to get rid of rust is by grinding, shot-blasting, or replacement. But if it is not too bad, you may be able to take remedial action by applying Loctite, which will neutralise rust spots if they are not too deeply engrained. If you need a replacement wheel arch, we have heard that one from a year 2000 Ford Transit can be made to fit, although it is not the exact profile.
Q: I have been to my local Halfords to try and get matching paint for my Freda. I used the paint code onside the passenger door, but the spotty faced YTS trainee was next to useless and couldn’t help. Any idea where I could go? I only want some olive green touch-up paint (don’t ask; it involves the wife and a concrete bollard in Sainsbury’s car park). (Kevin from East Sheen)
A: We stock this in the Bongo shop, see here. Member Helen Green has also tracked down an excellent, though expensive firm in Milton Keynes who can mix and supply all Mazda paint codes. Just quote the paint code and they can send small or large amounts. Contact MKPE on 01908-371441.
Q: Do you know where I can get seals from? (Phil from New Milton)
A: Assuming you have ruled out a raid on London Zoo, we reckon the best bet is to hire a boat and look off the coast of Newfoundland.
Q: Sorry, I should have elaborated. It looks like the seal on my rear passenger side window is perishing. As Mazda will no doubt charge me a sum equivalent to a Chelsea midfielder’s hourly salary, are there any alternatives I could try? (Phil from New Milton)
A: You could try a company called Seals Direct. They supply alll sorts of rubbery type things for the leisure industry and you can order stuff cut to any size. Phone them for a catalogue on 0845-226-3345 or visit their website at www.sealsplusdirect.co.uk
Q: My 1997 Freda likes to wear a full body skirt. But I ran a dog over recently and I have mashed it up. Any idea where I can get a replacement? (Jason from Derbyshire).
A: I think it will be difficult. Was it yours? if so then a replacement may be an emotional experience. However if it was just the neighbours or a stray, your best bet is to do a search on Google & enter ‘dog’ & you should get something cheap & hopefully local.
Q: Actually it was my body skirt that got mashed, not the dog. At least I don’t think so. I haven’t seen it since. Any ideas where I can get a new body skirt? (Jason)
A: I think it will be difficult. Prior to 1999 the body kits that are found on Bongos were fitted by independent accessory manufacturers in Japan. With the advent of the new shape Bongos in 1999, the body kits were supplied by a Mazda subsidiary, Mazdaspeed. Your best bet is to do a search on Google and contact a Mazdaspeed stockist, but don’t hold your breath as they concentrate on MX5s and Miatas.
Q: My side door appears to be jammed shut, and nothing will shift it. I have tried everything, including shouting a lot, but all to no avail. (Peter from Cheltenham)
A: It sounds to me like one of the spring loaded contacts has stuck and is not making contact with its opposite number. Often a good thump INSIDE the door, about two thirds of the way down, solves the problem.
Q: I finally found what wrecked my heater motor. It was the volume of rainwater coming off the roof and overflowing the rubber seal situated under the bonnet. I’ve drilled two additional holes and fitted drain tubes to help with the volume. Should the rubber seal go all the way round continuing to the headlights? Because mine doesn’t. And if I drilled a small drain hole in the bottom of the heater casing, would that also help? (Pete from St Helens)
A: There’s a drain hole centrally positioned, under the windscreen and it’s important to unblock it regularly. The rubber only goes across the front of the lip. I would think a small (3mm or 1/8″) hole wouldn’t hurt. Duct tape on the join in the air intake trunking would probably be very effective in keeping the water out in the first place.
Q: The windows on my van seem to have some kind of meshing built in to them. What is this for? Can it be removed? (Paul from Alfreton)
A: These are privacy filters. They also act as UV filters. They can be removed, but it is a tricky operation. To remove, put on the rear screen heater for 10/15 mins, this should soften the glue, then pull off the mesh and clean window with a spirit based fluid to remove residue (being careful not to damage the heating elements).
Q: How do I get in to the rear light assembly to change a bulb? (Guy from Blackburn)
A: The light unit is held in place by 2 pegs. The bottom is a push fit towards the front of the vehicle. The top peg is a sliding fit from the outside towards the inside. To remove:
Remove the 2 securing screws, then using the heel of your hand give a firm sideways nudge at the top of the light unit, from the inside edge towards the outside of the vehicle. This will free the top of the unit. Then ease gently the bottom of the unit towards the rear of the vehicle to free the bottom peg.
Q: Any ideas regarding the persistent leak I have on one of my side windows? (Simon from Dorchester)
A: There are 2 things that spring to mind. Firstly it could be that some extra sealant needs to be applied where the electric cables enter the van. Or secondly it could be caused by wind piling rainwater up against the awning when the roof was up. There’s not much you can do about this other than positioning the vehicle judiciously re the wind direction.
Q: I have had a look under my Bongo and it seems to be prety exposed down there. I’m worried about rust & corrosion. Is it worth getting my van undersealed? (Helen from St Petes)
A: Japanese imports rarely rust while in Japan, as they do not use salt on roads and in parts of Japan the air is drier. Things are different in the UK, so it may be worthwhile getting your van undersealed. There are a number of places that will give you a full “wax-oil” service. It’s advisable to use Comma Waxseal or Waxoyl or something equally effective. It will take a garage about 4 hours to 2 days to complete, depending on what’s sealed. Cost will vary between about £150 to £450.
Fact sheets on the following related subjects are available in the members-only area of the site.
Sills, Panels & Cross Members
Q: I’ve huffed and puffed but I can’t seem to remove my rear brake discs. Any tips? (Henry from Tamworth)
A: (Thanks to “Bongolia” for this): First back off the handbrake adjustment, remove the caliper and support it, then remove assembly screw in the raised part of the disc if there is one. Through the gap left from the caliper removal whack the disc edge and rotate disc to another quadrant and whack it again; and I do mean whack with a club hammer. Keep rotating and whacking gradually, they will loosen up.
Don’t be tempted to do it all in one go as you can skew the hand brake shoes and that can give you more trouble. Apply Copper or aluminium paste to the mating surface of the replacement disc when reassembling.
Q: On application of the brakes, first time they are fine, but when applied again the pedal travels further to the floor. The fluid level is OK, and I’ve checked the discs and pads. Any ideas? (Simon from Nottingham)
A: This has all the symptoms of worn master cylinder seals.
Q: What type of brake fluid should I use on the Bongo? (Mike from Altrincham)
Q: My ABS warning light stays on all the time. Should I be worried? (Brian from Orkney)
A: There are 3 things to check before you take it to be looked at by a professional. Firstly, it may be an electrical fault as the wiring behind the instrument cluster is very poorly insulated. If the ABS sensor wire is touching another exposed wire, it could cause the light to come on. Secondly, it could be that you need to top up your brake fluid. Or thirdly, it could be a faulty sensor. The sensor is plastic and is in the wheel hub.
Q: My front brake pads need replacing, but I only had a new set installed a year ago. In that time I have driven approximately 10,000 km. I certainly don’t “drive on my brakes”. This seems a bit excessive. What’s the likely cause? (Carol from a secret MOD installation)
A: Excessive pad wear is usually caused by either oil contamination (associated with perished axle oil seals) or it could be that the calipers need adjusting. Warped discs will also cause excessive wear, but you’re likely to also feel a vibration as you apply the brake.
Q: I have alloy wheels which are in good nick. Looking behind the alloys to the brake discs, the part of the wheel to which the brake discs are attached are heavily rusted. Is this a problem? (Paul from Kent)
A: The piece to which you refer is the disc assembly. Discs are made of cast iron and therefore rust rapidly but the outer layer of oxidization acts as a barrier to further rusting. If you scrape it all off it will go rusty again within a week (if it rains) and so you will eventually destroy the disc (over a number of years!) if you keep cleaning the rust off. It is perfectly normal and effects all cars unless they have carbon brakes. One solution might be to brush the loose rust off but not attempt to wire brush down to metal. You could then brush on some rust neutralising liquid. This is easy to apply (has the apperance of milk) because it only reacts with rust and just wipes off other areas.
Q: What is the minimum thickness before pads and discs should be replaced? (Derek from Molesworth)
A: Pads should be 3mm, discs 22mm.
Q: My Diesel Bongo (2.5Td 1996) runs fine, but after sharp braking there is often a smell of un-burnt diesel in the cabin. No apparent leaks when I look underneath – any ideas? The injector pump was replaced 8 months ago and is not the source, and it has had a new fuel filter, other than that no work or drama on the vehicle. Economy is usual Bongo (330 miles on a tank). Help! (John from Elgin)
A: There are 2 likely causes. One is oil on the brake pads, and the second is a problem with the fuel vacuum line. If it is the vacuum line, what is happening is that the fuel is running too rich because of a probable split in the end of the vacuum line. This will result in a low vacuum signal followed by over-fuelling as the ECU thinks the Bongo is at a wide throttle.
Fact sheets on the following related subjects are available in the members-only area of the site.
A: Apart from the cost of the vehicle itself, you will also need to pay the following charges: agent costs for inspection & buying (maybe £200), vehicle de-registration costs, shipping charge (c £850), import duty (10% of purchase & shipping costs), & VAT on all of the above. Then when your vehicle gets to the UK, there are shipping agent & dick fees, customs charges, registration, MOT & adaption (eg fog light etc) costs. So typically, a vehicle purchased for £3,000 in Japan is going to cost you approx £5,000 once you get it on the road.
Q: I’m not sure how the alternator belts go on because they both snapped when the alternator failed! It looks like they go round the big pulley and the small one on the engine, but I’m not 100% sure. (Peter from Godalming)
A: (Thanks to Chris M for this)- To replace the belts loosen the 14mm nut at the bottom right of the alternator, and loosen the 14mm nut at the top left of the alternator. Then undo the 12mm bolt at the front top of the alternator to completely slacken off the assembly. Push the alternator all the way forward, and then you can get the 2 belts on. Make sure you get them properly into the engine pulley grooves and the water pump pulley grooves. DO NOT drive it until you have replaced the belts as you have no water pump without them. And don’t do as I did and get your arm stuck between the engine cover and the engine block whilst trying to get the belts around the bottom pulley.
Q: I’m importing a vehicle from Japan that is over 10 years old, so it won’t require an SVA test. DVLA tell me it can’t be registered without a valid MOT certificate, but my local MOT station tell me that they need a registration document to fill in their computerised records! Help! (John from Harrogate).
A: Your MOT tester needs to see a De-Registration document from Japan. This will be supplied with the import and generally an ‘English translation’ of the document is also supplied. If it’s not, ask for it as you will need it. Take the de-reg document with you when you take your Bongo for its MOT. Freshly imported vehicles going through an MOT for the first time are subject to the same rules as kit cars; ie the MOT identifier will be the chassis number.
Q: I am considering buying a Bongo in a private sale, but the mileage appears to be very low. Is it possible that it has been clocked? (Geraint from mid Wales)
A: Low mileage vehicles do exist. Remember, these are usually a weekend vehicle for the Japanese, especially if it has an elevating roof. The only way you can check if the vehicle has been clocked is by getting a check done on the vehicle by BIMTA (the Import Traders Association). For just £26 + VAT they will check whether the mileage is genuine. For a further £40 +VAT they will be able to tell you if the vehicle is listed as stolen. See their site at www.bimta.org.
Q: When importing a Bongo to the UK, does it have to get through the SVA test? (Algy from Limassol)
A: Yes it does, unless it is classified as a motorcaravan. Or unless it is over 10 years old. A motorcaravan is defined as a vehicle that has 1) seats and table, 2) sleeping accommodation (which may be converted from the seats), 3) cooking facilities, and 4) storage facilities. This equipment must be rigidly fixed to the living compartment; however, the table may be designed to be easily removable. See relevant members fact sheet for more info (see below).
NB: Fact sheets on the following related subjects are available in the members-only area of the site.
Bongo Friendly Garages