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My wife & I own a 2011 Mazda3, and it has about 165,000 km or just over 100,000 miles on it.

We bought it used and it's been running fine with usual wear and tear. About two weeks ago, we were driving on one of our major highways (the 401) and, whenever we hit a bump, the back end would sway very slightly. We now notice it on city streets, travelling around 30-40 mph.

Here are a few things I've found out:
-- my local garage -- whom I've used for years & trust -- says it's probably the shocks. However, they're totally booked up until the end of the month, which is when I have it booked to go in. The owner adamantly assured me the car was still safe to drive.
-- as an experiment, I also took the car to my local oil change outlet. I realize these guys aren't experts but thought I'd see if they noticed anything unusual. They checked and couldn't find anything wrong -- the suspension seemed good & solid.
— also, my neighbour — who’s car enthusiast who does much of his own repair work on his sports cars and classic cars — checked it and couldn’t find anything unusual.
-- a friend of mine, who is a retired mechanic, suggested that the sway bar links might be loose or need replacing. There is also a rattling or clunking noise when going over bumps, indicative of a loose sway bar.

BTW, the car otherwise performs normally and does NOT pull to one side of the road or the other. Most of the time, the sway isn’t noticeable. We only sense it b/c we know car so well — someone not familiar to the car would probably not be aware of it.

At any rate, my question is this: Is the car really safe to drive (between now and the end of the month), especially on the highway?
Thanks in advance ... Rob
 

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Well at 100K miles, it could be a number of things. One thing to note is these cars have rear springs that fail. Something about them corroding where the tool held it while coating during production. My 08 had both rear springs replaced by the PO just before I bought it. I'd check to see if this is common on the 2011's to be sure.
 

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Well at 100K miles, it could be a number of things. One thing to note is these cars have rear springs that fail. Something about them corroding where the tool held it while coating during production. My 08 had both rear springs replaced by the PO just before I bought it. I'd check to see if this is common on the 2011's to be sure.
Thanks, this is helpful and makes sense. Is this an expensive repair?
 

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I have never done it as PO did it on my 08, but you tube vids make it appear straightforward. 2 springs plus labor, I'd guess they would hit your for 1.5 to 2 hrs of labor because they can.
 

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When you put your weight on the rear quarters (a suspension test you can find on YouTube), does each corner properly bounce about 1-2 times? (Meaning that the shock properly dampens the spring.) Like Milanomike said, if it's a spring, you may be able to peer into the lower or upper spring compartment and see if the tail of a spring has rusted through and snapped. Also, when you look at each shock, is there any evidence of oil leakage?

Edit: about the stabilizer links, I'm doubtful. If a stabilizer link fails you can expect knocking noise back there, but the fundamental linking and stabilizing function of it would be intact. I think a link would have to be missing for you to actually notice sway from that set of components. Key culprits of rear instability, in my opinion, would be the shocks/springs, or either trailing arm bushing (the rubber bushing that's forward and above the rear knuckle/hub, at the end of that metal arm).
 
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