Mazda Transmission Problems

Mazda Transmission Problems – Is It Really That Unreliable?

Are you a Mazda enthusiast? Do you own or are planning to buy any of the latest models of Mazdas? Have you thought of any Mazda transmission problems before, and how they can influence your choice of car?

Then read on, because this article reveals every transmission problem associated with Mazda models as it outlines the major causes and offers concrete solutions to such issues.

What Is A Car Transmission

A car’s transmission is one of the most complex mechanical systems that control the application of power from the engine to the drive shaft. It is among the hardest working components in your vehicle.

The transmission experiences more wear and tear over time than most other parts of your car because of the heat and friction produced by its many moving and interacting components.

Mazda Transmission Problems: Sympto...
Mazda Transmission Problems: Symptoms, Causes, Solutions, And Reliability

Transmission repairs or replacements are inconvenient, stressful, and typically quite expensive, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to any behavior that seems unusual. Adhering to the recommended maintenance procedures and schedule intended to prevent problems will help your transmission last longer, perform better and require fewer repairs over its lifespan.

Major issues are bound to arise if your transmission is not well maintained or if symptoms of a problem are not checked by a professional mechanic soon after they develop. Mazda isn’t an exception.

Just like any other car, Mazda has had its own mechanical-related issues over the years. Even the most recent well-manufactured models will not miss one or two cars that will have issues with their transmission for unknown reasons.

The reason behind this may be attributed to automakers failing to do a complete test on their cars before releasing them into the market. In most instances, automakers try to update older generation models to retrofit them into new-generation models and this can often fail miserably. This has caused increased Mazda transmission problems.

Although Mazda hasn’t had chronic issues, we cannot negate the fact that such issues will still arise in some models, especially the Mazda 3 which has had its fair share of issues in the recent past.

Transmission Failure Symptoms

Identifying your car’s mechanical issues can be an impossible task for those who have no experience at all or a keen eye/ear to detect an unusual signal. Car-related problems exhibit distinct sensations and sounds to show that something isn’t working as intended.

The sooner you realize that something is a little off with your car, it’s time to diagnose the problem and fix it immediately. If you face some Mazda transmission problems, then it is crucial to know some of its symptoms so that you can arrange for them to be diagnosed by a professional mechanic.

Below are 10 symptoms of Mazda transmission problems that are enough to raise a red flag of an issue that shouldn’t be overlooked but given urgent attention.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #1: Check Engine Lights

Mazda Transmission Problems

The check engine light should be the first sign that something isn’t in working order with your car. Although these lights can highlight different mechanical issues, they can also help identify transmission-related complications.

Mazda vehicles have several sensors installed that can signal an onboard computer to tell it of any unusual activity going on with your vehicle. Several such sensors are in the transmission.

The sensors can pick even the tiniest of vibrations or jerks that you might not identify. Never overlook your check engine lights or other warning lights when they come on. Act accordingly. The lights are usually on your car’s dashboard.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #2: Clunking, Humming, Or Whining

Having a concrete description of how a car sounds when experiencing transmission issues may not be easy. But with a keen ear, you will identify something unusual that you have never heard before. These sounds may vary widely depending on the exact model of Mazda. The best possible description would be a clunking, humming, or whining sound.

Manual transmissions emit a more mechanical sound that is louder and very abrupt. If you hear a clunking sound when trying to shift gears, the constant velocity joints or differentials may be the source of such sound underneath the car.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #3: Shaking Or Grinding

A car should have a smooth ride without shaking, jerking, or even producing a strange grinding sound. If this happens, it’s a clear sign of a gear problem.

Manual transmissions in Mazda vehicles normally produce a grinding noise as an indicator when you try to shift the gear. If this grinding mainly occurs after engaging the clutch and shifting, then it shows the clutch may need a replacement or change. This can point to several issues, including a worn-out gear synchronizer.

Automatic transmissions behave differently. Instead of producing some grinding sounds, you feel it takes time to wiggle into gear instead of having a usual smooth transition. As this issue worsens, gear transitions become jarring and more shaking is experienced.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #4: Noise When Neutral

This is normally characterized by a bumpy sound when in a neutral position. These come because of low or dirty transmission fluid. If topping up the fluid offers no solution, then it is because of a dirty fluid or worn-out transmission parts. The worn-out parts can include bearings, reverse idler gears, or gear teeth that may need a replacement.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #5: Hesitation

Have you ever noticed hesitations or refusal to go into gear? When the driver shifts from park to drive, the car should immediately shift into the proper gear. Automatic transmissions often have a delay before the gear engages. This is normally a transition-related concern.

Manual transmissions can also have that lag but one unique thing is that their engine’s RPMs surge exponentially, but the car won’t move. This is usually caused by a worn-out clutch that should be replaced. Though, this may point to more severe issues.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #6: Low Or Leaking Fluid

Leaks are easily recognizable and need fixing ASAP. The fluid is crucial to the transmission because it lubricates, cleans, and conditions the seal. It is also a hydraulic fluid. Without it or if there are low levels of it, the gearbox breaks down completely and can lead to irreparable damage.

Pure fluid is bright red, clear, and smells sweet. It turns dark or smells burned when it’s used up and needs to be flushed out and replaced with a new one.

The fluid is never burned off or consumed by a car. So if levels drop, then there is a leak that needs sealing. Always ensure the fluid is enough for the transmission to perform optimally.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #7: Car Never Goes Into Gear

Sometimes the car cannot shift even after engaging the clutch. This is usually associated with low fluid levels or using an incorrect type of fluid. Or, the clutch linkages or shift cables a replacement.

The vehicle’s computer could also be a source of this. If the fluid has been checked but still the problem persists, detach the battery and give it 30 minutes before reattaching and allowing it to reset itself. If this too fails, then you will need to visit a mechanic.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #8: Burning Smell

Mazda Transmission Problems

Burning smells from the car are a cause for alarm. It’s normally a sign of burning transmission oil. The oil keeps the parts lubricated and prevents them from wearing out. Low fluid levels or an incorrect type of fluid enables the system to run hot and increases friction, corrosive activity, and build-up of sludge and debris. This can eventually damage the system completely and result in expensive replacements.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #9: Draggy Clutch

This describes a manual transmission that involves the clutch disc failing to disengage the flywheel when the clutch pedal is pressed. The clutch still spins with the engine, making it difficult to change gear.

This is usually accompanied by a grinding noise each time you try changing the gear. It’s caused by slack in the pedal. Therefore, the linkage between the clutch disk and the pedal cannot pull the clutch disk from the flywheel.

Mazda Transmission Problems, Symptoms #10: Slipping Gear

The transmission should always stay in one gear until a shift is made. If it keeps on slipping in or out of gear with no effort (for manual) or slides into neutral (for automatic) then an immediate assessment is necessary.

This can be a huge safety concern because you need to hit the gas to avoid dangerous situations, but you have no power to your wheels and the result can be catastrophic. Potential causes could be worn out or broken gear linkages. This is the only transmission issue that can get you killed by your car.

Mazda Transmissions

Aside from the above symptoms, some common transmission problems are unique to Mazda cars. This section outlines these common unique problems, and their causes, and offers probable solutions.

1. Gear Slippage Or Erratic Shifts

Most Mazda vehicles that are fitted with a transverse 4-speed automatic transmission designated as LA4A-EL often experience these problems, ranging from gear slippage to erratic or failed gear shifts.

On most occasions, this will precipitate and it’s usually when the car is warm. This often triggers a check engine light, and the Overdrive indicator on the dashboard might be flashing. Sometimes, the problem will go away after it has cooled down.

Here are some solutions:

  • A failed neutral safety switch, which provides information about the position of the gear selector. As a result, the TCU (transmission control unit) has incorrect information about the selected gears, which upsets shift patterns. There will be a P0708 code stored in the memory. Replacing the switch solves the issues.
  • A loose connector on the neutral safety switch or damaged wiring. Performing a visual check will reveal potential issues.

2. No Reverse

Mazda MPV models that use a 5F31J 5-speed transverse automatic transmission can sometimes fail to engage the reverse gear. In the most common scenario, this happens after the transmission fluid has been changed. This will not affect forward gear changes, and there will be no other apparent issues.

Here are some solutions:

  • This is common if the band anchor stud is removed by mistake when changing the transmission fluid. It is quite a common issue because the fill plug and a band anchor stud are similar and close. This sets the reverse band assembly free and prevents the engagement of the reverse gear.
  • A fractured reverse drum or worn piston that engages it usually happens when driving for a long time with the band anchor stud removed. The free-spinning that happens generates friction and heat, which deteriorates the drum and piston assembly.

3. Missing 4th And 5th Gear Or Harsh Gearshifts

Mazda vehicles that use a 5R55N 5-speed automatic transmission have a fairly common problem with failures to engage 4th and 5th gear. Sometimes, this will be followed by erratic and delayed changes in other gears.

This issue can be intermittent or constant, and initially, the problem will only occur when the car is cold. It will trigger a check engine light, so corresponding codes are stored in the DTC memory.

Here are some solutions:

  • Broken spring that actuates the pre-stroke valve for the 4th gear. As a result, the transmission cannot engage the 4th gear. There will be P0734 and P0735 codes stored in DTC memory. As this is a widespread problem, there are upgraded replacement kits that permanently solve the issue.
  • Excessive wear inside the valve body or sticking solenoid. This causes a loss of transmission fluid pressure and results in erratic and harsh gear changes. This is usually more prominent when cold. However, this problem is not likely to trigger a check engine light.

4. No Overdrive Gear

Mazda that uses a 4-speed 4R44E automatic transmission in a longitudinal arrangement suffers from a fairly common issue with overdrive gear engagement. The problem manifests itself as a failed engagement in overdrive gear, resulting in a shift to neutral.

In the initial phases, this will be an intermittent issue that happens when it’s cold, but might progressively get more frequent. This issue will not affect other gears and will not trigger any warning lights on the dashboard.

Here are some solutions:

  • Worn overdrive servo or excessive clearance within the bore for servo pin. Both issues will cause a loss of transmission fluid pressure that becomes worse with time. Replacing both the sealing ring and pin is the best solution. As this is a common issue, there are upgraded pins available.
  • A broken keeping clip that holds the servo. If this happens, losing overdrive will be sudden and permanent. The easiest way of identifying this problem is to look for metal shavings inside the valve body.
  • A faulty output vehicle speed sensor may also cause this problem.

5. Shift Flare During Acceleration

Mazda Transmission Problems

Newer Mazda vehicles with a TF80 6-speed automatic gearbox in front-wheel or all-wheel drive configuration can suffer from shift flares during mild accelerations. Sometimes, while braking to a stop, downshifts may be noticeably delayed.

In its initial phases, this issue will manifest itself only when the vehicle is cold but becomes more prominent with time. In most cases, there will be no other symptoms.

Here are some solutions:

  • Degraded transmission fluid and clogged filter, caused by a lack of fluid changes. This happens because of the manufacturer’s recommendation, which states that this ‘sealed for life’ transmission does not need any fluid changes. However, this can create issues with high-mileage cars that can be solved by a thorough transmission fluid flush.
  • Excessive wear of bores inside the valve body, which causes intermittent losses of transmission fluid pressure. Being a common and well-documented issue, many transmission specialists offer rebuilt units with upgraded components.

Driving With Transmission Problems

Suddenly, your car does not feel quite the same, and you hear strange noises and smells coming from your vehicle. This might be a sign that your car has a faulty transmission.

Please do not ignore the problem because it could lead to irreparable damage and expensive transmission repair. The following reasons will give you a few good reasons why it is imperative to not ignore transmission problems and get them repaired fast.

1. Transmissions Are Expensive To Replace

The moment you think that there is a problem with the transmission, take it to a certified technician immediately. Ignoring the problem will lead to extensive damage. Transmission replacement is a costly affair, so act fast when you suspect you have a problem.

2. Driving Becomes Impossible

The transmission is a vital part of your vehicle and keeps your car moving. If you do not attend to a transmission problem quickly, you soon cannot drive your car at all. The longer you drive your car, knowing that your vehicle has a faulty transmission, the more costly the repair will be, not to mention the replacement.

3. Risk Of Damaging The Gearbox

The transmission fluid lubricates the gears and prevents grinding. If your vehicle has a transmission fluid leak, it will damage the gearbox, and it will be hard to shift gears smoothly. This can lead to extensive damage. It’s recommended to have the vehicle repaired as soon as a fluid leak is noticed.

4. Vehicle Performs Sluggishly

Your vehicle will not have power and poor acceleration. It will feel as if your vehicle is lazy, sluggish, and does not want to speed up. The engine will also sound lower-pitched than usual.

5. Struggles With Gears

The transmission will not engage or will slip in and out of gear. You will have difficulty changing or putting your vehicle into gear, and this will make it impossible to drive.

6. Faulty Transmission Could Cause Accidents

If the gears are slipping and are not engaging properly due to wear and tear or due to worn-out transmission fluid, it could be dangerous and lead to road accidents. That is why it is so important to take your vehicle for repair when you have a faulty transmission. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

7. Vehicle Starts To Jerk And Shake

Your vehicle will shake and jerk when you put it into gear to move forward. You will also hear grinding when you shift gears. This will damage the transmission even further. The best advice is to get your car to a technician immediately.

8. The Transmission Overheats

Transmission fluid is needed to keep the transmission at the correct operating temperature. If there is not enough transmission fluid, it will cause friction between the moving parts, and it will overheat. You will smell burned transmission fluid, and in some extreme cases, even see smoke.

Never risk further damage and costly repairs and replacements. Act fast and get your car serviced ASAP by an expert technician.

How Much To Fix Mazda Transmission Problems

On average, a remanufactured transmission costs $1300 and $3400, depending on the make and the model. Labor costs can be somewhere between $400 and $800. This cost can even rise further if there are significant internal damages to additional components.

Mazda Reliability

Currently, you may now wonder, that’s a lot of problems. So naturally, questions start arising from your mind “Are Mazda transmissions reliable? Are Mazda cars worth the money?”

Well, Mazda vehicles used to be very notorious for automatic transmission problems in the early 2000s, especially the 626, Millenia, and MPV models.

But from 2005 onwards until 2020, automatic transmissions in the Mazda 3, 5, 6, CX-7, and CX-9 have been reliable, with minimal transmission complications. But that does not mean Mazda transmissions never fail. Of course, they do.

When Mazda vehicles aren’t maintained properly or when used for towing, they have a high rate of automatic transmission failures.

Currently, many Mazda vehicles such as Mazda 3, Mazda 6 Mazda 5, CX-5, CX-9, CX-3, CX-30, Miata, and the Mazda SkyActive 6-speed automatic transmission can go over 100,000 or 150,000 miles with no transmission problems.

Mazda Transmission Problems: In Conclusion…

It is important to ensure that you keep to your regular maintenance schedule for your car. Many times, expensive repairs can be avoided if the vehicle is properly maintained. This is especially true if you notice something unusual. The car should be taken immediately for service.

Having the basic knowledge of transmission inspection is highly recommended, as it can help you save money by avoiding costly inspections and doing simple procedures such as changing transmission fluid yourself as well as making you knowledgeable enough to avoid being over-repaired, overcharged or simply ripped off.

FAQs On Mazda Transmission Problems

If you’re still curious to learn more about Mazda transmission problems, our FAQs here might help…

What Causes Automatic Transmission To Fail

Given that it’s one of the most consequential components of a car, the transmission is often designed to last a long time. However, certain factors may lead it to fail rather early on. Most of the time, transmission failure is caused by the condition of the transmission fluid. Specifically, if the transmission is leaking (and thus, there aren’t any sufficient fluid levels in the transmission), if it’s burnt and worn-out, or if the transmission fluid is contaminated. In either case, this transmission fluid can’t properly cool or lubricate the transmission, given its condition. This puts a lot of strain on the gearbox, often causing it to fail pretty early on.

How Long Do Transmissions Last

On average, an automatic transmission should last at least 150,000 to 200,000 miles or greater. With good maintenance and regular servicing, you could increase its lifespan to over 300,000 miles in the most extreme cases. Once that milestone is reached, it’s most likely that the transmission will need to be disassembled and rebuilt, thoroughly. But, the exact lifespan of the transmission might also differ based on its design and engineering. For example, there are some bad gearboxes out there that would fail far before they could reach the 100,000-mile threshold. With Mazdas, the average tends to be a bit higher, somewhere around 150,000 miles or so.

What Causes A Transmission To Not Shift

With an automatic transmission, a failure to shift and change gears is often blamed on the transmission fluid. After all, an automatic transmission relies on the transmission fluid to provide hydraulic pressure in the system. Thus, using that pressure to actuate a gear change. If there’s not enough transmission fluid in the gearbox (likely because leaks had sprung), or if the transmission fluid is contaminated and burnt out, it won’t be able to create enough pressure to change gears. Beyond that, other faults that could cause a transmission to not shift include the shift solenoids, valve bodies, clutch packs, or the transmission control module.

How Do You Know Transmission Is Going Out

There are numerous symptoms that might be exhibited to show that your transmission is bound to fail and needs urgent repairs. Usually, most modern cars might light up a check engine light to warn you, the driver, that something’s likely amiss. Otherwise, even worse symptoms might include hearing clunking, humming, grinding, and whining sounds when you’re driving and changing gears. When the transmission is on the verge of failure, your car’s performance and driveability are also impacted. This includes hesitation anytime you’re shifting gears, the transmission’s refusal to shift into certain gears, as well as burning smells.

How Long Do Mazda 3 Last

The Mazda 3 is one of the brand’s most popular and best-selling cars. It’s good to hear then, that the Mazda 3 is also a long-lasting and fairly robust vehicle. On average, a Mazda 3 would last upwards of 200,000 to 250,000 miles with diligent maintenance and servicing. Given that the average American drives around 15,000 miles each year, it would equate to between 13 to 17 or so years of ownership. Once that threshold is reached, your Mazda 3 will require a thorough rebuild and minor restoration to keep it going a lot further. However, a select few Mazda 3s have also driven past the 300,000-mile barrier without many issues, too.

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2 Comments

  • Adekunle Ayodeji Says

    When my Mazda 5 minivan reach gear 4 which is the last gear then the gear give a sound as if gear can’t speed beyond 80km and below. What to be done

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, Adekunle Ayodeji!

      Now that’s a very peculiar issue. From what I can tell, it’s most likely either a faulty shift solenoid, broken spring packs, or a faulty valve body. You might want to take a closer look at those 3 first, and then maybe consider looking at the condition of the transmission fluid, too. Best of luck!

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