Fixing Mazda Transmission Problems: A Beginner's Guide

Fixing Mazda Transmission Problems: A Beginner’s Guide

by Zack Norman

If you’re a car enthusiast or a beginner looking to diagnose and fix issues with your Mazda car’s transmission, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll delve into some common Mazda transmission problems, their causes, and potential solutions to help you understand and address these issues effectively.

Mazda Transmission Problems #1: Gear Slippage or Erratic Shifts

One prevalent issue found in Mazda vehicles with the LA4A-EL transverse 4-speed automatic transmission is gear slippage or erratic shifts. This problem often occurs when the car is warm, leading to a check engine light and a flashing Overdrive indicator on the dashboard. Sometimes, the issue resolves itself after the car cools down.


  • A failed neutral safety switch can disrupt shift patterns. Replacing the switch, which sends gear selector information to the TCU (transmission control unit), should resolve the issue.
  • A loose connector or damaged wiring of the neutral safety switch can also cause problems. A visual inspection can reveal potential issues.

Mazda Transmission Problems #2: No Reverse Gear

Certain Mazda MPV models with the 5F31J 5-speed automatic transmission might fail to engage reverse gear, typically after a transmission fluid change. This issue doesn’t affect forward gear changes and is often related to the removal of the band anchor stud during fluid change.


  • Reinstalling the band anchor stud, if removed by mistake, can restore reverse gear engagement.
  • If a fractured reverse drum or worn piston is causing the problem, replacing the drum and piston assembly is recommended.

Mazda Transmission Problems #3: Missing 4th and 5th Gear or Harsh Gearshifts

Mazda vehicles equipped with the 5R55N 5-speed automatic transmission can experience failures to engage 4th and 5th gears. This issue might lead to erratic gear changes, especially when the car is cold.


  • A broken spring affecting the pre-stroke valve for the 4th gear can be fixed using upgraded replacement kits.
  • Excessive wear inside the valve body or sticking solenoid might lead to harsh gear changes. Upgraded components can address this issue.

Mazda Transmission Problems #4: No Overdrive Gear

Mazda cars with the 4R44E 4-speed automatic transmission could experience overdrive gear engagement failures, causing the car to shift to neutral unexpectedly.


  • Worn overdrive servo or excessive clearance in the servo pin’s bore can result in transmission fluid pressure loss.
  • Replacing the sealing ring and pin can resolve the issue.
  • A broken keeping clip might also lead to sudden loss of overdrive. Look for metal shavings inside the valve body to identify this problem.

Mazda Transmission Problems #5: Shift Flare During Acceleration

Newer Mazda vehicles equipped with the TF80 6-speed automatic gearbox might experience shift flares during mild accelerations or delayed downshifts when braking to a stop.


  • Degraded transmission fluid and clogged filters due to lack of fluid changes can be resolved through a thorough transmission fluid flush.
  • Excessive wear of bores inside the valve body can be addressed by transmission specialists offering rebuilt units with upgraded components.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Transmission Problems

Driving with transmission issues can lead to various consequences that affect your car’s performance and safety:

  • Costly Replacement: Ignoring transmission problems can lead to extensive damage, necessitating expensive replacement.
  • Driving Difficulty: Untreated transmission issues can render your car undriveable, making repairs even costlier.
  • Gearbox Damage: Transmission fluid leaks can damage the gearbox and hinder smooth gear shifts.
  • Poor Performance: Sluggish acceleration and difficulty changing gears indicate transmission problems.
  • Safety Concerns: Faulty transmissions can lead to accidents due to slipping gears.
  • Mechanical Damage: Ignored issues can cause jerking, shaking, and even overheating, damaging the transmission further.

Mazda’s Transmission Reliability: An Overview

Mazda has evolved over the years, addressing earlier transmission challenges and introducing reliable systems like the Skyactiv Drive transmission. Models like the Mazda 3, 6, and Miata have showcased improved transmission reliability post-2015.

Conclusion: Trusting Mazda’s Transmission

Despite past challenges, Mazda has made strides in transmission reliability. Regular maintenance, proper usage, and considering model-specific reliability can contribute to your Mazda’s longevity. Research, history checks, and timely maintenance are crucial when considering a pre-owned Mazda.

As Mazda continues to innovate, their commitment to quality positions them as a trustworthy brand. With a history of improvement and customer satisfaction, Mazda’s future models are expected to offer even greater reliability on the road. Remember, addressing transmission problems promptly is key to ensuring your car’s longevity and performance.

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