Have troubles with the automatic transmission of your Mazda? Learn the most common problems and know how to troubleshoot what is causing the problem by following the procedures below.

This article gives you an overview of some of the most common problems associated with Mazda automatic transmissions that you may be experiencing if your Mazda is exhibiting erratic shifting patterns.

Many Mazda transmission problems, such as delayed shifting, engine RPMs revving high, the car won’t move in Drive, No reverse, etc., are often caused by low transmission fluid levels. If you own a Mazda with an automatic transition that is not shifting properly or not shifting at all, check the transmission fluid level immediately.


Mazda transmission symptoms 3 5 cx5 cx7 cx3 cx9 5

Common symptoms of Mazda transmission problems:

  • Harsh shifting
  • Transmission won’t engage
  • Shifts are delayed
  • Engine revving at high RPM
  • Burning smell
  • Check engine light comes.
  • Mazda won’t move when in Drive or Reverse
  • Stuck in limp mode
  • Won’t shift gears

Common Mazda Transmission Problems

Mazda automatic transmission problems

Gear slippage and erratic shifts

Mazda vehicles that use a transverse 4-speed automatic transmission designated as LA4A-EL can experience problems ranging from gear slippage to erratic or failed gearchanges. In most cases, this will happen suddenly, usually when the car is warm. This will trigger a check engine light, and the Overdrive indicator on the dashboard might be flashing. Sometimes, the problem will go away after cooling down.

Possible causes and solutions:

  • Failed neutral safety switch, which gives information about the position of the gear selector. As a result, the TCU has incorrect information about selected gears, which upsets shift patterns. There will be a P0708 code stored in the memory. Replacing the switch solves the issues.
  • Loose connector on the neutral safety switch or damaged wiring. Performing a visual check will reveal potential issues.

No Reverse

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

Possible causes and solutions:

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

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. In some cases, this will be followed by erratic and delayed changes in other gears. This issue can be intermittent or constant; 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.

Possible causes and solutions

  • Broken spring that actuates the pre-stroke valve for the 4th gear. As a result, the transmission will not be able to engage the 4th gear from engaging. 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.

No overdrive gear

Mazda, which uses a 4-speed 4R44E automatic transmission in a longitudinal arrangement, suffers from a fairly common issue with overdrive gear engagement. The problem manifests as a failed engagement of overdrive gear, resulting in a shift to neutral. In the initial phases, this will be an intermittent issue that happens when cold but might progressively get more frequent. This issue will not affect other gears and will not trigger any warning lights on the dashboard.

Possible causes and solutions:

  • Worn overdrive servo or excessive clearance within the bore for servo pin. Both of these issues will cause a loss of transmission fluid pressure that worsens with time. Replacing both the sealing ring and pin is the best solution. As this is a common issue, there are upgraded pins available (http://www.sonnax.com/system/announcement/76948-29K.pdf)
  • A broken retaining clip that holds the servo. If this happens, the loss of overdrive will be sudden and permanent. The easiest way to identify this problem is to look for metal parts inside the valve.
  • A faulty output vehicle speed sensor may also cause this problem.

Shift flares during acceleration

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. In some cases, while braking to a stop, downshifts may be noticeably delayed. In the initial phases, this issue will manifest only when the vehicle is cold but becomes more prominent with time. In most cases, there will be no other symptoms.

Possible causes and solutions

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

Mazda Transmission Reliability

Mazda high mileage

At this point, you think that there are many problems. So naturally, the question comes to mind “Are Mazda transmissions reliable?”. Mazda vehicles were notorious for automatic transmission problems in the early 2000s, especially the 626, Millenia, and MPV models.

From 2005 to 2020, Mazda automatic transmissions in Mazda 3, 5, 6, CX-7, and CX-9 have been very reliable with few transmission issues. That doesn’t mean that Mazda transmissions never fail. Mazda vehicles that are not maintained properly or are used for towing have a higher automatic transmission failure rate.

Today we see many Mazda vehicles, including Mazda 3, Mazda 6, Mazda 5, CX-5, CX-9, CX-3, Miata, CX-30, and the Mazda SkyActiv 6-speed automatic transmission, that go over 100,000 or even 150,000 with no transmission issues.

Mazda automatic transmsioin high mileage

In this article, we covered problems that affect several Mazda transmissions. If you are experiencing problems with the automatic transmission, you first need to determine the transmission model number or code. Then you can research and look for issues that affect that transmission. In the end, not all Mazda transmissions are created equal.

If you are experiencing unusual problems with your Mazda equipped with an automatic transmission, always check the transmission fluid level first. Next, read the fault codes stored in the Transmission Control Unit (TCU) via the diagnostic port under the dashboard with a Mazda OBD-II scanner if the transmission fluid is correct.


The YOUCANIC Full System Scanner can read and clear fault codes through every vehicle’s control module.

We hope you find the Mazda Automatic Transmission Problems guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your Mazda.

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