Troubleshooting Mazda check engine light

Mazda check engine light (CEL) may come on for something as simple as a loose gas cap or it also can be triggered by bad spark plugs, faulty oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, mass air flow sensor, a blown head gasket etc. 

In this guide, you will learn about what it means when Mazda check engine light comes on, common causes and how to diagnose Mazda CEL yourself.

This guide applies to 1996 and newer Mazda vehicles including Mazda 2, 3, 5, 6, MX-5 Miata, 626, CX-5, CX-7, CX-9.

What does Mazda check engine light mean?

mazda check engine light

If your Mazda check engine light is on, your car is telling you that the engine is not operating as it should. The light itself cannot tell what the actual problem is. It can be a problem with the engine, evaporative emission control system (EVAP) or even an indication of a transmission problem. A fault code stored in the On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system can help you understand why your Mazda CEL is on. 

Sometimes there are no symptoms and the solution may be as simple as tightening a loose gas cap. On the other hand, you might have a faulty MAF sensor or CPS sensor, which can rapidly damage your engine.

If your Mazda check engine light is flashing it indicates a misfire on one or more cylinders. Driving with the check engine light flashing would quickly damage a catalytic converter. Never drive your Mazda under a load when your ‘Check engine’ light is flashing. 

Symptoms

This is what you may notice when your Mazda check engine light comes on:

  • Engine runs rough
  • Engine misfire or juddering
  • Lack of power
  • Poor throttle response
  • Unusual engine sound
  • Smoke from the exhaust

If you are experiencing any of the described symptoms indicates that your engine is not running as it should. To prevent any additional damage, start looking for a good place to safely pull over and turn the engine off. 

What should I do? 

The first step is to make sure that the fuel cap is on tight. If that is the problem, your check engine light should reset within a few days or use an OBD-II scanner to clear the check engine light yourself.  

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In some cases, the problem is not the gas cap. Reading stored errors with a scan tool would be the next step. You will need an OBD-II scanner which can be purchased online or at any part store. 

  1. Locate the OBD-II port under the dashboard of your Mazda. diagnose mazda check engine light via the obd2 port
  2. Plug the scanner into the OBD-II port. 
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  3. Turn on the ignition but do not start the car. TURN ON MAZDA IGNITION DIAGNOSE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT 2 1 5 6 CX5 CX7

     

  4. Select READ FAULT CODES from the main menu of your scanner. The video below shows you how to use a Launch Creader to diagnose the check engine light, airbag, ABS and transmission problems. Even an inexpensive OBD2 scanner will be able to retrieve the codes. 
    Video file

Auto parts stores such as Advance Auto Parts, Autozone, PepBoys, O'Reilly may read your Mazda check engine codes free of charge. 

Common Causes

mazda check engine light on timing chain

Here are some common problems that trigger Mazda check engine light to come on. Every situation is different which means you should read the codes to find out why the CEL light is on in your Mazda. 

Timing Chain

Engines with a variable valve timing (VVT) sometimes suffer from over retarded timing. In most cases, this is caused by a dirty VVT filter screen. It gets clogged by a sludged oil. Another possibility is a faulty solenoid. Mazda CX-7 had a lot of problems with stretched timing chains.  Codes: P0012 and P0014

Thermostat

Another common problem is a ‘check engine’ light caused by low coolant temperature. In this case, a thermostat that is stuck in an open position is a probable cause.

The result is an engine that is not able to reach operating temperature. Common on Mazda 3 where check engine light is on and code P0126 is present. 

Mass Air Flow Sensor 

If you are experiencing rough idle, lack of power or hesitation on accelerations, it is likely that your engine is running lean. This is usually caused by a dirty MAF sensor which gives false air flow readings. This is another common problem on high mileage Mazda3 and Mazda 6 models.

Don’t use anything else than MAF cleaner fluid for cleaning. Another possibility is an intake leak. Code: P 0171  

Evaporative Emission Control System Leak Detected

Your Mazda might have a ‘check engine’ light on that is, in some cases, accompanied by a strong gas odor. This is usually caused by evap system leak. The purge valve is the first thing that needs to be checked for leaks, along with fuel ventilation lines. If they don’t show any symptoms of deterioration, you should check the fuel tank pump union nut.

On some models, they can break as time goes by. Typical fault code: P0455

Oxygen Sensor

If you drive a higher-mileage Mazda, it is very likely that you will encounter an emission control caused ‘check engine’ light. Although this will be signaled as a catalytic converter low efficiency, it is easily possible that you have a faulty downstream oxygen (O2) sensor.

Make sure to rule this out before changing much more expensive catalytic converter. Codes: P0420 to P0431 (Catalyst Efficiency Below Threshold)

Carbon Buildup

Direct injection engines are prone to carbon build-up on intake valves. This can cause all sorts of engine running problems and give some misleading error codes. For instance, you might have a misfire or poor throttle response. 

Vacuum Leak

Most newer Mazda engines have variable intake geometry manifold. Geometry variation is performed by swirl flaps, that direct the stream of intake flow. This system is controlled by ECU and vacuum operated.

You might have problems related to this system if the solenoids get stuck. It is also possible for vacuum hoses to break. In addition to ‘check engine’ light, you might notice power loss and hesitation on acceleration. Codes: P2004 and P2009 (Intake Manifold Runner Control) 

Spark Plugs

If you have over 100,000 miles on the original spark plugs it is time to change them. Bad spark plug, ignition coil or spark plug wire can cause Mazda check engine on plus engine misfire which causes the car to shake.

Codes P0300 P0301 P0302 P0303 P0304 P305 P0306 will be present. 

What does the wrench light mean on a Mazda?

The wrench light on a Mazda means that your vehicle is due for route maintenance. Your Mazda may be due for an oil change, air filter replacement, spark plug replacement, tire rotation etc. 

Mazda wrench light does not automatically trigger the check engine light to come on.

Once you perform the required maintenance you can turn off Mazda the light. 

reset mazda maintenace light
  1.     Turn the ignition key to “ON” position without starting the engine. Turn key to position II or press the Start button twice without pressing the brake pedal. 
  2.     Continue to hold down the TRIP knob until the wrench light starts to flash.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can cause rough idle and poor fuel economy in my Mazda?

The first thing to check would be a coolant thermostat, as they can get stuck in open position. In that case, the engine will not reach the operating temperature. Other option is a dirty MAF sensor that gives false air intake readings or an intake manifold leak.

My Mazda has VVT codes even after replacing solenoids? How is this possible?

VVT system has an oil screen, similar to oil filter, which protects it from eventual debris or oil sludge. This screen can get very dirty, obstructing oil flow to the VVT actuators, which are powered by oil pressure. The best way to prevent this is regular oil changes and using high-quality oil.

What does the wrench light mean on a Mazda?

The wrench indicator light means that your Mazda is due for route service. The wrench is not related to the check engine light. For example, the wrench can mean that your Mazda is in need of tire rotation, an oil change, or other maintenace work.

Will check engine light reset itself?

Mazda check engine light can reset on its own if the problem is no longer present. For example if the light came on becasue you forgot to tighten the gas cap. The light will reset on its own within 3 to 4 days after you tighten the gas cap. If the light remains on, the problem is still present. 

Do you have to reset the check engine light after repair?

No. You can drive the car and within 3 to 4 days the light will reset on its own. Assuming all the problems have been fixed. 

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