Whoa, I think something's really wrong with my '97 Mazda 626LX sedan

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Muse, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    This is a 1997 Mazda 626LX 4 cylinder with only 25,470 miles on it. I only drive it around 1500 miles/year, and over the summer was taking a 5 mile trip up into the hills and back around 3 times a week. I'd put the car in 2nd gear when going down a long moderately steep hill to save my brakes.

    I've had a feeling in recent months (maybe for a year?) from time to time that maybe my transmission had a problem, but it was sporadic and usually it didn't happen. It would happen once in a while, maybe when getting started from a parking lot, just a kind of little jolt when the automatic transmission changed gears. I checked the transmission fluid a few weeks ago and it looked clean and full. Yesterday, I took the longest drive I've done in many months, around 30 miles one way, parked in a Costco lot and shopped for an hour or more, put my stuff in the car and started to make it to their gas pumps to top up, but I wasn't sure I was going to make it. It's as if it wouldn't go into gear, only tried. The car moved, but it stuttered, stopped, I heard a mild clunking, it almost seemed like it had rolled up on a log! It's hard to describe. It's as if a big animal, say a 700 pound boar was shoving the car! It seemed to be coming from the back and I took a 50 pound bag of flour out of the trunk and put it on the passenger seat next to me, thinking that the extra weight back there was part of the problem, crazy I know. At the time I was worried that my suspension had broken, and I took out a flashlight (it was just after dark, around 5:30PM), and walked around the car looking underneath and at all the wheel wells. I didn't see anything that looked unusual.

    Now, I was ~25 miles from home and knew only one way home, on the freeway and I was hell of nervous what would happen, didn't know if I was going to be able to go 1/4 mile even. I gassed up and asked a guy at the pump if there were any places I could have check out my car nearby. He thought so, but I didn't see anything other than a place that does brakes and something else, and an oil change place. I made it to the freeway and drove home through moderately heavy traffic at times that slowed to ~4 mph on average over a ~2 mile stretch, but the entire time once I got out of the Costco lot things seemed normal. I was nervous that something would suddenly go completely wrong and I'd have some catastrophe on the freeway, so I drove no more than 60 mph, mostly 50 or less the whole way and as close to the right as practical.

    I don't want to use the car until I have it checked out. Should I take it to a transmission shop? A recommended mechanic and have a general car inspection? If the transmission is disintegrating I have to wonder if the car is worth saving at this point. Or it could be something else, for all I know. What do you think?
     
    #1 Muse, Nov 16, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  2. Ketchup

    Ketchup Elite Member

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    Could be a bad gear, at this point, anyone should be able to help, or at least send you into the right direction.
     
  3. Ketchup

    Ketchup Elite Member

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  4. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    You know, I've read a few paragraphs of that and at this point I have to think you've nailed it! :'( OMG...
     
    #4 Muse, Nov 16, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  5. pauldun170

    pauldun170 Diamond Member

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    If woody had gone straight to the manual transmission, this would have never of happened.
     
  6. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    Is it possible to replace my automatic with a manual transmission? My first two cars were manual, I can handle it. I don't drive alot, I just want to be able to when I need it.
     
  7. Sheep221

    Sheep221 Golden Member

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    If it is offered in manual version as well, yes it could be replaced along with adding the clutch pedal.
     
  8. Ferzerp

    Ferzerp Diamond Member

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    It would be far more amusing to do the swap and leave off the pedal.
     
  9. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    Man, it's been 40 years since I drove a manual. It wouldn't take me long to master it again.

    I figure what I have to do now is:

    a. Someone to confirm that my problem is the transmission (I figure that's likely the problem).

    b. Find a really competent and honest mechanic to handle the project.

    Edit: Hey, Click and Clack are on... I just tuned in (15 minutes into it).

    Edit 2: Would replacing with a manual transmission very likely greatly extend the transmission lifetime expectations going forward?
     
    #9 Muse, Nov 17, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  10. pauldun170

    pauldun170 Diamond Member

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    Any 2nd generation Probe, MX-6 or 626 would make a fine donor car. I think even the MX-3 transmission might bolt up.

    It would probably be wiser to just fix the issue with the transmission.
     
    #10 pauldun170, Nov 17, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  11. phucheneh

    phucheneh Diamond Member

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    From above link:
    I always like to take my advice from people who don't understand that car dealerships and car manufacturers are different things.

    Damn dealership should've fired that engineer, I tell you! :mad:
     
  12. Ferzerp

    Ferzerp Diamond Member

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    I hadn't owned a manual for about 13 years before my most recent purchase. It took about a week and a half before it was automatic (no pun intended) for me where I was no longer acutely aware that I was driving a manual.
     
  13. NutBucket

    NutBucket Lifer

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    Unless you do the work yourself I can't imagine this being a better idea than simply buying a "new" car.
     
  14. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    Yeah, that guy comes off as irate, irrational, the kind of customer a proprietor hates to deal with.
     
  15. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    My first two cars were manual. I learned on my mom's automatic, though. I had those two manual cars for a total of 12 years, so I'm sure I could get into it easily. I understand basically what's going on. However, I've been reading some things about the incredible sophistication of modern cars and it makes me wonder if I shouldn't stick with automatic. Now this car isn't completely modern, obviously, being a 1997 Mazda sedan, it doesn't even have anti-lock brakes. It does have front air bags, there's computer systems (don't know how sophisticated, but when they do a smog they just plug into the car's computer and get the last week's readings off of it).
     
    #15 Muse, Nov 18, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  16. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    That's what I was afraid of. I can't do it myself. I guess I'll try to get an estimate before deciding anything. Is it possible it's something relatively inexpensive or is it very likely a very expensive transmission job (i.e. new or rebuilt transmission)?
     
  17. pauldun170

    pauldun170 Diamond Member

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    Find out what the issue is first. It could be something cheap and simple.
     
  18. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    Yup, fingers crossed. Can they tell without tearing the transmission apart? I have to figure there's got to be some costs to find out what the problem is. Well, I don't know for sure it's the transmission, guess it could be something else.
     
  19. Ketchup

    Ketchup Elite Member

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    Another big question is if they will. Do you know of any, or do your friends know of any, good and honest mechanics in the area?
     
  20. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    I can ask my sister, she and her friends drive a lot more than me. I did find a pretty good guy some years ago (almost 20, and I turned my sister onto him), but I'm not sure how good he is now. He lost the good-location station he used to have and his current digs are very run down. I can ask him, I'm pretty sure he isn't the guy to dig into a transmission, maybe he can recommend someone. He was always friendly and honest and took time to talk to me extensively. He's pretty close, I can go over there on my bike or skates and talk to him. He doesn't answer the phone (it takes messages). His name is Bruce (referred to below). Bruce is Japanese, and so's the car, so there may be some synergy there.

    Then there's cars.com, where they have recommendations about mechanics in any particular area. I've perused that a couple of times in the last few years, but haven't actually gone to any of those guys. I drive so little these days that I haven't required anything other than a smog every two years. I did my own radiator fluid replacement around a year ago. That Bruce guy said if I don't want to change my oil very frequently (little used car), use synthetic oil, and that's what I put in it last time. I haven't changed it for a long time, it never burns, looks very clean to me. Same with the transmission fluid, maybe not changing that was a mistake.

    I'm not in a gigantic hurry. I lived 20 years without a car (I don't mean my first 20), am good on a bike and skates, just stocked up on staples (that's what I was doing when I had the problem described in the OP!). I could make it through the fucking winter without a car without going nuts, but I'm going to get on this now anyway. I hope I don't blow it, I'm nervous about this, I don't know a ton about cars, haven't had any mechanical work done on a car for over a decade.

    Meantime, the car sits in my driveway. I haven't turned it over since starting this thread. I've got a trickle charger on the battery.
     
    #20 Muse, Nov 19, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2012
  21. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    I remembered today that one of my friends is a part time BMW mechanic and if I can believe him, he's one of the best. He told me he's the guy they have look at their toughest problems. He may not be exaggerating. I will probably see him tonight and ask his advice.
     
  22. Mazdatech0895

    Mazdatech0895 Junior Member

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    The nickname for that trans is the 60k trans. Meaning when your due for a timing belt replace the trans also. But with the amount that u drive that car u should just have the trans flushed due the deteriorated fluid and probably has moisture as well.
     
  23. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    I have not touched the car since I got it home the day I had the problem. It's sat in my driveway with a trickle charger on the battery to keep its charge up. It's a very old battery, 7-8 years, and even so it would be wise to keep the charge up on even a new battery when sitting for weeks.

    All my transportation has been by bicycle and roller skates.

    In my last post I said I was going to ask my friend/BMW_mechanic what he thought, and he said I should again look at the trany fluid level and smell it. If it smells burned, definitely replace it. He thought I should seek a shop familiar with the car, probably a Mazda place but check out references first. He suggested Yelp for that, said I should drive it around town some, close to home, see if I can detect some reproducible behavior so a mechanic would have something to go on.

    60k Trany! Yikes. :eek: That sucks. I've been wondering if I had a timing belt in this car, and I suppose it does, based on your advice. Replacing the trany I figure might be prohibitively expensive, maybe not, will see. Anyway, I could flush/replace the trany fluid in hopes that it would resolve the problem, but the way it acted that day was a few orders of magnitude worse than the comparative hickups I noticed before, they were just jolts, nothing big, no grinding, no inability to get a gear. I have to wonder what's going on. Is it possible that the automatic clutch has problems? Wouldn't that be a much smaller repair than something involving the transmission itself? Isn't 25,000 really early for a trany job even on this car?
     
    #23 Muse, Dec 16, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012
  24. Muse

    Muse Lifer

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    Actually, I had the car inspected by AAA 10 years ago (June 2002) and the guy came back from the test drive and said "what's that sound?" I said, "what sound?" He didn't know but thought it might be coming from the transmission. I think he was referring to a whooshing sound that gets louder the faster you go but you only notice it, I think, at lower speeds, maybe 5-25 mph. I took the car to a few places for a diagnosis. A trany place said there was nothing wrong. My mechanic, he didn't think there was anything wrong. A guy or two ventured a guess that maybe a wheel had hit a curb and damaged a bearing and that one day it would get worse and I'd have to fix it. I just don't know. The AAA mechanic had told me that he'd checked out a lot of cars like mine and they didn't make "that noise." I've always wondered. Maybe they do all make that noise, maybe there's something wrong with mine, be it a bearing or the trany. :confused:

    I've seen it said that the trany in the car is undersized, runs too hot and that there is a workaround, being a ~$300 system to keep the trany cooler, plus installation charges. Is that something I should look into? Is it possible to replace the trany with a stouter one?

    I've been intending to take the car for a short drive or two and see what happens. I figure I can take it to Oakland Mazda and have them check it out, at least replace the transmission fluid.
     
    #24 Muse, Dec 16, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012
  25. phucheneh

    phucheneh Diamond Member

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    This actually sounds exactly like a Taurus I'm dealing with. I first noticed a slight growl from the trans that sounded like an a bearing in the input shaft area. Then I started it cold one day, put it in reverse, and the engine began to bog and run like garbage, much like if it was a manual and were starting to engage the clutch without any throttle. Put it back in neutral, waited, back to reverse, no problems.

    The common problem I see reported is a seizing oil pump shaft. I guess we'll know when I tear into it.

    What kind of trans is in the Mazda? They didn't source a Ford unit, did they? (AXOD/AX4S/AX4N)

    edit: and you'd be surprised the noises someone can pick out with experience. Even the non-oblivious customers don't pick up on them if they're very mild. Honestly, though I wouldn't even have heard the noise from the Taurus trans...I was actually diagnosing a whine from the front of the engine, and I happened to have my mic (electronic stethoscope = awesome) pointed towards the trans when I was putting the headphones on and adjusting the volume.
     
    #25 phucheneh, Dec 16, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012