2002 Mazda Protege- Transmission troubles

I have a Protege with a 5-speed transmission and about 196K miles. The transmission has an issue in which after repeated shifting in to first and second gear, say in stop-and-go traffic, it becomes tough to place them in those gears, not impossible, but not possible to place them in those gears smoothly. It goes, but with extra force than normally required. It is more likely to happen during warmer ambient temperatures. The transmission fluid was changed last year. Thank you for any help provided.

I am going to guess that your problem is related to incomplete release of the clutch when you push the pedal to the floor. If the clutch is dragging a little bit, it will give your symptoms. I bet that putting the car in reverse is even harder. Also, you may find that pumping the clutch will help, but that is just a diagnostic action.
First, check to see that you have sufficient hydraulic fluid. Look for leaks at the slave cylinder. Bleed the system. The master cylinder may be leaking internally. Whatever you do, don’t blame the trasmission until the clutch is ruled out.


Thank you for your thoughts. Occasionally when shifting in to reverse it won’t go in to reverse until you come off the clutch, relax the shifter to neutral and press the clutch down again, but that’s been a problem for as long as I’ve had the car (since almost new). The first/second gear issue is more recent.

I will go over the clutch and see if I can find anything you mentioned.

I have to agree with Dave all you problems sound like clutch to me and I should know as that is all I have and drive.

Is this something you’ve experienced yourself? Not questioning you, just want to hear your experience if you have.

I have experienced a dragging clutch a few times with a bad slave cylinder and once with a bad master cylinder. Both are a cheap fix.
Another diagnostic trick: jack up the front end so the wheels are off the ground, and put the car in first with the clutch pushed IN. Let somebody do this, and you watch to see if the front wheels start spinning when they shouldn’t.
Another question: have you ever replaced the clutch? The dragging could also be from a bad clutch plate.

Yes it is something I have experienced a few times over the years the seals on the master and slave cylinders can wear out and start leaking easer than replacing a clutch.and cheaper to fix.

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The reverse issue was probably always there. Two gears in the tranny will not mesh if they are tooth-to-tooth and not spinning. Raising and lowering the clutch will get one spinning, and a mesh.

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I doubt @oldnotdeadyet needs any affirmation from me but I’ve experienced the same thing. In my case, a 1977 Corolla had a clutch cable that had stretched so that the clutch wouldn’t disengage completely.

I agree with the advice you have been given. Sounds like a worn clutch issue. If that is the original clutch then it has lived a good long life and there is nothing to complain about.

The reverse issue often appears first because the reverse gear set generally has gear teeth that are straight cut whereas the forward drive gears are cut with bevels. The straight cut is what causes the car to whine in reverse and the bevel gears are what causes the car to not whine (unless there is a problem) in the forward gears. The straight cut teeth are what causes the harder engagement.
Not the same year but gives you a rough idea of the straight vs bevel gear situation. Two in the middle are reverse gears and shows what can happen when 2 blunt edges just happen to stop when facing each other.