2004 Mazda 3 Transmission

In December during a regular service appointment, the mechanic who regularly services my 2004 Mazda 3 alerted me that the transmission pan looked rusted and needed to be replaced. I asked him to order the part, asked whether it was OK to drive the car, to which he responded affirmatively. He had the part within a couple of weeks – I brought the vehicle in and had the pan replaced. Within two weeks, the AT light and check engine light came on simulatneously. Again, I brought the car to the mechanic. He put it on “the computer” and said that the solenoid code was showing. He cleared the code, and put some additive in the transmimssion. Within two days, the car was having the same symptoms – revving in 4th gear from 2500 to 4000 RPMs and finally, just getting stuck in the automatic version of 2d gear. When I called the mechanic, he said the transmission might have internal issues and that I should take it to a transmission specialist. I did. They also said the solenoid code was showing. They replaced the solenoid. Now after nearly a thousand dollars in repairs and the same amount in car rental fees, I am having exactly the same transmission symptoms and issues. At 70,000 miles, this one owner car is beyond its 50,000 mile power train warranty. The car had been meticulously maintained with an oil change every 3K miles --until this transmission issue. Is it normal for a Mazda to only get 70,000 miles out of its transmission?

Who Is This “Mechanic” ? Is This An Independent Shop Or Which National Chain With Which He Is Affiliated ?


You Need To Know Specifically What Type Transmission Fluid Was Put In Your Transmission When The Pan Was Replaced. It Looks Like Mazda Requires ATF M-V (Type M5) For The 2004 Automatic Mazda 3. Mercon-V Or Other Fluid Is Not To Be Substituted.

Your Owner’s Manual specifies a certain type transmission fluid. Using the wrong fluid can cause shift quality problems and can even damage the transmission. Some shops use what they have in stock.

Many perfectly good transmissions are ruined by people who don’t know what they’re doing. I’m not saying that’s the case, but you need to find out what was put in there in order to see if the wrong fluid was used.

Also, I’m skeptical that the pan needed replacement. Most pans rust and appear rusty on the outside. Unless it was wet with transmission fluid, oozing through pin-hole perforation leaks, and the fluid level was low, the pan could have been alright. Did you see the old pan ? What evidence was there that it was leaking ?


OK, so I spoke to the mechanic – he said that, though the fluid was low when the rusty pan was replaced, there was still fluid in the reserve pan (when it was replaced) and that, once the rusted (and slightly leaky (“seeping” was the word he used) pan had been replaced, the fluid he used was ATF Max Life, Synthetic. He also added Lube Guard, at that time (9/21/2010). In January, when the AT and engine lights came on simultaneously, coding the solenoid, he cleared the code and added E-tech 105 transmission conditioner (1/27/2011)-- It drove OK after that, for about two days. After that, the “acting up” seemed to occur once the car had been driven at highway speed(65-75 mph), e.g., revving from 2,000 to 3,500 on highway hills – and then finally getting “stuck” in 2nd gear, with both the AT and engine lights on.

Subsequent conversations with both the mechanic and the transmission shop have led me to the option of having the car towed to the Mazda dealership where the car was purchased to see if the Mazda-specific electronic/computer diagnostics reveal anything further.

You also need to ask what the exact error code(s) was (were). There are a whole bunch of solenoids (so “the solenoid” doesn’t say anything) and for each one of those there can be different kinds of error codes. The error codes look like: “P1234”

Its also the case, if you look that Valvoline does not include Mazda’s M-V spec as one that is met by the MaxLife fluid: http://www.valvoline.com/pdf/Maxlife_ATF.pdf

A lot of people think that Mazda M-V is the same as Mercon-V (Ford) - which its not and Mazda actually put out a TSB to that effect. Don’t be surprised if Mazda tells you that this is a fluid related failure. (I’m not saying it is - but it might be and it also might be what they say).

I’m Not Going To Say That The Wrong Fluid Was Used Or That The Fluid Caused The Transmission Problems That You Are Experiencing, But Have A Look At The Product Information.

" . . . the fluid he used was ATF Max Life, Synthetic. "
If this is Valvoline brand MaxLife Dex/Merc Synthetic ATF, Which I’m sure is a fine fluid for its recommended makes, then here’s the link to there site:


I clicked the “Download Product Info PDF” under the ATF bottle and looked at the recommended vehicles and I don’t see Mazda there, lots of cars, but I don’t see Mazda.

Again, I don’t know for certain that the fluid was Valvoline and if this will cause the problems that you describe. I’d call Valvoline and ask them if they’d put the fluid in a Mazda. Why or why not ?


Transmission shop says the codes were:
PO 733 - gear 3 incorrect ratio; and
PO 762 - shift solenoid C - shift stuck on

Cigroller, I Was Looking At That TSB When I Posted On The 28th. Here’s A Link For Elyse.



So . . .if the garage used the wrong fluid, how can it be determined whether or not, having used the wrong fluid caused damage?

Since my post this morning, I spoke with the service department at the Mazda dealership (where my car is now being towed). They said that a Mazda transmission needs regular flushing (every 30,000 mi.) and that, if that is not done, the ATF can become compromised and restrict the flow of transmission fluid.

The garage that did the pan replacement (in September, not December as I originally had thought), should have flushed the fluid from the system (not just the reserve fluid in the pan). This was not done. Important or not?

Please Look In Your Mazda 3’s Owner’s Manual / Maintenance Schedule And See What Mazda Says Is The Appropriate Interval (Time / Miles) For Automatic Transmission Service.

Also, see if it recommends changing or flushing the ATF.

Dealers often recommend service beyond what is required in the Owner’s Manual, but I don’t think a dealer trumps the factory recommendations / requirements. I’d feel safe with the Manual’s schedule.

I’d call Valvoline, as I had suggested earlier, and see if they’ll let you speak to their tech department.

Also, I’d call a transmission shop or 2 or 3 and tell them what happened and get feedback from them. I’d also call some out of town Mazda dealers and speak with the Service Manager and or Transmission Technician and ask about the consequences of using the wrong fluid.

Transman, are you here ? Transman is a transmission rebuilder who frequents this site. He doesn’t specialize in Mazda, but knows a heck of a lot about transmissions.

Anybody else out there with suggestions ?

Please tell us what the Mazda change / flush schedule says as given in the Owner’s Manual.


Below is the link to the pdf version of the 2004 Mazda 3 Owner’s Manual, where on pages 8-4 through 8-6 I find the scheduled maintenance chart (attached). I see nothing relative to the transmission maintenance or automatic transaxle maintenance. Perhaps it is part of some other system(?), which I don’t recognize(also?)

I did have a discussion with the service manager at the Mazda dealership in Keene, NH – he was of the “wait and see” persuasion – though he did offer some information relative to the symptoms – and was somewhat hopeful that it might possibly be something electrical, but would recommend some sort of test that measures the pressure in the transmission’s fluid lines, which would reveal what, if any, damage might have occurred.

I’m hearing you say I should make a few more calls to people who are not involved in this specific situation. Plus the Valvoline tech department.

I’m a little out of my league here. But will persevere, if you think that it might guide this predicament to a better outcome. Thanks for all your wisdom and insight. I see that I should be more proactive about understanding maintenance schedules and repairs.


Unfortunately, given the reasonably low mileage on the car and the proximity of the problems to the pan service my amateur guess is that this was a fluid/service induced problem. The reason it is unfortunate is that it becomes difficult to get a shop (the original place) to cover their responsibilities.

So my guess is that Valvoline MaxLife might not meet Mazda M-V specs. I would be calling Valvoline to find out exactly what they have to say about it.

What you were told at the dealership about every 30K miles for transmission service could be said at any car shop to any car owner. It doesn’t have anything to do with the official maintenance schedule. Manufacturer maintenance schedules for transmissions are absolutely terrible. Just about anyone who rebuilds transmissions will tell every 30K (as the dealer did). The issues of old fluid are not special to Mazda and if the lack of 30K miles service was that bad, most every transmission would be dead at 70K miles.

Doesn’t a shop carry some sort of insurance coverage for errors that may occur in this type of situation? So that, hypothetically, if an error is made in the decision to use a fluid which may cause damage to a transmission, and damage does occur – can’t they absorb the cost of the transmission replacement as a claim against a liability policy? Certainly most other businesses must protect themselves in order to be able to stay in business.

Is a consumer at the mercy of an otherwise very capable and reliable mechanic who makes an error such as this?

Just got a call from the Mazda dealership service manager who said that the results of the line pressure test revealed that the transmission is damaged beyond repair, and needs to be replaced.

Please Keep The Communications Coming And Let Us Know What You Find And What Is Happening In This Situation. There Are People Who Frequent This Site That Have Experience With This And Good Ideas.


The question that is uppermost on my mind is this: should I present the information that I have garnered from this site in addition to what the Mazda dealership has said to the original mechanic to ask whether or not he feels responsible for the transmission failure . . .

and if so, how should I present that information?

Thank you,

The only thing that is of any real use to you is the Valvoline spec sheet showing the transmissions that MaxLife can be used in. Given that it is not specified for Mazda M-V the MaxLife ATF should not have been installed in the car.

Valvoline tech specialist forwarded the attached letter to me, dated April 16, 2010, which states that Maxlife meets or exceeds the standards for the Mazda M-V ATF. The representative from the company assured me that Valvoline Maxlife was compatible with the ATF needs of the 2004 Mazda 3.

He said that the spec sheet (previously attached to an early post in this thread) dated July 6, 2010 did not supersede the above letter – that the letter, signed by Thom Smith was the most current and complete listing of applications for the Maxlife ATF.

My impression of Valvoline (I talked to them once too) is that “Sure!” is their response to any question of “will your product work for…” (Every “no” is lost sales. Some people think you shouldn’t be skeptical because if they weren’t right about it they’d have been sued into a oblivion by now. Well, I’m wondering how people ever “prove” that it was the fluid. The fact is that they don’t. No one has any earthly idea how many dead transmissions are hanging around scrap yards due to “multipurpose” ATFs).

Anyway, my guess is that you are going to be left holding this bill. All you can do is tell the Mazda folks that you want as much info as possible on exactly what happened to your transmission and see if that could have anything to do with the service.

But you also have to leave open the possibility that the earlier service had nothing at all to do with it. For all you know the transmission might have failed sooner if not for the earlier service.