Manual transmission not shifting smooth when cold

Hello everyone,

I recently got my slave and master clutch cylinders replaced at a shop. This is an old 2001 Mazda 323. I can shift through the gears with less effort now, which is good. Before it would not go into the next gear and I had to go to neutral, then go to the next gear.

Now… two things.

When I got out of the shop, the pedal felt… different? I am not sure but I kinda feel the pedal requires less effort to operate, and It seems to go all the way to the floor now? For some reason I can’t remember if it has always done this or what, but maybe it is related to my problem below…

It also seems that the transmission is not shifting smoothly at all when cold. It has always done this before the slave and master cylinder replacement but I was expecting this problem to be fixed after the repairs.

I am not sure how to describe it, but you can feel the shift lever itself “jumping” when shifting to the next gear. Particularly in lower gears.

Only after maybe 15 minutes of driving around then it shifts smoothly. Is this normal?

Thank you for reading. Any help is appreciated.

Of course. Now everything is working as it is supposed to do.

And that’s how it is supposed to work. And the pedal should ALWAYS be buried in the carpet when a gear change is going on.

Hmm, what do You mean? is it “jumping” out of gear on into gear?
The latter would be quite normal. That’s how a manual gearbox works. Then when it heats up a little, everything works a bit easier.
Maybe the clutch system has never worked perfect while You’ve owned the car so You had no chance to know how it should work.
At what point - measured from the bottom position - does the clutch begin to engage?

Are you familiar with driving a variety of automobiles with manual transmissions?

I get the impression that your clutch needs adjusting which can easily be accomplished at the clutch pedal to master cylinder push rod.

The easiest way to test your clutch is to make sure the engine stalls when releasing the clutch pedal while the car is in First gear.The car needs to be stationary and on an empty street to do this test.

It does stall. I have done this test several times before. Clutch seems fine.

I had an SUV before. Operating the clutch pedal required more effort but it seemed more precise. I have also tried several smaller vehicles before with a manual at the dealerships.

I know that the pedals may feel heavier in some vehicles vs another one but the shift levers move smoothly from one gear to another. In this Mazda, it feels as if the lever is poping out. I can’t remember if the SUV I had before did this or not though.

How do I adjust the pedal? Or see if it needs adjustment?

Okay so it’s supposed to go all the way to the floor. Clutch begins to catch about this distance I think, marked in red below. That point feels lower than before. Maybe that is normal, or maybe I just never thought about it before. :thinking:

It does not jump out of gear. When you move the shift lever from 1st to 2nd, or 2nd to 3rd gear, before reaching to that next gear, there is a point where it feels as if the shift lever is poping out or something.

I am sorry, my English is not good. Maybe I should just take it to the mechanic again. :roll_eyes:

That’s okay, no worries, we’ll not give up on You for that. Although I think You are doing fine.
That drawing looks about the perfect point of the beginning of engagement.
As I previously wrote, You might not even know how it works, when it works as it is supposed to do.
It is normal that just as you want to engage a gear, there is a point of engagement where you feel a (very) light point of resistance before going into gear. The only thing here is, the colder it is, the more significant it feels. Some cars are bastards to shift when they have been in a freezer. That is not something to worry about, it’s just the internals of the gear box doing their jobs. Just treat the car gently if it is really cold.
It will do no harm at all if You take it back and ask the mechanic, but I think the clutch is working just fine. It is just giving You a different input in Your hands and foot.
Best of luck

When was the last time the transmission fluid/oil was replaced?


Oh didn’t know this, I thought there was something going wrong with the transmission. Maybe you are right and the car is fine. I will try to treat it more gently from now on when driving the car in the morning.

Thanks a lot for your help.

Two years ago.

You’re welcome.
As a friend told me many years ago:
I treat my car like I’ll treat a woman I’m deeply in love with. Not like my wife.
Actually, he would not dare to treat his wife bad, she was a good wife for him and he knew it.

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I just came back from the shop. The owner test drove it, then told me that the clutch is fine, that there is good pressure on it. Okay great!

He said he was going to ask his mechanics to bleed it again but that figuring out clutch problems is hard without taking the transmission apart. He had to leave so I waited in the shop.

Later on, one of the mechanics passed me his cellphone to talk to the owner, he told me that the mechanic said that the clutch was going out. I went to talk to the mechanic directly after that. He said the clutch was slipping, and that the engagement point was too high.

What?! Here I was saying that the engagement point was too low… :roll_eyes: Okay he should be right about that because I am no mechanic, and off course I asked the owner for a quote for clutch replacement but I want second opinions too.

I have never seen a clutch slipping before, only in videos, and it doesn’t behave like it’s slipping based on those videos.

The engine stalls when I perform one of those clutch tests in an empty lot. I can also drive up to VERY steep hills, park in hills too without problems. I also floored it on the highway and see if there is a change in acceleration. It is good as far as I can tell. The problem is shifting through the gears at low speeds.

What I have noticed is:

  • If I am in second gear for instance, I have to rev it all the way to 3,000 rpms in order to move the shift lever smoothly to the next gear (third gear in this case). If I do it earlier than 3,000 rpms there is that “popping out” sensation on the shift lever. This only happens in lower gears, and doing this of course is making me burn a lot of gas. I am not getting good MPG in this car anymore.

  • If I kinda “lift up” a bit the shift lever while I am shifting through the gears, I can shift with ease without bringing the rpms that high, and also without that “popping out” sensation on the shift lever.

  • Alternatively, I can also shift to neutral first, wait a bit and then shift to the next gear.

Is the clutch slipping based on these?

It sounds like the transmission synchros might be worn.

When a clutch totally fails, a vehicle can be driven if you can get the RPM’s of the engine to match the RPM’s of the transmission so the transmission will smoothly shift without the clutch.


What are my options? :worried: Guess I will have to drive it to the ground now because that sounds VERY expensive for a car like this.

This isn’t normal. At least not for any manual transmission car I’ve driven. There’s differences car to car on where the clutch engages as a % of total clutch pedal travel, but what you are describing sounds like either pressing the clutch isn’t totally disengaging the engine from the transmission, or there’s a transmission problem … N to 1st, or even 1st to 2nd can sometimes be a little balky, but shifting from 2nd into 3rd should be a very easy shift, and it shouldn’t matter what the engine rpm is during the shift within reason on upshifts (downshifts from 4th to 3rd engine rpm might matter more) … hmmm… Is there any tendency for the car (when stopped) to move when the clutch pedal is pressed in all the way and the transmission is in gear? It shouldn’t. Try that w/all the gears. If the car wants to move forward in that situation, could be a problem with the release bearing, the clutch ass’y, the clutch hydraulics, or even the bearing where the transmission input shaft meets up w/the center of the flywheel.

One good thing about your car’s configuration, the clutch slave cylinder is located outside the transmission; i.e. it uses a shift fork. That means the clutch hydraulics can be diagnosed without removing the transmission.

I think I know what you mean. Sort of a clicking noise that seems to be coming directly from the gearshift lever, and you can feel it with your hand as a sort of movement or vibration. I get that when downshifting from 4th to 3rd sometimes, especially if I try to do it without double clutching. On downshifting that’s normal, the synchronizer gadget inside the transmission isn’t synchronizing 100% perfectly. But I never get than when upshifting, unless I am being lazy & not pressing the clutch pedal all the way in.

Hello George,

I will see if the car moves with the pedal is pressed all the way in all gears tomorrow and report back. By reading what you wrote there, it sounds to me like there is a possibility that in my case my clutch is not disengaging even when the pedal is all the way in.

Oh… I now remember that today I tried to get into first gear in a traffic light and it didn’t want to, this is after the replacement of both the slave and master cylinder. I mean, it is not as bad as before because before the fix, it really didn’t want to go into first gear.

Instead of forcing it into gear I get it back to neutral and press on the clutch pedal again; then it gets into first gear smoothly.

Tester mentioned that it could be the synchros. If the synchros are bad, wouldn’t it make grinding noises when you shift?


Every manual transmission I’ve driven has acted like that to some degree on shifting from N to 1st. The way I get it to behave when it balks like that is to let the pedal out, then press it back in, and try it again. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about that particular symptom in shifting from N to 1st. Another test you can try is to compare shifting from N to a gear when the engine is off compared to the engine running. It is normal for it to be a little more difficult when the engine is running in the lower gears, but if it is a lot more difficult even in the higher gears, that’s a clue. Also if it is difficult to shift from N to a gear both when the engine is off, and when it is running, that’s another clue a transmission specialist could use to diagnose what’s going on. If I had that particular problem you are having (and there was no problem shifting N to gear with the engine off) I’d probably try to measure the change (in mm) in the clutch slave cylinder output pin (pusheson the clutch fork) when the clutch pedal out vs in. There’s probably a spec for that. If the dimensional change isn’t as much as it should be, that could be the cause. Not sure if that measurement is an easy thing to do or not though.

Okay got it. It is way easier to shift to any get with the engine off. With the engine running, the higher gears are not difficult at all.

In any case I will see if the car moves with the pedal pressed in all gears as I have not tried this before. Thanks a lot for the help.