Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Mazda Manual Transmisison Jam

This is a tale nearly two years old, but I haven’t found an answer yet:

It was a pleasant August Friday evening, about 6pm. I went out to my car, a 2008 Mazdaspeed3, to start it and go home, and I found myself unable to move the shifter into gear while the engine is running, regardless of clutch actuation. If I stop the car, put it in gear and start the car, the car bucks and immediately stalls.

I called Mazda for a tow and they showed up, duplicated the issue and towed me home, as it wouldn’t do any good to go to a dealer at 6pm on a friday. I get another tow in the morning, again, the tow driver duplicates my issue. The car gets dropped off at the dealer and they are unable to duplicate the problem.

Presumably some time during the second tow, something got jiggled loose. Since they couldn’t duplicate it, they couldn’t really do anything. I brought the car in months later for some significant scheduled maintenance and reminded them of the issue. They called Mazda and the best they came up with was to drain the transmission oil and refill with a different fluid, all done under warranty.

The problem still hasn’t recurred, but it’s in the back of my mind any time I need to get somewhere in a hurry.

Has anyone run into this problem either on a Mazda manual or any other make of manual transmission?

Did the car grind when you shifted gears? If you have the clutch all the way down and you shift gears, there is no connection between the engine and transmission and therefore no reason why the engine would stall out.

Bit I see this is not really your problem. What usually causes inability to shift into gear is a bad shifter linkage.

Some people notice shifting problems as well when the fluid is too thick (when it is cold out). This is a common problem with all transmissions and it is possible that they just replaced your fluid with thinner fluid and problem solved. I wouldn’t worry about it if it has been 2 years and the problem hasn’t recurred.

This sounds as though it may be a shift linkage problem. Back in the 1950’s, some shift linkages for the 3 speed column shift were poorly designed. I had the same problem you had with my 1955 Pontiac. Sometimes it would try to shift into two gears. The solution on the Pontiac was to open the hood, grasp the shift rods and move them so that the car was in neutral.

I’ve noticed, since I bought the car new, that the transmission feels different depending on the ambient temperature and if it’s warmed up.

The issue was literally being unable to push the lever into a gear while the engine was running. If I put it into gear while the engine was stopped, started it, holding in the clutch, and then let it out, it would stall immediately.

@Triedaq, would the ‘shifting into two gears’ cause symptoms matching mine?

It has been a long time since I owned the 1955 Pontiac, but the symptoms seemed to match your symptoms. I remember our neighbor having a similar problem on a 1957 Rambler. This symptom wasn’t uncommon with certain three speed manual transmissions with the column shifter. The more reliable shifters had only one lever as did my 1954 Buick and the Chrysler products through 1956. I never had problems with these shift linkages, nor did I have any problems with the shift linkage on my 1947 Pontiac. However, in the mid to late 1950’s, the automatic transmissions became the norm and the three speed manual was the step child. I think the manufacturers put in poorer quality shift linkages to encourage people to buy automatic transmissions. There were shift conversion kits in those days to convert the column shift to a more reliable floor shift mechanism.

The going into two gears at once is a valid possibility although I cannot say for sure that is what happened here.

Back in the 80s I worked for Nissan and there was a bit of a rash of this type of thing with Nissan trucks. The transmission would shift fine and at some point it would abruptly lock up, usually after shifting into reverse. Some straightened themselves out with a bit of wiggling and cursing and others required the tow truck.

In this case, what happened was that a large mainshaft nut inside the transmission was apparently not tightened properly. This would allow the transmission to bind in two gears.
We used to remove the transmission tailhousings and retighten (SERIOUSLY retighten) this large nut with a special wrench.
I did so many of these that I got where I could do them in an hour or so without even pulling the transmission.

I don’t know this would be the reason behind the Mazda problem but it was certainly true of Nissan.

I think it was definitely in two gears. The stalling is a definite sign. It probably would have moved if the shifter was put in neutral and the clutch was let out.

Could be air or leak in the clutch hydraulics

How did your clutch pedal FEEL at the time of the issue? If you have a hydraulic clutch then perhaps your clutch master or slave had a momentary loss of pressure…which is not common…but can happen.

If you have a cable clutch, which doesnt sound right in this vehicle…then it could have come off its mount and then jumped back on…slim chance but possible…

Need to know how your clutch pedal felt during the issue…