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626 Transmission Faq


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#1
blackshine007

blackshine007

    Mazda 626.net

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Despite Mazda's recurring efforts to create a sports-sedan image for the 626, which would seem to demand a stick shift, most of them went out the door with automatic transmissions, and judging by message boards, mailing lists, and my personal correspondence, a lot of them are coming back in the door with transmission problems. A few of the common questions are answered here.

Which automatic transmission do I have in my 626?
Assuming you're driving a North American-spec 626 — other models may vary substantially — here's the scoop:

1983-1986:
The F3A, a fairly simple three-speed box.


1987:
Mazda's first four-speed automatic, the G4A-EL is a mostly-electronic transmission (hence the "EL") with three shift solenoids, a lockup solenoid, a vane-type pump, and a throttle cable. For some inscrutable reason, it was substantially redesigned after the first year, so '87 Gs can't be substituted for later ones, or vice versa.


1988-1992:
The new version of the G4A-EL. Ford adapts it for the Probe in 1989; Ford's designation for the transmission is 4EAT-G.


1993:
The G is redone again, and this time it has seven solenoids, a rotor-type pump, and no more throttle cable. Mazda renames it the GF4A-EL. This is the first year of 626 production in the US (sister ships Mazda MX-6/Ford Probe are already being built at Flat Rock, Michigan).


1994-2002:
The GF is still being installed in the V6 cars, but the four-cylinder models get a new transmission, sourced from Ford. Designated the LA4A-EL by Mazda and CD4E by Ford, it first appears on Ford of Europe's Mondeo in 1993, which made its USA debut in 1995 as the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique. The CD4E is also put to work in the front-drive Mercury Cougar, built alongside the 626 at Flat Rock after Probe/MX-6 production ends, and, reworked for 4wd use where needed, in the Mazda Tribute/Ford Escape SUV twins. The CD4E is manufactured in Batavia, Ohio under the auspices of ZF Batavia, a joint venture of Ford and ZF Friedrichshafen AG.


2003 and after:
626 production ended in 2002. Jatco, a Japanese manufacturer controlled by Nissan (and in which Mazda was once a partner) supplies a 5-speed automatic (5F31J, Jatco number JF506E) for the V6-powered Mazda6 s. The same unit is used in the newest MPV minivan. The four-cylinder Mazda6 i uses the FN4A-EL, which also appears in the last of the Protegé line.
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#2
blackshine007

blackshine007

    Mazda 626.net

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  • Car: 1994 626 LX KLZE
Can I expect problems?

Early versions of the CD4E piled up a fairly terrible repair record, some of it the transmission's fault, and some of it Mazda's implementation of it. In the '94 626 specifically, there appears to be a quirk in the speedometer gear set, and since the transmission's shift points are determined at least partially by reported vehicle speed, this can result in erratic shifting and the flashing of the infamous Hold or O/D Off light — without the transmission being necessarily at fault at all. The transmission has had other problems as well: early versions are prone to blowing out the pump gasket, the failure rate of the original forward-clutch assembly is high, and line pressure occasionally goes off the scale. (For more detail on these problems, see Gears magazine, January 2000.) Mazda has an informal recall— um, a "Special Service Program" — of the '94s (and only the '94s) to correct the speedometer gear set. And Ford has been making running changes to the CD4E, revising the pump plate and gasket in November 1996 and redesigning the coast/forward clutch assembly in January 1998. Cooling capacity, another weak point, has been improved, though many owners are installing auxiliary transmission coolers to be on the safe side.

This is not to say, of course, that you can't get a lemon in the G/GF4A-EL line either, but during the middle Nineties, the GF4A-EL was somewhat more reliable than the CD4E. When ZF acquired 51 percent of the Batavia facility in 1999, one of the announced goals was to beef up the CD4E for use in the Tribute/Escape; the 626 version also benefited.

What are Mazda's service recommendations for automatic transmissions?

Mostly nonexistent. The manual is silent on the question of when to change the fluid. And what's more, the old drop-the-pan method won't work at all on the CD4E, since it has no bottom pan to drop. There's a side cover over the valve bodies, but that's it. Still, either transmission can be serviced using the new fluid-replacement systems, and most of the Mazda techs I've talked to in recent years believe that the old two-year/30,000-mile interval that used to be considered the norm for transmission service is good for the 626.

Are Ford's service recommendations for the CD4E the same?

I turned this up in a Contour/Mystique owner's manual:

"Under normal vehicle operating conditions, transmission service (transmission model CD4E) is not required unless 5,000 mile fluid inspections reveal either contamination or discoloration of fluid, or transmission exhibits functional concerns."
Definitely sounds like you ought to look at the fluid every 5,000 miles.
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#3
blackshine007

blackshine007

    Mazda 626.net

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What does the Hold function do?

"Hold" is a switch that changes the shift patterns of the transmission. Not all 626 models have it. Where Hold is offered, the normal shift pattern with Hold off is:

D: 1, 2, 3, 4
S: 1, 2, 3
L: 1, 2

With Hold engaged, the shift pattern becomes:

D: 2 (briefly), 3
S: 2
L: 1

The typical shift pattern for a 626 without Hold is:

D: 1, 2, 3, 4
2: 2
1: 1

These cars will generally have an O/D Off switch on the shifter, which changes D to 1, 2, 3.

What does it mean when the Hold (or O/D Off) light is blinking?
According to Mazda, it is an indication of an electrical problem in the transmission. Actually, it could also be an indication of bad sensor data reaching the transmission. This light and the Malfunction Indicator ("Check Engine") light are rather closely connected; since this transmission is computer-controlled, you could be getting signals from either. If this is happening to you and you're not up to reading codes, as I'm not, you should probably go to the dealership or to a garage that speaks fluent Mazda and get the codes pulled. The pertinent ones you're most likely to encounter, on a pre OBD II vehicle, are:

06 No signal from vehicle speed sensor
12 Throttle position sensor signal open or shorted
55 No signal from drum speed pulse generator on trans
60 "1-2" or "A" shift solenoid circuit open or shorted
61 "2-3" or "B" shift solenoid circuit open or shorted
62 "3-4" or overrun clutch solenoid circuit open or shorted
63 Lock-up solenoid circuit open or shorted

Mazda switched the automatic 626 to OBD II around the 1996 model year, so if you have a '96 or later, you'll need a full-fledged OBD II-compatible scan tool. The '94 and '95 models reportedly come with Ford's EEC-IV diagnostics.

A Technical Service Bulletin exists for some 1999-2001 models. TSB 05-005/02 deals with one specific circumstance: after extended highway driving, the O/D off light is blinking and code P1783 is set (excessive ATF temperature). Occasionally there will be overflow through the dipstick tube and harsh shifting. Mazda's recommended fix is to replace the radiator and to install an auxiliary cooler for the transmission. Note that this is not an extension to the standard factory warranty.
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#4
blackshine007

blackshine007

    Mazda 626.net

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So it doesn't mean the transmission is about to melt down?

Not necessarily. It is a legitimate cause for concern, but real transmission breakdowns tend to manifest themselves in a manner far more dramatic than mere flashing dash lights.

When problems do occur, the transmission has a perhaps-misnamed "fail-safe" mode, in which it seems to act like a worn-out three-speed with jerky shifting action. Mostly, it's cutting the computer out of the circuit and relying solely upon the hydraulics to do the dirty work.

What does it cost to have a transmission rebuilt?

It depends on your local conditions, though $1200 to $2000 is probably fairly typical. It is Mazda North American Operations policy that Mazda dealers do not do rebuilds; if the repair is something more complicated than seals and gaskets, or the pump, they will swap the transmission for a previously-rebuilt model, most likely assembled by a former Mazda facility in Jacksonville, Florida that is now operated by Delco Remy, at a price on the high side of $2500. Expect a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty on transmission work.

If there are so many of these failing, shouldn't Mazda be picking up the tab?

Apparently there have not been enough complaints to Mazda North American Operations to induce them to initiate any other service programs, or to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to warrant a government recall. At this point, I would recommend that anyone facing a major transmission-repair bill on an out-of-warranty 626 file the appropriate complaints, just to help the process along.

While threading your way through the MazdaUSA.com Web site can be torturous, it is still possible to reach actual persons at MNAO. The first step should be the standard Customer Service line at 800-222-5500, if only because it's necessary to document the entire experience. The NHTSA's toll-free hotline is 888-327-4236, and they maintain an online complaint form.
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#5
blackshine007

blackshine007

    Mazda 626.net

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  • Car: 1994 626 LX KLZE
Is there a chance that it's not the transmission at all?

There is. Remember that the more recent transmissions are totally under computer control. Partial or complete failure of the computer is rather uncommon, but computer problems can manifest themselves as transmission problems. When my previous 626 (a '93 with the GF4A-EL) went into a phase when it would start off in third gear — and sometimes, even fourth gear — the dealer ran extensive diagnostics and pronounced the transmission just fine: the problem was in the little electronic brain. I was skeptical, but they were right. The computer was sent out for regrooving, or something, and everything returned to normal. I can't help but wonder how many "transmission problems" on these cars are actually computer problems. Before you sign the check for a rebuild, make sure that a rebuild is really what you need, and get a second (or even third) opinion.

Recently I heard from a guy who was not only enduring the HOLD light, but his car wouldn't start either. I suggested a few things, the dealership suggested a few others, and eventually the problem was traced to the engine relay in the fuse box, which was reporting to the computer that the car was in gear; the computer duly disabled the starter. Sometimes it's the longest of long shots.

Can you diagnose a problem for me? Here are the symptoms....

No, actually, I can't. There's no way to be sure what's wrong without examining the vehicle itself, and, well, I don't do house calls.

For further exploration:
Performance buffs will find a Ford Probe/Mazda MX-6 & 626 ATX Message Board up and running.

The A-Team knows more about these transmissions than almost anyone.

Dan Lam's collection of Letters from Happy Mazda Owners was, of course, nothing of the kind, but it did represent a wide spectrum of opinion, from irritation to disgust; it seems to be down now, but we preserve the link as a memorial of sorts.
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#6
blackshine007

blackshine007

    Mazda 626.net

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  • Location: Atlanta, Ga,USA
  • Car: 1994 626 LX KLZE
It took me long enough, but I finally found the info ya'll have been longing for, So read up and ENJOY!!!
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