1996 Mazda 626 URGENT -Questions about Mazda 626 ATX

Tiny
FELICIANO
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 MAZDA 626
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 100,000 MILES
Hi,

I am planning on buying a Mazda 626 automatic (2.0L LX, 1996), and I would like to ask you some things which might really help me out since I know very little about cars and I have placed a down payment for the Mazda and have to decide soon whether to get it or not. Sorry for the many questions, but maybe you can help me or prevent me from doing something dumb.

Anyway-

The car has done about 160000 kms (100,000 miles). It seems to be perfectly fine, changes gears smoothly on a road test, and otherwise seems well taken care of + owner is a cautious driver. Only after deciding to purchase the car did I read lots of negative feedback about its tranny on the internet. Otherwise it seems like a great car, and is inexpensive.

My questions relate to the fact that Mazda 626's with automatic transmissions seem to be very well-known for their transmissions failing - both statistics and internet posts seem to indicate this.

1. The current owner who has had it for about a year, says that he has not changed the tranny fluid. (Maybe even the first owner hadn't changed it? I don't know.) Anyway, I think I read somewhere that if the car has never had a tranny fluid change in its life, and is high mileage, then doing a complete oil change now (I think the writer of the article called it 'flushing' the oil) might cause tranny to fail. Is this true?

2. How irreversible could the damage be if the previous owner(s) has never changed the tranny fluid?

3. I read on the internet that someone installed a transmission cooling coil, yet the tranny failed even after doing that. With this in mind, and seeing how widespread the problem is on 626s, is the Mazda 626 tranny problem really due to excess heat?

5. Is there any way to completely prevent the automatic transmission problem with the Mazda 626 ATX? Or is it really just a matter of time before the 626's ATX fails?

6. With respect only to the automatic transmission, are there any differences between the 1996 Mazda 626's made for the US market, and those made for the European market?
And do the later models (1996) have a better (or different) automatic transmission than the earlier ones?

7. I notice most people state that they had to get their auto trans rebuilt or buy a new one, which is very costly. Is this always necessary, or are there often cheaper options?

8. Can the original automatic transmission on the 626 be replaced by another make of automatic transmission (and if so, which one and at what cost?)

9. Finally, a subjective opinion - which would you say is more reliable in terms of engine reliability and automatic transmission - a 1996 Mazda 626, or a 1999 Saab 9-5 automatic?

PS. Sorry if this same message reaches you several times, it is because of a website problem- I am trying to donate for the questions but I am not being taken to the proper place. If I cannot donate directly after submitting my questions, please give me your paypal address so I can send you the donation directly. The questions are quite urgent for me.

Thank you very much!
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Sunday, April 19th, 2009 AT 5:06 PM

4 Replies

Tiny
ZACKMAN
  • MEMBER
1. The current owner who has had it for about a year, says that he has not changed the tranny fluid. (Maybe even the first owner hadn't changed it? I don't know.) Anyway, I think I read somewhere that if the car has never had a tranny fluid change in its life, and is high mileage, then doing a complete oil change now (I think the writer of the article called it 'flushing' the oil) might cause tranny to fail. Is this true?

***This may open a huge can of worm. Some believe that changing the fluid in old transmission which never had fluid change is bad, but there are others that believe changing fluid is a must for old transmission. It really depends on who you talk to. I believe in replacing your transmission fluid. You don't need to fluid the entire fluid, just remove the drain plug, wait until it stops, remove the transmission pan, change the gasket, put the pan back up, and fill up with fresh transmission fluid.

The best way to check it is by removing the transmission dipstick. Familiarize yourself with the color and smell of transmission fluid. You may even want to purchase a bottle, if you don't have one handy. If the color is red, not brown-ish and doesn't have burnt smell to it, it is probably OK. But if you notice burnt smell, then you should probably stay away***

2. How irreversible could the damage be if the previous owner(s) has never changed the tranny fluid?

***If the car is being driven hard to its limit all the time, and the fluid is kept low for most of its life, (if there is damage) it is most likely irreversible. But based on mileage, the car is driven less than 10K miles per year, it is highly unlikely that the car has been driven hard.***

3. I read on the internet that someone installed a transmission cooling coil, yet the tranny failed even after doing that. With this in mind, and seeing how widespread the problem is on 626s, is the Mazda 626 tranny problem really due to excess heat?

***If the transmission cooler is installed AFTER the transmission is bad, the cooler is not going to do any good. Most problem that I have seen is due to maintenance, or lack there of. Which will cause overheating due to low fluid.***

5. Is there any way to completely prevent the automatic transmission problem with the Mazda 626 ATX? Or is it really just a matter of time before the 626's ATX fails?

***As with any other transmissions (brand doesn't matter), transmissions do fail. It is just the basic law of wear and tear. But well-maintained transmission will last longer. In your case, you may try adding some premium transmission additives such as Lucas Oil or Amsoil. They do help "re-store" the transmission. Transmissions don't usually fail abruptly. You will first notice the sluggishness and hardness in shifting, and then the slipping, and losing speed. The process sometimes take months, and if you are careful, you can prolong that by driving the vehicle easy.***

6. With respect only to the automatic transmission, are there any differences between the 1996 Mazda 626's made for the US market, and those made for the European market?
And do the later models (1996) have a better (or different) automatic transmission than the earlier ones?

***I have no info on European model, so I cannot say for certainty if there is or no difference between US vs European transmission. Based on the US market, I can't say for sure if the later model has better transmission than that of the older model, I believe that the older ones fail more in frequency just because they are old, not necessarily due to bad design.***

7. I notice most people state that they had to get their auto trans rebuilt or buy a new one, which is very costly. Is this always necessary, or are there often cheaper options?

***If your transmission does fail (Heaven forbids), rebuilding or buying a new one is always necessary. A cheaper option will be getting to know a transmission technician (no joke) who won't charge you an arm and a leg when comes time to replace the transmission. Or, if you are handy with tools and mechanical work, you may try to rebuild yourself. Although I don't recommend this route.***

8. Can the original automatic transmission on the 626 be replaced by another make of automatic transmission (and if so, which one and at what cost?)

***Unfortunately, you are limited to 626. You can possibly look into Ford Mondeo (626's cousin), but I am not certain if the transmissions are interchangeable.***

9. Finally, a subjective opinion - which would you say is more reliable in terms of engine reliability and automatic transmission - a 1996 Mazda 626, or a 1999 Saab 9-5 automatic?

***Subjectively, if there were no other vehicles left in the entire world, and I had to choose between those two, I would pick the 626. But you live in Europe, your technicians may choose the Saab just because they know the vehicle better than the Mazda. Per Consumer Report magazine, 626 ranks slightly higher than the Saab, but they both are ranked much lower than many other vehicles in the market.***
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Monday, April 20th, 2009 AT 11:35 PM
Tiny
FELICIANO
  • MEMBER
Thank you very much Zackman for your detailed reply about the Mazda 626 auto transmission.

Since I know very little about automatic transmissions, and want to avoid some risks, I just wanted to ask you a few more quick questions, your input would be appreciated.

1. The car being bought second hand has 100K miles from previous owners, it's well taken care of, and probably driven easy. The auto trans seems to work perfectly fine. Yet if the ATF has never been replaced, and the ATF is dirty/dark, (although the car shifts gears properly and smoothly), how bad is the situation?

2. And in the above case, is there any way to save the auto tranny, or is it doomed to die?

3. I read that replacing the ATF in a car that has never had it replaced in 100K miles could cause the new ATF to ruin the seal, which would in turn ruin the transmission. So it seems that replacing all 8, 8L of fluid might be too risky for me. If I change just the amount of fluid that pours out when I remove the drain plug, am I also risking ruining the ATX?

4. If I use the above procedure to replace only part of the ATF, can I use any suitable ATF, or do I need to use exactly the kind of ATF that was in the transmission earlier? (I don't even know which make it was)

5. Can the 'Setrab, Mocal, Earl "Sandwich-Plate" Cooler with Fan & Thermostat' be used with the Mazda 626 1996 2.0 L automatic? Is it the best cooler for its ATX, or is there a better choice for this car?

Thank you very much!
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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 AT 6:49 PM
Tiny
FELICIANO
  • MEMBER
Hi, could you please reply to my new questions posted a couple of days ago? (New small donation added). Thanks!
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Thursday, April 30th, 2009 AT 3:02 AM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
It is good to take precautions and understand things so that we are well prepared. However if we start to worry too much, it is not going to be good for health.

Take things easy and cross the bridge when we come to it. No point making ourselves nervous worrying about things that might not happen.

Have a nice day and good luck.
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Thursday, April 30th, 2009 AT 10:27 AM

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