By on November 19, 2011

David writes:

I am driving a 2010 Mazda3 2.5 with a 6 speed manual. 9000 miles in, the trans is still sticky, especially going into 1st while rolling. What could help reduce this?

Second, the automatic wipers are amusing to watch. How exactly do they work?

In Panther love, I sighted a sleek black Signature L, a rare one. 6 inches more rear leg room and 1 1/2 inch wider track. Should be a nice ride. The longer wheelbase helps reduce the inverted bathtub look.

Sajeev Answers:

Oh yes!  The only mode of transport better than a Signature L would be yesterday’s Cartier L. Or even better, yesteryear’s Fleetwood Series 75, any vintage will suffice. These irrelevant (yet always necessary) sightings of Panther Love show how everyone appreciates a bit of classical American proportioning rollin’ down the road. Too bad FoMoCo couldn’t re-pop the 1995 Cartier so the genre could go out with a bang, instead we get that “inverted bathtub look” as you so eloquently pointed out!

Now where were we again?  That’s right…

A sticky trans is a tough problem to arm chair.  Perhaps it is easier to shift once the transmission warms up after a cold night of resting.  Or maybe an aftermarket shifter would make the job more accurate.  Or maybe a heavy-ass 8-ball shift knob would act like a sledgehammer to your quandary.  My advice is to search the forums for your Mazda3 and see if a fluid change to some other design (synchromesh, full synthetic, etc) would help.  My second tip is to steal one of those round things from a pool table and screw it onto your gear stick.

Automatic wipers are amusing?  I rather dislike them.  And I’m not the only one. These systems (not just your Mazda) use a rain sensor mounted between your rear view mirror and the windshield, thus mounting the sensor on the glass, with a clean and convenient place to run the wiring.  This might be one reason why you see options like a compass or auto dimming mirror packed with said wiping system: wrap it into one wiring harness to save a few bucks! Brilliant.

Anyway, the system then manipulates the car’s conventional wiper motor much like the “mist” feature normally seen on your steering column. But instead of giving you the control via lever, the system does it for you. Which is fine, but I’ve encountered many a rainstorm where the sensor thinks everything is hunky-dory, but the portion of the windshield I use to see stuff is blanketed in water droplets. That won’t get wiped away!  Much like having a manual transmission, I prefer the interval wiper system with a handful of cycle times that I can choose.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

This rant is valid because, at the end of the day, driving is all about me.  Or you.  It’s not about the eyeball sandwiched between your windscreen and your rear view mirror. Believe that. 


Send your queries to [email protected] . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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33 Comments on “Piston Slap: Shifting In, Wiping Out, Zoom-Zoom-Zoom...”

  • avatar

    re: Sticky Transmission.

    It might help to try a different fluid. My 5-speed Mustang GT had a notchy transmission, esp. going into second. A Mustang racer suggested I try Royal Purple Synchromax (NFI). After changing the fluid, the gearbox did seem to shift a bit smoother (although it’s certainly subjective and I was hoping/expecting smoother). After a few thousand miles shifting got even a bit smoother; I think the fluid ‘conditioned’ the gears somewhat (plus I got better at matching speeds and timing the shift motion).

    Don’t know if that’s the correct fluid for your Mazda, but I’d give the appropriate synthetic fluid a try (not a bad idea to change the fluid on a new gearbox after a few thousand miles anyway).

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Does the Mazda have some sort of 1st gear lockout? My fiance’s 2005 Vibe only seems to go into first while rolling when travelling less than 15mph and when stopped. I always figured it was some sort of mechanism to protect the trans.

    Yup I do love big American sedans, the longer the better. I still say the L-wheelbase should have been standard on Town Cars. Then they could have used the “standard” Town Car wheelbase for Grand Marquis and kept the Crown Vic on the wheelbase it always had. That would have given much more diffentiation between the models.

  • avatar

    Many transmissions only have single cone synchros on first gear and won’t shift smoothly in to first gear if the car is moving. The rationale is that under normal use you never downshift into first, it’s only used to get your car moving from a stop.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. At best you shouldn’t shift into 1st at any speed over a slow roll.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. The Protege I had pretty much had to be at a dead stop to get into first. Lots of transmissions make it difficult to downshift into 1st while moving faster than 5 mph tops. Nothing good can come from it anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      Another agree. What’s not clear from the original post — in your 9000 miles, was it ever smooth shifting into first?

      Also unclear — were you shifting into first from a downhill stop? Once the car starts rolling slowly, it should be smooth and easy to put it into first from neutral.

      But if you were slowing down and shifting into first, then you’ll encounter some resistance. You shouldn’t be shifting into first unless you are moving pretty slowly (less than 10mph?), if at all.

  • avatar

    I rather like the rain-sensing wipers on my 328iT. But I have not had it long enough to use them in snow yet. But BMW still gives you the option of regular intermittent as well. Unlike my previous Saab, where it was rain-sensing or nothing for intermittent, and they sucked in light snow. And the sensitivity adjustment was buried in menus in the onboard computer. I have never understood why this is an either/or option in most cars.

    Definitely try a different gear lube for your shifting issues, though of course, be wary of potential warranty issues should things go South. Also, it could just be that it needs more miles on it. My BMWs 6spd was AWFUL (stiff and obstinant) off the BMW Welt floor, but it has loosened up considerably in the first 6K miles, and is now starting to feel like the BMW shifters I have known and loved in the past.

    • 0 avatar

      Definitely try a different gear lube for your shifting issues, though of course, be wary of potential warranty issues should things go South.

      Good point. Never tell the dealer if you do it, and don’t use the purple stuff because it would be obvious! Unless you find some better advice from people with the same transmission as you, you could try switching to Redline MT-90 or Amsoil MTG. Both are respected 75W-90 GL-4 manual transmission oils. It’s cheap and easy to do, and it’s never a bad idea to get those initial wear metals out anyway. Maybe it would be best to see the dealer and/or compare with another similar car first though.

      As for the shift to first: I always double-clutch downshifts into first. I don’t like to use more force than my fingertips can easily provide when shifting, and most (all?) manuals don’t like going to first while in motion.

  • avatar

    Greetings!! 1st of all DONT DO ANYTHING except to take the 3 to a Mazda dealership and have a service advisor verify the shifting issue. 9K miles, ’10 model I would think would be under warranty. While there, test-drive a ’11 3 and see if it shifts as yours does. It may be a normal characteristic of the vehicle.
    Tip about the rain-sensing wipers: Make sure the feature is turned off if you go through a car wash. Ive seen blades and arms damaged by the cleaning apparatus if the wipers should activate.
    The sensor contains 3 light-emitting diodes and 3 receptor cells.If the light shines through water droplets and becomes distorted, the wipers activate if in rain-sensing mode.
    Contrary to what was posted, the rain-sensing feature is on some of the higher-trim level cars, which usually have the compass/temp, or compass/temp/homelink mirror. “Brilliant”? It just makes sense, nothing more.

    • 0 avatar

      Also, because the rain sensor is basically measuring the clarity of the windshield, it can be fooled if the windshield is dirty.

      I’ve never been impressed with most auto- features in cars. I’ve never had a problem with turning on the wipers, headlights, or controlling the volume on my own.

  • avatar

    Surely Sajeev will award a prize to the first poster who knows which Town Car had rain-sensing wipers? Perhaps an Extended Wheelbase TTAC® Water Bottle?

  • avatar

    You want “inverted bathtub”? Try this-

    Was this the start of “Brougham”?

  • avatar

    I’m not a fan of automatic wipers as much as I’m not a fan of automatic climate control systems. As sophisticated as they claim to be, they never seem to pick the setting that I think is right for me and I find myself constantly fighting for manual control. Sometimes automation is more aggravation than progress. I’m looking right at you, BMW!

  • avatar

    I guess I’m not the only one jonesing for the TC Signature L. The stretch really does transform the car from a turd to something halfway decent looking. Funny that. They are a rare breed. Most on the used car market are ex-livery cars , almost always black with like 150K (at least) on the clock. I am tempted to find one from a private owner that is not balck and that does not have a vinyl roof and chrome wheel well flanges. A guy can dream, can’t I?

  • avatar

    Reader for some time, decided to make my first post as I disagree with most of you (so far) about rain sensing wipers. I think its a nice feature but completely depends on the implementation.

    Let me elaborate. My wife’s car is a 2008 Mini Cooper S (which we decided to buy new as the used ones we wanted were way overpriced due to a combination of high resale values, the gas price spike of 2008 and the crap load of options that most people with S model around here had gotten conned into buying). Anyway we did a complete custom order from the factory picking and choosing exactly the features we needed. We took all the safety options and two extra features. DRL/Auto headlamps and rain sensing wipers. My wife wanted it as she hates constantly fiddling with the wiper speed/intermittent setting since here in California the rain may not always be at a constant rate.

    I didn’t think much of it at that time, but once I started using it I’ve been quite pleasantly surprised with it. On the other hand when I later bought my Evo X MR I was quite dissapointed how subpar its auto wipers were compared to the Mini. Sure sometimes you still might need to make one or two manual swipes but the Mini impelementation is quite good 98% of the time. It has a button at the end of the stalk which you press to turn it on the moment it starts raining. The good thing about this is that: one, you don’t have to remember to switch it off in car washes and two, you can still push the wiper down on the infrequent occasions that you need to do a manual swipe. For the most part it works well and you can forget about wiper fiddling as one distraction during higher attention level rainy weather driving.

    The Evo MR on the other hand needs to be put into auto mode by pulling down the stalk into Auto mode which is just above the On mode. You can easily forget and leave it in that mode once it stops raining. It also gets confused many times and starts wiping furiously during mild rain. Somehow its software and sensor are not that good. I don’t like it that much and doubt its value in the Evo MR. I just got it because it came in the trim level of the MR I wanted.

    So you see how depending on the car it might be something you might like a lot or think “meh”. Don’t knock on rain sensing wipers till you see a good implementation of it. I wish I had the Mini’s in my Evo.

  • avatar

    Maybe I’m a throwback, but I’ve never been satisfied with most automatic gadgets on a car other than climate control.

    I can live with them, I just want to be able to have the choice to turn them off. Unfortunately that isn’t always an option. Maybe in the future it will be, we’ll see.

    Mostly I just see it as something else to go wrong and fix in the future and I’d rather not have it.

  • avatar
    Otto Krump

    Rain sensing wipers are a sales gimmick designed to remove the lazy driver one more step from the act of driving. If you’re actually looking out the windshield, adjusting the wiper setting occasionally should not be that great a hardship.

  • avatar

    sticking into 1st gear while rolling – why? in 99% situations this is not necessary. but if it is, as if you are ready for that tremendous take-off acceleration, you need to match the revs before shoving the shifter.

  • avatar

    The thing I like about the automatic wipers on the wife’s Volvo is the speed sensitive part. I don’t need (or want) the wipers going back and forth at light speed when I’m just sitting at a traffic light. They also work really well when it barely raining, or after it rains when its just spray from the cars in front. My only gripe is they don’t come on automatically… in the ultimate irony the “automatic” wipers require you to push a button to turn them on! Go figure. I guess its to keep them down in a car wash, but why not have them come on automatically but turn off via a switch in such situations.

  • avatar

    My Cadillac Seville STS has rain sensing wipers, and they work great 98% of the time. (The other 2% the sensor gets confused somehow.) The intermittent speed selector on the windshield stalk actually controls how sensitive the sensor is to rain, so I still get some control over the wiper speed.

  • avatar

    I doubt there is a fault with the gearbox but you could ask the Mazda dealer about it. I am thinking that with a 6 speed box, 1st gear is there to get you moving and 2nd gear should be fine for anything above crawling speed. Modern engines cope allot better than they used to with low revs thanks to knock sensors and Valve timing magic.
    Contrary to most comments, I am a rain sensor convert. Auto wipers like auto headlights are a safety feature and they work well enough 98% of the time. You need a clutch and a gear stick to be in the right gear at the right time but you only need wipers when its raining or you are behind a semi truck after its rained.

  • avatar

    As said by others, any manual I’ve ever driven would not shift into 1st easily at a roll. If you match revs it should shift easier. I guess you were granny shifting when you should’ve been double-clutching ;)

    If the other shifts seem sticky I would take it to the dealer before changing fluid. On an older car, yes by all means change the fluid (I’ve done so myself to great results). But on a brand new car, I would talk to the dealer and see if you can test drive another car the same model to see if it is normal for this model.

  • avatar

    The ’87 Audi 100 (5000 in the US) I owned once had a fully sync’d 1st gear. And I’ve read that the Ford Focus ST170 had one. Other than that I think it’s not very common, and not very useful either, as most cars I’ve owned would hit redline in 1st at what seems like 25mph…

  • avatar

    Auto wipers are becoming necessary as people are incapable with choosing the correct wiper setting. There are so many times you see people have their wipers going full blast at a light in a drizzle.

    The best intermittent wiper setting was on my 93 Passat. Instead of a stupid knob with different settings of which none are correct most of the time, you just pushed the stalk down below off. The brought it back up to off, and then back down again. The time in the off position was the time between wipes. Always the correct wiping interval. I loved this design so much, that if VW brought it back I would likely buy one of their cars again no matter how bad the rest of the cars have become.

    • 0 avatar

      My 1983 Xr4i actually had adjustable interval intermittent wipers, that’s one thing I really miss. I haven’t seen it in any other car…

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, many people are to lazy or indifferent to care much about wiper settings but I would like to point out that there are places were rain sensors are amazing, winter in Cape Town South Africa, Seattle any time except late summer and Western Michigan in fall, all places I have lived. Cape Town especially & Seattle will have drizzle that turns into rain, into a deluge and back to no rain in a matter of minutes can mean quite literally that as soon as you find the right setting the rain changes. Its just frustrating and frankly distracting.

    • 0 avatar

      I always thought of rain sensing wipers as being a lazy man’s affection that was prone to break. Didn’t think much of it when it came standard on my ’08 Astra XR. Now I can’t stand driving cars without it. Very handy on the highway when you have a light misty rain and cars passing in and out or semi-trucks passing on the other side. Completely forget its on works that well.

  • avatar

    re: shifting into 1st… agree that usually not necessary, but on my first manual car (84 RX7 GSL-SE), I noticed the same thing, and in that car it really was necessary to use 1st at low speeds because of low torque of the rotary engine at low engine speeds). I could get it to shift into 1st more easily if I put the lever into 2nd before 1st (clutch in, lever into 2nd then 1st, clutch out). That always worked. It became such a habit that I found myself doing it for years, even on other cars when it wasn’t necessary. Not sure why it worked, mechanically speaking.

    re: auto wipers… never owned a car with the feature, but when I drive my father’s car (Lexus GS), I find the feature disconcerting because the wipes come at unpredictable times. It is weird when the wipers sweep unexpectedly. As others have commented, I also tend not to like auto climate control systems, I usually find myself setting them manually.

  • avatar

    The TC L does not have a wider track than a regular TC of the same vintage. The axle width did increase about 4″ in several steps, between the first 1979 models and the last 2012 models, a little with each new frame and/or suspension (92, 98, 03 ) However that was made up for with ever increasing wheel offset (~0, +10mm, +30mm, +50mm). So the track width stayed pretty much the same.

  • avatar

    My 2011 Mazda6 2.5L with 6spd stick also requires a little bit of “force” to throw it into 1st if slightly rolling. This isn’t any different than any stick car I’ve driven.

    The transmission is only notchy when I shift into 3rd gear…but that is when the tranny is still cold in the morning. Once it warms up it shifts like butter. I have 13k miles on it now and it’s shifted the same since new.

  • avatar

    We owe Educator Dan at least the top to the prize water bottle–he was close. It was the ’03 Signature and Cartier TC’s that had rain-sensing wipers. (Not on the Executives.) I never heard why it was only that one year. They do work, but in a mediocre fashion, IMHO. I don’t think I’d miss them if they weren’t there.

  • avatar

    I love the rain sensing wipers in my 2007 Mazda3. They might be one of my favorite features. The auto setting works perfectly 95% of the time.

    It’s amazing when someone unexpectedly splashes a big puddle on your car and the auto wipers kick in before you have a chance to hit the lever. How about driving into a tunnel during the rain, no need to touch the wipers.

    I find its one less thing on your mind and makes it easier to concentrate in big city traffic.

    In my previous car (2005 Mazda3) the automatic wipers SUCKED. Completely unreliable and almost useless.

    That being said Mazda seems to have completely fixed the issue in my 07 model. I didnt buy an 08 TL type-s because it DIDN’T have automatic wipers. :p

    Crappy auto wipers suck. Good auto wipers = gold. :)

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