Mazda MX-5 Miata Transmission Fluid Capacity

When the Mazda MX-5 Miata first burst onto the scene in 1989, it captured the essence of classic British roadsters but with the reliability that Japanese automakers were known for. Over three decades and four generations, the Miata has retained its essence: a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive convertible that’s both affordable and an absolute joy to drive.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Iconic Roadster: The Mazda MX-5 Miata stands as a testament to automotive design, offering a pure driving experience across its generations. Proper maintenance is paramount to keeping this iconic roadster at its peak.
  2. Transmission Fluid’s Role: Transmission fluid lubricates the moving parts inside the gearbox, ensures smooth gear shifts, and aids in preventing overheating. It’s vital for the Miata’s performance and longevity.
  3. Fluid Capacities Vary: Over its long lineage from the 1st Gen (NA) to the latest 4th Gen (ND/ND2), the Miata has seen various changes. Generally, it is between 2 and 7.8 quarts. Transmission fluid type can be found in specific sections of this article.
  4. Change Intervals: While the general guideline suggests changing the transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, it’s good practice for Miata owners to monitor their driving conditions. Aggressive driving, frequent track days, or harsh climates may necessitate more frequent changes.
2018 Mazda MX-5

Often lauded as the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history, the MX-5 Miata has cemented itself not only as a Mazda flagship but as a beacon for driving purists worldwide.

The transmission is the heart of the Miata’s engaging driving experience. Whether navigating twisty backroads or cruising along the highway, the smooth transition between gears is paramount. Proper transmission maintenance ensures that the MX-5 Miata delivers the crisp, responsive shifts that drivers have come to adore.

Moreover, for a vehicle celebrated for its connection between driver and machine, ensuring the transmission is well-maintained is not just about mechanics; it’s about preserving the very soul of the car.

What is Transmission Fluid?

In any vehicle, the transmission fluid plays a pivotal role. Think of it as the lifeblood of the transmission system. This fluid serves multiple purposes:

  1. Lubrication: Just like engine oil keeps engine components running smoothly, transmission fluid ensures that the gears and other transmission parts don’t grind against each other, preventing wear and tear.
  2. Cooling: Transmissions generate heat, especially when driving aggressively or in stop-and-go traffic. The fluid helps dissipate this heat, preventing the transmission from overheating.
  3. Transmission Operation: The fluid provides the hydraulic power needed to shift gears in automatic transmissions. It ensures smooth and responsive gear shifts, crucial for an enjoyable driving experience.

For a car as driver-centric as the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the transmission fluid is more than just a technical necessity. It’s an integral component that keeps the car running at its best, ensuring every drive is as thrilling as the last.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Transmission Fluid Capacity And Transmission Fluid Type

The Mazda MX-5 Miata has seen various changes over the years, from design modifications to engine enhancements. Yet, despite these alterations, the core principle of delivering an exhilarating driving experience has remained intact.

A significant aspect of maintaining this driving nirvana is the proper maintenance of the transmission system.

Here’s a breakdown of the transmission fluid capacities across all Miata generations:

1st Gen (NA) 1990 – 1997

The Mazda MX-5 Miata’s first generation, known as the NA, debuted in 1989 and continued production until 1997. This generation is often remembered for its pop-up headlights and the pure driving experience it provides.

When it comes to maintaining the Miata’s iconic performance, understanding the right transmission fluid type and capacity is essential. Here’s a guide for the NA generation:

GearboxFluid capacityFluid type
Manual2.1 quarts (2.0 liters)GL-4 80W-90
Automatic7.7 quarts (7.3 liters)ATF M-III (Dexron III)

2nd Gen (NB) 1998 – 2000

The 2nd generation of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, designated as the NB, began its journey in 1998 and extended to 2000. With sleeker designs, no pop-up headlights, and enhanced mechanics, the NB series took forward the legacy of its predecessor.

When discussing the upkeep and maintenance of this iconic roadster, understanding the transmission fluid specifics is paramount. Below is a breakdown of the NB generation’s transmission fluid requirements:

GearboxFluid capacityFluid type
Manual2.1 quarts (2.0 liters)GL-4 80W-90
Automatic7.1 quarts (6.7 liters)ATF M-III (Dexron III)

2nd Gen (NB) Facelift 2001 – 2005

GearboxFluid capacityFluid type
5-speed manual2.1 quarts (2.0 liters)GL-4/GL-5 75W-90, GL-4/GL-5 80W-90
6-speed manual1.9 quarts (1.8 liters)GL-4/GL-5 75W-90, GL-4/GL-5 80W-90
Automatic7.1 quarts (6.7 liters)ATF M-III (Dexron III)

5-Speed Manual Transmission

  • Fluid Capacity: 2.1 quarts (2.0 liters)
  • Fluid Type: GL-4/GL-5 75W-90, GL-4/GL-5 80W-90

The 5-speed manual transmission in the facelifted NB models retained the feel and agility the Miata was loved for. The approved fluids for this transmission offer smooth gear transitions and adequate protection for the internal components.

6-Speed Manual Transmission

  • Fluid Capacity: 1.9 quarts (1.8 liters)
  • Fluid Type: GL-4/GL-5 75W-90, GL-4/GL-5 80W-90

The introduction of a 6-speed manual transmission offered drivers an even more connected and sporty feel. The recommended fluids ensure optimum performance and longevity of this intricate piece of engineering.

Automatic Transmission

  • Fluid Capacity: 7.1 quarts (6.7 liters)
  • Fluid Type: ATF M-III (Dexron III)

For those who preferred the convenience of an automatic gearbox, the ATF M-III (Dexron III) fluid keeps the transmission shifting smoothly and efficiently.

3rd Gen (NC1) 2006 – 2008

As Mazda advanced into the 3rd generation (NC1) of the MX-5 Miata from 2006 to 2008, significant enhancements were introduced. The car became slightly larger, showcasing refined aesthetics, enhanced performance, and better driving dynamics.

With these advances, maintaining the integrity of the transmission remained a cornerstone for preserving the car’s essence.

GearboxFluid capacityFluid type
5-speed manual2.1 quarts (2.0 liters)GL-4/GL-5 75W-90
6-speed manual2.2 quarts (2.1 liters)GL-4/GL-5 75W-90
Automatic7.8 quarts (7.4 liters)JWS3309

3rd Gen (NC2) Facelift 2009 – 2012

GearboxFluid capacityFluid type
5-speed manual2.1 quarts (2.0 liters)GL-4/GL-5 75W-90
6-speed manual2.2 quarts (2.1 liters)GL-4/GL-5 75W-90
Automatic7.8 quarts (7.4 liters)JWS3309

3rd Gen (NC2) Facelift 2 2013 – 2015

GearboxFluid capacityFluid type
5-speed manual2.1 quarts (2.0 liters)GL-4/GL-5 75W-90
6-speed manual2.2 quarts (2.1 liters)GL-4/GL-5 75W-90
Automatic7.8 quarts (7.4 liters)JWS3309

4th Gen (ND/ND2) 2016 – Now

  • Manual Transmission: 2.0 L (2.1 US qt, 1.8 Imp qt). Mazda Original Long Life Gear Oil IS.
  • Automatic Transmission: 7.2 L (7.6 US qt, 6.3 Imp qt). Mazda Genuine JWS3309.
GearboxFluid capacityFluid type
Manual2.1 quarts (2 liters)Mazda Original Long Life Gear Oil IS
Automatic7.6 quarts (7.2 liters)JWS3309

It’s vital to note that when changing transmission fluid, not all of the old fluid may be drained out, and the actual capacity might vary slightly based on the procedure and the specific model variant.

Always consult the owner’s manual or a Mazda specialist to ensure you’re using the correct amount and type of fluid for your Miata.

When to Replace Transmission Fluid in Your Mazda MX-5 Miata

Maintaining the transmission fluid in your Mazda MX-5 Miata is essential for ensuring smooth shifts, preventing overheating, and maximizing the longevity of your transmission. Knowing when to replace the fluid is equally as crucial. Here’s a general guideline:

Mileage Intervals

  1. Manual Transmission:
    • Every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. If you engage in more aggressive driving, such as racing or frequent spirited drives on winding roads, consider changing it closer to the 30,000-mile mark.
  2. Automatic Transmission:
    • Mazda generally recommends replacing the automatic transmission fluid every 60,000 miles under “normal” driving conditions. However, for “severe” driving conditions, such as frequent short trips, stop-and-go traffic, or driving in extremely hot or cold temperatures, it’s advised to change the fluid every 30,000 miles.

Potential Signs of Needing a Fluid Change

  1. Transmission Slipping: If you notice your Miata unexpectedly changing gears or having difficulty staying in gear, this might be a sign of old or low transmission fluid.
  2. Unusual Noises: If you hear grinding or other strange noises when the car is in gear, it could indicate that the transmission fluid is dirty or low.
  3. Delayed or Hard Shifts: If there’s a noticeable delay when shifting gears or if the shifts are more abrupt than usual, the transmission fluid may need a change.
  4. Transmission Overheating: Old or low transmission fluid can cause the transmission to overheat, which can be indicated by a burnt smell.
  5. Discolored or Cloudy Fluid: Healthy transmission fluid should be a clear red. If the fluid is brown or has a burnt smell, it’s time for a change. If the fluid appears cloudy or milky, it could indicate contamination, which requires immediate attention.
  6. Dashboard Warning Lights: Modern vehicles, like the newer MX-5 Miata generations, have sensors that can trigger a warning light on the dashboard if there’s an issue with the transmission fluid or system.

Always keep in mind that while these are general guidelines, it’s essential to refer to your MX-5 Miata’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations tailored to your vehicle.

Regular checks and preventive maintenance can help avoid costly repairs and ensure your Miata runs smoothly for many miles to come.

Cost of Changing Transmission Fluid in Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Mazda MX-5 Miata, with its lightweight design and finely tuned mechanics, deserves optimal care. One of the vital maintenance tasks for your Miata is changing the transmission fluid. The cost can vary depending on your location, the type of fluid used, and where you get the service.

Below, we provide a general breakdown of costs based on the service provider:


  1. Advantages: Taking your Miata to a dealership guarantees that the mechanics working on your car are specialized in Mazda vehicles. They’ll likely use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts and fluids, ensuring compatibility and quality. Additionally, a dealership might offer a warranty on the service.
  2. Estimated Cost: The cost of changing transmission fluid at a dealership generally ranges from $150 to $300. The price can vary based on the dealership’s hourly rates, the type of fluid they use, and any additional services included in the package (like a multi-point inspection).

Independent Mechanic

  1. Advantages: Independent mechanics often offer more competitive rates than dealerships. They can also provide a more personalized service experience. If you have a trusted local mechanic, they might be familiar with the specific needs and history of your Miata.
  2. Estimated Cost: The cost at an independent mechanic can range from $100 to $250 for a transmission fluid change. The price difference is due to varying labor costs and the choice of transmission fluid.


  • Always ask in advance what type of fluid will be used and whether it’s compatible with your specific Miata model.
  • It might be worth investing in synthetic transmission fluid, which, while more expensive, often offers better performance and longevity.
  • Always check for any additional fees or services included in the quoted price to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples when shopping around.
  • Remember that while cost is a factor, the quality of service and peace of mind knowing your Miata is in good hands can be worth the extra expense.


The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only. The author and publisher make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of any information presented. The reader is advised to consult a qualified professional, such as a mechanic or dealership, before making any decisions related to their vehicle's engine oil or maintenance.

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