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Discussion Starter #1
2004 sedan, 2.3, automatic.

I just bought this car about 2 months ago. It's had this shudder/jerking issue at higher speeds (60+). At first it was rough, especially when using cruise control. It had a few emissions/air leak codes and it had a fuel leak (turned out to be a cracked fuel tank ring, which has been fixed) After that was fixed, the shudder got less violent, but still noticeable. I was just going to live with it for now, since I don't drive too much these days anyway.

However, about a week ago I was driving on the highway, about 70mph, and all of a sudden there was a huge CLUNK (and felt like I had hit something but definitely didn't), and the speedometer dropped to 0, and the power steering light came on. It drove fine though, no actual power steering issues I could feel, no shuddering, I didn't lose power, nothing. I pulled over, turned the car off and back on, and it was back to normal (no power steering light, speedo was working). It was fine the next couple of times I drove it, though they were short ~20 minute store runs.

Then a few days go by and my husband drives it about 1.5 hours to his parents. He said there was no issues other than the "normal" shudder. But on his way back home, he lost the speedo again and the PS light was on (no clunk this time). He was about to pull off to turn it off/on, but the speedo comes back on its own so he just keeps driving. Closer to home it happens again, only this time the needle is bouncing and he said he could feel the transmission "snatching" so he pulls over. Again, off/on, the speedo didn't come back, but it was no longer bouncing/snatching so he drives home. He noticed the rest of the way after this the car didn't have the previously mentioned slight shudder issue at all...

We run the code scanner when he gets home and p0720 pops up, in addition to the p2096 and p2195 that it's had from the time I bought it (the check engine light has always been on)

I've already ordered a sensor to see if that fixes it, however after reading a few other posts on this code/problem, wiring could also be an issue. Note that on the 2 days that the car had these issues, were the only 2 days we've ever had to drive it through puddles (gotta love living on a dirt road, right?). The day my husband drove, our road puddles had dried and the car was fine to his parents, but their road was awful, and he had issues on the way back.

So I guess my questions are, where are the wires for the speed sensor located, or where can I find a diagram of some sort? And are they low enough in the engine bay that they can get wet from going through puddles? Or is the sensor itself maybe getting wet?

Are there any other things that could cause this that we can check? (I saw one where somebody was having the speedo/PS light and it turned out to be the alternator?)

Also, on a couple of posts I've seen where people mention similar issues and that the car has trouble getting into 5th gear.... I've never seen my car go above 4th, and I thought the automatic was only 4 gears....is it supposed to have 5?
 

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Have you assessed all the motor mounts? I wouldn't recommend traveling 70mph when there's a known shudder, let alone a mystery shudder... Your description of a "CLUNK" and "transmission 'snatching'" makes it sound like the transmission gets displaced, perhaps affecting the speed sensor (VSS); the power steering sensitivity varies based on vehicle speed, so that seems to make sense with a VSS fault. It looks like there were a 4-speed and 5-speed ATX used, but I'm not sure when (maybe went 5-speed with the 2007 changes). The VSS should be on the firewall side of the transmission, in about the middle:
105794
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the diagram.

Haven't checked mounts but I'll add it to the list, I've read those can be an issue with this car. Also on the shudder, it's not a constant thing, like you'll be driving along fine and then it acts kind of like a car would when it's out of gas (sputtery, won't really do anything if you mash the accelerator more, etc), but you just let off the pedal for a split-second and goes back to normal. It does it way worse if the cruise is engaged though, and if you drive with a steady foot....like the car likes a variance of speed and not a constant one. But then I've even driven it on 30-ish minute trips where it won't do it at all....

Sensor still hasn't arrived yet, however after a few test drives on my road since Friday, the speedo is still out, power steering light is on (and actually does feel a bit stiff now), and I also noticed the AT light on as well.
 

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Thanks for the diagram.

Haven't checked mounts but I'll add it to the list, I've read those can be an issue with this car. Also on the shudder, it's not a constant thing, like you'll be driving along fine and then it acts kind of like a car would when it's out of gas (sputtery, won't really do anything if you mash the accelerator more, etc), but you just let off the pedal for a split-second and goes back to normal. It does it way worse if the cruise is engaged though, and if you drive with a steady foot....like the car likes a variance of speed and not a constant one. But then I've even driven it on 30-ish minute trips where it won't do it at all....

Sensor still hasn't arrived yet, however after a few test drives on my road since Friday, the speedo is still out, power steering light is on (and actually does feel a bit stiff now), and I also noticed the AT light on as well.
With the steering actually getting stiff, has your power steering fluid [reservoir] level dropped? You can easily visualize the passenger mount to see if it's separated (3, below); the transmission mount is under the battery box (4, 5, below); and the "No.3" "No. 1" mount is underneath, attached to a brace on the firewall side of the transmission. It does sound like the motor/transmission shifted... If it shifted dramatically, it could damage the power steering system (definitely assess for a reservoir drop or leaking), and if it disrupted the air intake system, that could explain the "sputtery" behavior. The passenger mount is a particularly common failure; if it is overlooked, of course, the added stress on the other mounts will lead to their premature failure.

105797
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I finally got around to looking today, and that passenger mount is definitely cracked. Power steering fluid level doesn't look like it's dropped but I'll keep an eye on it, it's right at the max level. I ordered mounts today. Now I guess we'll hope it didn't cause any major damage. Now I'm waiting for the sensor and mounts, so it's looking like we won't be able to do anything with it until mid week.
 

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Update us when the sensors made a difference. My buddy is looking to get this 2.3 Mazda 3 project with almost the same issue. The owner said there was a clunk followed by speedometer intermittent issue. We'll take a closer look at it after we finished installing the suspension from 4Wheelonline onto the truck.
 

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Update us when the sensors made a difference. My buddy is looking to get this 2.3 Mazda 3 project with almost the same issue. The owner said there was a clunk followed by speedometer intermittent issue. We'll take a closer look at it after we finished installing the suspension from 4Wheelonline onto the truck.
I put in the sensor Wednesday and so far so good. Everything is back to normal, and my other sputter issue hasn't even shown back up (though I haven't driven it too far yet)
I also replaced the passenger mount, which was busted and had fluid leaking out of it, and will probably get to the others this weekend, but the sensor alone did clear up the speedo and power steering lights and problems.
 

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I put in the sensor Wednesday and so far so good. Everything is back to normal, and my other sputter issue hasn't even shown back up (though I haven't driven it too far yet)
I also replaced the passenger mount, which was busted and had fluid leaking out of it, and will probably get to the others this weekend, but the sensor alone did clear up the speedo and power steering lights and problems.
Great to hear the new sensors solved the problem.
 
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