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I have an 07 Mzada cx-9 and have had the same prblem as Bruce (canam1212). Its the transmission. Parts $2k, labor $1k, dealer paid.
Our 2011 CX 9 with 41k miles just had the transfer case replaced under warranty. Mazda is extending the warranty on the transfer cases for 7 years and 90,000 miles. The tech told me they overheat and the synthetic oil breaks down, causing failure. He said a lot of in town driving typically causes this. They've already had 15-20 CX 9's in for replacement, and the dealership is brand new. The transfer case is not the transmission, but the part that allows the vehicle to shift from 2WD to AWD. It's constantly under wear and tear. Just make sure on AWD vehicles the transfer case is checked out before replacing the transmission. Mazda paid the dealer $890 to do the work. The retail cost, I was told, would have been over $1200.
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