What a week thanks to a fucking squirrel!
I had such an awesome drive to Texas, in someone else’s car, I guess my Miata felt all neglected back home. It sat unused for about a week… I popped the hood to check the oil level before using it and saw a pile of shit on the battery! Yep… actual pile of shit surrounded by various shells and half eaten nuts. Fucking squirrel! I never had this happen before, in the decade I lived at my current home, this never happened with any of my cars. Even in the three years of my Miata ownership it never happened.
How do I know it was a squirrel and not rats, mice or other rodents? Because the fucker came back to the scene of the crime the next day, and I saw him jumping around next to where the Miata is parked. Oh, the balls on that thing!
I quickly cleaned the battery and the area surrounding it including the overflow tank and the air box. I also inspected the area for any chewed wires or damage to the plumbing, everything looked fine.
But being paranoid as I am sometimes, and having experienced hesitant starts in wet weather a few times. I decided to take the battery out and have it tested at AutoZone to make sure I don’t need a new one. Also started shopping around for a new one and found several deals from Sears that seemed really reasonable so I was ready to buy one.
Took it out of the car. Drove down to AutoZone who tested it. And they determined there’s 89% life left in it. Basically brand new. 12.55 volts, everything checked out. So I plopped it back in and went for a drive.
Didn’t get very far because soon after I left the driveway the steering was a bit harder to turn and it started vibrating, with some vibration noise coming out from under the hood. When I went to check it out the power steering fluid was hissing from under the cap and basically spilled all around the reservoir!
Of course the squirrel had nothing to do with this issue, I don’t think. Instead I must have leaned on the suction pipe that goes from the reservoir into the side of the power steering pump on the top of the engine. The design is such that one single bolt holds the pipe in place at the bottom. So any pressure applied at the top pushes the pipe down, and considering the O-ring there is 10 years old and plenty worn it starts sucking air in which creates bubbles in the system, making the fluid foam and overflow from the cap of the reservoir. Basically making a fucking mess.
I researched the solution to this problem. Called several places including two of the three Mazda dealers in my area. One was super rude (Mazda of Lodi, I don’t understand why they always have to be such Dick’s??!!) and Ramsey Mazda who were much nicer. And reached out to Mazmart in Atlanta, Georgia area to get a price from them. Despite people on the forums suggesting the new O-ring shouldn’t cost more than $1.50 Mazda quoted me $40’ish plus they don’t stock it so the rebuild seal kit has to be ordered. Mazmart said they could get it in one day and with their discount it would cost me $30’ish. Which seems like a lot. People on the forums suggested checking out local parts stores like NAPA Auto, etc. Which is what I did and picked up Dorman universal o-ring kit for like $3 bux. But alas none of the new o-rings looked identical to the OEM piece. The recommendation was to match one as close as possible and check for leaks… great!
In order to get to the suction pipe and the O-ring, you need to take the Throttle Body off. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to clean mine and see what effect if any the K&N air filter. To my surprise it looked exceptionally clean, the only carbon build up was around the rim which is perfectly normal. I used CRC Throttle Body Cleaner and it did a great job removing the carbon without even using cloth. I spend a while getting it as clean as I could. None of my local stores had CRC MAF cleaner in stock, so I left that part of the project till later.
Bolted everything back up. Jacked the car up to get the air out of the power steering system. And all was good and dry on my test drive.
But fucking squirrel!
I was so confident in my car for this upcoming 2k mile road trip south based on it’s performance on the two Florida trips earlier in the year, now the damn power steering O-ring is making me nervous. Hate to see the car spew fluid out with something that I potentially caused by being careless.
Used paper towels to try to stop the messy fluid from spreading.
This is the culprit of the air getting into the system.
No way to get to it except by taking the throttle body off.
I didn’t realize how dusty my engine has gotten from these road trips
Pretty straight forward removal of the Throttle Body, 4 bolts out.
Not as dirty as I expected it to be, frankly.
Although the grime on the gasket looked pretty awful.
The reason it’s so easy to mess up the O-ring is because of this single bolt holding the suction pipe in place. Lean on top and it bends.
As the O-ring started seeping air in, the fluid level rose in the reservoir going an inch above MAX and staying there!
Throttle body cleaner aspect, probably the easiest part of the job.
Again, not nearly as bad as I expected it to be based on all the horror stories people say about the oiled K&N air filter use.
Sucked the old fluid out of the reservoir.
Took out the old O-ring and brought it with me to NAPA to match.
$2.91 for a whole box of them, thought none were exact match.
This is the closest I got. The one on the left didn’t fit into the power steering pump. The one on the right took some effort but fit.
While at Ramsey Mazda I was greeted with a whole assortment of new ND Miata’s on the lot including a beautiful RF model.
Only time will tell if this solution holds up. Fingers crossed for the Road Trip next week.