Tag Archives: Mazda

Mazda MX-5 Repair: Lazy Thermostat

People say that the Mazda Miata is a cheap car to own and maintain. It is not. Ford Crown Victoria was a cheap car to own and maintain. I should know, I’ve had ten of them. In fact I have replaced a thermostat on a Crown Vic, a few times. I even went for the cooler 195 degree option. Between going to the store to pick up the $7 part, removing the two bolts on top / front part of the engine, and dropping the new one in. It would take no more than 20 minutes for the whole process, including the drive to the local parts store.

With the Miata this process is slightly longer.

mazda-roadster-eunos-mx-5-miata

I bought the car in December, just days before my trip to Portugal to marshal the Maxi Endurance 32 hour race at the Algarve Circuit. Before I could even make it home in my newly purchased car from central Long Island I got the Check Engine light illuminated. So I rerouted to the nearest AutoZone store to see what was going on. Code P0126: low coolant level. Hmm!

So I quickly researched the solution to this code on Miata.net and based on the recommendations of people there, rushed out to the nearest Advance Auto Parts store to pick up a new Stant 48728 thermostat. This one listed for about $31 plus tax. Hmm! I used one of the deep discounts Advance always offers, picked up a pair of Mechanix orange gloves with my order, and the box sat on my desk at home for several months, as the Check Engine light went on and off with about five or six cycles of the engine start/use of the car. Admittedly I didn’t use the car too frequently because of the snow/ice situation this winter, so it didn’t get too many miles put on it with the lazy thermostat. But the jist of the problem is the fact that the thermostat gets stuck open, and it takes a while for it to close, at which point the system checks out when you turn the ignition key and the CEL goes off.

With further research from Miata.net it was deemed that replacing the thermostat is not your 20 minute job like with a Crown Vic. This was more a two or three hour affair requiring the removal of a bunch of parts and trying to thread your tools through a variety of tubing just to get to the thermostat on the lower part of the engine, under the throttle body. People recommended to clean the throttle body in this process, why not? It’s already off. Might as well replace the air filter with all that access. People were also recommending to replace the overflow coolant reservoir, because unlike the thermostat which triggers the check engine light, coolant tanks experience catastrophic failure without any warning…. other than an explosion under the hood with the smell and steam from spraying antifreeze. So I ordered the overflow tank, for another $50 + $8 shipping from TASCA Parts a Mazda dealership in Rhode Island. Someone mentioned that their local dealership matched the online pricing of their competitors, but with three dealership within 20 mile radius of my house, none would price match. None of them had the part in stock either. It would have to be special ordered, at a full $70+ list fee, plus $14 shipping for expedited delivery. So I swore off the local dealerships and ordered online. Thanks but no thanks: Mazda of Lodi, Ramsey Mazda and Wayne Mazda!

The dealers did have something in stock that I almost bought, FL22 antifreeze/coolant. But at $26 per gallon I thought that was ridiculously expensive compared to $12 or $13 for Crown Vic antifreeze. So I researched a cheaper alternative and Zerex Asian Vehicle Coolant only carried by NAPA Auto Parts came highly recommended, and at $14 a gallon, a lot more reasonable than Mazda OEM FL22 coolant. Zerex is a Valvoline product.

Anyway, fast forward to this morning and before the mail man delivered the coolant reservoir from TASCA, I rushed out the door to pick up some distilled water to do the coolant flush, and realizing that the radiator/engine capacity for coolant is higher than just one Gallon, I bought another bottle of Zerex Asian coolant.

coolant
engine compartment still very dusty, this is how it was when I bought it… part of the reason I like buying cars from private owners, dealers do a great job of cleaning the engine masking any potential problems in the process.

Got home, dad helped me to jack up the car, and provide all the mismatched tools in his collection to get the job done. I wasn’t trying to rush things instead focusing on doing it right the first time. Everything went like clockwork. I noticed that I didn’t actually have to remove the throttle body and could just lift it to the side to get to the thermostat, neither did I have to undo the brace that sits on top of the shock tower. Didn’t drop any bolts into the abyss while removing the thermostat, and before you know it everything was back in place. Remarkably uneventful install. While the car was still jacked up we filled a bit more than a gallon of distilled water, ran the engine for twenty minutes, then flushed that water out and put in the Zetex. Lowered the car, ran the engine at about 2,500 RPM until the heater started blowing hot air out of the vents. And then went for a drive to fill up the car and see how it goes. It goes perfectly! For a brief while the heater started blocking cold again, which was weird, but then it became hot and even extra hot with a little more driving.

Tomorrow I will top off the coolant to the appropriate level, and the car will be ready for my first big Road Trip to Watkins Glen for NASCAR training next weekend.

thermostat

Voilà, c’est fini!

Mazda MX-5: Personal touches to my Miata

I’ve started the year off with a spirited drive in the Mazda!

Unlike last year, the snow has held off this January and it’s the perfect time to take the MX-5 for a spin around the neighborhood. So far, my little red sports car has been keeping me preoccupied with ways of personalizing it to my liking as well as fixing the little issues it came with from the previous owner.

I thought all that black plastic behind the seats looked very monotonous and plain, so I added a little chrome to it. Originally it was meant to feature a #MarshalCam patch but instead of super gluing a piece of cloth there, I thought a trunk badge would do better. I love the way it looks now. The eBay bought badge arrived at 6pm on New Year’s Eve and by New Year’s day it was on the car!

Miata badge 1

Miata badge 2

Miata badge 4

Miata badge 3

Miata badge 5

miata prht

The other problem was a bit of an annoyance that seems to happen quite often on these cars. The plastic sun visor crack at the base with time and that was a problem for me on the passenger side. Luckily Miata.net forum members are an enterprising bunch and suggested a simple temporary fix.

Miata plastic sunvisor

I love this car!

Mazda MX-5: First Mod – Compliance!

The official vehicle of Grand Prix Road Trip: my Mazda Miata MX-5 got it’s first modification. No it’s not a power adder or stiffer suspension, just a little piece of compliance so I wouldn’t have to drill holes in the front bumper to mount the license plate.

I saw Jessie from SponsorAFlagger.com had the same mod on her BMW when we worked together at Watkins Glen, and since then I figured I’d do the same if a car I owned had a similar tow hook on the front bumper. None of my Crown Vic Police Interceptors or the Chevy Impala had such a feature which is most common to Japanese or European cars, so I’m glad it worked out perfectly.

Anyway…. I first saw the ad for this plate bracket on Miata.net but it was advertised at about $80 which seems quite steep for what it is. Researched it further on eBay and Amazon and found a much more reasonable deal for $48 while other cars were listed for $38 or so… so I decided to make an offer and one was accepted for $40 while I was in Portugal marshaling. So I quickly PayPal’d them the money and was hoping the item would arrive in time for my NJ inspection to make the car road legal. The item never showed up when the tracking said it would. I reported it as lost, but it must have been delayed in the Christmas traffic. Because after I had returned home from the inspection station having zip tied the front license plate to the honeycomb grille, the bracket showed up. And I quickly put it on the car:

mazda mx-5 plate 1

Zip tied plate and the Godspeed bracket ready for install.

mazda mx-5 plate 2

The tow hook hole mount, screws right in.

mazda mx-5 plate 4

And voila! The finished look.

mazda mx-5 plate 5

Now to move on to the next solution… I put the windows down for a moment when it was raining outside and now my driver side BOSE speaker is buzzing. Miata.net forums describe it as a common problem but one that isn’t very cheap to fix.

If anyone has any suggestions, please get in touch with me. And if you see the car on the road, go ahead and honk. Say Hello!

PS. What a fun little car… Zoom Zoom! for sure.

Merry Christmas to Me!

The search is over! I am now a proud owner of a new to me Mazda MX-5 or Miata as it’s called here in America… Zoom Zoom!

I have to confess this has been the longest and most frustrating time I have ever had buying a car. Normally, and quite frequently I would show up at a public auction just hours before they started, poke around for a few minutes with each prospective car I was interested in and then start bidding on it to a point that I could afford. With the Miata, no car I looked at I could actually afford, which was a little shocking to me! I had sold my four door family sedan thinking if anything I would add a little money to it to get the little sports car, and in the end I more than doubled my budget to buy it. But boy am I happy with what I got, because after four or five months of searching I bought exactly what I was looking for: a red copper mica, PRHT hard top convertible with big alloy wheels, and leather heated seats.

2007 Mazda Miata MX-5 Grand Touring PRHT

Now, I can’t wait to start driving it… and it being December… I may see it parked every time there’s snowflakes on the forecast to use the SUV’s in the household. But the idea of going to a race track with a little sports car and watching similar fields of MX-5 races tear up the track… is simply awesome. I love watching Miata’s race, and with large fields of 20, 30 even 40 cars… they never disappoint!

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mx5 - 01

mx5 - 5mx5 - 6

(Photo Credit: Mazda USA http://en.media.mazda.ca/index.php?s=20291&view=category&mode=gallery&cat=2790&o=0)

A little background on the car… it was originally sold by a dealership on the California coast about half way between Santa Barbara and Monterey. The second owner bought it and moved it to Nevada just outside of Las Vegas before driving it home to Long Island New York. With only 30k on the clock it is the lowest mileage car I have ever owned and it will take some time to get used to. For example the check engine light came on on my drive home, turns out it’s a thermostat issue. Now while the Jeep or Chevy thermostats cost me less than $10 to replace, this one is listed at $30 and has about 3 hours of work because a lot of things must be removed to get to it. Fun! Even the air filter is double the cost of the last one I bought for my Ford. Go figure… hope the expenses after the basics are minimal.

…driving it in the rainy weather before Christmas caused the BOSE door speaker on the driver side to buzz. I wonder what will go next?

Happy Holidays everyone! And keep wishing for good things, because if you believe it hard enough, you’ll get exactly what you want!

Mazda Miata MX-5

Hey, remember that post from Petit Le Mans where I mentioned my search for a Mazda Miata? You know the Mazdaspeed swag I won at the Road Atlanta volunteer marshal party?

mazda mazdaspeed swag petit le mans

Well, it’s been many months since I started looking for a Miata to buy and I still haven’t gotten my hands on one. I don’t want to sound frustrated yet, because there’s a simple solution to my problem. Simply, I can go in debt and buy any Miata I want, but realistically I’m trying to land a deal. The best car I can afford for the least amount of money spent on it. And that search hasn’t been very easy.

This week I have viewed three cars and test drove two of them. What I’m after is an NC model car which is the third generation, the latest generation before the newly announced ND hits the market. The cars I saw were 2006, 2007 and 2008 model year cars in various conditions and specs. The 2006 was the furthest away, about 100 miles or 2 hours drive from where I live. Beautiful red color with black painted wheels. Lots of mods, like Koni adjustable shocks, H&R springs, drilled and slotted rotors and probably other stuff. I especially liked the red painted calipers. But it had an accident on it’s Carfax car history report and the whole car was repainted, which probably means the accident was pretty moderate to severe.

The 2007 was a little bit closer. Featured Momo wheels but otherwise stock, and had a lot of miles on it. There was a rather large dent on the front fender and Carfax reflected that, or possibly larger accident that had occurred with this car. It drove rough, and was obviously in need of some suspension work.

Finally the 2008 was sold by a local dealer who had it prominently displayed at the front entrance of the store. The dealership: Mazda of Lodi, is literally a few miles from where I live, so by far the closest one. Only has 15k miles on it, but the body is completely banged up. I’ve seen limos in better shape than this car and they have hundreds of thousands of miles on them. So something was very fishy about it. As a result I think the dealer was a major jerk to me, wouldn’t let me drive it until I told him how I was paying for the car which I wasn’t sure I’d buy since it was so badly abused, so I got up and walked out.

So my search continues. And seeing such huge fields of Miata’s racing in SCCA club racing as well as pro series like the Playboy MX-5 Cup or the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, I know this is a perfect car for me. Never in my life had I spend so much time shopping for a car though. Typically, I’d arrive at a government auction, spend twenty minutes or so browsing, and then bid for the car up to the amount I could afford. Bought countless Crown Vic Police Interceptors (CVPI – P71’s) this way, my Impala, the Explorers, Jeep Grand Cherokee and other cars. This is taking forever. I’ve now also joined the Miata.net forum to seek opinion and recommendations from current owners. I’m by no means a newbie to automotive forums, hell I put CrownVic.net (CVN) as club membership on my US citizenship application (silly I know) but I took that stuff seriously and frequented the Impala, Explorer, Jeep and other forums… this is a start of a new beautiful automotive relationship that will result in some new friendships. Hopefully around the world that will go nicely with my Motorsport volunteering. Now if only I could finally buy the damn car! 🙂

PS. If you come across a decent shape NC Miata and I buy it thanks to your referral I’m happy to pay you a small finders fee… HELP!

mx5_miata_netMX-5 Miata logo links to Miata.net / MX5.net