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Mazda MX-5 Miata Maintenance Day

Big day  working on my friend Bill’s Miata today.

We were planning on changing his spark plugs to NGK Laser Iridium plugs as well as put in his new rear end links and replace the license plate light bulbs to the new LED ones I ordered online from Taiwan. The day started early for Bill with a trip to Ramsey Mazda to help diagnose an air conditioning leak… which they spent many hours looking for but couldn’t find.

It was a very wet start to the day. I had to run some errands before meeting Bill at the dealership (to also pick up my rear sway bar bushings) and it was tough to get around with multiple highways flooded. But we managed to meet up, went to have delicious Korean BBQ for lunch and the day suddenly cleared up and became sunny!

So here we go…

I first vacuumed and then blasted the top of the engine with compressed air to clear any debris from the area we were going to work on…

and there was some debris, especially from the underside of the engine cover that left a fine sand-like crap over the wiring

I’ve done the spark plugs on my car at around 50k miles so it was interesting to tackle Bill’s car which has over 100k miles on his and presumably these were his original spark plugs…

Getting to them was easy, instead of unplugging the coil packs I just moved them upwards and out of the way

Most of the holes were clean except for the one next to last, which had a visible amount of oil in it

Shiny new plugs… while undoing the old ones we quickly were faced with them being stubborn and not turning as freely as you’d want them to… so Bill went ahead and sprayed them with PB Blaster… and while they soaked we moved on to doing some other repairs

So we proceeded to changing Bill’s rear end links. I had him using my old take offs as a temporary solution to see if there would be any issue. The shop that did his suspension install used some cheapo aftermarket ones and we quickly discovered that one of the end links had it’s ball ripped out of the housing. So it was nice to see that the OEM pieces held up and we replaced them with new ones.

After this we took another crack at turning the spark plugs and all were loose except for the very first one closest to the front of the car, so we blasted it again and moved on to installing rear sway bar bushings on my car hoping that would stop the clunking… spoiler alert… it didn’t! But now I have new bushings in the back. Oh well!

My old bushings looked fine. We lubed them up with Mobil 1 grease not that long ago. But I was hoping against hope that they were the culprit of my clunking noises. Now I’m not sure what it is. We put on new end links, new bushings…  what could it be? Bad shocks? But bad shocks would surely show wear. I am stumped!

Back to finish the spark plug change:

With enough lube all came out effortlessly. In fact they came out with much less effort that I did on my car doing the dry swap.

The hole that had oil in it was showing clear debris left when the spark plug was removed, so I cleaned it out nicely before installing the new one

All done! Started up no problem. No engine noise. No vibrations. Perfect!

After a short test drive we proceeded to the last job of the day… changing the pesky license plate bulbs on the trunk lid… one of Bill’s burned out and that was the reason I ordered a bunch of them from Taiwan to replace mine as well

I already knew how to approach this change. Pulled out a bunch of fish line and started working my way along the backing of the light unit. The rubber piece that touches the metal trunk lid was very much stuck to it. So the reason for using the fishing line was to break it loose and then the light unit slides to the left and pops out by pulling on the right side of it. And so that’s exactly what I did.

All the plastic tips in tact, nothing snapped or broken. Nothing brittle

Interesting observation the soft top Mazdaspeed spoiler has a little area cut out for the Mazda logo… who would have thunk?

I asked Bill to bring his new ramps so we could change the rear end links, and they fit very nicely into his trunk. Taking up all the space!

The LED’s look perfect!

What a difference a couple of hours make. It was a perfectly sunny day for Bill’s drive home… I had an awesome time working on this car looking forward to another excuse to do something else in the near future. Thanks Bill!

How a Squirrel Made me Nuts Over the Past Few Days. Power Steering Fix

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!

Fucking squirrel!

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.

And voila!

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.

…Fucking Squirrel!

Want to buy a Miata? There’s a ton of them at Wayne Mazda

Thanks for not ripping me off Wayne Mazda!

Though I am in the market for another Mazda, I didn’t buy the CX-7 or CX-5 I’m interested in. Thanks to breaking a little plastic cowl grille cap on my Miata yesterday, I was eager to find a replacement  ahead of another few days of heavy rain we have in the forecast.

The NC Miata facebook group was very helpful identifying the part I needed to buy. I posted there after following removal instructions on Miata.net and like many posters encountered the cracking of the brittle plastic cap myself. Someone kindly provided the part # and a cost estimate so I would have an idea of what to expect at the stealership. Then I called the three Mazda dealers within a 10 mile radius from where I live and got actual price quotes for the items they had in stock. Wayne Mazda came in the cheapest at the list price of $3.25 or $3.48 with tax. Ramsey Mazda didn’t have any in stock, while Lodi Mazda parts counter employee pulled a random number out of his ass and quoted me $6.71+ tax for the last cap they had in stock. I don’t know why I bothered calling Lodi knowing how shitty they treated me in the past… a sales guy wouldn’t even let me test drive a 2008 Miata on their lot when I was in the market, weird as fuck. So go Fuck Yourself Lodi Mazda and thanks to Wayne Mazda for not ripping me off, really.

BTW anyone in the market for the flimsy plastic clips that are almost guaranteed to break when you try to access that area of the cowling under the windshield wipers, the cheapest option is from Amayama… their Japanese locations lists the part at $1.70+ shipping, while their United Arab Emirates location (who knew there was so much Mazda parts demand in Dubai? not me…) is selling the same thing for just a $1…. but shipping is $21 bux! Someone on facebook joked it would be a great item to buy in bulk… I’d rather pay $3.48 for the single one that I need than pay $1 x whatever number for the 10 cent piece of plastic. (eBay has a bunch of these listed at $5+ apiece, while online sales web sites list them at a discount for about $2.20 but shipping is $4.50 Yikes!) But all the venting aside I’m happy I was able to get one so quickly without waiting for the delivery.

And while at Wayne Mazda I was greeted by a whole fleet of Miatas. The row of NC’s when you first drive up, all in beautiful white, were totally unexpected. It is February but the weather has been favorable and I guess people are buying these little Roadsters before the mad rush of summer season sales… (is there such a thing?)

Check them out:

Lots of ND Miatas too, inside and out:

Including this gorgeous MX-5 RF… (retractable fastback)

Back home the new plastic cap was very hard to pop back in place… which only means one thing: it will snap right off the first time I try to remove it again to get to the screw under it. Oh well! At least now I know where I could get them and how much they will cost. I tried to offset my cost by helping myself to a fistfull of lollies on the counter at the Cashier window 🙂

Mazda’s Test Drive Experience: $25.00 Complimentary SCAM?

I hate to go to a dealership where the sales people are clueless!

And it’s sad, because I was going to visit a local dealership in a really good mood. I had a promo in hand where Mazda advertised a $25 e-gift card for test driving any of their new vehicles. Great! I had just done one at a competing dealership, it was a smooth transaction, so I thought it was going to be nice and quick and hopefully give me a good baseline for my future Mazda purchase, be it a CX-7 which I’ve been wanting to get for my mom for the longest time, or maybe a CX-5 which a few of my friends recommended over the discontinued model that I actually prefer.

I was happy to see a few MX-5 Miatas lined up along Route 17 where the dealership is located. Makes sense seeing them there as it’s just about winter time and nobody would probably want a convertible in the weather we are about to get. (though it pays to shop now as I bought my Miata in December and got an awesome deal on it). There was a beautiful NC too on the lot in the used section. A Mazdaspeed3 someone must have either brought for service or that was for sale by another dealership because it had a Toyota dealer tag on it. And a beautiful white CX-7 with NJ plates that too was probably waiting for a service appointment.

I walked in and asked about the promo. The salesperson asked me a question whether or not I was actually interested in buying a Mazda then and there. I answered honestly. And it looked like the salesperson was just going to satisfy the criteria of the promo for me to get the gift card without actually test driving the car. He went off to chat with his manager who gave him some BS story how I must come back with a printout of the e-mail for them to sign. I pointed out that they had to enter the code on their end to whatever web site this promotion was offered from and that’s where we hit dead end. Nobody knew what the promotion web site was for them to punch in the PIN code for me to get the gift card. I spent a good 15-20 minutes waiting while my salesman was on hold with Mazda corporate and they didn’t hear about the offer either. Go figure!

Long story short, the salesperson took my name and number and promised to call back if he hears more about the promo. I told him that I’ll reach out to the people I know and see what they say to which he replied to inform him of what I find out because he’s curious (I kind of have to if I want to get the damn gift card, right?)

And I left it at that.

Directly across the highway there’s a sister Alfa Romeo / Fiat dealership so I figured I’d stop by and take a closer look to the single Fiat 124 Spider on the lot. That experience was even weirder!

For one, as soon as you pull in, amongst all the Fiat 500’s there’s a ginormous Dodge Challenger SRT-8 with a massive shaker hood sitting there. Walk into the store and there’s another SRT-8 Hellcat right next to a Jeep Grand Cherokee (possibly SRT-8 but I didn’t bother looking because they seemed out of place). An Alfa-Romeo 4C set prominently in the middle and a few more 500’s lined the other side of the showroom floor. One salesperson came out of the back somewhere hurriedly asking if I needed help. I asked if I could get a brochure for a 124 Spider and was declined because as the dealer put it: even though he sold 20 cars and got hundreds of brochures, they went quickly! He was in a rush to get back to his customer in the back of the showroom and said he was the only one working that evening, the other two salesmen they have were off. WTF? It all seemed super odd to me…. considering many people may come car shopping just after work hours and there this guy is alone in a store basically turning prospective buyers away! SAD….

My first job out of high school was with a local Toyota dealership. We had 10 to 20 salespeople roaming around the floor on any given day all hungry and eager to grab a customer walking in because it was our objective to sell them a car. Many people bought cars because we would insist on taking each and every person on a test drive which insured we got their contact details and a way to contact them to sell them a car even if they didn’t buy it on the first day.

Neither my Mazda or my Fiat dealership experience tonight was like that which makes me wonder, how the hell do they sell cars? Even when Mazda corporate entices random prospective buyers to drag their ass to the dealership with an offer of $25 bux via gift card, the dumbass dealership can’t even follow through because they’ve never heard of that promotion. Jesus Christ! What are they doing???

So basically the promotion I posted earlier was a SCAM. It wasn’t malicious… but it was plenty useless based on the ignorance of the parties involved. I’m sure I’ll probably have the dealership reaching out to me later trying to sell me something just based on my contact details that they grabbed from me based on this promotion that I signed up for. But the experience just reinforces my previous attitude of not wanting anything to do with these clowns in the future. I’d rather buy a used car from a private party and save myself the headache….    Of course I must say: your results may vary!

Here are some shots I took today:

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It is a bit ironic, I remember driving past this dealership all summer and there was nothing but SUV’s parked out front… now for winter time they roll out the Roadsters… not smart.

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This NC3 in the USED side of the lot looked pretty sharp!

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This CX-7 is EXACTLY what I’m looking for to buy for my mom.

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However, a few people I know have now complained about visibility issues out of that truck and that the CX-5 is a much better option. Though I didn’t drive one, I got to sit in a few CX-5’s on the showroom floor… both in front (driver and passenger) and in the back seats and I agree they feel fairly comfortable. I also sat in the newest CX-9 SUV and hated the driver’s quarters… AS much as I like the idea of everything wrapping around the driver, I also like the freedom to not feel encroached especially on longer drives. The CX-9 has the same issues that my Miata has, the stupid door cup holder on my Miata has a sharp edge that has a tendency of cutting into your leg when it rests against it for a long period of time on a trip. The window switches control area on the CX-9 has the same feeling, and the huge center console pushes from the other side, so you have to maintain a perfectly straight position when driving, which isn’t always comfortable. Not a fan…. also upon closer inspection of the front grille area on the CX-9 I really can’t stand it. I don’t see why the hood has to protrude what seems like a foot beyond the furthest point on the bumper. What is that all about?

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The sole Fiat 124 Spider… the Fiata greets you when you arrive at the Alfa/Fiat dealership across the highway from the Mazda dealer.

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First thing that popped out at me being way out of place was this massive Dodge Challenger R/T sitting among all the Fiat 500’L’s It wasn’t a customer’s vehicle it was clearly being sold by this dealer, and there’s no fucking reason a Dodge should be sold by Alfa/Fiat!

I do understand the news that many Fiat dealerships aren’t doing so well and are being closed with car inventories being shifted over into Chrysler/Dodge/Ram stores. That makes sense. I have no issue seeing Fiat at Dodge dealers. But the other way around feels wrong!

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And there were two more Mopars inside on the showroom floor. I came to see fucking Abarth there not Mopars… come on Fiat, get your shit together!

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Hard to look at an Alfa-Romeo as a halo vehicle when all of it’s performance figures are absurdly dwarfed by the Hellcat across…

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I think the best part about Fiata’s appeal if the relationship with Mazda doesn’t work out, will be their cost. Already the window sticker is priced lower than a similarly equipped MX-5 at the dealership across the highway. Notice also the scale of how much of the car was build where… 75% Japan, 20% Italy what’s the other 5%?

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I left home happy with the prospect of test driving a Mazda I potentially will buy in the near future… and score a few bux thanks to a promo. And came home fucking disappointed. That’s really not the way a dealership experience should go. Oh well!