Tuning Done Right

Rotten Apple Meets...
Chad Douglas


Chad rates this one an "8" on the 1-10 Stupidity Factor Scale and a full "10" on the Fiancée Chuckle Factor Scale.


RA: Okay, Chad tell all! Your admiring public awaits you!

Chad: So I'm changing my spark plugs one day and pull out the #4 and OMG! There's oil ALL OVER it. Time for a new valve cover gasket, right? Quick 20 minute job, right?

So, I go to the parts store, get new wires (because I ALWAYS wind up breaking one, no matter now much dielectric I use) and a new gasket.

RA: (Note to self: "To thine own self, be true...always have a spare.")

Chad: Disassembly goes uneventfully (I've always been a real expert on disassembly - reassembly, however, is another story.) I even take the valve cover out into the street and scrub it up to make it look pretty. Of course, I didn't realize that the degreaser I was using was not suitable for that type of metal, and it discolored it.

RA: Admitting to that one is worthy of recognition all by itself. So many of us have done it over the years!

Chad: I put the new gasket on the car, put the cover on, and started looking for torque specs. I saw the rating of 60 in/lbs and realized that I'd have to convert it to ft/lbs for my torque wrench. I set the wrench, and tightened the bolts down, carefully observing the pattern for tightening. I thought to myself, "Self, you are DA MAN! You did this gasket in 20 minutes!" Did I mention that it's a BAD idea to brag BEFORE you are done?

RA: (Thinking to self: "How could this go wrong, this guy is good!")

Chad: Satisfied that I saved myself tons-o-cash, I clean up myself and all my tools, drop the hood, get my passenger, hop in, and turn the key. - I turned the key again. No fire.

RA: So Chad, how come you didn't just post your problem to the Miata Forum? We could have come up with somewhere between 25-60 guaranteed solutions for you inside 20 minutes or so? :)

Chad: Well, I had to try first. Confused, I get out of the car, pop the hood and put my passenger on the key. They turn it over. (As if the fact that I'm looking under the hood will magically fix it)

So, I pull a wire and short it to the block. Still no fire. "Well, the COILS must be defective!" (this was especially stupid, since they were working fine 45 minutes ago)

RA: You've been reading the Forum too long!

Chad: I remove the coil packs, drive across town to fetch a multimeter, and start testing the coils (what is that white crusty stuff that grows in there, anyways?)

RA: Crystallized dielectric grease? Do you Zaino your coil pack by chance? :)

Chad: Nope, according to Rod's Enthusiasts manual and the Haynes book, there's nothing wrong with them. HMMM!

OK - Check the more obvious - fuses, right? So, I check the fuses. Sure enough, one's blown. Since it is already too late to get a replacement for these rather weird fuses, I decide to check it by putting the ABS fuse (also a 30 amper) in there. Pop it in, turn the key, and (it was a rather pretty flash, you know) POOF! Now I have 2 blown fuses.

RA: Atta' boy! Did we have the same have the same Auto Shop instructor in high school? Good old Mr. Merrit -- we called him "Sparky."

Chad: Nope, but I now know that something is shorting out and drawing more than 30amps (30 amps! GEEZ, that's enough to roast hot dogs!)

Since I can't get THAT fuse type tonight, I go over to a 24-hour grocery/department store and buy some regular fuses and an adapter to plug in. I also get a 30 amp breaker so I don't keep roasting fuses as I try to track down this electrical problem.

I get back and, yup, it blows the new fuses as well as the original ones.

RA: And here loyal readers is where we pause to figure out "who done it?" What's causing Chad's problem? Is it a broken sparkplug? ...two bad wires? ...did he forget to reattach the CAS? ...is the soiled cam cover seeking revenge? ...did the wheel alignment somehow get changed? ...is it time to call Bill Cardell? What would you do???? Read on and be amazed! 


Chad: After some head scratching, my brain finally says, "make sure that the valve cover gasket install didn't pinch any wires" (this occurred about 2.5 hours after the "start" of the job)

I started looking and feeling around the valve cover. There was a wiring harness pinched in it. I loosened the valve cover bolts, removed the wire and replaced the valve cover.

It started. So, 3 hours and about $25 in fuses later, I am finally back on the road at dusk instead of the late afternoon.

RA: So once again we learn that almost always, the problem lies somewhere in that which we worked on most recently!!

....but wait...there's more.....

Chad: The funniest part of this story is that the next day, my friend (who also has a Miata, but is smart enough to keep me away from it) is talking to a mechanic and mentions the problem I had. He says, "Ok, so my friend put a new valve cover gasket on last night and spent 3 hours trying to figure out why his car wouldn't run." They guy interrupted in a split second with "Pinched a wire, huh?"


Thanks, Chad for sharing this great story with us! But don't pick on yourself too badly as it's pretty obvious you know you way around under the hood. But do tell, how did you get those stains off the cam cover? A lot of us would like to know the answer to that one!

Congratulations to Chad Douglas for sharing his Rotten Apple story with us and we are pleased to send him a gift certificate from Serious Auto Accessories as a special thank you for sharing!

Got a good story? Take the time and share your shame!

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