How to stay in Ocean City, MD with an ocean view on a Motel 6 budget

by Karl Kittler

July 19, 2004
Go to directions to replace alternator

We took a weekend trip to DE originally staying in a hotel in Millsboro. Saturday we woke up and decided to leave the hotel for somewhere else, got a refund on the next night and left. After stopping at many hotels that don't know how to turn on the 'NO' on the 'NO VACANCY' sign, we decided we'd just go home after we were done. I was ok with this, as we would probably walk away from this with $60 in my pocket.

We spent the day in Ocean City MD. I had noticed that the temp gauge was running a little cooler than normal (about 11:00 if the gauge were the hour hand on a clock, 11:50 being normal). I didn't think much of this, because a few weeks prior I had replaced the key switch on the column, removing the gauge cluster in the process and figured the connection was loose, or maybe the ocean air lets the car run cooler. I wonder does anybody else justify minor fluctuations like this? As we drove the temp gauge moved down to 10:30. I stalled the car at a traffic light. When I turned the key again, it didn't turn over, making the whimpering sound of the little starter that couldn't. So I got out, my girlfriend Tammy got in the drivers seat and we proceeded to push the car into the do not enter of a CVS drive-through pharmacy. Almost immediately, we got a jump from a really nice guy and his girlfriend in a Jeep Liberty. Thank you to the kindness of strangers, whomever you may be. After disconnecting the cables, Tammy stalled the engine, out of habit, turned the key and it started. I assumed there was a dead spot on the starter and as long as we hit that spot again we'd make it home ok. If not, get a jump again. We parked the car, spending the rest of the day on the boardwalk.

"Oh Nelly-Bell, why'd you have to do this"--"Who's Nelly-Bell?"
At about 10:15 p.m. we left for home. About a mile or two into DE, OC is ends at the MD/DE line, the headlights got very dim and the air bag light started blinking a code three. We pulled over, I now knew that the alternator died. The battery light never went on, and I assume that the alternator was probably ill for some time .A month prior, the temp would drop when the A/C was on. I tried to nurse the battery back by running the engine at 5,000 RPMs but no dice. Shortly there after, the engine dropped a thousand RPMs in time with the four-ways blinking. We weren't going anywhere. I shut off the engine got out and waited for more kindness from strangers. Tammy said "Oh, Nelly-Bell! why'd you have to do this?" I asked, "Who's Nelly-Bell?" assuming that she or I was jinxed, hexed, cursed, etc. by some spirit in her past. She explained that her mother had a car named Nelly-Bell. Tammy has now christened my "Maverik", "Nelly-Bell". A park ranger came by and offered to call a tow-truck. I told him that I only had $53, he said that wouldn't cover a tow, but offered to take us back to OC and we could catch a bus for $1 each all night. I planned to call a friend in the morning. He dropped us off at 141st St and continued his way home.

So we're in OC, we have no transportation, hardly any money, we don't know anyone and it's 11:30 p.m. It looked a little desperate to Tammy, she said "I feel like we're homeless". I was looking at this in a positive light. She hates that about me. "We're not homeless, we have a home, we have money for food and in a few more hours, we can call Dawn" a friend and co-worker who has a vacation home about an hour away. After an hour or so, Tammy started seeing the adventure in this too, even if she wasn't as upbeat as I. We got a bus ticket and went the 130 blocks down to the boardwalk. The people on the bus are entertaining. "Pass this bus, he's too slow!", yells one to the driver. They cheer when the other bus makes a stop and ours finally passes him. If they get too rowdy, a cop gets on at the next stop or two. The bars are open until 2:30, there's plenty of places that never close. The boardwalk is occupied by tourists, many are quite amusing, because the bars are open. Police patrol the boardwalk and other areas quite regularly so it's relatively safe. Restrooms are open on the boardwalk until 2:30 and after that the WaWa on 113th st is open. I have other suggestions on this subject, email me if you want to know more. The boardwalk and the rest of the city are pretty active until 4:15 or so. There's several soda/water machines every block or so at about $1 a bottle. And should you need a break, take a load off at one of the hundreds of benches every 25 feet on the boardwalk.

At 6:00 a.m. unfortunately, it started to rain. Near 2nd st there's lots of overhangs to keep you dry if you should need it, or hit a restaurant and have breakfast. I didn't have Dawn's cell number so I called work to get it, the receptionist didn't have it because Dawn officially retired two weeks prior. We got another bust ticket at 7:00 ($2 a head, ride till the next day at 6 a.m.) and headed out to get the miata.

We got off at the first beach access in the DE state park, the Miata was within sight and asked the very nice middle aged woman at the booth for assistance, as suggested by the bus-driver. She not only offered a jump, but her rain coat, while I hooked up my cables and to follow us to the auto parts store (4 mi)to be sure we made it. Her license plate read APRFOOL, which I found ironic but encouraging. We got to the auto parts store to find the guy couldn't get an alternator until Tues, and didn't have a battery to fit the Miata like it should. I bought a cheap battery, without the core exchange, for $43, plugged it in and we were on our way home. The store is on DE Rt 26, Bethany Auto Parts. I had to buy a wrench from him once before. The battery lasted the entire four hour ride, wipers no headlights, I put it on a charger so that I could go to work the next day before getting a new alternator.

Honestly, I could do this again. I really did have a good time, maybe even better than the daytime, during the time when we were stranded. The hotels on the boardwalk can go for $500 a night and seemed to be booked every weekend three months a year. If I were to take another trip with this in mind, I'd probably sleep out on the beach from 6 a.m. till maybe 12:00. Bringing lots of sun block. Sleeping on the beach is prohibited from 10 p.m. till 6 while they groom the beaches. At 12:00 go for a swim or surf in the afternoon and just enjoy myself the rest of the time. Like I said, the night life is pretty good down there. When we go back, we're definitely hitting more clubs and bars. The only showers are at the 9th st bath house in OC to get the salt off and are shut off at dusk. Unfortunately there's no where to change out of your bathing suit, it's prohibited but people change in the bath houses anyway. I'd probably attempt do do this under the pier near 1st street too, because the bathhouses get very sandy and wet. You can also go to DE beaches park, do beach stuff and change there for $5 all day, good at all DE parks for the day. Or I've found when quickly going from work to a casual thing, like a basketball game, you can easily change in miata with relative privacy, top up, for the more daring, top down. Ladies, can put the top half on under your shirt after you get out. Parking is easy on 15th st west of Philadelphia St or 19th west. You'll have to walk three blocks to the boardwalk. With food, you could probably get by on $40 a day for a couple. This isn't something I'd do with the family. This probably could work for any beach front resort type place.

Now on to changing the alternator:

(Editor's Note: This article was written for the NA MX-5 Miata. NA has a v-belt, NB has a serpentine belt. The NB replacement requires removal of the intake plenum support bracket as the bolt comes out from the rear. The NA bolt comes out from the front.)

(Note from Brian Huang: . I have a 1993 miata with a 1997 1.8 motor (still NA). My lower alternator bolt pulls out from the back as mentioned for the NB. So it may seem this removal of the intake support applies to NA's also. As an educated guess, since the 94-97 NA miata share very similar engine design to the NB being 1.8, it's possible the alternator bolt removal from the front only applies to 90-93 1.6 engines.)

Replacing the alternator is a simple job that requires hand tools and beginner level mechanical ability. Will take 30-45 mins. While the car can be driven for several hours without the alternator, the belt also runs the water pump, so you'll need to get the part before hand. I got mine used from New Cumberland Auto Parts for $53 w/tax. Advance Auto wants $168 +tax and core for remanufactured

Tools required
Ratchet or Air ratchet (preferred)
10, 12 and 14mm sockets
Phillips screw driver (optional)

If any of your belts are more than 3-4 years old or are glazed, now is a good time to replace them. Recheck the tension after a month or 1,000 miles if replacing.

First disconnect the battery. Otherwise you'll do some impromptu arc welding and burn up who knows what.
Then remove the plastic air intake by loosening the hose clamps on the throttle body and mass air sensor and one 14 mm bolt between the throttle body and engine block. Disconnect the vacuum line on the drivers side and the wire clamp on the passengers' side. This should pull off pretty easily. A black seal with hose clamp can remain on the throttle body.
Loosen the lower bolt. This goes through to the back and is held on with a nut. Mine was missing, so I don't know the size. I'd guess 14 because mazda likes 10 and 14 mm.1 turn should be enough for now.
Loosen the tensioning bolt (long 12 mm perpendicular to the alternator shaft), about 1/2 -3/4 inch, do not remove it.
Remove the upper bolt (lock bolt) that connects the tensioning bolt to the alternator. The air ratchet is very good here because you can only move about 1/10th of a turn with a regular ratchet. The tensioning bolt will come off with it.
Push the alternator in a clockwise motion to loosen the belt and slip it off the pulley.
Remove the lower bolt. Hold onto the alternator when you pull out the bolt from the front.
With all three bolts removed, rotate the alternator parallel to the crank shaft about 1/2 turn, disconnect the alternator plug (grayish color, two wires) and positive connection (single 10 gauge white wire). The positive connection may be under a two piece black dust cover.
The alternator slips out the top passenger side between the throttle body and the radiator.
To re-install, reverse.

Alternator tension adjustment bolt (lock bolt) 14-19 lb-ft / 19-25 Nm

Belt tension specs from 92 manual:
New belt: 110-132 lb, 491-589 N , 50-60 kg
Used belt: 110-132 lb, 422-491 N, 43-50 kg

If you have a 90, or early 91, use a belt tension checker, it's cheaper than a replacement block due to the crank shaft failure.

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13 April, 2008