Artwork by: Rebecca Zook

The "Big One" and Other Stuff!

by Lester Seal

 

Regular Maintenance


First a quick
revue on maintenance items and frequency.
  • Oil and filter every 3,000-4,000 miles.
  • Rotate tires every 6,000-8,000 miles (every other oil change).
  • 4 wheel alignment every 15,000 miles.
  • Stock air filter every 15,000 miles.
  • Wiper inserts/blades every 15,000 miles.
  • I change my spark plugs every 15,000 miles. (Stock plugs are good for about 20,000 miles.)

30,000 Mile Maintenance


Let's look at
the 30,000 mile maintenance.
  • Include tune up, fuel filter, brake/clutch fluid flush and coolant flush.
  • If the car has stock 80w-90 weight lube, I also change the transmission and differential fluids. Change to red line and replace every 60,000.
  • I have not seen the need, or had any reason to use gas, or oil additives, but I hear they are a real money maker!
  • Note: It's been found in racing applications, the Torsion differential had problems with metal fragments. The cure was to change the fluid after the first 100 miles or so. Not bad advice for any new car, I would change the transmission fluid at this time also.
  • Ignition wires, before 45,000 miles.

60,000 Mile Maintenance


This brings us
to the 60,000 mile maintenance. The "Big One". Assuming all maintenance has been done on the car to date, this is what to expect.
  • A full tune-up and fluid change, including the brake and clutch fluid.
  • Suspension and brakes should be checked. (A good time to think of replacing those old shocks!)
  • Four wheel alignment.
  • All the belts. If money is tight, the timing belt could wait, but don't wait too long (no more than 75,000). You do stand the risk of being stranded if the belt breaks. If the belt breaks, there should do no further damage to the engine, (this engine is a non interference type) but it will not run.
  • When the timing belt is replaced, be sure to have the camshafts and crankshaft seals replaced. This is a job for someone that will stand by their work. It is very easy to scratch the surface of the shafts when pulling the old seals out. If this happens, the new seals will leak and could be expensive to repair. Be sure the crankshaft bolt is cleaned, and Loctite is used along with the correct torque.
  • When the timing belt is being replaced, be sure to have the water pump checked for leakage. The water pump is mounted inside the timing belt area. If the water pump has to be replaced, the timing belt has to be taken off to gain access to the pump. Best to check it when the belt is off the car, if it is leaking, it can be replaced for a lot less labor at this time.
  • When a timing belt is replaced, the valve cover gasket should also be renewed. (The valve cover has to be removed to replace the belt.)
  • The timing has to be adjusted after doing a timing belt, so if you have a preferred spec (14 deg, 18 deg) this can be done at this time. Also, if you are running a setting other than stock, be sure the technician working on the car is aware of it, or he may put it back to a stock setting.

Finding A Shop


Finding a shop
. I guess it's like picking any other service, (Doctor, Lawyer, Hairstylist) word of mouth is the best indicator, letting people with like tastes and expectations help guide you to a shop that will suite your needs.

What to look for when searching for a repair shop for your Miata:

  • Looks are deceiving, but on the whole, a clean shop would be better than a grease pit. (Not always true, but someone that has pride in their work, usually has pride in their shops appearance.)
  • A well equipped shop is a must. For example, any shop can have a tire machine, but is it the type that will not destroy the rim of a mag wheel trying to get these new low profile tires mounted?
  • Can you talk to the technician working on your car directly? Or do you have to try and communicate with a go between, and hope the information reaches the person doing the work on your car?
  • Are they knowledgeable of your car? (Better yet, do they own one?)
  • Do they have access to information on your car? (Manuals, CD system etc.)
  • Are they certified technicians? (ASE, Mazda etc.)
  • Will they stand behind their work?

The best place to find these answers is through your local Miata chapter. You have a whole network of people at your disposal, and most will be willing to tell you about their favorite repair shop, also the places to steer clear from.

Tips


When you bring
your car in for a 4 wheel alignment, ask, when was the last time the alignment machine was calibrated? If it's a dealer, and it's been over a week, ask them to call you the day it's being calibrated and make an appointment for the next day.

Reason: At a larger repair shop, many people use the alignment equipment, and the chances are greater that a projector could be dropped, knocking the calibration of the machine out of spec.

The problem with a large shop, is that nobody likes to own up to throwing the equipment out of calibration, the only way it shows up, is with cars coming back with complaints (it could be your car) until the company is called to re calibrate the machine.

Sometimes, the company is under contract to calibrate once a month or so. If a smaller shop has alignment equipment, there are less people involved with using it, and more incentive to keep the machine accurate.

Many small shops can not afford to call up the company to calibrate the machine on a regular basis, so they invest in the equipment and knowledge to calibrate in house, when ever they feel it necessary.

When someone's personal reputation is on the line, they tend to do a better job, and do it the first time around. If a technician hides under the cloak of a large franchise or operation, they have less personal liability. Their incentive is to churn the work out as quickly as possible.

More Thoughts


I know a
lot of people like to change their own oil etc. on their cars. The question is, are you really do the best thing for your car, or yourself? Apart from the hassle of getting the car on ramps, getting covered with oil, trying to get that dam oil filter off, and disposing of the toxic waste in a politically correct manner. Is the car getting the inspection or maintenance it should?
  • Are the brake lines checked? The brake calipers checked for leakage? Brake pads checked for wear?
  • Differential and transmission seals checked?
  • Tire pressure checked? Tire wear noted?
  • Doors lubed?
  • Fluids filled?
  • Heat shields checked?
  • Clutch linkage lubed?
  • Etc. Etc.

All these things can done at a glance when the car is serviced on a lift, and all for about $25. One of the best deals I know of. I would rather spend my time driving the Miata than crawling under it!

I have a container with 200-300 objects pulled from tires that were leaking. All these were noticed doing routine maintenance, and noticing one tire was a few pounds lower than the rest. If the air pressure wasn't checked every oil change (3,000-4,000 miles) one low tire wouldn't mean much, and further investigation for a nail would probably not be done.

This is just one example of preventive maintenance, if it is not done on a regular basis, many things could go unnoticed until it is too late.

Happy motoring!

Lester