Rotten Apple Meets...
Jim Baker

We know Jim to be an avid Miata Forum and Miata Net reader and contributor but when we heard about his first time experience of changing the oil in his Miata, we had to learn more.

RA: So Jim, after reading all the related posts on the Forum and the procedures in the Garage section of the Miata Net, what happened?

Jim: Well, that may be my first mistake, I didn't exactly do much research...I mean I've changed the oil in dozens of cars; how hard could it be?

RA: Okay what happened, you jacked your car up and put it on jackstands or did you just use ramps?

Jim: Well my Miata has extremely low ground clearance. This is excellent for handling, but lousy for maintenance. You are correct, it is not possible to reach the drain plug reliably without raising the car. The Miata will not clear typical car ramps; the front overhang will strike the ramps well before the wheels do and will subsequently push the ramps along in a humorous if useless manner. Nor can the car easily be raised with jacks; using the transmission housing and differential doesn't work because the car is too low to allow operation of the jack handle. Thus the car must be raised one side at a time, back and forth, on jack stands, until the car is high enough to get underneath.

RA: (reminder to self: someday tell Jim about just driving up on a piece of 2x6 board to raise the car high enough to get a jack under it or about how Rhino Ramps don't slide and allow adequate clearance for low cars.)

Jim: Well, once underneath, I located and removed the oil pan drain plug with a 17mm socket. Note that the plug is oriented horizontally; Mazda engineers designed it this way so that the draining oil will issue forth in a graceful arc, and missed my drain pan by twelve inches or more, depositing at least a full quart of hot, dirty oil on the garage floor before containment procedures can be initiated.

RA: (another reminder to self: don't let Jim near the company Miata.)

Jim: Note that cleaning procedures will be complicated by the fact that your drip pan filled with hot, burnt motor oil is sitting in the middle of the aforementioned pool of escaped oil. Marvel at the difficulty of cleaning under and around your drip pan while lying upside down on a mechanic's creeper.

RA: Which side would be rightside up while on a creeper, Jim?

Jim: (Jim ignores the question and continues.) Once drained, I replaced the washer and drain plug...admiring the fact that the old washer, made of soft aluminum, expands under pressure and becomes too small to slip off the bolt, fouling on the threads. I fiddled with this for an extended period of time.

Only then did I discover that the filter is completely inaccessible from the engine compartment. I consulted the service manual, and found the plainly drawn diagram showing the filter being removed with a wrench. Note that the engineer who drew the diagram apparently also removed the air filter, throttle body and intake manifold to make this possible.

RA: Jim, you should have read more in the Forum!

Jim: Yeah, well I didn't, but I determined that the filter is barely accessible, maybe, via a small opening in the front passenger wheel well so I removed the front passenger wheel to facilitate this process.

In the process of removing the wheel I remember that it is impossible to turn a lug on an unbraked wheel that is jacked off the ground so I see-saw the car back to the ground, break the lug nuts loose, and raise the car again, and remove the wheel.

RA: Jim, just out of curiosity, what happened the first time you drove a standard shift car?

Jim: That's another story! So I roll back under the car and attempt to maneuver the filter wrench through the opening striking my head repeatedly on the still very warm brake rotor.

RA: (Yet another note to self: Stay WAY away from the company Miata, Jim!)

Jim: So then I discover that your band-type filter wrench, adequate for every car I have ever owned, will not fit the tiny custom Miata filter. So I clean up sufficiently that the wife will loan me her car, break numerous traffic laws getting to R-Speed before it closes and purchase a custom Miata filter wrench (retail: $9.99). I endure the snickers of those who have already gone through this.

RA: So Jim, why didn't you just take your car to R-Speed in the first place?

Jim: Hey, this is my story and I'm stickin' to it! So I return home and go at it with my new wrench while silently thanking the Mazda engineers for creating a filter housing that is designed to leak a pint of oil into inaccessible crannies of the sub-frame. But, I replaced the filter, finally and spent several minutes poking a towel into cracks and crevices of the sub-frame in a vain attempt to catch the drips and dry up the reservoirs.

RA: Uh, Jim. Did all this really happen? Don't tell us after all that you forgot to add new oil or something?

Jim: It happened! And yes, I added oil but given what I'd been through it's the kind of thing I might have missed! I filled the engine with four quarts of quality motor oil, drove to the nearest car wash and thoroughly rinsed the undercarriage with de-greaser...proud that I'd saved all that money and having taken only three hours longer than it would have taken a shop to do it!

RA: Well, thanks for sharing that experience with us, Jim! We're sure you were not the first to run into those problems but maybe your tale will save someone else some pain. Now, Jim...have you ever read on the forum about Rhino Ramps and 2x6 boards for better jack access????

Congratulations to Jim Baker for sharing his Rotten Apple story with us and we are pleased to send him a $25.00 gift certificate from The Knobmeister as a special thank you for sharing!

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