Someone Else's Problem: Oh no, they've got another one - leviathan's MX-5 NC

thomas;n3541807 said:
I hope you don't mean that literal, but used amber indicating chromed bulbs.. otherwise it is basically trading pest :p

They are actually amber bulbs, not chrome. I agree, chrome bulbs would?ve been better. But these were included with the indicators, and are barely visible underneath. Maybe I?ll swap the bulbs later, if they are actually visible in broad daylight.
I've had the MX-5 for almost 5 months now, and was beginning to wonder how a 10-year-old car can run absolutely trouble-free for that amount of time. Well, everything is in order now, it has developed its first somewhat notable issue :)

A few days ago I've noticed the windows fogging up a lot. Didn't think much of it, drove for 20 minutes with the heater on and windows cracked open slightly, all was well. All started being not well when I returned to the parked car 15 minutes later to find it completely fogged over again. Took a look around, and found the problem: passenger floor mat was completely soaked with water, and so was all of the passenger-side carpet (footwell and under/behind the seat) and a lot of driver's side as well. This quickly reminded me that I went through a carwash a couple days prior (yeah yeah, not a good idea in the first place, I was in a hurry and needed the car clean...).

Since the problem appeared quite bad on the first glance, I went to my trusted local Mazda shop the next day. They diagnosed two issues:
- Damaged seal on one of the screws on the front windscreen cowling, letting a very small amount of water through the passenger side dashboard - evidenced by visible surface rust on a specific part underneath the dash.
- Most probably clogged rain drains below the soft top housing - most water appeared to be on the floor behind the passenger seats, where those drains can overflow when not working properly.

Shop estimate for fixing all of it, including upgrading the drains with newer parts from Mazda that don't clog as easily, was "between 400-500€". Of course it's also not covered by the used car warranty (anything to do with the soft top and/or water leaks is explicitly excluded). Shop said they'll look how soon they can get the parts to arrive, and call me to confirm. It's been 4 days now, no call yet.

Not liking the estimated cost, I've been researching the issue online, and found more than a few blog posts and forum threads concerning both issues. The screw is a fairly easy thing to fix myself - disassemble part of plastic cowling, apply copious amounts of sealant around the hole in question, check that the screw is correct (apparently easily swapped with one that looks the same but is too long and causes the issue in the first place), reassemble. The drains are more complicated, and normally require disassembling a lot of stuff... unless one uses a trombone brush:


This is supposedly the perfect tool for getting those drains cleaned, and if done regularly makes the upgrade to newer parts not strictly necessary anymore. Ordered one today, will definitely try this before going for a 400€ fix. The carpet is pretty much dry by now - used some newspaper, a dehumidifier pillow and driving with the heater on a lot to at least fix the symptoms.
At least with the earlier generations the soft top drains are instructed to be regularly cleaned to avoid any blockage issues. I often clean mine with the dipstick, which I obviously clean well afterwards. A vacuum cleaner also goes a long way with just the hose or a smaller nozzle.
Yeah, vacuuming the drains from below is another hint going around. They can't be vacuumed from the upper end, because there's a one-way rubber flap in there that can be damaged if stuff goes through going up. Which is why the trombone brush is recommended - you push one end through, it's long enough to stick out underneath the car, and then pull it all the way through going down.
Operation Trombone Brush executed successfully.

Locating the drain holes took all of 3 minutes or so, I managed to find a flashlight angle where one can actually see the drain entrances a little underneath the plastic covers (despite all forums saying they can't be seen). Both sides were pretty badly clogged - I had to help out with steel wire at the beginning, getting the initial "seal" of muck broken and working with the trombone brush the rest of the way. Passenger side was worse by quite a bit, seemed to be pretty much plugged in two spots - that would explain a lot more water coming in on that side. Got the brush all the way through 4 times on both sides, with no more chunks coming out and the brush not getting much dirtier anymore.

Hopefully this got rid of the acute problem, allowing drainage to happen whenever it rains heavily or I risk going through another carwash. Once it gets a little warmer and I can work on the car outside, will brush the drains again and check by running some water down them from a bottle - don't want to do that in the parking garage. If this actually fixed the flooding issue, then I just saved at least €300 :)
One thing that has bugged me about the NC1 from the beginning is the front number plate. The car is obviously designed for the US market, because it only really works well without one :) But browsing some MX-5 forums I found a mod that makes it a lot more bearable, that I might undertake on mine:


Compare the looks to my current front:


German law says the lower edge of the plate has to be at least 20cm up from the road surface. At current mounting position it's 42cm up, so moving it down 15-20cm will remain legal (maybe not quite as low as on the example, 2-3cm higher).

The only problem is that the stock mount is secured with 8 (!) screws to the bumper, leaving 8 very visible holes when removed. So it's only really doable if I repaint or wrap the bumper. Might be possible to just close up the holes and paint the spots, but people who have done it say they remain visible in sunlight - not sure I want that.

Car went in the shop today for gearbox and diff oil changes. All done in a couple hours, cheaper than initially quoted (yay), and no major issues found during general checkover, only a few minor things to watch out for:

- Rear left brake caliper shows signs of sticking/rubbing - gotta watch that, look like late residual effects from sitting so long before I bought it. Explains the rarely occuring rubbing noise coming from that corner.

- Rear suspension will need some minor work come summer, anti-roll bar mount on the left side is on the way out. I was thinking about doing some suspension upgrades anyway (Eibach springs for a ~35mm lower ride height), would make sense to get it fixed at that time as well.

Also continued work on my phone/audio integration solution a few days ago by putting in a Qi wireless charger cradle and a Bluetooth adapter hooked into the Aux input:


Position for the Anker Bluetooth controller is not final, just not yet sure where to better stick it. The setup works quite well, now I can take phone calls in the car properly again, and don't have to plug in the phone every time. Only real issue is, now both USB slots on the power adapter are used, and there's more wires visible in the cabin that I'd like for what is a fully wireless setup. Still work to be done there.

With that, the todo list now looks something like this:

- any time now:
-- New spark plugs - they've been here for weeks, just gotta get around to putting them in finally.
-- Re-wire the phone/bluetooth system: I want to hide the USB power adapter inside the dash (using a second 12V socket wired in parallel to the current one), and route the cables to both the Qi charger cradle and the Anker bluetooth head so that they're as hidden as possible. Need to find the perfect spot for the Anker head yet, and figure out the wiring for the second lighter socket.

- march-april:
-- Summer tires. Will be keeping the stock rims, so beginning to look around for good summer tires in 205/45R17 that won't blow the budget too much.

- some time before summer:
-- Abovementioned front plate mod, if doable within a reasonable expense.
-- Lowering via Eibach springs (gotta get rid of the offroad look), fix anti-roll bar mount issue while at it. Maybe alsonew shocks... or just straight V-maxx coilovers. Will decide after the summer tires are on, depending on how much handling that leaves me wanting.
I've got plugs scheduled this weekend myself.
Summer tires have been acquired. Went for the Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 (standard 205/45ZR17 size on stock rims) after some research - seems to be a very decent tire at a reasonable price point, with excellent dry and quite good wet handling, at the expense of being slightly above average in road noise.

Have driven them for a week now, seem quite good indeed. Steering is back to very direct, as it was during my initial test drive before purchase - the winter tires were much softer and gave a somewhat delayed turn-in response. Braking distance on dry surface is noticeably shorter, and close-to-limit cornering is more predictable and controllable. So pretty much all the things I expected.
I hope they do better than V12 evo. Hankooks model naming is a tad irritating, as the qualities and "class" of tyre is rather hard to define. Amongst all Hankook tyres I've had the V12 evo ended up being the softest, hence being relatively vague and melting under bigger stress. But they were predictable and controllable as well indeed.
Soo, a few weeks ago I sought out and joined a local MX-5 "club" of sorts (Stammtisch for the Germans). Today, they held a "workshop sunday" - one of the guys has a barn/garage that fits multiple cars easily, and they occasionally meet there to fiddle with the cars, eat barbecue, drink beer and otherwise enjoy themselves. So naturally I took the 30-minute drive to join them:




While there, I finally got around to installing the new spark plugs, only ~4 months after acquiring them or so :) Process itself was quite easy, exactly as described everywhere - remove middle section of the strut brace, pull off plastic engine cover, unscrew and remove the coils, and finally unscrew and remove the plugs. Reassemble in reverse.


All four came out without issues. Cylinder 1 has some oil (?) visible on the thread, other 3 are clean:


Also, comparing the old plugs to the new one. The news ones are the cheaper, 40tkm expected lifetime version, the old ones were Iridium with 100tkm lifetime - apparently their electrodes are shaped like this normally; but the gap is measurably larger than on the news ones.


This might be placebo effect, but I think it idles better now. Haven't noticed much difference in driving yet, but then again I didn't have any issues before. This is more preventive maintenance than anything, in any case.

Also went out for a little drive and made a stop at a photogenic location. A few people made "proper" pictures with DSLRs and stuff, I just caught a few shots with the phone:




Damn, the color difference between plastic bumper and the body looks bad in the picture. It's nowhere near as visible IRL. Also, pretty supercharged NB in the background :)
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Moar minor maintenance:

- Air filter replaced with a Cosworth one - it was about as cheap as OEM, and it's blue! Gotta be good for something. Old one was quite dirty.
- One parking light bulb died, replaced both. Went for "xenon look" Osram Cool Blue Intense (read: actually kinda white instead of yellow). So much easier to swap than low beams.

Also I've made the decision to join the FG Roadtrip this year, so the car gotta get ready for ~4500km in two weeks come August. Made a short checklist of stuff to do until then:

- Install a GoPro holder in front of the wind deflector, between headrests.
- Replace useless center console cupholders with the IL Motorsports cubby with 12V socket inside, and wire two more sockets with USB adapters hidden beneath (for Bluetooth and phone charging at the front and GoPro at the back). Hide the Bluetooth dongle and phone charger wires properly while at it.
- Install the Baofeng charger somewhere neat and wire a 10V power supply to it.
- Buy a bulbs and fuses replacement kit, as apparently Slovenian and Croatian police require and often check those in foreign cars, and because it might actually come in handy on the drive.
- (some time late June/early July) Drop by the trusted workshop and let them give the car a general pre-trip checkover.

Suspension and number plate/front look mod are going down the priority list because of this, not going to happen before the trip.
The little NC got an unexpected test today. Basically I went to Joe's party, he lives only an hour away from the 'Ring, on the next day one thing led to another...



Conditions were close to perfect: not much traffic, no bikes, completely dry track and great weather. So I decided to take it out on a lap. It was bound to happen eventually, and not knowing if the conditions will be good next time I'm around, I just said "fuck it" and went.

What can I say? Awesome. The front tires started slipping a bit much at the very end of the lap, but other than that the car held up perfectly: no brake fade, no overheating despite almost 30°C heat outside, nothing. It's almost like it was made with this sort of thing in mind.

And damn it's fun. I planned on going fairly slowly, but Adrian can confirm it ended up being anything but that :) simply because the car is that well-behaved when pushed. Not on a single corner did I get a feeling that it's about to go wrong - on the opposite, I'm very sure there's a lot more the car could've given, even on the old dying shocks that it has.

I might have to do this again at some point.
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Another item crossed off the list: center console re-work and re-wiring!


Before: useless cupholders (can't shift with a drink in there, also that's where my elbow goes), barely any storage space, single 12V outlet taken by phone and Bluetooth, wiring and Bluetooth puck visible in the interior.


During: the usual chaos. I need to be more patient pulling off trim pieces, lost a couple trim tabs along the way. Everything did fit together properly afterwards and seems to hold.


After: large storage box, two usable 12V outlets, all the wires hidden and Bluetooth puck accessible inside the storage, only the Lightning cable for the phone showing in the interior. Success!
Nice job.
Those cup holders really do look like an afterthought, much better to have the storage space but where do you put your drink?! :p

still baffles me how a car can have wiring for something like a second 12V socket but they don’t fit it because of design or whatever. ​​​​​​