Monday, November 03, 2008

The Decline of The Red Menace

The Miata now seems to be entering the territory of Oliver Wendell Holmes' "One-Horse Shay". No trouble to speak of for essentially forever, except that the day finally comes when entire vehicle just . . . disintegrates.

Year one: No problems
Year two: Convertible top fails, replaced under warranty
Year three: No problems
Year four: Valve cover gasket leaks. A $50 problem.
Year five: No problems
Year six: No problems
Year seven: Top fails again
Year eight: No problems
Year nine: No problems
Year ten: Center brakelight wire fails
(A zero $ problem: I just spliced in a few inches of used lampcord)
Year eleven: No problems
Year twelve: No problems
Year thirteen: No problems
Year fourteen: No problems
Year fifteen: No problems
Year sixteen: No problems
Year seventeen: No problems
Year eighteen: Cooling system fails (April '07.)
(First the radiator goes, then - when the pressure is increased - all the little fussy hoses at the top of the block fail, one after the other.)
Year nineteen: Transmission explodes (July '08. The Miata finally strands me. Then the alternator dies (Halloween '08))

Now that the transmission replacement is fully amortized (three-and- a-half months), the "Battery!" idiot light came on. I was able to drive to work and back on Friday apparently on just the battery. (Being careful to use no lights, no radio.)

So replacement was this weekend's project: an hour to get the old alternator out, forty-five minutes to go get it tested and trade it for a new one, then a half-hour to put the new one in. (The alternator apparently did not like being sprayed with coolant last season when all the little hoses let go in last year's cooling-system failure. The alternator did continue to work for another ~10,000 miles or so before failing, though.

Here's the trick: to physically get the alternator out of a Miata engine bay, the air intake pipe across the front of the block needs to be disconnected and moved out of the way.

And here's the moral of today's story:

Had I disposed of the Miata after SEVENTEEN YEARS of service (and 140,000 miles), it would have been essentially trouble-free. Now the elderly-car problems are starting, and I should start to think about replacing it. (It's long overdue for an exhaust system, for instance - that'll be next....)

Fun fact: the stock alternator was a Mitsubishi part, the new ($130) rebuild is a Bosch.
My 14mm box wrench was nowhere to be found, so a 9/16" served until I could buy a new one.

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At 5:31 PM, Blogger Peter said...

You had amazing run.

My Project Car, also a 1990, has had many more issues, I suspect it had a much harsher life than The Red Menace.

However its the nearest thing to a motorcycle on 4 wheels. Sharron's 2001 Miata doesn't have the same responsive feel even though I think its a little quicker, 145+ hp., and its certainly quieter


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