Keeping a car roadworthy is not some sort of black magic, nor arcane science. It’s just a matter of tackling a few projects in order of importance, but that specific order can be confusing. True to the spirit of the enthusiast mantra, “Miata is always the answer,” here’s a video from the experts at Flyin’ Miata to help you.
According to Keith Tanner in this video, this is what you should do when you a buy a “new” used car, or at least a used Miata that’s new to you. Tanner outlines four basic areas to pay attention to: the suspension, the mechanical side of things (powertrain), the interior, and, of course, cleaning.
These things seem like common sense on the surface, but the mechanical maintenance more or less overshadows the other three in practical application for about 99 percent of owners. Appearance is also a big one, but mostly when talking about the outward appearance, and yet focusing on a Miata’s suspension and interior will make the little roadster feel better than new.
The suspension is where the most appreciable difference will be felt. So, Tanner mentions that you should pay attention to any leaks, clunks and rattles that could indicate something is amiss. And the first thing to do to learn about these is to go get your Miata aligned.
Tanner says factory alignments are not an exact science, and on a car as old as a Mazda MX-5 (NA), the alignment is likely to be past its expiration date. Moreover, when the shop is performing the alignment, it’s pretty easy for the mechanics and techs to spot anything that could be wrong in the suspension. If any of the car’s shocks are blown, the alignment will make these easy to spot.
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Of course, paying attention to things like the engine idle or brake performance are important too, but focusing on the suspension buys the biggest “new car” bang for the buck. Consider that alignment, then, as the gateway drug to a suspension refresh, which will make the Miata feel better to drive than most any upgrades that add horsepower. In other words, worry about the handling first, and power second.
Well, maybe worry about power third because a better alternative, and pressing runner-up to the suspension would be paying attention to your Mazda’s interior. Sure, sorting out the exterior will give your Miata a boost to its self esteem, but inner beauty is a noble goal. And as the driver or owner you’ll be spending most of the time inside the actual car.
One quick easy way to refresh that aging interior, per Tanner, is to throw in a new steering wheel. Not only will the shiny new leather draw your attention immediately, it’ll feel better and respond well to that refreshed suspension. Also, a car’s steering wheel can monopolize its sight lines in the cabin, so it really should be the first to be replaced.
I’m only glossing over what Tanner goes into detail on in the video, so make sure to sit through all eighteen minutes. The wisdom applies to many other older cars, too. It’s a damn good instructional video that will teach you “how to turn it into a pretty decent little driver into [...] a very, very nice little car.”