Mazda MX-5

Can I have my car back, Dad

Mazda has revealed its new MX-5  and for me it’s a thing of beauty and encapsulates everything a sports car should be – light, rear-wheel drive, slick manual gearshift, brilliant handling and simply fun, fun, fun. Who give’s a toss it’s not particular fast and has a 0-100kph time of around 8 seconds. That’s not the point and well done Mazda engineers for keeping to its principles and not overloading it with every imaginable electronic device that supposedly helps us become better drivers. No wonder they’ve sold over a million of the little blighters since inception in 1985.

mazda mx-5
2015 Mazda MX-5 – courtesy of autobild.de

I’ve already singled it out as a potential first car for my son when he is old enough to start driving. His mother may not agree though, but what does she know? I can’t think of a better car to kick his driving career off. There’s only two seats so no late night joy rides with a bunch of his mates. It’s manual, so in my book will teach him how to handle a car far better than an automatic. It’s not a speedster, so no point in out running the cops or trying to burn off some dill in a Commodore. And of course, I will want to drive it, often.

Brand new, it will cost around $40k for the 1.5 litre model and closer to $50k for the 2 litre, which sounds about as expensive as a tinder date behind your third wife’s back. A quick glance through the classifieds suggests that it holds its price rather well too, with 2011 versions asking over $34k, and even 10 year old examples going for between $15-24k.

But when I get around to looking for one for my eldest (the jury is still out whether I’ll be asking him to stump up the cash or not – it doesn’t hurt to suggest he can chip in at the very least right?) will we be purchasing a money pit?

As I have written in an earlier post regarding a car older than a decade:

Carsguide.com.au tells us to “check that the Mazda’s engine starts easily, idles reasonably smoothly and doesn’t blow smoke from the exhaust under hard acceleration. The gearbox should be light and positive in its change action and not balk or crunch even on the fastest of changes.”

The soft top needs to be in good condition with no stitching missing. Hopefully it has not been used to race or run around too many tracks. A roll cage and things like a fire extinguisher would be a big give away. As with any car this old, if the numbers on the odometer do not align perfectly, you could be staring at a car that has been clocked. At this price though, I don’t care how limited edition it is, it would need to be exceptional to hand over your hard earned.

Anything else?

Well, the brake callipers are known to seize a bit but there are plenty of reconditioned parts available.

MK1 and MK2 models are prone to rust unfortunately, less so in Oz of course, but it’s well worth checking. Overseas this is probably the biggest MX5 killer outside of a teenager with a leaden foot. Areas of concern need to be the rear sill sections, rear wheel arches and the front chassis rails near the front subframe mounting. Thoroughly clean the drainage holes regularly and you can mitigate the issue.

For 1990-93 cars the o-ring on the CAS sensor (crank angle sensor), situated on the back of the cylinder head, can perish and start to leak. Mazda moved this to the exhaust camshaft for the 1994-95 model cars and began calling it the CPS (camshaft position sensor), but they are one and the same in case this crops up at some stage – confusingly, later models get both a CAS and a CPS and become two different things, but that’s another story. Anyway, on 1.8 litre cars the oil can drip onto the coolant feed pipes for the heater matrix and this will eventually make them burst. It’s worth replacing the cam cover gasket when changing the cam belt too as this can start to weep oil.

The slave cylinder in the clutch can sometimes fail and the clutch pedal will sink to the floor. Luckily, replacement units are not overly expensive.

The transmission tunnel has a tendency to get warm but reading the forums there seems a cheap remedy by changing the rubber turret boot that sits under the centre console.

The judder of noisey tappets can easily be silenced by an oil change and apparently can disappear entirely by using a fully synthetic oil.

If the timing belt has been overtightened you may hear cam belt whine and timing belts need to be changed every 100,000 kms.

Finally, if the engine is misfiring, it is not uncommon for the HT leads to fail, particularly the shortest it seems – HT (high tension) leads carry the sparks from the ignition system to the spark plugs. If that doesn’t rectify it, you may be looking at replacing the coil pack, which is more expensive.

All in all though, with some research and a bit of work, we may find one of these little things in our garage within the next five or six years. There are plenty of parts available, some great forums and when the sun’s out on a decent road, there won’t be many better places to be ignoring my son’s pleas of getting behind the wheel.

Useful links and forums:

Mazda MX-5 Clubs of Australia – http://www.mx5.com.au/

Australian Mazda Owners Clubhttp://www.ozmazda.com/

MX5 Mania – www.mx5mania.com.au

Piston Heads – http://www.pistonheads.com/gAssing/topic.asph=0&t=803271&mid=0&nmt=Common+MX5+Faults+%2F+Buying+Guide

2010 mazda mx5
2010 Mazda MX-5 (Miata) – courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

Land Rover Discovery 3 Update

At least I didn’t buy an Audi Q5

After all the rubbish I get from drivers of mostly Japanese cars, all the jibes about my car’s reliability resembling a long and winding dog turd, all the should-have-known-better’s and I-told-you-so’s, it takes a bloody non-Land Rover Discovery 3 part to almost kill my Disco. The German made and globally praised ZF 6 speed automatic gearbox.

Its death throes were easy to tell, as it slipped in second up the steep driveway out of our apartment complex, resulting in an embarrassing reverse down hill to start again. Much like a retreating turtle-head you could say. If it wasn’t for the low range box, and that I could at least lock it in first, I would have been royally buggered. Worse still, I would have been at the mercy of my neighbours’ snickering as they passed me in their reliable Subaru’s and Toyota Echo’s, there was even a Holden Barina. A Barina I tell you, a 1990’s model to boot! Oh the humanity.

At least it got us through Christmas and returned us from a family camping trip.

Nonetheless, the question of whether it was worth fixing or that it was time to bite the bullet and call it a day, did raise its head. My Disco’s value, given it has almost 300k on the clock, would barely scratch 20 grand if I was lucky. So the cost of a replacement transmission, or a rebuild at around $7k, was a conundrum indeed.

That was the situation I was posed with a little over a month ago and after consideration (and much persuasion of the wife), we decided that it was indeed worth repairing. You see, it’s not my style to offload such trouble, whether in part exchange or at an auction house, so I had to do something to recoup any part of my investment. A lengthy search around wreckers yards yielded just one suitable used replacement, but it was a thousand kay’s away and would cost $3,500. Even though it came with a 6-month warranty, I would then most likely have to replace the transmission pump at around $1500, and have it all put together for another $1200-1500. When you also consider that it is best to use a part that is already married to my car, rather than something that isn’t and would possibly cause more woes, $7k for a rebuild began to look a lot more attractive. I even found a specialist who would save me a further $500 (CATS of Rosebery), and that was a figure I was not going to sniff at.

Thankful for small mercies? Too bloody right

So it took a week and my Disco is back on the road and seemingly stronger than ever. It now takes the ascent out of the driveway with aplomb, and that smugness of being able to tackle tough (albeit urban) terrain has returned.

So why the comment about Audi Q5’s? Well, apparently, had its DSG 4×4 ZF box gone similarly haywire, something that is beginning to happen at an alarming rate according to my transmission guy, it would cost me somewhere between $20-25k, not the paltry $6.5k I paid. Audi had hoped that an after-market would have arisen since 2009, but as the box is a sealed unit for life, nobody wants to touch it.

land rover discovery 3

 

Dirty Laundry

Air My Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry
Planes, trains and some dodgy auto’s in the capital of continents for guerrillas, drugs and creepy crawlies

Forgive me, I have been tardy of late. It has been more than 3 months since my last confession. In my defence, the World Cup got in the way, and I have been busy finishing off the final draft of my new novel, entitled “Dirty Laundry.

Though it is not exactly about local pre-owned vehicular gems, it does involve all manner of combustible engines and various forms of transport that can be found in South America. For those with any interest, it is out now on Amazon Kindle – click here. Or you can order a paperback version here.

If I can’t plug my work on my own site, where can I?

Now back to the cars ….

Now that’s expensive

Give us an expensive break

Finally commentators are waking up to the ridiculous over payments Australians make every year for second-hand cars. You may have noticed that over the last 18 months I have raised the spectre of just how much the Australian market is being ripped off and has been for many years. They are bloody expensive, people.

Though it has slipped of late, the Aussie dollar has been on par, or close to it, with the USD for years now but we have seen no realignment at all. Fives years ago the European manufacturers suggested that they would alter their pricing for new cars given time, but it seems there is no respite in sight. Australians have been happy to pay twice as much for their luxury import than their counterparts in the UK, and even more so than those in the States. As with the price of housing in Sydney, it’s all about supply and demand I guess. And so the knock on effect is that second-hand prices remain artificially high compared with other Western nations.

I was never too sure where Michael Pascoe stood on this previously, as I have often found myself in disagreement with him. I assume then that he must have been out shopping for a new or used Euro barge recently, as I don’t remember it bothering him before. Nonetheless, on this I feel he has it spot on. The Government can help with a reassessment of the luxury car tax, considering we will soon be a redundant car making country, but that is only 33% of the problem over 60 odd grand (or 75 grand for something deemed more fuel-efficient). The rest of the gouging stands firmly at the manufacturers door.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that buyers of new cars hardly want to see  their pride and joy’s worth cut in half over night, but surely something has to give? Maybe we should boycott buying new for a while and see what happens. Either that or allow those enterprising enough to go and buy second-hand overseas and make it a little easier for them to bring it in to the country.

To read what Michael Pascoe had to say, visit: http://www.smh.com.au/business/driving-the-status-quo-20140902-10bbuw.html and let’s get a few more famous commentators to join in.

Frixo – A useful traffic resource when in the UK

frixo

Frixo has been in touch recently, a UK based free traffic report service, to suggest that for anyone planning a trip to Old Blighty that they should check with them before heading off anywhere. With clogged and congested arteries seemingly at any time of the day or night, if memory serves me correctly, this could be a god send.

All you do is select by city, motorway or A-road you want to travel on followed by the direction, then just click Get Report to get the latest live updates and traffic information. They will outline any delays, incidents and information that will affect your journey.

Visit Frixo for more details