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Fri, Feb. 6th, 2009, 07:00 pm
jeisenne: Opinions

Hey fellow Miata maniacs, I need some advice. This might be tl;dr, so skip if you don't want to read the entire story.

I recently got my tax refund, which was fairly substantial, and my 1990 Miata (I love her, her name is Betsy) is having some cardiovascular problems. She'll start every so often, and other times I have to pop start her. I figure the battery is going bad, or it could be the ignition switch or starter... the Haynes manual gives several diagnostics to look at, but I really can't perform some of them. I do, however, have a reliable shop to take her to.

The other problem is that when she's cold, she will not get into gear. Four years ago I had her master and slave clutch cylinders replaced, and the hubby is thinking that maybe it's the fly wheels themselves that need to be replaced. My substantial tax refund is starting to look kind of small at this point.

I am her second owner. She has 210k miles on her, and I bought her five years ago when she had 189K. So I've gotten used to all her tiny whistles and knocks. In pricing parts and labor, without actually looking at her, the shop is quoting me around $1500 for parts and labor. My parents chimed in at this point and are telling me to sell Betsy for $1750 obo and then add in the $1500 I was going to spend on fixing her, just to dump it into another Miata.

Buying new at this point is out of the question, as I am still in nursing school and with all my student expenses and only working a part time job, I can barely afford anything past the mechanical repairs, and a new top for my girl. The top is optional at this point of course, since I do drive her topless quite often.

What would you guys do? Fix, or get her to where she can start on her own, offload, and try to get a different Miata?

Thanks guys :)

Sat, Feb. 7th, 2009 04:17 am (UTC)

I wouldn't do anything at all until I knew what was wrong with the car and what the cost of repair was actually going to be. The diagnoses you've received seem a little bit too uncertain to be making any big decisions yet.

Sat, Feb. 7th, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)

First, I'd want to know exactly what that estimate claimed to cover. And a shop that'll give you an estimate without looking at the car? That's... worrisome.

Your starting problems could be an alternator ($150), as well as a bad battery ($50, and easy to do). A good shop can test the battery to see if it needs replacing. Mine doesn't charge me for this, but I've also spent many thousands of dollars at that shop. You may be able to get the battery testing somewhere for cheap or free, I'm not sure.

As to the transmission: My transmission is stiff about going into gear when cold. It's just because the fluid is cold. When was the transmission fluid/oil last changed? When was the rear diff fluid changed?

The transmission and differential use a lubricating fluid closer to engine oil than to the brake fluid the clutch system uses. They're self-contained and this fluid wouldn't need to be changed for the master and slave clutch cylinders to be replaced. However, these fluids should be changed every 30,000 miles. Since the transmission fluid is what provides lubrication to help the transmission "go into gear," getting some good, fresh, non-goopy fluid in there could be a huge help. Changing transmission and diff fluid is pretty easy - it's something you could do yourself if you wanted to, or you could have a Jiffy Lube or whatever do it. This may not solve your transmission problem, but it's a quick and easy thing to try.

Sat, Feb. 7th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC)

where do you get a $50 sealed battery? I just paid $100 for a non-oem one >.>

Sat, Feb. 7th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)

Ask nugget. That's the price point he mentioned.

Sun, Feb. 8th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)

Oh snap, I totally could have saved $50 on a battery had I known.

Sat, Feb. 7th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC)

1990 miatas that need work are worth $1750? holy shit :x

Sat, Feb. 7th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)

I sold my 1990 in good condition for $2000

Sun, Feb. 8th, 2009 06:14 am (UTC)

$1500 seems a bit steep. You could almost pick up another Miata for that much. You may want to get an itemized list of what it actually entails and what parts they woudl be replacing.

Here's a few easy things I'd suggest trying for the stiff gearchange:
- Bleed & Adjust the clutch
- Change the gearbox and differential oil (Gear oil is nasty stuff...don't spill any!)

Replacing the flywheel won't alleviate your particular problem. How's your clutch, by the way?

About the electrical issue, I'd start with simply checking the fuse and relays to make sure they're not loose, and test the battery. After that, determine if it's a charge problem (by testing alternator voltage), electrical drain (not sure how to do this) or an issue with the ignition contact (use a multimeter and a methodical process of elimination). Cleaning off the contacts and grounds on the alternator and starter contact, wouldn't hurt either. It could be anything from a loose ground on the battery or loose fuse, to a botched wiring job from an aftermarket accessory installed in the car 2 owners ago.

Having a shop diagnose an electrical problem can be an expensive proposition, as it can cost a lot of labor hours to do.

Edited at 2009-02-08 06:30 am (UTC)