By on March 7, 2014

abemiata

Abraham Drimmer writes about moving from South Florida to Michigan in his Miata

“You need to sell your car”, my father told me, when I informed him of my imminent departure. I got the call in mid-October, I’d be leaving Miami for Ann Arbor on short notice. “That thing is going to be absolutely worthless in the snow”.

A two-week notice later and I’m on the road, every artifact of my existence in this corporeal realm crammed into the 51.1 cubic feet combined passenger/cargo volume of my sunlight silver 2005 Mazda Miata. I reached Michigan safely, and promptly fitted a set of snow tires.

As I watched the little roadster gather a coat of fine salt, the wheel wells bulging with weeks of accumulated snow and grime, I mulled my father’s words. Was he right? Was keeping the car that act of youthful automotive hubris we all eventually regret? Is the Miata any good in the snow?

The Miata’s winter competency is subjective. Which do you prefer: control, or the illusion of stability? The back steps out often, understeer isn’t so much pronounced as it is happening constantly. Still, it’s light and subsequently brakes and handles predictably. The feedback is great, the car never lies to you. I like it that way; I’d rather be told of my imminent destruction than have it carried out with no warning. This characteristic speaks to my heritage, speaks to the heritage of Mazda.

There isn’t enough cargo room to allow you to shop at Costco, good —buy local or whatever. It also prevents you from stockpiling, forces you to leave the house regularly for provisions, keeps you social. Important in the coldest months.

It’s small, so it’s easy to brush snow off of. When the windshield isn’t obscured the heat from the sun evaporates the melted snow collecting in the floor mats, creating a sort of balmy greenhouse effect in the cabin. I like that as well, it reminds me of Miami.

Above all it’s engaging, physically and emotionally. You simply have to be a competent driver to get from point A to point B. You need to plan your route, check conditions, and dress appropriately. A pain, I know, but isn’t that what enthusiasts always talk about? Driver engagement? Isn’t that was we want? To be involved enough with our vehicles such that our conveyance from location to location is imparted with at least some fleeting sense of narrative? Sure I’m in a privileged position, what with no children, pets, or sense of self-preservation, I openly admit I have a lifestyle that can afford such inconveniences. Do I feel inconvenienced? Hardly, when I pick up my keys in the morning I’m happy.

That’s worth something, right?

 

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119 Comments on “Ur-Turn: What It’s Worth...”


  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    Stupid question #1 from me today…It looks like you only put snow tires on the back?

    That would explain the terminal understeer.

    Keep it! There may never be another time in your life when you can actually be able to function day to day with a sporty little 2 seater.

  • avatar
    MoDo

    You’re probably fine from here on out – unless we get a huge dump of March/Spring snow – but if you don’t have snows on the front (and still have the car next winter) I’d seriously look into getting a set.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Why sell it?

    You’ve got no kids. Sounds as if you may not have a wife to nag at you about “that thing in the driveway”, either.

    Hell, you sound like a complete bachelor. (I’m mildly jealous of our complete freedom, by the way.) In that case, you’ve got no reason to sell it… ?

    If anything, add another car to the stable.

    But when I think Michigan Winters, I don’t think Mazda Miata. ?

    Therefore, put the Mazda away nice and dry, clean the salt off of it for good, and take the plunge on a new, fun, truly winter-worthy vehicle. AWD, good performance, decent efficiency.

    The world is your oyster.

  • avatar
    Zarf

    The wife and I have a 2004 with 4 snows. We look forward to anything less than 5 inches of snow. It gets driven every winter (not everyday) sometimes just for the fun of it.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I think its more about “can one live with a Miata” than “can one live with a Miata in winter snow territory”. Answer- yes and yes.

    I had Hakkapelittas on mine in NH (all 4 wheels) and it scared me half to death on dry pavement with its instability. Fortunately it was my second car. My ’99 was bought to serve the role of all-weather motorcycle. That did not work out, its not really that much fun with top up in the rain. Best in nice weather where a real bike also shines. Now mine lives quietly in Naples, Florida. I drive it at 4k rpm along all those SUVs up and down i75 on vacations or putter from light to light on the secondary roads but the top goes down and its real nice.

    If its your only car, that makes it more of an adventure.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      Always heard good things about the Nokians.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Nokians are fantastic, but pricey, which is why Hankook essentially copied the Hakkapelita tread design with the iPike W409s.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          But they didn’t get the compound right. I put a set I bought off of a guy on my sister’s Fusion. It was an improvement over the stock Michelin Energy Saver’s, but not by much. They are definitely nowhere near a Blizzak or similar. I have not yet had a chance to test of set of Nokians, but hear nothing but high praise, so they can’t be anything like the Hankooks.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I’d bet a case of beer that those were Hankook Icebears, which are probably the worst snow tires I’ve ever come across.

            The Hankook iPike W409s are outstanding; if uninspired the Subaru WRX forums, you’ll see consistent, effusive praise for them.

            It’s hard to believe the same tire company company could make both tires.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Don’t Blizzak’s basically turn into all-seasons around 50% treadlife? Is this true of all snow tires, and Bridgestone is the only one that admits it?

            I’ve always found Dunlop Wintersports good enough for areas where roads are eventually treated and plowed. Also, they aren’t a disaster on dry pavement.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            They might have been Icebears. I’ll have to look Monday.

            Most snow tires do go to all season tread at around the 40-50% point. Nokian claims their tires have the winter tread all the way through, something to keep in mind.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    “The Miata’s winter competency is subjective. Which do you prefer: control, or the illusion of stability? … The feedback is great, the car never lies to you. I like it that way; I’d rather be told of my imminent destruction than have it carried out with no warning.”

    You speak the truth. I just went though my first winter with AWD and stability control, and I certainly prefer the Victorian Age lever-selected 4wd system in my old Cherokee. I could feel the grip starting to go and (usually) correct it before it got too wild. In my Grand Cherokee it goes from feeling stable to BAM! you are sideways with ABS and traction control hammering away.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    An aquaintance of mine had a Miata he drove all year round, even in snow storms. He thought it was great fun. Not ideal by any means, but with good tires, they get by.

  • avatar
    jfranci3

    People approach snow with the same logic they approach airport departure times – no amount of safety is enough. As you live with it more and more, one typically see all this padding as unnecessary. At some point, you’re departing your downtown apartment for the airport 70 minutes before the departure and rolling on summer stock in your Miata.

    Snow tires will render your Miata fine for most snows, The low ride height will immobilize it for special ones. Enterprise will pick you you. Or get a pickup 2nd car.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    PSA

    You have to put SNOW TIRES ON FRONT *AND* BACK!!!

    You must put SNOW TIRES ON FRONT *AND* BACK!!!

    Let me rephrase it, for emphasis;

    You need to PUT SNOW TIRES ON *ALL* FOUR WHEELS!!!

    Doing so will provide you better grip in the snow and on ice than 90%+ of other vehicles, front, rear or even AWD.

    What’s that? You doubt me?

    Just spring for the extra two snow tires (matched set) -assuming they’re decent snow tires- and I DEFY YOU TO TELL ME I AM WRONG.

    Thank you for your attention.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      Todays PSA brought to you by DeadWeight… remember to tip your servers folks…

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        I love tipping servers but it does mess up the cables.

      • 0 avatar
        CopperCountry

        But DW is right on the money: the relatively round shoulder profile on a summer radial just slides up-and-over the smallest amount of snow when cornering (an effect similar to hydroplaning,) resulting is a serious lack of directional control. However, the ‘square’ shoulder on the outer edge of a winter tire can “plow” the snow away from the contact patch, and resist the tendency to glide over the top of it.

        How do I know this? Every time I get caught with summer tires during an early- or late-season snowstorm, the ‘understeer’ effect is so pronounced that I vow to expand my time frame for winter tire usage the next year. Even fairly-new summer tires are pathetic when it comes to cornering performance in snow – they can be okay in a straight line traction, but in the corners, it’s no contest.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          When I first bought my car, we had a rare EARLY November appreciable snowfall of around 3 1/2″, and I could not make it up my driveway, which might represent a 2 degree incline, without the use of rock salt, show shovels, and much careful rowing of the gear lever, which took at least 15 minutes, on the stock Potenzas. It was hilarious jn a perverted way, and I thought I was doomed.

          Little did I realize how massive a factor tire type was at that time. I can’t think of a single component that can make more of a difference in the capability of a vehicle, yet is less reflected upon by most, than tires.

          • 0 avatar
            pragmatic

            My daily driver is a Lincoln LS (with MT) which I drive regularly to VT (up and over the App Gap – 8 to 10% grade to get to the skiing). Never a problem as long as the snow is lower than the bumper (maybe 8 to 12 inches if the powder is light and dry, 4 to five if dense). On one occasion in October I got surprised by snow (2-3 inches) when I still had my three season tires on the car. The car was absolutely useless.
            If I have a problem the awd crowd (with so called all season tires) has a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      challenger2012

      DW You forgot to mention buying cheap steel rims to mount the Snow Tires on. Then when you need them for next year, you got’em and they all can be on your car in 1 hour.

    • 0 avatar

      > Just spring for the extra two snow tires (matched set) -assuming they’re decent snow tires- and I DEFY YOU TO TELL ME I AM WRONG.

      Since the author’s all about fun, it really is more fun to have mismatched sets. Tails out even in terminal understeer fwd car with the good tires in front.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    Stop being selfish and send that sucker back down south before it rots away…

  • avatar
    jbreuckm

    Seriously, like everyone here says, snows on all 4 corners. Get a set of cheap steelies and just swap the summer and winter tires yourself.

    I drove a Miata through 3 Michigan winters and with snows on all 4 corners you won’t have more fun than you will with a Miata in the snow. It’s slippery enough to have fun everywhere you go, but perfectly safe if you have any driving skill because you always know where you are on the control ==> out of control continuum. The light weight of the car and the linear feedback keeps you from careening around uncontrollably.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Safe? Controlling a miata in snow is not enough. You have to avoid the other controls as well. That Tahoe driver that thought AWD meant “brakes better than cars” will do 2-3 times more damage than just a miata vs. a telephone pole.

      Safe enough? Maybe.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    DW is Truthsayer. Snows on all fours. Even for FWD cars.

    I put Blizzaks on our FWDs this year for the first time. The difference is astonishing. Especially necessary given the ever-greasier compositions of road salt.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Really? I’ve been thinking about them, that good, huh?

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Yes, especially with keeping the ass-end in line when cornering lighter FWD cars.

        You can run to the window and check if I tell you it’s raining, but believe me on this.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I do, that’s why I asked.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Where did you get yours? I Found some on sale

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            A little family-owned tire shop over in Green Bay a trusted friend had recommended.

            But after that experience, which was, well, a little slow, over-worked and iffy, I’ll go to a national chain next time.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Lie2Me – Buy snow tires in spring or summer when they’re being blown out by Tire Rack or Discount Tire Direct.

            X-Ice, Blzzaks, Hankook I*cepts (NOT Icebears, they are terrible) – any mountain symbol on the sidewall, they’ll all do.

            I have a low slung rwd manual transmission Mazda & run iPikes & have had NO problem in 8″ of snow.

            As far as corrosion – Spray 2 to 5 cans (depending on size of vehicle) of FluidFilm underneath car in late Summer or early Fall after a thorough undercarriage cleaning (use wire brush, mild detergent/surfactant & high pressure water wand/hose). Concentrate FluidFilm spray on rails, wheel wells, suspension components, jack points, pinch welds & seams. The temperature above 50 degrees Fahrenheit will cause it to creep upwards and coat metal surfaces prone to rust. It’s non-toxic as it is lanolin from sheep glands (for their wool) and outperforms most synthetic.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Lie2me-

            DW is spot on. If you have to go cheap on the winter tires/wheels, I recommend Firestone WinterForce tires and steel wheels. A good deal of police departments around here use WinterForce tires. I’m not usually a Firestone fan, but mine are on their third season, and will see at least a fourth. Mine are actually minus 2″ from the OEM wheel size.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Winterforce was one that was on the tip of my tongue. It was the highest rated true snow tire (mountain symbol) at the $100 or less price point – they can be had for $60 to $80 each depending on size.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Yes, they are that good. About 9 years ago I put some Dunlop Graspics on the Passat I had at the time. I couldn’t get up my parents driveway at the time with all seasons in a few inches of snow. Put the Dunlops on and haven’t looked back since. I’ve put winter tires on every car I’ve had since including 2 Subarus. (AWD doesn’t stop you any faster or keep you going straight)

        The mountain and snowflake symbol alone isn’t enough tho justify them as good snow tires anymore. There are some all seasons that are putting it on the sidewall. I was curious about the Dunlop all seasons that come on some GLKs now. Finally had a chance to drive one in the snow a few weeks back and it was terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      1000 times yes to snows on all four wheels with snow tires. I’ve had snow tires from Michelin, Dunlop, the Blizzaks, Nokian and Pirelli. Doesn’t matter who made them, the amount of traction you get is astonishing compared to “all-seasons”. The Blizzaks were great, but I like my current Michelin Xi Ice the best. I also run minus one size wheels and tires. Example: The Mazda 5 wears 205/50/17, I drop down to 205/55/16 for winter.

      Don’t forget to change as soon as the threat of snow and prolonged cold are gone. Winter tires get greasy much above 50F and you’re not doing the compounds any favor.

      I haven’t had RWD in a long time in the snow, but I prefer the control it offers to FWD. Especially with everything now having traction control( on FWD?)

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    While I’ve driven older RWD cars far worse in the snow then that Miata could ever be, personally, I rather have as much capability as possible. My Jeep Liberty CRD with BFG A/T’s does amazing. Tires have a lot to do it with, but that thing has been absolutely unstoppable this season.

    Why not by some beater for the winter, especially if you care about and cherish your Miata? Just get like a 15yo FWD Buick and be done.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      It would be fun to buy a cheap AWD winter beater just for sh*ts and giggles.

      Vintage Subaru? Toyota All-Trac anything, just about?

      Pontiac 6000 AWD? Lol

      • 0 avatar
        PonchoIndian

        Pontiac 6000 AWD? Lol
        Cool car, bad beater. They don’t make any of the important consumables for it anymore.

        • 0 avatar
          koreancowboy

          Something I think about whenever winter rolls through here in Tejas…unfortunately, we don’t get enough of the white stuff to justify keeping one around.

          Now, if we were to move up north, well…that changes everything…

          • 0 avatar
            raresleeper

            I pray for more snow to justify bringing home an obscure (yet well “broken in” for economic purposes) winter beater.

            Damned Northernors. Got it made!

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            raresleeper,

            Hang tight… the snowbelt creeps a little further south every year.

            Each of the past 5 or 6 years, southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois have gotten several monster-dumps that scooted right under us up nort’ here.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        While I’m in the “miata can handle packed snow” (miatas are low, don’t try to plow with your bumper) camp (and isn’t Michigan flat? Shouldn’t be a problem unless your part isn’t), consider the following:

        MR2s are considerably cheaper than miatas.
        The big deficiency of a MR2 is lack of space (thus the price delta).
        As long as your beater* has space, it can be a grocery getter for your MR2.

        No, this really isn’t all that serious (too much cost & risk unless you are good at horse trading), but when you replace your miata and are still in Michigan…

        * I doubt there are enough parts available for a dodge stratus, but that deals with snow better than any RWD car I’ve driven. Although with the “grocery getter” function, and old pickup is probably what you want.

        • 0 avatar

          > The big deficiency of a MR2 is lack of space (thus the price delta). As long as your beater* has space, it can be a grocery getter for your MR2.

          Beater miata the perfect grocery-getter for an MR2. Why didn’t I think of that.

          • 0 avatar
            wumpus

            The ideal situation: the answer is always a miata.

            Can a miata tow? Can you change the differential/final drive to help, or is it suspension/frame/brake limited? How about an MR2 (which needs it even more)?

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            As most here appear to agree upon (including myself) thus far, capable snow tires on a Miata (or most RWD vehicle) beats “all seasons” on an AWD, in many instances.

            This is especially true, in my experience, of AWD/4×4 pickup trucks, where an empty bed means that 70% or even a far larger % of the vehicle’s weight is far closer to or directly over the front tires (I’ve het to see a rear engine pickup truck).

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          Why wouldn’t there be parts around for a Dodge Stratus? They built an awful lot of them and I see a ton of them on the road during my weekday commute. Heck, I used to drive one for 10 years – sold it to a co-worker for his daughter about 10 months ago.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    There isn’t really a question here, the OP has clearly decided to keep it. End of discussion.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I’m preaching to the choir here but that Mazda is a better winter car than any rear wheel drive pickup ever made. Non drivers think a sports car is inherently slippery, but we know it has more to do with tires and weight distribution, with a side influence of power and suspension tuning.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Here in OK, it gets pretty icy and I see tons of RWD and some 4WD pickup trucks swapping rear ends during such weather. It got pretty bad this past Sunday. I don’t know how many sand bags you’d need to put in your pickup bed in order to have enough weight over the rear wheels, but that’s probably what I’d do if I had this kind of vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        The 4WD pick-ups swapping rear ends are’t running in 4WD. I’ve driven 4WD PU’s for over 20 years on some of the worst roads imaginable, often pulling a snowmobile trailer. As long as it’s locked into 4Hi and a little common sense is used, that rear end isn’t going anywhere. I suspect the problem is not with the truck or tires, but the inexperienced driver behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    With snows on all 4 wheels, your Miata should be fine until the snow gets significantly higher than your ground clearance. The key to going in the snow (aside from having 4 snow tires) is light weight. When it comes to stopping and turning, the two-ton+ behemoths called “SUVS” don’t put enough rubber on the road to compensate for that extra weight.

    A second set of steelies and going a -1 tire size, so its high and narrow is a plus, too.

    The real issue with any place that uses a lot of road salt and sand is what it does to your car. My daughter had our old Saab for two winters in Madison, WI and did fine with 4 snows . . . but the plastic lenses in front of the headlights were significantly dulled from abrasion, even though she didn’t drive that much.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    As others have recommended, you need proper winter tires on all four wheels. Putting them on a set of cheap steel wheels avoids the expense of remounting twice a year. The difference between winter tires and all season tires is bigger than the difference between all wheel drive and rear wheel drive with a forward weight bias. It took me several years to figure this out with our Subaru winter beater.

    A nine year old Miata is no longer worth much and Mazda made a lot of them. From a financial perspective, saving it from rust can’t justify the cost of a reliable winter beater. Unless the car means a lot to you personally, I would continue to drive it and save your money for something better.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Get it rustproofed! Miatas are very rust-prone, especially around the rear bulkhead/suspension mountings.

    Just so you know, your resale value has been shot already, at least in the rust belt. Anybody shopping a Miata will check for signs of winter driving (they are pretty obvious when you know what to look for). You may be OK if you sell it in Florida and forget to mention that it did time in Michigan.

    I’ve driven a friend’s Miata in the winter. Potholes are a bitch, and ground clearance is minimal. Other than that, it’s fun.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      All Mazdas get rusty, but here in the Land of Salt, it seems really ugly. Get the salt/grime off as quick as you can. I run my cars through a car wash once a month in the winter. I hate car washes, but my garage doesn’t work well for washing cars.

      I’m pretty sure you have don’t have to worry about TPMS with this age Miata. But for everyone else, I just ignore the light and put a piece of electrical tape over it. To me, it’s not worth the extra money for the TPMS sensors for the winter steelies or alloys.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        FluidFilm. I have no connection to the company whatsoever, period. I merely buy two cans a year ($16 for both) and spray underneath my Mazda after thorough undercarriage cleaning in late Summer or early Fall.

        I’ve tried Amsoil HD Metal Protector, LPS-3, and 2 others. Only one worked nearly as good (forgot the name, but it was not non-toxic and much more expensive).

        8 years of winter driving in briney, snowy, icy, salty sludge, and NO rust.

        • 0 avatar
          koreancowboy

          I’ll keep that in mind, thanks for the tips!

        • 0 avatar
          This Is Dawg

          You’ve got me all paranoid about my new mazda 6, though it seems to be the 3′s that have the worst rust complaints. You think it’s worth cleaning the underside in my apartment parking lot (no hose or anything)for the maybe 3 snows a year we get in north texas? Ha I don’t think they even salted the roads this year, but I definitely had snow up in my wheel wells for 2 or 3 weeks.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Unless you’re really close to ocean spray, like in Galveston, you’re all good in Texas.

            I wouldn’t worry an iota about rust in Texas, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah or most parts of California.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    I had a 2002 with snows in Minneapolis.

    I really enjoyed the cozy feeling. I was always warm enough in that car. Mine was tan leather and the effect was very luxurious. Black cloth would diminish the effect.

    I always kept the cabin very clean. That helped.

    The noise and crashing did bother me after a while.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Wouldn’t the salt air in FL have a similar effect on a rust-prone car? My grandfather in Panama City was a charter fisherman; he had a series of Cheyenne pick-ups that spend signficant time by the dock when he was running a party…lord, they rusted quick.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Does the Miata rust as easily as other Mazdas? Because if it does, I would either garage mine for most of the winter or get *frequent* washes.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      It’s a matter of debate, but many feel Mazda improved its rust resistance credentials via better metal alloy fabrication and/or galvanization process around 2005 and forward.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      First and second gens rust at the rear of the rocker, just in front of the rear wheel well. It is a result of the drain clogging or some such nonsense. It is a common issue and something to look for when purchasing. Mine had a tiny bit of rust under a once leaky master cylinder as well. Other than that it was solid and it spent its life in St. Louis prior to me dragging it to upstate NY. My 04 Maddaspeed had no rust but it was a North Carolina car.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Yep.

        There is a maybe 1 1/4″ wide horizontal lip that has a pinch weld seam on the inner rear wheel well. It traps dirt, salt, debris.

        Owners should throughly clean inside that area at least twice a year until all gunk is removed, pressure spray it, let it dry, and then apply Fluid Film or another lanolin or oil based rust preventative (like LPS-3) to the inside of that area up I to the wheel well in the early fall.

        WD40 is surprisingly effective at CLEANING and dissolving any debris residue that may remain after washing that area, but is worthless as a rust inhibitor.

        This same lip is the reason snow plow trucks roll the rear wheels fenders on their F150s and Rams, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          I do that sort of thing to my ’04 Mazda3 rear fenders during spring and fall tire changeovers, using a Canadian brand called RustCheck. I just sweep the area out dry using a miniature straw brush and then spray it down. As long as any remaining grime is completely soaked in oil it will be a protective barrier. Whenever my car is dirty it creeps out and makes the area look moist. I also spray inside the door drains at least once a year. Here’s a pic where, from a distance, it almost looks like the bottoms of my doors are rusting. But it’s actually just the oil creeping out from the three drain holes and collecting dirt. There’s a short gravel road section on the way to this track.

          http://i754.photobucket.com/albums/xx187/rpn453/Mazda3at3Flags.jpg

          It’s kind of sad that it would all be completely unnecessary if they simply used an inexpensive plastic fender liner to keep grime off those lips, like the front end has. It’s almost as though they want that area to rust out.

  • avatar
    319583076

    I was forced to start daily driving my 2013 MX-5 this winter (my beater died and has not been revived). I fitted some continental extreme contact dws and found that I prefer the MX-5 to my 4WD beater. I have three pedals, LSD, good tire, and probably most importantly – I pay attention to driving first and foremost. I’ve easily handled 2-3 inches of snow on highways and roadways. If you are an attentive driver with decent tires, I believe you can drive just about anything in any conditions. Unfortunately, the majority seem to prefer ubiquitous zombification and believe that selecting an AWD vehicle with cheap all seasons allows them to continue to eat and smart phone away while behind the wheel in safety. Some of those folks learn hard lessons daily. The MX-5 may be the perfect car.

    • 0 avatar
      MAGICGTI

      I had the same car, 2009 NC with Suspension Package (LSD/Bilstein) and 6MT, was a blast in the snow. I put some Michelin all-seasons and had a blast with it, it would be just me and the plows on the road. Very controllable car.

      Wish I never sold it.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      ” Unfortunately, the majority seem to prefer ubiquitous zombification and believe that selecting an AWD vehicle with cheap all seasons allows them to continue to eat and smart phone away while behind the wheel in safety”

      This. My twin boys pay more attention to the road from the second row than most drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        There’s nothing quite like the look of fright on the faces of “AWD” vehicle drivers shod with all season tires as they slide & zigzag across icy or snowy roads.

        I don’t mean this in a way that is mean spirited. I mean it in a way that it is memorable because much of the time I have to take evasive action (especially on that first true snowfall of each year) and time seems to slow down and the senses seem to sharpen at times like those.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          You must drive on the same Detroit area roads as I do. My C-Max has no business being better in the snow than AWD cars and CUVs. However, I have excellent all seasons for Spring, Summer, and Fall, and winter tires for Thanksgiving thru Easter.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            The incident I actually had in mind when I wrote that was back in 2010 up near you, on I-75, near Grand Blanc, when then icy conditions turned the highway into a virtual roller derby.

            There was nothing I could do, as I was stopped behind a semi, but saw many, many vehicles, 1/2 of them P/U trucks or SUVs doing full spin outs into the concrete median, into the right shoulder culvert, or into the back of other vehicles.

            I was spectacularly lucky that I wasn’t ass-ended.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The I-75 and US-23 corridors between M-59-Flint and Ann Arbor-Flint are dangerous in the winter. Its a lot of raised concrete with crosswinds. US-23 seems to ice up especially quick. I’m on 75 often, as I need to be in Flint, Bay City, Saginaw, and the Detroit area weekly. The giant potholes of doom don’t help either.

            Opening day can’t come soon enough.

        • 0 avatar
          twinsonic

          Agreed – Just on my block alone, I counted two “AWD” vehicles no more than a few years old parked with front end damage. I just shake my head and walk away toward my beater, a 94 Honda Civic with brand new Michelin X-Ice3s and knowing that I could stop faster, grip corners more, and take off faster than the AWDs with all seasons tires. Heck, I also have a 2003 Honda CRV LX AWD with Blizzaks – no ABS, Traction Control, or Vehicle Stability Control. Here’s funny story: Bought the CRV from from my brother back in 08′ with 44,000 miles for $10,000 grand. Needed new tires, so I purchased all seasons thinking that I didn’t need winter tires. WRONG!!! The first snowfall hit and I was sliding all over the place just in the alley alone, in front of the the garage. #$%@!!!! I quickly got on Craigslist and found a set of 4 Blizzaks with the 1999 CRV LX takeoff rims for $125.00 in Indianapolis. Left Chicago in one hell of a hurry, 4 hours down there and 4 hours back doing close to 80mph with the cargo, mounted them next day and it was day and night. I was marveling at the added traction and the added sense of security. Sure beats paying a 500 to 1000 dollar deductible, increased insurance rates, driving too fast for condition tickets, and aggravation of getting your vehicle fixed at the body shop weeks at a time . This fall I will purchase and swap the new Bridgestone Blizzaks WS-80s as the WS-15s are getting close to replacement.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        All wheel drive or not and road conditions aside, third pedal equipped vehicles tend to be the cure for Distracted Driver Syndrome.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        It is remarkable for me to see a full-sized SUV driven by a man on my commute. It is more remarkable to see a full-sized SUV (or pickup, or CUV, or sedan, or compact) whose driver is not holding a cell phone against his/her head. These people are trying to kill someone and they might succeed. I’m doing my best to thwart them!

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I’m pretty confident that all the German and Swedish SUVs (and more expensive American and Japanese) have some sort of ignition interlock that prevents them from running unless the driver is on the phone.

          Oddly enough, this does not seem to be the case with British SUVs – and I have really noticed it since I bought one. Maybe paying attention to the road AND the check engine light leaves no room to talk on the phone? :-)

          I will say that my ’01 Range Rover is FAR better on slippery roads than the ’02 Grand Cherokee it replaced. And it is literally on the very same tires, as I had the snows from the JGC put on Rover wheels for the RR. Helps that the RR has actual steering feel.

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            Excellent point. A car that provides feedback to the driver is essential for poor road conditions. Whether the driver is aware of, or interested in that feedback is another question. Fundamentally, it is a car control issue.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Reminds me of when I moved to Maryland from southeast Tennessee with a nearly-new Camaro. Got caught in a blizzard on my first day of work in a small town in Pennsylvania–25 miles away from my new home. Oddly, I got back home to Maryland with no problem while people who’d lived there all their lives wound up in ditches. Oh, and southeastern Pennsylvania isn’t exactly flat; hills and gullies abound on the route I drove and I never once even got stuck.

    Sometimes real experience is better than gadgets.

  • avatar
    sclark

    Good man. After I bought my first Miata (NB), I couldn’t bring myself to subject it to Michigan winters. I ended up buying an older NA Miata with an LSD and throwing snow tires on it. That was almost 10 years ago and I haven’t looked back. I absolutely LOVE driving it through the snow and ice. I look forward to it. The heater and defrost kick a$$, the control is exact and immediate, and I’ve only ever gotten stuck once to the point where I had to dig it out. I’m sure AWD has it’s advantages (my dad sings it’s praises regularly) and traction control as well (my wife regularly sings it’s praises) but I just start in 3rd gear and the car pulls through anything. There are days I wish it was quieter or a little roomier, but give me fresh snowfall and I’m in love all over again.

  • avatar

    I’m probably older than your dad, and I think you did the right thing. Furthermore, I have a 70 year old friend here in Boston (which can be almost as bad as Michigan for snow) and she drives a Miata. My 80 year old neighbor does not drive hers in the winter, but she’s 80. (Or thereabouts.)

    Enjoy the hell out of that car!

    (Was your father hoping you’d leave the Miata for him?)

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    As others have pointed out, 4 matching snow tires.

    I’d love to drive a Miata but the Mazda rust issues scare me, and the 40k-50k Cdn cost of a new one scares me more.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I had a 90 for three years in Watertown, NY…well in the Lake Ontario snow belt as my sole car. It also never had winter tires because I am an idiot, but I digress. Here are my observations:

    1. If it is 30 below zero in the morning and you have a pre 99 model with the plastic vs the glass rear window, don’t even think about touching it…just leave the snow on it. It will shatter. The replacement will also shatter if you hit a large bump at same temperature dumping a bunch of snow on you in your class-A uniform prior to a promotion board.

    2. I put 15 inch wheels which were a hair wider and shod with summer tires. Fort Drum did not plow down to the road surface for durability of the road. As such there was always some snow on the road. This combination meant sometimes the car wouldn’t turn unless you broke the rear end loose with the handbrake and drove it like you were on a dirt track or something.

    3. If you try to drive to work prior to the snowplow hitting your street the rear diff will high center on the snow making you late for work, blocking the snowplow in the process.

    4. Don’t forget to put the top up…ever. The calendar may say mid-April but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a foot of snow in it one night.

    5. All this is worth it for the month or so of top down weather you get up there, but when you leave, leave the car there too. I hate having to use a blowtorch on every possible bolt you need to ever think of removing underneath.

    Anyway, moved to Georgia and traded it for a Land Cruiser…go figure.

  • avatar
    TR4

    I’ve driven a Midget and a TR4 for a combined 24 years in snow country so go for it OP, at least you have decent heater. The better weight distribution gives these type vehicles a slight traction advantage over most RWD vehicles. However I will admit that a larger/heavier vehicle also has a few advantages:
    1. More mass facilitates plowing through snow drifts if you are already moving.
    2. The larger vehicle is more stable when changing lanes on the freeway with bumpy packed snow ridges between the lanes.
    3. When an RWD vehicle fish tails, it happens much slower with a heavy, long wheelbase vehicle thus giving the driver more time to react.
    OTOH, a small vehicle is easier for passers by to push out if it gets stuck.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    The biggest issue is rust. After 3 or 4 winters the damage will be done. Car washes don’t stop it because they can’t clean in the nooks and crannies, where it starts. And rust never sleeps.

    Even with snow tires that light little car will get thrown all all over the place in snow and ice. Most people in MN park MIata’s during the winter, I know my neighbor does. Both for rust and poor winter road performance.

  • avatar
    koshchei

    It’s really hard to “lose it” in the snow with a RWD car. They lose traction predictably and are super-easy to recover. Keep the Miata.

    You should put front snows on too though. Jim Kenzie from the Toronto Star presented the following brilliant analogy: Putting snow tires on only your drive wheels is akin to running on ice with a winter boot on one foot, and sneakers on the other.

    The lightness of the vehicle will make things a little interesting, since you won’t have the greatest traction, but that can be a good thing if you’re any good at drifting around corners, etc.

    Also, as mentioned by other posters, rust never sleeps. Get your car rust proofed as soon as possible.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Rust does not play favorites. Miata’s Merc’s, Silverado’s, or a Honda. Rust will kill them all. The body panels may look good, its the cost of replacing brake, and fuel lines that send them to the crusher.

  • avatar
    abrahamd

    Thanks for the positive feedback guys!

    I do in fact own a complete set of snows, the front had begun making light contact with the calipers and the clearance was minimal to begin with (an alignment issue perhaps?) so I removed them and have 5mm spacers on order.

    Thanks again for all the comments!

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    This “review” seems applicable: http://driving.ca/mazda/mx-5/auto-news/news/we-drive-the-mazda-mx-5-top-down-in-27-degree-weather/

    That’s -27, not 27. And C, not F.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Move to Calumet with the MX-5 and I’ll be impressed.

  • avatar
    mwerre

    Born and raised a Texas boy, I spent two winters in Lansing, Michigan in the late 90′s in a Dodge Dakota with a 318, 2WD with no limited slip and no snow tires. I just threw some bags of sand in the back wedged against the tailgate and didn’t drive like an idiot.

    Now granted I didn’t have far to drive and rarely had long road trips int he winter, but I didn’t die.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      I got mugged, shoved in the thugs’ car and driven around for 15 minutes while they robbed, pistol-whipped and were generally uncivil to me, but I didn’t die.

      So strolling alone anywhere and anytime you want must be OK just like ignoring unanimous and overwhelming agreement on snow tires from experienced winter drivers, no?

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        Yikes.

        Fortunately, you lived to tell the tale, Kenmore.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        If you can’t drive during the winter without wrecking running all-seasons, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a license. I”ve been driving on winter roads in MN for 35 years. Funny how I ‘ve never seen a need for “Snow” tires. 99.9% of people in Mpls/St Paul run all seasons in the winter. Who wants tp dick around buying & storing another set of wheels and tires. The reality is other than a day,or two after it snows the roads are clean and dry. We have we these high-tech things called snow plows which remove the snow and then sprinkle these cutting edge materials(salt & sand) on the roads to make them safe to drive on. So lets live in reality and get off this notion that snow tires are a must to safely drive in the winter.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I too could make it through the winters in Maine on all seasons. We do a better job on the roads here than Minnesota does – spent a lot of time there, nice place, too damned cold. Just like I could probably make it through the summer on bald tires – just drive slowly and carefully in the rain, right? But I much prefer the extra margin of safety. And the fact that I don’t have to slow down as much, to be quite honest. And in the extreme situations, it can make the difference between having a moment, and having an $18K helicopter ride.

          And even on bone dry pavement, all season tires lose a HUGE amount of grip just from the winter cold. Even on dry pavement, I want as much braking grip as I can get when that kid chasing a snowball runs out in front of me.

          And using winter tires in the winter means I get to use high performance summer tires in the summer, again with far more grip than all-season tires. Remember, the difference between a screeching halt and an accident is a few inches.

        • 0 avatar
          twinsonic

          I would agree with you, but one thing prevent me for doing it: BLACK ICE. This winter season the Chicagoland area have been hit hard repeatedly with black ice and add numerous municipalities running out of beet juice, salt, and sand it can get pretty hairy out here fast. I have a co-worker recently told me a story about her collision – a beautiful, clean, black 04′ RAV4 LE AWD with all of the electrical nannies (AWD, Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Control) she couldn’t stop in time at the stop sign at a four way intersection, slid at a very low speed and tagged a 08′ Civic that had the right of way on the driver and passenger side doors. The RAV4 suffered over $2200 worth of damage. I asked her if she would consider winter tires with take-off rims for her RAV4 but declined – even I pointed out she had NO traction whatsoever due to the all-seasons turning plastic at -15 degrees making ABS and Traction Control totally worthless. I tried relating to her by what kind of boots that you would wear shoveling snow and sleet on her driveway – knee high leather boots with hard leather soles and a 4 inch stiletto heel or a LL Bean calf-high rubber soled low heel pull on boots. No dice. I finished with this quote: “The all-season tires gave up the ghost once, when you needed it the most and down the road I’ll do it again.” I left afterwards, praying silently she doesn’t run into me down the road.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Are studded snow tires allowed in your area?

            In my area some people use studded snow tires for the snow/ice season and then switch to mud&snow for the remainder of the year.

            The studs really work well on glare ice/black ice, provide grip and Emergency vehicles usually have them. But some states prohibit the use of studs by the general public.

            At the ski resorts and going through the Eisenhower Tunnel on I70 the use of chains on all four wheels is required, depending on weather. No chains? No go!

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            Black ice is pretty rare. Most winters it never occurs even once. This winter is the exception. Snows will give you more breaking power, but ice is ice and they aren’t gonna save a crappy driver from an accident.

  • avatar
    robc123

    Simple, buy a front wheel drive beater, put awesome WINTER tires on it, drive it. Park it, drive the mx5 in spring. write an article on how you liked it.

  • avatar
    twinsonic

    highdesertcat,

    Studded tires have been outlawed in IL since the early to mid 70′s. It tore up the asphalt quite easily and the state pretty much told everyone to use snow tires……

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      twinsonic, yeah, that’s a real shame. I take it then, that strap-on chains and tire-cleats are also out, which pretty much leaves the driver at the mercy of how well the State/Municipality keeps the roads ice-free.

      Here in New Mexico we can still use studs and most snow tires sold here already have the holes in them so you can insert the studs yourself. The Tungsten studs last the longest but we can also buy Aluminum studs and brass studs at select tire stores. None are cheap but they last and last and last.

      I was able to buy a set of four 17″ WK2 Jeep Wheels on which I keep Big O Tungsten-studded snow tires, for when the weather gets really, really bad and icy, and a 20-piece set of tire chains for 20″ wheels/tires, normally used on 18-wheelers. I acquired these over the last 50 years so they’re older than dirt, but still work good, when needed.

      My 2WD Tundra and our Highlander use 18″ wheels/tires and I bought used chains at garage sales over the years. Chains will last forever if you take care of them.

      But for the last few years, the winters have been mild and snowfall manageable in my area.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    I spent 4 Ontario winters with a 2001 Miata as my only car. Gislaved Nordfrosts on each corner.

    90% of the time it was great — controllable & fun.

    10% of the time it was a white-knuckle experience. The car’s inherent instability (which makes it tossable in the dry) makes it jittery on a snow-covered road and crossing small drifts. The LSD made the car far too tail-happy.

    Sometimes, like when you are caught on a snowy 6-lane, surrounded by semis, the Miata’s engaging driving experience is actually a liability.

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Good Winter tires are important, but without ground clearance, the best snow tires in the world ain’t gonna get traction!


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