By on October 6, 2010

Darren writes:

I recently took my 1990 Miata to St. Matthew’s Imports, a reputable shop here in Louisville, Kentucky. The a/c was not blowing cold, and a running light was out. I also wanted them to inspect and tighten the undercarriage bolts like it says to do in the manual. They tested the a/c for leaks, it had none but they said the low pressure side had too high a pressure and there were signs of moisture in the evaporator case. They want to replace the compressor, drier, expansion valve, and possibly the evaporator core. Also the radiator is leaking coolant, the right rear brake caliper is leaking, the left rear parking brake does not hold, the front brake pads have no shims, and the master cylinder is leaking fluid. To make matters worse, the front engine seals, the rear main seal and the valve cover gasket is leaking.

Wait, it gets better: the left side of the vehicle sits lower than the right side. They recommend replacing the struts and coil springs. I decided to hold off for now on the struts and springs, but the bill to fix the rest is about $4000. I know this is a 20 year old vehicle, but damn! I think I am going to have all this done, but I wanted to know what Sajeev thinks of all this: does it sound correct? I generally trust them but wonder if they could be jerking me around. I only wanted to fix the a/c and the running light and now all this…. I guess I could limp along with it and just top fluids off periodically, but I love the car and want to keep it.

I think the book on the car is only about $2000. Tough to justify spending $4000. What say you?

Sajeev Answers:

Old cars require time and money to be in a like-new condition. Which is why people in this situation are more likely to fix stuff on their own, buy parts after months of shopping for great deals and—generally speaking—being a tightwad in most of their daily activities.

I am not telling you to change your life and become a mechanic, but meet me halfway: learn more about your car from your fellow owners. Post on their messageboards on occasion, silently research relevant threads quite frequently. Learn where to get stuff for good prices, become an informed consumer of restoration parts, and then go back to a local mechanic. Again, do this as an informed consumer.

Back to the car: what you discussed sounds normal: waves of troublespots come to light when you take a close look at a twenty-year-old car that’s mostly original. Unless we’re talking about a crude truck (that just get better as they go bad) an older vehicle is in dire need for a colossal number of fresh components to return to its former glory.

BUT…the A/C repair sounds kinda nuts. I thought that replacing the “orifice tube” would fix these problems, it’s either a separate part or it’s built into the low pressure line. If the compressor runs quiet, that’s even more reason to second opinion on the air conditioner. Sometimes a new orifice tube and new O-rings at every fitting fixes the problem.

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52 Comments on “Piston Slap: Justification for Higher Miata-ification...”

  • avatar
    jd arms

    I own a ’99 beater Miata with 134,000 miles on it.  It is my third car, sits in the garage most of the time, and gets very love from the family “automotive budget” because the daily drivers get priority.
    Our local junior college (community college in some parts) offers automotive courses.  The first prerequisite course is Technical Basics (safety, diagnosis and tools) and from there students can take classes on brakes, electrical systems, suspension, etc… Heck, they offer everything.  Since it is a community college, it is pretty cheap, but scheduling classes can be tough.  I would think if you live near a similar college, you could learn a lot for $4,000.  Moreover, once you get to know the teachers, I bet they would let you wrench on your Miata during class.  Miatas are known as very user friendly cars, and have a lot of space under the hood: a great car for a beginning, greenhorn, amateur mechanic.
    Also, there are many Miata clubs throughout the USA, and one of these may also be a place to learn about that car.
    Once you know the basics, you only have to pay for the really difficult, esoteric repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan R

      None of these problems are that hard to fix. I agree on the A/C diagnosis, sounds like a block in the system. No need to replace the whole thing. The receiver may be blocked. The oil leaks may be slowed by using Valvoline Maxlife oil. Fix each problems yourself as you learn about the subject.

  • avatar

    For the A/C problem, I would try replacing the dryer, evacuating the system, and recharging IF you are certain there are no leaks. If leaks are found, they must be repaired first. Make sure the condenser is clean, and the fan is running properly. Moisture in the system is usually caused by improper shadetree recharging, and failure to purge the fill tube when doing the recharge. Why would they want to change the evap core if there are no leaks? If the core is dirty, on some vehicles you can drill a small hole in the evap housing and inject coil cleaner designed for home evap cleaning. Make sure you use a no rinse formula, and run the unit for a while after cleaning, to fully rinse the coil with condensation. As for the rest of the problems, find a good Miata forum and DIY, or find a mechanically inclined friend to help you.

  • avatar

    You also need to assess how serious/annoying some of these issues are – for example, if the oil leaks never leave any spots or relatively small spots on the ground, then they are hardly worth fixing in my opinion, with the possible exception of the valve cover gasket since it can leak onto the exhaust manifold. I had an old Ford truck with a rear main seal leak that always appeared moist, but it never needed any oil and it rarely left drips anywhere, so why bother?

    The brake stuff needs to be fixed with the possible exception of the shims on the front pads – it’s possible some pads were used at some point in the past that didn’t come with shims or were a shimless design – if they aren’t making noise and the car stops, then I’d say the front pads are fine – just fix the various leaks and the parking brake.  

  • avatar

    Woa, woa … stop the presses, all these leaks, broken parts, saggy springs on a Japanese car built in Hiroshima?? It can’t be … snicker, snicker … how many miles on this thing? I thought they last forever,…. chuckle, chuckle.
    Honestly, ditch the mechanic.

    • 0 avatar

      yes he should sell it and go buy the PINNACLE OF ENGINEERING that is the Milano, and….I’m sorry I just couldn’t keep that up. This car is old enough to drink, and springs and A/C don’t last 20 years. All 1990 Alfas  self-immolated before the 90’s were through.

  • avatar

    Taking any car that old to a repair shop is always a crap shoot.
    For the AC take it to a specialized AC shop. They tend to be much more useful than the generalists that just want to replace everything one piece at a time.
    You are not trying to make the car brand new again, only make it last a few more years. Nothing sounds that bad on your 20 year old Miata.
    And beware, some shops try to put the fear of god into you because they perceive your lack of technical prowess.

  • avatar

    trying to sell my 81 300sd for a few hundred bucks, an ethnic minority  guy wanted to buy her and restore her!
    This guy got to be out of his cotton pickin mind, or just want to cover his derriere and kind of too embarrasing to use it as a daily driver.
    The body is really FUBR, is cheaper to buy a new body, but what could one transfer old parts with 240,000 miles onto another car with newer body?
    Your Miata  as the guys said just fix her enuf to keep her for a few more yrs, its cheaper buy a new car or newer Miata than  to bring back to the way it left factory.
    If money is no object then go ahead,
    the truth if u sink 4k in the car now, u can perhaps sell her for 3 k on a real good day.
    Buyer dont give a ” F ” if u put gold plated parts on it.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I’m not sure when Mazda switch over to modern Freon, but in 1990 it probably had the old and now almost impossible to obtain R-12.  Doing so correctly means also getting all the old mineral oil lubricant out of the system for replacement with R-134a compatible ester based lubricating oil.
    If you love the car and can afford the $4,000 then I would say to go forward and get everything which needs attention looked after. A 20 year old vehicle which hasn’t been obsessively maintained is going to require a lot of looking after to get everything ship shape. Personally I’m a DIY kind of person, but whether or not you should go that route depends on whether or not you enjoy playing mechanic, what you would be doing with those hours otherwise and how skilled/confident you are at mechanical things. Good arguments can be made for learning to do it yourself, and good argument can be made for letting the magic of specialization of labor lead you to hiring the work out.
    If you are using an independent shop, the big question is whether or not you trust them to give you the straight scoop. If you have good reason to trust this shop and are willing to spend the bucks, go for it. One caveat though, only go down this route if you expect to keep enjoying that Miata for years to come. If you turn around and choose to sell it in a year you will never get your costs back out of it.

    Another thought is that you might be better off spending that $4k as a down payment on a less than five year old Miata which you can reasonably expect to enjoy for many more years.

  • avatar

    If it had $4000 in body damage it’d be a total loss. This a mechanical total loss. Tell ’em you’ll only spend $500 to make ‘er reliable and safe to drive then enjoy ‘er for how ever long you can.

  • avatar

    As a fellow Miata owner, I have to ask why you would bother fixing the AC.  I see you live in Louisville, but still.  Putting the top down is the only AC ya need, man.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Darren, I’ve got the same Miata, as do four of my friends. The maladies you describe EXACTLY describe my neighbor’s Alfa with 94,000 miles on it, except it needs a valve job, and we put a new clutch in it when we replaced the back-up light switch in the bellhousing. That was 1000 miles and three years ago. Your situation EXACTLY describe my friend’s Miata at 140,000 miles. 140k ain’t exactly “forever” but it’s pretty good for an affordable car that invites spirited driving.
    Brakes and radiator are pretty easy. If you’re going to own an older car that’s almost a classic, you’ll need to learn how to do some things. The suspension work you can also do, and if you have a friend who has done it, it’s even better. (hint: you’ll need a spring compressor, jack stands, etc.)
    As for the air conditioning? Well, it IS October and you do live in Kentucky, so that can wait.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    is it worth saving? Sure but not to pay shop to do what they are saying.
    This is a DIY car.
    Otherwise bail out and buy another in good shape for not much money. Or drive as is.
    Try miata dot net for a good forum. The ins and outs of each repair will be explained in great duplicative detail.
    Get past the $ value of the car as is. If you are trying to restore cash value give up now and sell it and buy something else.
    If you want to make it fun to drive again fix the running gear problems. Buy new tires, get a fresh alignment, new suspension. Brakes. Cool Breeze scoop.
    Don’t consider the springs and shocks to be repair, think upgrade. You can buy used OEM stuff for about nothing.

  • avatar

    Four thousand dollars for that work is highway robbery, pure and simple.  I bought my last Miata for less than that, and it has a supercharger and a hardtop.  My recommendation?  Head over to and start reading the Garage sections and asking questions in the NA forum.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed.  That is a lot of dough for the repairs.  I bought a nice ( and well maintained ) 1990 Miata for $3800 with 66k miles.  No leaks, AC works after recharging, and spent a total of $300 for additional maintainence items.
      You could sell it, take the $4K, and buy a very nice Miata that would need almost nothing.  They’re out there, you just need to look.
      If you do choose to keep it and repair, definitely read up ( and post ) on before paying to get the repairs done.

  • avatar

    A/C problem in a Miata? You have a problem with dropping the top on that thing? I don’t even see how this is a problem!

  • avatar

    “…there were signs of moisture in the evaporator case…”
    Well, the evaporator coil is in a case, the coil is cold when the A/C works, so humid air goes over the coil and the humidity condenses on the coils and drips off the coil into the bottom of the case, which then drains out of the car.  I’d be concerned if there wasn’t any sign of moisture in the case…

  • avatar

    How is it that a Piston Slap about a Miata by Sajeev hasn’t yet elicited a call for an LS-X swap?

    C’mon, guys. It’s the only reasonable answer.

    • 0 avatar

      Haha…I was starting to wonder.
      I know the feeling when you take your car in for one or two things but end with fifteen (!) items that need repair. I had an 88 Accord hatchback that was adept at sucking every last cent from my wallet but best believe that spurred me to learn some DIY stuff that softened the blows. Before long, the only thing I’d take the car in for was new tires or stuff that needed more equipment that I could manage. My point is, cars of that age aren’t worth taking to the shop unless you’re prepared to pay more than it’s worth. You’re better off buying parts cheap and spending a few weekends underneath the hood/bonnet with a repair book (or a good buddy who knows about car repairs). This applies especially if you want to keep the Miata for a few more years.
      Who knows, maybe you’ll get talked into doing an LS-X swap.

    • 0 avatar

      I have let you, the reader, and myself down. I assure this won’t happen again.

  • avatar

    I believe the cost and lost time and sundry headaches would allow me to fall OUT of love with a car and sell the Miata for as much possible and procure a newer used critter.

  • avatar

    I had one of these in the exact same year and color. Bought in 2003 with 70k on it but had been sitting for a while under a tree. Needed a new top and the calipers were sticky. I’ve been a DIY type since before I could drive, so all I did was surf a bit and got the info I needed to do all the repairs myself. But this car is so easy to work on that you really don’t need ASE certification to do what you need to do with it.

    Another problem that cropped up was clogged drainage holes that led to rust in the areas just ahead of the rear wheelwells. The top has a rain gutter around the back that dumps into these, and in normal circumstances probably don’t pose a problem. Go back to that tree the car was sitting under.

    I used it as a daily driver for over four years and racked up another 105k, doing only routine maintenance and a timing belt. It’s a blast, of course, and 27 mpg in NYC traffic made it perfect for the role. It was also pretty good in bad weather. Better, in fact, than the Civic that rear-ended me in freezing rain in late 2007. Totaled it.

    Problem with getting another newer car is that it might have the same problems or worse and you have to find out the hard way. If the car is the one in the picture, learn a few mechanical skills and fix it up little by little. You should be able to replace all four calipers, rotors and pads for less than $200 in parts, for example. Decent shock/strut combos won’t break you either and has instructions on how to replace them.

    In short, keep it. I’ll bet you can fix everything for less than a grand.

  • avatar
    George B

    I’d divide the repairs into must do for safety, nice to do for handling, and accessories not directly related to driving.  Absolutely positively need to be able to stop, so I’d start with the brakes.  Probably want to get 2nd opinion before you replace anything.  In my opinion brake repairs are great DIY work because it’s fairly easy and all cars need brake pads replaced several times in the life of the car. Replacing cooling system parts including the radiator (if necessary) is also fairly easy once you identify what is leaking.
    The next wave of repairs would be suspension work to restore handling.  I would assume handling would be a priority for a Miata owner.  I have a shop I trust and negotiate better pricing where I buy the parts and then bring the car plus parts in early in the morning on a slow day.  The shop is willing to give me a good deal on labor because they can do work while waiting on parts for other jobs an I avoid inflated part prices.
    I wouldn’t put much money into air conditioning on a convertible.  The wrench work isn’t that difficult if you want to tackle it yourself, but you need to be very careful to keep everything clean and dry.  Lots of important details related to R-12/mineral oil to R-134a/PAG oil conversion are probably discussed on a Miata forum somewhere.  Once parts have been replaced, you can pay someone to pull a vacuum and recharge the system.

  • avatar

    Hello this is Darren. Thanks for the comments everyone.
    I went ahead and got the radiator replaced, and the master cylinder and calipers. Also got the new compressor and related hardware. She has good cold air now.
    Someone commented, “It’s a convertible, why do you need air?” But sometimes when it’s 100 degrees out and the sun is beating down, you would really rather put the top up and enjoy the cold air. It also helps the defrost to work better.
    I appreciate people suggesting the DIY route, but I am mechanically moronic. I live in an apartment and don’t really have many tools or a place to work on it. I think I am better off letting the pros take care of it, although I did buy a Haynes manual.
    So I got most of the stuff fixed, but held off on the struts and coil springs, and the main seal. I spent about 3 grand so far. I know this might be hard to justify for such an old car , but I really love my Miata. I could have just went to the auction and bought some other ride, but then what problems would it have? Sometimes you just say to hell with the dollars and cents and do what feels right. Plus, at 20 years old, it will in a few years be an antique and start going up in value. I’ve heard Jay Leno and others say these early Miatas will be considered collectible; that seems pretty likely to me. And I really love the look of the that shiny new radiator, it gives me a little thrill just looking at it!
    So next up is the springs and struts, I’m going to have them put some Konis on there I think. In a few years I might even get her painted. The sky is the limit.
    I’ve spent quite a bit on her already. In for a penny, in for a pound.

    • 0 avatar

      So long as you love the car, and can afford to fix it, without undue stress or ignoring more important responsibilities, you should keep it. Nobody buys a Miata for its practicality, but enjoyment is rarely practical.

      I sold my Miata a few years back to pay medical bills.  It was the right decision, but it doesn’t mean I don’t miss the car.

      I’m sure yours brings you a smile every time you drive it, just like mine did.

      EDIT: Like others have said, get to know

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for sharing, Darren. Miatas rule, you are doing the right thing if it makes you happy.  Because you’ll be happier in a refreshed Miata than a wasted one.
      Take that advice about using forums, talking to other owners, proactively shopping for parts to heart.  It make your life easier (people have been there/done that), more affordable (markup on parts is nuts) and more fun (community aspect).

  • avatar

    Good for you Darren! Previously drove a ’92 B pkg red/black/black mx-5 and had a great time with it. I sold it after a year but know the passion these cars bring out. One day I would love to pick up a Mazdaspeed edition.
    That was more than worth it to spend that money on the old girl!

  • avatar

    It’s one thing to romanticize old sleds, but quite another to sink $4,000 of real money into one.
    I would just pretend the car is British, and try to enjoy its “character” in the remaining time it has left.

  • avatar

    First a question for Darren and TTAC.  Seems like by the time these “Piston Slap’s” are posted the owner has already made his decision so they never are any help.  Either owners need to be more patient or TTAC needs to post these on the day they come in.  How long did this take, from receiving to posting?
    As far as the Miata, it is really a pretty dependable car, but all really old cars will start to experience issues related to aging organic materials and plain old wear.
    I urge you to find a local Miata club and learn to do a little wrenching on your own.
    For example, you can buy a the master and slave cylinders for $100 bucks, and it only takes about an hour to swap them out and rebleed the system.  Likewise a new radiator is about $110 bucks and easy to swap out.
 has a “garage” that has directions for the most common repairs and you will often find people at your local Miata club who love to wrench and will come over and help you out for the price of beer and pizza.  These guys usually know more than your dealer…including tips and tricks to make the job easier.  While they are there they can probably advise you on other maintenance items that need looking after…like flushing the brakes, or cooling system.
    It is water under the bridge but you could have done most of that work for under $500.  Keep this in mind in the future and you and your “baby” might even form a tighter bond.

    • 0 avatar

      First a question for Darren and TTAC.  Seems like by the time these “Piston Slap’s” are posted the owner has already made his decision so they never are any help.  Either owners need to be more patient or TTAC needs to post these on the day they come in.  How long did this take, from receiving to posting?
      The average lead time from my Inbox to TTAC’s screen is 4-6 weeks.  Which stinks, I know…but this series is pretty popular.

      BUT…if I feel they need a quick answer, I reply to the person offline and give ’em the Cliff’s Notes answer. Not as good as Me + Best/Brightest, but it’s better than nothing.

      Insert bolded text here: if you email me a question and need a QUICK answer, tell me in your email and I will bump it up.

    • 0 avatar

      I strongly suggest you reevaluate how much the delay degrades the process…not so much of your answer…but of reader’s input.  It shouldn’t matter the backlog.  You can only get through so many anyway.  My recommendation is to throw out the cue and do your next article on one of the most recent questions.  From now on, follow that method and you will have a more interesting column.  You might also find it interesting to devote the occasional article to what the reader actually chose, and why.

  • avatar

    It’s 20 years old. Are you kidding? There’s only one answer: DUMP IT! It’s shot, worn-out, beat. Sell it and buy a newer vehicle. End of story.

  • avatar

    “I am not telling you to change your life and become a mechanic, but meet me halfway: learn more about your car from your fellow owners. Post on their messageboards on occasion, silently research relevant threads quite frequently. Learn where to get stuff for good prices, become an informed consumer of restoration parts, and then go back to a local mechanic. Again, do this as an informed consumer.”
    This is absolutely brilliant advice, and it applies to owners of 5 year-old cars as well as 20 year-old cars. I can’t wrench to save my life (I wreck things and/or hurt myself) but I am very interested in the workings of cars and like to consider myself a logical thinker, so I do try and be as informed as possible prior to reporting to the mechanic. I also have no shame when it comes to bringing in cheap parts I bought online.

  • avatar

    All the money you are spending is simply deferred maintenance, not repairs. The car is 20 years old and stuff just wears out over time.
    I’ve got a 91 Miata, supercharged, as my sunny day ride. This summer I finally broke down and spend some real maintenance money on the car. It’s the first time I’ve had to do anything other than routine work like oil, brakes, tires, etc. It was all items that just plan wear out over time, except the front swap bar. Radiator, water pump, belts, hoses, fluids (change them all every 2 years) Seals, Timing Belt, etc. I spent about 2K and I doubt I’ll spend anything else for the next 5 years.
    The AC stuff was obviously to swap the car from R12 to R134, that’s the standard swap parts list as R134 just doesn’t work well in the R12’s already overtaxed AC system. Yes, you still need AC in a convertible, especially when you are stuck in traffic.
    Your best avenue for repairs and maintenance is to find a Miata sport shop that specializes in your car, these guys can save you a TON of money and already know what to look out for.
    Why spend money on a car that’s below “book” value? Because you enjoy the car and finding one in the same condition as yours would be more money with a far more uncertain future.

  • avatar

    If you’re going to keep it, get all this stuff fixed, but I agree with going to an AC expert.  After it’s fixed, why not try some periodic maintenance? and I’d put a super charger on it, myself.

  • avatar

    Why did this article make TTAC only AFTER the owner of the car fixed it ? Seems like a lot of good people took the time to offer up some smart advice that was a day late and a dollar short . As far as keeping a car that old I agree that it only makes sense if the owner does the majority of repairs themselves . Even if that car does become a collectors item , by taking it to private mechanics for every issue that comes up (and they will , that 3K was only the beginning) the owner will already have way over that collector price put into the car from mechanic’s bills .

    • 0 avatar

      Like I said to Disaster, the average lead time from my Inbox to TTAC’s screen is 4-6 weeks.And I do email people before publishing, if their question looks like it needs a quick answer.
      After considering both you and Disaster’s statements, I will put a bold statement beside my email address: your question may take 4-6 weeks to answer, so TELL ME if you consider your query urgent.

  • avatar

    Another vote for keeping a good older car on the road.  The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.  If the car books at $2k, you should disclose the flaws to a buyer (unless you are trading to a dealer, in which case you will get screwed on your trade) so either way the car is virtually worthless as is.  What’s wrong with $4k for a fun car that looks and drives just right (assuming that it does). 

    Forget book value.  The car is worth whatever it would cost you to replace it with something as good.  A newer one can cost you $4k in depreciation over a year or two.  These repairs should be good for 4 or 5 years. 

    I am fortunate to have found a mechanic who will listen to me and explain what he finds.  He will do what has to be done and no more unless I give him the go-ahead.  He is not the cheapest, but he is a good diagnostician and when I pay for a repair, the thing is fixed.  But you need to be able to communicate with the mechanic, so I would get to know your car.


  • avatar

    Look around on Craigslist, often times you can find mechanics with fully equipped garages looking for side work or retired mechanics looking for the occasional job.  This can save you a lot of money on labor intensive jobs.  Hire the mechanic to do a small, inexpensive job and if it is competently executed you can probably trust them with a larger repair.
    When the rear main seal went on my ’91 Bronco a semi-retired ASE certified mechanic quoted  a much lower price than the local garage.

  • avatar

    Really Sajeev?  4-6 weeks?  No offense man, I love your writing and this column, but that just makes this series pointless.  It needs to be a day, or two days max.  I volunteer my services to handle the Piston Slap posts, if that will help!

    • 0 avatar

      I understand your point and I appreciate the feedback from everyone. I guess I could spit out more Piston Slaps per week, but it would change the feel of TTAC. And I don’t want to make this place into Piston Slap central.
      My thoughts right now:
      1. I will ask people to note if the query is a high priority…via that Piston Slap paragraph with my email address.
      2. I will continue to give feedback (OFFLINE) when someone contacts me, but make it a point to ask if they want to hear from the B&B sooner.  If everyone requests a priority, I’ll make more of the same judgment calls that I’ve been doing since the beginning.
      And if you email me with a question and really care about the outcome, please email me back when I reply to you. I’d appreciate it.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t agree at all.  Just like the posts you find on various car forums out there, the situations people run into are the same others run into, or are often atleast very similar.  A lot of the comments from this article could be applied to anybody who has an old car they love that will cost more than it’s worth to repair.  Piston Slap has its worth in the perspective of many different posters.

      Now with that said, perhaps all this great advice did not do any good for the original submitter of the question..  so I guess that’s the rub.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey ALL, get off sajeev’s back.  Piston Slap has been operating in this fashion for at least a year.  This website is not ‘The Truth About Car Repairs’.  If you want a faster answer, talk to someone else.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    The car is junk. Send it to me, and I will make sure that it is disposed of properly, at no charge.
    I seriously doubt the Miata needs that much work at that price, 20 years old or not. I have two salvage-rebuilt titled Miatas of that vintage, and they are incredibly stout, tough little cars that are dirt cheap to fix and insanely reliable (that is, if you went through a European car phase like I did). Miatas are the one car I would not hesitate to fly 1000 miles one-way to buy sight unseen and drive it home. One of my Miatas was stolen and stripped and was an insurance salvage vehicle that the prior owner stuck enough parts on it to race it as a Miata spec racer for 50,000 miles. That car, were it any other car, would have been beat to death. It has 140,000 savage miles on it now, and uses no oil and is marvelously reliable. I drive it like it was stolen.
    I call Bulls!t on that mechanic.

  • avatar

    Yeah the local DSM club’s motto is: Turning ordinary people into mechanics since 1989. I am saving $800 doing the new non sprung puck clutch/lightweight flywheel in the Eagle doing my own clutch swap. Most of these import cars are easy to work on with a few wrenches and a few sockets in 10mm-19mm sizes!

  • avatar

    An “expansion valve” and an “orifice tube” are the same thing, more or less.

    if the suction line is slightly high, try cleaning the a/c coil in the cabin. you would have to remove your dash to get to it, but 20 years without a cleaning would be a problem. I service home a/c’s for a living, and neglected care for the evaporator coil is the biggest cause of a/c problems. i doubt the Miata has an in-cabin air filter, so as such, 20 years of dust, dirt, convertible down smogy-air and god knows how many tons of cigarette smoke have passed through that coil.

    A/c supply stores will sell anyone a mild acid and a metal comb for coil cleaning, but for cars, hot soapy water and an old tooth brush will work great.

    if you want to know the theory behind it, the compressor pumps liquid into the cabin where it reaches the expansion valve. the valve mists out the right amount of liquid into the coil so that it when the hot air of the cabin crosses it, liquid refrigerant boils off into a gas. if the valve is defective it can open too much and cause the low pressure side to be higher than normal, but then inversely, the high pressure side would be reading a little low. if the valve is working fine, but something (like dirt) is blocking hot air from flowing across the coil, it wont boil all of the refrigerant and therefore give higher than normal pressure on the low side, and a normal to high on the high side.

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