I have owned my ’01 Mazda Miata for about seven years now. She is now approaching 150’000 miles, so I figured it was time to take care of some things that have been causing me headaches lately.

First up? A recurring CEL that has been making it a real PITA to get inspected. The issue is related to the VVT system found on the ’01+ 1.8L engine, which causes the  Powertrain Control Module (PCM) to signal a P0012 “CMP Timing Over-Retarded” error. I have actually been dealing with this for a few years. It got to the point where it was predictable. Any time I drove at low speed and low RPM it would come on.  I had some luck with the “go-to” fix of running a lighter weight oil for a while, but unfortunately this last year it has become a persistent issue. I noticed that Mazda issued a TSB for this very issue, and it required a dealership to replace the PCM with a reprogrammed one. So, I stopped by the dealership to see if they would be able to take care of it despite being a good eight years since the recall. I was suprised with great news: Mazda was going to replace the unit for free! This was a massive win, considering the cost of a replacement unit and the immobilizer programming that goes with it. Two weeks later, and the code has not returned.

My next issue was the soft top, which had seen better days and was beginning to leak. Since a soft top does not insulate well, the car is hot in the summer, cold in the winter and noisy all the time. It is nice to randomly put the top down from time to time, but since mine was so old and brittle I have not even been risking it.

So I got a hard top! All problems solved. Since my old soft top was a worthless pile of garbage I figured I would remove it altogether. Some people like to keep it in even if they have the hard top, but I like the idea of keeping the car light. If anyone wants the frame for a soft top, let me know. I took a moment to clean up the weather stripping with some Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Protectant while everything was easy to get at. I will eventually paint the hard top to match the car, and tint the rear glass.  So far the top has been a major improvement.

Every now and then, the rear of the car behaves enthusiastically in the rain. As a result of unexpected wags of the tail, my wheels have taken a few beatings. This means that one wheel in particular refuses to properly balance when getting tires mounted. It also means that the poor wheel bearing it is attached to hates its life. I scored a replacement set of stock 15″ wheels on Craigslist, and decided to make them awesome. My dad suggested that I make them look like the old American Racing wheels, and I was inclined to agree. I will eventually post a full write-up in the forum to share my process. They still need a coat of clear, but at this point I think they look pretty great!

The bulbs in my instrument cluster have slowly been going out one by one, and so I finally tackled that issue this weekend. I bought the replacement bulbs from the Rosenthal Mazda site, as well as a new shift boot, parking brake cover, license plate lamps, and caliper rebuild kits for when I tackle the brakes next weekend. There is already quite a bit of information out there regarding removing the instrument cluster and replacing the bulbs; however, there is not a lot of information regarding the HVAC panel lighting, so I was flying blind when I took that puppy out. It was a trick, but I will post a write-up on that soon too. Some say you can get at the lights in that panel from the top by just taking the radio out. These people clearly are magicians with impressive capabilities. I was disappointed to find out the lights in the HVAC panel were not your typical 194 bulbs, so I would unfortunately not be able to take care of them just yet. I moved on to the instrument cluster and was surprised to find out Mazda included bulbs for ABS and overdrive indicators. Since I have neither of these options, it meant I would be able to use them in the HVAC panel! I now have a fully functioning dash (minus the odometer which mysteriously decided to stop working). I also finally got around to properly installing my Pioneer head unit with a trim kit, and replaced the festoon light with a nice LED bulb.


I still have a lot of work to do on the car, so I will be posting as I go along. I’ll also be writing a few how-to guides in the forums soon.


~ by ddmotorsports on October 19, 2014.

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