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Thursday
May122011

Roll Your Own Toolkit for the Miata

One of the most important things you should take with you on a road trip is an Auto Club membership card.  And don't go for the standard membership, which gives you just seven miles of free towing per incident.  It's a much better idea to upgrade to the Plus membership (at minimum), which gives you 100 miles of free towing per incident.  If you ever need to have your car towed more than ten miles you'll be very glad you paid for the Plus membership.  Those extra miles could cost as much as $25 per mile.

That said, it is also important to be prepared for mechanical problems that you might be able to deal with yourself.  You need a toolkit.  Some manufacturers include a basic toolkit with their cars.  But it's better to roll your own.

Literally.

Bucket Boss Tool Roll (click image to expand)That's the Bucket Boss Duckwear Tool Roll model #07004.  As it turns out, it's just the right size to fit in a convenient (hidden) storage spot in the Miata's trunk.  But first, take a look at all the tools it can hold.

Custom Toolkit for the Miata (click image to expand)

No Need to Give Up Trunk Space

As I mentioned, there is a very convenient storage spot in the Miata's trunk.  It's a little tunnel that runs down the right side of the trunk toward the passenger seat.  On a NA Miata (1990 - 1997) you'll need to remove the spare tire.  On a NB Miata (1999 - 2005) you'll need to remove a couple of plastic rivets to pull back the trunk liner.

I wrap a medium-sized towel around the tool roll before shoving it in the tunnel.  The towel helps prevent rattles, plus it might come in handy during roadside repairs.

Convenient Tunnel Storage in Miata Trunk (click image to expand)

The beauty of using the hidden tunnel is that you don't have to give up any of your precious trunk space.  With the trunk liner back in place the toolkit is barely visible.

Carry a Toolkit Without Giving Up Trunk Space (click image to expand)Tire Repair Kit

It's also a good idea to carry a tire repair kit.  Granted, many times a blowout will result in damage to the sidewall and that's why carrying a spare tire is always the best plan.  But it is also fairly common to pick up a nail or screw in the tread that creates a slow leak.  You might wake up the next morning to find a flat tire.  Minor damage like that can be repaired fairly quickly and quite effectively with a tire plug.

Important:  Tire plugs are intended for temporary repairs.  The first chance you get, you should take the tire to a tire store and have a proper patch applied.

I put together a tire repair kit that fits in a small camera bag.  It contains a small 12-volt air compressor, tire plugs, tire plug installation tools, rubber cement and a tire pressure gauge.

Home-brew Tire Repair Kit (click image to expand)On my 2001 Miata, the tire repair kit fits nicely into the recess on the right side of the trunk.  That's a small first aid kit behind it in the photo below.

Tire Repair Kit & First Aid Kit (click image to expand)

OBD II Scanner

I also carry an inexpensive OBD II Code Reader in the trunk of my Miata.

OBD II Scanner Tool (click image to expand)

If your Miata's check engine light comes on, the OBD II scanner could prove to be the most useful tool you carry.  I printed a slip of paper with some common Miata engine codes and keep it with the scanner. 

  • P0134 - O2 Sensor (No Activity)
  • P0300 - Coil Pack (Misfire)
  • P0301 - Random Misfire Cylinder 1
  • P0302 - Random Misfire Cylinder 2
  • P0303 - Random Misfire Cylinder 3
  • P0304 - Random Misfire Cylinder 4
  • P0325 - Knock Sensor 1
  • P0339 - Crankshaft Position Sensor
  • P0402 - Dirty Intake Manifold
  • P0420 - Catalytic Converter / Front O2 Sensor
  • P0421 - Warm-up Catalytic Converter Efficiency Below Threshold Bank 1
  • P0455 - Possible Loose Gas Cap
  • P1170 - Fuel Air Metering
  • P1345 - Cam Position Sensor
  • P1518 - Intake Manifold Runner Control ('99-'00), Intake Manifold Shutter Valve ('01+) 

Of course, it's helpful to have something like a smartphone or other device with internet access to look up the codes.  Once you have the code, simply plug it into the search feature at Miata.net forum.  At Miata.net, you'll not only figure out why your check engine light came on, but you're virtually guaranteed to find a few answers on how to deal with fixing it.

On road trips, I've needed the OBD II scanner more often than I've needed a screwdriver.  So far, it's always been something simple like a loose gas cap that throws a check engine light code.  One time the code indicated a problem with my mass air flow sensor.  I had used a pressure washer to clean the bugs off the front of the Miata the night before and I managed to splash water up onto the mass air flow sensor's electrical connector.  Thanks to the OBD II scanner, I knew to turn my attention to the MAF.  I separated the electrical connector, dried it out, and reset the check engine light.  It's been fine since.

Be Prepared

No, I wasn't a Boy Scout.  It's just common sense to be as prepared as you can for roadside emergencies.  Hopefully, you'll never need any of the tools.  But you'll sure be glad you have them if you do end up needing them.

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Reader Comments (9)

Great info! Great bag.

But allow me to recommend three more things: one to slip into the tool bag, the other two to hide in the trunk somewhere.

In the bag: a handful of zip ties - they don't take up much space and can double as hose clamps in an emergency, as well as a plethora of other uses.

In the trunk: a roll of duct tape - I don't know how many uses there are for duct tape, but it'll work to temporarily seal a hose leak as well as hold on a damaged fender.

And when you're all done with your repairs, you'll invariably have filthy hands, that why a waterless hand cleaner in a tube is the way to go -- you don't want to climb back into your Miata and put your dirty hands on your nice interior, do you?

Enjoy your ride on Route 66, I would have loved to go with you all, but I have to be in South Dakota over the 4th of July, my little hometown of Tripp is celebrating its 125th birthday and that coincides with the all-high school reunion held every five years. For a town of 654 souls this is the big shindig and I haven't missed a reunion yet, and have been to the 75th and 100th birthdays of the town, too.

May 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRainer

Good suggestions, Rainer. Thanks. And, in fact, I do carry a half-dozen zip ties in a trunk pouch pocket, as well as an extra cam position sensor and a couple of extra accessory belts. I'll add an update to the article.

For hand cleaner, I simply use a few squirts of my quick detailer spray. It works pretty well.

May 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterMark

These are ALL excellent ideas for road safety and preparedness. Mark, there is no way you were NOT a Boy Scout! Either in this life or a past life...

In another life, "before my back surgery" I sat on a committee which was responsible for ALL safety and Business Continuity Plans for a fortune 500 company' among the many other things I use to do at the office. And what Mark has laid out here for road safety and preparedness is outstanding. Mark is also correct in that these are ALL common sense safety precautions which should be taken seriously. We never know what can happen at anytime...

Oh, and a thank you to Mark for showing me some other storage areas I did not know existed in my car...

May 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKurt

Great idea Mark!! You are always right on top of thing's with great care and concern for your fellow Miata owners.

May 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGinny

Great ideas as I sit here with a dead MSM in the garage. Suspect the cam sensor which I had to order. Also doing research on a scanner.

Rick from Club Miata NW

Rt 66 trip??? I envy you!

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRick

I carry a painters coveralls (tyvek) and nitrile gloves. Both roll up nicely and can be shoved into tight places but are worth their weight in gold when needed. Coveralls with a hood are best when you have to crawl under the car in a parking lot somewhere.

I am going to build my kit with the stuff you have in yours. Very good thinking.

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike

I decided to remove my spare tire. For the amount of driving that I do and distance, I realized I just didn't need it. I am always within a couple minutes of home.

May 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhpjdm

Regarding the code reader: What year models of Miata can use OBD II scanners?

July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

I believe the first model year with OBD II was the 1996 Miata. So, from 1996 to the present.

July 31, 2012 | Registered CommenterMark

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