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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OBD II Scanner
I also carry an inexpensive OBD II Code Reader in the trunk of my Miata.
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.
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.
My buddy Rainer reminded me that it's not a bad idea to carry some zip ties (wire ties) in your trunk too. I keep a half-dozen of them in a trunk pouch I have mounted at the front of the trunk (behind the license plate). You might consider carrying a roll of duct tape in your trunk too.
I'll also mention that I carry a spare set of accessory belts and a spare cam position sensor in my Miata's trunk. The accessory belts are the old ones I removed when I changed the belts at about 70K miles. The old ones were still in reasonably good condition so it made sense to carry them as spares. Ditto for the cam position sensor. It is a common failure part on NB Miatas, particularly on 2001+ models. If it fails, you're dead in the water. I proactively replaced the cam position sensor on my Miata before a big trip a year ago and I keep the old one stored in the trunk, just in case.