Entries in miata (8)
Chicago, IL to Springfield, IL
After more than a year of planning, Cathy and I and a group of our friends are living a dream by driving Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. We left San Diego on May 14 and drove to Chicago over four days. We spent two nights in Chicago where we enjoyed fabulous deep-dish pizza and a genuine Chicago dog. Then, on May 19, 2011, we began our adventure back to California.
Our first day on The Mother Road was an outstanding one. To beat the crazy Chicago traffic we left town at 5:30 a.m. It was amazing just how many other vehicles were already on the road at that early hour. And, as it turned out, we needed the extra time because, as we pulled into Springfield, it was already dinnertime.
While there were a lot of great sights to see, the thing that made the biggest impression on me was the friendliness of the people we encountered along the Route. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in sharing their experiences and listening to ours. Vernette at the Wilmington House Family Restaurant and Betty and Alice at the Atlanta Museum made particularly strong impressions. I hope this trend continues over the coming two weeks.
Starting at the Beginning
Westbound Route 66 starts at Lake Shore Drive and Jackson Boulevard, right next to Lake Michigan. However, for whatever reason, the "Begin" Route 66 sign is located on Adams Avenue a couple of blocks from the actual start point.
Blog and Photo Site for the Full Story
I originally planned to post all of my Route 66 road trip photos here in my blog. But it's very time consuming to insert the photos one at a time and write a story about each one. Instead, I am going to use a mix of my blog and my photo site. That will allow me to share more photos and do it in a more time-efficient manner.
Click >>HERE<< for the Day 1 Photos!
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.
We all dream of things we'd like to do before we exit this world. Contrary to what some people think, the term bucket list existed long before the movie of the same name (2007's The Bucket List, a good movie by the way). I remember my parents talking about their bucket list. For the most part, I think they lived their dreams. They were realistic and didn't dream too big. But that didn't make their dreams any less significant. They liked to travel, so—in their retirement years—they sold their house and purchased a motor home. They joined a couple of camping associations which gave them dozens of places around the country where they could hook up their motor home to enjoy its creature comforts yet still be parked next to a lake or other scenic spot. They traveled the length and breadth of the USA and made new friends along the way. They were having fun!
Having fun is one of the most important things you can do in life. Having fun is better for your heart and soul than any health food or vitamin pill. If you don't believe me, just Google it.
Fun is not an option, it is important!
Although you may have priorities in life, it is essential that you make room for at least some of the activities that you enjoy.
Fun is essential. In our complicated lives, finding the right balance can be challenging. But we simply must strive for that balance. Fun and a bucket list go hand-in-hand. It is fun to dream but it is even more fun to live those dreams.
Route 66 is More than the Road
As I mentioned in my review of the EZ66 Guide For Travelers, Cathy and I "discovered" Route 66 in 2007. Before the end of that May 2007 trip, the dream of traveling the entire length of Route 66 was on our bucket list. To start in Chicago and take at least a couple of weeks to get to Los Angeles. Stay at old motor court motels wherever possible. Eat at restaurants that have been visited by Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives). Drive top-down in the Miata through the dozens of small towns that are missed if you are on the super slab. Meet the people and wave hello to fellow Route 66 travelers going in the other direction. Maybe be joined by some Miata friends that have the same dream. It all sounded like a lot of fun to us.
We've flirted with Route 66 a few more times since 2007, but the dream remains unfulfilled. That's about to change. In less than two weeks we will begin our ultimate road trip adventure. Chicago to L.A in the company of like-minded friends. I predict there will be an immeasurable amount of fun and laughter. Our friendships and our love and appreciation for each other—as well as for our beautiful country—will grow stronger. Our hearts and our souls will be nourished.
And a check mark will be added to our bucket list.
In 2007 I detailed a custom iPod install using an earlier model of the Dension iPod Cradle. Unfortunately, the earlier model only supports the 12-volt charging pin on the iPod dock connector. In 2008 Apple dropped support for the 12-volt charging pin on new models of the iPhone and iPod. That meant the latest iPhones and iPods couldn't be charged by the original Dension Cradle. Subsequently, Dension released an updated model of their Cradle that supports the (now standard) 5-volt charging pin on the iPhone/iPod dock connector. This article details the installation of the latest Dension iPod Cradle in a 2001 Mazda Miata using the factory radio.
DISCLAIMER: These instructions are supplied for informational purposes only. Installation should only be attempted by someone with the necessary technical knowledge and skill. I cannot be held responsible if you don't know what you are doing and you screw up your iPod, iPhone or your Mazda factory radio.
Follow these instructions at your own risk!
I do not make or sell the necessary home-brew wiring harness so please don't ask me to make you one.
Applicable Mazda Miata Models
This article applies to the following Miata factory radios.
- 1999 - 2000 Miatas with Single-DIN non-Bose factory radio
- 1999 - 2001 Miatas with Single-DIN Bose factory radio
Note: This installation might be compatible with certain 1996 - 1997 Miata factory radios. I do not have any personal experience with these radios. See Stephen Foskett's Miata Audio Pinouts site for more information about the various factory radios Mazda has used in Miatas.
Why This Custom Install is Possible
The above Miata models have a 16-pin connector located on the rear of their factory radio. This connector is normally used to add the cassette player option to the sound system. Present on this 16-pin connector are direct (line-level) inputs for audio right, audio left, and audio ground. The 16-pin connector also has a pin that — when +12-volts is applied — turns off the AM/FM circuitry and turns on the direct (line-in) circuitry. This allows the direct connection of external audio devices, such as the iPhone, iPod or other mp3 player.
Note: If you already have a cassette player in your 1999 - 2001 Miata, you will have to either remove it or figure out a way to tap into the cassette player's wiring harness.
Why So Few Models?
Miata factory radios prior to the mid-1996 model year can also have a direct (line-level) input added. Those earlier radios have a round connector on the back, which is not being detailed in this article. However, the information I am providing in this article could be used in conjunction with the 1990 - 1996 factory radio audio pinout designations to fashion a similar home-brew harness for those early models.
Starting in 2002, Mazda switched to a different design for their Miata factory radios. These later models require a different approach to adding a direct (line-in) input. Commercial solutions are available from various vendors for 2002+ model years.
Not Every Step is Covered
These instructions assume the installer is already knowledgeable about the disassembly of the Miata's center console and removal of the factory radio. Lots of helpful information regarding wrenching on a Miata can be found in both the forums and the garage section of Miata.net.
Parts Needed For This Project
- Two Molex .100-pitch KK Crimp Terminal Housing - 8 Circuits
- One Dension iPod Cradle - Model #IP34CR9 (Part number is important! IP34CR9 is the newer 9-pin miniDIN model with 5-volt charge support.)
- One Panavise In-Dash Mount for '99-'05 Miata - Panavise part #75127-6990
- One 9-Pin miniDIN Female Connector - Digi-Key part #CP-2190-ND
- One USB (5-volt) Cigarette Lighter Adapter (I used a TomTom model because it has a sturdy cable and a built-in fuse but any cigarette lighter adapter with a USB plug or that has an output of 5-volts DC should work.)
- One Cigarette Lighter Socket, Insulated with Wire Leads attached (I purchased the linked twin plug-in converter and cut off the male cigarette plug, giving me two female sockets with wires attached.)
- One Add-A-Circuit ATM (Mini Fuse) Adapter
- One In-Line Fuse Holder with a fuse rated at 1A
- One Single Pole Single Throw (SPST) Rocker Switch
- 3M Double-Sided Foam Mounting Tape
- One 1K-Ohm Resistor
- Two Female Spade Connectors that fit the male spade lugs on the switch
- Miscellaneous wire, heat shrink tubing, electrical tape, wire ties, etc.
- Soldering Iron
- Wire Cutter
- Wire Stripper
- Multimeter, Test Light, or other method to check continuity
- Screwdrivers, Wrenches, etc.
Home-brew Wiring Harness Description
- Pin #1 on the 16-pin connector (Audio Right) goes to Pin #1 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket
- Pin #2 on the 16-pin connector (Audio Ground) goes to Pin #2 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket
- Pin #3 on the 16-pin connector (Audio Left) goes to Pin #3 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket
- Pin #6 on the 16-pin connector (Line-In Trigger) goes to the SPST Rocker Switch
- Pin #9 on the 16-pin connector (+12-volts) passes through the In-Line Fuse and the 1K-Ohm Resistor and goes to the SPST Rocker Switch
- Pin #4 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket (+5-volts) goes to the positive lead of the Cigarette Lighter Adapter
- Pin #7 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket (Electrical Ground) goes to the negative lead of the Cigarette Lighter Adapter
Installation Photos and Descriptions
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. The following photos should help explain the assembly and installation of the necessary home-brew wiring harness.
Note that the 16-pin connector is numbered right to left with odd pin numbers across the top and even pin numbers across the bottom.
Dension iPod Cradle
The SPST rocker switch is installed into passenger-side dash trim cover. A notch is cut in the corner of the dash trim cover to allow the Dension iPod Cradle's cable to pass through.
Home-brew 16-pin Connector
To fashion a 16-pin connector that will fit the 16-pin socket on the back of the factory radio, the two Molex connectors are attached together (stacked) using a piece of the 3M double-sided foam tape.
The harness is fed through the opening where the dash trim panel was removed. The 16-pin connector end is fed to the area behind the factory radio. (Remove the glove box door to gain easier access.)
The power to charge the iPhone or iPod is tapped at the factory fuse box using an Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter. This clever device allows you to add a new circuit — complete with its own fuse — to an existing circuit. I chose to install the Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter in the cigar fuse slot of the factory fuse box.
The Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter is connected to the center terminal (+12-volts) of the cigarette lighter socket. The surround of the cigarette lighter socket is attached to any convenient screw that is attached to the Miata's chassis (ground).
Cigarette Lighter Adapter
I did not take photos of the cigarette lighter adapter. The cigarette lighter adapter is used to convert the vehicle's +12-volts to the appropriate +5-volts needed to safely charge your iPhone or iPod. Cut off the USB plug at the end of the cigarette lighter adapter's cable and strip the wires. There should be just two wires. Red is +5-volts and black is ground. Use a DC voltage meter to double-check the output voltage and polarity of the cigarette lighter adapter BEFORE you connect it to the Dension Cradle. It must read about 5 volts. Do NOT connect higher voltage or you risk damaging your iPhone or iPod.
After installing the Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter and cigarette lighter socket, plug the cigarette lighter adapter into the socket and secure it in place with some electrical tape. You want the adapter to stay nice and snug in the socket. Tuck the cigarette lighter adapter and socket up under the dash near the factory fuse box and secure the package in place with some nylon wire ties. Be sure none of the wires are rubbing against any sharp metal edges.
Finally, route the cigarette lighter adapter's cable over to the area behind the center console. The cigarette lighter adapter's +5-volt and ground wires attach to the appropriate wires on the home-brew wiring harness.
Mounting The Dension Cradle
I mounted the Dension iPod Cradle using a Panavise In-Dash Mount.
Keeping Things Neat
I used a couple of black nylon cable clamps to secure the Dension Cradle's cable to the backside of the Panavise mount.
Time to Listen to Some Tunes
Once everything is installed and hooked up, throwing the SPST rocker switch will put the radio into LINE mode ("LINE" will be displayed on the radio's LCD screen). Press play on your iPod or iPhone and enjoy your favorite music or podcast!
Thanks to this new model Dension iPod Cradle it is finally possible to have an attractive iPod dock mounted in your car and charge the latest iPhone or iPod devices at the same time. It is also worth noting that the sound quality from the audio pins on the iPhone or iPod dock connector is vastly superior to the sound quality from those devices' headphone jack.
Those participating in the upcoming Ultimate Miata Road Trip - Route 66 Chicago to LA decided to have some custom-logo door magnetics made to commemorate the adventure.
Our thanks to our friend Tom for the logo design and to our friends Jeri and Sean at Sign Up for making the magnetics!
A story that my buddy VBob related to me back in the early '90s: He was at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races and it was the first year that Mazda was making a big push to populate the infield with a bunch of their new sports car, the Miata. It had been prearranged that all of the Miata owners would meet outside the gates to Laguna Seca Raceway, and then all drive to the infield in parade style. VBob was standing on a hill inside the track as this long line of over 300 Miatas snaked into the infield. Standing near VBob, also watching the long procession of jellybean-colored cars, were a couple of MG owners. VBob overheard a bit of their conversation. As best I remember VBob's telling, the conversation went something like this: MG owner #1 said, "They supposedly don't leak oil or have electrical problems. So what do you think the owners talk about?" To which MG owner #2 replied, "The color of their car?"
Bingo! Miata owners have been debating car color since the car was introduced.
Really, though, there's nothing to debate. Sports cars are supposed to be red. Sure, I'll take a Miata in almost any color versus some lesser car in red. The Miata is too much fun to drive to let car color stop me from enjoying the experience. But sports cars are supposed to be red. This is a known fact. Even those that choose to drive a yellow one or blue one are doing it just to be different. They're making a statement that they are an individual. That they make their own decisions, instead of following the herd. But deep down inside, even they know sports cars are supposed to be red. If they won the lottery tomorrow and found themselves shopping for a Ferrari, they'd buy a red one.
When Mazda introduced the Miata in 1989, it was available in just three colors. Classic Red, Crystal White, and Mariner Blue. For the first several years, over 70% of the Miatas sold were red. Granted, that had a lot to do with Mazda's production numbers. Mazda made more red ones because they knew... sports cars are supposed to be red. But Mazda's decision was also influenced by the demand. The Miata-hungry public wanted red ones. The public knew.
Fortunately, Mazda picked the correct shade of red from the start. Classic Red is the perfect red for a sports car. Not too purple and not too orange. A nice, deep, paint-is-two-inches-thick red. Then, in 2004, Mazda got it right again with the Velocity Red on the Mazdaspeed Miata. Velocity Red is, basically, an ever-so-slightly deeper Classic Red plus metal flake. It's a gorgeous color for a sports car. Both Classic Red and Velocity Red are true sports car colors. Sadly, even Mazda eventually screwed up sports car red.
For 2006, when Mazda released the redesigned Miata, they replaced Classic Red with True Red. True Red is a sad example of sports car red. True Red is too orange. Next to Classic Red or Velocity Red, a True Red Miata looks like a pumpkin. The True Red models apparently don''t sell all that well, either. I see very few of them on the road. The much darker Copper Red is more popular. You'd think Mazda would figure it out and bring back Classic Red.
There are many owners of early Miatas that might be swayed to upgrade to a newer model if Mazda was offering a proper shade of red for their uber-popular sports car. Some of these older models are getting long in the tooth. It seems to me that Mazda is missing out on some sales. Yet, Mazda keeps going completely in the wrong direction by offering different shades of blue. That's certainly not the answer. As we all know, sports cars are supposed to be red!
Correction: It's been brought to my attention that it was Alfa owners, not MG owners, at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races.