Thursday, January 22, 2009

The complications of washing a lowered Miata

I tried to take the Miata through a car wash on my lunch. It's been winter here (as in most places in the northern hemisphere), and I've been driving that car through 100+ miles of heavily salted Illinois roads every day for the last month or so. It's finally above freezing today, so I decided it was time.

There's a gas station down the street. I filled up and paid for the wash at the pump (20 cents off/gallon with wash) and went around the back. Woops.

It was a brush wash. That wasn't a bad thing in and of itself, but the mechanism is. It has one of those tracks that pulls your car along, and on either side of the track is a rail that keeps your tire from hopping out. And sure enough, the rail is about 6 or 8 inches high.

I pulled my car up to it very slowly, and heard a bump. Rolled back a little, got out and looked under the car. Sure enough, my steering rack was starting to ride up the inside rail. There's no way in hell I was gonna let my car get dragged along its underside for 50 feet just to get it washed. Turns out my car is no more than 5 inches off the ground.

By this time though, 2 trucks had lined up behind me. I had to ask them to back out, which made one guy unhappy, but oh well.

I went into the gas station and asked for a refund. The guy looked at the receipt and gave me $7 in cash.  I got to keep the gas discount, but my car remains covered in salt.

Spark plugs - ZX2

Yes, spark plugs are routine, and especially easy on a DOHC 4-cylinder. But it was a learning experience for Amanda, and it confirmed for me personally the problem with those fancy Bosch 2+ electrode spark plugs.

Amanda did most of this job herself. I replaced the first spark plug to show her, then she did the rest. She is slowly learning everything, as each job comes up. I'm impressed at her tenacity to continue learning this art of grease-monkeying. Also, her willingness to get (somewhat) dirty.

She has yet to bust her knuckles or be elbow-deep in grease and dirt, but those days will come.

About the Bosch plugs:
It's well documented on (the most populated and active ZX2 forum) that the best plugs for Ford's Zetec engine is the OEM Motorcraft platinum plugs. Some members specifically say to avoid the Bosch Platinum +2 or +4 spark plugs, that they work fine initially, but cause misfiring after a while. Me, I replaced the plugs when I first got the car, before I was a member of that forum and aware of this problem. Wanting high-quality plugs, I bought a set of the Bosch +2.

And sure enough, after 60 or 70 thousand miles with those plugs, the computer threw a CEL. The error code? P0303 - misfire on cylinder #3. We replaced them with Motorcraft Platinum.