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.


  1. I just stumbled across this post on accident. I also live in Illinois and also own a Miata (2000 LS). I'm swapping out shocks and was thinking of adding a set of FM springs which I believe will lower the car about 1-1.5 inches. This is my year round daily driver. How much of an impact on livability have you found lowering the car to be? Especially in terms of lower ground clearance in winter?

  2. Sorry for the late response, I only just saw this comment. I hope I've caught you before you put springs on.

    The car wash aside, ground clearance wasn't really an issue last winter. I drove through several blizzards on all-season tires and with a bag of sand in the trunk, only once having trouble getting out of the driveway.

    That day it had snowed something like 6 inches overnight, and I decided I'd throw a bag of salt in the trunk for extra traction. That was too much -- the car was so low from the extra weight that it was plowing the snow more than anything. Took the bags out, cleared a starting path, and I made it out.

    I wasn't fast and I had to be careful (as with any winter in any car), but I survived just fine. Potholes are a little harsh, so if you live in, say, Chicago, it might annoy you on some of the rougher roads.

    A set of snow tires would probably be a good investment -- I'm planning on getting some, probably in a slightly taller size like 185/65-14. That'd be better for gas mileage, too.

    I might add that I'm more cavalier than most about driving in bad weather. I've driven through some truly awful blizzards, so if you're faint of heart or unsure about your skills in adverse weather, keep that in mind and definitely invest in snow tires.


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