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Mazda MX-5 Miata common problems (1990-2005)

Mazda MX-5 Miata

If anyone ever needs an example of a car manufacturer taking aim at a nail and displaying perfect accuracy with the downswing, then the Mazda MX-5 Miata is that car.

The first two generations of the little Mazda roadster were small, light, nimble, fun, cheap to run and reliable. But it wasn’t perfect, and any car that is of the vintage of the Mk1 or Mk2 MX-5 Miata is bound to have suffered a few gremlins here and there. Probably ongoing ones, too.

But there’s no reason for the home mechanic to worry. The MX-5 Miata is a simple and easy car to work on, so all you need do is have your Haynes manual by your side and you’ll be able to sort most issues.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

What recalls has the Mazda MX-5 Miata been subject to?

The first two generations of the Mazda MX-5 Miata were on sale for 15 years, so the fact that the car has been recalled on just a very few occasions is something to be celebrated. Mazda certainly seemed to get things right from the off.

One recall concerned the turn signal lamps at the back end of the car. They hadn’t been painted with enough reflective paint, so weren’t bright enough.

The second recall concerned cars that had been bought with the optional hardtop. The buckles on the hardtop hoist were found to break under strain, and could cause the hardtop itself to fall to the ground and become damaged.

A much later recall concerned the fuel non-return valve, which needed to be replaced.

The powertrain control module needed to be replaced on some cars because it wasn’t operating correctly during the engine warm-up phase.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

What common problems does the Mazda MX-5 Miata have?

The Mazda MX-5 Miata has been around for a long time, which means that there’s has been plenty of real-world testing by owners as they go about their daily lives with the car.

And one of those tests happens every time you get into and out of the car, because you need to put on your seatbelt, and over time the belt itself can become more difficult to pull out and retract.

The interior is the source of another common fault on the MX-5 Miata, because the seat backrest hinge can start to cause a rattle over time.

And if you’re going to take your Mazda MX-5 Miata out for a spin then you’re going to need to fill it with fuel. Unfortunately, the car can develop a fault that makes the tank extremely slow to fill.

The MX-5 Miata is renowned for its handling, and the way it makes the backroads a joy to drive. But that ability is going to be compromised if the shock absorbers lose their oil, which is what can happen. Replacement is the key.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Does the Mazda MX-5 Miata have seatbelt problems?

So, some owners have reported that after a while, the seatbelts can become harder to pull out and that they don’t retract fully of their own accord.

This is simply a case of dirt building up – the car is an open-top after all.

The solution is to remove the seatbelts from the vehicle, which is simply a matter of removing a few bolts, and then cleaning up the belts with hot, soapy water and a brush. Allow the belts to dry fully before reinstalling them in the vehicle.

The entire seatbelt removal procedure is contained in your Haynes MX-5 manual, so don’t feel worried about giving it a go.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Does the Mazda MX-5 Miata have fuel pipe problems?

If you’re out enjoying the moment in your MX-5 Miata, having to make an extremely slow fuel stop is going to cause an annoying interruption to your day.

But that’s what a number of owners have reported. The fuel system can suddenly become extremely slow to fill, with the pump clicking off frequently and the tank stopping any more fuel being added despite it being a long way from full.

The solution is to replace the fuel tank, the fuel filler pipe and the breather pipe.

Sounds like a big job but it isn’t really that bad – all you need to do is make sure the tank is drained before you start, then raise and support the vehicle on jackstands before getting under it and removing all the affected components.

This procedure has been covered in great detail in the Haynes Miata manual, so, just study what needs to be done and away you go.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Does the Mazda MX-5 Miata have shock absorber problems?

Darting from apex to apex is part of what makes any MX-5 Miata a joy. The way it changes direction like a fleeing jackrabbit is almost unique in today’s world. But worn-out shocks are going to not only dilute the joy, they’re also going to make your Mazda feel truly sloppy.

If you remove the shock and there’s only a light misting of oil at the top, then all is well, but if the shock is covered in oil, it’s time to replace it.

It won’t take long, but you’re best advised to replace the shocks in pairs across an axle. In effect, if you’re going to replace one front shock, it’s best to replace the other at the same time. Likewise with the rears.

The shock absorber replacement procedure is covered in your Haynes MX-5 Miata manual, so you shouldn’t have any fears about getting the new parts and fitting them yourself.

Alternatively, watch our FREE video below on how to replace the rear shocks on your MX-5 Miata.

Does the Mazda MX-5 Miata have fuel pump problems?

You’ve got your foot down. The revs are siling towards the redline, you’re just about to hook another gear when… cough. Splutter. Rev. Cough. A misfire. Your forward progress is seriously curtailed, and you look like you couldn’t drive a hard bargain let alone a sports car.

Fuel delivery is the problem, and the fault lies at the door of the fuel pump, which can fail over time and cause intermittent fuel delivery.

You’ll need to replace the pump, which is located within the fuel tank, but the job isn’t that hard. Just get to the tank by removing the parcel shelf and access panel, then unbolt and withdraw the pump from the tank, before separating it from the mounting bracket and replacing it. Then it’s simply a matter of refitting it and putting everything back together. This is completely covered in the Haynes MX-5 Miata manual, so don’t give it a second thought.

Mazda MX-5 Miata