Rotten Apple Meets...


RA: It appears that this month we didn't receive any real rolling-on-the floor funny entries; but, we did get several from folks who wanted to share some DIY experiences. So, we've picked two of the best and both entries will receive recognition and gift certificates from selected Miata Net Vendors.


Experience #1: "Mr President, we have a problem...."

After becoming the new proud owner of a '94 base with 65k miles on it, I decided it would be high time to change the timing belt myself. I did so, with the usual grunting and straining to get the pulleys lined up, etc. I ended up buying an impact wrench and air compressor to remove the front crank nut. ($300 for both, but I ended up using both for many things like restoring my Jeep in the long run.)

After ordering a new water pump and receiving one that didn't fit, and putting the right one on after a week of waiting, I found that going to the dealer and buying a new water pump was cheaper than the aftermarket one I got and they had it in stock. (Lost:$25 and 3 days)

After getting everything together and buttoned up I realized that I forgot to put the bottom timing belt cover on so I ended up tearing it back apart and putting it on. (Lost:2 hours)

Putting the valve cover back on I had the ft-lb instead of the in-lb torque wrench in my hand and broke one of the valve cover bolts and stressed the rest. I had to drill out the broken bolt and replace all of them. (Lost:2 hours and $25 worth of bolts)

After putting it back together and inspecting the replaced belt and service records the owner had given me realized that the dealer had replaced the belt as part of the 60K service the owner had done. (Lost: several days and too much $$$$)

After driving around for a week on the new belt went on a 300 mile road trip to visit my parents. I got a late start and as I was climbing a hill at 75 MPH on I-5 in a lonely desolated area as it was getting dark on the Friday of a three day weekend. I flip the lights on. I get a really serious vibration and think I blew a tire, but I push in the clutch and it goes away and the charge light comes on. I make it to the shoulder and open the hood to see my crank pulley gone and the bolt lying on the plastic underbody shield. OH CRAP! I have no cell phone and three tools: a 10 and 12 mm box end wrench, and the lug nut wrench. I find the crank pulley laying on the shoulder 100 feet back from the car. I try to put it back on but the key is hashed and the timing belt pulley is sticking out from it's intended position on the crankshaft. I try to stuff it back on and I can't.

A brand new Ford pickup truck runs out of gas and pulls over right in front of me, and calls a flatbed tow truck, which brings him gas. The owner of the tow truck offers to tow me back to town, which is a very small place with one gas station and his shop. I tell him what happened and he says: "I'll tell you what, I have another call to make, and if you can fix your car yourself you can use my tools and I'll only charge you for the tow."

I was able to fix the thing in his shop and get going on my way through the very creative use of a file and a hammer to clean up the mangled woodruff key. I made it to my parent's and re-did the belt job but this time I used Loctite on the crank pulley bolt and it is still fine at 140k miles!

I am now a lot better at making sure I do things right and carry tools, a woodruff key, and a flashlight in my trunk at all times.

All this is true, I swear!

Josiah Bartlett


Experience #2: "Would your wife help change a motor?"

Back in November 2000 we were coming back from Thanksgiving holiday, 500 miles away from home. About 200 miles from home, our Miata pooped out. I did the normal side-of-the road diagnostics (lift the hood, try starting it), no dice. Luckily, I had cell phone coverage, and I called my insurance companies' towing service.

We were about 60 miles from anything of consequence. The flatbed tow truck driver took us there in thick holiday traffic, and dropped the car off in the back of a parking lot- we weren't going to take it to an out of town mechanic, knowing that it "felt" like a blown head gasket or crank problem.

After a long night, several walks, and towing the Miata home with a U-Haul and rented trailer, we tore into the engine and realized that we had the fun crank problem. So we pulled the engine, mulled our options, and picked up a new engine from a dealership about 80 miles up the road.

Tamara, my wife, and I swapped the engines in less than two weeks. This was all done after long work days and on the weekend. The Miata Forum, of course, contributed greatly when we had questions like "hey, where does THAT go?".

After the final assembly- PPF, driveline, transmission, wiring bits- we fired the car up. It smoked for a few seconds and then sounded GREAT! I put it in gear, intending to watch the back tires spin (I have the car on jack stands at this point).

Okay, so I didn't put it in gear. The clutch felt like stepping on a wet fish. It was already halfway to the floor, and pressing it the rest of the way down didn't do anything.

Fine, maybe I need to start it in gear. So I turn it off, put it in gear, and fire the car back up. It sounds like a dead battery as I try to fire it back up- once it starts, I realize why. The back tires are just spinning. Depressing the clutch doesn't do anything- and stomping on the brakes kills the engine.

I thought about it for a little while, and then came in and searched the forum. My mouse was looking pretty black at this point from the grease.

A couple of posts on the Miata forums talked about dumb individuals who installed their clutch plate backwards. Wait a minute. The clutch is the same on both sides, right? Gradually I realize that isn't the case.

So out to the car, time to drop the driveline, slide the PPF aside, pull the transmission, and flip the clutch plate. I aligned the clutch plate by sight the first time, but now that the engine and transmission are in the car, I'm glad that I have a clutch alignment tool from Flyin' Miata.

After that long of a project, I'm not surprised that small things happen like putting the clutch on backwards. But that's not how it feels at one in the morning when I'm repeating a large part of the work!

Ted Timmons


Congratulations to Josiah and Ted for sharing their Rotten Apple stories with us. We are pleased to send them gift certificates from Moss Motors and MM Marketing as a special thank you for sharing!

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