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Mazda Miata NB (1999-2000) Variable-Speed Intermittent Wiper Control

by Joe Feise

Intro:

Ever since I got my Miata, I was dismayed at the lack of a variable-speed intermittent wiper setting. Such variable-speed intermittent wipers have been standard on most cars since the early 90ies. It is strange that Mazda, even in the latest Miatas still does not provide this feature. There have been some discussions on the Miata.net Forums but the workarounds discussed there weren't enticing to me. So I finally set out to find the "ultimate solution" (ultimate for me, anyway.)

Description:

A check of the 1999 Miata Workshop Manual showed that the windshield wiper control circuit is part of the light/signal/wiper combination switch. The instructions to remove the combination switch call for removal of the steering wheel, which I wanted to avoid since I have a lot of respect for the air bag module and I didn't want to touch that. I also didn't want to experiment and potentially destroy the wiper control circuit in my car, so I bought a used combination switch from a wrecker.

A circuit for a variable-speed intermittent wiper is in principle quite simple: A capacitor is charged through a resistor. Once the capacitor is charged, it opens a transistor which switches a relay. Varying the resistor value changes the time it takes to charge the capacitor. Switching between multiple resistors of different values or using a potentiometer makes the time variable.

Parts Needed :

10 kOhm resistor.

100 kOhm potentiometer, linear taper, e.g., a thumbwheel pot (Mouser Electronics, type 311-1700-100K with switch, type 311-1600-100K or 311-1206F-100K without switch) or a normal single-turn pot.

Knob for the potentiometer (for a thumbwheel pot, e.g., the one that comes with the 311-1206F-100K pot from Mouser.)

Optionally, 47 kOhm resistor to replace the 36 kOhm SMD resistor.

Information About the Circuit:

A circuit for a variable-speed intermittent wiper is in principle quite simple: A capacitor is charged through a resistor. Once the capacitor is charged, it opens a transistor which switches a relay. Varying the resistor value changes the time it takes to charge the capacitor. Switching between multiple resistors of different values or using a potentiometer makes the time variable.

The picture below shows the solder side of the wiper control circuit in the '99 Miata:

Here is the component side:

With that, I set out to figure out the workings of the circuit, which is made difficult due to the fact that the circuit combines several functions (intermittent, 2-speed, single-on, and washer) and also depends on a switch in the wiper motor. The Workshop Manual provides a basic wiring diagram of the wiper and washer, but leaves out all the electronics. After several false starts, I found out that the circuit board actually is already prepared for a variable-speed intermittent control, but for whatever reason, Mazda did not add the 2 resistors needed for it...


The picture below shows where the 2 resistors are added: a 10 kOhm resistor (I used an SMD resistor, but a normal resistor works just as well,) at the red circle, and a a 100 kOhm potentiometer or wires leading to an external pot at the green circle.
Since these resistors are connected in parallel with the existing 36 kOhm resistor, the resulting resistance is less than 36 kOhm. To keep the maximum delay in the previous range, I also replaced the existing 36 kOhm resistor (circled in blue) with a 47 kOhm one. That's of course strictly optional.
Update: after feedback from people on the miata.net forum and some experimentation I put a 100 kOhm resistor in there. I found I like the extended range better.

Installation:

With the circuit demystified, the actual installation in the car was the only thing left. As I mentioned above, I didn't want to remove the steering wheel. It is possible, but not easy, to get to the wiper circuit without steering wheel removal.


Back to the Garage

26 October, 2006



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