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Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
7/1/20 11:52 a.m.

Ah, you have met Mike The Miata King. He's great.

I'm always leery of YouTube video "information". There's no entrance exam. You don't have any idea if the procedure being illustrated is being performed by someone who has written three books on the car or someone who read a forum post and tried it once. It might give you an idea of how hard the job is but it could also involve all sorts of extra steps.

Prime example for this is the timing belt change. It's really very easy to do right, but for some reason people have been tying themselves in knots about it for years and have come up with all sorts of goofy extra work to make it harder and more complicated and to stress over it. If you just follow the procedure that Mazda laid out over three decades ago, there's no question. But there are dozens if not hundreds of videos telling you how to do it the hard way.

Miata King did give good, if flamboyant advice. His video on doing the oil pan in the car was crazy. He said the aircraft mechanic owner nicked the oil pick up tube drilling a turbo drain in the pan. There was a 1/2' hole drilled right through it. He was probably being nice. 

I honestly wondered why everyone got so bent out of shape over the timing belts. I figured I'd find out when I got there.

Also, rest assured, I may watch these videos, but I also, read my Haynes manual, your books, and whatever else I can find.

I've had limited use of my hands for a bit, so I'm researching stuff to death. Should help some once I really dive in.

New Top.

Let's just say, this is not the best project to undertake while recovering from hand surgery. I struggled for a day and a half, but it's on. My hat is off to those who can do this well. 

I am pleased with the result, and this top was on sale for $279 complete with rain rail, if I remember correctly. 

dherr (Forum Supporter)
dherr (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/4/20 12:28 p.m.

Well that looks like a million bucks and hats off to you doing it after surgery :-)  I did my NC top, was not particularly hard to do but takes some patience and definitely time and a good set of  hands!  I would call that $279 well spent!

I took today to clean up and arrange the compound, and just pick at some stuff. 

The Miata got a new fuel filter,

and rear brake pads.

As I work on this car, I start to see what all the hype is about. The e-brake adjustment is brilliant. It really is engineered superbly. A pleasure to work on. 

I sucked all the bad brake and clutch fluid from the reservoirs and replaced it, but the clutch was pretty nasty. I'll bleed and see how it goes, with the acknowledgement that the lot may need to be replaced soon. The front pads had plenty of material left. Good to go.

Well, today, I got some help, and bled/purged the brakes and clutch, determined I'd be better off doing new tie rod ends, and gave the car a thorough once over to see where the leaks are.

Funny thing, now I've got a check engine light that appears to be rod/main knock. Also, the harmonic damper is visibly wobbling.

So, that does it. This engine's coming out. Rebuild/replace time. Are 1.8s known for harmonic damper failure/bad crank snouts? Guess I'll find out.

In other news, the truck got a new aluminum radiator, motor mounts, and fan. 

That has little to do with the price of pickets to tittsburg,  but there you go.

Edit: In reading through the Ronald thread, I find that harmonic dampers are in fact problematic on these. The crank doesn't appear to be much of an issue.

More mundane yet necessary stuff. 

I changed the diff fluid.

Made a new dipstick handle (idea shamlessly stolen from a forum member-thanks!).

And did new outer tie rod ends.

I'm trying not to fall down a never ending hole of repair work, but plenty of stuff needs attention. 265K miles is quite a lot. Add transmission seals to the list. More to come.


Over the last two days, this happened:

Two days because I'm gimpy, it's ninety five degrees here, and my work spot is in direct afternoon sun. For the moment I'm on four tens at work, so weeknights are mostly done, but I should be able to hit it on weekends.

I'm also being extra diligent because it is going to be a while before the engine goes back in. I Sta-bil-ed the full tank of fuel, and ran the car up to temp before pulling the greasy bastidge out.

I'm definitely feeling I made the right choice pulling the lump. Below the belt-line, it looked like the high mileage engine it is. Vacuum lines are hard, the timing cover was broken off where the alternator mounts to it (Edit: it luckily turned out to be the water pump casting that was broken. The timing covers are those plastic things), and has the long bolt at the bottom broken off so that it won't even come off. All that, along with big oil leaks, wobbly pulley, , leaky transmission, and who knows what else adds up to a full tear down.

Forgive me a couple of pictures as notes for reassembly:

All tucked away for the night.


dherr (Forum Supporter)
dherr (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/19/20 7:12 a.m.

Well this certainly escalated quickly.... what are your plans for the engine?

In reply to dherr (Forum Supporter) :

The plan is to build this lump into an optimized stock engine. Maximum attention to detail, hopefully minimum machining, and get a good runner. 

I'll try to do a shade tree blueprinting, balancing rods and pistons, a light gasket match and port job on the head, hand grind the valves, etc.

Unless I tear it down and its really a mess, in which case, big rebuild on this or junkyard engine. Junkyard engines all seem to have 150K on them, so I really don't like that idea.

Basically, this is going to be a daily driver/stock autocrosser/fun weekend car.

dherr (Forum Supporter)
dherr (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/19/20 12:32 p.m.

That makes sense. Since no one had purchased my parts car, I am going to just pull the body off the subframes and use all of it for the automatic car. As you said, despite having high compression, I need to go thru the motor as it has 166k on it and I have no idea of the maintenance. I'll likely do what you are proposing as I don't want to spend $$$ but want it to be reliable for another 100K. I already have a fast one with MSM so this one will just be a DD. I'll be watching to see what you find in your high mileage engine.

In reply to dherr (Forum Supporter) :

Yeah, I saw your parts car, and was sorely tempted-screaming deal.

Problem with that is twofold. One, we are sincerely trying to just stay home during this whole pandemic thing. Two, when I look at your parts car, I see a ghettocet, and I must limit my damn projects. What you are proposing sounds cool, and a chance for the ugly miata (auto) to go to prom, and do what the cool kids do.

Today was pressure washing, along with a crap ton of degreaser. Sure beats crawling over and under the car all day. Still nasty, though.

Much better.

The goal here is not spotless like a show car, but rather clean enough to not suck working on, and easy to spot leaks/trouble.

I left the engine to pee outside as much as possible, and came in for an almost entirely ineffective shower.

In the good news department, the clutch, pressure plate and flywheel look good as is.


Been picking away, just a bit every night...

Not all sludgy under the valve cover:

Though, pretty grungy under the timing cover.


Valves look okay.

And not sure if it'll show up, but I spy a bit of crosshatching in them thar cylinders.

But its not all puppy dogs and lollipops.

So, I need a new crank. This is not entirely bad news, as if I can get a good one, I can use stock sized bearings, and I bet a crank is cheaper (not to mention, more quarantine friendly) than having the machining done. I'm in a strange place where I know no machine shops.

Another minor win: my new water pump has the offending (broken) alternator mount.  As I'm sure will come to a shock to no one, Keith was right, and what I thought was a leaking oil pan appears to have been a leaking oil cooler.

So, should I get everything from the crank out new, as the pulley was visibly wobbling, and noticeably off center when I went to unbolt it?

More to come.


cmcgregor (Forum Supporter)
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
7/23/20 12:26 p.m.

Bummer about the crank. Have you considered swapping to an NB motor, or do you want to keep it mostly original? 

Definitely replace the pulley if it looks like the timing mark has moved, but that keyway is a smoking gun for your wobble.

In reply to cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) :

I'd like to stay original, but the old head on an NB block might be okay. I really don't want to fool with variable intake/variable valve stuff. Thing is I'm definitely not seeing any cranks available. I've only been looking a day, but one for a couple hundred that had spun a bearing is all I saw on flea-bay. I'll do some more digging. Does anyone know if a NB crank drops in? Seems like it would.

I'll definitely replace the pulley, but will have to see how the timing belt pulley slides on a new crank when I get one. 

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/23/20 4:47 p.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) (Forum Supporter) :

If you get a 99 or 00 engine, you should be OK on the VVT front as these don't have it. They also have a useful bump in compression, but I'm not sure how well they work with the existing engine management.

Oh, and they're also the most sought after NB engines, at least that's the impression I'm getting.

In reply to BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) :

I believe the 99-00 have variable intake runners, that I could get to work. I missed your earlier post involving the big pistons-they do sound sweet, but probably not my jam right now.

So, Questions for those in the know, if you can:

Can I bolt my '97 head to any BP 1.8 block?

Will any 1.8 BP crank work in my block? (would I have to get complimentary pulleys/etc?)

Would putting my head on a NB block make for an interference engine?

Where can I find a darned crank?

Stefan (Forum Supporter)
Stefan (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/23/20 5:29 p.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) (Forum Supporter) :

Psst: The B6 isn't just used in the Miata, but you'd likely have to buy an entire block from something to get what you need.


If you have or want a 1.8:




Stefan (Forum Supporter)
Stefan (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/23/20 5:36 p.m.

You can search Car-Part.com for local yards:


Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
7/23/20 6:13 p.m.

Yes, all the 1.8 cranks are the same. Yes, you can put your head on any 1.8 block - match the head gasket to the head. This 1997 had 9:1 compression. The 1999-00 has slightly more and the 2001-05 has slightly more yet.

We used to have a forest of crankshafts. I'd try hitting up a Spec Miata shop. 

Crank nose failures on a 1.8 usually mean a bolt that wasn't tight. It's not that common, so I'm glad you didn't spend a lot of time chasing this,

In reply to Stefan (Forum Supporter) :

Thanks for broadening my search. Excellent points! Still no love with those others, but maybe PAP-able.

Keith: I just finished re-reading a few passages in "Performance Projects" that told me that. I appreciate you being Johnny on the spot with the info/hand holding. Will look into spec Miata shops.

I'll keep searching. I have found a couple of complete BP-ZEs, which I'm learning, is what I have, but I'd prefer to just grab a crank, if I can.

I was having real trouble locating a used crank, so put out an APB over the GRM braintrust and had several options within a couple of hours. Thanks all, Particularly Dusterbd.

I got a look at the bottom end-pretty clean, other than the crank and pulleys.

And I've been cleaning and painting the accessories so once I have my ducks in a row, I can get going.

I didn't like the captured bolt coming through the back of the alternator, and since it was kind of jacked, I reached a new arrangement via the scrap bin, angle grinder, and lathe.


Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/26/20 4:33 p.m.

I assume you worked something out with sam?

In reply to Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) :

Left a message. Told him it was casual, but I have renewed confidence in finding what I need.

Blunder blindly onward.

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/26/20 4:55 p.m.

If you don't hear back from him tomorrow,  try text. Hea always Johnny on the spot with me via text 

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