OrangeRazor New Reader
Nov. 22, 2009 9:43 p.m.

Howdy all. I may soon have the opportunity to trade my old, beat up, high mileage Subaru for an old, beat up, high mileage Miata. The car in question is a '90 B or C package (has the daisy wheels, unknown on accessories) in Red, but it has some cosmetic damage.

A hit and run left the driver's side fender all dented up, and a deer took out the right headlight pod as well as bending in the bumper where it meets the fender. The owner has offered an extra fender, bumper and headlight for an additional fee with the trade, and I'll probably take him up on that.

Other than the cosmetic work, is there anything in particular I should look for in this high mileage example? I haven't checked out the car in person yet, so I thought I'd get a general perspective from those that have been there before me. Thanks in advance.

pres589 Reader
Nov. 22, 2009 9:58 p.m.

How much are you being asked to potentially pay for this beat up 200k mile Miata?

EvanB HalfDork
Nov. 22, 2009 10:03 p.m.

Mine is nearing 180k miles and it burns some oil, maybe a quart or so between oil changes. It is still on the original clutch and has had virtually no problems in the 50k miles that I have owned it.

It has recently developed a problem where the wipers and heater fan don't work in the rain or damp. It gets annoying since I forget about it until I have to go somewhere in the rain and the wipers don't work and the windshield is fogging up. I don't think this is a common problem though, I just haven't taken the time to search for the culprit.

So basically anything you would look for in a used car.

And of course there will be rust in the rockers behind the doors since you are in Ohio, mine is getting worse.

confuZion3 SuperDork
Nov. 22, 2009 10:10 p.m.

They all seem to get rust / rot on the rocker panel, all the way on the back, just in front of the rear wheel. This seems to come from the mysterious clogging of the drains allow the water that collects at the base of the top to flow to the bottom of the car onto the road.

Look for this on both sides. Also, you might want to poke a long, dull-ended object up this drain (easily found on the bottom of the car) to see if any debris comes out. No, not that object, you sicko.

Also, inside the passenger foot well, you will find a small rubber hose that goes from the bottom of the HVAC box thingey to the transmission tunnel. This is there to drain any water that the fresh air snorkel sucks in when it rains. This can also be clogged with sticks and cause your car to fill up with water when it gets trapped in there and spills out over your fan. Yank this thing off (it's stupid-easy) and clear it out.

Um, that's pretty much it. I find that if something goes wrong on my car, I either remove the failed part and keep it out (radio), or I hit it with something. I swear to God, my HVAC bulb has to be tapped firmly every time I turn on the lights. Also, the HVAC fan wasn't working very well last summer--it kept crapping out on me. I would have the passenger kick it, or I would reach over and hit it, and it would come back to life. Finally, I got mad and hit it hard with something heavy. It has worked faithfully ever since.

confuZion3 SuperDork
Nov. 22, 2009 10:13 p.m.
EvanB wrote: It has recently developed a problem where the wipers and heater fan don't work in the rain or damp. It gets annoying since I forget about it until I have to go somewhere in the rain and the wipers don't work and the windshield is fogging up. I don't think this is a common problem though, I just haven't taken the time to search for the culprit.

We were posting at the same time. By the way, EvanB, see my post about the HVAC fan. If you hit it and it comes on that might be the fix. If it keeps crapping out, just hit it with a bigger hammer. Right on the bottom of the motor. Also, unclog that drain hose. The water spilling onto your fan has likely caused your fan troubles as it did mine. I don't know why hitting it makes it better, but it probably will help you too.

Keith SuperDork
Nov. 22, 2009 10:19 p.m.

The one thing I would specifically check on a high mileage 1990 would be the crank nose. Check to see if it's got any visible wobble or signs of rust near the bolt. The problems with the small nose crank are more likely to show up after a timing belt change (with an incorrectly torqued bolt) and a 200,000 mile car has had more belt changes than average

Honestly, at 200,000 miles everything should be suspect. They're rugged little cars, but not invincible. By that point, they can be exhibiting a wide variety of quirks.

Or not. Some are still princesses at that points. A lot of Miatae lead very pampered lives.

OrangeRazor New Reader
Nov. 23, 2009 12:07 a.m.

I will most definitely be investigating the crank pulley thoroughly. I think the only way to truly discover all the little idiosyncrasies would be to live with the thing for a while, which is only an option after purchase.

The car is actually in Kentucky, but that doesn't mean the rust won't be a problem since they still salt some roads in the Bluegrass. A little rust isn't a big deal, but if there are holes I'll reconsider.

Did not know about the hose under the dash, that's something to look at. Thanks ConfuZion3.

In reply to pres589: It would most likely be a straight up trade for my also-cosmetically-impaired Subaru Impreza (see my avatar), plus some extra cash for straight body panels. I see a Satin Black or Rustoleum paint job in my future.

What about replacing the whole headlight assembly? I haven't found a good diagram of it so I cannot make a guess as to what part is broken and what I'll need to replace. Otherwise, is it a terribly consuming or difficult affair?

EvanB HalfDork
Nov. 23, 2009 12:16 a.m.

It shouldn't be too hard to replace the headlight assembly. As far as I know you can just unbolt the whole thing and installation is the opposite of removal.

It may not be too rusty, the other Miatae I have seen around here in Columbus look to be in better shape than mine. Of course mine used to look good but the little paint blister on the passenger rocker when I bought it has progressively gotten worse. I haven't tried the expanding foam method yet

Keith SuperDork
Nov. 23, 2009 12:32 a.m.

Expanding foam is the correct repair technique when you're a bit unsavory and looking to turn a quick profit. If it's your car, metal must be involved. It's structural.

EvanB HalfDork
Nov. 23, 2009 12:35 a.m.

Well I have decided not to repair the rust on my car, it is in the frame, rockers, and floor so I am just going to drive it into the ground and replace it with a rust-free example when I have the resources. Good to know about the structural element though.

joey48442 SuperDork
Nov. 23, 2009 1:18 a.m.

I know it's structural, but my rusty 192k mile body didn't seem that bad. When I finally disassembled that body and put all the parts on an 84k mile rust free tub, along with new control arm bushings, fm frame rail braces, and the rear subframe connectors from 94+, it didn't feel that much stiffer. And the former tub was rotten, bad. Rust almost up to the trim line in the rocker, and further forward in the rocker than the rear corner of the door. The car is stiff, now, don't get me wrong, but it was that bad before.


Wowak SuperDork
Nov. 23, 2009 1:57 a.m.

Things I'd worry about, in order:

rust crank pulley rust

after that its the standard miata stuff: how good is the paint/top/interior, has the radiator/shocks/hoses/catalytic coverter/timing belt/water pump been replaced recently or ever, is it a color I like (Sunburst Yellow, BRG, Mariner Blue,) etc.

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