Monday, January 19, 2009

Project Miata update #1

Time for a new suspension. I wasn't quite expecting to have to do anything to the suspension on this car since it came with a set of Koni Sport shocks and Ground Control coilovers already installed. I thought I was set on that front. Well, I was wrong. After driving the car around a few times I noticed that the suspension was bottoming out over larger dips. It is well know that Miatas, especially first generation models, have limited suspension travel at stock height which only gets worse when you lower the car. Mine however, is not very low so I decided to investigate.

Changing bumpstops is a common upgrade on Miatas to soften up some crashing suspension bottoming out. Miatas rely on their bumpstops more than most cars as they are designed as a supplement to the springs due to the limited suspension travel. I figured maybe I needed to step up to some better progressive bumpstops so that was my first area of investigation. Unfortunately for me, I discovered that there were no bumpstops at all. Bad news which only got worse.

While is was under there looking, I also noticed that the Ground Control coilovers were not installed correctly. After searching around on the net and miata forums, I found out how they should be installed and set out to disassemble the suspension in an attempt to determine if I could re-assemble everything correctly. Sadly, that is out of the question. The reason the Ground Control coilovers were installed wrong was because they were missing some parts. There is supposed to be a metal collar within the threaded Ground Control sleeve which sits on the c-clip that normally supports the lower spring perch on the Konis. Well that was not there which explains why the coilover sleeves were installed with the Koni spring perch still in place. The Koni shocks were also not in the greatest shape so I assume that this was a budget suspension install cobbled together from some used parts. Mostly, it's garbage and unsafe.

So, because of this, most of my Saturday was spent ripping out the front suspension. After using close to an entire can of PB Blaster and a big breaker bar I was able to get everything out in a few hours using this method where you disconnect the spindle from the lower control arm via a tongue that inserts into the lower control arm. This allows you to remove everything without having to worry about separating ball joints. There is also the long bolt method that also allows removal without disconnecting ball joints. I didn't use the long bolt method because I didn't happen to have a 21mm socket but both seem to work equally well.

So that's where it sits now. The car is on jack stands in the garage waiting for me to decide what suspension setup to get. Prices for good setups range from around $600 to about $1000 depending on what you want. I'll make my decision in the next couple of days and get to work on it. My only consolation is that it has snowed here in NJ the last two weekends so I wouldn't have been able to drive the car anyway. I just want to get it done in time for the warm weather. I'll keep you posted.

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