WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Total MX-5 - - YOUR FIRST MX-5 -

Even the youngest mk1 is 22 years old now and as a con­se­quence there are nu­mer­ous things you need to be aware of.

Most of the se­ri­ous is­sues can be clumped un­der a sin­gle catch-all head­ing – rust. Early cars, in­clud­ing the Eunos im­ports, seem to fare a lit­tle bit bet­ter than the later mk1s, but none are im­mune to the red peril. Start by open­ing the bon­net and hav­ing a gen­eral look around. If the en­gine bay is tatty with cor­ro­sion on the fas­ten­ers and steel brack­ets, then road salt has prob­a­bly at­tacked the rest of the car, too.

The worst rust-af­fected ar­eas are the rear whee­larches and sills. Look closely at the outer whee­larch lip and down low in front of the back wheel where the wing over­laps the sill – a solid or well re­paired car will have spot welds clearly vis­i­ble on the whee­larch re­turn, right down to the bot­tom, and fur­ther foward along the sill you should be able to see a ver­ti­cal seam where the rear wing ends. If there’s no seam, it can be a sign of a poor re­pair or filler.

In the past many garages just roughly patched holes in the sills, but to do the job prop­erly will likely in­volve a half rear wing sec­tion, ex­ten­sive cut­ting and re­plac­ing of the in­ner and outer sills, and sec­tions of the whee­larch, too. In other words, it’s go­ing to be costly.

The front wings gen­er­ally aren’t so bad but can suf­fer from rust. Un­der­neath, sus­pen­sion sub­frames and wish­bones may look crusty but can some­times be spruced up with a wire brush and a spray of rust killer/proofer.

Both the 1.6 and 1.8 en­gines are strong, but can be rav­en­ous con­sumers of oil – if there’s no blue smoke in the ex­haust and the level on the dip­stick is sen­si­ble, you should be OK. Blocked ra­di­a­tors and coolant leaks can cause head gas­ket fail­ure, but it’s rare. A mis­fire un­der load is usu­ally just the plugs and leads, though oc­ca­sion­ally the ig­ni­tion coil is to blame, and it’s a costly item. Bind­ing brakes are com­mon, dampers can be weak at high mileages, and rusty springs are prone to break­age.

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