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step 1 | by Robert Couse-Baker
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step 1

Winter maintenance is not like summer maintenance. On a balmy summer evenings, I simply roll the car out in the driveway, fire-up a couple of mosquito coils and blissfully wrench on the Miata while chatting with the neighbors on their evening strolls. Just being there is half the fun.


Not so in winter, when the garage is dark, damp and 45 degrees. Most people just pay someone else to do it, but I don’t trust my cars to the sullen parolees at Lube-O-Rama. So I enlist the help of my faithful serf, I mean, daughter, and we go through the six-step 7,500-mile Miata maintenance package:


1. Inspect brakes and tire pressures

2. Rotate tires

3. Remove and replace oil filter

4. Drain used oil

5. Fill with fresh oil; inspect belts and other fluids

6. Misc. and basic cleaning


This takes about two hours, assuming you’re taking lots of breaks and in no hurry.


Required Consumables:

- Oil filter (Mazda OEM, Bosch or Mobil 1 recommended)

- Four quarts of oil (see owner’s manual for weight)

- One 14mm oil drain plug washer (optional)

- Paper towels

- Absorbent shop towels or rags

- Glass cleaner

- Latex or nitral disposable gloves (at least two pair)

- One large Zip-lock bag for recycling of old oil filter

- Glass of wine (optional)


Required Tools:

- Air pressure gauge

- 17 mm socket (for oil drain plug)

- 21 mm socket (for wheel lug nuts)

- Torque wrench

- Air wrench (optional)

- Vacuum cleaner

- Micrometer (optional)

- Oil drain pan/container

- Floor jack

- Four jack stands

- Mechanic’s gloves (recommended)

- Safety glasses (required when using air wrench)

- Closed-toed shoes


Let's begin:

Put the car on jack stands and remove all four wheels. (The jack stands go under the notches on the rocker panels; use your floor jack under the front cross member and the differential to lift the car.)


Inspect brake pads and rotors: (minimum pad thickness is 1.0 mm)

While you’re down there, check for leaks or other weirdness on the brake lines and struts. Unless there’s obvious leakage, I don’t generally bother to check the differential or transmission oil at a routine engine oil change.


- go to step 2 -


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Taken on February 15, 2009