Learning & Repairing A Miata Suspension

Due to an impromptu “flying lesson” in Karlino a few weeks ago, with a resulting “curb kiss”, I had to do some suspension work on my Miata (left rear control arms replacement).  While researching & waiting for parts, I noticed a lot of inside left rear tire wear & swapped the tires from side to side.  I know these are directional tires, but I wanted to have them worn equally by the time I was able to complete the repair.

Left tire inside more worn than right - so I swapped them!

Here’s the debut of my new jack stands & torque wrench a couple of weeks ago…

Tire swap in the street, 'cause my garge space was not yet reclaimed...

With some good advisory assistance from my Miata buddies Craig & Leo, I got a Firestone Lifetime alignment performed on Karlino immediately after the “flying” incident.  Then, I reviewed my purchase options via the various forums & found the needed replacement left rear control arms on eBay.  Here are the top arms – you see the right arm has a bit of a twist to it, the left (straight) arm is the replacement.

Replacement vs. slight bent original left rear upper control arm

Over the last few days I was able to reclaim my half of our garage from my wife’s “stuff”.  Therefore, I had a good, level working environment to get the job done & store Karlino inside.

Karlino content in reclaimed garage...

Once again, my friend Craig stepped up to the plate & assisted me.  I told  him I wanted to do all the work, but would really appreciate his assisting me with “over the shoulder” advice.  Also, having access to of a number of work tools I did not have was great!  Craig’s assistance & tools were invaluable to getting the job done right.  I certainly learned about my car’s rear suspension inner workings & how to get it all put back together!

My left rear Miata suspension work space

With the added bonus of using Craig’s grinder, I had to cut into the lower control arm to be able to remove the  very bent lower outer pivot bolt.  As you can see from the picture below, there was no way I was going to be able to remove that bolt through the path of the bushings.  No WONDER Karlino’s toe setting was so far off base!

Note the cut & bent open control arm ends & especially that bent bolt!

This was an interesting job which took me over 6 hours to complete!  But I also re-swapped the rear tires & then rotated them front to back.  Along with all the back & forth story telling Craig & I shared, it was a pleasant day in the garage.  Test driving Karlino,  after all was put back together & properly torqued, gave me a great sense of personal satisfaction!

Then on Monday I had Karlino re-aligned.  It tracks very much nicer.  I followed Leo’s advice with a mild autocross setting for the alignment.  We’ll see how it feels as I get used to it…

Racing Ready is into hands on repair & learning to wrench on cars even more!  What hands on repair experiences have you had that you can share?


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2 thoughts on “Learning & Repairing A Miata Suspension”

  1. That’s a great looking garage space you have! I’m interested to see a bit more of it, I love seeing what tools other home mechanics prefer. Looks like you had a pretty cool adventure, and things turned out well after the repairs.

  2. Dan, I have a Shop Manual for 1999-2000 Miatas that is just sitting in my toolchest. Considering this recent development of “real work” on the Miata, I think it’s time I passed it on to another. It was a life saver several times when I had a Miata but now I do not. I also suspect that the faster I get rid of it, the sooner I’ll be rewarded with another Miata.

    Let me know when I can meet up with you.

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