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Monday, 28 May 2012


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I will bet dollars to donuts that your cooling system isn't completely full. I have had similar instances on many different cars, and each and every time it's because the cooling system wasn't filled completely/properly.

Most modern (as in anything 25yr old or newer) cars can only be completely filled through a couple of hot-cold cycles through the expansion tank. Next time you look at the car when it's cold, completely fill the expansion tank, and go drive until it's up to normal temp. Look under the hood, and see what's going on with fluid in the tank - generally you will see one of 2 different things; either the expansion tank will have room in it (meaning that the cooling system needed the fluid and has taken it in, or (less often) it will be overflowing, because the system is full. (Meaning that you have other problems.)

Mike, it is a Mazda, not the poorly engineered English roadster that it is styled to resemble. I suggest there is something wrong with your cooling system, not running with the air conditioning. Hie thee to the nearest radiator shop or Mazda dealer. It is only going to get worse.

"I'll try to remember in the future never to use the air conditioning when it's hot outside..."

Or just avoid that particular jinxed intersection.

...of course, it's too obvious to ask if you checked the coolant level...or if it had been replaced in a while to offer maximum coolant efficiency...


...love the Miata, and used to be able to rent them from Budget rental at the Milwaukee airport whenever the "need" came over me to drive one, usually on my birthday...can't tell you how many times I was out driving one, thinking the valve noise was a little loud, only to pull over and find that the car would be anywhere from two to three quarts down on the oil level...started checking them every time I picked one up...I don't know if they just maintained them badly, or the things burned it off (maybe coolant too) at a rapid level...

...who knows, I don't think you can rent them any more...

Mike, if you haven't yet get the radiator pressure tested, antifreeze and the thermostat checked out. No reason the AC shouldn't work.

We are surrounded by interesting people with great stories. In a perfect world we don't get to meet many of them.

That's a great story. VERY funny.

It's something that every restaurant deals with every summer, that when it gets hot, the a/c and the ice machines suddenly don't have enough capacity. And of course, with all of that refrigeration equipment throwing heat into the room, it gets worse for the a/c, which in turn causes the refrigeration equipment to have to work all that much harder...

That's a funny bit of hijinx, and a sad way to see a nice old Rolls treated. Oh well.

Your Miata needs to be serviced. The AC should not overheat the car. I'd get it looked after as if it's having problems in that situation, it will soon have other problems with the cooling system.

The weather turned cool here in the SF Bay Area the past couple of days, but yesterday it warmed to the point where I had the top down and the AC on in the 12 year old Merc SLK I bought last month. It is so nice to have an open car again. The SLK was in fair condition when I bought it, I've shaped it up a bit, but it will never be as inexpensive to run as my Prius was. No matter, some things are worth paying a bit more money for.

That story is a bit bizarre Mike: and not the Rolls -- your Miata. Generally if the temperature gauge is going H, that's your radiator temp going high. That usually means a couple of things: low radiator water, a block in the radiator water cycling, or even worse -- a radiator leak.

You should have that looked at by a mechanic -- but as a precaution check and fill up your radiator water immediately. Driving with high temperature for extended durations can sieze the engine and on order to fix this, you'll need to open the engine and change the head gasket (as well as fix the radiator problem).

I've had this happen twice to me on older cars that I was driving at the time. One time I was lucky and I managed to get away with a new radiator, the other time it was a tow and engine fix.


Mike, I hate to double post -- but I've just found this nifty decision tree which may help you diagnose that high temperature problem.




When you're concerned about overheating, the trick is to use your heater . The heater core is like a little auxiliary radiator, and that hot air blowing on you is heated by coolant that returns slightly cooler to the engine.


I happen to have a 1960 Bentley, which is just a rebadged Rolls. Underneath it's like a truck, and inside it's like a lounge room. The only thng making it vaguely sensible is that somebody put a steering wheel in there.
It's great fun spinning the inside rear wheel when picking up the kids from school though.

My first car ever was a Volvo 544. They were designed, I think, for chasing reindeer above the Arctic Circle. The radiator was about the size of two postage stamps, and had a window blind apparatus to block it off completely.

The heater, on the other hand, was large and efficient, so to prevent the radiator boiling over you kept the heat on all summer.

That would probably be a deal-killer now, but at 17, it seemed perfectly reasonable.

Mike, you missed the chance to see the Elm Grove Memorial Day Parade! As residents of Elm Grove, we never miss it. It's like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Fun to watch and provides plenty of photo ops - this year's parade ran well over an hour!

I like Bill Mitchell's story. Reminds me that once upon a time, Leica was a bulletproof, practical little tool and not the crazy luxury item it has become. Also want to add my voice to those saying, get your Miata's cooling system checked (assuming the coolant level is ok, which you can easily check yourself). Clogged radiator, busted thermostat... also possible is a dying water pump, which I don't think has been mentioned yet. As others have said, it may be possible to limp home on a 95 degree day by running the heater full blast, but believe me, it's not fun -- speaking from experience on that one.

If it makes you feel any better, I used to own a car in which the heat only worked when it was warm outside. I recall driving on a ski trip to Banff NP in the dead of a Prairie winter with no heat in the car. We kept the food in a cooler to keep it from freezing.


35 years of import car repair says "Head Gasket repair on the horizon, if not here now........"
best wishes

A Miata coasting to the roadside? Would that be called "assuming the Lotus position"?
I'll feel better about my Elan next time it does that to me. In fact I feel better already, I did have to nurse it home with a slipping clutch just the week before last and then spend a few minutes underneath it to adjust the thing.

Take it from a fellow Miata owner, there's something wrong with your car. Even on a very hot day, unless you're making an extended climb up a long grade (which I don't think exist in Wisconsin) the car should be able to maintain normal engine temps with the A/C running. Go through the troubleshooting steps suggested by some of the previous commentors, or take it to a competent mechanic.

Still, it got you a good story so it was a fortuitous breakdown. BTW, what happened to the C-class?


that is a shocking way to treat Aunt Greta***. Apart from anything else, she was incredibly polite if manipulative, and the buyer sounds like a rude fool. I hope she breaks down on him.

That may be appropriate, as Greta was fairly "high maintenance". She came to stay in London once with my Grandfather just as the Second World War got into swing, and he and his young sister never got on. I think she was a bit of a refugee from Paris, where she had lived for nearly 20 years. He disapproved of her lifestyle, so would not let her use the front door (she must have been about 38 at the time, hardly a child). She used to let herself in and out of a window at the back of the house, and one night left it open, thus spilling light into the sky. The Air Raid people went wild, and issued my grandfather with a court summons for breaking the blackout. He was fined £5, which was probably a lot in 1940, and certainly being a parsimonious Scotsman, it would have been an outrage for him.

*** I don't know how to link back to the original post, but it included a couple of discussions about how she may have been the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy.

"A Miata coasting to the roadside? Would that be called "assuming the Lotus position"?" - Doug C.

That's brilliant, better even than the old joke about the natural habitat for an MG being the back of a tow truck.

For those fascinated by auto repair lit:


Flyin' Miata really has me interested in Miatas but I still think they're a little too reliable.

I'm glad someone remembered that Memorial Day is more than a day for hanging out, drinking beer, and barbequing. Sometime when I see us all cavorting on a day dedicated to our war dead, I think of Carl Sandberg's poem "Grass".

My wife and I have a 1996 Miata, which we refer to as the after dinner car. We never run the air conditioner because, when we do, a terrible shriek comes from beneath the bonnet. We sometimes talk about having this fixed, but then we just decide to always drive with the top down.

Tell us, Mike: Did you check the anti-freeze level?

Q. Why do Englishmen drink warm beer?
A. Because they have Lucas refrigerators.

Very amusing story, well told. Thank you.

I owned a 1990 Miata for a while and the biggest thing I had to worry about was the crankshaft shifting position. One of the well-known (at least to Miata owners) short crankshaft engines. I finally had the engine replaced and was surprised to find it running low on coolant. No puddles under the car after it sat at work during the day. I finally found the problem (which may not apply to your Miata, Mike). Two hoses attach to small metal tubes and feed into the engine coolant waterway. One of the metal tubes was leaking the coolant. I removed it, sanded the tube and cleaned out the opening into which it fit. Used some "cold solder" goop and it did the trick. If your Miata is leaking, but you don't see a puddle under the engine or radiator, you may as well check the heater bypass hoses.

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