Mazda MX-5 Miata Common Issues and Faults

Mazda MX-5 Miata Common Issues and Faults

The Mazda MX-5 is an extremely robust and rugged little sports car. It’s not the quickest sports car, but it’s definitely one of the most exciting and involving ones. Generally speaking, Miatas of every generation are relatively reliable and tough, but how the car was driven and maintained plays a major role in how reliable it is. If you’re thinking of buying a second-hand MX-5, here’s what you should be wary of.


Rust is, by far and away, the MX-5’s biggest enemy. The most likely locations to suffer from rust are the rocker panels and the fender arches. ‘NB’ generation Miatas are prone to front frame rail rust as well, although it’s not a wide-spread problem compared to the other two locations. The rocker panels are particularly delicate since by the time any rust manifests itself externally there’s probably plenty of rust in the underlying structure. Check the paint for any bubbling as it’s often a tell-tale sign of underlying rust, especially if it’s at or near the undercarriage.

Front end

Wrecked Mazda Miata FrontendIf possible, take a flashlight, lie on the ground beneath the front end, and do a quick inspection of the underside. You’re looking for any bent metal or paint over-spray in the wheel wells which would indicate a front end collision.

If you think the car has been involved in a front-end collision, walk away and look elsewhere. A broken radiator or a dented bumper is the least of your worries. If the collision was severe it could have damaged the frame and the entire structure, which is practically irreparable.


MX-5 interiors are fairly durable, but you should still check for any signs of unusual wear and tear. The fabric seats usually fade if left in the sun for too long, and the driver side left seat bolster wears out due to constantly getting in and out of the car throughout the years. Check the clutch and brake pedal too. If the car doesn’t have a lot of miles but the pedals look worn out, something’s off.

Soft top

Miata TopThe soft top is another weak spot, especially if the owner hasn’t been careful or diligent. Check the operation of the zipper above the rear window (provided it has one), and check the plastic window itself for any scratches or brown spots. Brown spots are the earliest indication that the window will soon turn opaque and require a replacement.

Check the operation of the top. Does it go up and down smoothly? Does it latch easily to the windshield header? Hardtop Miatas are a little bit more reliable since they use the same mounting points as the soft top but don’t wear out nearly as quick.


Miatas use a traditional spring-and-shock type suspension setup. While springs seldom wear out, the shocks, the shock mounts and the bump stops do. Replacing old suspension components can have a profound effect on the handling of your MX-5. If the car jolts and crashes on even the tiniest of road imperfections, the upper mounts (top hats) have probably collapsed.

The engines are extremely robust though, and they’re notorious for being nearly impossible to kill. Check the car’s service history before buying and make sure the oil was regularly changed and the timing belt was replaced every 60k miles. As far as reliability goes, the MX-5 is probably the most headache-free sports car you can buy.

Miata engine bay


  1. Miata 2007 - our engine DIED at 87,000 miles with one day notice of "check engine" and jerky drive. Have done regular maintenance as scheduled. $14,000 for a new engine when car is not worth that much. Who is to blame on this

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