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Author Topic: Towing a Miata four wheels down  (Read 9574 times)

roamingrob

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Towing a Miata four wheels down
« on: January 12, 2010, 08:04:12 PM »
I just joined this forum, and a search about towing a Miata brought me only some very old posts, so I thought I might revive the subject.

I am towing a standard transmission 2003 Miata 4-down.  I know Mazda doesn't condone it, and I know others recommend against it.  But it is such a wonderful car, especially as a dinghy, so I did some research to see if it would be worth the risk, and I am sharing it with the forum, and will continue to report from time-to-time how things are going.

The supposed problem, as I understand it, is that the transmission on the Miata (and other cars) is lubricated by the spray of transmission fluid that is caused by the turning of the shaft that comes from the engine.  When the transmission gears are turned by the rotation of the drive shaft turning from the rear wheels of a towed car on the ground, there is not adequate lubrication and the gears will be damaged.  That's what they say, anyway.

My RV is a 2006 Jayco Granite Ridge 3100SS with 9000 miles.  It is a Class C built on a Ford E450 with the V-10.  It's GVW is about 14,000 and the total allowable weight including the tow vehicle (I forget the abbreviation!) is about 19,000, a 5,000 pound spread.  The Miata is only 2300 pounds or so.

First, I looked all over the internet and virtually every post I could find by people actually towing a Miata 4-down said they had no problem.  I have yet to hear about anyone who has had a problem towing a Miata 4-down.

I called Roadmaster and spoke to a Customer Service Rep.  Her comment was, "I have spoken to dozens of people who asked about a tow bar for a Miata, and no one has ever called back to tell me they had a problem."

Roadmaster does manufacture a base plate for towing a Miata 4-down.  My RV dealer installed the towing equipment, without any modification to the car.  I was instructed to keep the stick in neutral, the brake off, the key in the ignition in the lock position so the wheels don't lock.  The steering wheel is not tied up.  We are using a Roadmaster Falcon 2 tow bar, rated at 6000 pounds.  To be on the safe side, we have a Brake Buddy in the Miata.  It cost over $1300, but the last thing I want is to worry about burning out the RV's brakes coming down a mountain. 

To me the Miata is the perfect dinghy.  It's just about the smallest and lightest car you can buy so naturally it's an easy car to tow.  Since an RV is large enough to haul anything when needed, the 11-inch high Miata trunk is no problem!  We plan on spending our time in warm climates and can't wait to drive with the top down on coastal roads and in the Rockies in summer.  Of course, it only works because we're only two people and a little dog; if you are traveling with a brood, the Miata is clearly not for you.

So far, we've traveled 850 miles, from Albany, NY to Wilmington, NC.  Our average trip is under 200 miles, and we plan to keep our travel under 250 miles in a day.  When we arrive at each destination, at the very least we start up the Miata to circulate the lubrication and usually unhook the car and drive it around town.  So far, so good.

I've been to three Mazda dealers since purchasing the car last month.  Once before I bought it, to check out the car, then twice on our trip for non-mechanical issues (once to make spare keys, once to fix a speaker).  I mentioned that I was towing the car 4-down to all three service departments and none seemed particularly perturbed.

Disclaimer:  I am only reporting my experience.  I don't know a damn thing about the mechanical workings of cars, RVs, internal combustion engines, transmissions, drive shafts, etc. (I am a hell of a chef, though!)

So that's my experience so far. Because of the warnings, I can't help but be a touch concerned and will be for at least the next 2,000 miles.  If anyone out there has any experience with this, good or bad, I hope you'll contribute to this discussion.

Happy trails, everyone!

DAN L

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  • VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON AND KAPOLEI, HAWAII
Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2010, 08:25:30 PM »
welcome to this forum. ;D
you might change to synthetic transmission oil such as AMSOIL... :)
« Last Edit: January 12, 2010, 08:27:46 PM by DAN L »
01 Winnebago 35U W20. member Good Sam, SKP. all fluids AMSOIL Syn. BANKS ecm prog. SCAN G. II w/Alli temp. 4 KONI fsd shocks. 2 LIFELINE gpl-6ct Batts on their sides. TST t.p. and temp mon. K&N panel air filter. PROG IND inline surge prot. silv star lights. STEHL dolly. dw CHERYL, 2 cat furkids.

DeanLinAZ

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2010, 10:33:21 PM »
Roamingrob:

We towed a 2002 Miata four-down for three years and over 20K miles with no problems.  Our Miata had the six-speed tranny and from what I could learn, the six-speed has a lay shaft which does turn in the oil keeping the gears lubricated while towing.  I did change the transmission oil to synthetic from regular oil just to be on the safe side.  We used Blue Ox base plate and tow bar which worked great.  The base plate had a serial number of 003, fwiw.  We used a Brake Buddy system, as well.  In 2005, my wife fell for a PT Cruiser convertible which we towed for five years using a Demco tow dolly, and now we are towing a Jeep Wrangler--the tow dolly is just too difficult to deal with at my age.

In summary, the Miata is/was a great toad.  We see several being towed four-down every trip as sday--"there's a Miata".

Happy Miata towing and be safe.

DeanLinAZ
2004 Winnebago Journey 39W
2007 Wrangler two-door six-speed
DeanLinAZ
2004 Winnebago Journey 39W
2007 Wrangler Sahara 6-speed

Marsha/CA

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2010, 09:12:20 AM »
Hi Roamingbob,

Sounds like you are figuring things out.  Welcome to the wonderful world of RVing.

We don't tow a Miata, but we do tow a Hyundai standard transmission-5 speed.  One thing I'm wondering/concerned about; but you don't seem to have mentioned that you have had trouble is:

I was instructed to keep the stick in neutral, the brake off, the key in the ignition in the lock position so the wheels don't lock.  The steering wheel is not tied up.

We put our key in the ignition in the "acc" position, not the lock position.  You want the front wheels of your tow car to turn and follow the path of the motor home.  So unless the Miata is unique, you might want to check that part out and make sure the steering wheel of the car and the wheels actually are free to turn in the lock position.

In our Hyundai, if you don't put the key ignition on Acc, the steering wheel will be locked and the Hyundai will "drag" around the turns and changes in direction instead of flowing around following the coach.  You want the wheels to "free-wheel".

Marsha~
Allegro Bus Diesel Pusher with Hyundai Tucson SUV toad. 
In case of necessity, alternate transportation is available in the form of 1 old horse.

roamingrob

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2010, 09:36:41 PM »
Marsha,
Thanks for your concern.  The wheels of the Miata turn freely in the lock position as long as the key is in the ignition.  The wheel does not lock until you pull the key out.  This was a concern for me too; I spent quite a bit of time turning the wheel with the key in the lock position, turning it this way and that until I was convinced that it does not, in fact, lock.

Marsha/CA

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2010, 11:37:34 PM »
Whew!! Glad you had it right!

Marsha~
Allegro Bus Diesel Pusher with Hyundai Tucson SUV toad. 
In case of necessity, alternate transportation is available in the form of 1 old horse.

roamingrob

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Continuing story of my 4-wheels down Miata tow
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2010, 09:04:19 PM »
A quick update-  I took the advice above and switched my transmission fluid to a synthetic. I couldn't find Amsoil, but I was recommended something even better (actually I was told it was "overkill:") Royal Purple.  A mechanic saw it being put in and he said he used it when he was pit crew for a 1,000 hp dragster.  Overkill?  Nah, nothing's too good for my baby. . .

Dukenrock

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2010, 05:47:38 AM »
Royal Purple is great stuff!  I put it in my boat engines  (twin 525's)  It's changed every 25 hours of use but great piece of mind. I used to use Mobil 1 but it's difficult to find the 20W50 so I switched to the Royal P. I picked mine up at NAPA.

DAN L

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  • VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON AND KAPOLEI, HAWAII
Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2010, 06:29:03 AM »
Royal Purple is great stuff!  I put it in my boat engines  (twin 525's)  It's changed every 25 hours of use but great piece of mind. I used to use Mobil 1 but it's difficult to find the 20W50 so I switched to the Royal P. I picked mine up at NAPA.

check royal purple's msds.
it is not a true synthetic oil.
they use para-finetic base stocks.
it is pretty purple... for a while.
01 Winnebago 35U W20. member Good Sam, SKP. all fluids AMSOIL Syn. BANKS ecm prog. SCAN G. II w/Alli temp. 4 KONI fsd shocks. 2 LIFELINE gpl-6ct Batts on their sides. TST t.p. and temp mon. K&N panel air filter. PROG IND inline surge prot. silv star lights. STEHL dolly. dw CHERYL, 2 cat furkids.

BritChris

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2010, 02:49:49 PM »
Late reply to you, Roamingrob, but we tow a 1999 Mazda Miata four wheels down.   We have had zero problems in towing it over 7,000 miles.  We had the car since new, it is a good one, and we wanted to use it as a toad.  I found someone on a Miata forum that had towed his over 20,000 miles and he sent me photos of his set-up.  He also indicated that he knew of six other folks with similar set-ups.  Our RV repair/storage guy found the parts and set it up.  We are well pleased with the arrangement.  To us it was something of a no-brainer as we'd already tried a tow dolly with another vehicle and that was a hassle, and the Miata is already old.  There isn't much to lose financially at this point, although I'd be sad to lose a super car.
Interestingly we are at Bentsen Palm Village RV resort in Mission, Texas right now and I've noticed another towed Miata here.  Haven't had a chance to talk to the owner yet.
Christine
2007 Allegro Bay
1999 Mazda Miata

roamingrob

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Quick update on towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2010, 12:49:02 PM »
Hi folks,
Just a quick update to let all interested parties know that we have now towed our Miata 4,000 miles, we're in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and have had nary a problem.  Well, the secondary O2 sensor went bad and had to be replaced ($188), but that had nothing to do with towing.  With 73,000 miles, the car still rides and shifts like a dream!

schoolsout2

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2010, 08:52:04 PM »
We just bought our first coach, a 2000 Pace Arrow and would love to tow a Miata.  Any iformation on the setup would help.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2010, 09:04:23 PM by schoolsout2 »
Dave and Sue Fullerman
2006 Winnebago Adventurer
2006 Jeep Wrangler
2012 Honda CRV
FMCA F7777D
Home based in Central Ohio

BritChris

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2010, 03:34:45 PM »
Schoolsout2 - If you can wait until tomorrow we will be moving on and hitching up and I can photograph the set-up for you.  I found out how to do it on a Miata forum but unfortunately I don't have those photographs.  We took the photos to the RV repair place where we store the motorhome and they assembled it for us.   Cost came in at under $1,000 but we are not using a braking system.    That's contrary to the advice that you will get on this forum.  We are running our motorhome at least 3,000 lbs under load which more than makes up for the 2,300 lbs of the car.  We are now up to 10,000 towed miles and have had no problems.  We sure have had lots of compliments!
Christine
2007 Allegro Bay
1999 Mazda Miata

schoolsout2

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2010, 09:41:43 PM »
That would be great.  We are in no rush as we will get the MH on Friday and do not have a Miata.  We thought it would be a fun Toad.  I need to get something as my Avalanche is too heavy and the wife's car in not towable (AWD).
Dave and Sue Fullerman
2006 Winnebago Adventurer
2006 Jeep Wrangler
2012 Honda CRV
FMCA F7777D
Home based in Central Ohio

Fifty4F100

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2012, 09:19:10 PM »
You guys are wanting me to try and tow my Mazda 6 I bought some years ago just to tow 4 wheels down. Every piece of information I've found says it can't be towed.

Ernie n Tara

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  • Life is Good - Together
Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2012, 02:58:22 PM »
Hi,

"We are running our motorhome at least 3,000 lbs under load which more than makes up for the 2,300 lbs of the car."

The above quotation is in error. Braking is dependent on coefficient of friction (tires to pavement) times weight. The weight of the tow'd is not on the MH tires so there is NO contribution to braking from that 2,300 bs. Total braking ability is reduced by the the tow'd weight divided by the gross weight  or something like (2,300/18,000)), ~13% to (2,300/30,000) = ~8%, etc.
 
Ernie
Ernie 'n Tara

2011 Winn Journey 34y
2012 Jeep Rubicon - Dozer (orange - kinda)
2006 Jeep Wrangler

Fifty4F100

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Re: Towing a Miata four wheels down
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2012, 11:46:27 AM »
I just wonder since the Miata suggests not to tow 4 wheels down, I might be able to tow my 03 Mazda 6 that also states not to tow 4 wheels down? It is a 3.0 V5 and 5 speed.