RX-8 Daily Driver: Tune-Up!

RX-8 Daily Driver: Tune-Up!

by Frank Ewald

Like most people my age – and many of my readers will consider me a senior citizen – I have a 4 door titanium gray car that I use for just about everything. 2 door coupes simply do not offer the refinement and flexibility that a 4 door car does. Of course, the fact that my 4 door daily driver is a 2004 Mazda RX-8 also allows the driver in me to get completely involved in all aspects of driving. It is a great car that has been unfairly viewed by many. Unmodified it still handles itself incredibly well in almost any situation – including getting wheeled around Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport). Great thanks to Richard Wintle who captured this photo of my daughter heading through Turn 5. Richard is a great photographer (I have learned a lot from him) and an even better friend. For more of his photography visit check out this track day article. While the RX-8 is my daily and not a track car, it has been pressed into track duty a couple of times and on this day it was because my NX lost all oil pressure. Not wanting to lose a day at the track and as Katie had driven up in the RX-8, we took it out and found that it performed very well.

The NX GTi-R is still under wraps – much to both Mike and my chagrin. Mike wants me to do an article on it and I simply want to be out driving it again. However, while the engine build was very successful my move across the country has had enough challenges that it is staying wrapped up. Larger injectors, stand-alone ecu, and a few other things need to be installed before i write about it again. But hopefully it will not be too much longer. While it is tucked into the garage I am having to endure my daily driver for getting around and pleasure drives. As it is a 2004 Mazda RX-8, driving it is not usually too much of an issue. This car has been mine for about 5 years and currently has 88 000 kilometres on the odometer.

 

The Mazda RX-8 is an awesome car – too often overlooked and undervalued by enthusiasts. It's a joy to drive and, as I've left it absolutely stock (except for tires and brake pads), offers a completely comfortable alternative to the extensively modified Nissan NX GTi-R that's in the background.

Until it is an issue, at which time like everyone else who has a problem, I wish that I had anything else. Of course, over the span of 60 000 kilometres this car has only let me down twice. And both times it was the dreaded rotary flooding issue. Now, it’s really not that dreadful. The easiest way to solve it is to simply tow your manual transmission car behind another vehicle, key on, clutch in while transmission is in second gear, and then let the clutch out. Presto – your car will start. Of course, you need a tow vehicle or have your RX-8 parked on a steep hill where no tow vehicle is necessary.

 

Open the hood and you see dust and dirt as the RX-8 has not been detailed recently. Our move across country and subsequent life events have meant that only basic oil changes have been done. Everything else has had to wait. Unfortunately, I waited too long before giving it a tune-up.

At my new home I am near a lengthy downhill stretch of road. However, getting to that downhill stretch would require me to push my car about  150 metres uphill. A rather steep uphill grade, too. Also, I do not have a tow vehicle as my RV is now in winter storage with no road going insurance and, still being rather new to the area, there was not someone I thought I could easily call for a tow. Besides, this was a great time to give the car a tune up. I have only had the ignition coils, ignition wires, and spark plugs sitting in a box for the past year or so. 18 months – the date is on the bill which is still attached to the box. I guess I should have made the time! Now it is forced upon me.

 

I've found that Mazmart is an awesome source for any part requirements that I've needed for my 12 year old RX-8. I even have to give Mazmart credit for the photo, because I didn't take the time to get good photos prior to beginning installation.

Here is where I have to admit that I know that the tune up for my RX-8 should have probably happened a year ago. I am aware of purists who change the coils/wires/plugs annually. The mileage on my RX-8 certainly is not high enough annually to warrant that. Plus seat of the pants has shown me that it is running well – except for the past couple of months where my mileage has been dropping. Of course, I attributed that to the all city driving that the car has been doing.

 

Even with the plastic panel removed, there's no engine to be seen. The 1.3 litre rotary is tucked way down and back. Those 1.3 litres put out about 227 crank horsepower and, coupled with the 9000 RPM redline, make the car quite fun to drive.

As the car was dead and I had an appointment to get to, I took my wife’s Altima and figured that in the afternoon I would start the tune up and have the car running in no time. Of course, as I leaned in and looked at the coils I put pressure on the rubber accordion intake and heard a snapping sound. When that happens there is always a slight chance that it is not important. Or a very good chance that it is. In this case, it was a 90° connector that was now 14 years old which I guess is important to keeping the car running well.* And it was 4:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Rather than going directly to the dealership, I stopped in at a local performance shop that does a lot of work on rotaries. They honestly told me that they did not keep Renesis engines or parts because they preferred the previous generation’s engine. This was a fair enough statement and common knowledge among rotary owners. I knew that they likely would not have what I needed, but it was a good excuse to check out their shop.

*According to Charles Hill at Black Halo Racing, these 90° connectors are for the Jet-Air intake system, which is comprised of a pair of small nozzles located in the lower intake manifold runners to alleviate an age-old issue of fuel puddling in the final intake turn before the air-fuel charge enters the rions at idle and low RPMs.

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