Front Frame Rail Rot: Looking for Body Work
Grew up in Bethlehem, just bought my first car, a black 2002 NB Miata (5 speed stick). It's a blast to drive and I have already been having fun doing repairs in my driveway on it.
Now for the bad news...
I did a thorough job -or so I thought- looking it over (bought it from a private seller) even ran an OBD test, but was naive in Miatas and forgot to check behind the front tires by turning them out- apparently a common rust spot. When I got it inspected, surprise! rot on the front frame rails above the front sway bar. My mechanic thought it looked repairable and after some research we found that people usually weld on metal after using an angle grinder to cut out the old rust. Here's a YouTube vid of a guy doing this kind of repair on a car in worse shape than mine:
Edit: didn't realize links were not allowed. You can find the YouTube vid by searching for "Lights up Lights down Mazda MX5 Front Chassis rail rust- Buyers guide and how to repair"
Sadly I cannot weld, and this won't be a fun driveway project anyway. Luckily all the other issues the car has I can take care of myself, and I was aware of when purchasing. My budget is not huge too :(... although this is an unavoidable expense.
Are there any Lehigh Valley members or shops you all would recommend reaching out to? Also, any other thoughts are welcome. Thanks!
Links will be allowed after you make a few posts...but that's all I can help you with.
Give Caleb over at Transformation Auto Body a call. He has done work for me in the past and is very good as well as reasonable.
Congrats on your new toy! 😀 Also, hope to meet you at one of our upcoming events.
2016 ST Ceramic Metallic GT aka Ghost
@ctt3mx5 Sounds good! I'll reach out. And thank you! Also looking forward to events as soon as I can!
Sorry to hear about the rust - my beloved ‘02 SE, titanium w. saddle brown leather, sadly was unexpectedly farther along with frame rail rust than yours and I finally opted to look for another Miata. Yours, fortunately, sounds like it’s repairable at reasonable cost.
I got 3 estimates, one was from the recommended Transformation Auto Body - which may be closer to you. Another I can recommend is in Lower Bucks, a guy named Frankie who works in auto body repair but also moonlights and has his own fully-equipped home garage. His estimate was least expensive, but didn’t include removing the engine, etc. which, in my case, would probably have been the most thorough way to do it. If interested in giving him a call his number is 267-907-2683. Tell him Jim with the ‘02 Miata gave you his #.
One caveat I became aware of through getting estimates is the caution about too much welding. Reason being is often excessive welding can change the crumple zones the car was originally designed to have. Fortunately, the airbags are triggered by the bumper and not the frame rails, as I understand it. Just FYI.
Glad you’re catching it sooner than I did – hope all goes well!
'02 SE ti/br (retired)
'21 RF-GT 6MT mg/wh
One of the tricks we did years ago was get aftermarket side skirts and install them over the rust to hide it. Usually worked.
- Jordan White
2016 Nissan Versa Note SR HB & 2020 Mazda MX-5 Club 6MT
That trick is great for hiding it but meanwhile it is lurking underneath causing more damage. With my old P5, it was getting to the point where I though my PS side skirt would fall off if I looked at it wrong as it was rusting out underneath where it clipped to the car. lol
2016 ST Ceramic Metallic GT aka Ghost
@jim-turner Appreciate it! I'll reach out to Frankie as well! Sorry to hear about your '02... seems like a very common problem on the NBs. I'm hoping that this thread could help out anyone else who might have this issue in the area, so I hope to keep ya'll updated. And thanks for the info on the crumple zones, didn't even think of that but totally makes sense.
@stormnd2club yeah I agree with @CTt3MX5, I wish I could do that on mine, or at least superficially sand it down and treat it for rust. Unfortunately it was let go by the previous owner for far too long, so the metal has started to rot through above the sway bar, not the safest place for rot. But always appreciate the idea!