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Mazda MX-5 Miata Starting and Stalling Problems

jerseygirl137jerseygirl137 Posts: 1
edited January 2014 in Mazda
My Miata keeps stalling while I'm driving 60+ miles/hr. Nobody can figure out what is wrong. Mazda isn't claiming up to what is wrong.



  • I have a 99 Miata, 5-speed and am having a problem. The first symptom was when the car would not start a few times. It would just keep cranking. At first, I thought it might be the fuel pump, but then it did start just fine. Then while driving, the car will erratically lose power. The rpm's will drop down to almost nothing and then spike back up. It was fine for a few more minutes and then just completely lost power and shut down and would not start up again. I had the car towed to my house and tried starting it the next day and it started right up. I replaced the fuel filter as a possible remedy and took it out for a test drive and it was doing the same power-loss thing. It seems to do it most while driving at highway speeds. I drove the car to work this morning, 30 min. drive, and it was fine until the end when it started doing the power loss, even while the car was sitting at a stop light. I barely made it to work. Any ideas???
  • erics6erics6 Posts: 684
    Check with the folks at
  • jracerjracer Posts: 1

    We just bought a 2001 Miata with an automatic (a compromise demanded by girlfriend), and I am having the exact same problems with stalling as are jerseygirl137 and caledelaney. has some discussion about "idle dropping" and Mazda's seeming unwillingness to acknowledge this problem, but no definitive solutions.

    My dealer mechanic is not sure and says we must go down the list replacing this and that beginning with the cam sensor, then the fuel pump, and then the coil. And even then he cannot say if the problem will be solved.

    Has anyone else had this problem, and even better, how has it been resolved? If you know any talented Miataphiles or mechanics who might be able to help, please forward them these emails. Please help, we love our Miata, but this problem might literally kill us on Atlanta highways filled with 80 mph tailgating SUVs and semis. Thanx for your help - J
  • My engine light was on. Called the Madaz dealer and for $85 he would tell me why. I visited Auto Zone and he checked it and told me I had a omissions leak or something like that, but it was not a problem to drive. I found a repair service near my work and they they ck'd out the car and told me it was a loose gas cap, but that I would have to had taken to them to have the light turned off. They charged me for $37.00. Does this sound legitimate? Would I have to have had them turn the light off?
  • uniboyuniboy Posts: 1
    I wondering if anyone has any luck fixing your miatas. I have the same problem. Engine stalling after engine gets to operating temp. My car has 169k miles just bought car. Runs great except for this intermitant problem. Replaced fuel pump and filter. Still have problem. Replaced crank position sensor. Let car idle with a/c on to get engine hot. Stalled in 30 minutes. Could not restart. After letting car cool down. Started. Sounds very simular to Jerseygirl. If anyone has come up with any solutions. I'm going to fix this car. And I will post my finding. Thanks in advance Robert email
  • I also had that problem with my previous '92 Miata. I tried to think of when it was doing it more than others and I narrowed it to (1) buying gas from a different dealer, and (2) it was very bad when it rained. I guess the car needs to go to the Mayo Clinic. Hope Madza can figure that one out one of these days. I sold that car and purchased a 99 and have not had the trouble, but I did warn my buyer of the situation. I just got used to putting the clutch in when it happened while driving and popping it to keep going. :confuse:
  • theslucethesluce Posts: 3
    Hi J,

    I also had this problem and after much research by my mechanic (mainly) and by me (secondary) we figured out what the problem was. It is the Cam Position Sensor (CPS) and it appears to be a common problem. Many websites have information on this and several of them refer to where you can find all kinds of Miata-based information. Here is a link of what someone wrote about our same problem:

    The part is roughly 80-100 dollars although a mechanic may charge more for it (mark-up). Labor isn't tough and should maybe run you another 80-120 dollars.

    Hope this helps.

  • theslucethesluce Posts: 3
    Hi Jerseygirl:

    Your problem is the Cam Position Sensor (CPS). It probably needs replacement. The part should cost somewhere around $100 and labor about the same. See my other post to another person on this same message list for more info.

    Cheers and good luck,
  • debbiekdebbiek Posts: 2
    I also had the same problem with my 99 Miata for about a year. I cleaned the built up carbon in the manifold and the check engine light has been off ever since. Only cost me a few bucks for the throttle cleaner. YIPEE!
  • buffmx5buffmx5 Posts: 1
    Hey Robert
    hope this helps out
    Miatas are known for timing chain to "go" @ 60k hopefully you have a decent relationship w/the prev owner and you can find out what kind of modifications were made prior
    '00 Silver
  • kahutekkahutek Posts: 1
    Occassionally, I start my '99 Miata and the engine idles poorly, it revs up with difficulty, but it runs. Then I take it out on the highway, and after 10 minutes it starts losing power and the catalytic converter gets so hot I can smell it inside the car. This happens once a month. The runs again the next day. The engine light is on, but the mechanic says it's the safety interlock warning (or something) for an automatic trans; I have a stick shift. Now the mechanic says it's my O2 sensor and my catalytic converter needs to be replaced. What is the real problem?
  • mestullmestull Posts: 1
    I hope this helps someone. My 2005 Miata (non-turbo) started idling poorly, then progressed to stalling, and the Check Engine light came on. It sure seemed like a sensor problem. I had the codes read. There was a fair list of them. I reset the faults by momentarily disconnecting the battery. The faults came back. So I started replacing the likely sensors. Nothing helped.

    Finally, I removed the throttle body, and found the inside of the plenum behind it coated with an oily mud. The crankcase ventilator (PCV valve) spits a little oil mist in there. Then the super fine dust that finds its way through the air filter turns that into mud. I cleaned as much as I could reach and the throttle valve. That didn't fix it.

    But after thinking about it, I figured some of that oily mud may have been partially bocking the idle bleed needle valve, or the idle bypass (both located in/on the throttle body).

    So I opened the idle bleed a lot. That fixed it. I reset the faults again, and they didn't come back. So my car idles perfect (like new) and there's no Check Engine light on.

    The idle bleed needle valve is a phillips head screw, that's recessed in a hole, facing the passenger side on the top of the throttle body.

    As far as the underlying cause of the problem... The PCV valve worked fine. So I assume an oily film is normal in the plenum. I upgraded the air filter to a K & N to hopefully reduce the fine dust.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    We had rough idling and power loss on our old 626 and it turned out to be dirty fuel injectors. A throttle body service fixed the issue, but at the dealer is was very pricey, about $500 IIRC.
  • bigbozer1bigbozer1 Posts: 4
    I have a 1999 10th Anniversary 6-speed. It is coming close to 90K miles now and I have not spent a dime in repairs. I use Mobile 1 oil and change every 5000 miles. I have not even changed the timing belt. I guess I have been very lucky. TOUCH WOOD! :)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Don't quote me on this but I think the engine is non-interference. You could be stranded, though.
  • lost6lost6 Posts: 2
    My niece bought a 99 Miata and ran the battery down listening to the radio. Replaced the battery, but the engine won't turn over. She left the key on over night. Any ideas?
  • ron77ron77 Posts: 2
    intermittent starting problem, cold or warm engine, rough idle, engine out of balance, smell of unburned fuel in exhaust, car is drivable, does not have acceleration or power, usually clears itself in 4-5 minutes by driving or idling. When cleared car runs like a champ. Occurs about one out of every 10 starts.
  • ron77ron77 Posts: 2
    I just joined the forum 11/19/07 and wrote no. 19 before I read the previous 18. I have a 2000 5-speed with 56,000 miles. I have had the same intermittent problem as you have described for about 5 years. At first it occurred about once per year then, about every 6 months and for the last siz months about once every 10 starts. I started by replacing plug wires and plugs. I've cleaned and lubricated plug in sensor connectors. I thought there was a correlation to the level of fuel in the tank, as it act like an old "vapor lock" issue out of the 60's. It happens with a cold engine with a car setting in the sun (90-95 degree F) and sometimes a warm engine in the cold (50 degree F). I smell unburned gas in the exhaust and I've noticed the hot catalytic converter you are talking about. Today (11/19) the car began to stall at stop lights or stop signs as the clutch was being pushed in. This to me is a separate issue from the intermittent starting problem. It is in the Mazda dealership today and the first $86 check read the codes has been spent. So far nothing is wrong. I've authorized another 2 hours of checking and eliminating the diagnostic read outs. I then plan to set down with the dealership owner then begin the slow and methodical march up through the district rep and into the colporate structure to get resolution. Do you have anymore information? ron77
  • Hey Everyone,
    My sister has been driving my Miata for some time now and yesterday the car stalled (she is not sure why) but it got towed home. Today I came to check it out and at first, when I started it up the check engine light was on. The problem I noticed is that the car starts up fine and it idles fine, the problem was that when I step on the gas it feels like it starts dying (like choking) so I have to let go of the gas for it to idle again. I started checking spark plugs, oil, etc but everything seemed fine. I kept trying to give it gas and eventually I was able to get it going to where the engine would not die when I stepped on the gas. Took it out for a ride and it seemed like it was running as if nothing had happened. I thought it was fixed, but the problem came again when I shut it off and started it up again. This time the check engine light was gone, but now the problem is that when I press the gas pedal the engine will "purr" (rpms go up) but then it will stop and pause and then it will "purr" again. So even if my foot is fully pressing the gas pedal (and staying pressed) the car will do "purr" pause "purr" pause "purr" pause "purr" etc. So it feels like it will not hold the throttle. I tried taking it out for a quick ride to see if bringing the rpms higher would help, but the car ends up sort of stalling. As I step the gas it does the "purr" pause "purr" thing in first then as I shift it to second it sort of hesitates; so it starts to accelerate then stop then accelerate again as if it was about to stall. When I stop and let go of the gas it idles good.

    I tried replacing the plugs, cleaning battery, checking throttle cable, etc but do not know what is wrong or how I could fix/diagnose what is happening. Anyone have any ideas?????

    p.s. SHe noticed that it started getting bad as she was driving in the rain, I also noticed that the exhaust as it was warming up kept throwing whiteish smoke and water drops from it. Not sure if the rain has something to do with it (i.e. water in the engine)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Do you have an ODBII scanner? It would help if we knew that error code.

    My educated guess is it's the spark plug wires. Those only last ~30k miles on the Miata. I'm already on my 3rd set.

    Spark or fuel, as they say. If the fuel filter is not clogged up and the fuel pump is OK, it's probably the spark, so I'd look there first.
  • uselmanuselman Posts: 5
    :) I had the same problem. I had bought the car used and the folks at mazda said it was most likely caused by the sparkplugs. Possibly the previous owner had gotten their plugs changed (where-ever) and apparently it is a good idea to use mazda plugs otherwise you can damage the coil-pack and in my case also a converter which fortunately was still under the manufacturers warranty at the time. I still get my tune-ups done at other places but I stop by mazda first and buy the plugs. After replacing the coil-pack, sparkplug cables, and the converter it was fine. Hopefully in your case it's just the coil-pack.
  • uselmanuselman Posts: 5
    O.K.. I get up this morning for work. The Miata starts perfectly, I drive to work, no problems. I come out at the end of the day and it won't turn over. It has electrical power, it has gas, but out of the blue it just won't turn. Any advice? :sick: :sick: :mad:
  • cwybengacwybenga Posts: 4
    I have a 2000 miata standard and have been having some trouble with the car running only on 2 cylinders. It starts fine cold, but hot starts running on 2 cylinders only. If you pull the second plug wire off and put it back on it corrects the problem. The engine light came on and I have taken it in to the dealership to have a diagnostic done. It shows an error code of low efficiency for the catalytic converter but am taking it in next week to do more tests. All maintenance has been done. Could it be the coil??? This morning I was out and this problem appeared while I was driving which was a first. I was in third gear and all of a sudden it lost 2 cylinders. I pulled over and pulled the plug wire for a second and this fixed the problem.
  • I have a 95 Miata that had a theft deterrent system in it (similar to an alarm system) that had a defective solenoid that acted the same way. Took out the system and the Miata has been perfect since
  • cwybengacwybenga Posts: 4
    My stalling issue is fixed after a heafty bill. Don't mind spending the money as long as it is going to fix the problem. Replaced the ignition wires, pair of coils, and a new gasket. Runs like new.
  • branbuffybranbuffy Posts: 5
    My Miata (41,000 miles) has intermittant starting issues. It simply won't start. There doesn't seem to be a consistancy to it's non-starting issue. It will crank/ turn over -but it just won't start. I have new spark plugs now, but it is still being onary. Any ideas? The crank sensor has been adjusted as well.
    :mad: :confuse:
  • branbuffybranbuffy Posts: 5
    Did you get the problem resolved? if so, how?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    As they say, spark or fuel.

    You've replaced the plugs, so next thing to check are the plug wires. I've replaced mine twice already (every 30k). That's most likely.

    Do the 99s have an ignition coil? If so that would be my next guess.

    Beyond that I'd look at the fuel system - filter, fuel pump, etc.
  • branbuffybranbuffy Posts: 5
    My mechanic replaced the plugs and wires and crank sensor. Then I went to drive it home and the check engine light came on. The car started to sputter/ and smell like sulphur. :mad:
    So the car was taken back to the garage (towed) :sick: and the mechanic ordered a new ignition coil saying 'that should fix it". Jeez I seriously hope so. Can an ignition coil really be the problem? Wouldn't sulphur smell lead to the catalytic converter? :confuse:
    I live in a super small town and the closest Mazda dealersip is 3 hours away! I haven't taken that route because I totally trust my mechanic -he's not a swindling type. I just want to know as much as I can. Knowledge is power.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'm no expert, but I would be trying the exact same thing, so the mechanic does sound honest.

    Basically you replace things in order of cost, cheapest stuff first.
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