Dear Tom and Ray: I recently purchased a 2006 Mazda MX5 with 48,000 miles. When I test-drove the car, it seemed like a great car, and since I always wanted to own a convertible roadster, I bought the car. The problem is that after I bought it, when I drove it from San Diego to Los Angeles, I noticed that this car rides pretty rough. I mean, you can feel every imperfection in the road. Needless to say, my wife, who suffers from motion sickness, is not very happy and never wants to ride in the car again. I have taken the car back to the dealership, and they say that’s how Miatas ride. I really don’t want to get rid of the car, but I need to accommodate my queen. What can I do to get the ride to be smoother? I have 205 50 16 tires on it. — Pedro
TOM: Pedro, you dope! Haven’t you ever heard of the “feel of the road”? That’s what sports cars are designed to deliver. If you didn’t want to feel the road, you should’ve bought a Buick.
RAY: Generally speaking, the things that make a car “fun to drive” make it nauseating to be a passenger.
TOM: There’s not much you can do now. Little roadsters are designed to have very firm suspensions, so they stick to the road and turn sharply when you drive on those curvy mountain roads. That’s the appeal of these cars.
RAY: And the reason they all have convertible tops is so that when the driver’s wife needs to puke, she can just lean right over the side with no obstructions, like windows and side pillars.
TOM: You should, of course, check your tire pressure, because overinflated tires will harden a ride. But we’re assuming that you or the dealer has done that.
RAY: And if you think a little improvement in ride comfort might be enough to create peace in your household, you can try replacing your tires with four “grand touring” tires, like the General Altimax or the Continental ContiPro Contact.
TOM: Tires that are designated “grand touring” concentrate on providing maximum ride comfort and minimal road noise, even at the expense of some cornering ability. That’s the exact tradeoff you’re looking to make right now.
RAY: But keep in mind that while they may help some, they’re not going to transform the Miata into a Lincoln Town Car.
TOM: So, if you think that with a little improvement, your queen might approve of the Miata, try four grand touring tires. But if it’s going to take more than little softening to make her happy, don’t waste your money on the tires. Instead, put it toward your next car.
RAY: And this time, bring her with you on the test drive. Good luck, Pedro.
Dear Tom and Ray: What went wrong with my baby? Years ago, I owned my favorite car ever: a 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in Triple White (white paint, white top and white leather). That car was amazing. The best road-trip car I’ve ever seen, it would run at 2,000 rpm at 75 mph. Beautiful. Anyway, about six years ago, the car developed a strange problem. When it wasn’t warmed up, it would never shift out of first gear. As soon as the car warmed up, everything ran just fine. On a cold morning, I would have to run the car for 30 minutes before I could leave the house. I had to trade in the car, because I thought I couldn’t afford to fix it. Then, one month after trading it in, I discovered that the car dealer I traded it to had fixed it and started using it as his personal car. Six years on, I just saw him driving around in it the other day. It is still his personal car, and it got me wondering: What in the world was wrong with that car, and was it something I could have fixed easily? — James
TOM: Yes, you could have fixed this easily, James. All it would have taken was money.
RAY: And maybe not that much money. Shame on you for not getting it checked out at the time. It could have been something as simple as a solenoid that was sticking or some dirt in the valve body. Maybe a transmission flush might have fixed it.
TOM: Or, it could have been complete transmission failure. But it would have been nice to know before you traded in your baby.
RAY: Now all you can do is guess. To make you feel better, James, let’s assume that the transmission itself was dying, and that it would have cost you $2,000 to buy and install a new one. If that were the case, you might have decided to let the car go, right?
TOM: Keep in mind, too, that the dealer can fix stuff a lot cheaper than you can. He’s got a mechanic on staff he can make use of. So it may have been a different financial calculation for him than it would have been for you.
RAY: But there’s nothing you can do now, James, except move to another city. Seeing this guy happily tool around in your beloved car every week clearly is not doing you any good.