Mopar Belly Pans with NACA Duct

Happy New Year everyone!!

CXXIV posted on the Fiat 124 Forum today, something that I was not aware of – a Mopar belly pan that apparently supercedes Mazda’s belly pan, and was introduced for the MT Abarth 124 Spiders sometime during MY 2018 2017, and incorporates a NACA duct that I imagine helps in cooling the engine compartment (it appears to be directing air up the side of the engine with the cat/downpipe).

Per Antony Hayton:

The U.S. National Advisory Committee for Aerodynamics (NACA) became NASA in 1958. By then the NACA Duct was in common use on airplanes. It then became in use for race cars. It has a specific job. Objects that move through the air disturb it. Even a bullet stirs the air up. No matter if it be a plane or a road vehicle, airflow is disturbed as they go through it, causing turbulence. Turbulence is drag and drag eats up speed and increases fuel consumption. The NACA Duct came from the need to pull attached airflow into required spaces for various reasons (cooling, air conditioning, tank pressurization etc.) without using a high profile ram air scoop, which would create lots of drag, fuel and speed loss too. NACA Ducts use the air attached to the plane or car and suck it inwards. The air hits the gentle ramp angle and the curvature profile of the walls and creates counter-rotating vortices. The NACA Duct is the smart designed shape that tricks airflow with the least amount of drag, that would eat fuel and speed. It is designed specifically for a job, that it accomplishes passively due to it’s aerodynamic properties. It works automatically as speed increases.

I’m betting some initial production MY 2017 vehicles don’t have this feature, and until I hear otherwise, there is a possibility that Classicas and Lussos of any year might not either (I could be wrong). The Mopar catalog also implies that you get the non-duct belly pan with AT – why would that be? If you live in a hot climate, or are otherwise putting heavy demands on your engine, this may be a good option to consider, even if you have to fabricate the vent duct yourself. I only say that, because Mopar’s MSRP for this goody is $517! If you can bend some sheet aluminum, or perhaps 3D print a proper vent duct, and pop-rivet that into a hole cut into your existing belly pan, I think it could be done for around ten bucks 🙂

For guidance, simply bring up photos for Mopar part # 68313969AA (or simply purchase one). CXXIV shared this photo of the Mopar belly pan, with the Mazda belly pan behind it, for comparison.



A database update dated January 2022 is finally available after a 4-year lapse!

When playing music on your Infotainment Center, you may notice the album covers that are displayed corresponding to the current song.  This is one of the features of the Gracenote® database stored in memory.  The initial 2017 Fiat 124 Spiders were shipped with version 5 of this database which dates back to 2015, so songs released since then will not be recognized, so by updating your database, more recent songs will be recognized.

Other benefits of updating your database:

  • Because a phonetic database is also included, voice recognition of artist and album names will be improved when searching using the microphone
  • Once music is identified by MusicID, Gracenote® algorithms can transform music into killer playlists organized by similar Genres, Moods and Tempos
  • Logo and Genre database for all known AM, FM, HD and DAB radio stations is also updated

HD Radio station album art example (I tweaked the system to enlarge the album art, display current date, compass, altitude, speed, get rid of the red border around the status bar message & display my preferred background)

21st 124I discovered today that my database was 5 – 6 years old, as apparently I had never gotten around to installing version 9, so I was still using version 8.  Anyways, it was thought that the version 9 (June 2018) update might be the last one released for our Fiat Connect system (and Mazda Connect1), but hawke had observed that version 12 was included in 74.00.324A EU N firmware, and located Visteon’s newest version of the files (thanks for posting ash8).  Downloads:

European version for Europe (UK, Russia, Germany, France, etc)

North American version for US, Mexico and Canada

ADR version (Australian Design Rules) for Australia, NZ, Taiwan, South America, South Africa, Philippines, Thailand and Oceania

Japanese version



Using a USB drive, here are the Windows instructions to update (do not use a Mac computer to format the USB drive as files are added that your Infotainment Center doesn’t like*):

1. Insert a FAT 32 formatted USB 2.0 or 3.0 drive into your computer.

2. Download the appropriate gracenotes.up file (from the links above) to the USB drive.  The USB drive needn’t be wiped clean of other files (like it does for tweaks), but ensure that you have at least 400 megabytes of space remaining and the gracenotes.up file is saved to the root level.

  • Firefox: After selecting the “click here” link on the website and selecting “Save to Disk,” click “OK,” find the gracenotes .up file in your designated download folder, right-click on the file icon, select “Send To,” and select your USB device by name and/or drive letter in the window to transfer the file.
  • Chrome: After selecting the “click here” link on the website, click “Show in folder” next to the gracenotes .up file name at the bottom of the window, click “Move this file,” locate your USB device by name and/or drive letter in “My Computer,” and click “Move” to transfer the file.
  • IE8/9/10: After selecting the “click here” link on the website, click “Save” in the “File Download” window, select where you will save the gracenotes.up file. It is recommended that you save the  file directly to your USB drive.

3. When the download to the USB drive is complete, safely remove the USB drive from your computer.

4. Make sure your phone is unpaired from the vehicle, especially if you have a lot of contacts, and remove any USB drive(s) with media files, so that you free up enough memory to install the new gracenotes.up file.

5. Insert your update USB drive into your vehicle’s USB port.

6. Select “Settings” on the vehicle’s main display screen.

7. Scroll right and select the “System” tab.

8. Select “Music Database Update”.

9. The system will ask you if you would like to search for an update package for the Music Database on your USB device. Select “Search”.

10. The system shows your current Music Update version and lists updates available on your USB device. Select the newest update.

11. The system displays the version of the Music Update currently installed on your system and asks if you want to install the Music Update version you selected in step 8. Select “Install”.

12. In the U.S., my upgrade from version 8 took under 15 minutes, but in case the European or Australian version 12 update takes longer (closer to 20 minutes),  be sure to momentarily step on the brake pedal after 15 minutes, to insure that the system doesn’t go to sleep as this will corrupt the upgrade.

Once completed, the system will display that the update was successful and instruct you to acknowledge a reboot.  

13. The USB drive can be safely removed from the vehicle port as it’s rebooting.

*     bspielman recommends using Funter to clean up USB drives that were formatted using a Mac.

Lightning McQueen

Pixar released the 1st “Cars” movie (the best one of the trio, according to both of my grandsons) in 2006, ten years before our 124 Spiders debuted. Lightning McQueen was named after Glenn McQueen (not Steve McQueen), who was a supervising animator at Pixar when he died of melanoma in 2001. Glenn had worked on classics like Toy Story and Finding Nemo and was working on Cars before his untimely passing.

Yesterday, Jeromie Snavely posted a photo ↑ (he had a Cars-themed surprise party for his dad), and I gotta say that sporting the Pixar sunshade from Amazon. – it works!

Apparently, the animators at Pixar drew influences from many sources to create McQueen’s final design. However, the two major car models he is based on are – the Chevrolet Corvette C1 (produced between 1953-1962) and the Chevrolet Corvette C6 (produced between 2004-2013). I think that the 124 Spider would have been a great candidate, had the timing been right. After all, Mia and Tia, are identical twin Mazda Miata (NA) sisters who are Lightning McQueen’s self-proclaimed biggest fans. 🙂

HVAC Drain

If anyone happens to find water residing in their floor carpeting, I would first suspect the drain filters for the convertible top well needing to be cleaned, but a second unlikely possibility is a clogged/pinched drain hose for the HVAC evaporator. I couldn’t find out anything about this in either the MX-5 of 124 Spider Service Manuals, but  justanothermx5  shared the results of his investigation, and has located the elusive HVAC drain connection (yes, it’s under the subwoofer/wedge, as shown in his photo above), where the hose going through the firewall is attached, allowing condensate to drip on the ground.  If that hose were to somehow get clogged, condensate could make it’s way into the passenger footwell instead, so I’m displaying his pic, to hopefully help you locate the exterior end of that attached hose, as it would be advantageous to unclog it there (once you finally locate it), vs. breaking the seal by removing the drain component from the inside.

An hour after I published this article, Heimeyisdead found the exit point for the drain on his Lusso, by removing the passenger side wheel well cover, and took a photo

Great news!! Online Wiring Diagrams will now work without flash!

Today, I learned that the author of the online Mazda MX-5 shop manual has updated the site he hosts, so that flash is no longer required to view the wiring diagram images, so I again fixed the links to that great resource. If you are going to use that resource, you need do no more.

It turns out, he simply decided to embed ruffle , a flash player emulator . So I looked it up to see if I could incorporate that into our Fiat Service Manual USB, and I’m hoping that we need only load the ruffle build into the built-in website. The alternative method I chose for now was to load the ruffle extension into my default browser – Chrome is currently my choice, but there are also extensions for:

I can now click on my offline Mazda MX-5 shop manual, and all is well again, even using Chrome (example in top photo). My favorite feature of Mazda’s interactive (that’s why flash player was required) wiring diagrams, is that they show the current flow starting at the battery, through the respective fuses and switches, until the desired operation has been completed. As an example, for power windows > the effect of activating the start button and the respective switches (ie window down <short tap>, window auto down <long press>, window lock, etc.). You won’t find that feature from Mopar TA!

To familiarize yourself with the process, you can watch: . However, the easiest way to install Ruffle on Chromium-based browsers such as Chrome, Edge, Opera, and Brave is through the Chrome Web Store. The easiest way to install Ruffle on Firefox is through

Note that if a thumbnail copy is displayed that is too hard to read, just right-click and select “full screen display”.

Here is my MOPAR Tech Authority Wiring Manual using Chrome, pointing at the Wiring_Information.html file in the Wiring Diagrams folder (I’m not sure that it didn’t work prior to my installing the ruffle extension though).

Slightly-used exhaust complete with catalyst + mid-pipe + factory original “Abarth Record Monza” / also factory intercooler for sale

The very resourceful gentleman from Italy (leader of the 124 Spider Italia group), that created the beautiful sill plates he offered to my blog readers a few years ago that many of us have installed, has sold his 124 Abarth, and has reached out to me to announce that some lucky person in North America (he’s willing to arrange packaging + shipping) has the opportunity to purchase some parts that he had previously removed for “performance” upgrades, including:

  • Exhaust complete with catalyst + central (mid-pipe) + final with factory original “Abarth Record Monza”, all removed at approximately 4,000 miles.
  • Original factory intercooler that he removed, and replaced with “Eurocompulsion” upgrade.
  • Set of 4 (practically new) original gun-metal alloy Abarth wheel rims that I’m guessing he replaced with some Italian forged OZ wheels for the 124 Spider GT after he saw Peter’s 😉 Inquire as to whether TPMS sensors are included, but know that Euro sensors aren’t compatible with the North American 315 MHz system anyways.

If anyone is interested, get a hold of him directly @ Francesco Ulivieri []

P.S. Of course someone in Europe, where shipping would presumably be much cheaper, may be interested in at least the wheels, and is also free to contact Francesco 😉

Camshaft Position Sensor’s Top Dead Center (TDC) calibration

phonic wheel learning

From the UK/Euro owner’s manual (the battery replacement section actually appeared on the next page, and I pasted it in for relevance)

Phonic wheel learning procedure: 

 Let the engine run until the Cold-Engine (blue) light turns off – rev the engine min. 3 times up to 6000 rpm (the manual implies that you only need to do this once?) and let the RPM drop to idle in between – wait one minute, turn engine off, wait one minute, turn it on, wait one minute – this should store the phonic wheel values, and prevent getting intermittent misfire errors (including P0300/P0302/P0303), triggering the “Check Engine” light. 

The UK/Euro owner’s manual specifies that a “phonic wheel learning procedure” is to be performed “every time the battery is reconnected after being disconnected”. There is no mention of this in our North American manual, which casts a doubt as to whether this is carryover from older FIAT manuals, or is in fact true for our 1.4 L engine.

Although it makes perfect sense after a timing belt change, in order to calibrate/re-initialize the Camshaft Position Sensor’s TDC for the spark timing in the ECM, I doubt that this normally needs to be done just because the battery has been disconnected. I’d love for some experts to chime in: Is this a helpful tip, or is it simply another mistake by FIAT’s technical writers?

Engine Mounts


screen capture showing (sheared) Fiat engine mount, courtesy of Redline Auto Parts

I got a question today regarding our engine mounts, and started my research using Redline’s great video comparing 124 Spider components with those in the ND MX-5. First off, although our engine mount “perches” with the rubber isolator are Mazda castings (with Mazda logos in-fact), do not order these parts from Mazda! They need to be the Mopar versions (part numbers are shown below).

I think Redline may have mislead some people stating the lower mounts were the same as the Miata’s. Although the castings are the same for both vehicles (and have the same casting part #), until you compare the actual assembled mounts side-by-side, you won’t realize that the bolt protruding from the rubber isolators in the MX-5 mount assemblies are about an inch too short (thanks caineroad for pointing this out!).


Fiat right side engine mount perch ↑


Miata engine mount perch (photo courtesy of caineroad) ↑

The top engine mount “brackets” that are supplied with our engine are Mopar castings. I noticed that mtnghost commented “Good thing the bushing piece (isolator) as it’s called is the only part that should ever go out!”. Well, in the tear-down video, Redline pointed out (as shown in the top picture) that both the Miata and 124 Spider were involved in collisions, and it was the bracket(s) that sheared in both vehicles (by design; the isolator is encapsulated in a longitudinal collision).

Good thing to inspect for when buying these vehicles used, as unlike the replacement of body panels to hide evidence of involvement in an accident, the engine mounts could easily be ignored or “overlooked”.

The Mopar part #s…

Left side ↑
Right side ↑

Infotainment Replacement Touch-Screen Details

No need to buy a new radio!

screen delam

photo courtesy of Trever Talbert

Thanks to Pascal Lemée for providing a link to a replacement touch-screen (the glass screen cover and “digitizer” that overlays the LCD presentation screen), for those experiencing delamination caused by high temperatures within the unvented air cavity between the two screens. It can currently be procured for about $20, including S/H using the link below, but even if you source it elsewhere, this provides the necessary details for comparison purposes (7 Inch, 36 Pin, Glass Touch Screen TM070RDZ38).

touchscreen repl

He also provided a link for an excellent repair guide (alternate google doc), written up with many photos, by Tyler Watthanaphand.


photo courtesy of Tyler Watthanaphand

[added 11/9/2022]
Another alternative as of October 2022, is to order the screen assembly (complete with the glass touch-screen and “digitizer”, the LCD presentation screen, and the silver surround frame) from Mazda for around $80.  Warranty costs were mounting for replacing perfectly fine CMUs (at $1,000 to $2,000), simply because the screens were delaminating, so Mazda finally made screen-only replacements available to their dealers.

Although Mazda started using an improved version of the CMU (Connect 2.0 with better processor and shielding, higher-res LCD screens and 50-pin ribbon cables for the digitizer) in the MX-5 for MY 2018+, it is believed that all years of 124 Spiders used the same CMUs as the 2016 – 2017 MX-5 vehicles (Connect 1.0), so the part to order with the correct 36-pin ribbon cable for the digitizer, circuit board with smaller silicon chip at the bottom and lower- res LCD screen, should be Mazda part #  D0YP-61-1JZ.  Refer to an abbreviated version of TSB 09-136/22 for details.

Note:  If the new screens are subjected to the same high temperature conditions that originally resulted in delamination, since the design/process hasn’t changed, the same could happen once again.

Differentiating Cabin Air Issues With Your Nose

The most common smells we notice while driving with the top down emanate from the surrounding environment as we pass by – someone’s BBQ, a restaurant’s kitchen grill / deep fryer exhaust vent, farm animal / fertilizer, smoke stacks, etc., but there can be some smells from within the car itself that can serve as clues to potential issues.

Sweet smell

Antifreeze coolant has a unique “sweet” smell, and those that have had to replace their water pumps are probably quite familiar with it, but be aware that the coolant overflow tank vents into the engine compartment when the engine is running hot, so an occasional whiff of that smell doesn’t necessarily mean you have a coolant system leak.  Unlike most cars that have no aerodynamic belly pans, the overflow doesn’t just exit onto the ground, but is captured somewhat in that pan.

Moldy smell

I see many questions regarding a “moldy” smell, and that is usually attributed to shutting off the car with the HVAC system in recirculation mode – Max A/C, Recirc, etc, which results in all of the vent flaps being closed, and yes, the trapped air is getting moldy.

Uric acid / Ammonia type smell

If you instead smell a uric acid / ammonia type smell, chances are good that a critter has hibernated in your engine compartment somewhere – most likely in the HVAC air inlet (underneath the cowl panel). See my article for more on this.

“Band-Aid” smell

A new smell was mentioned in a forum question recently – a “Band-Aid” smell, which is attributed to leaking refrigerant oil, which is needed by the compressor, and circulates with the Freon™ 134a (the actual refrigerant) when the A/C is running in our 124 Spiders.  Usually the leak occurs in the evaporator  (requiring replacement), and is identified as a “A/C Freon leak” noted to be strongest when starting the car.  Closely related would be a “garlic” smell coming from other components such as the condenser coil, since R134a itself smells like garlic (although the oil smell usually dominates).