A database update dated June 2018 is available!  

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 and HD 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)

Although more recent 2017 and 2018 vehicles may have come with version 7, rather than version 5, in either case an even newer update – version 9 has recently been released (June 2018) for the Fiat Connect system (and Mazda Connect).  My North American file (280 MB), took close to 15 minutes to update.  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

Chinese version is for China, Hong Kong and Macau

Japanese version

gracenote with AppleInstructions

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. Please ensure you have at least 400 megabytes of space remaining and the gracenotes.up file is saved to the top level of file folders on your USB drive.

  • 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 gracenotes .up 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. The update may take several (close to 15) moments. Once completed, the system will display that the update was successful and instruct you to acknowledge a reboot.  If by chance the update is taking longer than 15 minutes, be sure to momentarily step on the brake pedal to insure that the system doesn’t go to sleep as this will corrupt the upgrade.

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.


A map update dated July 2018 is also available!  

Depending on what version your navigation maps are at, it might be a good time to update your SD card as well.


If you find mistakes in the Gracenote database, you are encouraged to submit corrections (using iTunes) that hopefully will be implemented in the next update.

Exclusive Tweak ~ An Abarth Shutdown Animation


After taking notice of these last few seconds of an Abarth commercial for the Record Monza Exhaust, where a scorpion is crawling away with an Abarth key ring, I thought to myself, “that would make an amusing animation to display on our Infotainment system as the engine is switched off”.  After putting out a suggestion that someone convert that portion of the video to an ivf file, Stefan Ipate stepped up and created a few versions.  I’ve selected a 6-second version that is relatively small at 753 KB (significantly smaller than the Abarth bootup animation), and have included it, along with scripts to modify the Option [X] – Install Abarth Bootup animation tweak in my AIO 1.51Fiat_d Updates Folder, that a few of you might wish to add to your system:

  • Copy the 20i.txt and 20d.txt files into the choose folder of the AIO package on your PC.
  • Copy the ExitLogo.ivf file into the choose/config_all/bootanimation/jci/resources folder of the AIO package on your PC
  • Copy the OrigExitLogo.ivf file into the choose/config_org_all/bootanimation/jci/resources folder of the AIO package on your PC (renaming it ExitLogo.ivf afterwards)
  • and reinstall the tweak

There are a couple of other minor updates to my AIO Tweaks in the Folder link , as well.  See the Read_Me file for details.

Note: I am currently not running any memory intensive apps, so installing the additional file has had no negative effect on my system.  However, if you have installed (or plan to install) app(s) like Android Auto (or perhaps even Speedometer?), there is a possibility that performance might suffer from obligating an additional 750 KB of memory, requiring you to revert back to the original ExitLogo file…

animation file sizes

Which brings up another point – if you are going to install the CarPlay/Android Auto retrofit kit, it might very helpful to not only forego this exit animation, but the bootup TranLogo animation as well (if it hasn’t already been eliminated in version 70 firmware), as the CarPlay & Android Auto programs will pretty much use up all of the spare RAM in your CMU.  The TranLogoEnd.ivf is only 161 KB, which is basically the five home screen main menu buttons, and is an ideal small substitute animation file for TranLogo.ivf.

Abarth’s Sport Mode switch


As advertised, most Abarth owners agree that activating the Sport mode switch  provides “an even more engaged driving experience”, as compared to the “Normal” mode that those of us driving Classicas and Lussos always experience.  The primary programming changes that are activated within various modules in the vehicle, including the Engine Control Module (ECM or ECU), Powertrain Control Module (PCM), Transmission Control Module (TCM), Dynamic Stability Control/Traction Control Module (DSC/TCM) and the Power Steering Control Module (PSCM):

  • sharper throttle response due to different ECU mappings of the throttle body and Multi-Air control of the inlet valves
  • torque curve shifted lower in the power band in ECU due to allowing turbo boost at 2500 rpm, rather than at 3200 rpm
  • automatic transmission shift calibrations are changed so that gears are held longer, and shifts are made quicker
  • reduces the degree of electric power assist in the steering (heavier), increasing steering feedback to the driver (along with a slight increase in effort)
  • relaxed Dynamic Stability Control by adjusting the limits at which stability control intervenes


I’m told that the switch (which isn’t attached to the bezel) is connected electrically to the Instrument Cluster, and when engaged for about 2 seconds, the Sport indicator light (as shown in the photo above) is triggered, along with the Sport mode mappings within the aforementioned modules, via the HS-CAN network.

sport switch detail

Assuming that the “Sport” indicator light exists in all of 124 Spider clusters, I’m curious as to whether the Sport mode:

  • connection can be made to the instrument cluster in a Classica or Lusso (which connector and pin?) via our own (momentary-on) switch, or a console bezel from an Abarth that incorporates the official switch
  • whether that will actually trigger Sport mode in a Classica or Lusso

Anyone (Gregory?) have access to the appropriate wiring diagram(s) for the switch/circuit?


Luggage sets for the 124 Spider


Given our somewhat small trunks, luggage can be a bit of a challenge, as I learned first hand while doing my cross-continent run this past June.  I found an article talking about custom luggage sets that were designed for the MX-5, and after a bit of research, came across a couple of possible options.  Warning:  None of them are “inexpensive”…

  • The first, and most economical, is  ⇑  this one listed on, which lists for $169 USD. I put in a buyer query regarding fitment for our Spiders, and I got a response back from another 2017 124 Spider Abarth owner who stated he had purchased it and it fits well, and he’s pleased with the purchase.  He says the set is manufactured for the NC model, which apparently has a bit smaller trunk than the ND our vehicle’s are based on, so he indicated that there’s some additional spare room after the bags are loaded. I’ve asked him if he can tell me how much is free (in inches) to the sides and front/back, so I’ll let you know if he responds with more info. As best I can tell from photos, it looks like there’s something like 10” or more to the sides that would be free for other items, like camera gear, etc.
  •  ⇑  Now, here’s a set I like even more, and I’ve got a query in as to the cost for shipping to North America (the dealers are in Europe, so it would likely ship from either Germany or the UK). They have three different trim levels, and of course the one I was drawn to is the black with red stitching (shown in photos above), which would match my interior beautifully.  The downside is that it’s 239 Euros.  Ouch.  The least expensive of the three versions is just under 200 Euros.  Here’s the links for the three versions, going from top to entry level version.  They look pretty much the same to me, other than the outer stitching details.

Look for suggestions from other readers, in the comments below…

Fuel Door “Stop” + Stirrup

fuel door stop

photos courtesy of duke8253

[edited 9/24/2018]
The hinge of the fuel door contains a “stop”, for lack of a better term, that is pressed into position, and has been known to pop out of position on a few MX-5 and 124 Spiders, to be found as a mystery part, in the fuel fill cavity, probably near the fuel overflow drain hole (clearly shown in the bottom photo) upon opening the fuel door.  The fuel door will function fine without the stop, but will be subject to blowing around in the wind, while open, as the purpose of the stop is to keep the door in the open position, while fueling.

Hmmm, my fuel filler door on my Toyota doesn’t stay put, maybe for a similar reason.  (Research has since revealed, that Toyota didn’t incorporate any device for holding the fuel door open, at least in 2004; only a spring to pop it open.)

So, this is how duke8253 has reassembled the stop (John is wondering if the white piece is oriented correctly, as this orientation may explain why a few stops are popping out in the first place)…

fuel door stop1

I gathered my information for this article from an informative thread in the forum, solving the mystery of what this part does, and where it belongs, and this Mazda diagram illustrates the removal procedure of the fuel door assembly, in order to return the stop to it’s intended function…

fuel door stop2

… by removing the two bolts that fasten it to the car, and pressing the stop back into position.  The painted nub of the plastic block needs to be pushed into the square hole in the fuel door arm.  The top photo does a great job of showing the stop properly installed, prior to installing the entire assembly back into place.  Per Mark Booth:

If you check your fuel door, I’m sure you’ll find a little square hole there that’s empty. The plastic part goes through that square hole so you’d be able to feel the little nub with your finger when the fuel door is mounted.

The other end of the little gizmo (the end with the while plastic roller) gets oriented on the outside (towards the trunk) of the fuel door arm and on the opposite side of the hinge of the fuel door arm. In other words, the gizmo spans across the hinge, so to speak.

Looks as if the white tube nests into a stop that is formed into the hinge, but perhaps it’s lip was intended to face upwards, rather than downwards…

fuel door stop3

On a side note, there is another part built into the fuel-filler lid (not shown in the Mazda diagram above) that you may not be aware of – a stirrup to hold your gasoline cap while refueling that keeps it from swinging in the wind, and possibly marring your paint.  So while refueling, both the fuel door and the fuel filler cap both remain where they belong, thanks to the stop and the stirrup.

fuel cap stirrup

Fixing a windshield chip yourself


If you are unlucky enough to get a chip in your windshield resulting from a random pebble launched by the tires of some truck in front of you, and mechanical stress hasn’t caused cracks to immediately spread outwards, hopefully you can reverse that bad luck, avoiding a windshield replacement, by fixing the chip yourself with a repair kit, prior to cracks eventually spreading across the windshield.  Usually the cause of the crack(s) happening after the fact, is additional thermal stress, such as:

  • the defrost heater hitting the very cold windshield
  • the AC defogger hitting a very hot windshield, etc.

A rock of some sort hit my windshield a couple of weeks ago while driving in Michigan (on my other vehicle – not my 124 Spider), and after watching this YouTube video, I ordered the Blue-star Windshield Repair Kit from Amazon (under $8.00), although there are plenty of other alternatives out there, including companies that will repair the chip, likely at no cost to you if submitted to your insurance company.

windshield repair kit

Windshields are laminated using glass and plastic, so that when glass is shattered, the shards are held in place by the plastic film within (hence it’s called “safety” glass).  The principle behind this repair kit (and many others), involves creating a vacuum, sucking all the air out of the little voids within the shattered glass (that make up the visible chip), and then pressure injecting clear epoxy resin to fill those voids.  I imagine that some of the voids on the backside of the plastic film (closest to the vehicle’s interior), as well as the deformed plastic film itself (at the point of impact), won’t be fixable with resin, which may result in the slight reveal, some report seeing after their chip has been repaired.

Today, I’m happy to report that my chip did not spread, and it was a simple half-hour procedure for me to fill the chip in with the epoxy resin formula that cured in 15 minutes (as the sun was shining brightly), using the UV radiating from the sun.  My experience was even better than the typical repair results, shown in the top photo.  The entire chip is gone!

If this had been my 124 Spider, I wouldn’t hesitate to try this solution, especially if it appears that you will successfully mitigate unsightly stress cracks from emanating outwards from the chip.  The worst that can happen, is that cracks do occur afterwards (highly unlikely if the resin is bonded to the glass thoroughly), and you end up calling up your insurance company to initiate a windshield replacement, which I might add, after learning that it may take a week or two to obtain the glass and windshield surround trim pieces, the replacement job itself can be a very tedious and expensive endeavor, as you can read more about here.

Instructions (from a similar kit)

Perform repair in shaded area (not in direct sunlight) with the windshield temperature between 50°F and 75°F (10°C to 25°C). Do not allow the resin to come into contact with car’s finish or painted surfaces as this may cause damage. The Windshield Repair Kit repairs damages not exceeding 1 1/4 inch in diameter.

  1. Clean windshield around the damaged area with the alcohol towelette. Clean loose pieces of glass from the damaged area with the pushpin. Suggested: Place a cloth near the bottom of the windshield, below the damage. This will stop any resin that might flow from the repair area.
  2. Take the adhesive disc and peel the backing off ONE side of the adhesive disc. With tab pointing upward, line up the hole in the disc with the center of the damage. Make sure tab points upward. Press the adhesive disc onto the glass. Ensure that the whole adhesive disc is in contact with the windshield. Look at the disc from the inside of the vehicle to make sure there are no air bubbles.
  3. Peel off the OTHER side of the adhesive disc. Line up the pedestal with the adhesive disc making sure that the tab again points upward and matches the tab on the adhesive disc. FIRMLY press the pedestal against the disc again making sure that there are no air bubbles in the adhesive.
  4. Remove the cap from the resin tube. Away from painted surfaces and your face, carefully cut tip off (approximately 1/8 inches) to open resin tube. Place resin tube stem 1/4 inch into the pedestal opening and carefully squeeze tube to load resin into pedestal. Once tube is squeezed, remove resin tube from pedestal. Wipe off any residual resin from tip. Replace cap on resin tube and save any remaining resin for use in step 9.
  5. Make sure that the plunger is pushed all the way into syringe prior to use. Carefully and firmly twist the tip of the syringe into the pedestal. The fit between syringe and pedestal should be tight.
  6. Hold the syringe with one hand and gently pull plunger upward with the other hand. LOCK IN PLUNGER AT LOWEST INDENT SETTING by turning plunger indent into clip. Spring clip system will secure plunger in place. Allow entire assembly to sit as is for 10 MINUTES.
  7. Once step 6 is completed, temporarily remove the syringe from the pedestal. This will allow air into syringe. With plunger still locked in lowest indent setting, carefully replace syringe by twisting the tip of the syringe into the pedestal. Hold the syringe with one hand and gently push plunger down with the other hand. LOCK IN PLUNGER AT UPPER MOST INDENT SETTING by turning plunger indent into clip. Allow entire assembly to sit as is for at least 20 MINUTES.
  8. Once step 7 is completed, remove the syringe. Using the safety razor, slowly remove the pedestal and the adhesive disc from the glass. Wipe off any residual resin from glass.
  9. Remove cap from resin tube. While holding resin tube in one hand and curing strip in the other hand, carefully squeeze a bead of any remaining resin into the hole of the damaged area. Place curing strip over damaged area to hold in resin.
  10. Remove any air bubbles by using safety razor to lightly smooth over curing strip. Move the vehicle to sunlight area and let sit in direct sunlight for 15 minutes. Resin will cure with natural UV Sunlight (at least 1 hour is required on cloudy days). Once resin has cured, carefully remove curing strip by peeling it away from windshield.

Finishing tips: If the surface of the glass is uneven, safety razor may be used to remove any excess cured resin from windshield. Clean windshield again with alcohol towelette.



Stripe options for 124 Spider are officially available now

stripes on white

I’ve been really liking the “Retro” stripes ever since they were shown on some grey Spiders, as they were introduced to the press in the Summer of 2016, but could never find the stripes in our (U.S.) Accessories catalog.  Then in July, I met another 124 Spider owner, Al K. (who goes by  akk3159 in the forum), who was able to locate the stripes part # through a Canadian Mopar 2018 Parts Catalog (see top photo).  He had ordered the set through an online Mopar parts distributor, and even though he ordered the red and grey retro stripes, a recent batch of Red/Grey Retro Decal Kits were produced incorrectly with contrasting black border stripes instead.  The unsold kits have all since been recalled, but I was thinking when I saw the Red/Black stripe installed on his white Classica (see the next two photos of Al’s), that it coordinated even better than imagined with the Red/Grey, since:

  • it doesn’t introduce a third color on the white cars and complements all of the other black (soft top, entire interior, grills, lower-half of door mirrors, etc.
  • the red is actually a beautiful metal flake burgundy that coordinates perfectly (matches) with the background of the chrome Fiat logo badges on our cars.

He must have felt that way too, as he had the stripes installed, and revealed the results on the aforementioned forum on the same day I had met him.

retro red black stripe1retro red black stripe2

For most of the other grey, silver and red color cars, the Red/Grey should coordinate nicely.  I was very impressed with the quality of the Retro decal – they aren’t made with the monotone vinyl that you sometimes see, but rather, they actually look like the panels were masked off and metallic paint was applied.


On September 1, 2018, I was pleasantly surprised that FCA had officially announced that four versions of the Mopar stripes for the 124 Spider are finally available in the U.S. as a $295 installed option for the 2019 Model Year Classica models, and in addition, the decal kits can also be ordered from your preferred Mopar parts source (hopefully somewhat cheaper than the $195 MSRP):

Retro Stripe Body Decal Kit in Red/Grey is Mopar Part # 82215018AB
Retro Stripe Body Decal Kit in White/Grey is Mopar Part # 82215402AB
Double Rally Stripe Body Decal Kit in Red is Mopar Part # 82215401AB
Double Rally Stripe Body Decal Kit in White is Mopar Part # 82215400AB


images courtesy of FCA; click image to enlarge

The photo at the top of the article, which reveals how the Red/Grey Retro stripe looks on  a white Lusso, with it’s silver windshield surround, which does appear to coordinate nicely with the grey stripe, is from the most recent Canadian Mopar 124 Spider Accessories catalog I haven’t actually seen the Red/Grey stripe installed on a white Classica in person yet, so I haven’t decided which I like better, but I’m actually leaning towards the Red Double Rally stripe now, especially if someone verifies that the rich looking metal flake burgundy used in the Retro stripe (that matches the background of the Fiat badges it surrounds), is also used in the Red Rally kit.


Abarth 124 Rally Specifications

124 rally logo1

Already the winner of the  FIA R ~ Gran Turismo class World Championships for 2017 & 2018!!


124 Rally racing along special stage rally section of Fiat’s Balocco test track ~ photo courtesy of Autocar


Abarth “Race-Ready” final assembly in Turin, Italy ~ photo courtesy of Autocar

124 rally at track


I imagine that a majority of my blog readers are unlikely to be submitting an order for this racing variant of Mazda’s N platform, since Abarth is advertising to sell them for around $175,000 USD (plus a bunch of taxes), but I’ve been motivated today by Peter T. (owner of the  ABARTH 124 GT discussed in an earlier article), to learn more about the ABARTH 124 RALLY, which has already won the FIA R-GT World Championships for 2017 & 2018!

I am now presenting a compilation of the specs and observations I’ve gathered thus far (updated as I become aware of changes/corrections) …

Body Style: Coupe (removable hardtop only; no soft top installed)
Platform: 4th generation of N platform developed under Mazda/FCA joint partnership
Assembly Plant(s): Hiroshima, Japan (partial build) and finished up in Turin, Italy
Drivetrain: Front-midship engine, rear wheel drive (RWD)
Intended Use: Not certified street legal; turnkey race car built to FIA R-GT specifications.

Here’s the FIA release (the same group governing Formula 1) on the new R-GT Cup. Full R-Gran Turismo class rules are here, but the short version is two doors, two wheel drive, naturally aspirated or turbocharged or supercharged, no limit on engine size (though larger engine does mean higher minimum weight), must be a production car with at least 200 road models built per year, and must have a trunk of at least 2.65 cu ft (no Zonda R’s). So it’s open to all kinds of sports car / Gran Turismo car insanity.

Layout: Monocoque unibody; front and rear suspension sub-frames
Chassis construction: High-tensile strength steel with full rally spec reinforcements
Aluminum body panels: Hood, front quarter panels, decklid
Steel body panels: Doors, rear quarter panels, narrow panel just ahead of decklid
Carbon Fiber composite: Inner door trim panels and removable custom hardtop roof exclusively made for ABARTH 124 RALLY (with air scoop and Lexan rear window)

Engine: Abarth “Bialbero”* 1.8 Liter Turbocharged I-4, in-line four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, mounted slightly further rearward than the 1.4 L engine in the 124 SPIDER
Displacement: 1,742 cc
Bore x Stroke: ??
Power: (SAE) 296 hp @ 6,500 RPM
Torque: 444 lb.•ft.
Air Intake System: BMC  Hi-Performance with filter

rally engine closeup

*    “Bialbero” is Italian for “Twin Cam”, so this engine apparently isn’t Multi-Air

Description:  SADEV  six-speed sequential, dogring, Model #  SCL82-17 

sadev trans

MX-5 Racing installation manual of same transmission courtesy of Long Road Racing

Description: SADEV Mechanical Limited Slip Differential, paired to SADEV transmission via 34″ driveshaft

Description: Developed with LM Gianetti, using ExtremeShox EXT 4-way adjustable coil-over racing shocks and coaxial adjustable ride height springs

Description: Rack-and-pinion
Power Assist: Double pinion electric power assist

Description: Hydraulic with independent front and rear pumps
Front Brakes: 
Brembo Gran Turismo floating ventilated discs with aluminum hat, 14 in. (355 mm), opposed aluminum 4-piston fixed calipers and 32 mm thick pads
Rear Brakes: Brembo Gran Turismo floating ventilated discs with aluminum hat, 12.6 in. (320 mm), opposed aluminum 4-piston fixed calipers and 28 mm thick pads

rally black GT brakes

Rollover Protection: Safety Roll Cage welded to chassis
Safety Harnesses: 6-point Sedili Racing Sabelt


rally wheels1Wheel Rims: Custom exclusively for Abarth 124 RALLY  by OZ Racing, 18″ x 8″, aluminum alloy, white, 8 spokes
Wheel Bolt Pattern
: 5 x 110 PCD (not the 4 x 100 pattern for the 124 SPIDER)
Wheel Offset (ET)
: +53 mm (positive offset, aka wheel inset) wheel offset
Country of Origin: Italy

Tire Mfr. and Model: Michelin ??
Tire Size, Type and Rating:  225/45R18C, Commercial, ??
Tire Weight:  ??
Tire Dimensions
: ??

Note: The trunk cavity has been modified to accommodate two spares secured upright

Wheelbase: 90.9 in. (2,309 mm)
Track Width, Front: 58.9 in. (1,496 mm)
Track Width, Rear: 59.1 in. (1,503 mm)
Overall Length: 159.6 in. (4,054 mm)
Overall Width (w/o mirrors): 68.5 in. (1,740 mm)
Curb Weight, pounds (kg): 2,315 (1,050) (vs. 2,516 (1,141) for AT Abarth 124 Spider)
Weight Distribution: 49% Front / 51% Rear (vs. 53% Front / 47% Rear for 124 Spider)
“Passport” Weight: curb weight + weight of spare wheel(s) and other options for race

rally engine

201 pounds were removed!  (and mostly from the front – is the battery in the trunk?).  I also like the remote oil filter.

Prepping for “the great white north” winter


The tire treads have no snow in them – did they air-lift this car in for a photo shoot?  😉  Click image to enlarge.

cold start disableTobias (from Germany) has observed that while starting the 124 SPIDER in COLD conditions, there are extra “delays and relays”, before the starter engages, all while the lamp, adjacent to the Low Fuel lamp in the instrument cluster, is steady on (not flashing).

Next to the low fuel warning light there is also a pre-glow indicator. You’d think that this hardly makes any sense on a car that isn’t offered with a diesel engine but it still seems to serve a purpose on the 124.

As far as i have figured it out on mine, whenever ambient temperature are below ~4°C and the engine is completely cold (i.e. car sat overnight) and you switch on the ignition you see this light flash up, hear a relay clicking a few times and the light will go out after 1-2 seconds.  If you don’t switch on the ignition first, but start the engine right away, this also happens, but it will delay engaging the starter for the above mentioned 1-2 seconds.  None of this happens if temperatures are higher or the engine has some residual heat in it.

Seems to be a Fiat thing (maybe only in euroland?), since my dads’ Panda (mighty 1.2L NA) also does this.

Tobias stated that nothing is mentioned about this light in the German edition of his Owner’s Manual, so I decided to look into the subject further.  Per my U.S. Owner’s Manual (page 99), that amber lamp is the “Cold Start Disable Indicator Light”, and the manual continues…

Apparently if you attempt to start the vehicle and the ambient temperature is below -22ºF (-30ºC), the ECU module will prevent the starter from engaging with the engine, as indicated to the driver by a flashing amber “Cold Start Disable Indicator Light”.

Place your vehicle in a warm garage until the temperature has risen to a sufficient level to enable engine starting.

I had a paragraph on cold weather starting in my trickle-charging article regarding the extra Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) of the battery Fiat chose for our vehicles (520 vs. 350 in the MX-5), that you will really appreciate when it is …


but I never realized that the car is programmed to prevent you from starting it, should it get too cold.

Well, that ambient temperature pre-check accounts for some of the delay…

I imagine the Multi-Air brick won’t function properly when the oil is too cold, and the steady activation of that light while starting when temperatures are at, or below, freezing, is indicating that cold weather “pre-check” logic is in-process, as Tobias sort of guessed.  An explanation of why the correct oil, and the actual oil temperature are so important:

The viscosity of the oil actually affects the speed of intake valve movement when the solenoids trigger. To make sure that the valves are timed correctly, the ECU needs to know the EXACT viscosity of the oil in the Multi-Air brick. The easiest way to do this is to measure the VVT oil temperature (that’s why the sensor is in the brick), and then simply do a lookup of Pennzoil 5w40 synthetic @ the given temperature and it will return the correct viscosity – and that’s what the ECU does.  Engine performance based on these calculations is probably how the ECU determines when to display the change oil message.

What this means in practice is that if you are not using the correct viscosity oil, there will be (hopefully minute) variances in actual intake valve timing versus the timing the ECU is expecting. This is probably most likely at the extremes, either low or high, where different brands and formulations behave vastly differently even if they’re labeled as the same viscosity. Or if you’ve decided to do something silly like put 20w50 in your engine (which some old timers do as a way to reduce oil consumption).

I decided to download the Canadian FIAT 500X Owner’s Manual, since the same engine powers them as well.  I became curious as to why the label for that same symbol (page 6), states “glow plug”.   Then on page 279, I found this:

Cold Weather Operation
To ensure reliable starting under extreme cold conditions, an externally
powered electric block heater (available from your authorized dealer)
is required for the 1.4L Turbo engine below -20°F (-29°C).

To prevent possible engine damage while starting at low temperatures,
this vehicle will inhibit engine cranking when the ambient temperature
is less than -34°F (-35°C) and the oil temperature sensor reading indicates
an engine block heater has not been used.

The message “plug in engine heater” will be displayed in the instrument
cluster when the ambient temperature is below -4°F (-20°C) at the
time the engine is shut off as a reminder to avoid possible crank delays
at the next cold start.

(I found this identical information on page 255 in the Jeep Renegade’s Canadian Owner’s Manual, as well.)

…perhaps an additional delay is attributed to a pre-check of the Oil temperature and calculating the Δ

So, even though it isn’t mentioned in my U.S. Owner’s Manual, the ECU modules associated with the 1.4 L Turbo, manufactured by Delphi for various FCA vehicles, are probably programmed to not only check the ambient temperature, but also the oil temperature, and determine if a block heater has been plugged in.

Since there is no mention of a block heater in my U.S. Owner’s Manual, that explains why it sounds like the 124 SPIDER has instead, been programmed to not allow the starter to be engaged at a “warmer” temperature (-22ºF vs. -34ºF), when in fact, perhaps the logic is actually all there to allow starting if colder than -22ºF, as long as it also determines that the oil temperature is warmer, because a block heater is in-use.  In my opinion, just because the 124 SPIDER isn’t able to display the a block heater reminder message in the cluster, doesn’t mean they would alter the programming (creating yet another part number to account for the changes) ~ something for you brave souls living on the frozen tundra with a convertible, to keep in mind, and investigate further…

Re-establishing Oil Flow in Multi-Air “brick” after Long-Term Storage

multiair brick dot

Multi-Air “brick”

While inactive for an extended period*, some of Fiat’s 1.4 L engines have a tendency for almost ALL of the oil to drain out of the top-half of the engine, including the high pressure oil pump and the hydraulic pumping elements in the Multi-Air “brick” that are operated by the intake lobes on the camshaft, that all need enough oil (without air) flowing to feed the actuators used to properly control the fully variable lift of all eight intake valves.

The only way to re-establish consistent oil flow in the pump(s) again, so that the engine will actually run, is to “prime” them (getting the air out of the system) by turning the engine over with the starter (which cycles the primary oil pump delivering oil back into the top-half of the engine), making sure to pause once in awhile, long enough to prevent the starter motor from overheating.

Here is the actual “Extended Park Starting” procedure from the Owner’s Manual:

NOTE: Extended Park condition occurs when the vehicle has not been started or driven for at least 30 days.
1. Install a battery charger or jumper cables to the battery to ensure a full battery charge during the crank cycle.
2. Cycle the ignition to the START mode and release it when the engine starts.
3. If the engine fails to start within 10 to 15 seconds, cycle the ignition to the OFF mode, wait five seconds to allow the starter to cool, then repeat the Extended Park Starting procedure.
4. If the engine fails to start after eight attempts, allow the starter to cool for at least 10 minutes, then repeat the procedure.

Tip #1

Upon determining that you will be performing this ritual (after the first pause to cool down the starter), it might be best to temporarily remove the fuse for the fuel pump (F34) for a few cycles, to avoid flooding the cylinders.  Hopefully, all systems are go, once you reinsert the fuse and resume starting  –  VROOOM.

Tip #2

One seldom mentioned  tip (hasn’t been officially confirmed) to speed up the upwards oil flow while the starter is turning the engine over, is to have someone engage an air-relief valve “button” that is said to be accessible by removing the oil filler cap (indicated by the orange oval in my photo).  m7art states that it appears as a 5 mm black dot, and simply needs to be pushed down with perhaps a Phillips screwdriver, in order to allow trapped air to exit.  Last December, #Greg from Eurocompulsion was going to look into this further, but hasn’t yet been able to confirm.  Having looked myself, I’m not getting a good feeling that there is a button there either, so I’m hoping someone will confirm – either yay or nay.  I’ve drawn an arrow to the spot that I think has the greatest possibility, but since that area is submerged in oil in my engine, I can’t tell for sure.

Tip #3

Another tip that jbbdc posted today after a positive outcome, is to extract oil out through the dipstick tube, and either pouring it back in through the oil filler port (insuring it is at least as clean as it was within the engine), or simply replacing the same amount with new 5W-40 oil.  He later stated that he only needed to extract/pour-back a half-quart to get the desired outcome, assisting in the priming of the oil pump.  Although more of a hassle for some, I’m confident that extracting the oil via the drain plug would be just as effective, as the benefit comes from catching some of the oil in the top half of the engine, as it is poured into the filler port, but all that effort for only a half-quart?  You could however, take the opportunity to perform a full oil change, if the timing is appropriate…

Questions to ponder…

  • So why are only a few experiencing this condition?
  • What is allowing oil to drain out of the top-half of the engine?
  • Poor compression in at least one of the cylinders?
  • Why does it seem to be mostly Abarth owners?
  • Are the engines in question, not being broke in properly?
  • Even if the owner treats the car properly, are others (dealer personnel, potential customers doing Rally test drives, etc.) abusing the car in it’s first few miles, before the customer gets the keys?
  • Should this issue be escalated at the dealer for warranty repair if the oil drains out in, say under 2 weeks?
  • Customers that indeed have compression issues, are probably entitled to a new engine – is this issue a precursor predictor of that?

*   Ideally, if you have an engine that displays this condition, and you wish to avoid the consuming, oil flow re-establishment process, you will simply have to start it often enough to keep the brick’s oil pump primed with sufficient oil.  For some, that period of time is less than a month (perhaps every 3 weeks), yet for me, I’ve gone over 2 months (during it’s first winter) and thus far, have had no problem starting my car.