Delayed implementation of new cluster gauge with compass


There’s the missing compass!

The 2018 124 Spiders were supposed to come with the upgraded Multi-Information TFT Display.  In the Classica model, you would have had to order the Technical package to get the new gauge though.  I have a theory as to why that didn’t materialize.



The MX-5 RF debuted a new cluster gauge (the left-most gauge) which is actually a TFT (color) screen presented in a similar style to the mechanical gauges, but which can be customized to show a variety of different information, unlike our LCD info screen which is very limited in it’s capabilities.  It appears that a compass has been added to the primary screen to make up for the deficiency in the Navigation screens (and no Heads-Up Display).

It is officially called the 4.6″ Multi-Information color TFT display and I was wishfully thinking that Fiat would incorporate a turbo boost gauge in place of the unused monotone water temperature gauge (the color version functions nicely), and if not, perhaps a tweak of some sort might accomplish this goal.

Technical problem

Apparently the first generation of new clusters debuting in the RF have a significant battery drain issue (after about a week of not being driven, the battery will be incapable of starting the engine) when the ignition is off and the cruise-control has been left “On” prior to shutdown.  This was only recently discovered as the root cause and although replacement of the defective cluster gauge assemblies is the fix to the problem, they may simply modify the software to insure that cruise-control is always in the Off mode during shutdown to cover-up the problem.

Perhaps the last minute discovery of the issue without knowing the root cause explains why Mazda recommended delaying the implementation of the new the new cluster gauge into MY 2018 124 Spiders and the soft-top versions of the MX-5.  I expect we’ll see the fixed version of it in the MY 2019 124 Spiders though.



Alternate overlay for Airbag Message Panel

air bag warning overlay

airbag message panel lit

Ever since he bought his Miata MX-5, Sergey (aka ssh16) has been busy developing modification kits based on ideas and improvements he wanted to incorporate into his own vehicle.  The cubby shelf he designed, was in fact one of my first projects as well.

The first project I took on in my 124 Spider was removing the airbag warning labels off of the sun visors, since they are ugly and unnecessary.  I feel that these warnings should be placed along with all of the other warnings posted in the Owner’s manual, rather than being glued to such a prominent spot.

While he was exploring the airbag message module (located above the USB ports) looking for a convenient spot to locate some switches, he came up with an idea to obscure the amber-lit message regarding the status of the passenger seat airbag deployment readiness that is there to satisfy some federal requirement, even though the function is controlled automatically based on the weight of whatever is in that seat.  The red-lit message regarding an unfastened passenger seat belt is also contained in this message panel.  His modification instructions do not include any steps to disable the lamps, so knowing what the intended messages are, they will partially illuminate the chosen logo instead, while still performing their function.

I never paid much attention to the backlit messages (does anyone?) and thanks to Sergey’s new overlay kit available here, the 124 Spider logo can instead be displayed there.  Make sure you choose the correct trim level, since there are two different designs, depending on whether you have seat-heater switches as part of your module or not.

As of 1/12/2018, he’s redesigned the overlay to be universal, and on a side note, for those of you with an Abarth, Sergey will produce this one for you, if requested.


airbag message panel



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 (more recent 2017 and 2018 vehicles may have come with version 7) of this database which dates back to 2015, so songs released since then will not be recognized, so by updating your database, more 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)

Version 8 has recently been released (October 2017) for the Fiat Connect system (and Mazda Connect).  My North American file (256 MB), took close to 15 minutes to update from the version 7 to 8.  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


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.


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

Creating multi-waypoint routes

Route to Contacts3

RouteToContacts is a very useful tool for those pre-planning and creating multi-waypoint routes and looking for a way to incorporate the results into their Mazda / Fiat 124 Spider navigation systems.  GPX routes can be easily converted into waypoints as Contacts and it also makes it easy to share a route with others (car club road trips) as well as saving routes (or at least the waypoints) for future use.
– ameridan


Article and illustrations courtesy of  Kees Thuis

I like to do tours with the ND. For long tours I plan my route with Garmin Basecamp and load the route onto my Garmin Nuvi 3597 navigation device, which I have installed on a Brodit dashboard mount. This works very well for me.

But… I have also come to like the integrated MZD Connect navigation system as it has a big, nice screen right in the viewing area, it does quick route calculations, it is nicely up-to-date and, yes indeed, because it is integrated.
This made me look into ways to use the integrated navigation system for short and medium long tours.
The main issue: How to transfer route points into the car system?
I think I have found a way to do this, using two existing features of the car system:

  1. Automatic Bluetooth synchronisation of the Phone contact list
  2. Phone contacts with full address can be used for navigation

I have developed a Windows 10 app called RouteToContacts, that can read GPX route files, and converts the via points in the route file into phone contacts (AA 001, AA 002, AA 003 etc.).
After Bluetooth synchronization between the phone and the car system the phone contacts can be used to easily re-create the route in the car navigation system.

The RouteToContacts app is available for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile in the Windows App Store:

For a step-by-step instruction on how to create a route from the contacts on the Mazda MZD connect system in the ND, please watch this short video!AkGIAyXLfEy9ik4Liqd5XrX3HwCF.

Windows 10 Mobile

RouteToContacts is available for Windows 10 Mobile, so it can be run directly on your phone to convert GPX route files stored on the phone (or on OneDrive) into phone contacts.
Route to Contacts1

iPhone and Android

Owners of iPhones and Android phones could use the PC-version of RouteToContacts to convert GPX route files into phone contacts (visible in the People app), which could then be synchronized with the iPhone/Android contacts list using the Microsoft Phone Companion App.
Route to Contacts2

Creating your route by adding Waypoints

  • select “Home”
  • select “Communications”
  • select “Contacts”
  • select “AA 001”
  • select “Address”
  • select “Navigate to…”
  • repeat for “AA 002”, “AA 003”, etc., by selecting Final Destination, which adds to the end of list of waypoints

Fixing Curb Rash on Abarth 124 Wheels

Article and photos submitted by Wynn Werner

I bought my 2017 124 Abarth in April. In fact just got back from my free day at Bondurant.

I had a 1969 124 Spider in my 20s, my first car. I get [ameridan’s blog] posts and find them very valuable. I have removed my sun visors, removed the passenger foot foam block and other tweaks thanks to him. I love my car !

abarth wheel4

no “before” pics, here is an “after” pic though

I unfortunately backed up against a parking curb last week and will not repeat what I said. I cried … the first damage on my baby. Some pretty deep scratches and curb rash on the rim. Dealer wants $650 for a new one, aftermarket had an OEM re-conditioned to factory specs for $212, I have ordered one of those. In the mean time time, I have been searching for paint, which seems impossible to find. To make a long search short, I found a surprisingly close match at the local hardware warehouse. Don’t laugh, it’s Rustoleum Hammered in 7215 Black.

I got out my Dremel with a fine grit ball and smoothed out the deep scratches and then a 1.5” diameter stiff wire brush on my drill to feather it all in and then masked the area, a heat lamp to warm up the rim and three light coats. It is a very surprisingly close match! Unless you know where to look you cannot see where the damage was. Here are some pictures. In the photo, the damage is from 3:30 to 5:30 on the rim with the 5:30 position on the “spoke” near the rim. Sorry I do not have pictures of the damage before the fix, it hurt me to look at it!  Please share with everyone. (oh, and a picture of my car on the trip to Arizona)

Wynn, thanks for sharing.  It may prove helpful to many others.

2018 Visors

2018 visor

photos courtesy of Mark Booth

⇑      The revised visors expected for MY 2018 may not work any better than the previous year’s version (they still can not be pivoted to the side or above the header), but there is no doubt that they not only look better, but the cover for the enlarged mirror seems to be much more robust.  If the 1st generation visors are closed aggressively without first closing the mirror cover, the covers could catch on the anti-rattle rubber bumpers, breaking one or both of their hinges.

⇓      The familiar 2017 visor for comparison…

2017 visor

For those that may feel the need to upgrade (or have busted their mirror covers), it appears that since the mounting configuration of the restyled header trim assembly (which includes the visors) hasn’t been altered, it may very well be an expensive, direct replacement installation in prior model year 124 Spiders (and MX-5s), perhaps under warranty.

Key Fob Covers & Batteries

key fob fiat1.jpgkeyfobAnyone looking for key fob covers for the Fiat/Abarth 124 Spiders might consider these silicone covers that instead of having a Mazda logo (since Fiat logo covers aren’t available yet), there is a cutout that allows the logo on the fob to appear.  Here’s is the eBay supplier I got mine from, but there may be others, and other color combinations are available as well.

Not only do they help protect the fob, but that keep the fob from sliding out of your pocket.

Key Fob Batteries

key fob battery low

On average, you should get about 2 years usage out of a good quality 3-volt coin battery in your key fob.  Once your battery is low, as evidenced by:

  • you are unable to start the car unless you use the fob itself to push in the start button
  • or, the low-fob-battery light in your instrument cluster (between the speedometer and the tach, shown above) is illuminated

you should change the batteries in both of your key fobs by first purchasing a couple of CR2025 batteries.  Here is a nice YouTube video that demonstrates how to open up your key fob, stressing that you must start by first prying apart the two sides in an inner area first (where the emergency key resides), in order that you not break the cover tabs.

Garage door remote

door opener

I see so many convertibles at car shows with the garage door remotes hanging on the visor, and besides being unattractive, they seem so susceptible to loss via the wind or theft.  Since I have the Classica model, I do not have the bulky Homelink mirror (which can be programmed to duplicate your remote’s commands, negating the need for the actual remote), I was determined to find a compatible spot to locate my remote.

During my search, the first thing I noticed is that our non-padded visors won’t even accommodate the visor clips that come with garage door opener remotes, and I noted that I didn’t want the remote…

  • occupying the limited space of the “shelf” adjacent to the USB ports panel designed to accommodate your phone
  • anywhere on the dash panel
  • inconveniently hidden in the difficult-to-access rear bulkhead cubby
  • rattling around and occupying a good percentage of the tiny armrest cubby

so I decided to attach it to the underside of the armrest cubby lid with Velcro hook and loop tape.

After prepping the surface by wiping it with rubbing alcohol, I attached a 1½” piece of the “hook” tape near the hinge, and while was at it, I installed a second piece further up on the lid (as shown in the photo above) in case I find myself wanting to secure some other small item in the future.  In general, I usually apply the people-friendly soft “loop” tape to devices, but since the remote won’t be handled much outside of changing the 9-volt battery, it doesn’t really matter.

A year later, I’m still pleased with my hidden, rattle-free placement of the remote!

Soft-top drain filter

drain filter grasp

courtesy of nasara

The drain tubes for the convertible top well (allows rain/car wash water to drain out the underside of the vehicle so that it won’t otherwise collect and eventually seek it’s way into the cabin or trunk) in our 124 Spiders (and the ND MX-5) are each protected by a dual filter system

  • upper – the filter cap screen (as shown in the photo above) and
  • lower – an underlying foam filter

so that the tubes should never need to be snaked out, unlike the unfiltered tubes in the previous generation (NC) Miatas.

Although the owner’s manual recommends cleaning these filters (they are symmetrically placed on both sides of the vehicle) annually, as the owner, you should be familiar with how much debris (leaves, pine needles, bugs, etc) your vehicle has been exposed to, and only address these filters when you suspect that they might actually need cleaning.

In my case, I’ve never parked my car underneath a messy tree, and I park the vehicle in my garage nightly, so I am confident that for now, this difficult maneuver would be a waste of time.

Karatou-Oyaji produced a YouTube video that although is in Japanese, shows how to access the filters for removal and cleaning without removing any panels.  I don’t know if he was viewing his camera while locating the filter for removal and re-installation, but I like djwhiplash2001‘s comment:

When I do this, I’m going to stick a GoPro to my rear window and view it on my phone – that way, I can see what I’m doing (hopefully).

Raptor5244 offered this advice (which is demonstrated in the photo above) in the Miata forum:

I found it easier to get to the drain filters if I stood outside the car and reached my arm down there vs. sitting in the seat. The trick to getting them out is to use you index finger front knuckle pressed on the tab, and then use your thumb and middle finger to pinch/grab the filter [foam-covered pull tab, (shown in the photo below)] to wiggle it free.

It took are a few tries but figured out a way that works best for me. To orient where they are, look through the back window and look for the foam around the base of the filter.

As Mark Booth commented…

It would have helped a LOT if Mazda had added some texture to the top of that little release tab instead of making it slick.

Continue reading

Towing your Spider


We should all be aware that our 124 Spiders are Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD), and should our vehicles ever need to be towed, familiarize ourselves with the three allowed configurations shown in the illustration above, as the rear wheels of a 124 Spider being towed should not be on the ground, especially if you have an automatic transmission.  You’ll want to be confident that the tow-truck operator is also aware that you have a RWD vehicle before he attempts to hook up.

Towing your 124 Spider with the front wheels on the ground (top illustration) is probably the least desirable of the three configurations, as the front end of  the vehicle may encounter some damage, especially if the rear end is hoisted up too high and the road surface is irregular.

Having your vehicle transported in a trailer or on a tilting flat-bed truck is the most desirable method.  If the vehicle can not be driven onto the flat-bed, remember to remove your tow hook out of the trunk (and even install*) for the tow truck operator prior to him/her winching it up, so that the strap/chain hook can be attached to that, rather than some easily-damaged “gram-strategy” cross member or linkage on the underside of the vehicle.

*       Although the front tow hook cover is easily removed from the grille without tools,  if you remove it yourself, you can see that it is removed carefully and safely stowed away so that it won’t get lost/damaged, assuming of course that the vehicle is oriented such that it will be winched up from the front.  If the vehicle is oriented such that it will be winched up from the rear instead, you might want to carefully pop the tow-hook cover off of the rear fascia yourself (using a key or small screwdriver), so that the painted surfaces won’t be damaged, and again stow it away.