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.
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.
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.
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).
Peter T. has just changed his wiper blade inserts, thereby keeping the very nice Aero frames that are OEM with our car. He provided a nice collection of photos, which I am using for this article, since I have yet to replace my blades.
Description: Manufactured by Mitsuba; aerodynamic design so that wind pushes them down against the windshield at highway speeds; the wide rubber blade inserts are impregnated with graphite; the beam frames are made of plastic; although you can obtain replacement parts from FIAT , MAZDA part #s are shown, since re-branded FIAT parts are ≈ $100 for the pair.
♦ Left side: 18″ (450 mm) blade insert only – N247-67-333; “Aero” wiper blade assembly – NA8W-67-330 ♦ Right side: 19″ (475 mm) blade insert only – N256-67-333; “Aero” wiper blade assembly – NA9C-67-330
Mitsuba also manufactures blades for Honda, so if you wish to save even more money, Honda blade inserts can be used instead.
When installing refills, be sure to keep the metal stiffening strips (2 per blade; Mazda calls them backing plates) for re-use with the new rubber, with the indent (which keeps them from sliding out) facing out. Peter adds:
The rubber is seated in the frame by way of plastic bumps inside the rail that engage with the indents in the metal strips on both sides. All in all, there are about four bumps on each side. To get the rubber out you have to pull on it so the rubber slides past those bumps. You might even put some silicone oil or talcum powder around those bumps to reduce the sliding friction.
I noticed the drivers side blade rubber (450mm or 18″) did not have the corresponding notch whereas the longer passenger side (475mm/19″) did. Anyhow, I don’t think it makes a difference.
Install metal strips in new rubber by placing into slots on each side at one end and squeezing…
…run your fingers up both sides, straightening blade to help them snap into place at the other end.
Insert completed refill with metal strips back into wiper blade from the bottom end (toward the wiper arm). Now you’re done; remember, the shorter blade goes on the left side.
Apparently, because the top will not be tight if the [tension band] straps are unattached, not only will the top not stay clear off the rollbar hoops, but the rear glass window, headliner and outer skin will be unstable, and flop around in the wind. It is reassuring to realize that this can be properly fixed though, without relying on the dealer!
The referenced straps are shown in this Mopar parts view:
I just fixed mine today. The straps weren’t securely attached at the factory. You can reach in and find the straps between the internal and external fabric. The bolt they attach to is behind the plastic trim in the roof compartment. There’s a slit in the fabric to allow the strap through.
Once you get the straps through the slits, remove the plastic trim panels, remove the 10mm nut, place the strap’s hole over the bolt, reinstall and tighten the nut, and finally – reinstall the plastic trim panels.
courtesy of Steven Kantner; pulling the strap out from behind the headliner to show the attachment hole.
Bonus: Convertible top sections in the Mazda Service Manual (not applicable for the task at hand though):
⇓ This photo is invaluable! Because one like it isn’t in the Fiat Service Manual, might explain why many dealers aren’t installing the straps, when replacing convertible tops in their shop.
courtesy of Steven Kantner; “Attached strap. You’ll need to partially open the top to get enough slack to pull the strap far enough to secure it”
⇓Matt (coast) provided many photos in an informative Mazda forum soft-top repair thread, that shows a properly installed bracket securing the top to the body, adding:
… you can see the black metal brackets. These fit over studs on the car and they are very difficult to get back on tightly – the new top does not want to stretch all the way. It was physically difficult to hold the top fabric tight, get the bracket on correctly, and then get the nuts on the studs. Then the nuts need to be tightened down.
⇓ Here is where that last frame hoop is supposed to be:
Today, Magoffinasked another of his thought provoking questions: “I always wonder about the purpose of this small plastic wing on the rear fender. Any idea what it’s there for?”
I was going to simply reply – it has to do with aerodynamics, but I was curious to learn more, as I’ve seen mentioned in other forum questions for example, as to why there aren’t wheel well exhaust vents incorporated in the Abarth’s rear fascia, and decided to write a short blog article instead.
Normally, there is a lot of turbulent air flow within the wheel well, so ideally you want to vent it as much as possible, which is why you’ll see race cars with over fender vents and / or wheel well exhaust vents, to help relieve pressure and create down-force.
Apparently, for highway speeds greater than around 45 mph, the wheel arch spoilers (like a mini mud flap on the forward bottom edge of the wheel arch), which are much easier to accommodate into car design, do a sufficient job of keeping most of the air from entering the wheel well, hence lowering the resulting drag. Because of the contour of the side of the vehicle, especially in the rear, that additional “wing” spoiler also aids in preventing that last bit of air pressure (as seen in the above illustration) from developing behind the wheels.
I find the science of aerodynamics to be quite fascinating. Apparently German racing driver Volker Wawer, was able to shave 20 seconds off his Nürbürgring lap time, by widening the front fenders to better direct air into the engine air intakes on the side of his Porsche GT4, actually gaining an increase in power from his engine (allowing for wider tires for better grip helped too).
Delta Lab Roma, a company in Rome, Italy, has responded to requests coming from members of “124 SPIDER ITALIA” for some unique parts for the 124 Spider that, until now, have not been available anywhere. They sent me a sampling, to help get the word out in North America. Some of my blog readers might be interested in procuring some of these items, including:
Cap for the forward cup holder slot
Caps for the door bushings
Wedges for the convertible top stowage stops
Cap for the forward cup holder slot
In most of Europe, cup holders are not included accessories, and many had no idea what purpose the gaping hole along the side of the gear selector console was supposed to serve. Indeed, many of us that did receive cup holders, have just tucked them away in a storage cubby behind the seats, since they are awkward to use, at least with the slots on the backside of the console armrest (which do have hinged covers built-in).
Delta Lab has produced a “bellissima” black rubber cap that snaps into place, and looks like it should have come with the car. I did find that until you learn how to manipulate it into place, it would fall into the cavity. I quickly realized though, that by pushing the cap’s “top” edge against the wall first, the cap will swing down and snap into place every time.
Price = € 10.00 + Shipping* ~ with 124 Spider or Abarth insignia (RUBBER)
Caps for the door bushings
Although the door latch keeps the door securely closed, what actually holds the door in alignment and helps the door actually become part of the mid-section structure in regards to rigidity (especially in convertibles), are the door bushings that mate with the bushing receiver mounted to the door, also serving as the door stop, and addressing one of the primary potential NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) issues, by minimizing any door latch rattle. Much of the bushing is open and exposed to accommodate the A-pillar mounting screws, and the black rubber caps that Delta Lab has produced, snap into these screw openings, with the goal of increasing the factory bushing rigidity even further (rather than actually replacing the bushings with “oversized” aftermarket parts).
Price = € 20.00 + Shipping* ~ Door caps kit with 124 spider insignia (RUBBER)
I’ll drive my car over the tracks tomorrow, and try to determine whether my car is any quieter. Driving over my local railroad tracks crossing, all I hear is tire noise, but I can’t say that I recall my doors (or anything else, in this Japanese-assembled automobile, for that matter 😉 ) rattling, prior to today either.
Wedges for the convertible top stowage stops
This is probably the most unique part produced, but since it addresses an issue that most of us aren’t experiencing – where the leading edge of the convertible top comes so close to the roll-bar hoops as it is latched into the stowage position, that it rubs on the canvas, eventually wearing a hole at the point of contact.
There are stops that engage into a recess as the stowage latch engages, and again Delta Labs has developed wedges specifically designed to be adhered into said recesses with two-way tape, that will hopefully work to keep the stops far enough back, so as to eliminate any rubbing. Technically, the dealer should have addressed this under warranty by replacing the top assembly, but in some Fiat forums, it seems that a few individuals that took their vehicle in for this issue, wish they hadn’t, as the top repair/replacement ended up in even worse shape. If you are concerned that the gap is a little to close in your car, these wedges would be an alternative that I would encourage, before taking the car to the dealer.
Since the parts are produced in Italy, in might not be obvious that the right side recess should be mated with the part labeled DX-B (apply a piece of two-way tape over the “DX-B”), and similarly the part labeled SX-B, is for the left side.
These wedges are not visible, so they haven’t been labeled with “124 Spider” insignia, making them suitable for consideration by Mazda MX-5 owners wanting to address the convertible top rubbing issue, as well.
Price = €15 for two wedges + Shipping* (RUBBER)
Payment is through Paypal @ email@example.com When the shipment departs, Deltalab sends a foto by mail or whatsapp so one can see the tracking number.
Specifically, the spacers are made using a rigid high shore rubber
- Place the spacers in the appropriate seat, the spacer including its bevel in its corner follows the shape of the hole.
- On the back (to cover the positioning indications of the spacer) a simple double-sided adhesive tape will be applied, not included in the package, it can be fixed with glue or silicone instead.
- In most cases the low thickness double-sided tape (of the same thickness as a packing tape) is more than oppurt and adequate
- If the hood (top) notably touches the roll bar, before the temporary assembly of the spacers, it may be necessary to use a thicker double-sided tape.
------ We recommend that you first check the operation of the spacers without adhesive and then apply the double-sided tape or the adhesive that is considered most appropriate.
------- Attention! if the double-sided adhesive chosen is too thick, the soft top will be pushed in excess towards the rear and the soft top locking block (located in the central part of the car) will not work and will remain open. It is advisable to carry out a series of opening and closing tests before final fixing
-------------------- NATIONAL SHIPPING ----------------- €4
The shipment takes place via Posta1, the Italian Post Office service, which will be delivered directly by the postman to his mailbox, the postman is not required to notify the recipient of the delivery of the package.
The shipment is provided with a tracking code to monitor its status until delivery to the recipient.
-------------INTERNATIONAL SHIPMENTS -------------- €5 (check to make sure though)
The shipment takes place via International Postamail, a service of the Italian Post Office. The shipment is provided with a tracking code to monitor its status.
It is possible to monitor the status of the shipment up to the Italian border.
Once package has crossed the Italian border it will no longer be possible to verify its status.
Caps for GT hardtop external mounting bolts
Fiat didn’t choose the ideal caps for cosmetically covering the 124 Spider GT hardtop’s two external mounting bolts, as the wind tends to separate them from the “inadequate” metal retaining clips. Delta Lab is taking a stab at coming up with a more robust 3D-printed pair of caps (along with a pair of 3D-printed retaining clips for the caps to snap onto), for the small group of lucky individuals with carbon fiber hardtops.
Peter has to add double-sided tape, to keep from losing his caps, but because of the gap, even that isn’t always certain.
Due to the superior performance of Google Search, I’m creating this thread (with specific search tags to focus searches further) to hopefully assist the few blog readers that have transported their vehicles across the pond (or will be), and find that the FM/DAB tuners no longer function properly, and hopefully help them “hookup” with someone that has done the same, but in the opposite direction, so that they can barter an exchange with each other.
FM Tuner channel spacing:
50kHz channel spacing means no RDS.
100kHz channel spacing allows for RDS.
200kHz channel spacing (like in the US) also allows HD Radio.
I got the idea for this, after getting this email from Tomas P.
I buy fiat 124 spider from US and im living in Lithuania (Europe) so my problem is radio frequency. How i can change US radio frequency to EU? Do you have that firmware?
As far as I know, there is not a firmware fix for this, and I’m under the impression that you don’t have to change your firmware region to accommodate the new TAU. I’m also not aware of a firmware repository for Fiat firmware anywhere – unlike Mazda firmware, so if it turns out you would like firmware installed for your new region, you’ll probably need to have a dealer (in that new region) do that for you. You can download the new Navigation maps yourself though.
I could be wrong, but aside from Japan (I do know of one guy that shipped his 124 Abarth to Japan), I don’t know of cars getting imported/exported to/from other countries like Australia, South America, etc. Anyways, if I’m wrong, I’m happy to add those tags too – all are welcome to post here 😉
I welcome and encourage readers that have the 7″ screen radio, to use this thread to exchange TAU modules (reminder: this is a module behind the right-side kick panel – not the CMU or screen) with each other, using comments below. You should state:
the part # shown on the label of your TAU unit* (since you probably won’t remove your TAU until a replacement is forthcoming, you can leave this blank for now – we can edit it in later when you have a label to read).
model year (this probably doesn’t matter so much, although some 2017 TAU modules for North America didn’t have an XM antenna port).
model (Classica, Lusso, Abarth – although, again, this probably doesn’t matter too much) (also MX-5 GT, Club, RF).
is your radio Bose (line-out to the Bose AMP) or non-Bose (integrated 4-way AMP)?
does your trunk lid have a sharkfin antenna? (this indicates SiriusXM capability)
the original country that TAU did work in.
and the new country that you need the tuner to work in.
your email address (use the format name at domain dot com, rather than firstname.lastname@example.org ➤ so that robots are less likely to scrape it).
* The first 4 digits of the TAU part # can be obtained from the Audio system diagnostic screen:
Switch the ignition to ACC or ON (engine off or on).
Press the Music button, Favorite button, and the volume mute knob simultaneously for 2 seconds or more.
Use the Test screen presented to use option:
Part Number Readout TAU
Displays the tuner and amplifier unit part number (first 4 digits)
John Petroviak submitted an interesting question today, and after enlarging the only photo I could find of Mazda’s implementation of wireless CarPlay for MY 2021 Miatas, and if I’m seeing it properly, it looks like they’ve changed the airbag message panel/seat-warmer switches to include a shelf for the wireless charging pad. That is based on the assumption that wireless phone charging is included in that option, which is possibly incorrect.
Consider this a discussion article, and at least for now, not an authoritative how-to… 🙂
I am guessing that rather than producing a different USB hub, since it only needs power without wired connectivity to the CMU, the wireless charger is a unique assembly with a slimmer message panel / seat-warmer switches and a phone shelf, independent of the cubby below it. I’m thinking that the power feed would be via the seat-warmer connectors though, so a car without that option might need a power wire run from the lower fuse panel, possibly resulting in 2 powered switches for seat warmers that might be otherwise useless, but if you do have seat warmers (and the CarPlay USB hub), it may very well be an easy mod!
[UPDATE 1/9/2021] Ash8, has reported today, that Wireless CarPlay will require firmware 74.00.200+, and although the CMU seems to be the same unit, by MY 2022, he expects that an upgraded CMU (expected to cost around the $2K mark), that includes a different display screen (no touchscreen ability), will be the norm. He surmises that perhaps by MY 2022, these upgraded CMUs will be standard in both the Club and Grand Touring Miatas.
[UPDATE 5/31/2021] Tristan-CX-5 stated today, that “Wireless CP requires special hardware inside the CMU. It is not just a software solution, even if both new CMUs part numbers (with and without CP) have the same firmware. So it is about the same as with wired CP/AA (same firmware, but requires hardware to be activated). You can not activate Wireless CP in a CMU which does not have the wireless CP hardware in it.” Therefore, don’t install firmware 74.00.230 thinking you’ll enable Wireless CarPlay.
John M. submitted a source for properly adding a mounted fire extinguisher in his vehicle, and it reminded me that others may have inspiring solutions and accessory suggestions that might prove helpful to a few other 124 Spider owners. (The watermark also identifies the source for the aftermarket rollbar shown.)
For instance, I recently procured a BougeRV 30-quart portable 12-volt compressor fridge/freezer, (along with a Jackery Explorer 300 portable power station) for outings/SHTF/road-trips/food shopping, and although I had my Jeep in mind as the usual vehicle to bring these items along in, I selected a size that would also fit in my 124 Spider. My Jeep Grand Cherokee has a dual AGM battery setup that includes a 20-amp fused 12-volt outlet in the trunk, that powers the fridge great, but if I plan to keep it powered for an extended time while the engine isn’t running to keep those batteries charged, I’ll hook it up to the Jackery unit instead.
Rather than installing a dedicated 12-volt power lead into the 124 Spider’s trunk, again the Jackery, which is capable of powering the fridge for an entire weekend (unlimited if a solar panel or other input power source was also plugged in), will provide power to my fridge for a Fiat Club picnic, a tailgate party or a shopping excursion for seafood. The fridge fits very nicely in the trunk (thanks to the rectangular well in the bottom that seems custom-made for accommodating a cooler), albeit not much else will fit in concurrently. The height of this unit is a good reference point as being close to the max if you are shopping for other brands; smaller capacity units will usually be shorter.
The YouTube vlogger that I got all my promo codes from, and who’s reviews I depended on for my purchase decisions, is Hobotech.
If the ND MX-5 trunk opening is in fact 11″? (vs. 14″ in the 124 Spider), the fridge may not fit in that car.
Warranty: 24 Months (36 months, if you register your purchase)
The Wancool compressor in the BougeRV unit is from China, which helps explain why the price of the BougeRV fridge/freezer is so much lower ($269; $215 using a promo code) than the equivalent ICECO JP30 fridge/freezer ($499) with the acclaimed SECOP (Danfoss) compressor made in Denmark.
The Jackery is ideally suited to power CPAP units, small AC appliances that use no more than 300 watts, 12-volt accessories (like my very energy-efficient fridge with it’s variable-speed compressor), and charging phones and drones. It actually fits along side the fridge in my 124 Spider trunk, making this a perfect duo, and it has so many other uses as well.
Now all I need is a solar panel, and I’ll be a “prepper” 😉
Quick Charge 3.0 Output: 5 to 6.5V, 3A / 6.5 to 9V, 2A / 9 to 12V, 1.5A
USB-C PD Output: 5V, 9V, 15V, 20V, 3A
Car Output: 12V, 10A
DC Input: 12V to 30V (90W Max)
AC Adapter: 4.7 Hours
12V Car Adaptor: 5 Hours
100W Solar Panel: 5.5 Hours
Electric Generator: 4.7 Hours
Weight: 7.1 lbs
Dimensions (LxWxH): 9.1 x 5.2 x 7.8 in
Operating Usage Temp: 14 to 104°F
Warranty: 24 Months (36 months, if you register your purchase)
The trickle charger that I ended up ordering, while the car is wintering in my garage, is the NOCO 5-amp Genius5 fully automatic charger, since it is in a sealed plastic unit (much safer when sitting under the hood near the battery) with LEDs that inform you of what it is doing, and is designed for 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and deep-cycle batteries, including flooded, gel, AGM, and maintenance-free, plus lithium-ion batteries. It is an all-in-one solution – battery charger, battery maintainer, trickle charger, plus battery desulfator. There is an optional OBDII adapter cord available too, that can be used as a “keep-alive” battery maintainer while replacing your battery, and also allows you to charge your battery without opening the hood.
I saw this on the Miata forum today, and thought I’d throw it out there, just in case someone might find them useful – speaker grilles from I.L.Motorsport to replace the trim covers hiding the storage cubbies behind the seats (some 124 Spider owners don’t even know that these cubbies exist). I actually use the cubbies for their intended purpose – the cup holders (that I’ve never used), are stored rattle-free in one of the cubbies (just in case), and I’m happy with my non-Bose system, so the grilles are of no use to me.
Added 3/22/2021 #hitch
photos (and instructions) courtesy of Gregory K. Lipscomb
This is how the trailer hitch and OEM muffler share space. Clearances are tight, but well-designed and thought out. Keep the packing material in place during installation. That may help prevent any damage to the powdercoated paint while handling.
It’s necessary to first remove the exhaust system from the axle back. I recommend removing the hangars from the chassis versus the muffler.
Instead of simply bolting the hitch at these four mounting points, first use a Grade 8 washer and nut to secure the supplied bolts into place. This accomplishes three things:
1) eliminates the possibility of accidentally pushing a bolt back into the frame rail while aligning the heavy (22 pounds) hitch (too easy to do), 2) makes removal and reinstallation of the hitch quick and easy (otherwise you have to fish out/in the mounting hardware); and 3) lowers the hitch about 5/8″ for additional bumper cover clearance (needed for some hitch accessories).
A second Grade 8 washer (not visible) between the installed nut and the hitch bracket, is used on all four mounting points.
Inserting these washers is somewhat of a balancing act, best performed by aligning all four bolts and laying one (1) washer on the top of the hitch bracket starting with the forward mounting point (as shown) and then loosely hand-tightening one (1) nut to temporarily hold it in place. Repeat this same procedure on the forward mounting point of the opposite side frame rail, then raise the hitch into place and fasten the two remaining mounting points after first inserting a washer on each.