Sunday, December 29, 2013

What tools do you need for Spec Miata?

If you are the DIY type like most of us budget racers are, you will want to wrench on your Miata and do your own basic maintenance and race preparation.  To do this requires tools.  However, it does not require a lot of tools as the Miata is put together very simply using a common size of fasteners (bolts, nuts etc).  If you just bought a Spec Miata or are preparing to build your own Spec Miata, the list of tools below will be sufficient to perform just about any job.

  • Lug wrench or, if budget allows, a battery powered impact gun for the lug nuts
  • Jack - I like the Sear's aluminum racing jacks.  Mine has been very reliable and solid to use and has a low front so it fits under the side rails.  Look for sales.  Harbor Freight has some small aluminum jacks that will work also 
  • 4 jack stands - I personally like the aluminum jack stands from Harbor Freight because they are really light and are cheap.  2 ton jack stands are sufficient for a Miata but 3 ton also works.  
  • 1/2" drive torque wrench - I have found that the 1/2" drive torque wrench is more useful than a 3/8" drive since it is capable of torquing fasteners to 150 ft-lbs.  I like the Sears Craftsman torque wrench for the combination of price and accuracy.
  • 1/2" and 3/8" drive ratchets - again, I prefer Sears Craftsman for price and reliability and their warranty.
  • 1/2" drive breaker bar (immensely useful!)
  • 3" extension for 3/8" and 1/2" drive
  • 6" extension in 3/8" drive
  • Must have Sockets - You will use these sizes regularly.  Some more than others.
    • 19 mm for the oil drain
    • deep 17 mm 1/2" drive socket for the lug nuts 
    • regular depth 17 mm socket in 3/8" and 1/2 drive
    • 14 mm socket in 3/8" and 1/2" drive
    • 12 mm socket in 3/8" drive 
    • 10 mm socket in 3/8" drive
    • 23 and 24 mm for the transmission and differential oil drain and fill plugs (or get crescent wrenches)
    • 21 mm for the long bolt attaching the rear lower control arm to the spindle / upright
    • 5/8" spark plug socket (use in conjunction with the 6" long 3/8" drive extension)
    • 29 mm 1/2" drive socket for the front hubs.  This will work on the rears unless you are running a Torsen rear from a 99 car then you need a 32 mm socket for those.
  • Crescent wrenches in 8 (brake caliper bleed), 10, 12, 14, 17, 23, 24 mm.  19 mm can be helpful also but not often used.
  • 2 screwdrivers
  • metric Allen wrench set - These are useful good for rear brake caliper adjuster (4 mm is needed to change rear brake pads) and also useful for other bits and bobs around a race car.  I have found 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 mm to be useful.
  • Set of Pliers - I use channel lock pliers for pressing the front caliper pistons back into the caliper.  The other types of pliers are useful for hose clamps, air intake clamps, clipping wires and zip ties etc.  
  • A Big Frickin' Hammer is always(!) useful
  • Oddly enough, I have found a pry-bar to be very useful as well.  I use an old crowbar.
  • Brake bleeder bottle or one of those fancy one-man bleeders 

Nice to have tools and socket sizes.  These are useful occasionally:
  • deep 14 mm in 3/8"
  • deep 10 mm in 3/8"
  • 13 mm is useful in case someone changed an OEM 12 mm bolt or nut to an aftermarket bolt or nut.  The aftermarket ones typically have 13mm heads for the same thread pitch as OEM bolts.
  • Ratcheting right angle Screw driver thingy from Sears has gotten me out of many tight binds...
  • Punch and Chisel kit is also indispensable for pounding out the long bolt in the lower control arm when you bend one.  
I think that about covers the basic hand tools that use on a regular basis.  I carry them in a small plastic tool box from Sears.

Let me know if you have any questions.  Happy wrenching!


  1. Nice write up. I have never seen aluminum jack stands before and that's a great idea. Do you have other specialty tools that are handy to have? Like do you do your own alignments and what do you use for that?

    1. Hi Jim.

      I have only done my own alignment once using the Smart Strings system that I borrowed from a friend. It was a time consuming endeavor. I'm sure if I did it regularly I would be able to do it quicker and more confidently. I have been contemplating buying the system from Iron Canyon Motorsports but haven't gotten around to it since I haven't been able to make it to the track frequently enough to justify the cost.

      I usually go to a good race setup shop (like for an annual alignment and corner balance.

      Some links for you:

  2. I think you meant to say "combo" rather than "crescent" in your discussion of wrench sizes. Crescent wrenches are adjustable.

  3. Good point. Turns out there are more types of wrench names than I ever imagined... Link to Wikipedia:

    What I was referring to was an Open End or Combination Wrench according to the definitions on Wikipedia.

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