The Mazda MX-5 is a car that’s made automotive history. It’s been in production for well over three decades and with just a few changes and improvements in the three generations that followed the first Miata that debuted way back in 1989.
It has proved its worth with reliable and peppy engines ready for a few mods. Lightweight, responsive, and easy to throw around a track, this is a car that can embarrass more than a few purebred sportscars costing ten times the money. And all this with the fun factor that comes free of charge.
Any modifications under the bonnet to boost already decent power figures are accompanied by other mods, most notably to the brakes. With more outright speed, your car will need better stopping power.
Of course, safety will be the main concern, but this also helps in several other ways. Brakes that have a bit more bite can maintain higher speeds into corners and stop the car quicker and at a shorter braking distance. This is safety and performance rolled into one, with the benefits evident both on the track and the street.
Miata owners can upgrade Mazda MX-5 brakes on the cheap. Even though the car was one of the first to have all-around disc brakes, and ABS as standard equipment, replacement parts are easy to come by. And won’t cost a pretty penny.
This is another reason why the car is so popular. It’s cheap to maintain and run as a daily driver, and even more, serious modifications won’t break the bank. Mazda has even restarted making replacement OEM parts for all four generation lineups, something to consider if you like things closer to the original.
The first parts to get a do-over are the brake pads, calipers, and brake lines. Some older cars have reported issues with faulty ABS sensors and modules. Rotors and master cylinders were designed and built to last longer, but even these can be replaced if faulty or nearing their use-by date.
If OEM parts direct from Mazda don’t fit your budget, there are dozens of aftermarket suppliers to keep all Miata owners covered. Changes can also be made to wheels, tires, and suspension so that your upgraded brakes work at their best.
Suspect Faulty Brakes? – Here Are the Giveaway Signs
Besides upgrades for better performance, brakes just wear out. There’ll be a different brake feel from the pedal, and the car will get dangerously harder to bring to a safe stop. Braking distances are longer and your Miata can pull to either side. Here’s what to look for:
When pressing on the pedal, any sounds akin to clicking or rattling is a sign of worn brake pads. This is one of the more common issues with car brakes and replacement pads are an easy fix there are different options as I’ll explain below. The pads may also be misaligned and dragging against the rotor.
If clicking is accompanied by a grinding sound, besides thinning pads, there may also be damage to the rotor(s). Vibrations through the wheels get more pronounced as the rotors increasingly get worn. Misaligned wheels can also cause the same issues, so do a thorough check before getting any work done.
Brakes that are unusually soft, or fall flat to the floor without too much effort are a sign of brake fluid leaking, usually in punctured brake lines. This may also be from air accumulated in the system, and the brakes need bleeding.
Brakes that are too hard may mean issues with the brake booster, contamination in the brake fluid, or problems with the master cylinder.
If you’ve done a wheel alignment and the car still pulls to the side then this is definitely a brake problem. Stuck or rusted calipers and caliper pistons are the main culprits here.
The brake warning light can mean a variety of issues, and usually, ones that are further down the road. Worn pads will most often trigger a warning light, but so can low brake fluid. ABS lights mostly are sensor issues or the wheel losing contact with the ABS wiring.
Headaches like these need to be fixed promptly. And in no way should you be driving with faulty brakes, even to the mechanic.
Replacement MX-5 Brake Parts
The discs in the first or NA MX-5 were surprisingly small by today’s standards. In the 1.6 liters, the front discs came in at 235mm at the front and 231mm at the back.
The bigger 1.8-liter engine had a bit few more horses (or a total of 129 bhp to be precise), and rotors were sized accordingly, at 255mm and 251mm. Wheels were 14-inch affairs, but later models moved on to 15 inches-to fit the bigger brake assemblies.
Read more: Japan Racing Wheels
Buyers today have the option of going for the ‘big brake’ kits that feature 276mm rotors at the front and back for improved stopping power. And these can still comfortably slot into the smaller wheel sizes.
NB Miatas are in two flavors, Sport and Non-Sport, with bigger and thicker rotors in the Sport versions often with the upgraded 1.8-liter engine. Here too the big brake kits have better braking performance than the original brakes.
Changes were made in the NC cars from 2006 with 290mm ventilated rotors up front and 280mm solid discs at the back working together with EBD (electronic brake distribution) systems for a more even spread of brake force than the front axle bias in the first two variants. Additional refinement in terms of suspension, geometry, and increased wheel sizes along with grippier tires, meant the NC had substantially better brake feel and response with the pedal down.
Here, buyers have the choice of stock caliper rebuilds to resemble the looks of the original brakes the car came with, as well as replicate the brake force. But if you’re modifying the engine for more output, you’re better served with newer replacement calipers and multiple pistons. These provide more power acting against brake pads and getting the car to a quicker stop.
Calipers are sold as front and rear variants, with the front typically larger. As with discs, remember to source calipers that are compatible with the Miata model variant.
Cheap but necessary. Pads are the parts that you’ll be changing out most. And there are different types, depending on how and where you’ll be driving. Miatas used solely on the street are fine with a cheap set of replacement pads that will provide enough braking force in most situations. Those intended for the track will be considerably better, but with the matching price.
When choosing brake pads consider materials, dust, and noise levels. Materials determine heat buildup, rotor deterioration rates, and ultimate braking power.
Semi-metallic pads are the most common and good for everyday driving, with a decent brake feel and moderate noise and dust accumulating on the rims. Organic or non-metallic brakes are quiet, have low dust levels, are easy on the rotors, and are good for a softer brake feel. They do however wear out quite fast.
For the best stopping power, you can upgrade your Mazda MX-5 brakes with a front and rear set of ceramic brake pads. They’re durable, won’t wear out rotors, and like organic pads are quiet and have a comfortable brake feel. An obvious drawback is a price and the fact that they take longer to warm up to get the best out of them. But when at optimal operating temps they provide the best and most consistent braking.
Choosing pads will also depend on the caliper and rotor setup in your Miata. And brake part manufacturers have well-balanced braking kits for the intended application. In addition, separate parts like the pads mentioned above, come in different product lines. This is to make mixing and matching of parts easier, according to your needs and use.
See also: Mazda Miata 1995
Changing the brakes in your Miata can be both a rewarding and frustrating task. It all depends on how handy you are around basic tools, and the time and patience you have for the job. If you’re short of both, factor in labor costs on top of the cost of replacement brake parts.
Parts can be sourced from Mazda specialists and retailers, which will also ensure that you get what’s right for your Miata variant.