My MX-5 … Sway Bars, Summer Tires and Alignment

My latest modifications are all about handling, and they are worth every nickel I spent. It literally feels like driving a different, and better, vehicle.

Because I had three mods all done at the same time I cannot opine on which had the greatest effect. What I do know is the package of all three has had a dramatic impact on the car’s ride quality and most certainly on its performance handling.

First up are new Flyin’ Miata sway bars on the front and rear. I had them installed by my dealer tech – Billy and I are becoming good friends – and used the suggested neutral (middle) setting on both bars to get started. I have read many, many comments from owners on both sides of the issue – there are those who are adamant that beefier sway bars are a must, and there is a group who favor the factory ride. I am not telling anybody how to setup their car, it’s theirs not mine, but I am very happy that I made this mod.

Next are new Continental Extreme Contact Sport tires in the stock size of P205/45ZR17, and I’m running the suggested pressure of 29 PSI. The tires have a 340 treadwear rating, an AA traction rating, and an A temperature rating. They are summer high-performance tires so when the ugly weather returns I’ll put the OEM rubber back on for the better winter days. The one thing I can attribute to the tires alone, and not the package of all three mods, is a quieter ride at normal highway speeds than the factory Bridgestone’s.

Last modification was a performance alignment. I didn’t get crazy with the numbers, but we reduced the toe-in a bit to .07 degrees and bumped up the camber more aggressively to minus 1.0 degree, both front and rear. That done, we still got 7.1 degrees of caster up front, so all in a definite change from factory but not a pure track setup either.

The one thing I will say is regardless of whether you want to deviate from the factory settings or not, have the alignment checked even on a brand-new car. Mine has just over 500 miles on it and we checked all four corners first, and none of them were equal front-to-back or side-to-side. If nothing else, you do want your numbers to be spot-on, not just within the tolerances that Mazda specifies.

With all three modifications completed and attributing the change in the vehicle’s attitude and ride to the whole package, I can clearly see improvements in general ride quality, steering responsiveness, and most assuredly in performance – both down the straights and certainly in cornering.

This sweet little stretch of road is about 10 minutes from my apartment, and it’s become one of my go to country road drives.

The approach from the left is about a mile long straightaway, and I can see the entire chicane per se before the braking point for the left-hander so if it’s clear I know I can use the entire road. The turns are almost 90 degrees and have speed warning signs of 15 MPH, but today I made four passes through that stretch at more than 40 MPH with a burst over 50 in the short chute before the right-hander. The car never wavered, I never felt uncomfortable, and I could feel a stability through the entire stretch that simply was not there with the factory bars, tires and alignment.

As I said up front, there’s no way to isolate any one of the three to place a higher level of effectiveness but I damn sure can say that the trio have made my MX-5 a better handling car with more zoom-zoom.

4 thoughts on “My MX-5 … Sway Bars, Summer Tires and Alignment

Add yours

  1. Great review. I did lower mine as well as the sways and tires, but you’re spot on about the sway bars, they make a world of difference!

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