Tom Jones

Refurbishing Miata Front Axle Parts

Starting at the front.

I am going to refurbish the donor parts starting from the front axle and working toward the rear axle. I start with refurbishing the front end parts, the spindles, hubs, and brakes. All other front end parts furnished in the VortX kit are new! Actually if you want you could just install the parts as removed from the Miata provided they were in good working order, but I do want a pleasing and sanitary car so I will spend some extra time and effort and some of the budget in this area to clean, coat the parts and rebuild the calipers.

I start by removing the dust covers from the front spindles, us a 12 mm socket to remove the 3 dust cover bolts. Next stop is trip to the parts washer. Which in itself is worthy of some comment.

remove dust shield

What to use for solvent? I did a lot of searching around. The solvent cleaner must be aluminum safe. The leaves out such readily available cleaners like purple power and such. In fact most all cleaners are caustic to aluminum it seems. I purchased Crown PSC 1000 in a 5 gal can. You can usually walk into a Tractor supply pay them $41.99 and take it home so there is not any shipping expense. Besides the price the reason I selected it is this solvent is this product is a medium aliphatic Naphtha solvent and is a recommended solvent by Boeing aircraft to use in degreasing of aluminum and is not caustic to aluminum. It is flammable and should be used in ventilated flame free area and of course wear gloves when using. I located my parts washer on an enclosed patio next to my shop. So this works out great for me.

cleaning in washer

Since I bought the Red Devil and on occasion I rent a 2 seat Symphony 160 on occasion to fly, I investigated what I could use to clean these bare alcad aluminum airplanes. I found something I should already have known about. This is Extreme Simple green. This is not the same simple green you buy in Wal-Mart. In fact you will probably have to order it and have shipped. I found prices on Amazon for as low as $79.00 including shipping for 5 gal pail. You can buy from It is made to clean aluminum.

degreased spindles

This product is water based so it is not flammable. But the big plus for this product is that it meets Boeing spec D6-17487 and Pratt Whitney spec PWA3609. So it is safe for all metals! Degreases and offers corrosion protection too, does not harm paint, plastics, coatings, low odor, can be used in parts washers without need for heating. Sounds like great stuff. I have not tried it yet but I plan to order some soon.  The same material is also marketed as motor sports cleaner and is sold in some race shops. You can put this in a bucket with water and wash your monocoque aluminum chassis and painted body and just hose it off. So this is just a FYI about an alternative cleaner you can use in your parts washer or to wash your car or airplane. I’ll update when I give it a try.

media cleaning dust covers
blasted ready for primer

Back to task at hand. After cleaning spindles in the parts washers I wanted to prepare for paint. I washed the parts with dawn dish soap. I have a bead blast cabinet and wanted to use it to remove all surface oxidation. The medium I am using is glass purchased from I wanted to make sure I do not damage any machined surface. So I had an idea, hmmm. How bout if I paint all the machined surfaces with plastic coat? You can buy this stuff at any craft store. My nephew uses this stuff to stencil race numbers on his car for track days, does not harm to the paint and peels off easily and this is a common practice, so this is where the idea comes from. So I give it a try and coated the spindle surface with the plastic coats. See pic. Next spindles are bead blasted.

media cleaned on left
grinding off cast flash

Looking good but I notice some casting flashing that could be a stress riser. So I get out the dremel and grinding stone and do a bit of clean up smoothing our any crevices. For this process it does not hurt to use a little extra caution to protect the spindle, in case of a slip of hand and dremel. The cardboard tubes from empty paper towel rolls came in handy. See cleaned up pic. If I was building a “show car” the process would be to spend many, many hours to remove metal to such an extent to have a smooth almost polish surface. My goal is to use the Miata parts with minimal cosmetic time and effort. In fact this step is not necessary, but since the VortX RT suspension is more visible I decided to clean up the bigger gobs of casing flash since it is now or never.

used plastic coat to protect machined surfaces
plastic coat applied

Of course immediately after clean media blast you want to apply coating. Prior to paint I used more corks to prevent paint from getting into the tie rod and upper and lower ball joint holes. I painted using my old faithful and very low cost Rust 0leum heavy rusted metal primer. I will top coat.

spindles ready for paint

Since I primed these parts I have become aware of a product called RustSeal made by KBS coatings. Can be applied direct to blasted parts. I used this product to repaint the aluminum heel scuff guards on the floorboards of the airplane. This is some tough paint. Other paints always have worn off quickly. I tested this paint and it is fuel proof. Only issue is KBS web site says the color is not stable in sunlight and would need a top coat when exposed to direct sun, but  this coating is extremly chip and excellent as rust prevention. So this is probably a tougher more chip resistant primer than the Rust Oleum. But not inexpensive at about $15.00 a half pint. All we need to do now is finish paint the spindles and brake dust covers. I will top coat later along with the cleaned and repacked front hubs. Which is a good place to start the next post.

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