Little known fact about the NA(1990-1997) Miata is that the reverse light switch often fails after about 80,000 miles. Last week I took my Miata to get the Virginia State inspection, and it failed because my reverse lights didn’t work. My mechanic told me it was the reverse switch, and he told me it would cost $250 to fix it….huh? What? That’s like my monthly coffee expense, and I wasn’t about to give up coffee for the month.
So like every car enthusiast would do, I didn’t trust my mechanic and took to the internet for some research. Found out this is a common problem in NA Miatas, and can be done by the weekend warrior mechanic in less than an hour. The mechanic quoted me $70 for the part, and $180 for the labor (a two hour job). My friend and I completed the task in less than an hour ( could have been like 10 minutes if we weren’t such rookies), and the OEM Mazda back up lamp switch cost me $40 off of Amazon. You can do this yourself, and don’t get scammed like I almost did.
Here’s how you do it:
STEP 1: Get your MISE EN PLACE : a jack and some jack stands (in my ghetto case that mean wooden blocks), a blanket (for comfort), an adjustable wrench, a flashlight, and a mirror (it’s an awkward angle, and you’ll need it to see the plugs).
STEP 2: Jack your Miata up! Bro. Just jack the front of your Miata up, and make sure you raise both sides. It will be easier to slide under the car if you do so. If you’re poor like me and use wooden blocks it’s ok, but it makes it a tight fit underneath the car. So yes, two jacks are recommended.
STEP 3: Lay out the blanket under the car, and get under the car with your flashlight and mirror (the best way to lie is head under the engine, chest under the transmission, and your feet by the rear axle – this gives you the best way to access the switch and wires). This step is key, but it will save you time. Find the switch housing (it’s on the top right side of the transmission).
STEP 4: Remove the switch housing with an adjustable wrench. Keep an eye out for a washer around the switch. Mine fell and we lost it. If you install the new part without the washer you will not be able to put the car in reverse. So DO NOT LOSE THE WASHER. I eventually found it, and all was well.
STEP 5: Use your mirror and flashlight to locate the plugs. Pull the wires lose. There are a snug fit, so don’t be scared to pull hard on them till the plugs come loose. There isn’t a right/left or a black/red or a right/wrong plugs, so just pull hard till they come out.
STEP 6: Install the new switch, making sure the washer is in place (remember it won’t go into reverse if not.)
STEP 7: Connect the wires, remember this isn’t a right or left. So just plug them in. Lying parallel with the car will help this process. You will need to use both hands in order to plug them in properly (trust), since you will be plugging them in on top of the transmission.
STEP 8: Grab a beer, because you are now officially a man. Congrats.
Many thanks to my roommate Dhamin, who actually did all the hard work. I was just there for support, and taking great photos.
Here’s the link to Miata.net that walks you through the process (this is what I used for reference).