After the long months of stripping, painting and reassembling the car, I had high hopes for getting around in it for a bit. Alas, it was not to be.
I had previously replaced the rear wheel bearings as part of the initial restoration, and I guess I should have expected that the front bearings would retire at some point too. For a long time before the teardown I had lived with a slight rotational sound audible only at low speed, but figured it was not of any concern since it wasn’t getting worse. As it turns out, while standing around for a few months in my garage, the bearings had apparently deteriorated somehow. It was now making grinding noises under braking and the wheels were tram-tracking like crazy on bumpy surfaces. The former probably only became apparent after I had replaced both the front rotors and pads during the reassembly, the latter I had ascribed to the Konis and poly-bushes, but it was worse now and pretty disconcerting. So I pulled off the front brake and hub assemblies, after I acquired a 2 meter piece of pipe, and found grease all over the one dust cap with both bearings having sideways play in excess of 2 to 3 millimeters, which would explain the instability of the front wheels.
So then I had to get hold of new bearings. This front-hub and bearing assembly is considered a unit, and Mazda doesn’t have a separate part number for only the bearing. The EPC only details the entire hub as a single part. So of course the dealer price per hub was around R4500.00, where-as I could get aftermarket parts from both the UK and Dubai for less than R1000.00 and R500.00 respectively. So I ordered and waited.
While waiting for the parts I got another set of stands and lifted the rear of the car off the ground so that I could also adjust the handbrake. This has never worked properly before, but it’s a simple process involving a small adjustment screw on either side. With that done, and the hubs finally here, I “piped” everything back together again in no time, and the results are...dramatic. The front-end feels way more solid and composed now, with the turn-in response better than it has ever been. I’m really happy now, and bearing life is something I will always consider and inspect whenever I buy another older car.
My handbrake light started staying on. I figured the switch went bad and thought nothing further of it. But then on my way to work in late Feb I hit the brake pedal. Nothing. Straight to the floor. It was the most out of control I have ever felt, and I include the moments like my pirouette, when I ripped the power steering belt trying to powerslide a 96kw car, and my time on the skid-pan at Killarney during an advanced driving course. That day I learnt that if the handbrake light stays on, check your fluid levels!
We always like to talk and blog about upgrading the brakes or suspension or engine. Sometimes however you have to deal with the boring stuff too.