2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Sandstorm Damage Extensive, Possibly Expensive
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on March 29, 2016
As Mark Takahashi already said, our 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata was caught in a sudden sandstorm on a deserted stretch of two-lane desert road with no cover whatsoever. I drove it home a day or two later and discovered the damage to be even more extensive than I imagined after hearing his description and seeing his pictures.
For one, the car smelled of the desert whenever the fan was on. Not the sweet sage smell you get after it rains, but the dry dusty smell you get from being eighth in line behind a string of Jeeps in a sand wash. A new cabin filter would be in order — if the ND had one.
This led me to pop the hood and have a look at the engine air filter. In the process I got a look at the coarse, sharp-edged grit that had enveloped the Miata because a goodly amount of it had settled on top of the engine.
The inside of the air box proved to be fairly clean. The filter didn't look obstructed or even visibly dirty, but I did find evidence of sand grains between the pleats and along the sides. The filter did its job and caught the small amount that made it this far into the works, but this stuff has sharp edges. Could the embedded grains work through the pleats over time?
Better safe than sorry. I bought a new one for $20.11 at my local dealer.
As Mark said, the windshield is junk. Early indications suggest that could set us back $750 or more unless we go with a cheaper nameless replacement. Stay tuned.
The headlights are pitted pretty bad, too, but you I couldn't really tell while driving because they still seem to throw out plenty of light. It's impossible to do an A/B comparison at this point, though.
While I was buying my filter, I asked the guy at the parts counter how much replacement headlight assemblies would cost should we actually need them. Would you believe $954 each? LED headlights are expensive. And no, the lenses are not available separately.
The low-mounted turn signal marker lights got sandblasted even worse. They cost $269 apiece to replace. If you're keeping score, that's $2,500 in lighting. Yeah, methinks we should pay a professional to try his hand at headlight restoration before we go down that road.
Not surprisingly, all of the black-painted parts such as the grille and the splitter now have a motley speckled gray appearance. It looks like razor stubble in reverse. The mirrors and the black windshield pillar garnish panels aren't as bad, but they show signs.
To get an idea how much gloss was lost in the worst areas, look where the dead bugs used to be in this photo and some of the previous images. They protected the paint through the sandstorm and left a shadow of good paint behind after they were subsequently washed away.
There are those in the office that think some advanced detailing techniques will bring the paint back to life. I'm dubious, but it's certainly worth a try.
I suppose that's what I would do if this were my only car. Without knowing in advance if a repainted front end would look as good as new, I'd probably be hesitant to file an insurance claim, pay a hefty deductible and deal with the possibility of increased rates.
Unless, of course, the detailing approach had zero success.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,023 miles