2nd Gen RX-7 New Owner Information
So you've just bought an RX-7. Now you're probably wondering "now what?". Before you begin to drive the car, there is some information you need to know, and some tasks that should be performed.
If the car came with one, read the owners manual. This is important, as it will familiarize you with the car, it's controls, and the locations of the major components. However, if the car did not come with a manual (as is often the case with a 16+ year old car), don't sweat it too much. If you really want one, they are available from the dealer.
Regardless of whether you plan to work on the car or pay someone else to do it, you will want to a pick up a copy of the Haynes manual. This repair manual is available at almost any auto parts store (ISBN number 1 56392 007 7) and contains almost complete repair and servicing information on the car. There are a few inaccuracies, but the information is basically sound. Read it, front to back. You don't need to understand everything, but the book will go a long way towards helping you familiarize yourself with the car.
The Factory Service Manual can be found in the FAQ For FC thread on the RX-7 Forum. It contains all this information and more, and is an essential tool for any sort of service work that needs to be performed on these cars. It is a harder read then the Haynes but often goes into greater detail then the more generic Haynes manual.
These manuals will answer 99% of service related questions for the car and if you intend to do your own repair work, you will need at least one of them. Preferably both, since the FSM is a free download.
There is literally un-ending information on the RX-7 available on the Internet. From newsgroups, to mailing lists, to websites, to forums, it's all there. The number one source is probably the RX-7 Forum. With a huge and ever increasing user base, you would be hard pressed to have a question that could not be answered. However, you must be careful about the advice you take. There are many people who spread misinformation, so it is best to wait for a few opinions before you accept an answer. I have also compiled a large list of links on the subject of RX-7s. That would be an excellent place to start looking for other related websites.
New User Tasks
Having just bought the car, there are a few things that should be done before you begin to drive it regularly.
- Change all fluids
- This includes oil (and filter), coolant, brake fluid, clutch fluid, transmission fluid, differential fluid, power steering fluid (if equipped) and even windshield washer fluid (use a siphon). The above mentioned Haynes manual is great for information on how to do this, which is beyond the basic scope of this document. If the car has been sitting for more than a few months, you may wish to go to the more drastic (and significantly more dangerous) step of changing the fuel as well. While bleeding the brakes, inspect the calipers and replace the pads.
- Change filters
- Change the air filter, as well as the fuel filter. Both are notoriously neglected by previous owners, and obviously important to the health and performance of the car. As far as the air filter goes, you may just want to install a cone-type filter instead, as the cost will be about the same as the factory filter, but with the benefit of increased performance and reusability.
- Change plugs, wires and belts
- The title is fairly self explanatory, but changing the spark plugs, plug wires, and all belts is important. Plug wires are often neglected, and belts can become rotted from sitting. It's very cheap insurance to prevent the very annoying situation of being stuck at the side of the road with a broken belt. Personally, I use only Mazda belts as they are very high quality. Replace plugs with OEM spec units, but replacing the wires with a good set of aftermarket silicon wires would be a good investment.
- Change the thermostat and cooling hoses
- While you are changing the coolant, also take the opportunity to change the thermostat and all hoses. Only use Mazda thermostats. I cannot stress this enough. Aftermarket thermostats will not last long in the rotary, and will result in a potentially fatal overheating condition. Resist the urge to remove the thermostat entirely, as it is a necessary part of the cooling system and will cause the car to overheat if removed. Change all cooling hoses, including the upper and lower radiator hose, heater hoses, and coolant hoses to the throttle body. The hose at the back of the throttle body on non-turbo cars is impossible to change without removing the upper intake, so don't worry about that one. Also, don't forget the hose to the overflow container.
- Clean, clean, clean
- Give the car a good wash and wax job. Clean the wheels with a good wheel cleaner, and take a soft brush to the exterior trim, marker lights, and taillights. Don't forget the headlights. Also give the interior a good vacuum job. I prefer to remove the seats when I do this. The loose change you find will help you offset the cost of the car. If you do remove the seats, make sure to coat the bolts with anit-seize compound when you reassemble. Clean the dash with warm soapy water, then dry and apply a preservative (such as Armor All). Clean all windows with a good non streaking glass cleaner. Various carpet foams are available at upholstery stores to help you remove that stain you can't (and probably don't want to) identify.
Driving The Car
The car drives pretty much like any other, but there are a few simple things you should know.
- Put car in neutral (or park for automatics), push the accelerator 1/4 down, then start the car. Release the accelerator when the car starts. If the cold start system is working perfectly, the engine should shoot to 3000 RPM for about 10 seconds, then come back down to around 1500 RPM, then slowly to an idle of 750 RPM as it warms up. If this does not happen, don't worry about it. The cold start system is a bad thing anyway. Allow the car to idle for about a minute, then drive off.
- Driving while cold
- While the car is warming up, drive conservatively. Do not flog the engine until it has reached operating temperature (1/4 on the gauge for '86-'88 cars, 1/2 for '89+ cars). This is true of any car, but especially true of the rotary. It is best to drive under 3000 RPM until warmed up.
- Normal driving
- Drive the car as normal, shifting between 3500 RPM and 4000 RPM. Keeping a light load on the engine will help keep the secondary injectors from opening up, thus conserving fuel.
- Hard driving
- For maximum power, shift just before redline. Shifting at the rev-warning buzzer is a good way to go, as once you get into the higher gear it will plant the RPMs right in the powerband. Needless to say, the accelerator should be firmly on the floor.
If your car is a turbo, shifting around 6500RPM will help keep the boost up, as the stock exhaust tends to choke the turbo slightly at very high RPMs.
- Redlining the rotary engine is not damaging, and is actually recommended. Make sure to redline the engine regularly. This will prevent carbon buildup and keep the insides of the engine all clean and shiny. I tend to redline my car several times whenever I drive it.
- Shut down
- After normal driving, shutting down the car is pretty straightforward. Allow the car to idle while you shift it into neutral and apply the parking brake. Then turn off the engine. After hard driving, a cool down period is preferred, and should be anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how it was driven.
Turbo cars require a little more effort to shut down. After hard driving, an extended period of idling is recommended to help cool the turbo. After "light hard" driving, a minute is usually enough. "Medium hard" driving calls for about 3 minutes, and "hard hard" driving should have an idle-down period of around 5 minutes. A turbo timer then becomes a very handy thing to have. This idle-down period keeps oil circulating through the very hot turbo, prevent "coking" caused by oil sitting in a hot turbo. This, and regular oil changes, will be the most important factor in the life of your turbocharger.
Fuel And Oil
Fuel and oil requirements are basically straightforward.
- Only unleaded gasoline should be used, as leaded fuel will contaminate the oxygen sensor and catalytic converters.
Octane requirements for non-turbo (naturally aspirated or NA) cars are very low. 87 octane should be used if available. Always use the lowest octane fuel you can find. Higher octanes will result in a noticeable power loss, excessive carbon build up, and poorer mileage.
In turbo cars, Mazda specifies 87 octane. However, I generally recommend you go one step above that, especially in cold weather. If the car is modified or otherwise running higher then stock boost, the higher octane is a must.
- Oil must be changed every 3000 miles (5000 KM). In most climates, non-turbo cars should use 10W-30. Hotter climates may call for a slightly heavier oil. Turbo cars should run 20W-50 for most climates, but if it is constantly cold, 10W-30 may be a better choice. Synthetic oil is not recommended.
The rotary engine is designed to purposefully burn oil. Small amounts are injected into the intake air and directly into the rotor housings to lubricate the apex seals. Consequently, the car will use roughly one quart of oil per 1000 miles of driving. This consumption will vary based on how the car is driven. Harder driving will use a lot more oil. So be sure to check oil every time you fill up the gas tank (which should be done with any car).
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