How good is the MX-5 Miata in Winter? Explained

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is praised by many as the ultimate summer sports car. It’s affordable, comes equipped with a convertible soft top and provides endless fun on twisty backroads.

But can you enjoy your MX-5 Miata in the winter months? Sure you can! 

In this article, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about driving your beloved roaster in those colder months of the year.

Are MX-5 Miatas good in the snow?

Providing you have snow tires fitted, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is fine to drive in the snow. However, being a rear-wheel driven car, you should be extra careful when driving your Miata on snow and ice.

Despite what you might have heard, the MX-5 Miata has the ability to perform well in snowy conditions. Here are a few things you should take into consideration before doing so:

Purchase good-quality snow tires

Picture this: your MX-5 Miata is your only car – it’s your daily driver. If you live in a snowy climate, you need to drive your car to get to work or to buy essential groceries. 

If this is the case, the most important thing you can do is to purchase dedicated snow tires for your roadster.

Snow tires are equipped with a tread compound that gets firmer as the weather gets colder. Their tread patterns are designed to channel away slush and provide maximum grip on the snow and ice.

Don’t rely on summer tires

Summer tires are not designed to be relied on in snowy terrains. They will slip and spin easily when faced with such conditions, which could end in disaster for you and your car.

Many people think that MX-5 Miatas (and rear-wheel drive cars in general) are just really bad in the snow. This is simply not the case. It all depends on your tires and your ability to drive carefully and safely.

Drive carefully and safely

Once you have a set of good-quality snow tires on your MX-5 Miata, it’s just a case of driving carefully and being aware of your surroundings. This means no sudden acceleration, harsh braking or hijinks (like drifting). Sudden movements will cause your tires to lose grip more easily.

If you need some practice, try to find an empty parking lot with some fresh snow. Get a feel for the controls and the snow’s impact on your MX-5 Miata’s handling, acceleration and braking. Once you feel confident, you’re good to go all winter long!

Can you drive an MX-5 Miata in the cold?

The MX-5 Miata is designed to be driven in both warm and cold climates. There are a few extra things you can do to protect your Miata from the cold, like swapping to a lower viscosity engine oil and changing the battery.

Modern motor vehicles are designed to be sold across the world. To maximise their profit and sell as many cars as possible, car manufacturers build their cars to perform well in all climates – cold, hot and wet.

For this reason, it’s absolutely fine to drive your MX-5 Miata in colder climates. The MX-5 Miata is considered a very reliable car. There are, of course, a few things that you can do to futureproof your car for those winter months.

Image Credit: Mazda Europe

How to protect your MX-5 Miata in the winter

Awesome – you’ve got four new snow tires and you’re feeling confident out on the snow-covered roads. But what else can you do to keep your MX-5 Miata running nicely in the winter?

While your MX-5 Miata keeps you going in those colder months, there’s no harm in giving it a bit of tender loving care. Here are a few precautions you can take to make sure your car performs well in the cold.

Change the battery

If your battery is old or showing signs of damage, it’s a good idea to swap it out for a new one before those cold winter months hit. 

Colder weather causes the chemical process inside of your battery to slow down, according to Evans Halshaw. This reduces its ability to hold charge and supply it to your vehicle. If your battery is only a few years old, this shouldn’t be an issue. If it’s older, consider getting it replaced.

You’re also putting more strain on your battery during the winter. It has to supply power to the heaters, headlights and windscreen wipers – components that we use more often in colder temperatures. It also has to help start your car and its engine, which can become tricky in bitterly cold weather.

It’s really not worth stranding yourself with a dead battery while you’re out in the snow. Futureproof your MX-5 Miata with a brand new battery and give yourself some much-deserved peace of mind for those snowy expeditions.

Switch to a lower-viscosity engine oil

It’s a good idea to perform a full service before heading into the winter months – especially if you haven’t serviced your car in a while. When you do so, consider swapping out your engine oil for a lower-viscosity alternative to enhance its cold-weather performance and protection.

Viscosity is the measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow. In the winter, you want your oil to start flowing around your engine as quickly as possible to protect the components during cold starts. Thus, you want a lower-viscosity oil.

Using a lower-viscosity oil can help to improve your Miata’s cold starts and minimize the wear on your engine components.

Always consult your owner’s manual before changing your engine oil. In my 2005 NB MX-5 Miata, Mazda’s recommended engine oil is a semi-synthetic 10w-40. In the winter, I tend to use a semi-synthetic 5w-40 for lower viscosity. Remember to always stick with the same variety of oil – semi-synthetic or fully synthetic – to keep your engine fit and healthy.

Pack a survival kit

This one is super important. Always make sure to have a survival kit packed away in your car during winter.

You never know when you might end up stranded. Whether it’s a dead battery or your car is stuck in heavy snow, you’ll need some supplies to keep you warm and fed while you wait for the backup to arrive.

My personal survival kit includes the following items:

  • Blankets
  • Water bottles
  • Snacks
  • Torch
  • Clothes (incl. socks)
  • Power bank

Have a good think about what you might need if you’re stuck for a few hours. Do you need to take medicines? You can never do too much preparation when travelling in winter!

Should I add weight to the rear of my MX-5 Miata in the snow?

Many enthusiasts recommend putting heavy objects in the trunk of a rear-wheel drive car when driving in the snow. It can help to maintain traction on slippery surfaces.

From my personal experience, I wouldn’t recommend doing this in an MX-5 Miata. Mazda designed this car with the perfect weight balance in mind. Having heavy objects in the trunk of an MX-5 Miata can upset this balance, even in the snow.

Having additional weight in the trunk can help with traction on the rear axle when starting off in the snow. However, it can hinder your stopping distance and steering ability, which is controlled via the front of the vehicle.

It’s really down to personal preference. In my opinion, it didn’t make much difference to my NB MX-5 Miata – and it only served to make the car even more unpredictable in the snow. Test it out, and see what you prefer.

Wash your car on a weekly basis

I am a strong advocate of treating your car to a soak every week. Regular washing discourages the dreaded Miata rust and keeps your paintwork looking great.

If you’re driving in the snow, your car will get real dirty, real fast. Dirty snow can get kicked up into your wheel arches and all over your exterior paint. And that’s before we even consider road salt.

Road salt is used to lower the freezing temperature of water and to provide grip to vehicles on the road. It also gets EVERYWHERE on your car. Because road salt holds water, it can accelerate the formation of rust in your vehicle’s nooks and crannies.

Washing your car regularly with a jet washer or hose will help to remove grime and road salt from your vehicle. If you can, pay particular attention to the underside of your MX-5 Miata and the wheel arches. This is where rust is most likely to form.

Image Credit: Mazda Europe

Can you lower the top in winter?

You can indeed lower the top in your MX-5 Miata during winter. Since 1989, Mazda has equipped all generations of the MX-5 Miata with powerful heating controls that ensure your cabin can stay toasty.

Mazda wanted the MX-5 Miata to be enjoyed top-down all year round. This is possible thanks to the powerful heating vents that are present in the cabin. Just switch them to your desired setting and get going!

You may still want to wear gloves, a scarf or a hat to keep you warm whilst enjoying some roof-down adventures.

Final thoughts

If anyone tells you that you can’t drive a Mazda MX-5 (or Miata) in winter, they’re wrong. It’s just a case of being prepared.

The most important thing any MX-5 Miata owner can do in the winter months is to buy snow tires. You don’t need to splash the cash – used tires with plenty of tread left will do. Just make sure you’re not using regular summer tires!

We hope that this guide helped to build your confidence when driving your roadster out in the white stuff. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to post them below.

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