Rotary Engine Maintenance

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Rotary cars are great, proving lots of smooth power, average sports car mileage, good handling, and attractive styling. Although like all modern high performance cars, must be meticulously maintained to insure reliability, longevity, and performance levels. The relatively high cost of some parts on Japanese cars stops many from properly maintaining, usually resulting in otherwise unneeded repairs and problems. A plan of regular interval service, fluid changes, and proper cool down and driving habits are key in keeping cars on the road. Many engine failures can be blamed on lack of maintenance, oil starvation due to leaks, or overheating due to coolant leaks or circulation restrictions such as thermostats or radiators. The rotary engine does not like to be overheated. Just one full scale overheating can warp expensive housings or at least damage coolant gaskets. The combination of several different types of metals, iron housings and aluminum/cadmium alloy rotor housings found in the engine, results in uneven expansion/contraction characteristics.

The Mazda factory shop manual is mandatory in order to understand and repair car properly, and worth every dime.Understanding the repairs and why necessary saves lots of money and wasted time by avoiding trial and error parts replacements, and buying things not needed to repair problem.

Mark Schroeder Updated 11-14-96

Inspection and Replacement Checklist

Date: Tue, 7 Apr 1998 10:36:00 -0500 From: "Westbrook, Chuck"

The best way to prevent failures is to very frequently inspect your car's systems. These cars are almost like aircraft in their complexity and in their performance capabilities. Treat them as one! Who wants a failure at 100MPH+?

Inspection, and replacement requirements IMOHO!

  • 1. coolant level, change yearly and add Red Line Water Wetter, use the least amount of antifreeze as is needed for your location, use distilled water
  • 2. coolant system hoses, change after about 5 years
  • 3. fan belts, change after about 4 years
  • 4. oil level, change every 2500 to 3000 miles with new filter
  • 5. change transmission and differential oil yearly
  • 6. change spark plugs yearly
  • 7. change air filter yearly if paper, K&N wash and re-oil
  • 8. brake fluid, flush system yearly, same applies to the clutch
  • 9. tire air pressure, monthly
  • 10. brake pads, replace at least every other year
  • 11. check battery for leakage
  • 12. power steering fluid level
  • 13. look at everything else
  • 14. If the car has been at the dealership or any common shop, check everything!


Schedule 1 (Normal Driving Conditions) U.S.A.

Change oil and filter every 7.5 months or 7500 miles. OK! Trash this one and do the real schedule.

Schedule 2 (Unique Driving Conditions) U.S.A.

* At 3 Months or 3,000 miles:

  • Replace Engine Oil and Filter

* At 3 Months or 5,000 miles:

  • Inspect Tension of All Drive Belts
  • Inspect the Engine Coolant Level and Strength
  • Inspect Automatic Transmission Fluid Level
  • Inspect Oil Level in Final Drive Case
  • Inspect Brake and Clutch Fluid Level
  • Inspect Tire Inflation and Tire Wear
  • Inspect Power Steering Fluid Level
  • Inspect Washer Fluid Level
  • Inspect Function of All Lights
  • Lubricate All Locks and Hinges
  • Annually Inspect Refrigerant Amount and Compressor Operation

* At 15 Months or 15,000 miles:

  • Inspect Air Cleaner Element
  • Inspect Coolant System for Leaks
  • Inspect Idle Speed
  • Inspect Manual Transmission Oil Level
  • Inspect Disc Brakes Front and Rear
  • Inspect Engine Oil Level Warning System
  • Rotate Tires
  • Tighten All Chassis Nuts and Bolts

At 30 Months or 30,000 miles:

  • Replace Air Cleaner Element
  • Replace Spark Plugs
  • Replace Engine Coolant
  • Replace Fuel Filter
  • Replace Transmission Oil M/T and A/T
  • Replace Differential Oil
  • Replace Brake Fluid
  • Inspect Fuel Lines and Hoses
  • Inspect Drive Shaft Dust Boots
  • Inspect Brake Lines and Hoses
  • Inspect Steering Operation and Linkage (Includes Four Wheel alignment)
  • Inspect Suspension Components Front and Rear
  • Inspect Front and Rear Suspension Ball Joints
  • Inspect Rear Suspension Uniball and Sliding Rubber Bushing
  • Inspect Drive Shaft Dust Boots
  • Inspect Exhaust System Heat Shield
  • Inspect Engine Coolant Level Warning System

* At 60 months or 60,000 miles (Not specified but just my opinion)

  • Replace Drive Belts

This is a combination maintenance schedule for unique driving conditions and Canada. Some of the items listed under Canada are not listed under the U.S schedule. From my '93 workshop manual.

Rotary Performance has a maintenance schedule on their site as well.

Oil Filter Pedestal O-Rings

Date: Thu, 03 Feb 2000 10:20:49 -0800 From: Dave McAnaney (

There are two O-rings below the filter pedestal that tend to harden-up and eventually leak. I have replaced these O-rings after I saw a small leak. The local Mazda dealer had them in stock (~$.75/each).

To replace the O-rings, remove the oil filter (it's probably best to drain the oil before hand). Remove the two nuts holding the filter pedestal to the mount and slide the pedestal up to clear the studs. I had to jockey the pedestal around a bit before it would clear the studs, but I did not have to loosen or remove the pipe going to the oil cooler from the pedestal. Be sure you remove all the pieces of the old O-rings before fitting the new ones into the grooves. Replace the pedestal and torque the nuts as specified (don't over-torque - they don't need to be too tight!!). Good luck!

Winter Storage

Date: Sun, 11 Oct 1998 18:40:18 EDT From:

I've stored RX-7's for the last eight Winters in the Chicago area without mishap or Springtime problems, although it doesn't get as cold as Calgary.

Before winter:

  • Wash and wax car. Clean interior (I hate a dirty car in the Spring)
  • Change oil and filter
  • Fill gas tank completely full
  • Change anitfreeze (if appropriate)
  • Do Not engage parking brake (Pads will fuse to rotors)
  • Remove Battery
  • Place battery on an auto trickle charger all winter (it won't survive deep discharging)
  • Cover Car

Some folks lower tire pressures and/or putting the car on jackstands, but I've not done that and have never had any tire related problem.

In the Spring:

1. Replace Battery 2. Check all fluids levels 3. Remove EGI fuse 4. Do a visual inspection of the car and engine bay, and under the car. (I had a mouse living on top of my dymanic chamber last winter, with all the dropping which accompany such a critter. I also had antifreeze leaking onto the ground which turned out to be a failed water pump). 5. When you are satified that all is well, crank engine 6-10 times with EGI fuse out to wet internal engine parts with oil 6. Replace EGI fuse and start engine

After startup, the engine ususally lumbers for a few minutes. Don't race it. Let it come up to operating speed itself. Let it come up to operating temperature and run for 10-15 minutes before driving.

Long Term Storage

From: Steve Cirian

In addition to the above, also do the following if the car is to be stored for longer periods:

Put the car up on jackstands , and make sure you put the stands under the suspension members, not the frame, i.e.- so the shocks are compressed. This will prevent rust ridges from building up with the shocks in the extended position, which would get forced past the seals when the car is let down and the suspension re-compresses.

Auto parts stores sell fuel stabilizer - dump a can in the tank, drive around the block to mix and suck some through the system, and then park it. (Or follow directions on the bottle.)

Remove the plugs, and squirt a little oil in the hole. Rotate to the next combustion chamber and repeat. Repeat until all chambers have been oiled. You will need to make sure all the plugs are removed, or disable the ignition, so the car does not fire, or you will lose track of which chamber is done. (I have not done this on a rotary, just a piston car, so I am guessing a little here.) ;

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