Roll Bar Installation into Mazda MX5 RF
Installing the Flyin’ Miata / Hard Dog Roll Bar in an RF
I think I was the first person to install the Flyin’ Miata roll bar after FM put one in a development car. The instructions were still in a draft stage so weren’t as much help as they could be. In general though, looking at other Hard Dog instructions, they leave a lot to the imagination anyway. I put together this guide to hopefully help others a bit. I didn’t know I was going to create this when I started so I didn’t take photos of everything I did. But what is here will hopefully be helpful. If you experience things I should add, let me know.
I should note that this can be a one-person install if you are up for it. I know because I did it.
The roll bar itself arrives in a sturdy box, well packaged. There are 6 “pieces” and a bag of bolts/nuts/washers. The pieces are the roll bar itself, two end plates that will be bolted up from the outside rear wheel wells, and two seatbelt retractor mounts.
Remove the Seats and All the Plastic Bits
The first step is to remove the seats and all the plastic bits so you can get at the rear area. The instructions say to put the top down just until the rear window moves. I did mine differently. I put the top all the way down as it made getting the seat out much easier. I’ll move it back up later. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you do it this way, it may require a method for you to clear any DTC error codes that might happen later when we power things back up with the seatbelts removed. I have a Bluetooth OBD reader and the app OBD Fusion on my phone. This lets me read DTC codes and clear them which I did. If you don’t have this ability then follow their instructions and set the top now.
Disconnect the battery. The seats have airbags in them and we don’t want anything bad to happen.
Next up on the FM instructions is removing the center console. This has to be done as it sits on top of part of the big plastic trim behind the seats. You might want to review this in the workshop manual. It helps to understand how it all goes together so you don’t break any plastic tabs. I’ve had mine out a bunch of times and I’ve never been able to pull it out with my hand as suggested. I’ve always had to use plastic trim removers to separate things along the edges before it popped free.
Next up, removing both front seats. The FM instructions are good on how to disconnect the wiring harness under the seat. You’ll need an E12 Torx socket to remove the 4 bolts. I suggest putting a towel over the lower kick panel so you don’t scratch it when removing the seat.
Remove Hoop Covers
The instructions now cover removing the covers over the stock hoops. These snap together down the middle. I used 3-4 plastic trim removal tools to fight with these. They are tough but remember you aren’t going to use them again. Probably just go into the trash so feel free to be rough with them and break tabs if necessary. Here are some photos that show you how they snap together (click to enlarge them).
Say Goodbye to the Trim
Now it’s time to remove the majority of the plastic bits. Again, looking at them in the workshop manual makes things a lot easier. We’ll start with the kick panel and work back until the large piece behind the seat is out. You’ll remove the pop tabs using a very small screwdriver to get under the center bit and pop it up. Then pull it out. There are a bunch and you might want to put them in a plastic bag so you don’t lose them. I didn’t take photos before putting everything back in the car. I do have a photo of the large back piece and its four connections. You’ll start at one side and give it a tug towards the front of the car. Then work in to release the next one. There are a total of four tabs in one row across the panel.
Seat Belt Reels
Seat belt reels are up next. IMPORTANT NOTE: Pull 2 feet or so of belt out of the retractor. Block this from going back in using a clamp, vise grips or whatever you come up with. I wasn’t aware of this and my belt retracted all the way to the button. That turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Remove the seatbelt reels on both sides (large bolt bottom, small bolt middle, large bolt top). No need to unplug them from the wires unless you really want to. Just set them down but be sure you aren’t pulling on the wires.
Big Shiny Cross Member
The FM instructions now talk about removing the top’s latch. You don’t have to remove this latch which would be a big PIA. Don’t worry about that for now. Instead, unbolt all the bolts in the aluminum cross member. Hoops, attachment points, any friggin’ bolt you see, take it out. There is a wire on the passenger side attached to the hoop. It slides up and out. Remove the top control box and lay it down. No need to unplug it. In the following photos you can see a lot of progress on removing bolts, seat belt retractors hanging down, the control box, and note the cable screwed to the bottom of the control box. Disconnect that cable from the bottom of the control box. We’re going to deal with that next.
Okay, the center aluminum piece should be loose. Nearly ready to remove. Now we need to position the top as they said in step one of the draft instructions (if you already have it that way, good for you). Connect the battery cable and position as noted in the FM instruction, so the back window just starts to move.
Now we’ll move onto their section on chasing the cable for the latch. On the driver’s side, you’ll see a cable connecting to a, well, thing-a-ma-jig. Their photo is good on this. Remove one or both of the Phillips screws pointed at in their instructions. I removed the most rearward one, then loosened the other. This lets the plastic guide flop out of the way so I could remove the cable end. Trace it down until you see where it connects to an electronic box (the hardtop control box). You should have already unscrewed it. With that removed the aluminum cross member should now come out.
With that big hunk of aluminum out, you can remove the two “wings” you will see coming in from both sides. I didn’t see these mentioned in their instructions but they need to come out.
Rear Deck Stuff
Now you’ll need to remove the two large plastic panels in the rear deck area. Yeah, more push pins. Also the center fiber panel. With those out, you can get to the audio amp on the passenger side. It says to loosen this but I strongly suggest removing it. Remove the amp from its base and then remove the base. You’ll want to unplug the amp and get it out of the way for now.
Getting Ready for the Install
You can now look at the roll bar and get a feel for where those rear plates are going to set. You’ll notice a bunch of wires in that area, particularly on the driver’s side. Not mentioned in the instructions but I removed a couple that were easy to get to. This made it easier to get the bar in (since I did it by myself). Here is a photo of the two I’m talking about. The wires going over the top of those two were held in place with a connected wire wrap. I yanked that out so it gave me more slack in that wire. You’ll also need to cut or move the fiber mat out of the way.
Bar In and Drilling
Okay, time to move the bar into place. Double check all mats and wires are out of the way. I moved the bar into the seating space, set it down, then moved myself inside and moved it backwards into position. Be really careful not to pinch any wires! Patience here. You can now snug up the 4-6 bolts on the front plates. The next part was the hardest. Drilling.
Jack the car up in the rear as instructed and remove the rear tires and the felt linings. I don’t suggest you just start drilling at this point. The rear plates had some gap between the body of the car and the plates (blurry picture). This is to be expected. If I drilled them as they sat, the top holes wouldn’t align properly as the plate moves 3/8″ or more when I cinch up the bottom bolts. So start with the bottom two. I started on the passenger side because it is the easier of the two because it has fewer wires in the way.
They suggest a 3/8″ drill bit. I bought a brand new high quality bit and it was a beast to drill through the panel as there are two layers. Broke my new bit on the second hole. This forced me to use a stepped drill bit I already had. It was way easier using that type of bit to drill the holes. You can drill a pilot hole with a smaller bit and then use the stepped bit or just go with the stepped bit to begin with. I always dip my bit tip in oil before drilling metal. Makes drilling easier and faster. In my case, I drilled a pilot hole from the inside using a small bit. Then moved the roll bar up out of the way, just put it on something. Also protect the wire looms inside so you don’t drill into them. Now use the stepped bit. With pilot holes you can drill from the outside if you want, just be sure you don’t drill into the wire looms! You’ll notice one of the tabs in the way when you go to place the bracket in the wheel well. They suggest using a Dremel to cut it off. I used vice grips and just pulled it out (after breaking a couple of Dremel cut-off discs).
Bolting It Up
The next step would have been much easier if a couple of bolts in the kit were 1/4″ longer or so. In my case, none of the bolts would work in the bottom holes because the gap was too large. I grabbed a longer bolt I had, placed the bracket on the outside, fed the bolt from the wheel well in, and used it to draw the brackets together. Now I could use one of their bolts in the other hole. Got it in, cinched up a bit, removed my bolt, put their bolt in, and pulled it all together. Now I was able to drill pilot holes in the top two. Once the pilot holes were in, I drilled from the bottom up because it was easier. I left the brackets installed. I did end up breaking the tip on one of my stepped bits when it hit the bracket on the inside but I got it done.
Repeat this process on the driver’s side. Be especially careful of all wire looms in the way here! Slice or drill into one of these and your project will quickly get way worse.
Audio Amp Back In
Worn out yet? I sure as hell was by this point. Now you can start putting things back together. One of the first challenges is getting the audio amp back in. The instructions say you have to bend the bracket for clearance but don’t give any details. Do whatever works for you. I bent then end close to the bar up a bit and the other end down a bit. Took a few tries to get it in. I found mounting the amp on the base and putting it in was easier than trying to get the amp on the base after installing the base. Makes one of the nuts harder to get to but that was easier than struggling with it the other way.
The drain hoses are the next task. You can follow their instructions to zip-tie them but I used a small bolt and attached them that way. I did put a longer hose on the driver’s side from the top to the connector because it wasn’t long enough to give me the assurance I wanted that the end would remain in the drain. It is a 1/2″ inner diameter hose I think. I happened to have some lightweight tubing which I wrapped in black tape (my tube was red). I like the security of a bolted drain hose I knew wouldn’t move.
Controller Box and Tab Problems
Now the top controller can go back in place. Without the controller box, the trunk won’t open so in it must go. The bottom tab will have to be bent 90 degrees. I used my fingers. If you are installing a harness you might want to give some thought to the tab closest to the upright. Hopefully, Hard Dog changes this design. If the tab came off the upright and a bit lower, there would be room to put a harness in there without it hitting the tab. As it is now there are some sharp edges and that darn tab in the way. This tab situation is the thing that didn’t have quite enough foresight. That’s the problem with being the first to install I guess.
Note: I have since removed the top right tab so my harnesses work fine now.
Carve Up the Panels
I suck at this part. I’m not planning on using my deck area so I really didn’t care what they looked like. Just want to get them in. This is what I ended up with that allowed me to easily put it into place and get all the push pins back into place. You can see that the bar goes right through that water channel. I’ve never had any water end up in that channel but I’m guessing it is there for a reason. I stuffed some microfiber rags around the bar so should any water ever go into there, it will get soaked up in the towel. Unless it is a bucket load and then I’ve got more serious problems.
EDIT: I have since removed the two plastic panels and carpet I originally put back into place. Gram strategy!
Almost Time For a Beer
From this point forward you can follow Flyin’ Miata’s instructions. Put the seat belt reels back in place using the Hard Dog retractor bars. I didn’t put the large panel back in place. Too damn much work. I did put the other plastic bits into place. That’s it. Not an installation for the faint of heart but certainly doable if you’ve some mechanical experience.