Category Archives: Electrics

Brake Lights just won’t STOP!

Took the Z out after a good while, and after parking I noticed the tail lights still on! Huh, it’s daytime and I don’t think I turned on the lights…

Maybe a fuse? A switch? Maybe the emergency brake switch… Oh, maybe the brake light switch on the brake pedal!

Then I found the breadcrumbs…

  
Ah little broken pieces, where do you come from…from what depths of Datsun dash do you petrified pieces of plastic purvey? 

This part looks about right judging from the clean ring of exposed metal…

  
So yesterday afternoon I’ve been parking it with a mail flyer wedged in there. But a quick trip to Home Depot did the job (I haven’t looked at the Datsun catalogs yet to reveal the REAL part). 

Picked up a simple metal hole plug, zinc plated, 3/8th inch – fits perfectly!

  
Make you think though – why even have a hole there? Why not just have the metal butt up against the switch? The switch itself is already on an adjustable screw, so it can’t be for micro adjustment reasons. But maybe it’s so that a cheaper part can be replaced instead of wearing out the switch with a hard piece of metal? I guess if the metal were wearing on the plastic trigger, eventually the trigger will break and the switch will need to be replaced. So instead, use an even cheaper replaceable part to wear out instead… 

What do you think?


I’ll be back – [Battery] Terminator

Every now and again, i jump in the car to fire it up only to find it won’t start. No ‘click’, no turn over. Baaaahhhh now what is it?!

After a few times of this happening over the years, I eventually figured out it was the flaky connections at the battery terminals by leaving the key turned on and rattling the battery cables. No the car won’t turn on, but the car door warning buzzer will go off!

So this was months ago…and now pesky battery terminals, (said in my best Arnold voice) I’m back!

.. No, I haven’t seen the movie Terminator: Genesis yet. Anyways, let’s begin!

   
This is the battery wiring situation we have to deal with on the positive terminal. Main cable going to starter, other smaller cables going to cabin, alternator, and radio (shoot, I still haven’t installed that one).

  

I just cut off this guy..but now I realize the white one might be a wire fuse…nah! [chuck]

  

I picked up Kicker brand terminals for amps because these type offer solid connection and access for the battery wire.

  

Wires are tightened into position by set screws.

   

Negative side looks clean, and even helps by sticking out from under the body of the car (sometimes jumping other cars is a pain). Positive side still need some cable management but overall the terminals worked well. 

Kicker BT4 Battery Terminals: $22 each

Work time: 30min


Back on the Road: 280z Alternator Upgrade

A very common issue with the Datsun 280z is the alternator’s external voltage regulator. The voltage regulator on the 280z is mechanical and very prone to failure. Now a days, alternators are internally regulated, and have a very long lifespan. Here, i’ll detail how to upgrade that alternator in the 280z, and wrap up why my car died in the middle of the freeway.

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What you’ll need:
– 12mm and 13mm socket (or maybe even 14mm depending on the bolts you have)
– 1983 Nissan / Datsun 280zx alternator (O’Reilly’s Ultima #14592)
– wire cutter

What you’re doing:
We’re replacing the old 280z externally regulated alternator with a newer, internally regulated alternator designed for a 1983 280zx (think, available and off the shelf).

See below: old and new alternators. I honestly don’t know if mine was original because several sites mention the OEM 280z alternator had smaller fans. In my case, they were pretty much the same. Mind the images..I was doing necessary repairs at 11pm. horray.IMG_8316.JPG

So why did my Datsun 280z die in the middle of the road? Why did the lights go dimmer and dimmer before then? Why was the engine running rough and eventually sputtering, choking to silence? Well, the alternator wasn’t doing it’s job – it wasn’t providing power to the system, so it was relying on battery power. And just like a toy car, when the battery starts to run out, all sorts of things happen. Lights go dim because there isn’t enough power. Engine acts up because there isn’t enough power to ignite the spark plugs. Ah! So regardless of whether it’s the regulator or the alternator, we’re doing the full upgrade, never having to worry about a failure in a mechanical switch.

You can get a 1983 280zx alternator from your local parts store fairly readily. I got mine from O’Reilly’s Autoparts for $46.00 – Ultima #14592.

1) Detach power – remove cables from the battery, so there’s no power to the system

2) Remove the wires from the old 280z alternator and remove the alternator itself using the 13mm socket wrench. It may help to take a picture of the alternator just prior to removing the wires.

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3) Install the new alternator, and reattach all wires

4) Locate the voltage regulator, which is just behind the metal plate that the wire fuses are mounted to. Un-attach the 6-wire connector.

5) Depending on your year 280z, use the chart below to determine which colored wires to jump. Regardless of color, wires 1 and 5 are to be connected, as well as 2 and 3. You actually have several options: 1) cut / connect wires before the 6-pin connector; 2) jump the wires on the connector (like shown below); or 3) cut / connect wires after the connector. I choose to just jump at the connector in some rare chance I need the connector in the future (though, this IS one of those upgrades that is just necessary on a 280z).

Daily Datsun 280z alternator upgrade wiring diagram
(Source: AtlanticZ.ca)

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6) Reconnect the battery, check for any immediate electrical issues

7) Turn on the car to run on battery (not all the way on), and note that the charge light is lit in the volt meter dial. Turn the car on to verify the charge light turns off, and you’re registering around 14V. If the charge light is still on, and the dial is only reading 12V while the engine is running, it means something is a miss. Double check your wiring all around.

Now that your alternator is internally regulated, there’s no more faulty regulator to replace!

 

IMG_8323.JPG

 

Helpful link from AtlanticZ: http://atlanticz.ca/zclub/techtips/alternatorswap/index.html

 


Let there be light!

Finally, 3 weeks later, headlights! No more slogging through the night w/ hazard lights on! No more hearing it from the wife! No more.. ok ok, what did i fix? I was able to install the new[er] 280z combo switch fairly swiftly (seeing as i’ve done it countless times before). This one, purchased from eBay, came in decent shape, and the cam switches that turn on/off the parking lights and headlights are solid. Solid. Turn on the headlights, though… nothing. Back to the voltmeter. Measured again between the terminals on the combo switch – 12.5v… but when i turn it on, it goes to zero volts. huh! a ground issue? I again make my way down the chain toward the fuse panel, then the other way toward the battery. ah ha! doh.. the fusible link looked good, but upon serious inspection (meaning trying to pull it off):

Daily Datsun - fusible link

wtf – seriously? i measured the voltage across it, and it was good! good i tell you! but probably because it was hanging by a thread, which will read voltage, but not have the capacity to hold upwards of 50A of headlight power. Just for reference, the headlights fusible link is on the bottom left (when looking into the engine bay from the passenger side).

Daily Datsun - fusible link

Until my replacement 280z fusible links can come in from Motorsport Auto’s (MSA) Z store, I just trimmed, and reattached the link – and…viola!

Daily Datsun - headlights on

and wouldn’t you know.. highs AND low beams work! huzzah!   And that’s not all. Interestingly enough there’s a bit of discrepancy in the 280z’s fusible link layout! You’ll notice on MSA’s fusible link product page, they note the use of the black fusible link (80A) for the headlights, and on AtlanticZ.ca’s site, they note that a red/brown fusible link (50A) should be used; with black being used for the alternator / ignition. See below:

MSA’s diagram:

Motorsport Auto's Z fusible link diagram

Atlantic Z’s diagram:

Atlantic Z's fusible link layout for 1977 280z

So who’s right? It would make sense that if any circuit out of the four has to have the highest rated fuse, it would be the alternator and ignition circuit. Datsun Field Service Manual (FSM) says…. huh. it doesn’t. yeah, pg BE-6 doesn’t know which one goes where. A few google searches later, you’ll notice that most images will show that Atlantic Z has it correct, the black fusible link is for the Alternator / Ignition Relay. This additional wiring diagram from CarPartsManual.com shows it clearly (even though for a ’74-’76).

Datsun-Z-engine-bay-wiring-diagram

Other supporting images show the same layout (not in favor of MSA’s diagram)…

I really like ZCurves’ solution for using the blade styled (read: more accessible / cost effective) fuses.

Yet another: http://www.atlanticz.ca/zclub/techtips/fusiblelinks/correct_fusible_links3.jpg

I guess we’ll be contacting MSA to find out what the real setup should be!

ok. time to move on to real stuff: suspension!  


eBay: Datsun 280z combo switch

Just arrived!

A bit grimy, but looks like everything is in working condition: parking / headlight switch actuates solidly, wiper switch rocks, and washer fluid button depresses. Soldering looks to be in good shape as well.

I may have sometime tomorrow after to work to install this puppy and know get a clearer idea of what I’m dealing with.

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Daily Datsun – drivin’ during day…only

“Drivin during [the] day…only”?

Yep – headlights. out. I tried fixing the rocker switch issue and ended up doing something else, to where the headlights don’t even turn on anymore! Yikes! Luckily days are long, light is still out to about 8:45pm, but it really means no driving at night. Daily driver now.. daytime driver.

So what’s up? let’s take a look. Below is the Datsun 280z headlight schematic from the field service manual (FSM). I’ve went ahead and checked voltage from the battery back to the 280z’s combination switch, and then to the headlights for continuity.

Daily Datsun 280z FSM - headlight schematic

You’ll notice, parking / tail lights work, but headlights do not. In addition, I’ve never had the high-beams work, so maybe I can tackle that issue as well…

Battery – check, 12.5V
Combo switch to parking lights only – check, turns on
Combo switch to headlights on: bad, zero volts
Bridging combination switch w/ wire: check, 12.5V
Combo switch to headlights on + check headlight terminal: bad, zero volts

One of the issues i have is that when I bridge the RW / R wires, like the combo switch does when you turn on the headlights, there’s a clear 12.5V, however, when using the combo switch, it drops to zero volts. This tells me a few things: 1) problem w/ combo switch (as these are notorious for being flaky / problematic), 2) possible grounding issue

I’ve went ahead and ordered another combo switch, used on eBay, so I can really begin to diagnose the 280z combination switch. Luckily i was able to buy at $45!

 


Re-solder Re-light

 

This guy’s a little nuisance – the headlight solder point attached the combo switch.

I already had the 280z’s column covers off earlier in the week month because my headlights wouldn’t turn on (switch was broken), but now the wire when ahead and popped off. That white wire is an iPhone charger cable wrapped around the steering column to hold the wire down while I solder. Sigh – one day at a time…

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