Engine Bay Aspirations

Cruising on my daily craiglist searches (alfa, tr6, 3.0csi…and of course datsun!), I found a really nice ’77 Datsun 280z for sale. It was listed for $21k+. My, how prices of the S30 Z’s have gone up, but even more so, I’m glad! haha a rising tide lifts all ships, yeah? :]

Anyways, the one thing that really stood out on this ’77 is its engine bay. Wow. But let’s first check out the outside – because it’s gotta look good inside and out!

What got me was the engine bay. Unlike the 240z and 260z before it, the 280z was born with certain genetic pre-conditions – increase in safety standards, heavier parts, more complicated systems and notoriously: stricter emission standards. Yes, the 280z was born with the ERG valve vestigial digit. The bad teeth of fuel injection. Scraggly hair of cables and wires. The MAF funny laugh.

These aren’t necessarily bad things. They’re just something that must be managed. And THIS car has done such a great job managing all that unsightliness and with a color scheme to boot.

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Things that help with a well managed, very nice looking engine bay?

1) Cleanliness – Engines are dirty and need cleaning every now and again. While cars older than the 280z, especially carbureted, have less parts making it easier to clean (less parts, more empty space to get around those parts), newer cars have nice wide shrouds to cover all the small parts (big cover pieces just take a nice wipe down). The 280z was blessed with the worst of both worlds – it’s packed with lots of exposed parts. But a negative can always be turned into a positive: keeping those parts clean can help highlight the maze like intricacies.

2) Organization – Once you’ve gotten the little traps free from grime, it’s time to get them in order. Chaos can make sense when properly organized. Think a book shelf: lots of different colors, shapes and sizes but when organized things can be found, followed, and admired. Those spark plug wires? On trees and straightened. Wires around the fuel rail? Bundled and cinched together. The more parallel lines created, the more uniform and organized it will look. Even the traffic of wires above can look orderly!

“I have a colorful personality!
Look at me!”

3) Look / Color Scheme – With all the parts in any space, keeping a unified look can help bring it all together. Like the mugs of rascals in a boy scout troop – all different faces, but orderly when wearing all the same uniform. And with the right color, you can make a scene pop! The one above carries the blue from the original air intake across various engine parts: clamps, elbows, covers, caps, labels. Though deep purple and light teal are an uncommon combination, it still works to me because any purple car already screams “I have a colorful personality! Look at me!”.

In the age of Photoshop, you can definitely pre-plan, saving time and money. A super fun tool I also use when designing is Adobe’s Color CC (previously called Kuler). Monochromatic, complimentary, triad – there’s so many great combinations to choose from, you’ll end up using it to repaint your house!

Whether the cabin interior, under carriage or engine bay, if it’s clean, well organized and uniform, it will help complete the car as a whole and show just that little extra pride and care to tie it all together.

What does YOUR engine bay look like?

280z re-injected! The Z gets new fuel injectors

 [shit – found this old post from 9/20/15  in Drafts (yes, two years ago!) with a bunch of pics but no write up. Well, let’s do it then! You’ve got time for Daily Datsun, right? Thank you! Let’s read on!]

As you’ve guessed from the title, we’re replacing fuel injectors!

 

After purchasing a classic Z, or any old car for that matter, there’s always a list of things to inspect, test, and replace. After what’s now coming up on…3 years (oh my!), I’m finally diving into the engine – specifically, its ignition and fuel injection.

The injectors in this Z have always been unknown to me..well frankly because I didn’t take the time to inspect or get to understand them. They clearly look like they were replaced by the previous owner (Wild Bill’s brother), they worked, it ran, and that’s all I needed to know.

But whenever I looked at those electric signal connectors fastened by a wad of silicon glue, it always made me wonder what the heck was going on. Until now I’ve been in the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ camp, but one day, I had the gumption to poke at it while the engine was running… Immediatly, the engine started choking, gasping for fuel. You know, it’s about time we give it love and clean these up!

Let’s get our hands dirty!

What you’ll need:

  1. 280z Fuel Injectors – I went with the FJ707 fuel injector from Standard Motor Products
  2. Fuel Injector signal trigger – (I don’t know the real name for this but that’s what I’m calling it…) Standard Motor Products SK25
  3. Long Philips screwdriver, PH1
  4. Razor blade
  5. Wirebrush
  6. Rag to catch the gas
  7. M5-.8, 30mm machine screws (optional)
  8. Easy-out (optional, but i highly recommend SpeedOut or Aisxle )
  9. Hammer (optional)
  10. About 1-1.5hrs

 

Remember those FJ707 fuel injectors I bought a while ago? (7/25/2015)

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Here’s what comes with the FJ707 fuel injector for the 280z:

Tip: Before diving into any project, it’s good to understand what’s the current state, or steady state – basically, what the heck is going on. I listened to how things ran, did a quick inspection of bolts, and made a mental note of where everything was (of course I made a digital “note” with camera too!). Are bolts rusted? What other parts are in and around the area that may need replacing? It really helps to visualize what you’ll be doing BEFORE you go and do it.

On with it!

Prepare to use a long Philips screwdriver to take out the screws holding in the fuel injectors. Or I suppose a right angled driver could work too. A long Philips will help get passed all the fuel rail business.

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I didn’t have the right angled Philips but this extension I had lying around did just the trick.

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Start by removing the screws that hold down the portion of the fuel rail above the injectors you’d like to replace.

Loosen up the hose clamps that connects the injector hose to the fuel rail. Getting the old injector hose off can be tricky. Just use a razor to cut a slit length wise where the hose meets the fuel rail. CAREFUL! Gas is going to leak out, so get that rag ready and handle it properly. You’ll notice that the fuel rail is separated into several sections. This is perfect because you won’t have to remove the whole thing to change the injectors out. I loosened one end of that sectional hose in the rail just to relieve stress and give the rail some flexibility. Now you can change 3 injectors at a time.

Note the silicon glue / electrical tape holding the injector’s signal trigger…

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I started with the set of three closest to the cabin. Of those three, it’s easiest to start disassembling from the cabin forward, and then when re-assembling, start with the one farthest from the cabin. It easier this way because the motion of the fuel rail as you’re working on each injector can pop off the assembly of the previous one…you’ll see.

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Here you’ll see the old injector on the left and new one installed on the right. When disassembling be sure to remember the sequence of parts and process.

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Here’s the old injector with flange, gasket, and seal (cut). The rubber seal maybe all worn out and stuck to the flange or injector. Just cut that sucker off. I also used a hammer to get the flange off of one of them. Light taps!

Use the wirebrush to cleanup the parts.

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The gasket was a bit out of shape when we pulled the assembly apart…

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Our buddy Christian working the metal gasket straight.

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Ugh stripped head. That’s what you get with a 38 year old bolt – rust and dust! I use the Speed Out easy out (Amazon) for all stripped heads – they’re amazing.

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Replaced it with a stainless M5-.8 bolt, 30mm long from Home Depot or Amazon. You’ll notice the head a touch larger, bolt a bit longer, but it works just fine. Make sure to pick up new lock washers while yer at it.

Reassemble everything and that’s it! I think you’ll know if the injector isn’t working properly – the Datsun’s engine is pretty transparent, you’ll notice the misfire.

Next up: Shocks? Bushings? Hey, how come in one picture I see some blue wire in the background?!

280Z gets new lungs – K&N Filter Intake

 

 

The Datsun 280z gets a new cold air intake!

I’ve had this part for a little while rolling around in the back, thought I’d take a few minutes to see how it works.

Among all the intakes on eBay, I figured it’d be just as easy to make my own. Here’s what you’ll need:

– K&N Air Filter – various models can be used. I decided on the K&N RC-4690
– Spectre cold air intake – model #94990, 3″ 90 degree aluminum elbow
– some Windex
– Philips and flathead screwdrivers

Just a few notes before we begin, the Spectre 94990 is a 3″ diameter tube which is just larger than the original intake opening, so getting the original intake boot on the elbow is a bit tough. Hence, the Windex.

1) Use the philips screwdriver to remove the original intake from the car frame, also removing the plastic intake extension, and loosing the intake-to-AFM boot

2) Attach the K&N filter to the elbow, tighten

3) Fit the elbow to the intake-to-AFM boot (you can use some Windex here to help it slide on). It’ll be a pretty tight fit, but it’ll go on. You can also use the flathead screw driver to help get that last bit of lip over the intake tube.

Estimated completion time: 30min – 1hr

 

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All the parts laid out…

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Dry fitting the K&N intake to the Spectre elbow – a 3″ ID (inner diameter) filter SHOULD fit on a 3″ OD (outer diameter) intake.. right?

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And installed!

Now to tune this beast…huh, kinda runs ok without doing anything.
okok, so now to strap this down so it doesn’t wiggle off…

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 (from Amazon BBB 14592, or 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 (it’s 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. hooray.

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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. Equivalents are: BBB Industries 14592 and Premier Gear PG-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). Here’s a chart from AtlanticZ.

Daily Datsun 280z alternator upgrade wiring diagram

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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, so there’s no more faulty regulator to replace!

 

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Yeah! all done – i believe this only took me about an hour to do. I certainly remember the sleep / peace of mind afterwards!

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

Found: 280zx 5-speed..close ratio!

Since last post I’ve been scouring Craigslist like a fiend (my wife knows). And to everyone else who may not know, it’s part of my morning routine: CL > search ‘datsun’, search ‘240z’, search ‘mgb gt’, search ‘alfa 2000’.

So after doing a search on 280zx, I was able to find a gentleman named Randy who only lives a few blocks away, parting out his 1983 280zx! yes! 1983! close ratio! Close ratio? what’s that? Before we get into the technical nitty-gritty, let’s wrap up the craigslist story with 1) I pinged Randy within 6hrs of his post, 2) he’s got a super clean 1983 Nissan / Datsun 280zx he’s parting out if you want something (sans engine [that’s his], and transmission [that’s mine!]). More on Randy and his exciting 280zx project in the next posting…

“Close ratio”
The 280z’s L28 engine is just too powerful to be held back by exceedingly high RPMs on the highway, governed by a 4-speed. In late ’77, Datsun outfitted the manuals with a 5-speed transmission that would ease the cruising speed woes. Here’s a great table from the guys over at datsunzgarage.com:

Let’s note a few things:
1) The first 5-speed, marked here as “280a” (1977-1980) was geared just like their 4-speed, but with a tall 5th at the end.
2) In 1981, they used a new 5-speed, with ratios different in the 1st, 2nd and 5th gears. This version is often referred to as the “close ratio” 5-speed.
3) Check out the “BW T5” (Borg-Warner) and it’s 1st and 5th ratios. A nice small 1st to rocket it off the line, and a nice tall 5th to safe gas on cruising speed.

Luckily for me, I picked up a 1983, and i think it’ll be just dandy!

Bearings in the tranny go grrr grr grrrrrr

Ever since Don (of south san jose’s Don’s Datsun & Nissan specialists) mentioned to have my transmission checked, it’s been “grr-ing” like a mofo. Well not right away, just gradually getting worse and worse. Yep, clutch in, it’s all quiet on the 4-gear front. Clutch out, I can hear the gears turning ’round.. like rounding themselves out. Consistent grr-ing…. grrrrrrRRRrrrrRRRRrrrrr-type.

Fearing the worse, and checking the cheaper fixes first, I do a transmission oil change on the 280z. There’s a 18mm square screw that’ll allow you to fill the transmission from the side, and a drain plug on the bottom that can be opened with a 1/2″ driver. REMEMBER: make sure you can open the fill plug first. MAKE SURE YOU CAN OPEN THE FILL PLUG FIRST. Why? Because these have a tendency to be very very hard to break free, and once you have all that oil out, how you suppose to get it back in if you can’t get the fill plug off? :]

Well, I couldn’t get the fill plug off. So I drained it anyways. Why? because in a pinch, you can fill via the reverse light switch which is also on the same side as the fill plug. So I did.

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Upon draining the 280’z transmission oil, guess what I found?! bits and pieces of metal! not like small metal shaving that are typical of manual transmissions (from accidental grinding gears), but full on, well designed, shaped pieces of something. I also noticed the transmission drain plug was magnetic (ah! that’s why they’re magnetic), so it must mean that the fluid was changed somewhat recently (clarity of the liquid supports this).

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After browsing ClassicZCar.com for some answers, and studying up on my 5-speed options, I fell upon this picture…hey! those are the pieces!

doh – bearings…

Well, what can we do now. Just fill’er up and figure it out. Pumped in about 1 quart of 75W90 Lucas gear oil into the transmission case, which is just about what the case can hold given that I was filling into the 280z’s reverse light switch instead of the fill plug which is a touch higher.

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Luckily I took my wife out tonight. She instantly made a comment, “what’s that noise? is that good? is it safe to drive in here?” To which i replied, “so i’m thinking of replacing the transmission”…

“how much?”
“about a $1000 with labor..”
“okay […] can you just change the engine?”
“well, there was this one RB swap…i’ve been eyeing…”

hahahahaha she green lit an engine swap.. but I’ll have to sleep on it. sniff, then i’ll have to hang out at HybridZ instead of ClassicZCar :[ hahaha

sigh.. wait, why am I laughing? I have to fix my tranny… grrr 😦

 

 

PS – amazing what you’ll discover hanging out under the Z…

Reverse lights weren’t working, not because bulbs were out, but because the contacts weren’t attached to the reverse switch .

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Also.. why is one of the alternator bolts missing?

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[heat] shields up!

So um why do my brakes feels squishy all of a sudden? Like… Horse and buggy-like brake performance that requires Flintstones effort..
Ever get that feeling?

Quickly check out your brake fluid and notice the levels in the master and secondary cylinders. Low!

So why? Visually inspected the brakes: good amount left. No brake fluid leaks. See something missing here?

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Huh! Wasn’t there suppose to be a heat shield here? Yes! Car came without the heat shields, and if Datsun designed them, it needs them, and now I know why. Brake fluid can break down at high heat (remember, we’re in a 280z haha).

Now I think a few things are happening here:
1) brake cylinder caps aren’t tight enough allowing the brake fluid to absorb moisture from the atmosphere, severely degrading it’s boiling temp.
2) engine bay is hot enough to heat up that brake fluid enough to evap.

Boiling temp of DOT3 brake fluid specs out to be around 400F (dry), and 284F (wet, meaning when it’s absorbed enough moisture). Huh, so 284F isn’t too far from 212F (boiling temp of water, for reference), and I know my 280z engine gets hotter than that.

So I knew I at least needed a heat shield, and order one from eBay ($35 + $10 ship). Ugh.. Wrong one. Do you know how hard it is to find a 280z brake cylinder heat shield?! So I picture match it with a ’79 280zx version.. And I thought they were the same…oops, nope..

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Bushing inspection

Yesterday I have the Z a well-deserved, long overdue car wash. Man, I still can’t get over the classic Z, S30 body style.

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Early Monday morning I also did a super long overdue oil change! Ugh! I think a quart came out.. At best. Anyways – 5 qts of 10w30 synthetic high-mileage, fuel filter, and a couple of revs later, this cat was purring nicely. Oil pressure looking good.

Just for quick reference, O’Reilly’s Autoparts shopping list:
– Oil Filter: Fram Ph8a, HM8a or Microgard MGL51515
– Oil: 10w30, 5 qrts
– Air filter: Microgard MGA42136

Tools:
– 19mm socket wrench (for oil drain plug)
– oil pan
– gloves

Lastly, while under car, I inspected the bushing up front for the sway bar, A-arms, etc.. Cracked / crusty:

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This will the first time tackling bushings on the 280z and on any car, so I think starting with the sway bar should be an easy one to see what I’m getting into. But that’ll be for next post 🙂

Review: Z Alternator Bracket by Futofab

A little while back, the 280z started to squeak and shrill again. Last time it was alternator belt, and I suspected it might be again – sure enough, it was. This time though, it wasn’t that the alternator slid by the bracket’s grease…

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Oooh yes, that’s broken my friends.

So naturally i thought, ‘ok, i can make one’…then, ‘how do i make this better?’
Of course someone already has, and the guys at Futofab have already made a Datsun alternator bracket (or an adjustment strut). This strut just doesn’t look sturdy and pretty (best qualities in anything), but it’s also very convenient when adjusting as the rod ends are reverse threaded. And of course once again, I thought i could definitely make that! However, save yourself the time and money, i’ve already done the research – you’ll probably pay just as much (if not more) finding a left / right threaded rod end and a reverse half-threaded 4″ long nut (McMaster-Carr don’t have any!). So go find Futofab on ebay!

Futofab Alternator adjustment strut / bracket for Datsun - Daily Datsun

 

Here’s what I needed:

12mm socket (bolt on bracket)
13mm socket (bolt on alternator)
adjustable wrench (for strut and nuts)

Time to take the broken one out!

Broken alternator bracket / strut - Daily Datsun

 

The original crossed the direct line to the alternator (hence the bend in the original), however, the Futofab version can attach directly inline without hitting the alternator blades.

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Installed!

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No more squeaks, so much more power with a confident belt driving that alternator…and no more embarrassing squeals heading out (seriously give your car so much more age!). Hats off and thanks to the guys at Futofab!