New 280z Shocks – pt1

With the summer coming, it’s time to get the Z back in action!

Back in 2014, I purchased new 280z shocks! Yes, I never made the time or had the real nerve to tackle suspension. So with the new bushing set waiting it’s day, new shocks waiting to take out the Cadillac-like bounce to the Z’s step, and with the help of my dad – let’s go get shocked!

Tools & Parts:
1) 8mm, 12mm, 14mm, 17mm open ended and socket wrenches (amongst all others)
2) flat head screw driver
3) tape
4) rags
5) WD-40
6) wire brush
7) hammer
8) Spindle pins – MSA – get them NOW so you’re prepared
9) KYB Excel-G shocks – Amazon

Early morning, let’s take a minute to admire those incredibly well-proportioned lines on a Datsun S30 body… and have some coffee!

Assessing the parts… KYB Excel-G shocks, part #361002 (front), #361003 (rear) – Amazon: ~$159.

Comes with shock, nut, and sleeve screw cap. Make sure to jack up the car properly in the back either using the appropriate points on the side, or using the differential area as noted in the field service manual (FSM). Secure the car with jack stands (because jacks don’t stay up in the long run), and blocks in the front.

As described in the FSM, disconnect the brake line. It’s made up of both a hard line and a flexible hose line, connected at this metal bracket (shown below). Using a 12mm wrench, you can unscrew the hard line from the connect. I made a good point to clear any debris around it (and to loosen up the threads) as it’s been caked on throughout the years.

Tip: get a cup / rag ready to catch any brake fluid.

The flat head screwdriver and pliers can be used to loosen and remove the clip that holds the hose from the metal bracket.

Note: In this series of service / maintence / upgrades, I’m not going to re-write the steps as described in the FSM. :] You can find those online or on the Resources page.

Now let’s start on the spindle pins!

The spindle pin is quite an interesting beast as many have talked about. The spindle pin basically connects the strut / wheel assembly to the A-arm and rest of the suspension. Like most, even these are fully functional, many of the nuts have been rusted in place. Use a generous amount of WD-40, and a 17mm on a long socket wrench for leverage.

Before going at it with a hammer, make sure to remove the bolt underneath. Here’s an image I wish they had in the FSM! Now it may not seem like it on the top side of the A-arm, but check it out: feel the top. It’s smooth. It’s a pin that held down by the nut underneath.

The easiest way I found to take this out is:
1) use WD-40 to loosen the rust up
2) use a socket wrench to loosen the nut
3) because it’s a pin rather than a bolt, there’s nothing really to grab on top. So keeping the nut on the pin, gently tap the nut / pin to free it from it’s place.

Keeping the nut on the end of the threads on any bolt that’s going to be hit with a hammer or mallet is a great idea because then you’ll be less likely to “mushroom” the bolt end and mashing the threads. The nut puts less stress on the tip of the bolt, and less stress on the threads!

Once freed, you can remove the nut completely, and remove the pin.

Get out that mallet, because… NEXT UP: it’s time to slam out that spindle pin!

Tip: Purchase a new spindle pin set ahead of time so that you can use the new parts right away!

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?

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

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!

Squeaky clutch…

…meet your greasy doom. That is, if i can get to you.

For over a year now, my clutch pedal has been squeaking and squawking every now and again, just asking to be oiled, greased, lubed. And oh i have before, trust me.. I’d get on a latex glove, blindly find my way up the pedal arm till I hit something mechanical…there…some lithium grease here, some lithium grease there, a few pumps of the clutch pedal and the sound is gone… but it always comes back. Imagine what that’s like with the Z being a manual transmission. For me, I’m used to it. For anyone else, annoying!

I thought maybe the grease was just wearing away – lithium grease doesn’t seem to have the staying power as traditional automotive grease. Until I finally decided to take the plunge, seat all the way back, lay under the dash with my head on the floor and see what the heck is going on down there.

It’s hard to see, but the 280z has this nice metal wall between the clutch and brake pedal arms. Ah! so that’s why I could only get so far up…And now i need smaller hands, because the space to get to the actual mechanism that’s squeaking is for child-like hands only. You can also see from the pic where all that lithium grease went – haha!





How to get up there without training my nearly 2 & 3 year old nephew and niece to be grease monkeys? WD-40. This probably should have been my first go-to solution for reasons beyond it’s extended spray nozzle: dad would’ve used this first.


The extended straw allowed me to shoot up high into the hard to reach places. And I kinda just blindly shot stuff up there too for good measure. Viola! No more embarrassing squeaking every time I use the clutch.