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

Zpotted: 77 downtown brown

This downtown brown sent in by my sister-in-law.

My guess is that this 280z is a 1977. Just check this thing out – kinda funky!
Period wheels, turbo mirrors, extra antenna popping outta the windshield, side window and rear windshield louvers, and it’s even got the little door bumper guard between the door handle and the edge of the door!
Additionally, this 280z has got the bumper overrider bar, added fog lights and mesh over the headlights.

Good thing he’s got the Club haha

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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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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 🙂

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!