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!

 

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

 


Vrrmmm sputter sputter

Huh?! First the car needed a jump start for some reason, then on my way to an appointment: headlights go brown, instrument lights get dimmer… Engine, having a hard time firing, turning, accelerating so I can keep up with highway speeds.

Then it goes dark. Out. Broken. Down.

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Other Datsuns: rollbar’d Datsun 1600 Roaster

one morning between now and last week…

haiku:

eyes shift in rear view
through dirty windshield i waved
hand waved, coffee sipped

an interesting little guy: roll bar, narrow tires, driver side rear fender bender. I never knew how articulate the rear quarter to truck deck was…so many subtle angles.

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Steve, 240z owner

I was home from travel for a brief day, and rolled up to pick up some food. Here’s this guy wavin me into the parking spot…

280z, huh? lookin’ nice. yeah yeah i got a 240 myself…

Meet Steve. Owner of a 1973 240z. Here’s his story:

He bought it at Downtown Datsun in downtown San Jose. They had it priced in the paper, but quickly realized it was just an advertisement car, one of those discounted cars just to get customers in and sell them on another car for which the salesman can “get you a better value on”. You see, he went in just as the ’74’s were coming out, so no one wanted this ’73. More over, the 240z was the test driver so seats were worn… And according to Steve, the sales guy was a big dude.

He walked out that door with that ’73 240z for only $2700. Didn’t need much: a tune up, clean up the interior.

It’s been a while since then, but he’s been taking his time restoring it.
Now all it needs is paint. :]

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haha i’m sure i could’ve talked to this guy for an afternoon about the Z’s. And then the evening about his El Camino.


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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280zx Turbo part out

Just a quick write up on Randy, a great guy I met on CL, whose parting out an 83 Datsun / Nissan 280zx Turbo. Last I saw, nearly everything but the engine / drivetrain is still available.

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Randy is currently working on fixing up his gf’s own 280zx (hence the part out on the donor car), shown here in white.
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He himself is working on a nice classic gem: a 70’s Toyota Celica also in white!

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So if yer looking for some 280zx parts he’s got’em; and he’s very verse in with cars (also having worked on a white 240sx. Haha I just realized all his cars are in white.


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!


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