Today was dedicated to helping out Jai. She has a 280Z that has been giving her problems. A couple of us have tried to help her before, but while her car was running slightly better, it wasn’t running reliably. This trip though, I had an Ace up my sleeve.
I packed my tools up on Thursday evening. Earlier in the day, I had installed some new LED headlights. I gassed up the 260Z as evening fell, so I could see the results. Boy, were those headlights misaligned. I aimed the headlights better, got the assortment of tools together (with the assistance of my wonderful wife), and loaded up the Z.
I like to get up early in the morning to go to Jai’s house. She lives close to two hours away. I started out about 7 and headed in the opposite direction of most traffic. The chosen route consisted of wandering country roads. They were perfect for the Z. About a month ago I saw a website that said maximum fall colors would be on October 24th. Well, that wasn’t quite correct, but there were plenty of red and yellow leaves mixed in with all of the still-green trees. Fall has been moving in, but summer had not given up the fight, yet. Traffic was light, and I arrived at Jai’s around the expected time.
The first order of the day was to charge the battery. I connected the charger to the battery and plugged it in. The car hadn’t been run in about a month, and the battery felt it. Mix in a few cold mornings in the last week or so, and a boost was required. The charger was pumping out around 5.5 Amps. If the battery could talk, it would have said, “Feed me, Seymour.” Of course, I would have been confused, since my name isn’t Seymour. Next I sent a text to Tim, the Ace up my sleeve. He was leaving his house just then because unlike me, he could not take a reasonable route that would avoid the city traffic. Therefore he was waiting out rush hour before driving up.
To be productive before Tim’s arrival, I decided to look at what electrical contacts I could clean. I started with the fusible links. They were oxidized, so I put a wire brush on my rotary tool and beat the oxidation off. I followed that with a good coating of dielectric grease and put the links back into place. Not long after that, Greg showed up to hang out and help wherever possible.
I set my sights on the ECU for the next clean-up. I removed the driver side kick panel and studied how to remove the ECU. Greg suggested disconnecting the battery first. Not being one to ignore a good idea, I unhooked the battery and went back to the ECU. The interesting thing is that you need to remove the ECU before you can disconnect it from the wiring harness. After removing the ECU from the car, I sprayed the electrical connectors with Caig Deoxit and went at them with a wire brush on the rotary tool. Convinced that I had removed as much oxidation as I good, I sprayed the wiring harness connector with Deoxit and got the ECU back in place.
Tim arrived around 11:30. He is a great guy to know if you own an early Z. The Yiddish term for someone like Tim is Mensch. He unpacked his tools and immediately started to assess the car. By now, the battery was in much better shape, so we took it off the charger. Tim used a remote starter to bump the engine over to get to the timing mark to highlight it for setting the timing later. Then he was ready to listen to the engine, so Greg started the car for Tim. Tim unplugged with Throttle Position Sensor (TPS…no reports needed), and the car ran the same. That shouldn’t happen. While it was unplugged, he cleaned the contacts. He removed the cover from the Air Flow Meter (AFM) and moved the vane. He determined the car was too lean, so he went to adjust the spring only to find that the bolt that holds the tension on the spring was cross-threaded. That was my fault from trying to adjust it during a previous trip. It was ALL TOO CLEAR to me now why many people say to leave it alone. Tim was not going to let that ruin the day. He went back to his truck and returned with…you guessed it…another AFM. He cleaned the contacts and got the replacement AFM situated.
It was time for round two. Greg started the car, and it was immediately running better. Tim guessed at the RPM and checked it with his timing light (that also will show the angle and RPM). He was pretty much spot on. He set the timing and the idle. I secured the kick panel, and we cleared the tools out of the way. It was ready for a test drive…after we checked the torque on the lug nuts. After torquing the lugs, Tim and Jai went for a short drive. They came back a few minutes later, and Jai was ecstatic. The car ran great on the test drive.
The next order of business was somewhat bittersweet. It involved the sale of Jai’s 240Z. She is the original owner of a 71 240Z with a manufacture date of 10/70. That is referred to by many as a Series I car, sporting many features carried over from the 1970 model year cars. Nissan phased in some changes as the 1971 model year progressed resulting in some cars that have Series I and Series II traits. Jai had to park her 240Z many years ago due to some issues with the brakes; issues that she could not afford to fix. Sitting out exposed to the elements is not good for a 240Z. The tires were flat. The paint was ruined. An ant colony had taken up residence under the battery. The seats were decayed vinyl and crumbling foam. Several of us had looked at the old 240Z and said that all we saw was a parts car. Tim has a different mindset from most Z car enthusiasts. I told him about the car and sent him pictures. He believed there was enough there to save. It also doesn’t hurt that he has an excellent support network that can help him. It would end 44 years of ownership for Jai, but there is hope for continued life for the 240Z.
Jai and Tim agreed upon a price. Next we needed to extract the 240Z from its resting place for the last 8 years. That was not going to be easy. The key was not readily available, so Tim had to remove the ignition switch in order to be able to steer the car. Meanwhile, Greg set about removing the wooden plate that had graced the front of the car during most, if not all, of the time of Jai’s ownership. Then it was on to the wheels. Wheel locks! Damn! At least we had the key for that. Tim got the right rear tire replaced and moved to the right front. The wheel lock wouldn’t budge. No problem. I had a breaker bar. I put the wheel lock key into the socket on the breaker bar. Then I found the correct angle to exert plenty of torque on that wheel lock. As I applied the torque, the key broke off into the lock. I don’t like wheel locks. Now we were stuck with 3 flat tires. Not good. Still we were determined to give it a go.
Greg offered up the use of his SUV to perform the initial part of the extraction. The come-along was secured to the 240Z and then to Greg’s SUV. Tim and I attempted to assist by pushing as the SUV pulled. At first, the car was being dragged. The parking brake had been pulled up for Lord knows how long. That can result in brake shoes bonding to the rear drums. Fortunately, the rear tires finally broke loose. We got the car out far enough that Tim could line up his trailer for loading.
Loading a car with three flat tires onto a trailer with the trailer uphill from the car does not fit into the definition of fun for a sane person. Yet that was the task at hand. Tim ratcheted the handle on the come along while Greg and I tried to be helpful pushing on the back of the car. Our assistance to the cause was dubious, but at least it felt like we were contributing. Periodically we would chock and re-chock the wheels to prevent the car from rolling back and destroying our progress. With progress being painfully slow, Tim decided to see if the flat tires would hold air long enough to load the car onto the trailer. Fun fact: PB Blaster can be used in an act of desperation to lubricate a tire valve enough so that it will allow air in. The front tires cooperated, but we still have the left rear tire flat as a pancake. We kept at it until we finally met with success. Money exchanged hands, and Jai managed to hold it together somehow, seeing the car that brought her so much pleasure taking a long trip without her.
Tim drove off to do battle with Friday rush hour traffic. I finished loading my car. Greg, Jai, and I said our good-byes, and I started back home. I had the radio off and enjoyed the Indian Summer temperatures as I had the window down to begin the trip. With the sun still high enough to light up the hillsides, I got to enjoy many wonderful vistas on the drive. I had the opportunity to reflect on the events of the day and the previous efforts to get Jai’s car running right. I saw things as going beyond just ownership of similar cars. What I had been experiencing was community, drawing on the bonds of ownership to answering the call to help others. I am lucky to have developed relationships with people like Greg, Tony (who helped out previously), Tim and Jai.
In planning the trip, I looked up gas stations on Pure-Gas.org. I am convinced that my Z runs better with ethanol free fuel. Fortunately for me, I found a station along my route. I stopped by on the way back and filled up with Regular gas. The owner of the station came out to look at my car. He was knowledgeable about Z cars, and we chatted for a while. The store owner said he sold his MGs and Triumphs to buy the station. He expressed a desire to convince some friends of his to part ways with a 72 they have been storing for a few years. I went in to get a snack and pay for my gas. I was just about to receive my change when we were distracted by a car zipping by the station, barely missing my car sitting by the pump. Someone in the store said to call 911. I walked out to see what happened and rushed over to the overturned SUV. The driver and his dog were crawling out of the wreckage. Somehow they both appeared to have escaped unscathed. The driver had fire in his eyes as he walked over to the driver of the truck he had just swerved to avoid. I did my best to try to calm him down, telling him that he didn’t need to get in trouble on top of having an accident. A nurse saw the overturned vehicle and stopped to see if anybody needed help. The driver said he was okay, but I cautioned him that he was full of adrenaline and might not realize that he is hurt. I suggested that he sit down and let the nurse check him out. I turned back to collect my change from the store owner. He and I talked some more. I told him that I also had a 240Z. He asked how much would it take to part with it. I told him, “Too much.” The 240Z still just has too much sentimental value for me to consider letting it go.
I got home safely, though somewhat sunburned from the day. As I parked the car in the garage, I noticed the running light came on when I hit the brakes. I tested the lights later, but the problem had gone away. Something tells me that I need to clean out some light sockets.
I’m sorry I don’t have pictures to document all that happened today. It was a really good Z day.