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1983 280zx turbo - my sweet gentle rust child

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Hey, Ratsun. A friend recommended I pay you a visit.


I hadn't owned a car in a while and wanted one I'd care about. I dropped 1800 USD on a 1983 280zx turbo that hadn't come out of the garage in about 8 years. I knew going into this that the car already had issues, and would have more. What I hadn't expected, is that nobody seems to know what the issue ultimately is.


I started this thread because I want to share my noob journey with Turbo Turbo, Turbo Turbo (Turbo Hypercube), but it'd be awesome if anybody here has any insight.


Here's what works:

-Window and mirror motors/switches

-Air conditioner/heater

-Power steering (repaired). Drove without for weeks. Turbo was nicknamed "Zoolander" by a local.

-All lights (sorta)

-dash lighting

-most gauges 


After blowing through a few fuel filters, a new battery, and the uninstalled "new" alternator that came with the car, it became clear that turbo had some more insidious issues. 



(here's turbo on the way home from the seller's house.)


It does this thing where it takes a few tries to start. Depending on turbo's mood, it may or may not die when put in reverse at low RPM. (the longer it's been since a battery charge, the harder it is to start, and the more likely it seems to die when backing out.) When I first got it drivable, it'd damn near die at every stoplight if I didn't keep a light foot on the gas. It does better now, but still can't tolerate, say, a long wait in a drive-thru. The fine classic car guys who take care of turbo - the only shop in the neighborhood who would touch it, by the way - have cycled through a lot of possible causes:


Fuel pump replaced.

Plugs replaced (twice).

Fuel pressure regulator replaced; lines blown clean.

Battery connections replaced.


Mystery hint: The fuel gauge is only sort-of-broken. If the tank is completely full, the gauge will show that it is half to 3/4 full. The gauge shows empty long before the tank agrees. I estimate the car gets 14.1 MPG in its current condition. 


Lately, turbo is pretty good about taking long trips, not shuddering at highway speeds, and not reeking of mold (finally). These days, just trying to crank it a few times won't start it, though - I really have to pump the gas hard and fast to get it going. I have zero regrets about this car - everyone thinks it's awesome, despite the serious rust! - but it definitely has a long road ahead. Feels kinda cool to know that nobody else I know has the patience to drive this car, though.



(chillin wit ya boi turbo)


Next goal: trying to get the hood replaced! 


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You found that nice turbo car in Washington?!? wow


Uhhh, I'm legally obligated to tell you, that aint a real 1983 Z. Looks more like 1981


Zed out!

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If you want to throw a few bucks at it yourself, replace the CHTS and O2 sensor.


Prep the oxygen sensor by spraying a little penetrating oil around the base of it (threads) 2 days before you go to remove it. Then do it again 1 day before... then again right before you go to unscrew it. The hot manifold on these engines really likes to rust and lock up the oxygen sensor threads. You don't want to twist that thing off with the threads still stuck in the downpipe!


Cylinder head temp sensor is easy to replace. I think its on the passenger side of the head near the spark plugs ...


If you are experiencing a rich condition (sounds like it could be) then those two sensors will help to lean it out to proper specs. Fuel injection on the L28 is old and not all that great ... the turbo ECU adds more complication and I'm still learning about it. I had way less trouble with my non-turbo 280ZX but oh well. Gotta go turbo now!



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Typical turbo issues:


1. All of your electrical connectors are crusty and corroded. Unplug and clean both ends one by one.


2. Anything rubber or plastic is brittle or cracking. This will cause you vacuum leak, and coolant leak hell. Start by replacing the vacuum lines, do them one by one. Then move to remove, inspect and replace if necessary any rubber boots. Inspect the injector holders and o-rings, but do not do so until you are ready to possibly replace the pintle caps or injectors as a whole. They will be brittle and probably break. Then start replacing coolant lines.


3. Check that your AFM is functioning properly and the flap can swing freely. If it sticks open it can cause a rich condition!


4. not typically an issue, but do a compression check for peace of mind, before you put a lot of effort into it.


Google and Download the FSM, Print out the Fuel Injection section and give it to your mechanic. Then Read it for yourself. If he is not willing to read it, never bring your car there. do the work yourself and just get used to having to work on your old car.


Good shit, gettin it back on the road.

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