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Thread: Strange whirring noise from engine...

  1. #1
    Registered User rossiz's Avatar
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    Default Strange whirring noise from engine...

    monday afternoon i was fiddling with the AFM to lean out the mixture - my wife was driving behind me and said the car smelled very rich and was "making smoke" when i would accelerate. popped plugs - a little dark, some oil on a couple of them, leaned out the AFM via the spring wheel/gear by 4 teeth, took it up the street to a long gradual hill for a load test. from stop i punched it up to 5K in first, then second up to 5K then clutch in, turn off key, coast to stop, check plugs, lean out some more. did this twice - on the second time, i revved to 5,500 and the brake light came on (odd) right before i turned off the key. when i started her up, there was a strange whining/whirring sound - thought it might be the alternator. the charge gauge started acting a little erratic and a couple of my relays were buzzing (the one under the passenger seat, and one up under passenger footwell). i took out the crusty, 35 yr. old alt. and figured i'd take it apart to see if it needed some TLC - it basically disintegrated in my hands.

    so, new alt. and belt went in last night and refreshed the connections. she started fine and charge gauge looks normal (all the way to right), but i still have that strange whirring/whining sound, almost seems like it's coming from my valve cover area... quick test drive and she feels down on power, a little breathless, and i hear a high-pitch almost whistling sound inside the cabin.

    i'm worried i damaged something on the load tests... any thoughts? i'm afraid to take her to work this morning for fear it might be a tow truck home, and i certainly don't want to have a major catastrophe if i need to replace a part before it grenades inside the engine.

    just when she was starting to run really well, go figure.

    thanks in advance,
    geoff
    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

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    Z geek at large FastWoman's Avatar
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    Is it a whining noise? If so, it could be your water pump bearing. It sounds like your car might have been sitting for quite some time, so rusty bearings are always a possibility. Your water pump bearing might be whining because you have a different belt tension, and the noise might go away on its own. But it could be a forewarning of a water pump failure sometime down the road. Or you could have a bad alternator bearing, depending on the quality of the rebuild.

    FAIW, you can buy a mechanic's stethoscope from your local Harbor Freight for a few bucks. You might even find one at your local auto parts store. You can use it to probe around your engine to find the source of the noise. Please DO NOT use the lauded "long screwdriver to your ear trick" when working around spinning pulleys and fan belts! And be careful when probing those areas even with a stethoscope.
    My last three sports cars while I still owned all three:

    2001 BMW Z3 Roadster 3.0i soft/hard top (sold)
    1966 Ford Mustang Coupe (sold)
    1978 Datsun 280Z (enjoying very much )

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    Do you have AC? Pretty common for the bearing in the tensioning idler pulley to go bad. It's easily replaced, and the bearing is a common one, readily available.

    You can run the engine for a short while with no belts. The battery will power the EFI, and it won't overheat for the few seconds necessary to listen for noises, with no coolant pushed from the water pump.
    1976 280Z, with some minor modifications

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    thanks for the replies - a little clarification:

    - the whirring/whining sound started right after the second big "load test", accompanied by the alternator acting up (original belt tension)
    - new alternator, new belt, (new tension) the sound is still there and i'm pretty sure it's NOT coming from the new alternator
    - no AC, only belt is going around crank/fan/alt
    - noise seems to be coming from mid-to-rear of engine, not up front

    my big concern is how the power seems to have dropped - not sure what i may have done to my poor little z...

    i will pick up a stethoscope from HF on the way home and run it w/out any belt (fan noise is distracting anyway) to try and better locate noise
    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

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    Nova Scotia,Canada,Earth Blue's Avatar
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    Where are you in Seattle? I am currently in Mukilteo.
    There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply.
    The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.


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    @ Blue: i live in magnolia - by discovery park, commute to the east side for work.
    are you visiting? your avatar shows canada...

    let me know if you have the time/inclination to meet up, as i'd be happy to buy you a cup of coffee and ask a few questions
    Last edited by rossiz; 04-23-2014 at 02:39 PM.
    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

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    It's awesome bartsscooterservice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastWoman View Post
    Is it a whining noise? If so, it could be your water pump bearing. It sounds like your car might have been sitting for quite some time, so rusty bearings are always a possibility. Your water pump bearing might be whining because you have a different belt tension, and the noise might go away on its own. But it could be a forewarning of a water pump failure sometime down the road. Or you could have a bad alternator bearing, depending on the quality of the rebuild.

    FAIW, you can buy a mechanic's stethoscope from your local Harbor Freight for a few bucks. You might even find one at your local auto parts store. You can use it to probe around your engine to find the source of the noise. Please DO NOT use the lauded "long screwdriver to your ear trick" when working around spinning pulleys and fan belts! And be careful when probing those areas even with a stethoscope.
    Yup, I experienced that water pump failure 75 km from home.. I'd recommend anyone who's Z has been in storage for a long time: replace the water pump !
    HLS30 32581, 5/71 Matching numbers

    Jay Leno : You know one week after the Americans have walked on the moon, the Japanese introduced this sports car, and…if you’re a car guy pretty equal. I mean walking on the moon was pretty good, but how many times you’d gonna walk on the moon? But here was an affordable sports car that had real performance and looked like it cost a lot more than it did.

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    Nova Scotia,Canada,Earth Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rossiz View Post
    @ Blue: i live in magnolia - by discovery park, commute to the east side for work.
    are you visiting? your avatar shows canada...

    let me know if you have the time/inclination to meet up, as i'd be happy to buy you a cup of coffee and ask a few questions
    I'll try to arrange for fri or sat if i'm feeling better. Caught a darn cold and would not want to pass along. Pm me your number and we could at least talk, I'm working 2pm to midnight shifts but I should be off fri evening and all of saturday.
    There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply.
    The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.


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    ZCars in Eastern Canada seaport ready for shipment to Europe

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    Hey, John/Blue, why don't you get out of the damp NW and come down to AZ and visit the Desert Datsuns group, would love to meet you and share info/stories and adventures!
    January 1970 240Z
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    so i ran it without the belt and it still makes the whirring sound - easier to pick it out with no fan noise.
    the pitch of the sound follows revs and it's got me mighty worried.

    the whole thing started after i did a high-rev shift from 1st to 2nd and i definitely felt an "event" in the engine - not any kind of horrific clunk or anything, but definitely something that made me think "wtf just happened??" then the alternator issues ensued, so i figured the alt blew up and that was that.

    sounds to me like it's coming from the mid/back of the engine bay - could it be clutch related? oddly, the car seems to be down on power - kind of feels a little wheezy/breathless. doesn't really feel like the clutch is slipping though...

    i took this video to capture the sound - don't watch, just listen (you'll get seasick as i move the phone all around the engine bay to try and pinpoint where it's coming from)

    Last edited by rossiz; 04-24-2014 at 06:03 PM.
    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

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    also - i tried using my handy-dandy new mechanic's stethoscope, and while it's cool to listen to the injectors clicking, the valve train and whatnot, i couldn't seem to get any reading on the whirring sound. tried all over the engine, front to back, including the clutch bell housing, nothing conclusive.

    i have a new water pump coming ($30, easy job, prob. not a bad idea to do that anyways)
    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

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    Hmmmm... Very odd...

    So I'm trying to think of what parts of the engine have either ball bearings or gears. I'm coming up with the timing chain assembly, the oil pump, and the distributor... and not much else. Maybe touch your stethoscope to the oil pump?

    Or perhaps your water pump (yes, I know, front of engine) has some bent or broken vanes.
    My last three sports cars while I still owned all three:

    2001 BMW Z3 Roadster 3.0i soft/hard top (sold)
    1966 Ford Mustang Coupe (sold)
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  13. #13
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    not the distributor, can't be the water pump (no belt, it wasn't turning)

    i found this exploded view and i'm just scratching my head about what could be making this happen - nothing LOOKS like it would do that.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

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    What "event" did you experience on the high rev? Hope you didn't over-rev.
    Last edited by rcb280z; 04-24-2014 at 11:17 PM.

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    Registered User rossiz's Avatar
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    Only revved up to 55K.
    Popped the clutch a little hard between 1st & 2nd and something felt funny - like something let go... Then I turned off the key and coasted to a stop to read the plugs. When I started her back up the noise was there, and I figured it was the alt.

  16. #16
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    Have you listened for the noise around the tranny? Maybe a throw out bearing noise?

    I admit its a shot in the dark. Sounds like its a process of elimination now so.....

    I just listened again and it seems as if it is louder near the firewall.
    Last edited by rcb280z; 04-25-2014 at 07:09 AM.

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    Just something to try, push the clutch in while the engine is running in neutral and see if the noise changes. Maybe something with the TO bearing as mentioned or a transmission input shaft bearing.
    --Justin
    Last edited by buysell; 04-25-2014 at 10:27 AM.

  18. #18
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    i will put her up on jack stands so i can listen from underneath and try working the clutch to see if there's any change.
    just out of curiosity - is there anything up top under the valve cover that could be injured and whining?
    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

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    Registered User mjr45's Avatar
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    Just another shot in the dark, could it be a lash pad that has slipped and stuck so the cam hits it?
    Last edited by mjr45; 04-25-2014 at 03:36 PM.
    75 280Z almost done
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    A cam tower if there is not enough oil pressure supplying the cam with oil, maybe?

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    That does sound like a lash pad has fallen off, mine has done that after a good romping. Pull the valve cover off and see, they're not hard to re-install. Sounds more "clickity" than whirring.
    Last edited by siteunseen; 04-25-2014 at 05:44 PM.
    1972 240Z #918 New Sight Orange
    1977 280Z #305 Light Blue Metallic
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    Hi Geoff, While you're under the car, disconnect the clutch slave cylinder spring & see if you can move the clutch release arm for & aft. I adjust mine so there is about 1/4"-3/8" of movement. This will ensure the release bearing separates from the p-plate. If the r-bearing has been pushing on the p-plate, pushing on the clutch may not change the noise.
    My first impression while "listening to the video" was serious valve train noise. Pull the valve cover take a look & a listen. I think you'll find it there. Then I listened for the whirring noise & heard it. I think you'll find it in the valve train but I'm going to listen to it a few more times to take a shot at that one. Give me a call if I can help. Meanwhile, Fawlty Towers, John Cleese screaming at his car. It will make you laugh. Guaranteed

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    Registered User madkaw's Avatar
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    Throw out bearing or something in the clutch let go. It's hard to nail down noises since they like to travel around these cars. Try the above suggestions regarding the clutch.
    Steve
    71 240z,bw-5sp 2.4-40 over,balanced,e-88,big valves,ported&polished, stage2,header, triple Mikuni's 40's
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    Im with Madkaw on this. What I posted, #16. It is worth a listen for sure.

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    first off, i have to say it's really great to have such a committed (and knowledgeable) group of z enthusiasts to help out - thanks to all for the thoughtful replies.

    second, a big thanks to philip (blue) for taking the time to come and lay hand to spanner for the afternoon!

    turns out by some stroke of great fortune, he was in seattle on business and had a free afternoon (go figure!) so he came by yesterday and we tore into the z. it was so great to have someone so completely familiar with these cars - he really knows his way around the engine bay.

    interestingly the whirring has resolved itself - could it have been something on the clutch that re-seated/burned back in with a bit more use?
    the world may never know...

    there is now a light whistling noise that appears right around 3k rpms under load in first and second - not sure if it's tranny or exhaust leak, but it doesn't seem to be affecting operation and you really have to listen for it.

    on friday i had done a bunch of compression tests (cold, hot, squirt of oil to help rings) and the results were quite disappointing:

    cold: 150, 135, 125, 135, 130, 140
    Hot: 150, 135, 130, 135, 138, 140
    oil: 150, 140, 135, 135, 140, 150

    philip walked me through a valve adjustment, which was shockingly easy. i can't believe how simple and robust the top end is on this engine. the whole thing was done in 20 min. and several valves were out of spec. i can see doing this regularly as it really is a no-brainer. i'm used to doing valves on a ducati desmo (bucket shims, dual lobes per valve, tiny, tight clearances, working upside down, etc.) and this is really a walk in the park. anyone with a pair of combi-wrenches, a feeler gauge and a crowsfoot for final torque can knock this out in a half hour on their first try.

    the good news: after the valves were back in spec the new compression numbers were:

    170, 161, 150, 160, 160, 160

    i believe #3 has an issue with rings or valve seal, but at 150 i'm not too worried for the time being. i'm going to pick up or make a spring compressor and then replace all the seals at some point.

    we then sorted the distributor timing, revised some mis-matched vacuum lines, tuned the AFM, adjusted the BCDD setpoints, cleaned a few ground connections and did a few test runs. the z is running quite strong now, enough so that mr. blue left a couple of nice black stripes at the stop sign near my house

    we then grabbed a celebratory bite to eat and geeked out about crazy mod ideas and all sorts of projects we have hatching in the background. all in all, an awesome weekend!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

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    An experienced Z guy and a good tune up does wonders. Sounds like a good day!
    Steve
    71 240z,bw-5sp 2.4-40 over,balanced,e-88,big valves,ported&polished, stage2,header, triple Mikuni's 40's
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    Congratulations Geoff How many times did you pinch yourself just to make sure it wasn't a dream? Assuming your Z is now running great, as the burn-out would indicate, two questions remain #1 Is it going to be your daily driver? & #2 Will your daughter ever trust it or want to be seen in it again? Enjoy this next week, Temp. near 80 Wed. Perfect Z weather in the NW.

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    Registered User siteunseen's Avatar
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    Blue's telecomm company's going to see the correlation of broken down systems and broken down Zs soon.
    1972 240Z #918 New Sight Orange
    1977 280Z #305 Light Blue Metallic
    1972 240Z #110 Persimmons Red

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    Blue does it again! Its a pleasure having him around Z or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by siteunseen View Post
    Blue's telecomm company's going to see the correlation of broken down systems and broken down Zs soon.
    Very nice. I can picture him packing:

    "Let's see... Got directions to customer site, boarding pass, toothpaste, underwear, list of Z owners in the area..."

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    Seen your neighbors cat lately?
    Rob
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    The pleasure was mine. Geoffrey is a mechanic and fabricator extraordinaire so it was e-z-p-z...I just had to show how to do one valve adjust then he did all the rest in a blink of an eye. Mr Obvious I hope you and Geoffrey get to talk as you two have similar genius-ous ways and ideas... knowing you both it would probably be telepathic mind meld lol.

    Geoff's car sure looks nice. A great rich metallic green with shiny chrome spoke wheels and one of the nicest and quietest interiors with way-cool creature comforts that would make the car very desirable on Canadian winter mornings.

    I was so used to working on 240s that it took a while to remember some of the classic 280z EFI snags but when we dug in, they popped up: corroded connections, AFM slightly off the mark, vacuum line re-routes, TVS a wee bit off, and timing a little advanced. Doing the checks then bringing everything into the sweet spots one at a time with enjoyable test drives to break up the wrenching was fun and a nice way to break up travel, work and hotel life. I was disappointed with myself on our next to last test drive as Geoff said it was still missing a little . Up to that point I did not bother with the timing apart from showing TDC to Geoff as he set the idle with an adjustable advance timing light to 17BTD. (as it seemed like it should have been ok, but, I did not want to leave with Geoff disappointed so I checked..... it was hitting 44 @ ~ 3000 rpm so I removed the vacuum advance and retarded it to ~ 13BTDC with full advance hitting ~ 36BTDC. Wow, Geoff took the wheel and said the car got its Mojo back. When I was not expecting it, he hit punched it in first and my legs lifted off the floor (torque + Washington slope effect Yup... mojo was back.

    There was a whistling under-load ~ 3000rpm however Geoff's great detective skills found a hairline crack in the EGR pipe and also thought it could also be a bolt in the exhaust flow.

    Pretty, peppy and comfortable car, nice owner, nice family, nice location nice day. BIG THANKS!
    Last edited by Blue; 04-28-2014 at 10:16 PM.
    There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply.
    The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.


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    Nova Scotia,Canada,Earth Blue's Avatar
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    BTW we discovered that there is a 10psi difference between using a compression tester with a rubber hose attachment vs. using the straight pipe attachment. This may be good news for those of us with lower readings and the rubber hose testers which seem to stretch. Geoff's even had steel braid but still a 10psi difference.
    Last edited by Blue; 04-28-2014 at 10:19 PM.
    There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply.
    The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.


    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)



    ZCars in Eastern Canada seaport ready for shipment to Europe

    http://ZSportCanada.com


  34. #34
    Barn Find Daily Driver Captain_Zeros's Avatar
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    Awesome, glad to hear it! I guess I know who in the Seattle area I need to bother if I need a pair of ears or whats between them!
    1973 240Z w/ roundtop carbs, 280zx e12-80 distributor, 280zx alternator, late model Altima junkyard electric fans. 115 Blue Metallic & white side stripes.

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    My mind to your mind... my thoughts to your thoughts...

    Geoffrey and Blue, Can you guys picture today's hair brained projects?

    Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
    Geoff's car sure looks nice. A great rich metallic green with shiny chrome spoke wheels and one of the nicest and quietest interiors with way-cool creature comforts that would make the car very desirable on Canadian winter mornings.
    Forgot... How about some detail on those way-cool comforts?

    And I've got a long history with green Zs. I wish my current one was a deep green...
    Last edited by Captain Obvious; 04-29-2014 at 07:46 AM.

  36. #36
    Registered User rossiz's Avatar
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    @ blue: aw shucks...
    @ zeros: anytime.
    @ obvious: i will be in philly for my nephew's graduation in a couple of weeks - coffee??
    @ mark: DD for sure - and my daughter is coming around... the cool factor is slowly winning over the "adventure" aspect (read as: we may need to walk home)
    @ cone: small children and woodland creatures beware - the z is on the prowl.

    creature comforts are pretty basic - put in a set of seat heaters when i re-upholstered the seats, a ton of sound mat in the floor/roof + mass-back carpet to keep it quiet, and a decent little stereo. just trying to civilize the DD as much as possible to maximize the "jekyll & hyde" effect


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    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

  37. #37
    Registered User ZCurves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rossiz View Post
    We then sorted the distributor timing, revised some mis-matched vacuum lines, tuned the AFM, adjusted the BCDD setpoints,
    Congratulations on all of your hard work. Finished just in time to have a sweet summer!!!

    Not that I am being lazy, but are there any particular pieces of advice on these tasks? In all of the years I have had these cars, I have often appreciated others techniques (especially since I am always missing something). I am also keenly interested in the BCDD setpoints. I think that the BCDD issue has been long neglected in the forum. I have been hesitant about messing with the AFM also but this is encouraging me...

    Great Work!
    Last edited by ZCurves; 04-29-2014 at 08:53 AM.
    Andrew (ZCurves)
    1978 Coupe - HLS30-440105
    Spring, Texas USA

    pro deo et patria
    My Albumz

  38. #38
    Registered User rossiz's Avatar
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    the bcdd is pretty simple - the cover pops off and you will see the contacts. the housing has 2 screws in slotted holes, so you can loosen the screws and twist the housing back/forth to adjust exactly when the little plastic cam profile opens/closes the contacts. set the revs to ~1200 and twist/adjust until the off-idle contacts just open. the wot adjustment is locked to the plastic cam profile, so it's really just the off-idle adjustment that needs done.

    oh, and i forgot a few other "creature comforts" - i wired a usb port in the ashtray (perfect place to hold the iphone) and an aux input for the stereo in the center blank-off plate between the seatbelt light and the flasher light.


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    '78 280z - Daily driver/work in progress...

  39. #39
    Z geek at large FastWoman's Avatar
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    Geoffrey, I really like your ride, and I think it's great Blue dropped in to help you get it straight! Wow, what a great community, eh?! Let's hope the whirring/whistling doesn't amount to anything. I would mark it up to "cobwebs."

    Now I think I'd tell your daughter she can't ride shotgun, because she only brings your car bad luck.
    My last three sports cars while I still owned all three:

    2001 BMW Z3 Roadster 3.0i soft/hard top (sold)
    1966 Ford Mustang Coupe (sold)
    1978 Datsun 280Z (enjoying very much )

  40. #40
    Boat Anchor Repairman Captain Obvious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rossiz View Post
    i will be in philly for my nephew's graduation in a couple of weeks - coffee??
    Absolutely. PM me some details and timing and I'll make sure the schedule is cleared.

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