Around the Shop at Z Car Source - Front End Troubles?
Owning a vintage Datsun Z car, or any vintage car for that matter, requires an understanding that you are going to have to go through some large projects on your Datsun Z at any given point in time. These projects can be stressful and invigorating all at once. Simple tasks become a bonding time with your machine, and the investment you make into the Z's health pays dividends to you when you get to be on the road to enjoy it. Mixed in with our blog posts that showcase our Restoration projects, we also wanted to present you with a few "DIY Checklists" for reference use. First stop – Front End Troubles.
If your Z feels like it wanders, shudders or bounces down the road, here is a simple list to check for front end troubles.
Starting from the steering wheel and working to the ground is the most methodical process we can recommend. With the wheels still planted on the ground and the hood open, take a look at the Steering Shaft Coupler. This is located at the base of the steering shaft as it exits through the bulkhead. It looks like a rubber disk about the size of a hockey puck. Inspect this for cracking in the rubber and possible excess play as there may be wear at the points where the bolts join the upper and lower shafts, which can cause your issues.
As we work downward, you will need the nose of the car lifted and safely supported (remember – Safety first!). Once this is done, a simple shakedown can be performed. A simple rock side to side and up and down on the tire while it is still bolted to the hub can alert us to possible trouble. If the wheel rocks slightly up and down, this alerts us to possible loose Wheel Bearings. A side to side rock will indicate the same. Rocking up/down and left/right may require an assistant. While you place your hands on the Inner and Outer Tie Rod Ends and your assistant rocks side to side you may feel movement through the joints. If this motion is present, there is likely a need for steering service. The inner tie rod End is serviced with the Steering Rack assembly while the outers are available separately. Additional inspections for the steering system include verifying that the Steering Rack Bushings keep the unit in place in the crossmember and that no debris can harm the inner or outer tie rods. Both are protected by a Boot. The Inner Steering Rack Boot is a bellows looking piece that is a common service item. Replacement outer boots are made but are often ill fitting so we recommend replacement of the full tie rod end which comes with a sealed boot on it.
The direct neighbor to our steering is the Anti-Sway Bar. This element has two simple Sway Bar Mounting Bushings and an End Link Assembly at either end connecting it to the lower control arm. Check for cracking in these bushings – they will need replacement over time. While you are at the lower control arm, it is wise to inspect the Lower Control Arm Bushing where it attaches to the crossmember and the Ball Joint. The Tension Rod Bushings are also common to take abuse and wear. These are mounted at the frame rail at the end of the support rod that attaches to the lower control arm. The standard check for splitting and dry-rot is necessary for these.
Moving directly north of the lower Ball Joint, a quick inspection to see if there is fluid leaking around the snout of the strut assembly is suggested. Many of these cars have had the original units replaced with gas Strut Inserts. Typically, a bouncy ride can be attributed to strut failure but it is still important to check for any issues.
Our final inspection is easily the most vital: your Brakes. Check for any fluid leaks. These will typically occur at the junction points in the system. The rubber Brake Hoses need to be inspected for cracking or bulging. If any is present, replace them immediately. Ensure that you have a nice smooth braking surface, plenty of Brake Pad, and that the Brake Rotor thickness has not worn below the minimum service specification.
With everything in the front end of your Z car having been properly inspected or serviced, you can now turn your attention to other projects knowing that this job is done and you can enjoy the time behind the wheel trouble free.
*Please excuse the dust and road grime. The vehicle photographed is a road going car that is driven regularly and enjoyed. As such, a little bit of Phoenix gets stuck to this 240Z.