4. Living with a 200SX

Updated March 22, 2008

4.1 What precautions should I take?

Modern factory turbocharged vehicles are no longer the fickle monsters they once were. With sensible care, you can expect a long, trouble free life from your car. There are a couple of things to watch out for however:

4.1.1 Maintenance
Engine oil and filter should be changed every 5000Km (~3000 miles) without fail. In different markets, Nissan make different recommendations about the grade of oil, but it goes without saying you should use the best quality products that meet or exceed the specifications in your owner's manual
If the ambient temperature is always above 10 degrees centigrade, then the recommendation is 10W30. For all other cases, the factory recommend 5W30
Coolant has to work harder in most turbo cars, since the engine tends to run warmer. Check it's level, and have it changed with the recommended fluids according to your owner's manual.

4.1.2 Shutting down
I can't find a formula for how long you should "idle down" a turbocharged engine before switching it off, but bear in mind the following: A turbocharger could be spinning in excess of 100,000RPM when the engine is working hard, but at idle, it is barely turning. Obviously it's going to take time for the turbine to slow down, and it needs lubrication while it does. My rule of thumb is always idle down for at least 30 seconds, and 3 minutes after highway driving. Switch the A/C off, to disable the increased idle speed when the compressor engages. The owner's manual has a very helpful guide of "several minutes"

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4.2 My car feels "nervous" when cornering...

This is a tough one to describe, and it was even harder to get an answer to. When you hook into a sweeping turn at higher speeds, the best description is that the car does not feel like it is tracking the road (and your steering input) properly. Sort of like the back of the car wants to go in a different direction.

If everything else in the suspension checks out, the problem may well be the alignment of the rear wheels. Two local Nissan dealers said the was no adjustment of the rear in an S14, but the workshop manual gives you the settings and steps to adjust.

So why is it wrong? Remember that in Japan, the car is available with HICAS (Nissan's 4-wheel steering). However, this is not available on the export market. The rear setup is essentially the same but for the bits that make HICAS work. It appears that some cars are not set up correctly when they leave the factory, or they're not being properly checked at the dealer prior to delivery.
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4.3 How do I set that %$#^! bottom airbox clip?

If you ever open the airbox to change or clean the filter element you'll discover there are FOUR clips that hold it together. Three are obvious, on the long sides, while the fourth is on the lower side of the box (down near the intercooler and bypass plumbing). It's easy to open this one by pushing with a screwdriver, but doing it up again is real pain. The trick is to loop a piece of hook-up wire (or similar) round it and pull ACROSS the airbox. This will guide it back into place.

The factory manual says not to undo this clip at all but to slide the filter element into the gap created by opening the other three clips. IF you do elect to do this, be careful not to crush the filter element. If this happens, air will just flow around it and you might as well not bother having an element at all...

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4.4 Why can't I get full boost in 1st gear?

The factory computer limits the boost in neutral, reverse and first gear. In Neutral and Reverse, the car is normally aspirated. In first, it's limited to a small amount of positive pressure. The reasons for neutral and reverse are pretty obvious since we don't want to find ourselves launching ballistically out of the garage in the morning. My guess is that the 1st gear cut is to stop you tearing up clutches and transmissions.

Of course, there are alternatives that will help you get around this problem.  You could have the ECU modified to eliminate the boost cut, or use a solenoid valve to operate a bleeder.  Trigger the solenoid valve through a microswitch attached to the gear lever.  Not easy mechanically, but it can be done.

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4.5 What is it with the headlights on the S14a?

OK, this is really stupid...
The owners manual and the workshop manual both state that the main lights (the projector light) on the S14a are a dual-filament H4 55/60W lamp This is in fact not correct (at least in Australia). They are a single-filament H1 55W halogen lamp, and if you've gone and purchased the new lamp, and then pulled out either the battery or airbox (depending on which one blew) and then found it's wrong, like me you're going to be a little miffed. For the S14, the manuals are correct. Looks like somebody didn't check carefully when updating for the S14a

Peter suggests that you can remove the battery strap and push it back far enough to get to the RH lamp housings without having to pull the battery out altogether.

Perhaps some kind soul in with an S15 can take a look and let me know what the story is there...

Also, because the assembly is polycarbonate it seems putting 100W lamps in there would be  a bad idea (Personally I don't think the wiring is up to the task either) but the "plus 30" style lamps are recommended by many readers.

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4.6 Something in my engine "rattles" when I take off sometimes.

Check the symptoms carefully. The issue referred to here is very specific:

The car needs to have been sitting, engine off for an extended period (30+ minutes). The first time you try and move off (or just put the car in gear, hold the clutch in and blip the throttle), you will hear a sharp "metallic" rattling sound from somewhere in the front of the engine.

Always consult your dealer, but we have found on several cars, there is a problem in the variable valve timing actuator and inlet cam sprocket, that causes this noise. Nissan have a fix for it, and the job is done within a day.

So what causes it?  It's the variable valve timing actuator.  This is a hydraulic piston which moves the inlet cam sprocket slightly.  The problem is that when you start the engine, oil pressure does not come up fast enough to hold the actuator firmly in place, so it rattles.  Because this assembly is mounted on the cylinder head, it seems to reverberate and amplify the noise.

We've only seen the problem on the S14 and S14a cars, but scanning newsgroups and talking to folks in Japan indicate it may also affect any Nissan engine with variable valve timing.

Any mechanical noise should be investigated. This is one possible cause that took a long time to track down with the help of a very persistent dealer.

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4.7 I fitted a blow-off valve and my car blows smoke on the overrun.

This is almost certainly caused by having the BOV vent into the engine bay rather than recirculate it's dump back to the intake stream.

Why? Because the ECU expects there to be much more air, because when the car left the factory the stream was recirculated. As a result, the mixture is now far too rich. That smoke is the result of unburnt fuel. If the mixture error is big enough, you'll get a flat spot and possibly even backfire. While the BAR-WOOSH sound might be cool, the price to pay to get it is probably not.

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4.8 How do I clean the Air Flow Meter?

"You should strip the AFM (Air Flow Meter) and clean the soot and garbage off the hot wires. This has solved many a surgy problem. CAUTION!! Be careful and don't touch them. I used Methylated spirits once and Servisol spray another time.

The AFM's venturi is actually the aluminium body immediately after the airbox.  The little black box on top is the hot wire module. (Nissan list the 2 as one part number). You need to disconnect the plug (clean it with contact spray too), and then undo the screws that hold the black box to the ally body. BE EXTREMELY careful when pulling it out, keep it straight so you don't bump the little pegs that have the wires connected to them. There's an O-Ring that seals the shaft into the ally body and this makes it a bit stiff to extract.

Don't touch the wires at all, rather woosh them around in a little tub of alcohol or similar. A VERY fine artist's paint brush will not damage them if you are careful. I have a genuine Nissan manual (for my CA18) and this procedure is NOT described anywhere in the book. They probably replace the part if it gets dirty enough to warrant replacement. Therefore this procedure has no guarantee, but I have done it to my car twice and another 2 cars, and all have been much smoother afterwards.

Make sure your air filter is clean and the airbox has no leaks while you are there.

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4.9 How do I get the rear brake pistons back into the callipers?

Don't attempt to reset the pistons by pushing them.  The service manual says they must be rotated clockwise.

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4.10 Is my car "Y2K compliant"?

I received a letter some time back from Nissan Australia that stated that no system in the 200SX uses any date information.  They assured owners there was no reason their cars should not work correctly after December 31, 1999.  If you have a car that has a trip computer with a year function and it does not know that 2000 is a leap year, set the year to 1972 and it will line up correctly. Top of Page Back to FAQ

4.11 How do I get a service manual?

Your local Nissan dealer's spare parts department can order one for you.  It would be rare for them to be in stock, but you never know.  Be warned, this is a 400+ page book, and it is quite expensive.

The S15 Manual is available in electronic form (on CD-ROM) only.  The publication number is SM5E-OS15G0

The publication number for the S14 manual is SM4E-0S14G0

The S14a (Dec 1996 on) supplement is recommended if you own the later car.  The publication number  is SM4E-OSS14SGO

Motobooks in Cremorne, NSW, Australia can source this on a special order and are happy to ship overseas.

240SX owners can obtain a manual from Chilton which will cover most of what you need to know, but for a lot less money.

Sorry, I do not know where you can get a scanned copy on the net.  I won't publish links to them as this would breach the publisher's copyright.

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4.12 How do I get the diagnostic codes from the ECU?

Firstly, locate the CONSULT connector.  It is in the driver's side foot-well fuse compartment (the socket at the bottom on RHD cars).  With the engine OFF, bridge the two pins on the top row on the right (or nearest the door is another way to put it).  Now, watch the "Check Engine" light (MIL) as you start the car.  There are two kinds of "flashes" and two kinds of "gaps"

Long Flash - 0.6 seconds on (the first digit)
Short Flash - 0.3 seconds on (the second digit)
Long Gap - 2.1 seconds off (used between codes)
Short Gap - 0.9 seconds off (used between digits)

So, there are two digits in each code.  Count the long flashes, then the short flashes (only count how many times the light is ON) and you'll have a 2 digit code.  These codes are covered in the service manual.

Here is a list of all the codes I have been able to find.  These are common to many Nissan vehicles

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4.13 How do I get the diagnostic codes from the ABS?

You need to drive the car at more than 15 km/h (9mph) for at least a minute, then check that the ABS warning lamp is still on.  Assuming it is, stop the car, but leave the engine running.  The ABS control unit is located in the boot (trunk) behind the left side finish panel.  On it's rear, there is a LED which flashes out the diagnostic codes.  It's the same format as the ECU.

Long Flash - 0.6 seconds on (the first digit)
Short Flash - 0.3 seconds on (the second digit)
Long Gap - 2.1 seconds off (used between codes)
Short Gap - 0.9 seconds off (used between digits)

So, there are two digits in each code.  Count the long flashes, then the short flashes (only count how many times the light is ON) and you'll have a 2 digit code.  These codes are covered in the service manual.

Here is a list of all the codes I have been able to find.  These are common to many Nissan vehicles

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4.14 What's this about cracked exhaust manifolds?

Details on this are still coming to light at the moment, but it seems that the SR20DET may have a tendency to crack the splitter piece (best description I have for it right now) which sits underneath the turbocharger.  If left long enough there are reports of this cracking through to the outside.

I have heard of two owners who have had this found, once as a result of chasing the rattle noted in section 4.6, the other when the manifold cracked through.  Two manifolds I have seen personally in wreckers have shown small cracks in the splitter piece.

Damon suggested that the 1997/8 and later engines have a different exhaust manifold which fixes the cracking problem.  Apparently his was replaced with the later item for this very reason.

I did some more checking on this, and it is correct that the splitter design in the 1997/8 manifolds is different to the earlier units.  It was a running change, so I don't know exactly when it occured.

I don't know if this is a common problem, and am most interested in anyone's thoughts or comments on the matter.

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4.15 Where can I get the pin-outs for the ECU?

This is not a full wiring diagram, since it would probably breach Nissan's copyright, but the connectors and specs for the ECU can be found at this link.  You might also be interested in the CONSULT pin-outs.

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4.16 Where can I get the pin-outs for the Auto?

This is not a full wiring diagram, since it would probably breach Nissan's copyright, but the connectors and specs for the Transmission Controller can be found at this link.

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4.17 How do I turn off the "Sensor" light on an S12?

The O2 sensor has a warning light (labelled "Sensor" in some markets) which comes on at around 100,000Km (60,000mi).  The idea is this is the end of the life of the sensor.  When the sensor is replaced, the reset switch behind the instrument panel needs to be pressed to clear the light.  This would only affect cars sold for use on ULP.

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4.18 Where do I get insurance?

This would have to be the most commonly asked question now.  I am only going to address the situation in Australia, but if you have hard information elsewhere, please let me know.

In Australia, insurance for high-performance cars is expensive.  The companies get nervous when you add turbocharging, finance, and a lot of younger drivers into the mix.  To be fair to the insurance companies, they are in the business of NOT having to pay out money on claims.  They want to minimise their exposure, and in many states that cannot refuse to offer service.  However, they may choose to make it unviable for you.  Here's a few tips:
  1. Shop around.  I have seen prices range from $A900 to $A4500 for an S14 or an S15.
  2. Be honest.  If your car is modified, you must by law inform the insurance company.  Failure to do so in the event of a claim would see your claim rejected, your policy cancelled and about zero chance of getting insurance again.  This also applies if you have an S15 Silvia (JDM) instead of an S15 200SX.
  3. If you get a parent or older sibling to insure the car in their name, make sure you are a nominated driver!
  4. Invest in an imobiliser.  Insurance companies love these and they're good for peace of mind too.
  5. Take it easy on the person on the phone.  I have seen one person get no cover and one get very attractive cover from the same company in the space of a couple of days.  Can you guess who gave the rep a hard time when they asked to insure an S13 Silvia?
  6. Try going through an insurance broker.  This can often pay off well.

So what companies will cover the cars, and for how much?  We are putting together a database on this   Details in the database for the car include:
You can use the database now.  Click here!
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4.19 How do you change the gearbox?

(Thanks to OMG for this one...)

Tools required

  1. Get the car high and stable (well d'uh)
  2. Dump the oil.
  3. Remove all sensors/cosmetics/little bits - Underneath you have to unplug the neutral position sensor, speedo sensor and any other plugs you can find. Unbolt the clutch actuator (14mm) and shove it up out of the way. Up top remove the gearknob, give the gear surround a yank and unbolt the gear boot from the transmission tunnel. Get this stuff clear and you'll be able to see the plate which for the gear selector on top of the gearbox. Unbolt the 4 bolts you can see (12mm) and then unbolt the front 2 from underneath the car (12mm, you'll need a ring spanner). Remove gearstick.
  4. Unbolt tailshaft - Mark one of the corners with some chalk/permanent pen so when you put it back in it goes back in the identical position. You'll need a 14mm ring spanner to undo the nuts and there's a good chance you'll need another ring spanner to do the hook the ring around the open end trick to get some extra leverage. Apply handbrake. Undo the nuts, easiest way is to get your tool gopher to put the handbrake on, loosed the nuts, take the handbrake off so you can spin the tailshaft to the next bolt, apply handbrake, undo nut etc. Once it's undone just pull it out of the back of the box.
  5. Undo housing bolts - It's not such a hard job on the S14 (and I suspect S15 as everything is identical) to be honest. The bolts are all 14 or 17mm and you can get to all of them with a half drive with extensions and unijoint. The two bolts at the top left are a bit of a challenge but if you use a couple of extensions and come up from the back of the car between the exhaust and firewall you won't have any probs. When you undo the bolts for the starter motor you can just shove this out the way as well.
  6. Unbolt crossmember - Just four bolts (14mm) holding this up. You can remove a couple earlier on and save the last 2 for when you're ready to pull the box. Nothing particularly difficult here, just rip em out and hold the back of the box up (don't worry, the front is still being supported).
  7. Remove the box - Now for the exciting bit. This is the bit where you grab a few mates and get to grunt, groan and swear a lot. he easy way to do this is to lift the back of the box up then swing the front of the box down. The rear of the housing is very close to the firewall so there isn't space to simply pull the box out and down. If you are struggling to get it free crack the engine mounts and jack the engine up a bit, easiest way is to do that on the sump with a board across it to spread the load. Try not to jack the car on the sump though, that's not a brilliant idea. After much grunting the box will come out. Drag it out from the car, place foot on top and take photo white hunter style.
  8. Smoko  (non-smokers may take a break of their choosing at this point)

  1. Check throw-out bearing. I'd try to describe exactly how it should be but there's little clip things and I'm sure to f*ck it up. The workshop manual has a decent diagram, look at that.
  2. Check dowels - make sure the dowels are still in OK nick and give them a quick file if needed. The dowels should go in the engine side so you can hang the gasket off them, one is at 12:00 and the other at 9:00. Make sure the gasket is in position before you bang the dowels in, it will not stretch over them.
  3. Putting the bastard up. Have a ratchet with a 14mm socket and the bolts for the cross member handy, it's not like you'll be in a feverish race for them or anything but it's a pain in the a*se when it's up and everyone's saying "sh*t, where's the cross member bolts" while holding a gearbox above their heads. You should also have a few 14 mm bolts for the housing handy as well. Once again, same as the removal but in reverse. Get the rear of the gearbox as high as possible then swing the front up. Trust me on this, it's much much MUCH easier than having the rear of the gearbox low and pushing up and in. Once the input shaft seats properly get some bolts in the housing to pull it in and release the jack under the sump (if you did this). Get a couple of bolts in the crossmember, or if you put them all in do the front or the rear bolts first, don't bolt up one side then try to do the other side.
  4. Rebolt engine mount. Do it now, not later, you'll forget.
  5. It's secure, have a smoke.  (non-smokers may take a break of their choosing at this point)
  6. Bolting frenzy - Under the car you go and start bolting everything up. Before you bolt the crossmember up tight stick the gearshifter back on, it's a bit easier with the extra space. When you do the tailshaft line up the line you made so it goes in the same way. This is about as easy as things get, all you're doing is doing up bolts you took out before so you know what to do. For the two bolts at the top left of the bellhousing you'll probably need to place them by reaching through the engine bay, doing them up finger tight and finishing the job from below. Don't forget to replace the cable tie around the dust cover at the base of the gearstick.
  7. Have someone else check the bellhousing bolts. Seems silly but it takes 2 minutes and can save a heap of hassle. Check the engine mount and crossmember bolts as well.
  8. Reattach little bits - All the sensors, gearboot/surround etc. There is a vacuum hose on the top which is simply a breather. Try to get this hooked up as high as possible (there's a hook on the end) but it's not a massive drama (just don't attempt river crossings with it dangling down).
  9. Look for screwups - Go over the gearbox with a torch to look for missing bolts, plugs not plugged in etc. Look on the floor as well and check for something which should be attached to the car somewhere and not lounging about enjoying the view.
  10. Put some oil back - It's GL4 oil or 75/85 in the old money. Hopefully you've got a pump of some description, they make it heaps easier. The fill hole is on the left hand side around where the front and rear sections of the housing join (just in front IIRC). It'll take 2.5 litres so stuff the first 1.8 litres or so in and give it a 5 minute rest to seep in to all the nooks and crannies. Put the rest in and it'll start leaking out the fill hole once it's done.
  11. Stand back and admire your work. A smoke and a beer might be a good idea at this point as well.

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4.20 Is it that true turbo timers are illegal in Australia?

In 2000 or 2001, Australia introduced "uniform road rules" which brought rules into line cross the whole country.  One of the changes was to make it illegal to leave a vehicle unattended while it is running.  My advice has been, that this means to be more than 1.5 metres from the driver's seat is considered to be leaving the vehicle unattended.

One of the features of a turbo timer was that you could lock the car up and it would switch itself off after the timer finishes.  Used in THIS way, but if you remain seated in the car until the timer finishes, then the law has no effect on you.
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4.21 Can you tell me how to change the engine oil?

You'll need:
  1. Make sure the car is supported securely on ramps and/or stands.  NEVER work on a car just supported by a jack alone.  Because the drain is on the side of the engine, it helps to get the LEFT side of the car about 25mm (1") higher than the right.
  2. The sump plug is on the lower right side of the sump.  Make sure your tray is positioned over to the right side of the car to catch the oil when you open the plug.  If you put it in the centre, all the oil is going on the floor...
  3. Undo the sump plug and let the oil drain out into the pan.  Be careful, because the plug is an alloy item and using the wrong size spanner on it will wreck it pretty quickly.
  4. Open the filler cap on the top to prevent any air lock from stopping the last of the oil draining out.
  5. While the oil is draining out, remove the oil filter.  I don't know what the engineer who positioned everything was thinking, but it's a hard thing to get at.  It is under the inlet manifold, and you can just get your arm in there to grip it if you approach it from a little forward of the suspension tower.  It will just spin off once you crack the seal.
  6. Step 5 will invariably spill some oil on the block and undertray.  Now is a good time to clean this up.
  7. With a clean cloth, make sure the filter mount is clean of oil and rubbish.
  8. Wipe some clean engine oil on the O-Ring of the new filter to help it seal and make it easier to remove next time.
  9. Spin the filter back on.  It should nip up firmly.
  10. When all the oil has drained out of the sump (it does take a while to get the last bit out), replace the sump plug gasket (it will be difficult separating the old one, so be patient), clean up the sump around the drain area and replace the plug, complete with new gasket.  You need to tighten this up enough to get a crush on the gasket to seal things properly.
  11. Clean the area around the oil filler.
  12. SLOWLY pour the new oil in.  I find a funnel makes the job a lot easier.  After about a litre or so, stop for a minute, letting the oil drain through the motor, then continue.
  13. Check the oil level to make sure you have oil in the sump.  While you're there, check around the filter and sump plug for any leaks.
  14. Assuming all is well, start the engine.  The oil pressure warning should go out after about 1 or 2 seconds.  Any longer than that, or if you hear continual strange noises, switch off and check what we did wrong...
  15. Check the oil level again.
  16. Carefully take your drain tray out from under the car and empty it into the bottle your new oil came in.  Most councils will accept the container at their waste depots

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