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Harley's 180sx SR20DET (pos project)

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Hi friends,

Bought my car recently and really like the idea of keeping a journal-type thing so feel free to ignore this thread as it's more of a personal scrapbook thread of my car and the learning curve which I'm undertaking, rather than a build thread. When I bought htis car, I had zero clue about engine and mechanics, literally the only thing I knew about was how to check the oil. But anyways;

I've been driving a 2009 Hyundai Getz for a few years, it's the bottom of the line 1.4L manual but hell, I love the hills anyway and learnt to drive through the hills in it, generally to the surprise of other car owners who love the hills when I can pretty well keep up with a lot of the people I come across. Started driving in 2009 with my mates in their corollas and volvos and whatever the hell we had to drive. My best driving mate drives an AE82 and we used to just go up through the hills a few times a week - this helped me realise you really don't need power to go quick in the hills.

So, present day, I was a few phone calls away from purchasing an '02 Renault Clio Sport.. was pretty much in the 'hot hatch' mindset of things, didn't even care that it looks like a humpback whale from the back. Then I started hanging out with an old mate again working on his S13 (which has been sitting in his garage for a bit over 2 years collecting dust) and, well, it pretty much reignited hopes and dreams blah blah that I had when I was like 15 so a few days later we saw a 180sx for the right price on these forum classifieds and I thought "screw it" so for $3,800 off a dealer(?) I ended up with a running, automatic 1991 SR20DET 180sx that was in some serious need of some TLC.


The Car

158,xxx KM's

SR20DET (running)


Black, half the clear coat missing..



The day I looked at it it (10/12)



The day I collected it (12/12)

The guy seemed kind enough to throw in a set of stock rear struts as there was some reported knocking by one of the mechanics, later on we saw that the stock ones were pretty screwed and the bushes were basically gone but not to worry...


Day 1

Solved problems:

- engine fluids probably hadn't been changed in about 30,000 km

- a wish list of stickers on the bonnet (apexi, greddy, hks etc etc...)



Took her up to my mate's shed where the first thing he proceeded to do was get a razor blade and scratch off the big Need for Speed-style decal on the rear window that said "UNDRGRND KING". Pity, I really liked being an undrgrnd king. We did a few little things like changing the fluids (engine oil, coolant, fuel filter, oil filter, spark plugs). It was unreal how much of a power/response increase doing this made.



It was pretty clear by this point that whoever had owned the car last did not give a fuck about this car. He/she had tried to re-trim the interior and it was a delicious stained yellow vinyl colour with plenty of dirt on it. My mate ended up having a spare 180sx door lying outside in the sun so I scavenged the trim from it. It'd been weathered for probably 18 months but it was much of an improvement. Did general cleaning and other cosmetic stuff, ended up replacing the stock airbox for a mounted pod filter as well.



Day 2

Solved problems:

- no boost getting to the engine


Car didn't start this morning.. my mate ended up spraying some carby cleaner inside the throttle body and she started to run.. then we switched off the ignition and the engine kept running, dieseling. How odd, right? Anyway, the turbo was boosting but not getting a feed through to the engine.. ended up quickly dropping past Adelaide Jap Imports and seeing if they would take a quick look at it (absolute champs) and they saw straight away that the wastegate circlip had come off. Went to the shed, fixed this, no more wasted boost!


Day 3

Solved problems:

- timing waaay out

- rear struts knocking

- chopped springs at the front, waaay too low

- bare brake pads

- Worn & missing sway bar bushes


Swapped over the stupid struts on all fours that were on the car and replaced brake pads on the front (that had pretty much worn past their warning pins.....).

Had issues that we'd noticed from Day 2 where the engine idle was around 1700 RPM and dropping up and down.. as in idling at 1700 then dropping to 1200 then back up to 1700. Went to pick up some new bushes for the front sway bars from Japanese Import Spares and got the owner to take a quick look as to why it was idling wrong.. he saw straight away that the bolt was in the wrong position so we manually adjusted it later that day and lo & behold, perfect 800~ RPM idling.


Decided that we were going to try and smash out the auto-> manual conversion and overnight, so we christened the car with chinese beforehand.


The donor for gearbox, clutch, pedals & everything else needed.


Got to about 1:30am and we'd only taken out the pedals from a donor S14 write-off, drilled housings for the clutch and installed the S14 brake pedal in the 180sx so we decided to just call it a night since we were so overtired already and the weather was hot as.


Day 4

Solved problems:



Car wouldn't start again, ended up managing to make it start by feathering the accelerator. By this point it seems that the car won't start when cold, but when warm it's fine - leads me to thinking it's something to do with either the coolant temp sensor or the ECU taking incorrect readings. We pulled up at the shed in preparation for a day's work on the car, sat down, lit a smoke and about 30 seconds later the coolant pipes burst, dumping all my beautiful new coolant onto the floor and sending a shitload of steam out of the engine bay for a solid few minutes. At least my bay is now steam cleaned right?

Car is currently sitting in the shed, waiting on getting it towed to another mate's shed where we will finish the manual conversion, take a look at the coolant temp sensor and try and figure out why the hell it overheated to the point of unleashing my coolant pipes. Good news is it looks as though the pipes are the transmission lines so can just carry straight on with the manual conversion and not worry about reattaching the hoses.


Current problems:

- Not starting when cold

- Coolant pipes just chilling somewhere down near the gearbox

- Something wrong with either the coolant temp sensor, ECU readings, fan clutch or thermostat. Maybe all of them!



- Either get a decent paintjob or wrap the car with vinyl wrap...

- R33 seats or something similar

- Complete onevia/sileighty swap with my mate's s13



Much, much more to come.


Edited by Harley

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