Adam's 1991 300ZXTT

The 300ZX FAQ

This FAQ is designed to answer many of the common questions that 1990-1996 300ZX owners and potential buyers have about the cars.

If you have any suggestions or comments, send email to adam@fiendation.com

This page has been accessed 200,000+ times since November 18, 1997


General Questions

How many 300ZXs were sold from 1990-1996?

According to Motor Trend, the US sales figures for the last-generation 300ZX were as follows:
That's a total of just under 85,000 cars for all 7 years -- about the same as Nissan's sales for the 1979 280ZX alone!

[Editor's note: If anyone has info on more detailed production figures, such as Turbo vs NA, please email it to me]

How FAST are they?

The 300ZX is a very quick car. The non turbo models turn in a 0-60 time around 7.5 seconds. The turbo models turn in 0-60 times closer to 5.7-6.2 seconds. Of course, these are rough figures. Any 0-60 estimates can be off by as much as 20%, depending on the driver, road and weather conditions, etc. The twin turbos are fast. Generally speaking, they hold their own with most major manufacturer's flagship sportscars. (IE the Mitsubishi 3000GT, Toyota Supra, etc)

What are all these acronyms I keep hearing?

How can I identify turbos vs non turbos?

There are a few dead giveaways in the Turbo vs Non-Turbo question. First, all turbo cars come from the factory with a vented front air dam, and a rear wing. (see photo at top of page) The "twin turbo" sticker on the right side of the hatch, and the bat-out-of-hell acceleration are also good to look for. However, if you're convinced the car you're looking at could be an imposter, look at the speedometer. The bottom sixth of the speedo gauge houses the Boost Pressure indicator, with a scale from -14 to +14 psi. If this is missing, no way it's a turbo. Another good indicator is the tire size - Twin Turbos were outfitted with 225s in the front, and 245s in the rear. Non-Turbos wore 225s all around. If you look carefully at the rear wheels of a Twin Turbo, you'll notice that they have more of a "dish" to them, whereas the front wheels are relatively flat.

How do I identify different model years?

Wandering through parking lots checking out Zs? There are a few hints as to the model year that can be easily identified. For instance, 1990 cars distinguish themselves by not having the centered "nissan hamburger" logo on the nose - this was added in 91. The driver's side airbag became an option in 91, (standard in 92) embedded in a redesigned steering wheel which moved the cruise controls to the column. Another minor change in 92 - the interior fabric changed from a woven carpet to suede. 1993 brought the introduction of the ZX convertible, but only in naturally aspirated trim for the US market.

A number of changes appeared in 1994 - passenger side airbags were introduced , and the turbo model no longer sported the "duck tail" spoiler, but a redesigned, slightly taller wing. Also in 94 the Twin Turbo uses an electric, rather than hydrolic HICAS system. This reduces a bit of clutter in the engine compartment and saves on some expensive high pressure hoses.

Generally speaking, if you're looking to buy a used Twin Turbo, your best bet would be a 91-95. 94-95 models are preferred for the changes listed above, but tend to be a bit more expensive. There's nothing wrong with 1996 models - but they are the most rare, and because of ECU changes are not as easy to modify. If you're looking for a project, better to stick with a pre-1996 300ZX.

Okay, Tough Guy -- which 300ZX do *you* drive?

I drive a '91 Aztec Red 300ZXTT. Automatic, Stage III, T-Tops, charcoal leather... It's a great car. 109,000 miles and counting - my old 280ZX is now past 160,000 miles, and I'm hoping the new one will do the same.

How does the car hold up with age?

Overall, the consensus is that the 90-96 300ZX is a well built car. As with any turbo car, the turbochargers themselves have a limited lifespan, usually between 80,000-120,000 miles. Taking good care of the car and changing the oil frequently is the key to making a 300ZX last forever. My own 91 300ZX has been upgraded to "stage III" (400 horsepower) and currently has 109,000 miles on it, and runs great.

Parts of the car to "keep an eye on" are the transmission, exhaust system, and turbos. The exhaust systems frequently start to rust after 4 years or so, but luckily there are lots of aftermarket performance versions available. The automatic transmissions are a mixed bag; mine broke (under extended warranty) at 74,000 miles, which isn't common, but they do seem to be problematic. At the same time, some owners go through clutches in their manual transmissions every 35,000 miles, so the cost of owning either one may even out over the lifespan of the car.

Check out the IZCC's info for detailed information on buying a used 300ZX.

What's the difference between a 2+2 and a 2 seater Z?

For starters, in the US, the 2+2 was only available as a non-turbo car. It is a couple hundred pounds heavier than it's 2 seater counterpart, and about 6 inches longer. You lose some trunk space, and the rear seats are not extremely useful, and you'll be hard pressed to fit anyone over the age of 12 into them. I personally think the longer 2+2 body is a nice looking design. You can quickly spot one by looking at the driver's side - the gas door on a 2+2 is behind the rear wheel well, whereas on the 2 seaters it's in front.

Explain this HICAS thing to me again?

HICAS is Nissan's name for the 4 wheel steering system that is standard on the Twin Turbos. Unlike other manufacturer's implementations of 4 wheel steering, the Hicas system turns the rear wheels a very small amount (+/- 2 degrees or so) at the max. This sounds insignificant, but think about how badly most cars steer when their alignment is off a fraction of a degree. The hicas system has 3 modes, based on how fast you're travelling. It is turned off at speeds below 30 mph, so don't expect it to help you park. At some speeds, the system angles the rear wheels in the same direction as your front ones. At other speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction. Wacky stuff. No one really knows how much this helps the handling of the car.

What "go fast" modifications are available?

As with many cars, there are few major performance parts available for the non-turbos. Exhaust and intake kits, as well as computer chips are available, however they'll run you $1200-$1500 for a total of maybe 30 or 40 gained horsepower. If you have a non-turbo, and you really want more performance, I'm afraid the best conclusion is to sell it in favor of a turbocharged model.

However, lots of companies offer performance packages for the Twin Turbo 300ZX. Many have multiple-stage kits available for the 300ZXTT. The "stage levels" of one will not necessarily correspond to that of another. The following is an exerpt from Stillen Motorsport's upgrade chart: (notice that the upgrades are cumulative)
For the Twin Turbo, most owners who choose to modify the car stop at Stage III. This gives approximately a 100 horsepower upgrade, for a total cost of $1500 or so. The car retains it's sporty character and driveability, but turbo lag is reduced and 0-60 times should drop an extra .5 seconds. The difference in seat-of-the-pants performance is incredible, and well worth the money.

The preferred supplier for these upgrades is Jim Wolf Technology. I've spoken to Jim on the phone for a total of about an hour before and after I purchased my Stage III upgrade, and the man really knows his stuff. According to Jim, they've sold enough Stage III kits to upgrade nearly 10% of the twin turbos in the country. Stillen is the "name brand" you'll most often hear in conjunction with upgraded 300ZXs, but much of what they provide is simply someone else's equipment with their name attached. (their computer chips are manufactured by Jim Wolf Tech) However, they too are a good company to deal with, and offer many extras in the way of styling and accessories that are hard to find elsewhere.

How much should I expect to pay for a used 300ZX?

This number varies drastically from region to region around the US. In general, you can expect to pay between $10,000 and $18,000 for a used non-turbo, and between $13,000 and $28,000 for a used turbo. On average, I'd say that $16,000 should get you a great non-turbo, or a good condition turbo. Check out http://www.traderonline.com/ and see if there are any cars for sale in your area. Compare the numbers you find to those at http://www.edmunds.com/. Of course, since the cars have been discontinued, some people feel that the prices should go up, while others think that makes them less valuable. Just shop around, and avoid the temptation to jump on the first car you see. It is not common for "little things" to be broken on the car, even after 60,000 or 70,000 miles. They may be an indication of owner neglect, or inaccurate miliage.

Can I work on it myself?

Well, that depends. The real question you want to be asking is "if I work on it myself, who will put it back together?" Really, it's not that bad -- all the "normal" car parts are there, (well, there's no distributor) so it's just a matter of taking your time and examining your problem. Things like oil changes, air filter, fuel filter, etc, are just as easy as any other car. Spark plugs are quite a hassle to get to, although your routine maintanence on the car should be pretty slim. Most major jobs are better left to a competant dealer (which can be hard to find in some areas, but mine is excellent) and at least if they break your car, you'll have someone to yell at. The engine is really crammed in there, but once you get used to the layout, it's less intimidating.

Should some years be avoided at all costs?

Contrary to what many published sources will suggest (Consumer Reports and some road tests), there were very few major changes throughout the history of the last generation 300ZX. As with all cars, a few bugs were ironed out in 1990, the first year of production. At the same time, though, these are the cars you'll most likely find used, since sales that year were so high. If you can afford it, a 91 or newer is the preferred car to own. Many people are concerned when they see consumer guides which rate certain years much worse or much better than others; but this is practically pure fiction - there simply wasn't enough data on the car to perform accurate statistical comparisons. For most practical purposes, the reliabilty differences between 91-96 cars are negligable, and the 1990 cars are just a little bit more expensive to maintain.

What exterior colors were available?


What interior colors were available?

With a few discrepencies, the interior colors were: Tan Cloth, Tan Leather, Charcoal Cloth, Red Cloth, Charcoal Leather, White Leather, and Red Leather. Charcoal was the most common interior color.

Note that the interior trim cloth changed in in 92 from the original woven carpet look to a suede-like material.

Technical Questions

How much power does the 300ZX have?

Non Turbo: 220 hp / 190 ft lbs torque
Turbo: 300 hp / 283 ft lbs torque

Note: The Automatic Turbo model is rated at 280 hp, and all 96 models are rumored to have "quietly" dropped to 280 hp as well, to meet more stringent emissions standards.

I'm really worried about the turbochargers - do they "go bad"??

Don't worry about 'em. Most Twin Turbo owners never have to do anything to the turbochargers - just change the oil frequently and you should be fine. Someone on the net did a survey of TT owners, and I think of the 25 or so people that responded, only 2 had to replace the original turbos. Of course, it is something to think about in your projected maintenance costs for the car, but it's rarely a problem in cars that have been well taken care of. When I bought my car used, I put aside $2,000 "just in case" I'd have big repairs like this to make. After 9 months, when everything was still running just great, I took the money and did the Stage III upgrades.

Can I upgrade my non-turbo 300ZX to a turbo?

Short answer - Sorry, not really. The differences between the two cars are substantial - in addition to the turbos themselves, and their associated exhaust plumbing, the engine management computer is different, there are some internal engine changes, and a whole slew of other changes. Through the various aftermarket suppliers you can squeeze 250-260 hp out of your naturally aspirated Z, but you'll be hard pressed to hit 300 horsepower for less than $5,000 in upgrades. So the most cost-effective route is to sell your non-turbo for $12,000 or so, then go buy a used turbo for $15,000-$17,000. You'll save money, can get that color you always wanted, and when you start doing engine upgrades on the Turbo car, you can really get some power.

But I can make my non-turbo almost as fast as a turbo, right?

This is a discussion that comes up every once in a while on the various Z-car online forums. The answer is a mixed bag. Some people believe that you can take the lighter non-turbo 300ZX, invest a few thousand dollars in engine upgrades, and get it to 270 horsepower or so, giving the Twin Turbo a run for it's money. The jury is still out on this issue. However, one thing is certain - after all the money and modifications you sink into a non-turbo to try to reach 300 horsepower, the guy with the real Twin Turbo can spring $600 for an upgraded computer chip, and voila - 360 horsepower. If you want to go fast, get the turbo. If you really believe that the modified non-turbo is the way to go, because of it's weight difference and different engine response, well, let me know how it turns out. But don't say I didn't warn you - You'll notice that no one ever asks how to turn their Twin Turbo into a non-turbo...

What kind of tires does the car take?

The Turbos and non-turbos have different width wheels. The stock Turbo cars use 225-50-16 in the front, and 245-45-16 in the rear. Stock Non turbos use 225-50-16 all around.

Were there any recalls on the 300zx?

YES! There was one recall, on the power transistor unit. This part will sometimes just "die," preventing the car from running, or other times it will "limp home" but not run well. It is approximately a $250 fix, but Nissan can and will do it for free. If you've had it fixed and paid for it in the past, you can call Nissan and try to get reimbursed. Also, if you've just bought a used car, or don't know if the part has been replaced, you can call 1-800-Nissan-1 and ask one of the operators if your car has had the recall performed. (They'll just ask you for the VIN number). If it has not been done, by all means, schedule an appointment to have it replaced.

Common Problems

Why does water squirt out of my windshield washers when I stop quickly?

This happens to many 300ZXs. The problem can be fixed for under $6. You need to order two replacement "check valves" that go in the washer line under the hood. (Nissan Part #xxxxxxx) Incidentally, I don't know if this affects 95+ 300ZXs - those had the winshield washer resevoir under the hood, not in the trunk like the 90-94s.

Help! My "HICAS" light just came on!

Don't sweat it - you probably just need to add power steering fluid to the reservoir under the hood. It's in the front-left corner of the engine bay. Keep in mind that this is a good sign you may have a slow leak in your power steering system somewhere...

We had our first cold day this winter, and now there's a strong gas smell...

This is common - there are lots of short high pressure fuel hoses under the hood. Get a good #3 phillips screwdriver and go around tightening the clamps on the hoses you can find. Then take off the plastic cover in the center of the engine, and tighten the rest. That will frequently do the trick - also look for cracks in any of the hoses, and replace those that are suspect. Since there aren't likely to be many sparks (seriously) under the hood, it's probably not a life-threatening situation, but exercise caution and common sense, and get it checked out quickly. I've also written up a quick test procedure outlining how you can find these problems yourself.

My engine is doing odd things. Surging or stalling at idle, or just not acting right

One of the first things you should take a look at is your Throttle Position Sensor. More specifically, check the wiring harness going to it. Start the car, and then wiggle the wire around. If the engine responds, there's a good chance it's corroded and not making good contact. Take it off and clean it with some electrical contact cleaner. This seems to be happening to more and more Zs as they grow older - with all the wiring harnesses under the hood, corrosion seems to be a problem. It's a good idea to poke around and make sure they're all tight and secure.

My mufflers suck. Should I replace them?

They may be worse than you think. Try giving one a good sharp kick sometime - chances are you'll hear all sorts of rust and debris inside. This is probably resulting in a slight performance decrease, and could be causing undue amounts of backpressure to build up. It's not really critical, but hey - replace 'em! Nissan mufflers will set you back a few hundred, or you can opt for one of the many aftermarket systems available. There are at least 4 different stainless-steel systems (which will last forever) available for $650-$1100. I bought the B&B Tri-flo system, and am very happy with it, but be warned - it is very loud. An addendum - after 6 months of living with the B&B system, the novelty of setting off car alarms as I drive by is starting to wear off. There is a loud resonance at 2200-2500 rpm - but B&B is supposed to have a fix for this "problem." Hopefully that'll restore the ride to a more reasonable noise level when cruising at 55 or so. It's still a great system, and the warmer it is outside, the more I like cruising around with it. But in the wintertime, with the windows up, it was getting really obnoxious...

My car has started making a "gurgling" sound at idle? What's wrong?

This sound is usually not cause for major concern, but it can cause your car to fail emissions tests (high CO readings). It is usually related to water building up in the AIV valves. The valves can be replaced or drained. The procedure for replacement is available here courtesy of Twinturbo.com.

I need new tires! What should I get?

Well, it's nearly impossible to get a good opinion on tires. The problem is, most people only get to experience 2 or 3 sets on the same car, and by the time they replace the old ones, they are usually so bad that new tires, even poor quality ones, will seem like an improvment. After two weeks of trying to "research" the topic, I gave up and went with the brand Stillen puts on their cars - Yokohama AVS Intermediates. They set me back about $750 for the set, but so far I'm very happy with their performance. Unfortunately, they have an expected lifespan of 20,000-30,000 miles. But don't be tempted to buy cheap tires. Remember, they're the only thing between your $20,000 car, and the pavement sliding by at 80 mph. Lose a tire on the interstate, and you'll probably lose the car with it. I'd hesistate to spend LESS than $100 on a 225 or 245 series tire.

My driver's side leather seat is showing excessive wear from getting in and out. What's next?

It is fairly rare for the leather to actually wear through or crack, but it can happen. The problem is mostly cosmetic. You can have the area "re-dyed" by a nissan dealer or an experienced car shop for a reasonable charge. Courtesy Nissan (see below) actually stocked a replacement charcoal leather piece, which could be sewn in place by an experienced upholstry shop.

My Bose stereo setup is doing (something funny), what can I do to fix it?

Since the Bose stereo is so goofy and trouble-prone, it gets it's own FAQ. Go to The 300ZX Audio and Interior Page to find out more about it.

Are there any good parts suppliers for the car?

Yes!! I have dealt with three different mail order vendors, and had good luck with all of them:

Courtesy Nissan You can email or call Courtesy Nissan, and you're bound to get good prices and service.
Nissanautoparts.com NissanAutoParts.Com, contrary to popular belief, is NOT part of Nissan, Inc. Rather they are an individual dealer who happened to pick a good domain name. They too are very helpful via email or on the phone, but have the added benefit of an online database where you can look up prices by part number.
Autogator.com Autogator is a Nissan junkyard on the web! They're also helpful and always respond to email quickly. The only place I've found yet to buy used parts for my 91.


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