Ah, spindle pins! The very words cause the seasoned Datsun Z restorer’s blood to run cold. Most blog entries you’ll read on this topic sound more like a comedy of errors than car repair. Spindle pins are the connecting / adjustment rods that hold together the Datsun 280Z transverse links in the rear independent suspension (see picture below). Many people will simply tell you not to touch them, ever. It’s possible to drop the entire rear-end, struts and all, out of a Datsun Z-car without disassembling any of the suspension components. So if you’re replacing struts, contrary to what the 280Z factory manual says, you can do this without taking out the dreaded spindle pins. However, if you’re a glutton for punishment, like us, and as part of your Datsun restoration you want to replace all of the 30-year-old rubber bushings in your suspension that now look like black sponges, these puppies have to come out.
You might be asking why I’m making this sound so terrible. After all, the Datsun 280Z factory manual provides the very simple-sounding instructions to remove the spindle pin locking bolt and the nuts from both ends and then just “remove them”. The manual even includes the helpful picture below, showing a spindle pin being pulled out with your hand. Well, anyone who’s actually tried this exercise knows that these instructions and diagram are a cruel joke. I can imagine a bunch of Japanese mechanics rolling on the ground in hysterical laughter as they wrote these instructions. They likely howled with glee picturing middle-aged American men cursing and smashing their hands, repeatedly going back to their tool boxes for larger and larger hammers to get these @#%& things out! In short: They’re stuck. And you have a snowballs chance in the proverbial of getting them out without destroying them.
Here are your options: 1) Beat them out with a large hammer, using a long punch or other metal rod to push them through. You should douse the pin and pivot assembly with WD40 first and let it sit for a while. Also, don’t get too crazy in your hammering to the point that you mushroom out the end of the pin, making it so that it won’t fit through the pivot assembly. Once the pins are out, replace them, they’re toast. 2) Invest in or rent a spindle pin puller and try to take them out without damaging the pins. If you type in “Datsun 280Z spindle pin puller” on Google, you’ll get a bunch of options for this. But here’s the rub: From what I read from people who’ve used them (yes, I used option 1), your chances of getting the spindle pins out without damage using these pullers is still only about 50 / 50. Considering there are 2 spindle pins to pull, that’s a high likelihood you’re going to pay for a puller and then still have to pay for at least 1 new spindle pin.
Let’s do the math:
Cost of 2 new Datsun 280Z spindle pins: $60
Cost of spindle pin puller (I’m guessing here, I can’t actually find one for sale on the web): $30
Cost of spindle pin puller + 1 spindle pin: $60
Cost of spindle pin puller + 2 spindle pins: $90
My advice: Purchase 2 new Nissan / Datsun spindle pins from Motor Sport Auto, or some other reputable Datsun parts dealer, and use the hammer approach. Now I can imagine some Datsun Z-car spindle-pin-removal junkie is going to tell me I’m full of it on this one but here’s my reasoning: Datsun Z spindle pins serve 2 very important functions. 1) They provide a key pivot point for the 280Z independent suspension and 2) they’re used to adjust the rear-wheel alignment. Now I’m no mechanical engineer but I’m pretty sure that if these pins are so frozen in place that you can hardly remove them with a large hammer, they probably aren’t serving either of these functions well. What’s more, if you’re going to all the trouble to put brand new bushings throughout your suspension to improve performance, why would you put these crusty, corroded pieces of junk back in your car?
Regardless of your chosen method for getting them out, if your aim is to replace all your 280Z suspension bushings, it seems easiest to remove the entire rear-end in one piece. Then you can do your suspension disassembly on the comfort of your work bench. If you don’t want to wrestle with the entire rear-end, you can take loose the drive shafts from each wheel and then remove the hub/drum, strut and transverse link in one piece from each side.
Have fun! Once you’ve replaced spindle pins, in my opinion you’re a seasoned Datsun restoration veteran!