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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all, I picked up this 97 200sx just over a year ago. It was a high mileage beater I picked up to get from point A to point B when I blew my 2JZ build and though I’m nearing completion of my rebuild I have grown to really appreciate this car. It’s the 1.6L GA16DE with a 5 speed manual trans. The fuel economy is amazing! I’ve decided to give this thing some love. I did some serious needed repairs to pass smog and roll safely, but still have some minor loose steering and suspension components etc and it’s quite an eye sore.
This car will be getting a budget friendly suspension and bolt on’s upgrade in various ways to both restore it mechanically and make it look better lowered and on some better looks rims.
My goal for this car is to maintain fuel economy and handle well. So intake and exhaust mods will help make economy slightly better and some much needed power increases as it is a very slow and underpowered car. Other than that, I plan to drop it on coilovers while replacing the rest of the worn out components and various upgrades here and there. It’s not the SR20 and will never be a fast car. I have other cars for my need for speed and power. This one is strictly a fun daily driver and gas champ.
Here is how it came in it’s bone stock glory. Looking forward to sharing my build and hopefully can help others get back into their cars again.
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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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16 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
So to start with this thing, I picked it up running with 234,000 miles. A/C working and no leaks. Someone had taken care of it in the distant past, but many things were worn out again. All in all pretty lucky for a $900 car. Windows tinted too. I had to jump on the cheapest running car I could find at the time because I had just blown the engine in my current daily. The owner provided me with a new set of front brake pads and rotors because he thought it was the cause of a grinding noise and it had 4 new Falken tires installed. The car had a totally wiped out front left wheel bearing and cv axle, the clutch chattered badly and had a nasty choppy apply, the timing chain was grinding away hard under the plastic valve cover, a couple wheel studs stripped and rear drum brake out of adjustment. No radio, blown door speakers, blown engine mounts, and several tune up items and surprises along the way. Needed a thermostat to pass smog too.
Long story short, first I replaced the mounts because the engine was jumping out of the bay and thermostat, and did a full tune up on it. Luckily as a tech I knew it was running to cool, and though it had no codes, I needed to replace it before attempting to pass the 5 gas smog test. Sure enough, it was stuck wide open when I pulled it out. The plugs were absolutely beat, so it got a set of NGK plugs and wires, and a new cap/rotor. I stuck in a cheap $10 Specter drop in air filter at the time too to both replace the filter and increase airflow for fuel economy as that is the goal in this car. Cleaned out the carboned up throttle to restore power and throttle response, and welded a hole in the exhaust before the cat that a hanger had ripped out from. Found an old rag stuffed into the air intake near the battery before the filter box which was blocking much of the airway. Had a spare Deka AGM battery from another project, put that in with some new terminals because the old ones were pretty bad. Exchanged the brake, coolant, trans gear oil, engine oil, and power steering fluids. Pulled the left front knuckle to press the bearing and replace the axle along with the provided brakes. I also replaced the upper timing chain tensioner and luckily got rid of the grinding engine noise, it was worn all the way through the plastic guide and into the metal. Passed smog easy after that and have just drove it like this for the better part of a year now.
Besides that I also pulled the trans to replace the clutch and flywheel with a stage 2 ebay cheapo brand called XTD. It is nice because the clutch had very weak holding power, and now it's a smooth apply and can be launched at a higher rpm without slipping down. Along the way I had the A/C compressor go out, replaced with a $50 junk yard unit that's worked great ever since, and had to put in a TPS sensor due to surging idle and dying at stop lights. An issue it had since I got it and no codes, so took a bit to figure out. And I welded in a Magnaflow straight through muffler to again better the airflow for fuel economy, slight power, and nice tone.
All this time it's been a great little beat around car, I did put in a cheap Pioneer deck and two door speakers, $80 total lol, to have radio and bluetooth etc. It's had blown struts, blown upper mounts, loose inner tie rods and slight outters, all the suspension in need of repairs. So it's finally about to get a full repair with some cheap coilovers. And I also will be doing the rest of the exhaust with full headers back and a real CAI intake.
 

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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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16 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Stage 2 clutch and exhaust pics. Plus cleaned up engine bay after all the repairs. Just looking at the pic reminds me of various other things. Radiator cap, fuel filter, wiper blades, etc. replaced many things.
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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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16 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
I just got in my coilovers and strut bars in and will be installing this week along with new inner and outer tie rods to completely restore my steering and suspension and alignment. Also replaced my headlight housings with some LED bubs to be able to actually see at night. Will post some pics soon. Loving how cheap things are for this car and the ease of install. Also picked up a set of 15" rims w/ new ties to replace the nasy old 13's.
 

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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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16 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Did a few things today, got my Megan resonator/2nd cat delete installed, replaced my loose inner and outer tie rods, my blown right front CV axle, replaced a stripped lug stud, cleaned and adjusted my rear drums, installed some drilled/slotted rotors, and installed my front and rear strut tower bars. Also put on a set of rims I got a great deal on with new tires. Painted the drums and calipers black to avoid the nasty rust look. Last this on the way are my coilovers, cold air intake and headers. Here’s a few pics of the progress.
Megan resonator:
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R1Concepts front rotors:
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Headlight housings/LED lights:
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Megan strut tower bars:
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Rota 15” rims in bronze w/ 195/50-15 tires. (About and inch wider and same diameter)
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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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Discussion Starter #6
Had time at work today to change the oil and screw on my new DC Sports weighted shift knob.
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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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Discussion Starter #7
Got my headers in and wrapped. Will post up the install soon. Wasn't able to buy these and have them shipped to me here in Cali for the strict emissions rules, so I had them sent to a family member in another state and they shipped to me from there. The other thing still coming is the cold air intake. I think I found some of the best stuff available for the 1.6L. For anyone looking for parts:

-The headers are OBX with the EGR and o2 bungs. Direct fit. Got from eBay. They have to be 1.6L specific.
-The intake is from a Canadian company called Cosmo Racing. It is actually for the 1.6L and is a true cold air design. All others I have found are a short ram.
-The Megan resonator is only advertised for the 2.0L but fits perfectly for the 1.6L too. So you would have to just order the one for the SR20DE models as it's all they sell. Also form eBay. This will fit any B14 Sentra/200SX.
-The Magnaflow muffler is really anyone's choice. I just welded in a straight through muffler. Didn't want a ricey sound or the huge fart can look. So just welded in this one and put a nice tip on it. Sounds deep and nice. There is no reason to waste money on a complete cat-back. Increasing pipe diameter is pointless unless going forced induction. And the loss of velocity = a loss of torque. So just have a muffler of your choice welded in.

My experience is that the headers, the straight through resonator in place of the 2nd cat, and the straight through muffler, (all in the OEM system diameter) will make for the best performance.

There are also other benefits to doing this:

-There is an inherent increase in fuel economy the easier the car can move and breath.
-The is a good amount of weight dropped going to the smaller and catless parts. further bettering performance/fuel economy.
-If you are in a state that requires smog, you get to save your cats for smog time! So rather than wearing them out all the time, you keep them and reinstall for smog tests.
-There is less under-hood temps with a wrapped header in place of a red hot cat.
 

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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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Discussion Starter #8
Headers installed. Definitely a little more difficult than I expected. But the car feels more powerful and responsive. Louder too. You have to do a little moving of the oil dipstick and pull the fans out to fit the header. Also had to pull the front lower mount bolt just to clear. The trouble really is with the EGR pipe. It didn’t fit by angle or thread size. So had to use an adapter and do some bending and cutting etc. Because of that I can’t recommend installing these. I have an entire shop at my disposal and all manner of tools etc. this would have been nearly impossible without a lift and a lot of time in customizing the fitment. I also installed an Energy Suspension sifter bushing to fix some slop I had. Unfortunately the Cosmo Racing CIA doesn’t even remotely fit. So stock airbox went back in. Will look into another option soon.
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1997 200SX base 5-speed
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Discussion Starter #9
Besides the intake, the general performance of the car is where I want it to be. It has a high flow drop-in filter and I doubt an intake is even all that necessary. If I can't work out an intake, no big deal. At least the exhaust is done. The only other things I'd like to do are an Unorthodox Racing UD pulley if one ever comes up, and maybe an aluminum flywheel if I ever need to replace the clutch again. Fidanza makes one for the 1.6L. All in all, just bolt on's that free up flow and drop weight. Better fuel economy and slightly more power is the goal. Now the rest of the focus will be on suspension. The cheap set of coilovers I ordered turned out to be incorrect as well. It appears that many retailers are confused on these cars and sell pars marketed for the 200sx, but in reality are for the 240sx from what I can tell. The car really is just a 2 door Sentra, so I wish they never gave it the SX badge. Now that I've looked into it, so many parts are sold that claim to fit the 200sx and 240sx, which is just not possible. These coilovers are definitely for a 240sx. So I did order another set while I work out returning these. Had to drop more than I wanted to for this car, but at this point it just needs to fit.

The base models are such cheap cars, they don't even have front or rear swaybars. I am considering a set, however I am surprised at how well the car handles without them. The coilovers will make for way better handling too and I don't think they will even be necessary at that point. I'll see how the handling improves and judge body role after getting use to them. No reason to add the weight of swaybars if the coilovers remove all the body role. With coilovers and the strut bars I already put on, the car will be far improved over stock. Mostly I just wanted to lower car anyway to make it look good on the wheels I picked up. But while I'm at it, I'm going for a good setup too is all.
 
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