Crank angle sensor failure on these engines is not due to poor quality or design. Most failed sensors I've replaced have been accompanied by a water mark in the distributor body, indicating that water has entered and not been able to escape. If you degrease your RB30 engine, you should seal the distributor with a plastic bag, or take the cap off when you've finished and dry out the distributor.
Cooling system failure due to lack of corrosion inhibitor is a major problem. People who poorly maintain their vehicle in this area will pay dearly if the engine overheats. Usually a severe overheat will leave a nasty crack in the top of the head under the cam shaft, which will require extensive welding to repair. Welding an alloy head puts extreme heat into the construction and will cause the head to warp. It will then require heat straightening and possibly tunnel boring. Then you can start to carry out the normal parts of the head service!
Radiators on the VL have the top and bottom hoses connected to the same tank on the radiator. There is a plate in the tank that separates the top from the bottom, and causes the water to flow across the radiator and then back again. This plate can come loose and fall to the bottom, causing the cooling water to circulate in the same tank. The water is not cooled, and the engine will overheat. The Skyline on the other hand has a conventional style radiator, with the top hose going to the top tank and the bottom hose to the bottom tank. It's also larger in coolant capacity, and is higher than the level of the cylinder head. This makes for a much more reliable cooling system.
The sad thing about the RB30E engine is that it's fitted to a vehicle that is basically a VB Commodore with some cosmetic work to pretty it up. The brakes and suspension really weren't up to the task, and the handling characteristics, combined with the added power of the engine, could be quite a handful for inexperienced drivers, especially on a wet road.
I will vouch for the comments made regarding poor maintenance leading to big dollars for 2nd hand VL owners. Unfortunately the supply of one-owner VLs driven by retirees at the rate of 5000km per year has dried up. All of these cars have been purchased by young first-car buyers who either write the car off or thrash the hell out of it before upgrading to VN/VP/VR's which have depreciated a lot more quickly than the VL did.
My 86 VL SL 5-speed is an unfortunate victim of poor maintenance and hence suffers from low oil-pressure, which in turn prevents the hydraulic lifters from being properly lubricated. To fix the problem (possible oil-pump replacement, as well as a set of new lifters - 12 @ $60 each) is bordering on not worth it, considering the market value of the car is probably $2500-3000.
Just a quick comment, I am a young driver (19), who finally after much searching came across a previous one owner 86 VL commodore 5 speed with manual transmission. Just wanted to say that all young drivers don't flog their cars, as an avid Holden supporter, I have great respect for my car, and keep it well maintained.
It's just too bad that the crank angle shaft sensor has just gone, around new year and no-one can touch it for a week. But I still love my baby.
I myself have a VL Commodore which I have had very little trouble with since purchase. I bought it around 5 years ago when the motor had done 370,000+ but since then the clock has stopped working.
I have had a lot of luck with this beast as I have only had 1 tune up and 2 services since I got it (I know, I know, tsk tsk.)
I am now experiencing a slight problem in starting my baby as it seems to only want to go intermittently. After reading these comments I believe it may be the crank angle sensor also or power transistor, but it seems the angle sensors is a more common fault.
Diagnostics of sensor:
Crank Angle Sensor Supply Voltage :
Ensure the ignition switch is in the OFF mode. Disconnect the crank angle sensor harness at the ignition distributor.
With the multi meter set to read volts, connect the positive probe to the harness connector terminal number 2 (orange/black wire) and the negative probe to chassis ground. Switch the ignition key to ON mode. A voltage supply of 12 volts should be present.
If supply voltage is not present :
Check that supply voltage is present at pin 3 of the EFI power supply relay (relay connected). If supply voltage is present check the wiring harness between the EFI relay and the sensor connector for continuity. If no supply voltage is present check the EFI relay and harness wiring. If checking the supply voltage at the ECU, connect the meter positive probe to terminal 35 (orange/black wire) and the negative probe to terminal 36 (black wire) of the 16 pin connector.
Crank Angle Sensor Ground :
Ensure the ignition key is in the OFF mode. Disconnect the sensor harness connector at the ignition distributor. With the multi meter set to read ohms, connect the multi meter positive probe to the harness connector terminal number 1 (black wire) and the negative probe to engine ground. Continuity should exist between engine ground and terminal 1.
If continuity is not present :
Check the wiring harness and ground connection for faults.
Crank Angle Sensor 1 Degree Signal Test :
Ensure the ignition switch is in the OFF mode. Remove the fuel pump fuse (located in fuse box in engine bay). Ensure the distributor harness is connected to the distributor. With the multi meter set to volts, back probe terminal 3 (white wire) with the positive probe at the connector harness and connect the negative probe to engine ground. Turn the ignition key to the ON mode. The voltage measured should be 5 volts.
Turn the ignition key to CRANK mode. A voltage reading of 2 - 3 volts should be measured or if using an oscilloscope a 5 volt square wave form should be seen.
To measure the 1 degree signal at the Electronic Control Unit, connect the volt meter/oscilloscope positive probe to terminal 8 (white wire) of 20 pin connector and the negative probe to ground.
Crank Angle Sensor 120 Degree Signal Test :
Ensure the ignition switch is in the OFF mode. Remove the fuel pump fuse (located in fuse box in engine bay). Ensure the distributor harness is connected to the distributor. With the multi meter set to volts, back probe terminal 4 (yellow wire) with the positive probe at the connector harness and connect the negative probe to engine ground. Turn the ignition key to the ON mode. The voltage measured should be 5 volts.
Turn the ignition key to CRANK mode. A voltage reading of 0.2 - 0.5 volts should be measured or if using an oscilloscope a 5 volt square wave form containing the No 1 Cylinder reference signal and other cylinder reference signals should be seen.
To measure the 120 degree signal at the Electronic Control Unit, connect the volt meter/oscilloscope positive probe to terminal 17 (yellow/black wire) of 20 pin connector and the negative probe to ground.
Terminal 1 : GROUND (black wire)
Terminal 2 : SUPPLY VOLTAGE (orange/black wire)
Terminal 3 : 1 DEGREE SIGNAL (white wire)
Terminal 4 : 120 DEGREE SIGNAL (yellow wire)