Brake cylinders and rotors replaced at 125000 and 350000 miles.
Timing Belt replaced ever 60000 miles.
Power steering rack and pinion replaced at 325000 miles.
Intake rocker shaft broke at 270000 miles.
Exhaust rocker shaft broke at 310000 miles.
Alternator replaced at 130000, 160000, 210000, 260000, 300000, 350000 miles.
Fuel pump rebuilt at 200000 miles due to corrosion on the top surface.
Wheel bearings replaced at 370000 miles.
Struts, shocks, and strut bushings replaced at 310000 miles.
Internal speedometer drive gear located in transmission was stripped when car was purchased, never replaced.
Starter connections replaced at 180000 and 345000 miles.
Battery cable replaced at 320000 miles.
Electric window motor connections repaired at 140000 miles.
Front crankshaft seal replaced at 260000 miles.
Valve timing adjusted every 30000 miles or so.
Oil pan gasket replaced at 279000 miles.
Exhaust manifold gaskets replaced at 310000 miles.
Cylinder #2 fuel injector replaced at 340000 miles.
Oil pressure sender uses a bizarre cross of metric and SAE threads, and aftermarket sender doesn't fit. I have had no oil pressure sender connected since 180000 miles.
Rear wheel bearings replaced at 260000 miles.
Persistent differential carrier leak. It needs new seals, but the drive-shafts are a pain to remove, so I just refill it every 3 months.
0.2 degree error in right front camber causes excessive tire wear, but handling is fine non the less. Repair requires the use of a body alignment machine which I do not have.
Oil separator hose broke at 240000 miles, and engine removal is needed to replace it. Although its absence increases emissions and possible engine contamination, I am too lazy to pull the engine to replace a $5 hose.
Engine coolant bypass hose under the intake collector started leaking at 310000 miles. Repair of $2 hose required over 4 hours of labor.
Distributor cap and rotor replaced at 270000 miles.
Fan clutch replaced at 290000 miles.
Water pump replaced at 280000 and 288000 miles. The replacement pump was defective and was covered under warranty.
Exhaust components replaced every 20000 miles.
Thermal Vacuum Valve broke at 250000 miles. It has not been replaced.
Seat back pivot broke at 240000 and 250000 miles. The second repair was due to my poor job of welding the first time around.
Rear windshield washer has always been non-functional due to a broken pipe in the passenger side pillar area. It would require about 4 hours to disassembly to repair, and I have not judged it that critical.
Differential started to howl at 330000 miles. Its pretty minor, but will need adjustment at some point.
Engine currently smokes on startup due to worn valve guides and seals and has since 340000 miles.
Air conditioner tensioner bearing failed at 285000 miles.
Chassis torque settings are checked and adjusted every 10000 miles.
I purchased this car for $900, and it has been and remains a great car. It is incredibly simple to maintain, and an abundance of parts are available at very reasonable prices. The factory service manual is however indispensable.
My weekly commute varied from 400-1800 miles, so I needed an economical car that was easy to keep running. The 1986 200SX has proven to be my perfect car. Although I wrote a small book on the items that have failed, I'm sure I have exceeded the designers original expectations for component life.
The handling is really great. I drive in all types of weather conditions from Storm chasing to blizzard and icing conditions, and the indepedant rear suspension has proven a real asset numerous times in less than optimum conditions.
The ride is pretty harsh, especially on my long commutes, but the feedback provided by a stiff suspension is invaluable on ice. In addition, cornering performance is amazing. I usually don't have to slow down for 30mph on and off ramps, except when someone in a "new car" is in front of me.
Road noise is pretty high, but that's probably due more to the age of the rubber seals than anything else. There is however a high pitched whine due to wind noise at speeds above 90mph. Then again, one probably shouldn't be driving that fast either.
Acceleration was pretty good up until 300000 miles. The effective torque band has shifted from 2500-3500 as the motor aged, with a net result that acceleration from a stop is not that good anymore, but is pretty snappy for passing etc when shifted into 4th.
The biggest fault is the undersized Hitachi Alternator and its lack of a method for cooling the diodes. Fortunately alternator I always buy components with lifetime warranties.
The second fault of the CA20 motor is the poor design of the rocker shafts. It's a real pain to have them break, as the engine will only run at 3500 rpm and above, and even then, you don't have any power, but you can keep it running. The good thing is that rocker shaft replacement is it only takes an hour or so.
Dealer service is a nightmare. I do all of my own work, as the mechanics are not at all familiar with these vehicles anymore, and one can get really overcharged for anything other than simple repairs. Fortunately most repairs are simple.
The key to keeping a car running is to set aside a repair budget and fix everything that breaks right away. I allocate $400/year for maintenance on my 200SX, and most of the time, I end up with $100 left over at the end of the year.