Lotus Elan

Embarassed...but alive!

PostPost by: peterako » Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:00 am

Hello all!

(Long)

Was invited to the opening of a local business park yesterday.

It was being opened by An Taoiseach (Our head of government).
I even got to shake his hand and exchange a word or two.

About 200 were at the event, outdoors at the entrance to the
business park.

The sun was shining so I brought the +2....

At the end of the official launch I decided to leave directly
after the politicians. As a result I was in convoy behind their
government cars...slowly moving towards the entrance/exit to the
park where everyone was gathered.

On the way I heard comments like:

'Look a Jag!'
'No that's a Lotus....an Elan....lovely'.

Internal grin on my face.....

Anyway, finally got to the entrance, intending to let the
audience hear the nice exhaust note.
Slowly out....intending to go the opposite direction to the
politicians.

Turn the steering wheel.....NOTHING!!! EEEK!

Straight into the ditch opposite the entrance.

And there I had to sit till the event was over, as a backdrop
to the remaining invitees.

I had to stay with the car as it was blocking a part of the road.

The Gardai (our police) were at the event....but I've never
seen them scatter as quickly as soon as I got stranded.

I checked to see what was wrong....top innner steering column
(collapsable type) has sheared at the coupling to the lower
part. Not even bodgable to move the car safely.

I'm thanking God for a few things today:

1. My wife is still with me (previous weekend had been spent
changing the rear bearings....I'm into major brownie point
debt)
2. That the steering broke at 3 km/h and not at any time in
the last 24 hours during which I covered 300 miles at times
at 120+ km/h....
3. That my insurance has vehical recover coverage!

In hindsight I think I know why the column sheared.
The previous day I was caught by an unmarked, and very sharp,
speed bump. I guess i hit it at 30 km/h (20mph) tops, but it was like
driving over a curb!

At the time I was worried about chassis damage so I checked that
and the rack, tie rods etc, but never thought of the column...

By the way, the +2 even looks good on the back of a recovery
lorry!!!

Spoke to Sue Miller yesterday. Apparently this column shear is
not an unknown with the Elan...

Will make sure the repair is strong enough for a truck!

Still love the car!

Peter '73 +2S 130/5 with no steering!! :?
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PostPost by: Craig Elliott » Fri Apr 20, 2007 6:07 pm

Hi

This seems to be a common problem - a quick 5 mins in the archive and people have posted 4-5 other similar events - including me:

http://www.lotuselan.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8632
http://www.lotuselan.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=220

The column was produced by Triumph (Spitfire/GT6 I believe) and is no longer available. There are two different types depending on where the steering lock is on your car. Unfortunately they're both difficult to source new although they do seem to appear at the usual Lotus autojumbles.

It seems to happen as a result of metal fatigue - although I know that in the dim distant past my car has had a front end shunt. It also seems to only happen at low speed, however, it's still bl**dy dangerous. If you were trying to turn right (in the UK) across a dual carriageway for example it would be a bit more than embarrasing.

Which reminds me, 'bout time I checked the replacement for cracks...

Good luck with the repair!

Craig
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PostPost by: sparkey » Sat Apr 21, 2007 8:42 am

Hi Peter,

Very worrying story !

Any chance of a picture of the broken part so I know ehre I'm looking when I check mine ?

Thanks

Steve
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PostPost by: Craig Elliott » Sat Apr 21, 2007 9:13 am

Sparkey

Attached should show the problem - I've attached the diagram from the manual and a picture showing where the break happened. The lower column slides up inside the upper and is fixed by the impact clamp. Basically the column broke immediately above where the clamp holds the upper and lower columns together. It's probably the point of maximum stress, especially if the upper and lower columns aren't directly in line. From the photo of the broken end of the column, it looks like a stress fracture. I guess the time of maximum stress on the column is when you are turning at low speed - mine broke whilst trying to pull away from the kerb into a road in the middle of London :oops: .

All you need is for this to happen as I said in the earlier post and it could be a lot more than embarrasing.

C
Attachments
Column 1.JPG and
Column 2.jpg and
Column diag.jpg and
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PostPost by: sparkey » Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:26 am

Thanks,

I'll check mine before next driving !! I think as you say it's likely to happen with maximum stress at parking speeds, but I do a few track days and clipping a few kerbs at donnington probably also causes a bit of stress and would be a bit dangerous.



Steve.
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PostPost by: Foxie » Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:35 pm

Peter !

That is some story ! Did anyone take pictures ?

That'll teach you to shake hands with Bertie !

Forgot I have an item in the archives on the steering column mounting. I put extra bracing on mine some time ago.

You are replacing the tube, not repairing it ?

Hope you can bring the failed part for inspection at our next meet up.

Sean
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PostPost by: dusty » Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:28 pm

Peter, Are you the same Peter whom i met on the recent Lotus group trip to Glendalough (bronze Plus 2 with gold roof)? Just trying to put a face a forum member!

Sean, were you there too?


You were very lucky, though I suspect these things nearly always happen at low speed since thats when the steering is heaviest. It was the same with old triumphs I have owned the trunnions used to fail resuling in a detached wheel, this nearly always happened at low speed on lock.

cheers
Jon
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PostPost by: Foxie » Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:04 pm

dusty wrote:Peter, Are you the same Peter whom i met on the recent Lotus group trip to Glendalough (bronze Plus 2 with gold roof)? Just trying to put a face a forum member!

Sean, were you there too?

Jon


Jon,

Yes, and yes !

I was in the blue +2 with the white roof.

Are you in the photo I took ?

Sean
Attachments
DSCI0052.JPG and
Lotus Glendalough group
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PostPost by: dusty » Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:47 pm

Sean Murray wrote:
dusty wrote:Peter, Are you the same Peter whom i met on the recent Lotus group trip to Glendalough (bronze Plus 2 with gold roof)? Just trying to put a face a forum member!

Sean, were you there too?

Jon


Are you in the photo I took ?

Sean


Yes. Second from the right.

I'm useless with names, and it gets even more confusing when forum logons are thrown in. :oops:

Cheers
Jon
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PostPost by: peterako » Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:42 am

Hi All,

Thanks for all teh replies.

Craig,

thanks for the info on previous breakages and a special
thanks for the pics!

Steve,

Craig's pics show an almost identical break to mine, though
there does not seem to have been the same rubbing on the
inner of the column.

Sean,

yep...serves me right for shaking Bertie's hand!
But I did get to see where some of that cosmetic money goes.
Never have I seen as long and perfect nails on a man!!!
(Maybe some lady-boys in Thailand but that's another story!!!)

Not sure if I can source a 'new' column and would be a bit
reluctant to buy one from an older car as it'll probably be
susceptible to breakage at some time down the line.

If I do repair there'll be plenty of pics for next time.

Jon,

Yep, mine was the bronze and gold one!

And....as I've pointed out to Sean, I'll not let the lads
stand on a hill again when we're taking a pic. I look like a (fat)
shortie in the pic!!
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PostPost by: tdafforn » Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:44 am

This sort of column failure is also common in the triumphs that use the same column (alongside the trunnions). Its covered quite extensively in newsgroups devoted to triimphs!
Cheers
tim
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PostPost by: steveww » Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:33 am

Interesting, your picture shows the column as being hollow, I am sure the one on my S4 is solid :?
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PostPost by: 1964 S1 » Thu Apr 26, 2007 12:44 am

.... and what about all the other little Elans.. solid or hollow? Has anyone had or heard of this problem with the small Elans? The +2 has a longer shaft??? Time for me to get out the tape.
Can a person see this cracked spot by looking underneath the dash or is disassembly required?
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PostPost by: Emma-Knight » Thu Apr 26, 2007 3:00 pm

...it should be were the impact clamp is - so visible without undoing anything. (maybe the clamp should come off)

Anna
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PostPost by: Craig Elliott » Thu Apr 26, 2007 5:37 pm

Robinshaw and Ross only list one type of steering column for the elan and the +2 - the Triumph one. So I guess this was standard for both. Given the differences is weight between the two cars I'd also guess that the failure is more likely in the +2 than the baby elan, but you never know. As Anna says it should be (relatively!) easy to check by removing the clamp so I'd suggest that owners of either do just that...

C
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