Lotus Elan

Making an Elan reliable

PostPost by: Flying Banana » Wed Oct 07, 2020 12:29 pm

steve.thomas wrote:Don’t forget the main battery earth connection to the chassis under the car. Many people move it to one of the rear turrets.

On the subject of steering column bushes, do a search on this forum as someone has posted a very good guide. If I remember rightly the workshop manual is not entirely correct!!

In my experience the water pump is fine as long as you don’t run with the fan belt very tight. I suspect the poor reputation is more to do with the difficulty of replacing it than it’s failure rate. But it must be worth considering if the head is off for any reason.

No-one has mentioned the front trunnions yet (oil or grease!) - either way do it regularly, it’s no fun if one lets go. Luckily i was going slowly...


Thanks. I did a quick search for "steering column bush" and this post seemed to be the most appropriate: viewtopic.php?f=42&t=16895 is this what you are referring to? Is it a big job to remove the steering column?

Glad you survived a seized trunnion!
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PostPost by: Pete M » Wed Oct 07, 2020 1:12 pm

If you have play in your steering wheel, in other words the steering wheel turns a little before the tire turns, you might want to examine the flexible coupling that attaches the steering column to the steering rack. I just replaced mine and it made a world of difference. Hope you have small hands.
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PostPost by: Flying Banana » Wed Oct 07, 2020 1:18 pm

Pete M wrote:If you have play in your steering wheel, in other words the steering wheel turns a little before the tire turns, you might want to examine the flexible coupling that attaches the steering column to the steering rack. I just replaced mine and it made a world of difference. Hope you have small hands.


If I hold the steering wheel, I can move this slightly up and down and side to side. The rotational play in the wheel is minimal.
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PostPost by: steve.thomas » Wed Oct 07, 2020 1:44 pm

This was the topic I was referring to.

viewtopic.php?f=42&t=18248
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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Wed Oct 07, 2020 6:45 pm

Flying Banana wrote:
Pete M wrote:If you have play in your steering wheel, in other words the steering wheel turns a little before the tire turns, you might want to examine the flexible coupling that attaches the steering column to the steering rack. I just replaced mine and it made a world of difference. Hope you have small hands.


If I hold the steering wheel, I can move this slightly up and down and side to side. The rotational play in the wheel is minimal.


There are a pair of plastic bushings within the column that are worn. This is a common issue.
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PostPost by: Lotus14S2 » Fri Oct 09, 2020 11:32 pm

If the car is well maintained it should not present any problems. My wife, Carol, had an early FHC, sort of a S2.5, which she drove to work about 30 miles each way in freeway traffic to downtown San Francisco, and the car never failed. We bought the car from a Lotus shop in Marin, so it was in pretty good shape when we bought it, and never had any of the problems associated with the other British cars we had owned (assorted MGs, Healys, and Triumphs).
When we sold the car to a man who owned some pretty expensive cars, like a Ferrari Lusso, and Rolls Royce; he said it was the best driving car in his collection, and also drove it to his place of work every day.
Carol bought a couple of GTVs after, but the Elan was a car she missed very much.
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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Sat Oct 10, 2020 6:01 am

Unless you are unlucky, most mechanical bits give you some warning they are going to let you down. Regular checks will spot splitting donuts, play in the swivels, dodgy bearings and so on.

I have always found it is ignition failures that leave you by the side of the road without warning. The best bit of advice I can think of (mentioned above) is to buy good quality ignition components. I can't recommend the 'Distributor Doctor' enough.
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PostPost by: alan.barker » Sat Oct 10, 2020 7:18 am

The Bushes in the colmn you have a choice with "Rimmer Bros" cheap rubbish ones or they have also a higher quality ones. Buy the higher quality ones.
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PostPost by: elanner » Sat Oct 10, 2020 12:37 pm

A related question might be: what was the last thing on your Elan that actually broke, so that it needed fixing before you could use the car? As opposed to a general restoration/enhancement/maintenance activity.

In my case:

The water pump. (Of course.)

I'm struggling to remember what was prior to that. The car has always been quite reliable.

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PostPost by: m750rider » Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:35 pm

"A related question might be: what was the last thing on your Elan that actually broke, so that it needed fixing before you could use the car? As opposed to a general restoration/enhancement/maintenance activity."

I agree with this.

I mean, what can go wrong that will get you stranded? They aren't complex cars.

Keep the ignition system in good shape and you should be trouble free.
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PostPost by: MrBonus » Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:54 pm

m750rider wrote:"A related question might be: what was the last thing on your Elan that actually broke, so that it needed fixing before you could use the car? As opposed to a general restoration/enhancement/maintenance activity."

I agree with this.

I mean, what can go wrong that will get you stranded? They aren't complex cars.

Keep the ignition system in good shape and you should be trouble free.


The closest I came to being stranded was a thermostat sticking closed. Fortunately, I happened to be about 200 yards from my house when I noticed the temperature continuing to rise and rise.

I also had a caliper stick about a half mile from my house. I made it home fine but there was quite a bit of smoke billowing from the driver's side wheel when I arrived.

Both issues I believe were symptoms on non-use from prior ownership.
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PostPost by: prezoom » Sun Oct 11, 2020 4:33 pm

The closest I ever became to being stranded in a Lotus, was on a 1500 mile tour, titled a Drive to the Center of the Earth, as Death Valley was included. Driving on Hwy 395 between Bishop and Lone Pine, I suddenly smelled the sweet smell of coolant hitting a hot surface, the exhaust, and immediately hit the clutch, shifted to neutral, and turned off the engine. For those not familiar with the area, it is half way between Nowhere and No Civilization. The rubber diaphragm in the heater valve had ruptured. In a stroke of luck, I was near a running stream, and with a pocket knife and a close to proper sized branch, I was able to carve a plug for both the hose and the valve. The knife proved useful along with the knock off hammer to destroy the rivet holding the valve together, which allowed me to disassemble the valve to insert another plug into the valve. A bit of barbed wire fence was used to secure the plug in the valve. A water bottle provided the means to make several trips to the stream for water. The plugs lasted for the rest of the tour, about 500 miles, and got me home safely. After getting home and looking for another valve assembly, I found that all of the valves of a similar type have the same internal guts, so any of the valves can be used to repair the old one. This is handy because you do not have to remove the main body of the valve from the cylinder head to make the repair. More bits have now been added to the repair kit in the trunk/boot.
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PostPost by: TBG » Sun Oct 11, 2020 9:44 pm

"In my case:

The water pump. (Of course.)"

Totally unnecessary if you fit the twin pulley system I have!! :D

DSC04780.JPG and
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PostPost by: Chrispy » Sun Oct 11, 2020 10:21 pm

I'm going to add the diff output shafts to the list of things that can leave you stranded. Only time any lotus of mine hasn't got me home.

I'm an advocate of points in the distributor as well! Spare set and a condensor in the glovebox will sort you out.
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PostPost by: tvacc » Sun Oct 11, 2020 11:39 pm

I have found that while a tight fan belt can contribute to a water pump failure, in my experience lack of use and having the seals take a set causes more issues.
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