Lotus Elan

Starter dead

PostPost by: LoTex » Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:43 pm

My S2 has an unusual set up in that there is a starter button on the left side of the dash (rhd car) rather than starting directly with the ignition key. The car was running well until last weekend; when I tried to go for the usual Sunday drive and pressed the starter button, nothing. No whirring sound of a failing starter motor, no sound at all. The battery is fine, the lights etc are getting power so that's not the problem. Any thoughts on what might be wrong?

Thanks,

Steve

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PostPost by: robertverhey » Sat Aug 24, 2013 11:08 pm

It shouldn't be too hard to isolate the fault, the starter circuit is fairly straightforward. The fault will either be in one of four components (starter motor, solenoid, ignition switch or starter button) or the wiring between two of these components.

Normally I'd start at the starter motor itself and see if it has any life when power is applied to the live terminal (with a jumper lead). if not, either the starter motor is cactus, or the engine is not properly earthed. If there's life, I'd then work my way back through the circuit to the solenoid, seeing if (with ignition on) current applied to the terminal with the white/red wire causes a connection. If so then i'd go to the ignition switch and see if the white/red terminal gets current when the key is fully turned. In your case however I'd probably check the starter button that's been installed at this stage.
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PostPost by: Pistacchio sprint 72 » Sun Aug 25, 2013 2:12 pm

If you have to get to the point where removing your starter become necessary i am interested to learn how you gonna do it.

I have a new pre engaged starter lying on my shelf for one year now and i do?t really understand how you could ever access the top screw holding the starter...

And not a single clue how you can screw it tight back
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PostPost by: JJDraper » Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:47 pm

Not sure if it is any easier for my +2, but my technique for getting at the top starter motor bolt is to use a correct size socket, extension bar and ratchet to engage the bolt head, reaching up from below. I can just about do the deed without removing the engine mounting. Usually takes about 5 minutes, but (given the car's oil leaks) is grubby work. Re-attachment in the same way - small arc of movement, but you can get enough leverage to get it tight.

Picture is a little fuzzy, but gives the idea...

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PostPost by: AHM » Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:59 pm

Do you have the type of starter solenoid (round) that you can press the rubber cover on the solenoid to operate it manually?

If that works take a piece of wire and operate it electrically at the solenoid. I'm not going to be more descriptive!

make sure the car is out of gear :wink:
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PostPost by: billwill » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:10 pm

Pistacchio sprint 72 wrote:If you have to get to the point where removing your starter become necessary i am interested to learn how you gonna do it.

I have a new pre engaged starter lying on my shelf for one year now and i do?t really understand how you could ever access the top screw holding the starter...

And not a single clue how you can screw it tight back



It is actually quite easy, you do it with a socket spanner plus your long and medium socket extension rods plugged in series into each other. it also helps if you have a socket set universal joint module and one further extension rod down to your T bar.

Socket -> extension -> extension > UJ -> extension -> T bar
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PostPost by: Pistacchio sprint 72 » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:13 pm

Where do you pass your hand?
From the top i guess. And you re between the carb and the rad?

The loooonnng extension pass over the dizzy till it find the bolt?
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PostPost by: billwill » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:18 pm

Pistacchio sprint 72 wrote:Where do you pass your hand?
From the top i guess. And you re between the carb and the rad?

The loooonnng extension pass over the dizzy till it find the bolt?



No you do it from underneath the car. Put the front wheels on ramps or the front on axle stands.

Don't undo the outer easy to get at motor securing bolt until you have taken out the top one, because otherwise the motor will drop on you. {been there, done that, it hurts}. On the outer (bottom one) it is relatively easy to support the starter motor while taking the bolt out.
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PostPost by: billwill » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:22 pm

billwill wrote:
Pistacchio sprint 72 wrote:Where do you pass your hand?
From the top i guess. And you re between the carb and the rad?

The loooonnng extension pass over the dizzy till it find the bolt?



No you do it from underneath the car. Put the front wheels on ramps or the front on axle stands.

Don't undo the outer easy to get at motor securing bolt until you have taken out the top one, because otherwise the motor will drop on you. {been there, done that, it hurts}. On the outer (bottom one) it is relatively easy to support the starter motor while taking the bolt out.


Best to disconnect the car battery too, just in case you have 'helpers' wandering around who say "what's this button for ?" and press the rubber bulge on the starter solenoid or fiddle with the ignition switch to turn your radio on?
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PostPost by: LoTex » Sun Aug 25, 2013 6:44 pm

AHM,

No, the solenoid appears to be an aftermarket model as it is not the one with the rubber cover nor does it appear to be the Lotus replacement model that mounts on the firewall. I did run a lead from the battery to the solenoid terminal and it arced but the starter did not turn over.

Robert,

I put a jumper on the starter connection and then onto the positive (earth) terminal of the battery and nothing happening. I then touched the negative terminal of the battery and the starter jumped, but still no response when I push the starter button after that.

As you guys can probably tell, even after many years of Elan ownership I still don't know much about the wiring system although I'm learning fast...

Thanks for your suggestions, any ideas what to do next? It's very hard to tell if there is a wiring issue with the starter button itself as it's behind the dash midway up in a very tight space, I'm not anxious to pull the dash off and find out that isn't the problem so I want to eliminate the other possibilities before I go to that step-

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PostPost by: AHM » Sun Aug 25, 2013 7:01 pm

Steve,
disconnect the starter lead from the solenoid.
Connect a bulb (or meter) in its place and then to ground.

When you do your normal starting sequence you should hear the solenoid clonk and the bulb should light.

Be careful of the other large terminal on the solenoid - it is a permanent unfused live to the battery.

The arcing could be the solenoid working... or not working. You would only know that it was dead if it didn't arc.
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PostPost by: billwill » Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:21 pm

You don't need to go all the way back to the battery to test the starter solenoid. As AHM says, the big black terminal on the solenoid is the fat live cable that goes back to the battery.

The medium thick brown wire is the feed from there (i.e from the battery) to the fuse box and onwards from there to all the other electrics.

The small terminal between the big cables is the actuating coil for the solenoid.

So all you need to do to test the solenoid is pull off the thick brown cable and the small cable on the centre connector then with care use a piece of wire about 3 inches long to tap between these two exposed contacts. On a working car that will close the solenoid and spin the starter (it won't start the engine because you disconnected the main feed to the ignition.

If it clicks but the motor doesn't spin you have a problem in the starter motor or the fat cables or the earth from engine to chassis.

If it doesn't click you have a problem in the earth of the solenoid or the solenoid is no good.

As AHM says, be very careful with that fa connector to the battery and the blade that you exposed pulling off the thick brown wire. That is a high current unfused connection direct to the battery. If you were to drop a spanner on it bridging to earthed metal it could MELT THE SPANNER... not kidding!!
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PostPost by: LoTex » Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:17 pm

Bill, AHM-

I followed your suggestions and made the connection to the solenoid with a wire and nothing happened so I think that is the problem- which would be great because it's the least expensive part and one I can replace myself. I don't have access to a lift so a new starter might be a bit much for me.

One more question- I noticed while doing these tests that when I turned the ignition on after a few minutes it was getting hot to the touch, as was the positive terminal on the battery. Any idea what is going on with this?


Thanks again for all your help!


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PostPost by: billwill » Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:28 pm

You have to first check the earth of the solenoid, it is a black wire connected to one of the bolts that secure the solenoid to the bulk head. the other end should connect somewhere to the chassis or to other black wires which in turn connect to the chassis.

Can't tell what the problem with your ignition switch is without more data, but it is very worrying, it should not get hot, it implies a short circuit somewhere in your system.

You neeed a multimeter. They are very inexpensive nowadays yey can get a very good one for between ?10 -> ?20

If/when you have one you can check that the solenoid is earth properly simply by selecting low OHMS and touching one probe to the solenoid body and the other probe to a bare spot on the chassis.
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PostPost by: billwill » Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:36 pm

Battery terminal getting hot implies a heavy current is flowing. You say ign key also gets hot which implies the short circuit is in the wiring after the switch.

If it was not the switch getting hot it might imply that the solenoid is working and conducting power to the starter motor, but the motor cog has jammed in the starter ring on the flywheel. That is a common fault on Lotus Elans.

You can sometimes free such a jammed starter motor, by putting it in bottom gear with ignition OFF and rocking the car to and fro. Sometimes it clicks when it comes unjammed. Next attempt to start then usually spins the starter motor OK.
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