Lotus Elan

S3 starter?

PostPost by: alfert » Tue May 31, 2016 4:44 pm

When I try to start my car, the key switch gets a clunk that I assume is the solenoid trying, but it will not turn over. The battery is fine. Actually car started once and then nothing since then. When I turn key on and push button on solenoid it does nothing at all?? Before I remove starter, is there a solenoid issue that I don't understand? Don't know why ket makes it engage and button does not... Any help is appreciated.
Thanks,
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PostPost by: RogerFrench » Tue May 31, 2016 6:26 pm

First thing I'd check is that the battery is well earthed, and that the connections on the terminals are good.
Connections that can carry enough load to energise the solenoid may not carry enough for the starter.
Then I'd check that the engine is well earthed to the chassis.
Your symptoms are exactly those of a battery that's down on power, or poor connections.

Incidentally, you seem to have misunderstood how the solenoid works. If it clunks with the key, the electromagnet has worked. When you push the button, your thumb replaces the electromagnet. No clunk.
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PostPost by: alfert » Tue May 31, 2016 8:09 pm

Thanks, the battery is newer and fully charged and the grounds are all good. When I started the car after sitting quite awhile, it had to crank a fair bit to get fuel. Then 30min. later it would not crank and I had it on the charger during that time and on a tender since. Glad to know the button would just engage the starter and I got nothing. There is power to the starter... I also rocked it in gear incase it was stuck??

Looks like I will have to take it out...
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PostPost by: billwill » Tue May 31, 2016 8:16 pm

With a heavy electric lead, such as an emergency battry jumper cable, connect one croc clip to the thick solenoid terminal that goes down to the starter motor.

Tap the other end of the cable to the thick solenoid terminal thatr comes from the battery.

By doing this you are bypassing the solenoid and feeding power directly to the starter motor. If it turns you know the problem is in the solenoid or its feed circuits.

IF the motor does not turn, your problem is either a defunct starter motor or a poor earth connection.
Bill Williams

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PostPost by: ElliottN » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:45 am

I had very occasional trouble (3 times in 8 years) with the original Lucas starter when the starter pinion would jam on the ring gear and not retract (prob due to wear/damage on teeth of the ring gear - which is now gone since engine rebuild, though so is the Lucas starter!).
When it happened it would present much as you have described.
Rocking the car in gear wouldn't free it in my case (in fact it was the clue to the prob as I couldn't turn it over by pushing, even in 4th) so I'd have to loosen/remove the starter enough to free everything up.

I remember my father having the problem with a Mk 1 Cortina back in the 60's.
His solution was to give the starter a whack with a hammer. Don't know if that was a good idea or not but there's no way to get any leverage with a hammer in an Elan engine bay anyway.
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PostPost by: seniorchristo » Wed Jun 01, 2016 10:54 am

I had a similar problem and was also able to solve it by loosening the starter bolts to free up the starter pinion gear.
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PostPost by: denicholls2 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 1:26 pm

I forget if the Elan starter is similar to that used on most Triumphs. This consists of a long shaft with a spring on the shaft that disengages the pinion gear by moving it down the shaft under normal conditions. When the starter is engaged, the gear is thrust up the shaft into engagement with the flywheel ring gear. Unlike larger American starters, the solenoid does not mechanically engage the pinion, motor jolt and the inertia of the gear do.

In my experience with that design, lubrication of the shaft components was critical or the initial "oomph" of the starter would fail to kick the pinion up the shaft and into place. The same problem also leads to grinding up the gears because the motor is at full tilt when the parts mesh with a weak engagement.

Bad news is you must remove the starter to address this otherwise simple problem. Bench testing will confirm the operation up the shaft is either smooth or not.

While a weak battery or connection results in the same problem, once the problem is bad enough it doesn't matter how much current is available because the gear will refuse to come out to play.
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PostPost by: RogerFrench » Wed Jun 01, 2016 3:08 pm

Do not be tempted by the prior post to lubricate your starter, except with the lightest dusting of graphite powder.
Oils or greases are a big No-no!
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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Thu Jun 02, 2016 2:57 am

denicholls2 wrote:I forget if the Elan starter is similar to that used on most Triumphs. ....


The starter is the same as almost all English cars of the period. The specific one used on the Elan is the same as used on the 850 Mini. The flange mounting center to center bolt circle is the difference.

I have had all of the issues discussed earlier, so I replaced with a Gustofson reduction starter based on an 89 toyota with a clockable adapter flange.
There is no cure for Lotus, only treatment.
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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:19 am

RogerFrench wrote:Do not be tempted by the prior post to lubricate your starter, except with the lightest dusting of graphite powder.
Oils or greases are a big No-no!


Roger is right. Dust from the clutch sticks to any oil or grease on the Bendix throwout spiral, clogging it up. Probably the biggest cause of the starter not engaging.
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