Lotus Elan

Headlight vaccum mechanism is broken - fix or replace?

PostPost by: tdskip » Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:47 pm

Good morning. One of my '69 Elan headlight mechanisms doesn't hold vacuum when tested with a hand pump. From doing some searching here it appears that some owners convert to electrical systems when also faced with a vacuum failure, but I wanted to ask for some coaching on how to approach this.

I am under the impression, which could well be wrong, that vacuum repair options are limited.

I see that Paul Matty has an electric conversion kit...

Thanks in advance for the thoughts.
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PostPost by: HCA » Tue Jun 02, 2020 2:18 pm

Electric!
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PostPost by: alan.barker » Tue Jun 02, 2020 2:42 pm

No stay with original system.
Test each part for leaks one at a time no problem.
First bypass "T" on Chassis to see if still a leak.
Second remove each headlamp vacuum unit and test by putting a little air pressure and submerging in bucket of water.
Third bypass vacuum switch at dashboard.
I have found most leaks are at the bottom of headlamp vacuum units has rusted, these can fixed with resin and grp matt.
You can also buy a vacuum solenoid valve and convert so it's like the last Elans made.
I have a high quality solenoid vacuum valve which i could sell to you if you like.
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PostPost by: nmauduit » Tue Jun 02, 2020 2:52 pm

tdskip wrote:I am under the impression, which could well be wrong, that vacuum repair options are limited.


my first thought was vacuum repair options may be limited, but electric failure possibilities are infinite...

if your crossmember holds vacuum and only one pod is faulty I would seriously consider just fixing what does not work...

If by any luck you just have a tiny bit of rust on the vacuum side of the pod (the bottom, as in some cases water can find its was inside the pods), this could be plugged by fiberglass (one layer is enough for pinholes, even localized depending on how you want it to look after repair before a coat of black, or just epoxy glue for a quick fix). If the rubber membrane has been damaged it's a bit more finicky to fix it, easiest would be to find a spare.

then you can also buy a miata...

---- edit :by the time I typed that up I see I'm not the only one for trying to fix first ...
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PostPost by: tdskip » Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:23 pm

Thank you for the responses. Let me do some more digging into the one passenger side) that is not working.
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PostPost by: Unibrain » Tue Jun 02, 2020 4:09 pm

alan.barker wrote:I have a high quality solenoid vacuum valve which i could sell to you if you like.


I've been thinking about changing to a solenoid valve because my manual valve leaks a bit. Can you give the details on the valve, Part Number and manufacturer?
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PostPost by: alan.barker » Tue Jun 02, 2020 4:34 pm

asco solenoid.JPG and

IMG_0101.JPG and

The valve is made by "Ascojoucomatic.fr"
Vannes and Electrovannes page V543 N`374. This has Viton Seals better than Lotus original.
Alan
ps. this is a 3 port valve
Last edited by alan.barker on Wed Jun 03, 2020 7:26 am, edited 2 times in total.
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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:02 pm

I got fed up with replacing vacuum pods. My car had the failsafe system where the headlamps pop up if the vacuum system fails, this uses just one pod and the 2 headlamps are connected by a balance bar. The problem with this system is that the vacuum pod is always under load when the car is running and any minute leaks cause the headlamps to quickly raise when the car isn’t running. A +2 is Fugly with headlamps up, but nobody notices in the dark :mrgreen:

Couple this with the dubious quality of modern day replacement pods and it became a yearly occurrence or twice a year in the one instance that made me swap to a Miata/MX5 electric lifter. I put one electric lifter in the place of the vacuum pod along with some rose jointed linkage, the result 6 or 7 years later is still working perfectly and is the system designed by me offered by Spyder and also sold by Matty and others. Others have used the mx5/miata lifters using their own design of linkage, I don’t think anyone has been tempted to go back to the original.
Kindest regards

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PostPost by: HCA » Tue Jun 02, 2020 9:56 pm

Spyder fan wrote:...and is the system designed by me offered by Spyder and also sold by Matty and others..


I salute you Sir, and say thankyou 8)
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PostPost by: Gordon Sauer » Tue Jun 02, 2020 10:55 pm

In another recent thread I was touting that I vacuum tested my crossmember and my solenoid switch and my pod and was pleased that they all held vacuum—so believing that it was just a lack of a hearty one-way valve which I put between the solenoid and the crossmember. Well I just got it all together the other day and the lights still come up pretty quickly (engine off) although not as quick, maybe a couple hours down, but my goal is having them stay down at least the length of a car show!—lots of negative comments. So now maybe electric is the thing to do particularly since I have seen the solenoid switch for like 300 I think and the pod for about the same, leading to $600 to replace those two components, yikes. Gordon Sauer
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PostPost by: disquek » Wed Jun 03, 2020 3:11 am

There is no answering this question without seeing the car. It could be a simple cracked hose. But more likely, it's a half century plus old system that depends on perfect seals to operate.

After replacing the hoses, check valve, etc, I decided to convert to a Miata based electric setup (I built it myself from used parts). Now I don't count the hours before the lights pop up. They work when I want them to. Simple as that. I love the Elan, but unpredictable headlights ... not so much. In my case I think the issue was the unobtainium switch seals.

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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Wed Jun 03, 2020 6:23 am

HCA wrote:
Spyder fan wrote:...and is the system designed by me offered by Spyder and also sold by Matty and others..


I salute you Sir, and say thankyou 8)


Nicest thing anyone has said to me on here for a while :)

I gifted the design and the wiring hookup to Spyder, they improved on the bracketry and redesigned the balance bar which they already produced for the single pod setup. My only bonus was that they pulled out my system to understand it better and then reassembled with a heavier steel bracket and newly powder coated balance bar. Lots of people have fitted now and I’m pleased to have assisted in a small way. The DIY route will save some money if you have the time, here are some topics on here explaining the problems and pitfalls.
Kindest regards

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PostPost by: tdskip » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:33 pm

Thank you for the very helpful discussion, as usual, that you have offered on this topic. Doing some quick checking it appears that if my vacuum system needs repair it’s largely on me to fabricate that? In other words, rebuild kits for common problem areas do not appear to be readily available – do I have that correct?

Thank you.
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PostPost by: disquek » Wed Jun 03, 2020 2:03 pm

Smoke testers are likely the best way to find the leak. Proper ones are not cheap. There are some basic ones that burn mineral oil and use regulated air on amazon. Most repair shops have them. If you’re friendly with one, maybe they can hook it up and at least spot the leaks for you.

My issue was that in my case I’d replaced or rebuilt everything but the vacuum switch in the headlight switch. There are no parts available for that. So you’re limited to lapping the surfaces flat, having it replated, and hoping that the rubber seal is ok.

At that point it occurred to me that this was going to be a constant process of chasing leaks and that the electric route was less effort for a better result. I love working on the Elan. But not chasing vacuum leaks. Its worth saying that, for me, making the electric setup was fun.

I posted a thread with some pics of what I made.
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PostPost by: jimj » Wed Jun 03, 2020 2:32 pm

The thing is that when anyone asks a question regarding a modification of any sort, the replies will, inevitably, be from those who`ve done it who, obviously, have a favourable view. Those that have found the original design perfectly satisfactory have no axe to grind and don`t bother.

There again, I just did. The vacuum system is fine and any problems easy to locate and remedy.
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