Lotus Elan

No Spark

PostPost by: Lotus 50 » Mon May 08, 2023 2:26 pm

On Saturday my engine started missing and losing power. At the same time the radio began cutting on and off. And the tach started swinging to 8000 rpm, sometimes staying there. The real rpm was around 3000 and falling as the engine lost power.

This didn't last long, and everything shut down. A quick check showed that the battery connection had vibrated loose. It was easy enough to re-attach once my wife arrived with my tools. This brought back normal electrical function, except for spark.

I changed the plugs, but still not spark. And when I crank the engine, the tach rotates a little bit in the wrong direction.

Suggestions are most welcome.
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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Mon May 08, 2023 3:28 pm

Do you have a dynamo or an alternator, and do you have an electronic ignition system of some sort?

Alternators behave reasonably well if the battery is disconnected with the engine running, but the very basic electromechanical 'voltage control' used to control dynamos really needs to have a battery in circuit to maintain voltage stability. While it is tough to be specific, it is possible that the dynamo output went well above the normal battery voltage and has fried some of the electronics in the car - this would have been more likely if you didn't have lights, or wipers or the fan on.
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PostPost by: Lotus 50 » Mon May 08, 2023 3:40 pm

The car has an alternator and conventional point ignition
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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Tue May 09, 2023 5:30 am

Well, my first guess was pretty wide of the mark.

You will have to work through the ignition system systematically. If the points / coil aren't doing their thing properly, then the rev counter won't work. First step is to confirm you have a supply to one connection on the the coil with the ignition key switched on. If that is OK, check the points are 'making and breaking' a connection to ground on the other terminal of the coil when the engine is turned over. A low wattage bulb and a couple of bits of wire will do if you don't have a meter.

If that is all OK, remove the centre lead from the distributor cap and hold it close to an earthed lump of metal, and confirm you are getting a spark from the coil when the engine turns over.

This will test the low voltage side of the coil and the associated wiring, and will also confirm the coil is working OK.

Let us know how you get on.

Good luck.
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PostPost by: 2cams70 » Tue May 09, 2023 6:43 am

You may have fried something in the rev counter and since the rev counter is connected to the ignition system it may be preventing things from happening properly there. I suggest you disconnect the rev counter and then try starting the engine. Alternators don't like this kind of thing happening is my understanding. You may have blown the output diodes in it too. It shouldn't affect starting though. You'll know for certain once you have it running.
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PostPost by: Lotus 50 » Tue May 09, 2023 1:17 pm

I am thinking the tach as it was behaving weirdly before everything shut down.

Thanks for the ideas
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PostPost by: Lotus 50 » Thu May 25, 2023 6:52 pm

It's back from the repair shop but just temporarily. No start was due to bad points. But it still has an intermittent misfire and a tach that swings randomly in both directions. The shop told me that the distributor is worn and should be replaced. No surprise, it has 175,000 miles on the original distributor.

I have a new distributor on order. Once that's in place they will re-assess.
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PostPost by: 2cams70 » Thu May 25, 2023 11:24 pm

A worn distributor will normally not cause a misfire. The usual symptom is timing scatter and this will result in engine knocking at high RPM. If a new distributor fixes the problem it still probably is not the root cause - more likely it's due to something like cap, leads, condensor, etc.
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PostPost by: Sadbrewer » Fri May 26, 2023 12:35 am

Lotus50...We were in the Garage trade for over 40 years...My old man was capable of solving and repairing any fault whether mechanical or electrical that arose...sadly I am not.
We all like saving a few quid and there is always a buzz from fixing your own car ...but.. your car is worth X1000 pounds dollars euros ...unless you've owned it from new you do not know what a previous owner has done to 'modify' your electrics...I would seriously recommend you abandon the self fix principle, bite the bullet, and take it to an auto electrics professional to sort it out. ( if of course professionals who understand points, dynamo's, voltage control boxes etc still exist).
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PostPost by: Lotus 50 » Wed Jun 21, 2023 7:40 pm

My mechanic installed a new distributor, coil, and plug wires (old ones were only a few years old). It runs great. The tach is still non functional, but in a different way. Now it stays at 1500 rpm.

The old distributor was quite worn.
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PostPost by: Lotus 50 » Fri Jun 30, 2023 6:34 pm

Well that fix didn't last long. The engine started cutting out again yesterday. I will replace the tach next. A new one is in the mail.
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PostPost by: h20hamelan » Fri Jun 30, 2023 7:14 pm

Why not try a jumper between 12v solenoid connection and coil
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PostPost by: Lotus 50 » Sun Aug 06, 2023 5:11 pm

It’s been a while, but the new tach was installed on Thursday and I have the car back.

The good: 55 miles in and it runs great

The bad: For a few of those miles the tach read randomly

The curious: The mechanic got it running with no tach installed, but only after cleaning the new points in the new distributor.

The question: There was a resistor on the back of the old tach. What was it for? It was not re-installed.
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PostPost by: billwill » Mon Aug 07, 2023 6:07 pm

Normally there would not be a resistor on a current-pulse tachometer, but it might have been converted (eg Spyda) to Voltage-sensing, in which case the resistor might have been in series with the signal pickup connection.

On the other hand you might be confusing the voltage stabilizer with a resistor, the stabalizer is mounted on the tacho as a convenient grounding point, but has nothing to do with the tacho measuring.


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PostPost by: Lotus 50 » Wed Aug 09, 2023 8:07 pm

"Without a photo or more information, we can't really help you."

Fair enough, but my mechanic did not take pictures. I suspect I am confusing a stabilizer with a resistor. I take it the car would have had a stabilizer on the tachometer as built by Lotus?
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