Lotus Elan

S4 Starting problems

PostPost by: collins_dan » Sun Jun 04, 2017 11:45 pm

For the last couple of months, I would occasionally turn the key to start the car and nothing would happen. UsualIy I would just try again and it would start. Last week, a second, third or fourth try did nothing. I checked the forum and got some good suggestions for what to try. When I turn the key with the lights on and it doesn't start, the lights don't dim. When it starts, the lights almost go out when it catches. So I thought it was something with the ignition. Checked everything over and all seemed fine. I even turned on the factory kill switch in the glovebox and when I turned the key the horn went off, so I decided maybe it was something else. The other suggestion was maybe the starter was jamming, so put it in second rocked the car and the car started. While waiting for my new starter to arrive, rocking in 2nd worked every time. I just finished installing the new starter, and guess what, it is still doing it. Argh! I took the back cover off the old starter just out of curiosity and all seems fine. Suggestions appreciated. Dan
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PostPost by: mbell » Mon Jun 05, 2017 12:55 am

My first thought was ignition barrel/lock but the horn sounding every time with the switch suggests it not that.

So I'd be checking the starter solenoid out. Testing if you get 12v to the starter when key is turned, checking the voltage drop across it when the car is/isn't starting. Checking 12v always appears on the input when the key is turned etc.
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PostPost by: collins_dan » Mon Jun 05, 2017 1:33 am

No solenoid, it's a gear reduction starter. I just cleaned up the main ground and of course it started, but we'll see if that continues. The one thing I should note is that when I turn the key, I can hear the gear being pushed in and hitting something. My guess is that it is not pushing in all the way and by rocking the car in gear, it moves the position of the engine just enough that it pushes all the way in. Thanks, Dan
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PostPost by: nmauduit » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:46 am

just a thought : did you make sure that the new starter pinion and starter ring are matching (9 tooth for 110 tooth ring // 10 for 135 // cf. lotus-electrical-f38/ring-gear-and-starter-pinion-t30140.html)
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Mon Jun 05, 2017 10:12 am

I had the exact same problem with a gear reduction starter that, ultimately, came from Gustafson (sp?) I
had a long talk with him about it and he said it's possible the contacts in the starter are not fully seated and
do not, occasionally , make contact where they are supposed to make contact. This is all 'generally speaking'
since its been a few years now and don't remember all the details He wouldn't cover it under warranty, but he has kit to retrofit to fix this. Kit was many $$$.

I since binned the starter and fitted the Lucas OEM starter and not had a problem since. Have not had a
problem EVER, in my ownership (39 yrs) with the OEM starter. I just thought I'd try the gear reduction
starter because 'it was the thing to do, at the time'.

If you're not running high compression, or super advanced timing, I don't see an advantage. It's only
one pound lighter and a real bugger to fit and remove.

Of course, if it's not from Keith Gustafson, and one of a different brand/type, then ignore all I've said :-)
I'm not here to disparage Keith and his products but I don't remember the brand of the starter, other than
it came from his stock, via a vendor.
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PostPost by: collins_dan » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:30 pm

Thanks, Greg. Both the new and old are Gustafson. It seems hard to believe that both could have the same issue, but its possible.

Having no formal training in cars, can someone explain how the starter works? It seems that the electricity from the ignition pushes the gear into a gear attached to the engine, then the battery power kicks in and turns the engine over, once it catches, turning back the key causes the gear to pull back out of the way. So if that is basically correct, how does the starter deal with the gear on the back of the engine if it is not perfectly lined up? Does it just push in with enough power to rotate the gear enough so that it gets fully in, which then starts turning the engine over? A brief education would be appreciated.

I've been thinking about Matt's suggestion, if I wanted to check voltage to the starter with no solenoid, would I check the ignition line and just use the block as the ground?

Thanks, Dan
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PostPost by: prezoom » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:40 pm

When doing the flywheel/ring gear/starter conversion, I ran into a similar problem with a pre-engaged starter that came with the car. I could get the solenoid to operate, but there was no battery getting to the starter motor. What I found was the solenoid was not moving the high power contact far enough to make contact and get battery to the motor. It took a bit of fussing about, to get things working.
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PostPost by: vxah » Mon Jun 05, 2017 4:33 pm

That's pretty damn close Dan, the small gear on the starter shaft has a spring between it and the solenoid that shoves it in. If things don't line up correctly the solenoid that is powered by the start switch will continue to travel but compress the spring rather than slide the teeth into mesh, when the solenoid hits the main power contacts for the motor and the motor starts to turn the small gear will drop in and you have them meshed..
I have had a starter in the past with a solenoid that was too weak to compress the spring resulting in the contacts not being made whenever the gears didn't line up! Im thinking on a car that was wired for a separate solenoid to power an inertia starter, could the thin cable cause a voltage drop at the pull in solenoid when a pre-engaged one is fitted?
My car seemed to "eat" batteries and starter motors so I fitted a gear starter and re-wired the solenoid feed from the switch bypassing the old solenoid.. didn't like the unnecessary clunk it made ;-)
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PostPost by: collins_dan » Mon Jun 05, 2017 5:25 pm

Thanks. I checked the battery last night and it was reading 12.4 volts. Sounds like I need to check voltage at the starter. There is a brown wire also going to the same connection post as the battery. I'm now wondering what that is? Dan
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PostPost by: Galwaylotus » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:42 pm

collins_dan wrote:Thanks. I checked the battery last night and it was reading 12.4 volts. Sounds like I need to check voltage at the starter. There is a brown wire also going to the same connection post as the battery. I'm now wondering what that is? Dan

The brown cable is the main supply to the rest of the vehicle.
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PostPost by: mbell » Mon Jun 05, 2017 8:11 pm

How do you have the starter wired?

Do you have two connections to the starter (power and ign/start) or single switch power with bridge wire to ign/start connection on the starter(then use solenoid on bulk head)?
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PostPost by: collins_dan » Mon Jun 05, 2017 8:52 pm

two connections to the starter (power and ign/start)
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PostPost by: mbell » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:26 pm

Oh ok, I was assuming still using a bulk head mounted solenoid....

I'd suggest checking you have good connection on the power + ground to the starter and that the ign/start accurately reflects the key position with a test lamp (or meter) between ign/start on the starter and ground. It should light every time you turn the key. You could disconnect the main start power supply so you don't have to start stop the engine to test.

I'd also probably try operating the ign/start connection on the starter with a jump lead rather than via the ignition key to make sure it isn't a poor connection limiting current/voltage supplied to the ign/start connection on the starter.
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PostPost by: collins_dan » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:51 pm

The ground for the starter is the engine, so my thought was to disconnect the ignition wire and connect multi-meter to it and the engine mount, turn the key and see if I get 12v, per your earlier email. If I don't, then using the same ground location, I will check the voltage at the ignition switch to see if that is any better.
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PostPost by: prezoom » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:22 am

I know it's a PITA to remove the starter, but I would fit in a bench vise, and using jumper cables, connect the starter to a known good battery. Use a remote starter button between the battery connection on the starter and the solenoid connection. If the solenoid operates, you can hear and feel it, and the electric motor does not spin, remove the battery connections and the solenoid and see if the two power transfer contacts are in fact making contact. If they are, then try connecting power directly to the motor and see if it spins. By this time you should know where the problem is. It is possible that if the power transfer contacts are not making a solid connection, arcing may occur. This could eventually build up deposits, which may effectively act an an insulator. If you find deposits, try cleaning them and start over with the testing.
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