Lotus Elan

Why does it always happen in three's?

PostPost by: Orsom Weels » Fri May 12, 2017 12:26 pm

An often quoted old wives tale in these parts says that bad luck always comes in three's. That seems to have been the case for me recently.
A couple of nights ago, Mrs O & I had our local Norton owners club meeting to go to. We had quite a lot of stuff to take along in readiness for an upcoming event we have, so two up on the Commando was not an option. We decided as it was a lovely evening, we'd go in the plus 2, but I opened the garage door only to find it sitting there with it's O/S/R corner slumped down & the corresponding tyre completely flat. Not having the time to mess about changing it, we had a quick change of plan & instead, loaded up the Elan & set off in that. About half way through our 26 mile journey, I caught the distinct smell of petrol, Mrs O commented on this at about the same time, so I pulled off the road to investigate. I soon found the problem, fuel was dripping from the fuel pipe between the 'T' piece & the rear Webber at quite a rate. Both pipe clips were tight, so I figured it must be the pipe had split. After removal, it became clear that the pipe was beginning to disintegrate, I can only assume the Ethanol had got to it, a bit annoying as I had replaced all the pipes less than two years ago with a supposedly ethanol safe product. Within a few minutes of stopping, and one of the things I love about driving/riding a classic vehicle in this country, two people had stopped to offer help, one of whom turned round, drove back home and returned about 20 minutes later with a roll of new fuel pipe. We replaced the offending pipe, and were back on our way. The next day, I replaced the rest of the pipes & added a length of spare pipe to the 'emergency' kit in the boot. I checked round to make sure there were no other visible gremlins looking for somewhere to wreak havoc, and decided while on a roll, now was a good time to adjust the ever diminishing hand brake. I raised the rear wheels just off the ground safely under the A frames so the weight was still on the suspension, only to find the O/S/R wheel didn't want to spin freely, the car is on CV joint drive shafts, but it felt more like it had rotoflexes with the suspension on full droop, and it was trying to push the diff housing to the left as it went tight. The N/S/R would spin quite freely, so obviously something was amiss. I figured it must be in one of the CV's, so removed the drive shaft for investigation. In the tin cover part of the inner joint, I could detect an outward ball shaped dent, so removed the gaiter & tin cover to find one of the balls floating about loose. It had somehow escaped from the cage & was getting caught up occasionally as the joint rotated, the tin cover preventing it from falling away into the gaiter. I cleaned everything carefully, and could see no other signs of damage, so re-inserted the ball to where it should have been, packed it with fresh grease, reassembled everything, and all seems to be well, no noises, no notchyness, and no play. I have no idea how or when the ball escaped, the car drove and sounded perfectly normal, and would roll freely and easily if pushed. It was only when jacked that I could detect the problem, I guess even though I lifted under the A frame, it changed the suspension angle just enough to cause the interference. Fingers crossed, no harm done, but I dread to think what could have happened.
As that would seem to be the three things, hopefully I can look forward to a trouble free rest of the year :lol:

Regards, Tim
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PostPost by: ericbushby » Fri May 12, 2017 1:59 pm

Tim,
Wow, that is rather alarming. Although my car is still on Rotoflex couplings I am considering a CV conversion.
What type of droop limitation have you got. I have heard that the Kelvedon shafts have a limit of 22 degrees.
Regardless of how you jack up the car, the limit system is supposed to protect the shaft joints from damage.
Cheers
Eric in Burnley
1967 S3SE DHC
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PostPost by: Orsom Weels » Sat May 13, 2017 9:24 am

Hi Eric,

To the best of my knowledge, there is no droop limitation, the suspension is all std original Lotus spec With no droop limit cables or anything else visible. The shafts are Mick Miller items & were fitted by the PO in the early 2000's when he rebuilt the car & before there had been any concerns about such issues. The car has been well used & done many many miles with no problems & both the PO & myself have always been careful when jacking the rear. As said, I have no idea how or when the ball managed to escape, this was the first time I had jacked the rear of the car for ages, & I've never jacked it allowing full suspension drop, so it must either have happened in service, or been like it for a long time. Getting the ball back in involved deflecting the joint way past anything it would see even at full drop. This little incident has made me wonder if I should look at reducing the suspension travel somehow, there seems to be a few options available, or converting back to Rotoflexes. I wouldn't hesitate to do the latter if it wasn't for the concerns over the quality.

The good news is that after the best part of a 100 mile round trip last night, everything was fine, so it appears no harm done.

Regards, Tim
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PostPost by: ericbushby » Sat May 13, 2017 10:11 am

Hi Tim, Ah! perhaps that explains it.
I believe that Sue Miller stopped selling shafts for the Elan because of this type of problem. it does not occur on the plus two because the wider wheelbase reduces the maximum angle of the joint.
I wonder if a momentary lift of one wheel on a tight uphill corner or a hump back bridge could cause the ball to pop out.
I am shortly due to fit shafts to mine, perhaps next winter now, which is why I was concerned.
I have not decided which method of droop limit to use yet. If the shock absorbers will come apart, I will fit internal spacers, and if not, I will probably shorten the shafts. These shocks have only done about 6000 miles so do not need replacing.
Thanks for the explanation
Regards, Eric
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PostPost by: Orsom Weels » Sun May 14, 2017 9:45 am

Hi Eric,

Yes, Sue did stop selling her drive shaft conversions because of problems with the CV's, but it was more because she could no longer source correct original GKN joints & the replacement pattern copies were not made to exactly the same spec & dimensions & would bind up on full suspension drop. Kelsport now supply them with a reduced travel shock to minimise the problem.
After a good look at them again yesterday after a good run, I'm happy to report that everything still seems fine, no damage done other than the dent in the tin cover. I haven't took off over any humped back bridges, nor have I had a wheel lift in hard cornering, I don't drive like that on public roads & it's never been on a track. Further investigation also seems to confirm that even at full drop, there is no way the joint deflects enough to let a ball fall out, I had to to remove it from the shaft to get a bit more movement to allow me to refit the escaped ball, so still a mystery as to how that happened. Both sides will rotate smoothly & without any resistance on full drop, suggesting that the original joints do have enough movement to cope with the elans drive shaft angles, as Sue has always maintained. I will continue to keep an eye on things, but for now I'm at a loss for an explanation.

Regards, Tim
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PostPost by: ericbushby » Sun May 14, 2017 10:55 am

Tim, yes, I see your point. The early ones like yours were OK and didn`t need droop limiters then.
That makes sense.
Cheers
Eric
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