Common Problems

Difficulty Fueling an Esprit All Esprits have what are know as "saddle tanks". This means that there are two smaller fuel tanks (one on either side of the engine compartment) instead of one larger one. The tanks sit below the rear quarter windows and are connected together via a balancing pipe that runs between the bottom of the two. This pipe and the addition of a gas cap on both sides of the car make the Esprit one of the few cars in existence with the convenience of being re-fueled from either side of a gas pump.

The diameter of the balancing pipe in the older Giugiaro Esprit seems to be slightly smaller than that of the Peter Steven's Esprit. This combined with a different angle of the filler pipe conspires to make fueling an older Esprit quite a chore.

Many owners have come up with varied techniques to speed up the fueling process. Most of the variations of these involve keeping both gas caps open to allow air to escape more freely as fuel displaces the air in the tanks.

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Fuel Smell (Surgical Tubing Syndrome) In addition to being connected from below via the balancing pipe, Esprit's saddle tanks are also connected from above with a fuel vent hose. This hose helps gather fuel vapors from both tanks and route them to the charcoal canister. The hose travels along the inner top of the rear quarter windows, and over the rear window, where it is covered by some carpet trim.

Unfortunately, Lotus' reputation for choice in tubing material is almost as bad as its reputation for vehicle electrical components (Lucas). The tubing in question is described as surgical or fish-tank tubing. In this particular application, it is about 1/2 inch inner diameter and has a pale yellow color. Within a few years, the tubing material begins to rip, tear, or disintegrate. As this happens, fuel vapors escape the hose and can be smelled quite strongly as they enter the cabin via the seat belt holes on the bulkhead (firewall).

Luckily, not only is this problem very easy to fix, but it can be beneficial when it comes to negotiating the purchase of a used car. Most people selling used Esprits don't know enough about them to know that this isn't a serious problem, so they may be willing to discount the car further.

The simple solution is to remove the old tubing and replace it. Hopefully you will replace it with a higher quality fuel line instead of with the genuine Lotus replacement part. This way you can avoid having to repeat the repair in a few years.

I used regular fuel line or oil cooler hose material. Getting the right size is tricky. If you get the same inner diameter as the original hose, the outer diameter will be too large due to the increased thickness of this type of hose. The problem is that the hose won't fit correctly in the channel underneath the carpet. I used 3/8-inch fuel line instead. It was definitely a smaller diameter than the original but since it only is supposed to carry vapors, I figured the increased restriction would not be a big deal. The hose attaches to a plastic right angle elbow on each end. I replaced these with brass elbows and hose clamps of the right diameter to make the hose fit properly.

When you're done, re-glue the carpet with contact cement and you're done. Some people have recommended driving a few black oxide #8 self-tapping screws through the carpet into the plywood/fiberglass (not into the hose). They hide in the carpet pile. If you have trouble fixing the carpet in place, you could try this as well. However, I have found that if you are careful when you remove the original tubing and only peel back as little carpet as you need for access, you won't need to do this.

If the fuel smell won't go away after this repair, you may be dealing with the very sad (and expensive) proposition of a rusted fuel tank. But always try the cheaper fix first and pray for good results.

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Horn Problems (Sad Cow Horn Disease) On some Esprits, the horn stops functioning or sounds sick (like a sad cow). The horn in Esprits prior to 94MY is actually an air horn. It is made up of three basic parts: an air compressor and two trumpets as well as the tubing that interconnects them. The sad cow problem is usually related to the horn trumpets and is an easy fix.

The hard part is locating the parts. The compressor is located inside the front-left wheel arch. To get to it, open the bonnet (hood), and locate the windscreen washer fluid tank, it is aft of the left headlamp pod. Lift the tank up and move it out of the way. The compressor is located behind the tank's mounting bracket and is held in place with one bolt. It has an electrical connector and 2 air connectors. One connector (the one that has the 90 degree bend in it) is the air intake into the compressor. This one should not have anything connected to it. The straight air connector has a piece of that wonderful Lotus surgical tubing connecting it to the horns.

The tubing goes through the body in 2 very inaccessible places (I wouldn't want to try to replace it if I were you). If you have an Esprit SE or newer, it goes down in front of the left oil cooler (which has twin coolers). The panel where the horns are located is accessed underneath the front left corner of the vehicle. The horns are comprised of 2 diaphragms and 2 trumpets (D major and E major).

The tubing goes into a "T" that splits it so that it can feed both horns. I disconnected the horns from the "T" and hooked them up one at a time directly to the air compressor (i.e. the air pressure wasn't being split up between the two horns). They sounded sick, but even more interesting, with all this air pressure (2X), lots of junk started pouring out of the trumpets. The "junk" looked mostly like the white dusty oxidation that you get sometimes on certain metals as they corrode.

My next experiment was to connect each trumpet, individually to a bicycle foot pump. Doing this, I realized that it took an unusual amount of pressure to get a sound out of the trumpets. So I took 409 Glass and Surface cleaner (don't laugh) and I shot it down into each trumpet to clean them out. As the foot pump started pushing out all sorts of interesting bubbles from the trumpets (you can laugh now), I noticed that the pressure needed to make the horn sound got easier with each try.

My guess is that the road dirt, corrosion and other crud was keeping the diaphragms from doing their intended job. Anyway, once I cleaned both trumpets thoroughly, it barely took any pressure to make them work. I hooked them back up using the "T" and Voila! It was fixed.

Starting with the Esprit S4, Lotus replaced the air horns with standard GM units. This means there is no longer a separate air compressor. Unfortunately, this also mean that the classic European car horn sound is now gone. The horn now sounds like a higher-pitched Buick. Oh well, at least it won't sound like a sick cow any more.

By the way: Lotus likes to hide things into wheel arches. Examples of other things that Lotus hides in wheel arches are Barometric Air Pressure sensor in the right rear, and left and right manual fuel flap releases on either side. Four cylinder Esprits with the newer revised engine wiring harness also have the rear relay and fuse box relocated to the rear right hand side wheel arch.

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Window Motors (Dead Switch Disease) If your power windows stop working, work intermittently, or work in "ghost-mode" where the go up and down on their own, don't immediately conclude that the window motor is dead. Many Esprit owners have gone through the same experience in the past. It turns out that the more common culprit is the window switch and not the motor itself. So which would you rather try to test and replace first?

If it turns out to be your motors after all, list member Tim Miller rebuilt his window motors and wrote detailed steps on the procedure. Here's what he did:

First, the things you'll need: 

    1. A Phillips head screwdriver - used to get the door panel off 
    2. Both a 10mm and a 11mm sockets 
    3. A star head screwdriver (I don't know what size) - this is to separate the motor from the gear section. 
    4. Some sort of instant bond or super glue.  I used "Instant Bond" from Radio Shack -- $1.59. 
    5. Some sort of lube oil, like "WD-40".  I used "Slick 50: Oil One". 
    6. (optional) a very fine sandpaper or soft scrub and a toothbrush. 
First, I'll assume you know how to take the door panel off.  (If not, read that elsewhere on this Fact File.)  After this, disconnect the two door panel electrical connectors and the motor lead wires (the latter should be a green wire connected to a slate/light green wire and a red wire connected to a slate/pink wire)

Next, remove the four nuts holding the whole window lift assembly to the door crossbar with your 10mm socket.  NOTE:  In order to remove the bottom bolt, your socket's inner hole must be big enough to go over the screw (test it on one of the upper screws to make sure that it does).  Next carefully remove the assembly from the door and CAREFULLY slip the arm roller from the window holder.  Next, remove the four bolts that secure the lift bracket to the lift assembly with the 11mm socket.  Now, remove the three bolts that hold the arm assembly to the motor assembly with the 10mm socket.

Now for the rebuild: Remove the two star-headed screws to separate the motor from the gear and CAREFULLY pull the motor out -- you may have to rotate the gear manually to get the motor out clean.  Now the fun begins. The plastic housing and set it aside -- out of the way.  Now, pull the motor out of the casing.  If the two magnets came out with the motor, this is the cause of the motor failure.  When the magnets are right up against the motor, it can't move and so it seizes.

All right, you now want to clean the housing and both magnets THOROUGHLY.  I used soft scrub and a toothbrush.  If there is a lot of rust, you might want to use fine sandpaper to get it off.  After these pieces dry, add an appropriate amount of glue to the magnet (i.e.. one drop per square inch) and place them into the housing.  Make sure that the magnets are lined up correctly and pushed all the way to the bottom.  While you are waiting for the glued to set up (make sure you let it set a little longer than even the glue manufacturers recommend) check the two copper leads on the plastic housing.  They are the two small copper blocks that are loaded on either side of the housing's inner circle.  If there is any corrosion, clean it off, usually with VERY fine sandpaper.

All right, now that the glued has set up (you did wait long enough, didn't you? Try to pry them off with your fingers to be sure), spray a small spot of the lube onto each magnet.  It's o.k. to let the excess stay on the bottom, it'll help lube the bottom part of the mast on the motor.  Now push the motor into the casing between the magnets, making sure that it goes ALL the way to the bottom.  Try to rotate the motor with your hands.  It won't necessarily spin like a top, but it should be possible to crank it gripping the copper ring below the "screws" of the motor.  Do this for a little while to let the lube distribute evenly across both magnets.

Now for the hard part: In order to get the plastic/electrical piece back on, you must push the two copper leads outward so that they fit over the copper ring below the "screw" of the motor.  This can be tricky, but DO NOT FORCE THE HOUSING, this could ruin the leads, and all your hard work will have become much harder (I found this out first hand).  Now slip that rubber "gasket" over the motor casing from the bottom up and place it between the plastic housing and the motor casing upper lip.  Next, carefully place the gear assembly back on the top of the motor assembly.  Again, you might have to turn the gear manually to get it in correctly.  After you screw the two star-headed screws back into place, it is time to check to see if you were successful.  First, connect the motor back up to the electrical system -- green to slate/light green and red to slate/pink.  Then you have to connect both of the door panel electrical connectors back up.  Now for the moment of truth: start the car or turn the key to the on position and try the switch. Your gear should be turning.  If not, either the magnets weren't the problem, i.e. the motor is "burned out", or something went wrong in one of the above steps remove the gear again and make sure that the motor still turns freely between the magnets.  If it doesn't you'll have to go all the way back to the beginning of the rebuild section (maybe you didn't wait long enough for the glued to set) or, more lube is needed.

Disconnect all the electrical connections, and re-attach first the arm assembly (you may have to shift the arm a little to get it to match up with the gear) and then the lift holding bracket.  If you can't remember which bolts go where, the 10mm heads hold the motor assembly to the arm assembly, and the 11mm heads hold the lift assembly to the lift holding bracket. Reinsert the arm roller back into the window holder and replace the whole lift assemble onto the three bolts on the door cross-bar.  This is another of those tricky jobs, but be careful -- you wouldn't want to damage your hard work, would you?  Replace the nuts that hold the lift assembly to the door cross bar not forgetting to re-attach the grounding terminal to the forward, top bolt.  I recommend that you close the door while tightening these down, else you might not be able to close it later (again, I'm speaking from first hand experience).  Reconnect all of the electrical connectors and try the window again.  If it doesn't work, something may have caused the magnets to come loose and you'll have to try again, or there is something wrong with the arm (I'm sorry that I can't be any help in that situation).  If everything checks out, make sure that the electrical connectors are inside the door and put the door panel back on.  If everything has gone as planned, you now have a workable window and CONGRATULATIONS, you've just saved yourself a bundle of money.  If not, I'm sorry, but I tried. 

Steve Brightman added the following points:

1. Before removing the motor assembly get the window glass into the desired position and clamp it there. On the newer Esprits (Steven's body) this seems best in or near the fully "up" position. On the older Esprits, if I recall correctly, there is a cutout in the bottom side of the glass carrier piece to allow egress of the roller on the end of the actuator arm. Position the glass so the roller is near here. Now take some vise-grips and clamp them to the aluminum runner just underneath the point where the glass carrier and its four plastic rollers are located. This will stop the window from dropping as you remove the motor assembly. (Be careful not to deform the runner!).

2. Once the motor is out of the way, you may want to move the glass up and down and check there is no binding. If there is binding you have the delightful task of fiddling with the door frame and spacer washers until you get it right. If you've ever had to do this I know you'll never lean on an Esprit door frame again - and will probably inflict grievous bodily harm on anyone you catch doing this!

3. Once you have removed the lift bracket and BEFORE you take out the three bolts securing the motor - clamp the lift arm to the motor support 
bracket (use a second pair of vice grips in a suitable location which will not deform anything). Otherwise once the motor is removed the spring in the 
mechanism is free to swing the lift arm around.

4. When reassembling do not over-tighten the three bolts, they are screwing into really wimpy metal in the motor casing.

Now some notes on my specific problem: The problem was not binding or the motor itself. Nor did I have any broken teeth on the inner gear wheel as I suspected. I did find there was a clutch of sorts embedded in the gear wheel but it wasn't that either. In fact when I cranked up the motor everything was fine in both directions. Only when I re-attached the lift arm did the problem become evident. At certain points of the travel the worm gear was actually disengaging from the plastic (bevel?) gear producing the nasty rasping sound. I can only conclude this is due to wear on the plastic teeth. So, before you put it back in the car check this sub-assembly first.

I also figured out the purpose of the screw on the top of the gear unit. On other units I have seen this screw with a lock nut. Mine is too short for that - no idea why. Anyway it seems to function to stop the worm gear from lifting itself off the motor spindle. It should be snugged down but not too tight or it will load down the motor. It also is a convenient way to introduce some lubrication into the mechanism - judging by what was in there I guess this would be grease.

If you're interested in having your window motors professionally rebuilt, you can send them to South Florida Window Lift. They usually charge about $90 to rebuilt one motor, which is far cheaper than buying a new one.

Click here to see a step-by-step guide to removing the door trim and accessing the window motors.

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Limited Legroom Legroom on the Esprit is very limited. To help alleviate the problem, you can attempt the following:

On the floor there is a throttle stop, that is the first step. Remove it. Replace it with a flat piece of aluminum glued or otherwise fastened to the floor. This will keep the throttle stop bolt from punching a hole though the floor board.

Next, peel back the carpet and loosen the throttle cable hold down and pull/slide it towards the front of the car. (It probably would be a good idea to loosen the adjustment in the engine bay to give you as much slack as possible.) Now it's just a simple adjustment procedure to make sure the throttle stop bolt located on the accelerator pedal hit the floor at the right "time" to avoid straining the cable. You may need to put a different length bolt on the accelerator pedal as well to make it work out right.

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Difficulty with gear changes in hot weather (Red Hose Syndrome) Many Esprit owners, especially those that live in warm climates like Texas, have complained that their gear changing becomes more difficult on extremely warm days.

There are different theories as to why it is that some Esprits gears (especially reverse) become difficult to engage when the car is driven in hot weather. Most of these revolve around the choice Lotus made for clutch line tubing.

The clutch line tubing travels between the master and slave cylinders. Apparently, the tubing material becomes softer at high temperatures. When this happens, hydraulic pressure is wasted as the fluid expands the walls of the tubing when the clutch pedal is pressed. This wasted pressure reduces the amount of travel of the slave cylinder and results in the clutch not being fully disengaged. Many cars do not have synchros on reverse gear, so this gear becomes particularly difficult to engage.

Although other cars, like the Cortina, seem to use the same clutch line tubing without problems, several factors contribute to making this a problem on the Esprit. Firstly, the tubing on the Esprit is approximately 3 meters long. This longer distance provides a larger surface area where the problem may manifest. Also, mid-engine cars traditionally have hotter engine bays because of air circulation. The heat problem becomes even worse on the Turbo Esprit, due to the turbocharger and the body under-tray. Lotus Engineers denied for years that the hose was the source of any shifting problems on the Esprit and the verdict is still out. However, after a British TV show exposed the problem to the world, Lotus has now chosen to use stainless steel braided hoses for newer cars.

Replacing the clutch line with a steel braided one can, in many cases, solve the problem. Dave Bean sells the replacement lines for around $75US including shipping. Replacing the red hose is easy. The new line has the correct fittings and the length is almost right (could have been about 8 inches shorter). Here are some notes from my red hose replacement:

I didn't remove my red hose from the car.  I simply removed all the fluid from it by disconnecting both ends and blowing air through it. I then capped both ends.

I started at the front of the car. I attached the line to the master cylinder. I had to slightly enlarge one (and only one) of the existing holes on the floor of the front compartment with a rasp. The hole was for one of the brake lines exiting the bottom of the brake master cylinder. I also used rubber spacers to hold the line in place and keep it from rubbing against the edges of the hole and the adjacent brake line.

The red hose is routed through the front box of the chassis. The access holes are at an  angle that very difficult to work with. Since the connector on the new hose is bigger, these holes would have to be enlarged. This is what made me decide to keep the red hose in place. Instead I attached the new line to the underneath side of the box using the same kind of clips that were used to hold the brake lines in the same area. I wasn't concerned about the hose being "exposed" in this position. The ground clearance is such, that other areas would scrape first if you were to bottom out before the hose would get damaged. If you bottom out the car this far anyway, you've got bigger problems to worry about.

There are metal tabs that are welded along the backbone of the chassis that hold the red hose in place along the length of the car. I used a screwdriver to bend these out (the metal is quite malleable). I then threaded the new line alongside the red hose along this path and bent the tabs back to clamp the line(s) in place.

I removed the belly pan, so I could route the line in this area neatly. The pan is very easy to remove. Only  ten screws hold it in place. BTW: I talked to a Lotus mechanic that recommends always removing this pan when removing the oil filter to keep the unavoidable oil spill from collecting on top of it and leaking through all the little holes.

I then connected the new line to the slave cylinder and tie-rapped the red hose to the new line along this last bit to keep it from coming loose and flopping around.

By keeping the red line in place, I can revert back the old red hose and keep my SS braided hose so I can install it on my next Esprit (whenever that happens).

The replacement hose took under an hour to install. The two hardest parts of the job were:

  1. figuring out how to jack up the front of the car properly so I could work underneath the front safely.
  2. disconnecting the red hose from the master cylinder. It was attached very tightly and space is very cramped due to the brake booster being in the way.
Bleeding the clutch afterwards took me many frustrating hours. I had just purchased an EZ-Bleed kit and I hadn't figured out how to keep the fluid from leaking by being forced out through the threads of the cap. I finally figured out that the secret was to use two of the supplied washers together. This formed the proper seal to allow me to bleed the system. After this, it really was EZ to do.

If this doesn't solve your shifting problem, you may need a new master or slave cylinder, release bearing, pressure plate, or clutch. But, aren't you glad you tried the cheap stuff first?

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Shifter Speaking of shifting gears: on the newer Renault gearbox, it feels like there is a 2-foot travel for the 1-2 shift. Lotus improved this starting with the S4. If you have an SE, some people have made a fix to improve the shift feel by rerouting the shift cables and shift mechanism on the opposite side of the gearbox.

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Reverse Collar Stuck For Esprits from 89MY to 93MY, there is a small collar below the shift knob that must be lifted in order to select the reverse gear. Sometimes, it appears that the collar stays in the UP position once you shift out of reverse. Usually giving the collar a slight turn causes it to lower again. However, if you turn the collar in the wrong direction to lower it you could cause problems. To understand why, lets first see how the collar works. Click here to see a drawing of the gear lever.

The shifter knob has a small white plastic piece on the bottom-left side of the lift tube. (The "lift tube" is the outer portion of the shift lever that moves up and down when you lift on the reverse collar.)

The white plastic piece is known as the reverse inhibitor pin. It normally rubs against the side of a fixed metal plate located by the bottom-left side of the shift mechanism base. This metal plate is known as... you guessed it, the reverse inhibitor plate. Normally, when you lift on the collar, the pin rises enough to clear the plate and allows you to move the lever further left so that reverse can be selected. If, however, the pin is missing, or the shift lever is mounted too high, there will be nothing to protect reverse from being selected. (I'd hate to hear what that would sound like at 50MPH! ).

The base of the lift tube has two downward-facing pins (locating roll pins) that straddle a piece of metal that is part of the gear mechanism base. If the collar is rotated slightly while in the UP position, one of these two pins will rest on top of this piece of metal instead of beside it and the collar will stay up.

If you are slightly mechanically-inclined, you may be able fix this problem yourself. First you will need to remove the leather trim panel from the center console. Then remove the screws that hold the rubber gaiter (boot) in place.

Look into the linkage mechanism below and check if the reverse inhibitor pin is there. If it isn't, you will have to buy a replacement. It is, make sure that it *just* clears the plate only when you lift the collar. If it clears it even when the collar is down, then you need to adjust the shift lever height. Do this by loosening the bolt on the right side at the base of the lever. move the lever down to the proper height as described above and re-tighten the bolt.

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Steering Rack The steering rack on the Esprit is definitely a weak, delicate link. (No pun intended). You can tell that it's starting to go when you notice excessive play in the steering wheel or when the car is constantly changing direction every time it hits even the smallest pebble on the road. In order to minimize its wear, do not attempt to move the steering wheel while the car is stationary as this puts too much strain on the rack. Those of you with S4 or newer Esprits with power assisted steering can ignore this statement.

Also on this topic, Mark Pfeffer wrote: 

"I once read a Remarque (Lotus Owners Group newsletter) article about Esprit steering racks and how the bearings go to mush from moisture and lack of grease. As noted on my recent post I had questions about the working parts."

"Today, I opened the steering box up from both the lower and side cover plates. Low and behold as the Remarque article noted, moisture in the bearings. Thank God I caught it early and was able to put in some new synthetic grease. The bearings were fine after a cleaning, but there was a distinct presence of moisture. The next step was to "waterproof"(??) the box housing the gears. I used some of the liquid blue gasket compound available at any parts store, replacing one of the shim plates with a thin (VERY THIN) layer of the magical blue goo. Don't know what the long term ramifications will be, but the steering has the same solid feel as before (e.g.: no play), it actually turns a little easier, and hopefully a lot more resistance to water infiltration in the steering box."

"I think this little bit of preventive maintenance shall be added to the annual "to do" list. Checking the lower (larger) plate is VERY easy and the time spent can save some tremendous headache (replacing a steering rack) and that all important $$ for other necessary projects on our beloved Lotii." 

... to which Tim Engel added: 
"JAE now offers a rebuild kit for the Esprit S1/ S2 rack-n-pinion. However, they are now out of stock. Jeff is trying to get some in now."

"If the two access plates you mentioned, the one on the forward face of the housing provides access to a spring loaded slipper foot... sliding block guide... that presses the rack against the pinion in order to maintain a zero backlash condition. There are shims under the cover that produce the correct pressure setting. If the rack has developed some slop, removing one or more shims will allow the cover to move in more when the bolts are tightened and press the rack closer to the pinion."

"Similarly, the access plate on the bottom of the housing provides access to the pinion shaft bearings. If the pinion shaft bearings have developed too much end float, removing one or more shims will tighten the preload on the bearings."

"Re-shimming will only accommodate so much slop, and it's time to rebuild the rack. The kit contains the pushing for the end of the rack opposite the pinion housing (passenger side), pinion shaft bearings, rack slipper foot and inner tie-rod rebuild parts. "

"If the rack is tight with minimal free play, there is no reason to mess with it... so don't." 

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Engine Stalling Some owners of multi-port fuel injected Esprits have suffered problems with engine stalls when downshifting of lifting off the throttle. The problem appears to be caused by the software in the ECM.

The ECM uses the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) to determine how long to keep the injectors open for. When you take your foot off the throttle (as in a "coasting-down" condition), the ECM shuts off fuel delivery to the engine as a method of improving fuel economy. At this point, it is the wheels (via the transmission, clutch and flywheel) combined with the forward momentum of the car that are actually making the engine spin. During these conditions, the ECM shuts down the ignition because there is no fuel to burn.

When you press in the clutch pedal, you disconnect the link between the wheels and the engine. The engine RPMs start to drop because the throttle is still closed. Usually, the ECM should detect this condition and start fuel delivery and ignition again to bring the engine speed back to idle. If this happens as it's supposed to, the engine will kick in again as the RPMs are making their way back down to the 1000RPM idle speed. If for some reason, the ECM takes too long to kick the ignition and fuel delivery back on, the
RPMs will drop below the idle speed and will surge back up once it kicks in. If it takes a little longer, the engine stalls because the RPMs drop to zero and now you need to use the starter or the drive wheels to get the engine spinning again.

The ECM uses vehicle speed (via the Vehicle Speed Sensor - VSS), engine speed (via the Flywheel Sensor), and throttle position (via the TPS ) to determine when to turn on or off the ignition and fuel delivery. The question is why is it taking so long to start them back up again. I don't have an answer for that one yet, but I do have a solution. Lotus has issued a software upgrade for the S4s ECM especially to take of this problem. Owners of the Esprit SE can also take advantage of this upgrade and "slightly" improve the performance of their cars at the same time. The repair involves removing the ECM's MemCal cartridge and having it reprogrammed. My friend Sanjaya Vatuk (a definite Esprit guru in his own right) has detailed instructions on how to perform this modification. Click here to see his step-by-step guide.

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Oil Leaks Like many sportscars, Esprit can have a tendency to develop oil leaks. However, these are more likely to occur in older 4-cylinder models. Usually these are not catastrophic, but they may be expensive to repair. The most common form of oil leak occurs from the intake cam tower gasket. If you find that there is oil pooling in the wells where the spark plugs sit, then you have this kind of leak. Another common location is at the front of the engine where the intake cam pulley seal resides. 

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Water in spark plug wells Early Esprit V8 models suffered from stalling problems that could be traced back to the engine design itself. I appears that during heavy rains or frequent washes, the spark plug wells filled with water and wreaked havoc on the car's ignition system. Since then, the engine has been modified to allow for proper drainage in this area. If you have problems with water pooling in this area, contact Lotus.

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Cracked Exhaust Manifolds Early Esprit V8 models also suffered from frequent cracked exhaust manifolds. Many of these were replaced by Lotus under warranty and for most people the problem has since gone away.

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Accessing the antenna Esprit models prior to the 95MY have electric antennas located near the A-pillars where it is nearly impossible to service them. Some owners have suggested removing the speakers from the dash and using the speaker hole as an access. If this does not work, you may have to remove the door.

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Cracked Dashboard Wood Heat, sun, and moisture are the enemies of the Esprit's aesthetics. Any car left for a reasonable amount of time in a parking lot on a sunny day will suffer their wrath.

It is common for the wood on the dashboard to crack in multiple places. Cheap materials and construction cause this. As heat expands the wood, the clear urethane finish above it cracks due to its inability to expand along with it.

The wood dash on my SE had several cracks on it that had been caused by the heat of the sun here in Florida. I often wondered why they chose to put wood on it in the first place. I always thought that carbon fibre was more appropriate in this type of car. It also matches better with my charcoal (raven) interior than the light birch wood color. I looked into having my dash resurfaced in real carbon fibre and found out that it was EXTREMELY expensive. Apparently, there is a shortage of carbon fibre worldwide and this has made prices skyrocket. To cover just the 3 pieces on the dash is more than $1,500US.

I have seen many companies offer real carbon fibre dash kits for Nissans, Mazdas, etc. But, I guess Lotus is too limited in demand to warrant their making kits for the Esprit. If your pockets are deep, you may want to contact them and see if they will make one for you.

There is one alternative I have found. There is a company on the web ( from Germany that sells what they call "carbon fibre design film". It is an adhesive film that looks similar to real carbon fibre. I don't know if this material looks extremely realistic, the real stuff has a "texture" that is hard to replicate, but it still looks really good.

To accomplish the re-surfacing task I had to first remove the instrument binnacle. This isn't very hard to do. Removing the wood panels (known as the facia) from the binnacle was much harder.

Trying to gain access to the 7mm nuts that hold the wood facia to the metal dash beneath it without first being able to remove all the gauges is not a fun job. It looks like the metal dash is permanently fixed to the binnacle cover by "glassing-in", pop-rivets, and silicone sealer. The Lotus Parts List seems to validate this. In newer cars (1990MY-On) you can remove the leather cover from the top of the binnacle for better access to the instruments. For older cars, Lotus sells the metal dash and leather binnacle cover as one part only. So, it would appear, against all reason, that the wood facia must have been attached first in the fabrication process and then the gauges followed by the wiring. This means that you have to have 1/18-scale hands and maneuver very small tools to reach the tiny screws.

Once I (finally) removed the panels, it was time to resurface them. One of my panels (the main one) was cracked so badly that the clear coat was bent outwards. This meant that the film wouldn't be able to lay flat over it. The facia is made of several very thin layers (veneers) of wood glued together. I had to remove the entire top (finished) layer and then sand the underneath smooth.

The film applies just like a contact paper. I cut it to roughly the dimensions of the panel, then trimmed around the instrument holes with a sharp knife once the film was adhered to the wood. You can apply heat to make the film more flexible so that it will go around bends a little easier. But it won't bend a whole lot. This means that the inside lip of the instrument holes had to be painted with a flat black paint.

Putting the facia back onto the binnacle and then attaching the binnacle to the car took some time, but it was not impossible.

Overall, I am very pleased with how it came out. The interior looks a lot more modern and the dash matches the leather much better.

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Cracked Leather & Peeling Quarter Window Trim The same sources that cause the wood on the dash to crack can also cause the leather to shrink, dry, and crack, especially on the dash and seats, which receive most of the sunlight. Help prevent this by feeding your leather a healthy dose of moisturizing cream often. Also, invest in one of those reflective sun screens for your windshield and use it religiously whenever you park your car under direct sunlight. The windshield on the Esprit is rather large, so you will need to buy one of the taller screens normally sold for use on minivans.

Many Esprit owners have given testimonials towards the effectiveness of a product line called Leatherique. The products are also endorsed by the Rolls Royce Owners Club. Apparently the results are nothing short of remarkable for restoring leather from stiff, cracked to soft and supple. Check them out.

The black trim along the border of the rear quarter window also has a tendency to peel when the window isn't sealed properly and is exposed to the sun. Unfortunately, once the damage is done, there's not a lot that can be done about this. When it gets bad enough, you will have to remove the windows and re-apply new trim. The windows are glued in place using Betaseal, so this is usually best left to a professional. If you feel like tackling the job, however, Lotus does sell a repair kit that is available from your friendly dealer.

An important note, if your window trim is pealing, read the topic below about rusted fuel tanks

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Rusted Fuel Tanks The rear quarter windows in the Esprit sit directly above the car's fuel tanks. If the windows start to leak, seal them immediately. Water leakage will eventually lead to rusting of the fuel tanks and consequently to a fuel leak. The problem occurs because there is a piece of foam that sits underneath the fuel tanks that has a tendency to trap moisture. If water enters the tank area via the quarter window, it drips along its sides and gets trapped by the foam. After weeks and months of contact with the wet foam, the steel tanks start to rust and small pinholes appear at the bottom of the tank. This first becomes obvious when you get a fuel smell that won't go away even after you repair the Surgical Tubing Syndrome

Removal and replacement of the fuel tanks on an Esprit is by no means a trivial matter and can be very expensive. It involves removal of the engine compartment walls as well as some parts of the engine. Even with many parts out of the way, removal is still a pain in the neck. So fix that leak before it's too late.

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Chopped Tires I had what I thought was a strange thing happen on my original set of Goodyear Eagle GTs. The first time I noticed was at my mechanic's shop. There was a fine layer of white dust on the smooth floor and, as the tires went over it slowly, it adhered to the tire's surface. Only some of the tread blocks were dusty white. About every second or third was still black. This indicated that those tread blocks were not making contact with the floor!

My mechanic referred to this condition by saying that my tires were "chopped" and that this was probably happening because of worn suspension components. I suspected that this may be the cause of some of the vibration I always get between 160 and 170mph..........just kidding! :-)

Anyway, I refrained from purchasing new tires until I could replace all my bushings and replace my steering rack, which was also badly worn. It turns out that the bushings were fine and showed no sign of wear. So, maybe it was the steering rack that causes this problem. Check yours to make sure it doesn't have excessive play in it. My replacement rack was about $350US thanks to George McLaughlin.

When it was time to replace the tires on the SE, I put on a set of Dunlop Sport SP 8000's on the car. They made the car grip better and the ride was smoother and quieter. I cannot attest to the tread wear because I sold the car shortly after put them on, but it should be at least as good as with Goodyear tires.

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Vibrating Headlights Many owners have noticed that their headlight pods seem to vibrate while driving over rough roads. This appears to be a common problem with Esprits, and one that no one has recommended a fix for yet. My only suggestion is that you make sure that the connecting rod between the pod and the motor is properly tightened.

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Winking Headlights (Intermittent Fiero Syndrome) Several owners have had the experience where one of their headlight pods suddenly begins to move up and down repeatedly. This was affectionately labeled by Clay Widman as "Intermittent Fiero Syndrome", because of Fieros' notorious reputation with malfunctioning headlight pods. I should know, I own one of those too.

However, while the cause of the Fiero's problems is usually mechanical in nature (a worn plastic gear in the motor), the cause of the Esprit's problem is usually electrical. You see, one of the fuse and relay boxes in the car is underneath the bonnet where it is subject to water invasion. If there is water ingress in the headlight pod relay, the contact will intermittently short because of the water's conductive nature. If the relay itself has not been damaged, fixing this problem may entail nothing more than drying the area thoroughly.

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Water in  Headlight Pod Buckets Many owners have noticed that the buckets the headlight pods drop into sometimes seem to get filled with water after heavy rains or washing the car. This is a common occurrence in the Esprit that is caused by clogging of the drain holes at the bottom of the buckets. To fix the problem, lift the headlight pods by turning on the headlamps on and insert a thin stiff wire (like a coat hanger) into the drain hole at the bottom of the bucket to clear the obstruction.

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Clutch Replacement The clutch on the Esprit is more delicate than on the average car and usually will wear much earlier. When the clutch on my SE started to slip I was  concerned about doing damage to my flywheel. New flywheels on an Esprit cost $600-$1,600 depending on your source.

I bought my replacement clutch (Valeo), pressure plate, release bearing, and all other miscellaneous parts through George McLaughlin (no longer in the parts business) for about $400. I had my mechanic install the parts without any problems. Similar to the timing belt, there are rumors that you must remove the engine in order to change the clutch. This is not true. The gearbox is disconnected from the engine and lifted out through the hatch. Total labor for the job was 12 hours at $45/hour.

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Chargecooler Impeller It is not uncommon for Esprit models with a chargecooler to experience a self-destruct of the impeller vanes at about 30K miles. This will not cause any serious impact to the engine but it will rob you of the precious horsepower that the intercooler usually provides. There are two ways to test this. You can disconnect the output hose from the chargecooler and check for a steady stream of coolant. If the stream is very weak, chances are the impeller is gone and may need to be replaced. The second way is to feel the chargecooler with the palm of your hand after a brisk run. If it is cool (ambient temperature) to the touch, it is working fine. If it is quite hot, then it is likely that several or all the vanes on the pump's impeller have broken off and the pump is unable to circulate coolant throughout the system.

Luckily, the rebuild kit can be bought from several Lotus sources for under $80US, so this repair should cost less that $100US if you're willing to do the work yourself. 

Click Here for a step-by-step procedure on removing and rebuilding the pump.

And here's Edward Avila's recount of his experience changing the impeller: 

    "I had been looking to fix the chargecooler pump on my 90 Esprit SE recently:" 

    "Lotus' price for the rebuild kit was $150, JAE said "several hundred dollars" and might take a few weeks, and Dave Bean had everything in stock and would send it out same day for $67. Chargecooler rebuild kit came in yesterday, and I just couldn't wait to get started."

    "The dealer had quoted about 3 hours worth of labor, but I decided I'd do it myself. There's nothing like the satisfaction of fixing it yourself 
    especially if it's an easy one). The rebuild kit included a replacement impeller, two seals, a paper gasket, and an o-ring: how hard could it be? Pull out the pump, put the new parts in, and replace the pump..."

    "The difficult part is that the pump sits under the intake manifold next to the oil filter. There's no easy way to get to it, at least from above. I sat in the boot the whole time, but perhaps it would have been easier done from below. The two ways to reach it are from the right side, across the oil filter, and from the rear, under the manifold. Access from the rear is crowded, so you need to disconnect a few electrical connectors as well as some cooling and air hoses. Even then, your arms will be jammed in there and bent in ways they weren't designed to bend."

    "The pump is held on by a single 10mm bolt on the top of the pump. Once this is removed, the pump will come out. However, there's about 6 inches of the pump that needs to come out, and because of the crowded spaces, it's not the easiest thing in the world (but nothing compared to putting it back in). Once you free the pump, you can disconnect the two hoses from it and remove it from the car. Just keep in mind which hose goes where."

    "Dismantling the pump is easy, there's three 7mm bolts holding it together. Once the cover is off, you'll see the impeller, which in my case was almost completely disintegrated (almost no fins left). I pulled the impeller off, then pulled out the driveshaft, and removed the two seals that separate the coolant chamber from the oiled drive shaft portion. These needed to be pushed out, as they are a pressure fit; both come out through the impeller side."

    "Cleaned up the pump, put in the new seals, replaced the drive shaft (kept the original o-ring, as it seemed of better quality than the replacement and it looked fine) and replaced the impeller. The impeller has rubber fins, and these are a TIGHT fit into the housing. I can't believe these things last more than a day in there. Another point is that the fins don't "wear" or disintegrate, they simply snap off at the base, and I found a nearly complete fin wedged in one of the output pipes. I'm fairly certain the other 20 or so fins must be jammed in the chargecooler somewhere, or perhaps in the radiator; they were obviously "broken off" rather than worn out. Anyone ever taken apart the chargecooler? I wouldn't mind looking in there..."

    "By the way, my car has 15K miles for those who have read you need to replace impeller at around 30K. I don't see these things lasting anywhere near that long."

    "The replacement impeller was lighter than the original, it appears the original may have had some metal in it somewhere. With the exception of the fins the new one is all plastic. Complete "rebuild" was about 15-20 minutes."

    "Putting the pump back in is where most of the hassle comes in, as it's much harder to pull hoses to reach the pump, hold them there and tighten the clamps with only 2 hands. Also, it's difficult to manipulate around under the intake manifold, particularly when hoses are attached to the pump. Then you need to align it's driveshaft was well as the pump itself because they'll only go in one way when you insert it back in. Looking down on the pump, with 2 arms coming at it from different directions, for quite a while resulted in some serious bruises and scratches, and the promise that next time I'll pay someone else to do it. I like to work on my car myself, and I like the satisfaction that comes from it as well as the knowledge gained, but some tasks are best left for a qualified individual with the right equipment."

    "Finally I got it back in, and then reconnected everything I'd disconnected. This included 3 or 4 air hoses, 6 or 7 coolant hoses, 3 or 4 electrical connections, and a few other odd clamps/clips. Total time was about 3 hours from removing the engine cover to completion, but 3 very intensive hours."

    "While doing the work, I swore I'd never try it again. However, looking back it doesn't seem all that bad. It is one of the more difficult fixes I've done on the car so far (purely from limited accessibility), but nowhere near what it looks like a timing belt replacement would require. Of course, that's not one I'm even going to try... And for those that are unwilling to sit in the rear boot, don't even think about it (unless you have access to a lift). It is possible that I could have had an easier time if I could have come at it from underneath, but I don't see it being much easier." 

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Code 26 and the Coolant Light On 4-Cylinder Esprits with the single plastic header tank the coolant light comes on and stays on after starting the car even though coolant level appears to be normal in the header tank. Twenty seconds after the coolant light comes on, a  trouble code #26 causes the check engine light to come on.

The reason for this is as follows: There is a float sensor screwed onto the top of the header tank with a hexagonal plastic head. It is located immediately to the left of the pressure cap. Sometimes deposits in the coolant cause the float to get stuck and incorrectly report a low coolant level.

In order to solve this: Disconnect the two wires going to the sensor. Unscrew and lift the sensor from the header tank. If you shake the sensor in an up-down motion you should hear the float move inside; if you don't, it is stuck. Spray brake cleaner, WD-40 or what have you into the small  holes on the sides and bottom of the sensor and shake it until the float is freed. Thoroughly clean the sensor and re-insert it into the header tank. Reconnect the wires and the problems should be fixed.

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Gurgling Sounds Some owners have complained about hearing odd gurgling sounds coming from the cars. Often this was witnessed during cornering, acceleration or braking.

Apparently, that gurgle is caused by air in the cooling system. The pipes run from front to rear of the car and through the heater system. Topping up with water will not necessarily clear it. You have to jack the front of the car up and bleed the air out through a small bleed valve on the top of the radiator accessible through a small hole in the body under the bonnet. The plug / valve will only unscrew a certain amount.

Top the car up with water and run it for a short period with the heater on. (but cold). Switch off and top up again (before hot). Bleed via the valve and re-top up.

Then with the valve screwed up run it to operating temperature. Switch the engine off and carefully open the bleed valve and bleed the air off in the same way that you would in a central heating system in the house.

Let the car cool down. Repeat this procedure and the gurgle should go away.

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Leaning to the left Many left-hand drive Esprits seem to lean to the left. That is, the ride height is lower on the left side of the vehicle. This is usually attributed to the combined weight bias of the engine and its driver. Apparently, us Esprit owners don't usually take anyone along for a ride, so there is now passenger weight to help compensate for this. According to Gary Razetti, formerly of Lotus Cars USA: "I've never seen an Esprit that doesn't lean".

Here is Philip Hurlston's solution to the leaning problem: 

"I used a new rubber spring bushing on the top of the left spring (about .75" high which is about .25" higher than the worn old spring) and I completely removed the right bushing."

"The car now leans to the right about 0.2-inches, which means that it's about perfectly level when I sit in the car. I think it looks a lot better now that it is lower in the rear since the whole car sits parallel to the ground."

"If I had to do it again, I would have just removed the right bushing from the start and not done anything to the left. It's super easy to remove with a spring compressor. I just compressed the springs and cut out the old one. Even with the cut, it can be reinserted without fear of it popping out because it is grooved to fit."

"I am very happy with this set up. And I can't notice any difference in harshness from the missing bushing. I figure the spring itself does not transmit harshness very well anyway." 

Andy Waldrep used to sell a Carrera spring and shocks package that will fix the problem and improve the handling, if you were so "inclined" (pun intended). He is no longer in the Esprit parts business. However, Hybimars is working on a suspension setup that should be available soon.

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Exhaust Bolts & Engine Mounts What can I say? Keep an eye on them. Many an owner has complained about them falling off. It is more likely to happen on older, Giugiaro Esprits. Maybe they weren't torqued properly at the factory.

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