Maximum Distress, Part 1

I’m a big King Crimson fan. On one of their live albums they have a track called “The Law of Maximum Distress”. I learned this week that that is Robert Fripp’s name for Murphy’s Law. I don’t want to exaggerate. It’s not like Murphy’s Law is a constant companion for me. But Murphy does show up fairly regularly. By titling this post “Maximum Distress” I’m not suggesting that everything is going wrong.

Distress is defined as “anxiety, sorrow, or pain” or “to give simulated marks of age or wear.” In psychology it is “unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact your level of functioning.”

So why am I talking about Murphy’s Law and anxiety or marks of age or wear? Well, this weekend we embarked on a program of winter maintenance for the Elise. Perhaps “embarked on” isn’t exactly true. She’s been parked for a few months now. When last we discussed the car, we had replaced two of the motor mounts. Timing is everything: when test driving the car, we couldn’t help but notice that the clutch’s throwout bearing was making noise. If we’d have noticed this before our work we’d have combined the jobs and saved some effort.

In any event, it’s time to do some major work on the car. It’s not just replacing the clutch. In addition, we’ll take the passenger side driveshaft to a local specialty shop for refurbishment (the CV joint boot is weeping), we’ll replace the two remaining motor mounts, and we’ll replace all the wheel studs. For good measure, when we reassemble the rear suspension we’ll take the preventive action of replacing the hub carrier bolts.

The reader may recall that the motor mount broke when I spun the car at my last track day. I was running on slicks and made a slight error that resulted in the most violent spin I’ve ever encountered. Actually, it’s the only time I’ve spun the car except when I had a mechanical failure. That’s happened twice, both times a sheared hub carrier bolt.

I don’t know one way or another whether this spin caused any of the other damage we’re addressing, or whether it’s just wear and tear. I’d say “normal wear and tear”, but because I’ve done on the order of forty track days (and the previous owner did quite a bit of autocross) I don’t think it falls under the “normal” category. And although I’ve only run slicks a few times, running on slicks radically increases the forces on the car.

And so it begins…

The original plan was to take a day one weekend to dismantle the car to get to the clutch. One day the next weekend we’d replace the clutch and put everything back together. In between, we’d take the driveshaft in for servicing. (We could do that work ourselves, but parts alone from Lotus cost more than having somebody else do it.) Some online research led us to a nice writeup with plenty of photos. This guy indicates the clutch job will take twelve hours for first-timers.

Now, of course, anybody who knows me knows that I’m not doing this myself, no matter how good the instructions are. I’m software, not hardware. I will mostly stand around trying not to get in the way while Michael and his friends do all the work. I’ll run to the store if we find we need something, and I’ll supply the pizza and beer.

Suspension disassembled

So when we got started yesterday, we planned to have everything taken apart by the end of the day. It was Michael and Daniel doing the work, and our good friend Murphy showing up a few times to lend a hand. At the end of the day we were still quite a way away from our goal. This is where Maximum Distress comes in for me. I’ve watched everything get taken apart. Car parts are everywhere. We’ve used every known size of wrench and socket known to man, even had to go out and buy one we didn’t already have. It would be a slight exaggeration to say it looks like a bomb went off in the garage.

Motor dropped

We worked seven hours yesterday, and Daniel came over again today and we spent another five. The fellow who wrote up our instructions said the whole job would take twelve; we’ve got twelve hours into it and we’re not quite at the halfway point.

Transmission

I have every faith that Michel and Daniel can put it all together. There really isn’t any doubt in my mind. But it’s all too much for my pea brain. Given an infinite amount of time and a patient mentor and I could probably do it. I’d undoubtedly have a few extra parts left over, and I’d have had to do many of the tasks two or three times because I put something together upside down or backwards. It would by my hell, my Maximum Distress.

Finally, the clutch!

I’ve now adjusted my expectations. I’m thinking it’ll be two more weekends before we’re done. We managed to leave enough room for Genae to park her car, so at least she’s not relegated to the driveway. But the bad news is that Michael put a bit too much effort into this given his recent back surgery. He’s now in a solely supervisory role.

More distress soon!

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