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!

Motor Mounts

On my last visit to the track I ran on slicks. I was able to navigate turn 7 at between ten and fifteen miles an hour faster than on the street tires. Unfortunately, late in the day I apexed a bit early and had the choice of going off the track or lifting off the throttle. I chose the latter and for the first time in thirty-five or so track days spun the car. It was a particularly violent spin that dislodged the battery (again!) and broke a motor mount. A couple of weeks ago, the new set of motor mounts arrived.

The new parts

I was surprised to see that the inserts are black. They’re supposed to be red. The reds measure a 60 A on the durometer scale. (Hopefully I’m using the term correctly.) The blacks are 75 A, which is harder. I called the vendor and asked about it and was told that Innovative is no longer selling the 60 A for use in the Elise. I’m not sure I’m buying that. It could be that they just shipped the wrong ones. But there’s quite a bit of discussion on the web about which ones to use, so I decided I’ll install these. In theory, I could buy red inserts and replace them.

Today it’s time to install them.

Saturday, November 3

There are four mounts in the car: fore, aft, driver side, and passenger side. In addition to the various discussions I found on the web concerning the hardness, there is also quite a few opinions as to whether to replace all the mounts or not. It is not uncommon for people to just replace the fore and aft mounts, leaving left and right as stock. The original plan was to do them all, but if we run out of time I’m happy just to do the fore and aft.

The idea was that Michael and I would do it. He has a sore back, though, so he invited one of his friends to help. But Michael quickly found out that he was able to do some of the work after all, so I ended up watching and fetching tools as required. There really isn’t room under there for three people.

The guys at work

I’m sure this operation is a lot easier if the car is on a lift, but we don’t have a lift so we just put the back of the car on the ramps. It’s a little cramped, but workable. We did the rear first. It came off pretty easily

The old aft mount

The stock mounts aren’t solid and the new ones are. When we first inspected the mounts, that wasn’t clear to me. The only one we got a good look at was the rear one. I was thinking it was broken worse than it actually is. But it’s pretty broken. It’s not exactly X-shaped, but close enough. The photo doesn’t show it very well but three of the four legs of the X are cracked all the way through.

Forward mounts, new and old

The front mount was a bit tougher to replace. The bushing is pretty stout and we had to persuade it a bit to get it into place. Then there was much finagling required to get the holes to line up for the bolts.

While they were working under the car, I decided to finally “upgrade” the camera mount on the nose of the car. I didn’t give much thought to where the camera should be mounted back when I originally installed it. There are two problems with it. First, I have to take the tow ring off the car to run the camera. That’s not ideal if I have a problem on track and need to get towed. Second, because it’s sideways I need to use two little arms, one of which is essentially a 90 degree elbow. It’s not an elbow, but serves the same purpose. And because of the two arms the camera is farther from the mount itself and more subject to vibration.

Old camera mount (above, horizontal), new camera mount (below, vertical)

With the camera mount in the new location, the camera won’t move around so much and it’ll be even closer to the ground, making it look like I’m going faster! Sadly, the picture shows how beat up the front of the car has gotten. Michael and I have talked about what it will take to effect some fiberglass repairs, so I’m thinking the current beat-up state of the nose is only temporary. (The picture also shows both mounts. The old one is no longer there.)

We finished the job in about three hours. That’s just the fore and aft mounts. We haven’t put the undertray back on the car but I did take her out for a spin around the block. It’s going to take a while to get used to it. There’s a lot more vibration in the cabin. Before the test drive I was joking that it’ll be like a bunch of buzzing hornets. It’s worse than that. She really vibrates quite harshly now. I don’t think it’s enough to loosen the fillings in my teeth, but it’s quite different. On the other hand, there’s a noticeable difference in the feel when shifting gears. I never got past third and literally only went around the block, but I think it’s much improved.

In addition to only doing half the mounts, we haven’t done the trans studs yet. We probably are going about this the hard way, but so it goes. Oh, and it sounds like there’s an issue with the clutch. Michael thinks it’s the throw out bearing. Neither of us heard this noise at the track after the spin, and I haven’t driven the car since getting it home. When it rains, it pours.