Exxon Valdez no more

We took the Lotus out of service on February 1.

Ever since we did the engine swap last winter the car has been leaking like the Exxon Valdez. In the end, it was two issues. The first we found and fixed quite some time ago. It was just something we missed in the swap – a small part we should have replaced but didn’t. But that wasn’t the only issue.

So we took the clam off, cleaned the engine, and fired it up. With the clam off, the problem was obvious: we had a major leak in the timing chain cover gasket. To make this repair, you really replace three or four gaskets. And we may as well change the water pump at the same time, because it’ll never be easier.

But “easier” is relative. Easier than what?

The intransigent bolt

The first big issue was getting a bolt out. With stock motor mounts, you can take out two mounts and clock the motor to remove the bolt. With my hard solid mounts, you have to take out three and employ an engine hoist.

I called Stevenson Toyota and ordered the parts. I’d pick them up on the way to the club meeting. But the meeting got pushed to Sunday, so it ended up being out of my way. Mountain States Toyota is closer. At the parts counter, I tell the guy I’m here to get my order. He goes into the back. He’s gone for a long time. He finally returns, has a pow-wow with the other parts guy. They can’t find the timing cover gasket. They know it’s in the building, it came in from Kansas City, but they can’t find it. “Do you need that part?” Yes, I need it, it’s the object of the game. They order another one from Kansas City. It’ll be here by Wednesday.

The damaged gasket (photo credit: Michael)

There was also a discussion of the sealer I’d ordered. The guy says it’s really expensive, like $80 a tube. On the phone, he’d said $8 or $10. Now he tells me their techs get several applications in a tube, and the price he quoted was for an application. He suggests I use a different one, the one commonly used. “Here, I’ll just give it to you.” Cool.

He’s the guy I talked to when I originally ordered the parts. When they couldn’t find the gasket, he said, “You’re the Lotus, right?” And on my second visit, he called me “Lotus”. This time he gives me the gasket, no charge.

Once we had all the parts, Michael could work his magic.

And then the unfortunate happened. The bolts that secure the cover each has a torque spec, but there’s no sequence specified. When Michael was torquing a bolt, he heard a distinct “ping!”

The cover was cracked.

“Ping!”

I went down to the garage and found him sitting on the floor, studying his phone. He told me what happened, and a quick search indicated we could get a replacement for $450.

I know how I’d feel if it was me that had done this. I’d have burned with shame. I can feel the heat just thinking about it.

He’s a good mechanic, and he’s proud of his work. So when I tell him it’s no big deal, it doesn’t make him feel any better.

I do a quick internet search and find a replacement on eBay for $150. I’m just about to buy it when I realize we already have one: it’s on the bad motor in the shed. Now all we need is another set of gaskets.

I call the guy at Stevenson to place the order. “Have you ever used our website?” I say “No.” He tells me I should, as it’ll save me a bunch of money. It didn’t occur to me that it’d be cheaper, but so it goes. Even with ten or eleven bucks postage, it saved me money. This gasket, by the way, came from Los Angeles. Makes me wonder how many of these gaskets are available.

(photo credit: Michael)

There is more than one size of bolt for this cover, and Michael says it’s possible he had gotten one wrong (but, it’d be two, right?). When he pulled the cover off of the old engine, he transferred the bolts to the cracked cover so there’d be no such error the second time.

(photo credit: Michael)

Early on in this endeavor, I figured we’d be done with this before the end of April, so I bought a track day for April 25. All this drama: parts going missing; an upsetting “ping”; the bolt that won’t come out short of (damn near) removing the engine. All this just added a bunch of stress and put the schedule in jeopardy. Even the schedule was a self-imposed stress: I could get a refund if I cancel at least a day in advance.

But we Michael got it done, on budget and on time.

On Friday we filled it with fluids, hooked up the battery, and fired it up. We ran it up to temperature and were happy to see no leaks anywhere. Saturday was a LoCo meeting, so that would make a nice shake-down cruise.

Saturday morning I washed the car. I still had the undertray and diffuser off. Both were well coated with oil and grunge. I washed the car first, with car wash soap. I used Dawn dishwashing liquid (“3X the grease cleaning!”) on the undertray and diffuser. When I was done, they were cleaner, but not quite clean.

Michael came outside to help me button up the underside of the car. “What time are you leaving for your meeting?” he asks. “I’d like to leave by 11:15.” “It’s 10:54 right now!” We got them put on, but not totally fastened down. We had trouble locating a few fasteners. This would be okay for a short drive, but we’d have to have it buttoned down properly for the track.

It was nice to drive it, finally, after three months.

The drive to and from the meeting was uneventful.

A few snaps from the meeting:

Elite
Elise S1
Eclat

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