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Timing belt access - tips and tricks?


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Well this was unexpected; after many years wrenching on other cars, mostly my Esprit SE, I've gotta say my Elan SE has me more or less spiritually broken. It's my first (and probably last) time working on a transversely mounted engine setup. 

Spent the better part of 7 hours yesterday just trying to get at the timing belt, eventually giving up when my brother and I realised that, no, you can't remove the timing belt upper cover with the PAS pipe in situ - it has to go (I know people wrestle the cover out of the way, but on my car, either the cover breaks, or the pipe does - and we already snapped the lower cover removing it in anger).Most of those hours went into (surprise) getting at the allen head bolts holding the engine mount to the engine. 

So...the PAS pipe - it's perfectly positioned so you cannot get ANY type of 19 mm open ended spanner, ring spanner or socket on it - either the spanner fouls against the head, or the glass fibre to the headlamp cowling...

Do you guys have any tips and tricks to make this job less painful? If I had to do it again, I'd just bite the bullet, buy a hoist, and pull the engine out in its entirety.

Many many many thanks in advance for your words of wisdom.

Vanya Stanisavljevic '91 Esprit SE | '97 XK8

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Update for anyone out there who is going to attempt this job, here's a few quick words of advice to make your life easier. 

The videos online, guides and workshop manual leave some critical points out from a work environment perspective. 

1. Remove the PAS-high pressure line 

Most guides state that, before you attempt this job, you have to make sure that the crank pulley can be removed. I would like to amend this by saying; don't start the job until both the crank pulley AND the PAS-high pressure line to the pump can be removed. The latter is difficult to access with conventional tools and might be on tight due to not being loosened over a long period. I took apart a socket-head wrench, replaced the pinch bolt, and jammed an allen key in there - this way I could fit the socket on the nut, and put in the allen key to turn it a little, bit by bit. 

Remove the PAS line. Period. Yes, you will lose PAS fluid, but it's a belt change (C-Service) so you might as well do it - it did WONDERS for my power steering, which became lighter and quieter after the change. I deem it IMPOSSIBLE to remove the timing belt upper and lower covers without breaking either them, or the PAS line, without getting it out of the way first. 

2. Disassemble the RHS engine mount. In its entirety. 

Once the PAS line is out of the way, you have more room to wrench on the mount. Take it apart. Once you get the 4 allen-head bolts off you can lift up the whole mount making it easy to access the bolts normally obscured by the bush/cylinder that the through-bolt goes in. As for the allen headed bolts - I used a cut-off allen key (a tool I made years prior to loosen the aux belt tensioner at the vacuum pump on my Esprit). It's well worth having, as well as an assortment of tiny ratchet spanners - access is tight, so make sure you have good tools available, to save yourself a lot of heartache.

Anyway, you will likely find out that even with the engine mount entirely out of the way, the cam-belt cover is still a pig to remove. How people do this without observing the above steps is beyond me. Even if it can be done though, it's not worth the risk - sooner or later something will break, and that's the last thing you want happening when you've gone to the trouble of doing the belts yourself. 

Vanya Stanisavljevic '91 Esprit SE | '97 XK8

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