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Turbo S3 gives clouds of blue/white smoke

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newbie Esprit owner

on hard accelleration my 84 S3 turbo pumps out copious amounts of white/blue smoke from the exhaust.

The engine starts and runs fine.

I feel that the dump valve may not be working as I don't get the 'whoosh'

Am I right in thinking that its probably the seals in the turbocharger that are gone and a replacement of the turbo will cure it.

A quick look suggests that removing the turbo is an 'engine in' job - any thoughts?

More annoying is the oil leak from the engine No1 cylinder end which looks like it may be the crankshaft oil seal. That looks like an 'engine out' job.

A real newbie question now - how do you get access to the distributor cap? It's tucked away under the plenum chamber. I'd like to just check the rotor, the cap and plug leads. The ignition timing needs checking as the idle speed is too low and I don't want to fiddle with the carbs without checking the timing first.

Guess I'm looking for a mentor. I'm not put off by complicated procedures, I've considerable experience in repairing and maintaining cars, have a pretty comprehensive tool kit and realise that the parts will be expensive.

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Hi John.

Congratulations on the purchase & membership, you can also say Hi in the dedicated section, that may help with your last point, if you let people know whereabouts you are.

The smoke, white or blue, that is the real question.

White = water

Blue = oil

Because your turbo is only cooled by oil the smoke ,if white, would mean it's not the turbo. So lets assume it is blue, then yes the turbo could be at fault. The cure is a refurbishment, this could be a few hundred

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Its just about possible to remove the dizzy cap in situ (but harder to refit!). I would simply remove the plenum, it will save you time in the long run. That would be my advice for a number of jobs - simply remove the stuff thats in the way. It generally makes things much easier. Another piece of advice - concentrate very hard on not dropping anything down that side of the engine otherwise it will disappear without trace...

cheers steve

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Thanks for your advice Andy and Steve,

After taking the pipes off the turbo there was a suspicious trickle of oil on the 'compressed air' side of the system. Logic says that there shouldn't be any oil in the inlet side and if its leaking into the inlet side then presumably its leaking into the exhaust side as well.

To gain better access I was planning to remove the fibreglass cover behind the engine (above the gearbox) but I find that the 'captive' nuts are all spinning as the bolts are rusted into them. Its a bit crass I know but my first reaction is to reach for the angle grinder and to then replace with nuts/bolts in plastic or stainless for future ease of removal.

Will post my trials and tribulations for any interested souls :)

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ok well the nuts that are spinning around on the boot panel you can just remove them use a grinder if need be another way to remove them is to get a pair of pinch pliers or spanner and chew away at the rivnut from underneath then it will remove ok from the top. then replace them with aluminium rivnuts, i have the details of a supplier and how to fit them here for you as i replaced every rivnut on my car and am an old hand at it.

as for the turbo you can occasionally get some oil in the air trunking side, it wont do any harm, howevver if your getting lots of smoke then the best people to send the turbo to is turbo technics, they are all set up for stripping down, rebuilding and rebalancing the turbo.

take a look at my rebuilding the cam towers thread as its full of every conceivable picture you can imagine, its in the restoration section.

Edited by bigsi
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Been there done that. Yep, I also used the angle grinder to sort this out - do them all at the same time to avoid too much heat build up doing one at a time. Good news if the turbo seal is your problem -vastly cheaper than some of the other options.

cheers Steve

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Is there much play in the shaft?

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The turbo looks ok on casual inspection. No percepible movement in the shaft. I am sure that the waste gate is seized shut as there is no 'swoosh' so perhaps a knackered piston is the culprit. I suppose the best way to establish that without taking the engine out will be a compression test?

Does anyone know where I can source a replacement wastegate or repair kit (if its repairable, I haven't extracted it yet to have a look)

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Sorry to hear about your problems. Lets hope it isn't to serious. One option you may want to consider, if your wastegate is seized is to upgrade your turbo to the HC version. It is one reason I kept this when I converted mine to HC. My orriginal plan was to convert it to the same as the 87 HC turbo cars. However when I heard of the issues on obtianing parts for the external waste gate then it seamed logical to use the later turbos with integral wastegate, esp as one came with the HC engine. You can see details of HERE. you may find some of this useful.


The need for speed can be found with a Lotus

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its probable that the guides are worn, as your going to have to take the head off, get all the valve guides done, mine were changed for the bronze versions with the small pits inside them that catch oil and help them better, mike sekinger has them in his race car head also, they are great at what they do and are an essential upgrade.

while the head is off get the liner lip measured so you get the right gasket for the head then, there are multilayer gaskets in different sizes available, paul matty is the only person to sell them as far as i know, if you have your head skimmed get the machinist to let you know by how much, write it down and then measure you liner lip, then let paul know and he will give you the right size gaskets.

ok as for the wastegate, if you can hang on until tomorrow i will have a ton of pictures up showing the removal and strip down procedure, i need to take my turbo and aux manifold off to put some locking tabs on and have the mika gasket replaced again, the mika gasket goes between the wategate top and the aux manifold, it prevents heat transferrence.

when the head is off check the liner sides to see if theres wear or scoring marks if there is then they will need honing if they are not too bad, if they are no good then you need replacements, i know troy has a set for sale, and if the pistons are no good you can change them for hc pistons, this is a good upgrade and a better piston.

check your bottom shells for wear and scoring also, while the crankshaft is out get it checked for trueness.

if you need more information or advice or help then give troy a call, you can find his details on his member details, and a contact number also.

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To diagnose the cause of the low compression do a couple of things.

Do a compression test , then put a few drops of oil down the plug hole and repeat the test, if it improves dramatically, then it's rings.

If that doesn't work then consider forcing compressed air into the cylinder (leak down tester is what you really need, but any air line will help). If you were closer I'd offer mine..

Air comes out of the carbs = valve face/ valve seat

air out of exhaust= same, but on exhaust valves

air bubbles in coolant= head gasket / issue with cylinder head (crack)

air comes out of oil breather= rings

Your low compression it's not likely to be valve guides (guides can be scored and still get good compression) but they could explain smoke if it is blue.

What ever it is, you might as well look at having guides measured (and replaced if not really close to new spec), valves re-faced, head planed if not 100% true. It's just not worth the hassle of another re-build in 5000-15000 miles when another component reaches the end of it's serviceable life, if you've only just re-built the engine for something else.


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The head needs to come off to have a look. Valve guides are unlikely to be the issue. Under hard acceleration, a turbo car will be trying to blow fuel up through the guides (whereas an NA car would be sucking oil down). Valve guides usually give themselves away on overrun or possibly starting up.

A standard LC should show about 135+psi per cylinder, so you appear to have a couple of issues here. in addition to the 'low' cylinders, 170 is probably too high for a non ECU controlled engine. I assume the head has been skimmed beyond tolerance. I think the earlier post re damaged piston(s) could be correct except I suspect it could have been caused by detonation.

good luck Steve

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Do a leak down test to confirm any engine issues. Check coolant for oil and vise versa. If the engine is running fine I would suspect the sealing ring on the turbo compressor is leaking.

Good luck,


The "dump valve" is a fail safe for possible wastegate getting stuck. The boost gauge would continue past the 7.5 psi cut off if the wastegate was stuck. If the boost gauge stops at 7.5 psi under full acceleration then your wastegate is functioning.

If lots of smoke (like a smoke screen) is being produced I would first look at the turbo. Example: car idles fine but under acceleration other cars can't see the road ahead.

For the engine:

If you don't have a leak down gauge but have access to compressed air, charge each cylinder. Best if you have two people because you need to have that cylinder on Top Dead Center on firing stroke, car in gear and foot on the brake. Charge cylinder and "listen for the hiss". Ear in the exhaust and intake for valve leak and oil cap or crankcase breather for piston rings. A little hiss is to be expected in crankcase but valves should be a tight seal.

A little patience and you should be able to track down the source.


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Hi Steve,

Sorry, I ment upgrade the Turbo, only, to the later HC varient, which is water & oil cooled & has an integral wastegate. SJ sportscars does the whole kit, inc turbo to convert this, but is mega

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to be honest going by everything it may just be better to pull the engine, strip it and asses the thing overall, price up parts and then compare that to a replacement engine. the way up your options. going by everything i would just be more inclined to pull and strip. thing is one thing leads to another and another on these cars. at the end of the day you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Yup...... I'm now pretty much resigned to pulling the engine out cos even if it is just the head gasket it does look easier to remove the head with the engine out of the car.

As you say, whilst it is out I can strip it down and check for any other horrors.

Has anyone posted a thread detailing a strip down?

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go into my thread theres tons of pictures in there you will also need a torx socket as there are torx heads on some of the cam tower bolts. im sure its m10, i will check for you as i bought one myself to take mine off.

there is stuff before it so you might like to read from the beginning but its full of pics and the tools i used

Edited by bigsi
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  • 4 weeks later...

An update for any interested souls...

Got the engine and gearbox out today. crikey what a tight fit. It was all ''..... up a bit.....down a bit.....up a bit.....''

In disconnecting the engine mounts I saw that the heatshield exhaust side had been ripped off at some previous point so a new one of those goes on the list (saw a recent thread with details of a snazzy looking metal one).

A question - presumably the engine mounts are not supposed to just pull out of the rubbers? Both sides did - in a way it was easier than undoing the awkward to reach nuts and bolts holding the rubber part to the chassis but I can't believe that they were supposed to.

The dished panel at the back of the gearbox that the silencer clamps to is looking like a lace curtain - is it still available or should I polish up my sheet metalworking skills?

More to buy and I haven't even found the cause of the problem yet. (Oh yes that reminds me - taking out the engine revealed no choke cable and rear discs at the 9mm minimum thickness and pads that were on the way out)

I did speak to one cheery soul who told me that it was well known on the turbo engine for the piston lands (the bits of piston between the rings) to crack and crumble following overboost and that would have been the cause of my smoking engine.

So what I had hoped would just be a head gasket sounds possibly much worse. Anyone else experienced this?

I read an interesting thread on later pistons and liners and will revisit if needed.

Well I'll keep you posted as I strip her down (oo-err missus!)


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john im currently having a new exhaust mounting plate made for myself so my old one will be going spare its in excellent condition after 24 years, it was re-coated, but it needs doing again, i can clean it up and send it you if it helps? as soon as i get the stainless one made and the stainless straps you can have mine with the straps also.

as for the mounts they were shot, you will need new ones, pink mark for exhaust side and blue for drivers side, you will also need 4 anti vibration washers one for both upper sides and one for the lower sides.

can you get some pics up of your wastegate assy john? if you can i can take a look as i have had mine apart so many times its unbelieveable now!

as for the pistons and liners send troy halliday a message hes got a set of hc pistons, and may also have liners if you need yours replacing, however if yours are ok then just a re-honing will do and then fit the hc pistons, its a nice upgrade and they arent that expensive, troy can explain things to you better as he fitted them to mine.

i have a new oil to sump pipe here that i have to fit so the one i have on at the moment which is upgraded you can have if you want it also, as its a lot stronger and better than the standard one and is a lotus upgrade part .

i will try and take some pics tomorrow of them both and send them you, so you can see.

thats all i have lying around im afraid but if they help you then your more than welcome to them.


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