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Tom Neel

Engine fires--how common, prevention, scary pics, etc

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Good day all,

I just finished browsing the Douglas Valley Breakers site--and in looking there I saw the "usual" assortment of wrecks--envisioning how they happened, how, why, and so forth, but I did see an Essex 81 Esprit with a "light" engine fire and an 86 wherein it melted the aft of the car...engine fires seem to be common in the Esprit, for obvious engineering reasons (very tight compartment and mechanicals, very close to the fuel sources, etc.), but how common are they really, and what have other owners done to reduce the risk? I'm thinking of installing an engine compartment extinguishing system on both my cars--the 81 Essex and the 91 Esprit. I currently carry extinguishers with me in the passenger compartment--but getting the aft access open during a raging fire--even a slightly raging fire--raises questions in my mind about the probability of getting to the fire before a "meltdown" occurs.

First, does anyone know the stories behind the G-model fires, especially the Essex? (I own one of the US "import versions" of the Essex--so I have a personal interest). Any fire stories about 91 SEs? The Yahoo discussion group recently had a member wherein his V-8 burned. I've also seen the YouTube video of the racer burning...

Second, what have owners done to reduce the risk, outside of frequent fuel system inspection and maintenance?

Third, what sorts of extinguishing systems have Esprit owners used, what's commercially available, and have they been effective for anyone--

Thanks and have great, fast, and fire-free driving--I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say, and any advice on specifics...

Tom Neel

USA owner 91 SE British Racing Green

81 Essex

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There are a few known causes, hopefully I'll remember the most likely suspects off the top of my head, but I'm sure others will add to the list.

Fuel line (pipe) deterioration.

Carb leaks.

Fuel spit back combined with after-market air filters (Lotus design keeps it all contained, pancake style opens it up to ignitions sources)

All of the above rely on fuel getting to an ignition source, that can be lots of things but includes wiring (near the alternator and starter are 2 big culprits.

The early turbos are carburettor fuelled, so the carbs have to have pressure balanced or else you end up with air bubbling in the float chamber instead of being drawn out through the jets, so there is potential for leaking seals to let pressurised fuel be blown out, thus the greater risk of fire on early turbos. later turbos with electronic injection have less issues, but a cracked fuel line or leak from the injector rail is bad.

Andy

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Yep, G cars tend to be fuel fires and the later (including V8s - we had 2000my ignite on track due to a poorly sealing oil filter) seem to be oil fires.

The handheld fire extinguishers are better used as a door-stop, if you want to put out a fire then the underbonnet kits are the only way. Even then, prevention is better than cure!

Having a device that distributes vast amounts of sparking voltage directly underneath a source of fuel is always going to be a gamble, though.

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I know of an S2 that went up in smoke from an engine fire even with a professionally fitted engine bay pressure extinguisher system. The owner told me that the system worked great in putting out the fire, but after it ran out of extinguishant, although the fire was out, the engine area was so hot, it simply re-ignited. If you're going down that route I'd get the maximum capacity you possibly can.


Regards

Mat

post-1-0302470001278592957.jpg

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Fuel line (pipe) deterioration.

Carb leaks.

Fuel spit back combined with after-market air filters (Lotus design keeps it all contained, pancake style opens it up to ignitions sources)

Now I know why the air filter seal is such a tight fit. I replaced my fuel lines from the pump to the carbs as soon as I got the car. I also doubled up on the hose clamps on the lines going from the T piece to the carbs as an added insurance.

Every week I check for leaks and make sure sure nothing has vibrated loose.

I think fire and a cam belt snapping are the biggest concerns for all G car owners.

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Fuel spit back

Now I know why the air filter seal is such a tight fit.

I should say Dellortos are infamous for it, I think Webber's are less prone, which is why we shouldn't (but probably do) follow the Webber starting process, press throttle three times and crank it over.

I guess less Esprit owners move to pancake type filters than Eclat/ Elite/ Excel/ Jensen/ Sunbeam owners due to the lack of cool air supply in the engine compartment which is available to front engine cars, although it's still probably quite warm due to coming through the rad first.

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Hi Tom - important topic you have here.

I recall some posts covering some of your questions.

Here is one of an Essex fire: :D

http://www.lotusespritforum.com/forums/ind...000&hl=fire

Extinguisher systems:

http://www.lotusespritforum.com/forums/ind...458&hl=fire

I plan on replacing the rubber fuel line with braided and re-installing the cut-out fuel switch.

Iain :)

Edited by iainskea

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I was also told the tee piece where the fuel line splits to go to the two carburetors (on US cars at least) was plastic which got brittle as it got old. Replace it with a metal piece.


S4 Elan, Elan +2S, Federal-spec, World Championship Edition S2 Esprit #42, S1 Elise, Excel SE

 

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Hmmm, engine fires. I had one of those in my 1981 Turbo. Luckily, the car was idling on the drive, engine cover open. I had an extinguisher handy and the fire was out before there was even any smoke damage let alone heat damage. All it cost me was an extinguisher, a mild panic attack and singed eyebrows. My initial instinctive reaction was to try and blow the fire out. Dunno why but I tried. That method I can assure you is pretty ineffective.

Mine was due to the carb rubber fuel hoses (that look braided but the braid is for show only) being perished. They split, dropped fuel all over the engine and the rest happened in, well, a flash, I suppose.

If you have 'old' rubber on the car, replace it. It it's older than 10 years, pull it off an replace it. If you are not sure how old it is, replace it any way. That includes fuel hoses to/from the tank and the whole fuel system. It also includes water hoses, brake hoses and anything else rubber you can find that holds a fluid under pressure. Would you leave your drive belts on the car for 10 years? Thought not.

I guess prevention is better than cure. What's cheapest to replace, a pile of hoses or a pile of ash?

Rob Tomlinson

1981 Turbo Dry Sump.

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Hi,

I've been through and replaced every fuel line on the car, mostly with earls performo-flex twin ss braided stuff. There is a braid layer in the rubber and on the outside so not just for show. One thing though, I was never really happy with the clamping ability of the clips in the 'hose finishers' - the band seemed too thin and the worm drive fell apart too easily. Maybe I wasn't using them correctly but in the end I found another method using chunky JCS ss clips and a neoprene sleeve (normally used in cable assemblies) that looks fine and more importantly is very secure. I also liked the way the neoprene sprang round the end of the hose to hide the sharp ends

DSC04580-1.jpg

DSC04581-2.jpg

There are also two of these to consider (tank - balance pipe). They are horrifically expensive particularly so considering that you need to chop them to length and are of lower quality than the original item (new ones have no fibre reinforcement and not as thick).

DSC04856-1.jpg

Ambrose

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Make sure all the carb screws are done up tight. My accelerator pump jet worked loose, spraying a nice mist of fuel over the alternator everytime I pressed the accelerator!

I was lucky!

Mike

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