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Howiiieee

Oil pressure dropped and car won't start anymore

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I have enjoyed my “new” 1995 Lotus Esprit S4 for one month now. It was almost trouble free and I really enjoyed it almost daily, until today. I drove the car to go play tennis in the morning. Everything was good. After tennis, the car started right up and I am driving to have lunch. A short flash of “check engine” yellow light came up for two seconds, then went away while I was slowing down on the freeway. After I exit the freeway and stopped at the traffic light, I have noticed the check engine light came up again and the oil pressure is dropping from 6 towards 0. I made a right turn and the oil pressure dropped to 0 and the engine shuts off. Both engine and coolant temperature stayed at 80 degrees, no smoke, no spill, no burned smell. I coasted downhill about 50 meters to get out of the traffic and passerby helped me push the car into a gas station (no mechanics anymore). I tried to start the car again, but it won’t. Only sound like a spinning fan when cranking. I visually inspected the car and see not fault. I waited for 30 minutes for everything to cool down then tried again, same thing. I am stranded for the first time with the Lotus.

I call a flatbed tow truck and got it to the local auto repair shop’s parking lot. It is Sunday and all were closed. The tow truck driver told me to check the engine oil level. It was a bit low, just under the low line. I just have the oil change when I got the car one month ago and only 1000 miles into it and I was surprised that it is low so quickly. The oil do still look very clean. I bought a can of Synthetic 5W-30 and put it in. The oil level is full again. I tried to start the car, same thing. The oil pressure stayed in the red. I left the car there, called my wife to pick me up. I’ll check on it tomorrow morning with the shop mechanics. They fix BMW, Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover and other European cars.

Questions:

1. What could be the cause for the oil pressure to drop quickly from 6 to 0 in 10 second, when there is no visible leak or spill?

2. I think the check engine light came on due to the engine oil level falling just below the low line, will the slightly lack of engine oil cause such a quickly drop of the oil pressure? Will filling it back up help the situation?

3. Is it normal for the engine oil be used up so quickly? I see no sight of leak in my garage where I parked the car, nor any oily smell. Well rev it up to 6000 RPM occasionally use up engine oil?

4. The truck driver said the new computer shuts off the engine when the oil pressure drop to the redline to protect the engine, is this true? How to program it to start again?

5. The engine started beautifully every time, until this happed. Will the starter be damaged and won’t start the car?

6. I just installed new Amps for bass, 2 of them. I was blasting them when this happened. Will the amps draw too much power and the alternator not able to keep up and drain the battery, so it won’t start the car?

I am not too sure if the local European car repair shops are familiar with the Lotus. I really appreciate your opinions so I am somewhat prepared when I talk to them and not totally be taken advantage of. It will speed up the diagnostics as well.

Thanks and look forward to your replies.

Howiiieee

Rialto, Southern California

95 Lotus Esprit S4

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A contributing factor could be the 5w30, it is so thin it will seep past oils seals easily, so your car will consume more then if you use 10w 60 or 20w50. That aside, the oil pump or oil cooler system may have sprung a leak causing it to jet out somewhere, you'd need to check around for signs of oil leak. It could be that your oil has dropped sufficiently that the il sloshing around is causing the pick-up pipe to not be submerged, so the pump cannot get a good supply of oil.

Re the spinning noise when trying to start, if the engine isn't turning by the starter but it will turn(screwdriver against teeth of flywheel) then I'd suspect the starter motor pre-engagement mechanism.

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Simple things first for me. Check the wire to the oil pressure sender for two things. One, is it connected to the sender? If it is then Two, check the wire for continuity. If both those things check out ok, check the oil pressure sender. You can probably only replace this. If that doesn't correct it then the ECU is getting a true signal of low oil pressure and won't start to protect the engine.

Not one that you may wish to check, and I would go with an oil and filter change as Andy said above first, but the relief valve in your oil pump could be jammed open so not building up pressure throughout the oil circuit.

Another possible place to lose oil could be via your turbo. If it is only a small leak it may not show up as blue smoke from the exhaust when the engine is running.

Best of luck with it.


All we know is that when they stop making this, we will be properly, properly sad.Jeremy Clarkson on the Esprit.

Opinions are like armpits. Everyone has them, some just stink more than others.

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If that doesn't correct it then the ECU is getting a true signal of low oil pressure and won't start to protect the engine.

I think it's worth reminding that the ECU has NO knowledge of oil pressure, the oil pressure gauge is only used to inform the driver in the cabin, the ECU isn't getting this particular signal.

Looking at the electrical diagrams, the low pressure switch however may have an effect (which bypasses the ECU) on the radiators fans, but I don't see any link to the ignition module or fuel pump, so I still don't think it would be able to prevent the engine from being started. Also, these diagrams refer to pre '90 cars, so I am not too sure how relevant it is to an S4, nevermind a US market one.

So if it doesn't stat, it sounds much more like what andy said: starter fault.

About the Check Engine Light flashing, easiest is to read it and report back ! :wink: Even if the owner doesn't have access to Freescan (?) or other reader, it should be easy to just flash the CEL light on the dash by bridging the ALDL plug and reading the error code Morse style...

Edited by troutrou

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Oops. I made an assumption regarding the oil pressure/ECU link :P

Edited by ramjet

All we know is that when they stop making this, we will be properly, properly sad.Jeremy Clarkson on the Esprit.

Opinions are like armpits. Everyone has them, some just stink more than others.

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Hi folks:

I truly appreciate all your reading, replies, and suggestions.

I just came back from the repair shop. The problem was obvious, the timing belt was not turning. I could not see it while cranking, but when mechanics pointed to me, there is no doubt why the car won't start. They even found a couple teeth of the belt. The car has 47000 miles on it; so much for the Lotus claim of 100K timing belt for California on the 95 and newer models (one of the big reason for picking this car).

Now my questions are:

1. Why the belt failed? Age? loose tension? Engine froze up? Others?

2. How do I know if I need the engine valve job or not?

3. What other things should I ask the mechanics to check while repairing the car?

4. Should I keep it with the European car shop? or tow it to a Lotus specialist 50 miles away?

Even though the car is difficult to drive (high clutch and gas pedal, hard to tell 1st or 3rd gear from a stop, lots of driver attention and input), rough (you feel every inch of the imperfect road), and loud (engine and road noise overpowering at any speed), I still love the car and want to step in and step out of the car as often as I can. all your help to put it back on the road and keep it running will be greatly appreciated.

Howiiieee

95 S4

Southern California

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The belt is 15years old!!!!!!!!! ???

I change mine almost every year...!

Even if Lotus said 100,000miles in CA, they also specify a "or x years"...

I know that California mandated that cars must go 100,000miles before a tune up, but that is bs for an older design like the Lotus 910 (design goes back to the 907 and the mid 70's at least). You just can't expect an engine like that to run that long, no matter what the state legislators say!

You must do a "leak down" test to test whether the valves or the cylinder are leaking air. You pump air into each cylinder while at TDC, with a device with 2 pressure gauges. The first tells you how much pressure you put in, and the second gauge tells you how much you are losing to leakage.

You should also look inside with a bore-scope to visually check for damage, that is if the leakage is within normal limits. If it leaks, then you must remove the cams and head and take a better look.

Have it taken to a Lotus specialist! This engine has enough special things, that they should know what they are doing... A small lack of knowledge can lead to a big problem.

It would be a good time to rebuild the waterpump, and replace any 15year old hoses in the engine bay. Almost all of the hoses can be sourced from equivalent Gates parts from Checker and Napa. ask me for a hose cross-ref list if you go down that path.

I just finished a full rebuild on my Lotus SE (same engine as your S4) http://picasaweb.google.com/lotusse/LotusEngineRebuild#

BTW Lotus 95 California service schedule includes a cam belt check every 12,500miles...

Edited by Vulcan Grey

Travis

Vulcan Grey 89SE

My Lotus Photo and Projects Album

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Well the belt is 15 years old so obviously it died from age. 100K for a belt ? I think that's a USA thing isn'ty it ? I must admit I have never understood how they can claim tha thigh a mileage. In Europe cam belts are given for much less than that, yet it's still the same car.

I guess this USA 100K thing is a pretty arbitrary requirement put on the car makers, but which is a bit disconnect from reality... Of course you can keep it for 25 years if you like, but it all depends how much risk you want to take. The USA regulations apparently think 100K milaes is perfectly safe, but in Europe it'smore like 65K and 10 years maximum, whichever term comes first. As for the Esprit I believe it's even less than that but I can't recall the numbers, 40K miles ? Anyone remembers ?! ;-)

Edited by troutrou

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Suggest you consider taking the car to Viking Motorsports in Costa Mesa. Harry at Viking has a first class reputation and knows just about everything there is to know on the Esprit.

Viking Motorsports Inc.

3019 Enterprise Street

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Phone: 714-979-1020

Fax: 714-979-1090

link to Viking

Best of luck.


Cheers, Gavin

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Thanks again for all the quick response.

I don't think the timing belt is 16 years old. Previous owners have done a lot of works on it, like blow of valve, new wheels and suspensions, new exhaust systems, and others which I don't know. The problem is I do not have much documents on it and don't know when they were done. The engine bay was clean and the hoses looked fairly new. The car was last inspected by a Lotus specialist - Claudius, in Cerritos, California, in March 10, 2010, just 4 months ago. A speed sensor was replaced to correct a Check Engine light and the ECM was reprogrammed to S4S spec. I was not the owner at that time, but I assume they have checked the timing belt while replacing the speed sensor and check the new ECM settings. I really did not expect a timing belt problem so quickly. The car ran fine with me for a month, then this happened.

More questions:

1. How long does a timing belt last in an Esprit? I checked the forum on how much you spent to keep your Esprit running, and few has listed the timing belt on their list.

2. Is there another possibility that another component failed and forced the timing belt to fail prematurely?

3. For those who have serviced their Esprits in Southern California, which shop is better - Lotus prepared by Claudias, Viking Motor sports, or another shop?

4. What was the quote on the timing belt job if you had one?

5. Is the Maxima belt just as good as the "Lotus brand" from the dealer?

The current shop where my car is has not given me a quote yet (he is still researching). I want to be ready to make a decision when the quote comes. I love the car, but I do have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay.

Howiiieee

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My thoughts are that Lotus run a little scared in the UK due to the cold temps. The continued 'cold - hot - cold' doesn't give the rubber belt much of a life. Running in a constant warm, dry climate is much preferred. These days a good belt should last for 8-10 years / 100,000kms.


Simon  (94 S4)      My Esprit will be for sale in late 2017

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Howiiieee,

The belt could have failed for several reasons, some of which are: age, too tight or too loose, tensioner failure, damage....

That's one of the reasons you'll see stated in these forums probably hundreds of times if you search, to replace the cam belt when you buy an Esprit if you can't confirm the age/miles as the consequences of a failure are usually dire.

For almost anywhere else in the world except California, Lotus recommends timing belts to be checked and tensioned every 12,500 miles and replacement every 36 months or 36,000 (37,500 in US) miles. There's nothing magical about California air that makes the belts last another 60,000 miles and/or 10-15 years.

Sorry to hear of your misfortune and I would also recommend Harry at Viking Motorsports if at all possible. He's one of the best Lotus techs anywhere...


1995 S4s

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Although the previous owner may have had hoses replaced, he may not have replaced the belt. The bad news is that the some of the valves are very likely to have been bent when the belt failed or when you subsequently tried to start the car. Either take it to Viking as it needs to be fixed by a team that know Lotus or by an owner that can take the time to learn. I.e. if you have decent mechanic skills, you could fix it yourself.

Don't use the Nissan belt. The proper belt is not that expensive and the few dollars you save are not worth the loss of peace of mind.


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

 

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A new cambelt is about £70. We fitted one to my car this weekend as although it wasn't needed, enough parts were off the car to make it a no brainer. The last one was perhaps 18 months/12,000 miles old and looked almost new.

I'm sure that the 100k mile cambelt was only on late Esprits and the way Lotus got round this was to offer a free belt change. 4 cylinder Esprit belts should be changed every 2 years or 20,000 miles, interference engines don't like snapped belts. The question of how long a belt lasts is irrelevant, it should never be something you need to ask if it's changed enough and it's not a thing you can change after the event.

Get your car to Viking, they have a brilliant reputation and will look after your Esprit. I'm amazed your asking if a non-recommended belt will be ok after you've just had one fail. As I said £70 is the price and as much as I hope you're not, I believe you're about to find out the price of the consequences of a failed belt and I'm sure for the few £ you'll save on a different belt won't make up for the bill you're about to get for repairs.

Sorry but you need to look after this car, it's a 175mph supercar and the fact you've run on a belt of undeterminate age has caused this problem.

Do you know how old the tyres are too? How fast have you driven on these, how much do you value your life? I wouldn't have a tyre on a supercar that's more than 4/5 years old, it's too scary to think what forces are exerted on them at the speeds we can drive to not have fresh rubber. Expensive stereos are one thing but maintain the car, they're dangerous and expensive toys and need to be looked after or they can bite back. Preventative maintenance is key.


88 Esprit NA, 89 Esprit Turbo SE, Evora, Evora S, Evora IPS, Evora S IPS, Evora S IPS SR, Evora 400, Elise S1, Elise S1 111s, Evora GT410 Sport

Evora NA

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I agree with what everyone else has been saying,i also suspect you have damaged some valves and if you are really unlucky cracked a few valve guides not to mention giving the pistons a good belt but you live and learn.these are expensive machines to get repaired so dont get cheap parts use the Lotus recomended belt as Bibs said .If the head is badly damaged look into a recon head for a cost comparison , if some of the valves are chipped make sure they look at the turbo its not difficult to can a turbo with Fod.

Best of luck .

Nick S4s


Simplest things first.

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Howiiieee,

The thing you really need to do at this moment is get your Esprit to someone who ones what they are doing. Not some Euro Jag, Beemer, Merc downtown LA shop. It needs to be fixed by someone who's done it before. Do what's best for the car and get it to Viking. Unfortunately you may be looking at a fairly large bill but at-least you can be sure that the quality of the work is 1st class and it will have a guarantee.

Best of luck.


Cheers, Gavin

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Once again I appreciate all your inputs and suggestions.

I have re- towed the car to Viking Motorsports in Costa Mesa, Ca. It cost me another $200 just to get it there, but you folks are right. If I want to keep this fabulous car running for a while, then it has to be done right. I have undusted my "high limit" credit card and hope for the best. Harry will tell me what needs to be done and I will get the car to a clean bill of health again. If I learn my lessons here and keep up the maintenance from now on, I hope the car will keep running for years to come.

It is interesting that you all voted Viking, none for Claudius or the dealers.

By the way, Harry told me he will use the much stronger JAS blue timing belt and change all other belts, too. There will be a list of other things that will need to be done. I will start a new topic after I get the list to share the experience with you folks.

Here is an interesting thing that I want to share with you folks. One of the things I was a bit concerned when I bought the car was not the timing belt, or any other mechanical thing. It was the license plate number. It ended with the numbers "444". Chinese and Asians in general do not like the number 4 as it rhyme with the word "dead" in Chinese and many other Asian languages. The Japanese even invented a new pronunciation for the number just to avoid it. The first thing I did after I bought the car was to order a personalize license plate (no number 4 on it at all) for it. However, the new plate has not arrived yet and the car is "dead". I hope my new license plate will be here soon so I can replace the bad omen plate before I drive it home.

Thanks again and hope to drive my red Lotus Esprit S4 again soon.

Howiiieee

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Good man. You'll investment now will be rewarded tenfold once you get it back and it's had a really good seeing too from Viking. I know how good they are and I live in England! :thumbsup:


88 Esprit NA, 89 Esprit Turbo SE, Evora, Evora S, Evora IPS, Evora S IPS, Evora S IPS SR, Evora 400, Elise S1, Elise S1 111s, Evora GT410 Sport

Evora NA

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Excellent Howiiieee well done. Harry will see you right.

Keep us posted on what transpires.


Cheers, Gavin

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