Working on buying a 1989 to 1995 Esprit - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community

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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 08:32 AM Thread Starter
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Working on buying a 1989 to 1995 Esprit

Hi I'm looking to buy an '89 to '95 Esprit and have a few questions about the timing belt service.

I talked with several dealers who have these cars for sale and I asked about service records, particularly about the timing belt service. Both dealers did not have the records but said they looked at the belt and it looks good, no cracks, stresses, etc. They both offered to change the belt as part of the purchase deal.

My questions:
1) can you really see the belt to check its condition and does a visual inspection really tell you anything?,
2) I thought the belt change was an expensive engine out process?
3) what else should be changed when doing a belt service.
4) Does the belt require changing every 25K miles. I saw somewhere about a "blue 100K belt"?

Thanks for any insights. I've wanted an Esprit for a long time and now that its time, it's kind of scary buying a 20 year old car without service records.

Darryl
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 09:40 AM
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Welcome to the forums Darryl!!! Be sure to post a "hello" in the "Lotus Discussions > Hi, I'm new here" section of the forums.

To help answer your questions I'll provide my opinions below:
1) A visual inspection is inadequate. With these cars, if you don't know how long it has been since it has been replaced, then replace them. The repercussions are $$$ to fix your engine.
2) While it is easier to replace the belt with the 4cyl. engine out of the car, it is possible to replace it with the engine in place (I've done it). Small hands are a plus.
3) possibly the water pump since you have the belts off and check the idler bearing too
4) The Gates blue belt is definitely the one to get. I think the Esprit C Service says to replace it every 24,000 miles. With the blue belt, I am conservative by going with 50k miles or 5 years with the blue belt.

There's a decent write-up on the belt replacement process found here: Timing Belt Change
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 09:50 AM
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Welcome to the forums Darryl!!! Be sure to post a "hello" in the "Lotus Discussions > Hi, I'm new here" section of the forums.

To help answer your questions I'll provide my opinions below:
1) A visual inspection is inadequate. With these cars, if you don't know how long it has been since it has been replaced, then replace them. The repercussions are $$$ to fix your engine.
2) While it is easier to replace the belt with the 4cyl. engine out of the car, it is possible to replace it with the engine in place (I've done it). Small hands are a plus.
3) possibly the water pump since you have the belts off and check the idler bearing too
4) The Gates blue belt is definitely the one to get. I think the Esprit C Service says to replace it every 24,000 miles. With the blue belt, I am conservative by going with 50k miles or 5 years with the blue belt.

There's a decent write-up on the belt replacement process found here: Timing Belt Change


Seraph, Everything you said is spot on. They should be done 3 or 5 depending on the belt. Again, mine was done in car and I might add having a level C done by someone very very familiar with this car and engine is uber important.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 10:24 AM
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Both dealers did not have the records but said they looked at the belt and it looks good, no cracks, stresses, etc. They both offered to change the belt as part of the purchase deal.

I would ONLY let them do if they have experience in doing on an Esprit. If they do not then you need to know WHO will be doing it and make sure it is part of the deal. i.e. do not want to get caught with them saying they will sell car to you for $X and then when they find out how much the C service costs they try to add some $ to the price

1) can you really see the belt to check its condition and does a visual inspection really tell you anything?,

Might tell you if it is bad by way of cracks but absence of them does not mean it doesnt need to be changed based on time.

3) what else should be changed when doing a belt service.

ALL belts, water pump, check valves and adjust

Kenny; Dallas Tx
==============================
1995 Lexus SC300 - SOLD
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 11:52 AM
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By both of them telling you it looks good tells me that you do NOT want them to touch the car. If they would look at it and offer an opinion without knowing with certainty how many miles are on it or how old it is, they do not know what they are doing. Anyone familiar enough with Lotus engines knows you cannot tell by a visual inspection the condition of the belt. If you cannot get an accurate date on the belt from service records you must figure on doing it so you KNOW it was done, when and by who. Same goes for all of the other service items, you will have to do the "C" service which includes the belts, valve clearance checks, and a bunch of other things. One thing you CAN check is the date codes on the tires. If they are over 7 years old they must be replaced. With no service records you must do everything to know all of the service is up to date. That can be expensive. Consider getting a PPI (Pre Purchase Inspection) by someone knows what he is looking at. Well worth the money so you know what you are buying BEFORE you spend your money. Depending on how much you can do yourself a "C" service is going to cost a minimum of $3K and the motor does not have to come out.
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 12:07 PM
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I too was amazed by the fact that the timing belt is exposed upon buying my Esprit. I actually thought there was a cover missing. Few owners when I was searching could elaborate on why the timing belt is so crucial to be checked and replaced. I wanted the car and just bought it after getting little technical info on it. I can tell you that after owning the car for 6 years now, having the belt on and off numerous times, its not so impossible anymore. Also I dont know of any shop where I reside that I would trust with the Esprits repair. I know from getting the car inspected in the past and secretly quizzing shops on CIS injection and this cars timing belt replacement, no one knows much about it, aside from it was on a poster on their wall growing up.

If its a must have doing your own repairs and getting the service notes is a good investment, if you are at all mechanical.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 12:11 PM
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You cannot tell timing belt condition just by looking. Ask the local NJ guy who had his belt unravel after 10K miles (but, he said it looked good despite being 10 years old).

THAT decision is costing him an engine rebuild....

A Service Schedule for UK Esprits is here:

Esprit 4-cylinder Service Schedule


You might also want to look at the buying guides/checklist on these pages:

Buying an Esprit

Atwell Haines
'88 Esprit
Succasunna, NJ USA


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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 12:25 PM
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I have pictures of my late 88 Esprit timing belt when I bought it in 2011 (30K miles). The belt looked nearly new, yet it was confirmed to be at least 13 years old (and possibly original 23 year old belt) after talking to previous owners. Relying on 'looks' for an unknown belt age is dangerous.

I have personally run the Gates blue belt for 40K miles in 40 months and can vouch for at least that level of performance. Not sure I would take it to 100K miles.

As others mentioned, if the dealers are claiming it looks good, that means likely they don't know the change interval is 3 years/36K miles for the original 'black' belt.

The belt change labor is typically classified as a flat rate of about 8-10 hours depending on the mechanic

Eddie B
88 Esprit 'SLEEK GT'

Last edited by sleekgt; 02-13-2017 at 12:57 PM.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 01:03 PM
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The belt is typically classified as a flat rate of about 8-10 hours depending on the mechanic
The official "Shop-Time Labour Schedule" (from Lotus) suggests quoting 3.5 hours labor time for timing belt replacement on 89 - 95 Esprits.
For Bosch Esprits, they allow one extra hour. Now, I feel slighted.

Atwell Haines
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 01:32 PM
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That would be on a regularly maintained car. If the belt has not been touched in a LONG time the bolts may not come loose so easily, the whole area might be covered in dirt, etc making the whole job take longer and cost more. Then there is always something else you can do increasing the time (cost) again. The water pump may be due or show signs of weeping, idler pulley bearings, hoses, cam tower seals, etc. Bottom line, on a car that has no good history you can expect that service was neglected, otherwise the seller would be proud to tell you how well serviced the car is and that would make the car worth more! The selling price and/or the offer should reflect the fact that there is no current service history. In many ways buying an exotic car is like buying an airplane. If you don't have a record of the life, use and service, you wind up replacing a LOT of expensive parts.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 04:06 PM
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Another note about the timing belt is that it needs the tension checked by either using a special Burroughs Gauge tool link
or using the acoustical method which uses the Gates frequency measurement app on your smartphone and strumming the middle of the belt like a guitar string.

Also, a new timing belt needs to be checked after couple of weeks from installation date because they may stretch out a bit and lose tension.

Jim S.
1995 Esprit S4s
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by carbuff View Post
The official "Shop-Time Labour Schedule" (from Lotus) suggests quoting 3.5 hours labor time for timing belt replacement on 89 - 95 Esprits.
For Bosch Esprits, they allow one extra hour. Now, I feel slighted.
Hmm... I replaced my old 86 Nissan Sentra's timing belt in about 4 hours.
I must be slow since the Esprit timing belt would take me at least 8 hours for sure.

Where does the extra 'Bosch' hour get consumed?

Eddie B
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 06:14 PM
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Hi I'm looking to buy an '89 to '95 Esprit and have a few questions about the timing belt service.[snip] it's kind of scary buying a 20 year old car without service records.
Click on my 'garage' to see my late 88 Esprit's story - full service history listed, what was done, etc. I didn't have full service records either, but the mechanic who serviced it for the last 2-3 years told me all the key details and I went from there.

I didn't track the $$ expended (partly because I knew it would be high and depressing).

But my mechanic and I had a playful joke going on - that as an owner that didn't do the heavy lifting (mechanically), it was 'a buck a mile' to daily drive my Esprit

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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-13-2017, 06:38 PM
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Where does the extra 'Bosch' hour get consumed?
The Lotus Labour Time Schedule (Issued by Technical Service Dept, Lotus Cars USA) notes that "LABOUR TIME is the time required to perform a standard operation having due regard for skill, working conditions, personal needs and service procedures"

In the case of Bosch cars, it's the 'personal needs' (Extra BEER consumed as frustration mounts, and the need to make room for more, as time goes on) that adds the extra, I'm sure.

In fact, I'm POSITIVE.

Either that or they knew to average in MY level of "Skill" (note the quotes)
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 07:50 AM
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Did they employ Leprechauns with little fingers and hands to create the standard times?
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post #16 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 04:50 PM Thread Starter
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Hey thanks for all the advice, it'll certainly help with my buying decision. I'll be sure to update you when I find the right car.
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post #17 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 12:35 PM
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I have to admit, I never use the gauges, or properly could get the accoustic method to work. I have had that belt on and off so many times doing maintenance I always just twist and flex it before I remove it, and again once its installed. The only issue I ever had was a bad tensioner pulley bearing not long after I replaced it, and im sure it was a bearing issue, as after reporting to the supplier, and them telling me they previously had a run of bad bearings, they sent me two back.

Its a risk im willing to take though, I think I have developed a pretty good feel for it now, to each his own. In my opinion if the belt is too loose you will know by feel, and if its too tight it will whine as mine has once or twice prior to adjusting it upon reinstallation. I do hate the way that pulley adjusts, what a PITA, its eccentric or concentric or off center, or whatever you call it.

My worries anymore aren't when the timing belt is gonna snap, I keep after it, its when are my fuel tanks are gonna start to leak.
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post #18 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-16-2017, 06:22 PM
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I have to admit, I never use the gauges, or properly could get the accoustic method to work. [snip]
Its a risk im willing to take though, I think I have developed a pretty good feel for it now, to each his own.[snip]
While I had professional mechanics servicing my late 88 Esprit, they too ended up using the 'twist' method - no gauge, no cell phone app, etc.
It was "I adjust it and twist it to about 45 degrees to confirm".

Yes - I hear folks advising the folly/risk of such a practice.

But I put 40K miles on a single Gates Blue Belt tensioned that way. And a 2nd Gates Belt with 10K miles - same mechanic, same tensioning procedure.

No issues, no premature wearing of camshaft bearing due to overtightening, etc. (the valves were adjusted at 40K mile mark so the cam towers have to be pulled - no unusual wear found).

Total of 50K miles in 49 months on 2 Gates Blue belts.

Your mileage may vary.

Eddie B
88 Esprit 'SLEEK GT'
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post #19 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-16-2017, 06:59 PM
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Unorthodox methods often work. It takes a LOT of experience and a trained eye to do it that way. That's why torque wrenches, feeler gauges, and other more standard types of testing were developed, not every mechanic is good enough to do it by feel or by ear.
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