Made some real progress today as we finally moved from taking stuff apart to actually putting things back together. That felt like a huge milestone!
As you can see, the new crash structure is attached to the car. There isnít a lot documented about how to do this on the forums so I figured maybe Iíd include some information that might help someone in the future. Especially since this is a pretty common item that you need to replace in a crash, and a lot of the reason why Elise / Exiges get totalled. I can see why from the standpoint that the labor and time involved in replacing the crash structure is significant!
Here is a basic rundown with a few tips included:
After youíve removed the clam, the radiator, the condenser, the oil coolers, and everything else in the way, thenÖ
1 - Remove the old crash structure. Youíll have to hack, cut, pry, swear, kick, punch and more to get it off. See my earlier post.
TIP: You donít actually have to remove all the existing betaseal ďglueĒ, even though we did. (In fact, we wirewheeled it right down to the aluminum, but Iím told this is not necessary. As long as you have a relatively flat even surface you should be fine. The glue is actually pliable and has some give so it will conform as you clamp down the new structure anyway.)
2 - Prep the new structure. If you got the elise-spares.com one like me, youíll need to use a dremel to cut out the two HVAC intake nostrils and the radiator hose passthrough holes on the side. Theyíre marked with an outline on the crash structure. We used a circular drill and cleaned it up with a dremel for those parts.
3 - Test fit the new structure. It should be pretty obvious how it lines up. Itís about a ľ inch from each side of the frame with the top lip over the edge of the frame. Once you have it on there youíll see. But dry fit it and make sure itís all good and remind yourself how hard the old one was to remove...thatíll be motivation enough to get the new one put on properly!
TIP: Use some shims or the radiator hoses themselves to ensure there is enough space to put them on. The clearance between the coolant hard lines into the chassis and the crash structure are pretty tight. We put the radiator hoses on during the gluing of the structure to ensure weíd have enough space.
TIP #2: We took the unprecedented(?) route of adding two ďriv-nutsĒ aka ďnutsertsĒ to the front of the frame just above where the nostrils of the crash structure HVAC intakes are. You can see them circled in the pic below. This is not ďOEMĒ but serves the purpose of helping to secure the structure further and to help clamp it during the gluing process. Additionally, it makes it easier to level the crash structure before the betaseal dries by tightening or loosening the bolt in the nutsert to slightly move the structure up or down.
4 - Clean the chassis mounting surface with acetone or brake clean.
5 - Prime both the chassis and the crash structure surfaces using BETAPRIME. Let it sit for a few minutes per the instructions.
6 - Apply the BETASEAL U-428 windshield urethane to the crash structure in the pattern described in the manual. The BETASEAL specified in the shop manual is discontinued or extremely hard to find but a few local shops suggested this stuff works just as well. Also on the SELOC forums they indicated nearly any strong windshield urethane should be OK.
TIP: This stuff is THICK and hard to get out using a standard caulking gun. Also, we had to modify the caulk gun with a hacksaw a bit to make sure nozzle tip sit flush because the nozzle is so big and thick. Your hand is going to get a serious workout pumping the goop out.
TIP2: Between the crash structure and the bumper armatures, we used about one whole tube of betaseal.
7 - Mount the crash structure to the chassis and clamp it in place. Again, this is where the nutserts that we added were really helpful, youíll also need two people for this part. The betaseal starts to set in about 20 minutes so you donít have a lot of time for messing around.
8 - Get those radiator hoses on for spacing if you didnít use shims!
9 - Get the crash structure leveled side to side and front to back. I actually forgot to check how level the old one was, but I donít think it has to be too precise as there are a bunch of shims for the clam anyway. We got this one almost perfectly level.
10 - Add some extra clamps, straps, tiedowns or whatever you can manage to hold it in place. We put a bit of weight on it to keep some tension on the bungees we used. Remember, it needs to be level so donít clamp things down so tight that itís no longer level.
Thatís about it!
If you have a federal, newer car youíll also need to glue on the bumper armatures (note I believe the OEM crash structure will come with these already attached as well as the tow hook mounting plates.) Follow the same process of acetone, betaprime, betaseal and then clamp these things on. Youíll also need to make sure to include the tow hook mounting brackets as these arenít included in the elise-spares crash structure. It should be marked where to drill and youíll need to glue or rivet those plates into place. We glued them but noticed the metal plates have holes for rivets so I think either option would be fine.
Kick back, open a cold beer or two for all your hard work and let the betaseal cure for a few hours / overnight. Once cured, remove the clamps and test it out by applying some weight (e.g. sitting) on it.