Engine stall in the middle of the highway! - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-08-2014, 12:05 AM Thread Starter
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Engine stall in the middle of the highway!

It took me a full two days to recover from what might have been an absolute tragedy. It's almost a miracle that I am still alive.

Two days ago I was coming home from work around 2 AM. I was driving on the highway when all of a sudden the engine 'stuttered' for a few seconds and stalled out. Thankfully a co-worker was behind me and I managed to coast to the shoulder (while having two very near-misses by massive semi trucks in the process).

What went wrong is still a mystery and why I desperately need help troubleshooting the issue.

So some background-

The car is a base MY 2012 Elise with the NA 1.6 1ZR engine. Still under warranty, and the only modification is a Lotus Stage 1 muffler that was installed at that dealer when new.

This would be the 4th time the car has been in the service shop in the past year. The first two were because it threw a P0171 'Engine Too Lean' CEL. They couldn't find a fault during the first visit, simply reset the OBD and told me to come back if it threw it again. The same CEL came on a few weeks later and this time they updated the ECU. The same CEL didn't come on since. This was all done about 5 months ago.

Then two weeks ago I started the engine up in a cold car park, and the car immediately 'stuttered' for about 20 seconds like it was misfiring and stalled-out with a CEL on the dash. I tried starting up the car again 2-3 times in roughly 30 second intervals which it stuttered out immediately (the engine turned, stuttered-out without gaining full ignition). Then after about 5 minutes, I tried again and the car started up just fine like nothing had happened. I was able to drive home and even to the dealer service the next day. Nothing felt wrong, everything was absolutely fine.

The shop said the CEL was a misfire in Cylinder #4. They said the spark plugs on Cylinder 4 were 'burned' more and they were sure that was the reason for stalling out, and couldn't find anything else wrong. They simply said that the plugs were probably bad to begin with. Lotus refused to cover it under warranty because it was a 'service item'. I told them that this is a premature failure on an original item, but didn't budge. The cost wasn't stratospheric so I decided to change all 4 plugs to iridium anyways.

It was about 4 days later, when the car stalled in the middle of the highway. I warmed up the car fully before driving (it's getting cold here) and about 15 mins into the drive, the car all of a sudden lost power. The engine didn't cut out immediately. It stuttered, like a misfire for about 15 seconds, threw a CEL then after coming on to the shoulder it stalled the engine out completely. It felt like what happened two weeks ago, only this time I was driving when this happened. Again, I started the car 2-3 times in 30 second intervals to no avail, and exactly like last time, when I started the car up again after 5 minutes, it roared to life like nothing happened.

I drove it home with my co-worker watching my back without a hitch. The car nearly stalled again near the house so the next day I towed it back to the shop.

The shop said it was threw the same code (misfire on cylinder 4). They 'think' it's the coilpack for #4 this time. They are in the process of switching the coilpack to another cylinder to see if it throws it there.

I am normally calm about these things but after nearly killing myself, I need to make sure this doesn't happen again. The guys at the service station means well but they don't give me any confidence whenever the car is being serviced. I live in a country with one dealer/service station and they aren't exactly 'active' to find a resolution on any warranty-related work. It's always 'we can't find anything. Come back if the same thing happens again'. I told them that if they don't find the problem this time, I won't be the one coming back but the police and my lawyers on negligence charges with my death. All of my colleagues who are in the media wants to make this a big deal but my mission is to promote Lotus, not kill it.

A lot of people think it sounds like a fuel pump or a coil pack but what really bothers me is that the car is absolutely normal after 5 minutes. It feels like a software issue than a hardware issue like something is resetting after it finds a fault. I can see a fuel pump failing if it's very hot, but this happened both when the engine was cold and when it was hot. If it's a misfire, I can see a rough engine but can it stall out? Is the 1.6 liter is too weak to hold on to a misfire?

The car is still in the shop but I am really afraid to drive it without knowing the root cause. The shop simply wants to remove/replace a bad part, not knowing why it happened in the first place.

I can really use some good advice here. Any help would be appreciated!

Last edited by blanchimont; 11-08-2014 at 12:12 AM.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-08-2014, 12:35 AM
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Same thing happened to me on a 2ZZ. Turned out to be a bad coil.

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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-08-2014, 06:08 AM
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I live in a country with one dealer/service station

Are we from the same place?!
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2014, 12:35 AM
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this happened to me twice, but I was coasting in neutral (hence idling) when it happened. Sounds like you were still in gear when it happened which is definitely odd and more serious issue.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2014, 06:32 PM
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When the crank position sensor starts to go bad, it exhibits this behavior when the motor warms up, then returns to normal operation when it cools down. The sensor continues to degrade and the failure starts happening sooner until eventually the car won't start.

In theory, there is no difference between Theory and Practice. In practice, there is. - Y. Berra
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-10-2014, 02:32 PM Thread Starter
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I thought about sensors such as a dirty MAF, Coolant Temp Sensor, and the Camshaft Position Sensor... however, could those cause just one cylinder (#4) to to miss? The first misfire/stalling resulted in a Misfire in #4 and when we pulled the plugs, only the #4 cylinder plugs were abnormally dark/worn. We replaced all 4, but then when the misfire/stalling occurred again the CEL was the same (misfire on Cyl #4).

The #4 coil and #1 coil are swapped for the moment to see if it's a bad coil but so far the car is behaving too well. Phantom problems like this are frustrating!

Vavoo, I only wish I was in Belgium. At least you can get help around the corner. My country is surrounded by Seas.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-22-2014, 11:26 AM
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I had a similar misfire problem on cylinder #3 with my 2006 Elise 2zz-ge with a VF2 kit. We replaced coil packs, cleaned MAF, ensured the ECU was fine, did compression check among other things....it turned out that fuel injector #3 was "wide open" according to the mechanic. This means it was injecting way too much fuel into the cylinder. The strange thing was i kept getting a generalized(not specify to a cylinder) misfire code after we determined it was the injector. I began using ethanol fuel conditioner every other fuel fill and the code vanished. It would come back if I stopped using the additive. I think the VF2 tune was the ultimate cause.

It never stalled while driving however.

My 2008 Exige S240 stalls at stop lights almost every time I take a drive. It is stock. This is common complaint.

2006 Elise ST (someone else has it now . . . )
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-22-2014, 11:59 AM
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engine stall

I have an Evora that did the same, but only once this past summer while driving home on the expressway - thru many CELs. After pulling off and parking, it restarted and ran OK. For over a year it also sputtered, ran rough on a cold start.

I do not know if you have a throttle body connector - I do not remember having one in my Elise I drove for six years. Once I had the throttle body connector pins replaced with gold, the problems have stopped. To my amazement the car seems to gradually run better and better as time goes by. Nice smooth cold starts.

New spark plug wiring might be the solution for you - may be shorting/arcing?

2012 IPS Evora 2+0 Starlight Black, 2012 Elantra, 2005 Astro Van
[SOLD]2005 Elise Starlight Black, hardtop, touring pack, Larini Sport Style exhaust.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-23-2014, 05:25 PM
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I assure you, your Lotus has only the finest British electrical components in it.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2014, 08:24 PM Thread Starter
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Right. Finally some updates.

The car has been in the shop for quite a long time waiting for the new coil pack to arrive, and in the meantime they have been test driving the car periodically to see if the fault re-appeared and if it was indeed a bad coil pack #4 by swapping #1 and #4 coil packs when it happened.

The good news is that the service technician was finally able to incur the conditions that I had.

The car developed a misfire while test driving and the CEL lights came out as misfires on cylinder #1 and #4. When they pulled the plugs they found out that #1 and #4 plugs were wet with fuel while the others were fine and dry. He said the car wouldn't stall if you gave it gas, and it was only when you let off the gas pedal that the car would stall out. The car would start fine again when the wet spark plugs dried out (hence the 5 mins).

I am honestly a bit relieved now that the service techs know exactly what the problem is. Until now it's been sort of a phantom problem like I've seen a ghost that no one else seems to believe. I've never been so pleased to hear my service adviser say 'we were able to find a problem with your car'.

This rules out quite a few things but what would be an educated guess as to why #1 and #4 plugs weren't firing?

Thanks to all the help so far!
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-19-2016, 06:26 AM
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just had the exact same problem. did you ever fix it?
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-19-2016, 06:54 AM
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I find all of this interesting. I've had trouble in the past and replacing the coil packs helped a lot.

I still have a very mild issue. Someone suggested I clean my fuel injectors. I may try that when the weather warms up.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-21-2016, 05:24 AM
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my issues seem to have been solved. my shop traced it to a failing fuel pump. the pump was replaced with a new one and it started and idled strongly. we disconnected the pump while the engine was running and the symptoms looked the same. the multifunction relay was ok.
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 08-28-2017, 07:17 AM
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Hi Guys-
Seems like others have had this problem- evora stalls on the highway while driving. I was able to pull over each time. I tried to restart the car, and had no luck initially. I waited about 1-2 min, and the car started with no problem. My mechanic thinks I may have dirt in the fuel tank. I thought it was the pins on the throttle connector like this thread suggests. He says then the check engine light would stay on. (all the lights come on after I stall, but turn off after the first attempt to restart the car.) When this has happened to you guys, did you find your check engine light stayed on?
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