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.