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Discussion Starter #1
I’m hoping to gather more information from Lotus (1997-2005 Esprit), Elise and Exige owners that have experienced lifting or bubbling of their car paint.

I have noticed a number of people on different forums talking about this problem. In some cases what appears to be rain drops or orange peel is actually the paint lifting.

I currently own a 2002 Esprit and every panel including the rear wing has paint bubbling. My car is garaged and has never been repainted, but certainly needs it now.

If you have one of the Lotus models listed above, I would like to hear from you.

Regards,
 

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That looks very unusual, first time I've seen this on a Esprit... I own a final edition esprit and my paint is pretty much flawless. I've seen many other esprits also and paint quality is pretty good.

Did this bubbling just start recently?
 

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This is a known problem - Lotus has even been sued about it. The photos you have show a classic case.

I have noticed it isn't discussed as much in US forums as I have seen in others. The early Elises (S1's and pre 2004 S2's) seem to have this.

It is the result of moisture in the fiberglass finally surfacing. By moisture, it doesn't necessarily mean the vehicle has to be kept outside - it can simply be an area prone to condensation from temperature variations or dew. The concensus is this seems the result of poor prep on Lotus part. The fiberglass wasnt sealed on the inner and outer surface before paint was applied.

The S2 Exige seems to be a little differently affected given the hand laid nature of the front and rear clams but the doors and sills are the same as an Elise. I have a Sport 260 which has carbon fiber panels which I am closely watching. Not only can cleared carbon fiber discolor from UV exposure but I want to make sure it does not develop a moisture bubbling problem.

In some instances, repainting hasn't solved this issue. It has been known to resurface after repainting. There are some resorting to priming the inside and outside of panel after baking the car in a paint booth oven for an extended point of time.
 

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The paint on my 1999 Esprit is excellent overall (gray "Titanium Metallic"). I have a couple of these little bubbles on the tiny piece of trim in front of the driver's headlight (only visible when the headlights are on and the pods are up).

I had always thought it was from one of the headlights being left on and the heat bubbling it, but now I wonder if moisture is the real cause.

When I bought it the drain in that headlight pod was plugged and there was standing water in there. Maybe that did it.

Fortunately mine is very limited and not noticeable. Yours is much more extensive. Maybe get a dehumidifier for the garage if you do paint it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
That looks very unusual, first time I've seen this on a Esprit... I own a final edition esprit and my paint is pretty much flawless. I've seen many other esprits also and paint quality is pretty good.

Did this bubbling just start recently?
I noticed it in one area last year when I had an oil change and accused the dealership of spilling something on the car. The dealership went onto a Lotus forum and brought this to my attention. The problem does not obviously appear on all cars, but it took from 2002 till 2011 for it to surface on mine. I have enough information to show it is a known problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
This is a known problem - Lotus has even been sued about it. The photos you have show a classic case.

I have noticed it isn't discussed as much in US forums as I have seen in others. The early Elises (S1's and pre 2004 S2's) seem to have this.

It is the result of moisture in the fiberglass finally surfacing. By moisture, it doesn't necessarily mean the vehicle has to be kept outside - it can simply be an area prone to condensation from temperature variations or dew. The concensus is this seems the result of poor prep on Lotus part. The fiberglass wasnt sealed on the inner and outer surface before paint was applied.

The S2 Exige seems to be a little differently affected given the hand laid nature of the front and rear clams but the doors and sills are the same as an Elise. I have a Sport 260 which has carbon fiber panels which I am closely watching. Not only can cleared carbon fiber discolor from UV exposure but I want to make sure it does not develop a moisture bubbling problem.

In some instances, repainting hasn't solved this issue. It has been known to resurface after repainting. There are some resorting to priming the inside and outside of panel after baking the car in a paint booth oven for an extended point of time.
Where might I be able to find information regarding the law suit with Lotus?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
That looks very unusual, first time I've seen this on a Esprit... I own a final edition esprit and my paint is pretty much flawless. I've seen many other esprits also and paint quality is pretty good.

Did this bubbling just start recently?
It started last year. I noticed a small area on the paint when I oicked uo the car after having an oil change. I accused the dealership of spilling something on the paint. They referred me to a Lotus forum that talked about the problem. It's taken from 2002 - 2011 for the problem to show.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The paint on my 1999 Esprit is excellent overall (gray "Titanium Metallic"). I have a couple of these little bubbles on the tiny piece of trim in front of the driver's headlight (only visible when the headlights are on and the pods are up).

I had always thought it was from one of the headlights being left on and the heat bubbling it, but now I wonder if moisture is the real cause.

When I bought it the drain in that headlight pod was plugged and there was standing water in there. Maybe that did it.

Fortunately mine is very limited and not noticeable. Yours is much more extensive. Maybe get a dehumidifier for the garage if you do paint it.
The problem is the lack of quality control at Lotus. I own cars older and newer with original paint. Never a problem. People are leaving cars out doors year round in worse conditions wihout problems
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The paint on my 1999 Esprit is excellent overall (gray "Titanium Metallic"). I have a couple of these little bubbles on the tiny piece of trim in front of the driver's headlight (only visible when the headlights are on and the pods are up).

I had always thought it was from one of the headlights being left on and the heat bubbling it, but now I wonder if moisture is the real cause.

When I bought it the drain in that headlight pod was plugged and there was standing water in there. Maybe that did it.

Fortunately mine is very limited and not noticeable. Yours is much more extensive. Maybe get a dehumidifier for the garage if you do paint it.
I've never heard anyone tell me to buy a dehumidifier because my paint might lift. How about a good paint job and enjoy the car!
 

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My point is that I was unaware of Lotus having an implied warranty for 10+ years...

My other point is that the issue took almost 10 years to "surface", that in itself points to the fact that it was not a quality control issue, as there is no way that a small company like lotus would be able to do accelerated life testing on every paint process.

The issue is probably due to the fact that around that period, Lotus had to phase out several colors, and paint processes, due to environmental regulation to limit the use of some of those chemicals (like lacquers) IIRC. So Lotus had to learn their processes all over again. One of my favorite colors "Azure Blue" was discontinued around the early 2000's for this same reason...

GM had a similar issue in the early 90's when the EPA regulated away some of the chemicals that they used. Sometime later, you'd see all the early 90's white GM trucks with huge sheets of paint flaking off. The Japanese didn't have to conform to the EPA regulation, and they were able to use their same old paint processes, therefore the paint on early 90's Japanese cars will probably hold up better than a Chevy truck...

Some companies, like Ford, GM, Porsche test enough cars that they should have all the bugs worked out. I'm pretty sure I've rear that the big companies build more validation prototypes for a new model than Lotus builds production cars in a year!!!

I would suggest that if you are actively trying to get Lotus' help in resolving this issue, or talking to Dave Simkin, that you probably don't want to be slagging off their quality control and threatening a lawsuit... IMO
 

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My bodyshop and I have experienced bubbles (nowhere near that bad) by the different types of primer used. In the wintertime they were less noticeable than let's say a hot summer day.
 

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The problem looks like a case of microblistering to me, its usually caused by moisture trapped under the final colour and clear coats of paint.

Two factors cause the trapped water to bubble the paint, extreme cold (freezing) and heat (boiling) so exposure to either can trigger the bumps /blisters even after quite a few years.

Lotus prep and paint their cars by hand,using the same process as your local refinish bodyshops sanding of primers was done by hand with the sand paper wet (to lubricate the paper and to keep dust down).

Some of the cars obviously were not totally dried off properly before the colour coats were applied on top of the primer , could have been down to the particular employee not doing a proper job or the paintshop forman rushing the staff to get cars done quicker to meet demand or water in the air line of the spraygun that applied the primer may have caused the problem.


It is sad that your particular car has only reciently manifested this problem, the only way to fix it 100% and to guarantee it wont re occur is to strip off all of the paint down to the fibreglass and to re paint the whole car.

Good Luck with your claim.
 
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