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Discussion Starter #1
I took the Esprit on a 150mi road trip the other day, beautiful sunny day for cruising and she ran perfectly as usual. But when I reached the destination it was difficult to shift out of gear, and to engage reverse. Shutting down and restarting the engine seemed to clear up the problem. This was after about 3hrs of mostly highway cruising so everything was up to full normal operating temps, ambient was about 45 F.

On the return trip everything was fine until the end. Again after 3hrs of mostly highway driving (but with also a few stops and segments of stop and go), all with no problems, the shifter was again hung in gear until I shut down and restarted the engine.

Tried it the next day and even after a short drive everything was OK. So I guess you could say the problem might be heat related to some extent but it is very intermittent and this is the first time it's happened in 8 months and 4600mi since I took possession, and she's had much longer and hotter weather road trips. I started looking at threads about possible air in the clutch line, which I might try bleeding at some point. But one thing bothering me is the design where Lotus routed the clutch line within an inch or so of the left side exhaust pipe, near the O2 sensor in the area above the left axle. It's almost like they went out of their way to add an unnecessary coil of hard line onto the flex hose (see item 33 in the diagram below) and this coil, which attaches to the slave cylinder, is what passes so close to the exhaust. Is it possible or likely that heat from the exhaust is affecting the clutch actuation?

Pic below shows the coil (the pic is a 2001, but my 2003 looks the same) and it is item 33 on the V8 parts manual section 47.01b. That section also lists item 52, part nr A082Q4070F "Heatshield, flexpipe coil, clutch pipe protection for V8 1998 MY on." But the part is not illustrated on the diagram and I haven't found any pics of it. Does anyone have insight on what this heat shield looks like or how/where it attaches? Any other suggestions on possible causes of the shift issue are also welcome. Thanks.

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1259399
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Have you ever flushed the clutch hydraulics? Fresh fluid can make all the difference. I'm sure you know about Red Hose Syndrome.

Trans fluid could help as well. Have you replaced yours, since purchase?

It has been a decade since I have assisted an owner in replacing a clutch slave cylinder, but that was on a '97.
 

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Changing out the tranny fluid improved the shifting on my '04 substantially. Only had about 8,000 miles on it when purchased but the catch pan was full of sludge and metal like black mercury. So smooth after.
 

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I also agree that if you don't know what kind of fluid is in there or when it was last changed you need to change the clutch AND brake fluid and the oil in the transaxle. The clutch and brake fluid should be changed once a year. The transaxle level should be checked once a year.
David Teitelbaum
 

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My car sneezes
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All things mentioned are good maintenance items but not being able to get OUT of gear is almost always a dragging clutch. Could be air, could be slave or master cylinder but most of the time its the clutch. With age, the frictions discs start to stick on to the splines on the input shaft. If your clutch is in decent shape, you could remove the clutch, clean, very lightly lube and reinstall. I have 40k miles on my original clutch but I have "serviced" serviced it a couple of times. Granted, if you are paying a shop to perform the work, it makes sense for both you and the shop to just replace the clutch.

Air in the system will show up as excess free play in the pedal. Clutch pedal should have only a few mm of free play.

Fluid boiling over due to proximity to the exhaust is very unlikely unless your fluid is in very bad shape. Then again, just like when you boil over your brakes, you'd feel a difference in the pedal.

Only 96 and 97 V8s had the red hose from factory and most have already been replaced by now, Heck I've never seen a "red hose" still installed on any Esprit in years.

Trans fluid can help with shifting depending on whats in there now but it wont help with getting OUT of gear.
 

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Normally I would agree that the clutch is worn but in this case he is saying everything is fine till it gets hot. Even if you think the clutch is worn out, it is worth changing the fluid in any case especially if it hasn't been done for a while because it has to be changed anyway so you might as well do it. If that doesn't clear up the problem then the next step would be to look inside. The OP doesn't say how many miles he has on the clutch. Same for the trans fluid. The wrong stuff, not enough, or if it is really old can cause shifting problems. Besides, fluid is cheap, parts are expensive! Just the parts for the clutch are around $3K, another $1K for a flywheel if he needs it. And we all know once you start there are always other things to fix. I say do the easy, less expensive stuff first and see if that improves things.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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@gmendoza or @jtrealty

Steve's question about the 'heatshield' has piqued my curiosity.

Is the shield just a covering on the clutch line? Is it the thicker part of the line to the right of the O2 sensor, in his picture?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Appreciate all the feedback!

My 2003 has about 43k mi and I think it has the original clutch. I've talked to both PO's (both mature enthusiasts, one was a NY state Supreme Court judge) and I don’t think it was ever driven very hard, certainly not tracked. Last trans oil change was in Jan 2016 @ 30k mi, brake and clutch fluid change/flush was May 2019 @ 39k.

The short coiled hard line is permanently attached to the rubber flex hose (which is the thick section to the right of the O2 sensor). Why Lotus included the coiled hard line is baffling to me, could have just used a flex hose to connect the slave cylinder to the long (metal) hard line (see item 32 on the parts diagram), which runs all the way up to the master cylinder. If they had done this it would not pass nearly so close to the exhaust pipe. My only guess is they selected some off-the-shelf OEM part for this application.

Anyway as far as I can tell neither the 2001 in the earlier pic, or the 2000 pictured below, or my 2003 have the mysterious item 52 heat shield installed. From the description it sounds like something that would slip over the coiled hard line section. I share Atwell's curiosity, does this thing really exist? Wouldn't be the first time an error occurred in a parts manual but it is actually listed for sale on a couple sites, like this one: A082Q4070F (082Q4070) HEAT SHEILD for FLEX CLUTCH HOSE (V8 1998on).

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Same as it's always been and the same for the 4 cyl, Castrol Dot 4. It isn;t called GTLMA anymore. Get one large bottle and one small bottle. That is enough to do the brakes and the clutch.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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What is the clutch fluid of choice for a V8 these days?
NAPA stores in the USA sell Castrol DOT 4 as their own house brand. :love: You can get 12 oz or 32 oz sizes...
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Just to update on the V8 clutch line heat shield question, I received this photo of the Lotus part:

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It appears to be the same type of sleeving that is used for heat shielding on the throttle cable and shift cables.

Still debating on whether it is worthwhile to pursue getting this especially since no Esprit's I've seen have it installed, and of course my intermittent shift issue seems to have healed itself. But then the engineers must have had a reason to specify it, right?

As @gmendoza observed it seems a stretch to think that <1yr old fluid is boiling. Wet boil point is defined as the temperature brake fluid will begin to boil after it has absorbed 3.7% water by volume, and DOT brake fluid is expected to reach this level of water volume after 1~2 years of service. In researching I found that Motul 5.1 fluid (which my car was last serviced with) has a wet boil point of 369F. Castrol DOT4 is lower at 329F, and the minimum spec for any DOT4 fluid is 311F. So unlikely, but maybe not impossible.

Checked the clutch pedal travel and free play, all seems reasonably close to spec, maybe a little on the high side.

I think my next step is to get an infrared thermometer and try to determine what kind of heat levels that engine bay area is really experiencing.
 
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Just looked under my car and there is no heat shield or any covering on the clutch line. It is just coiled and is right above the exhaust pipe. I never had any issue with heat although I did have to replace the clutch (40,000 miles) and I flush and bleed the clutch every year with Castol DOT 4. I have tracked the car and it got HOT but never had an issue with the clutch. As I said in my previous post, change the oil in the transaxle AND the clutch and see if that makes a difference. The transaxle is kind of fussy about what you put in it. The Lotus specified oil is NLA so most of us are running MT-90 now and it seems to be OK. Are there any modifications to the rear or underneath that could cause the air to not flow right? There is an air deflector under the rear facia that helps airflow but if you have something non-standard it could cause high temperatures in the engine bay. Make sure the level in the brake master is all the way up to the full mark. The clutch gets it's fluid from the brake reservoir and if it is low you can suck in air.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Just looked under my car and there is no heat shield or any covering on the clutch line. It is just coiled and is right above the exhaust pipe. I never had any issue with heat although I did have to replace the clutch (40,000 miles) and I flush and bleed the clutch every year with Castol DOT 4. I have tracked the car and it got HOT but never had an issue with the clutch. As I said in my previous post, change the oil in the transaxle AND the clutch and see if that makes a difference. The transaxle is kind of fussy about what you put in it. The Lotus specified oil is NLA so most of us are running MT-90 now and it seems to be OK. Are there any modifications to the rear or underneath that could cause the air to not flow right? There is an air deflector under the rear facia that helps airflow but if you have something non-standard it could cause high temperatures in the engine bay. Make sure the level in the brake master is all the way up to the full mark. The clutch gets it's fluid from the brake reservoir and if it is low you can suck in air.
David Teitelbaum
Thanks David. It seems that the Lotus engineering staff neglected to inform the assembly line folks that heat shield was supposed to be installed.

My car is all stock, no mods except the Elise steering wheel and upgraded Alpine stereo. I have the standard 2003 metal rear grill (round holes), stock cats, muffler, etc. Lower side sill cooling inlet ducts to engine bay are clear.

The brake fluid reservoir is right at the max fill level, I don't think it's changed much if any in the last 7 months.

When I bought the car the fiberglass front spoiler extension panels were not installed, PO had removed them to increase front ground clearance. I just re-installed them (after the shift issue occurred) but I doubt it would make any real difference. If anything, having the spoiler not installed should in theory enable more airflow under the car.

The issue only happened that one day. Shifting is back to normal (which is to say very good) for now, will continue to look at this.

Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Resurrecting this as one of the rare items that has failed to "heal itself" on my 2003, at least not on a permanent basis. It's the intermittent shift issue, and there are 2 elements to it which may or may not be related.

First, when I start up cold and drive a short distance everything is good including shift into reverse with no gear clatter whatsoever. After the car warms up, when shifting into reverse with the clutch pedal pressed I can feel through the shift knob that gears are still spinning and of course that causes some clatter as reverse engages. No problems once it's in gear.

Digging a bit deeper I found that a "reverse gear brake" (aka synchronizer) was introduced with the UN1 027 transmission in the V8 models. Am wondering if mine is functioning properly or could be contributing to the reverse gear issue after warmup.

Or it might be caused by the clutch dragging when everything warms up. But what's strange is there is absolutely no tendency at all for the car to creep forward (or back) while sitting still with brakes off and clutch pedal pressed with the trans in any gear. Also no problems shifting through any of the forward gears. This issue seems to happen fairly consistently.

Which brings me to the second, more serious although very intermittent element. This is basically the same issue I described in the original post and, at the risk of being redundant, here is the latest manifestation:

On a recent 1hr highway trip, followed by 10min of urban stop and go, there were no shifting issues running through all gears during the entire drive, except of course for the reverse shift clatter after warmup. But when I pulled into a gas station, similar to what happened a few months ago, the trans was stuck in 2nd gear. Amazing since I had just shifted in/out of 2nd several times during the previous 10 minutes with no issues.

Once again there was absolutely no tendency to creep forward with the clutch pushed in while it was stuck in 2nd. Didn't want to force it out of gear of course so I shut the engine off momentarily then restarted which, just as before, freed it right up. From that point there were no more problems with the forward gears for the rest of the drive, including after retracing the same 1hr highway circuit and a couple stints of urban stop and go.

So it must be that the clutch, after warming up, is not fully disengaging. But again it strikes me as very odd that there would not be an accompanying tendency to creep forward while stopped, foot off the brake, with the car in gear. It's even more mysterious that it would occasionally, albeit very rarely, drag enough to hang up in gear with the clutch pressed and even in that condition not try to creep forward.

On the bright side there seems to be no clutch slipping at all in normal or spirited driving :). But the question does come down to what's causing the intermittent and apparently variable less-than-total clutch disengagement :unsure: ?

If it's air in the clutch hydraulic line I'll find that out on the next routine fluid replacement/bleed, and I can have functioning of the slave cylinder checked at that time as well.

But if it's the clutch plates/splines sticking I am wondering if there is any way to diagnose or observe/inspect their condition without the labor intensive and expensive step of pulling the transaxle. Can anything useful be observed by removing the rubber plug on the bottom of the bell housing? Maybe with a borescope? Any possibility to "lubricate" the splines without risking contamination of the clutch surfaces?

Also if I decide to replace the slave cylinder, whether because it's proven bad or just as a preemptive measure, are there any alternatives that might yield a lower clutch effort? Mine is fairly high effort like most of the several Esprit's I've driven, but I did drive a 2001 that had a surprisingly light clutch. I don't know if that was a factory stock system or may have had some aftermarket parts installed, but I do think it made the everyday driving experience just a bit more enjoyable.

In the meantime think I will try changing the trans oil, as suggested earlier. Any tricks to this? I assume a pump is needed since there may not be room to pour oil in the trans filler port without removing the trunk?

Sorry for the long post. Thanks for all the input so far, any additional comments are appreciated.
 

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Have you changed the clutch fluid and transaxle oil yet? Do that before you do anything else and see if that makes a difference. The symptoms you describe fit this exactly.
David Teitelbaum
 

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I would tend to agree with @gmendoza , Mine has a very similar situation but also does it when warm, but not cold. Reverse is very difficult to engage and i can hear/feel that the gear is turning with a fully depressed clutch. I'm putting it down to the friction plates sticking on the splines and not fully disengaging, likely due to very limited use. I will be swapping out my engine and transmission soon so will have a better idea (if i EVER get the gear cables changed on the Elan that is!) If you've never done them on the Elan its another wonderful piece of engineering with no thought given to changing them, makes an Esprit water pump/timing belt/exhaust manifold task look easy!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Have you changed the clutch fluid and transaxle oil yet? Do that before you do anything else and see if that makes a difference. The symptoms you describe fit this exactly.
David Teitelbaum
Haven't done the fluids yet.

Like I mentioned brake/clutch fluid is waiting on the next routine maintenance cycle. But I have been looking into bleed methods.

I always used to do old school method i.e. pump the pedal/bleed/pump/repeat but I want something now that is one-person process. Seems to me that vacuum pump drawing through the slave cylinder bleed fitting might be the most reliable, since any small amount of air getting in through the bleed screw threads (while open) would get sucked out. I already have a hand vacuum pump so I'm looking for the rig to adapt it, basically a jar and hoses. I tried fabricating one but couldn't get an airtight seal, am wondering if commercially available units are any better.

Pending the above, plan will be to try the trans oil change next.
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Commercially available brake bleed pumps are relatively cheap. (Pittsburgh brand from Harbor Freight about $20, MityVac around $35) I flush my brakes yearly, clutch every other year.

I still like to do at least one 'pump' of the pedal while doing either brakes or clutch. (Of course, with brakes you don't want to pedal to go all the way down.)
 
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