Z-Car

How to Repair a Lotus Switch Pack – Or, why don’t my Elise’s parking lights work?

LotusGirl

Odds are you are either reading this page because your Lotus parking lights suddenly stopped working and you don’t know why, or you already know you need to replace or repair you Lotus Switch Pack.  That is great, because either way I will help you solve your problem.

I normally do not drive the Lotus that often in the Winter, and sometimes it can sit for a month or so with no venture outside.  This Winter was no different, and in addition, I had to get it moving at the beginning of March because I needed to get it emission tested.  That all went great, however when driving home I went to turn on the parking lights because it was misting slightly.  Imagine my surprise when the parking lights refused to turn on.  However, everything else worked, headlights, flashers, hazards, etc.  After looking at the schematics, it looked like Fuse F6 could be the issue.  I checked it, but it was fine.

Ok, this was not going to be a simple fix.  Maybe the switch was bad?  Remove the panel on the left that holds the switches, two screws on bottom, swap headlight switch connector and parking light connector.  As expected, parking light switch would turn on the headlights, so the problem was not the switch.   This panel is displayed below, the two green connector at bottom left are the ones you want to swap.

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After some more reading, and reviewing the Elise electrical schematic, it became pretty obvious the issue was the infamous Lotus Switch Pack pictured below!

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So, where is this Lotus Switch Pack located?  It is mounted on the steering column behind the instrument cluster.  Some online guides will tell you need to remove the full dash to get to it, however that is not true.  You can get to this by removing the cluster cover, unbolting the instrument cluster, and moving it out of the way.  Here is how you do it.

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First, remove (4 or 6 screws depending on if car was built on a Monday or Wednesday) the bottom cover around steering wheel.  One or two screws on each side, and two screws on the bottom.  Remove the top and bottom cover.  Then, you need to remove the instrument cluster housing.  This part sucks.  Remove two screws on each side.  The back of the cluster is just velcroed in place, yep 50K car uses velcro…  That part is easy, just lift up slightly.  The next is hard.  You need to pull the whole cluster back straight to release clips holding it on.  This requires pulling hard, if it does not come out, pull harder.  Take your time, and try not to crack anything.

It should look like the below when all is removed.

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I did not get a picture of the unit installed, but imagine in the picture below it is connected to those two connectors, and is mounted vertically with a screw on each side.  That part is easy, remove two screws, release the connectors.  There is a tab in center of connector you need to hold down while pulling carefully on connector.  Wiggle as needed.

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Success, you now have the Lotus Switch Pack module in your hands.  At this point, you have two choices, you can either simply buy a replacement, or you can attempt a repair.  If you decide to buy a replacement, you will need to search for the proper unit.  My 2005 Lotus was part number C117M0008f.  This has actually been superseded by two newer model numbers, D117M0008f was used in some later models, and E117M0008f appears to be the current replacement model.  I was able to find new versions online for between $160-$250.

However what if I told you that you could repair the unit for free? Worst case, for less than $25.  So, how do you do this?  Read on.

Inside the Lotus Switch Pack are two little relays, and one of them is preventing your parking lights from working.  The other relay is installed for the factory fog lights, which in many cases will not be installed on your Lotus.  You will know because you will have a fog light switch below the headlight switch.  If you don’t have fog lights, you can simply swap relays and solve your parking light issue.

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If you remove the switch pack module cover, you will see the guts of the unit.  On the top are relays, which are soldered below.  If you look carefully below (taken after removing the fog light relay), you will see five empty holes.  These are the five connections that you need to desolder.

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The picture below shows the relays.  The one in the center is the fog light relay, the parking light relay is directly below.  You will need a desoldering vacuum pump and/or desoldering wick.  Carefully remove ALL the solder from the relays and gently rock them loose.  There is some sticky substance that causes the relays to adhere to the board, be careful as it is easy to damage the relay when removing.  In fact, my guess is there is a 50/50 chance that it WILL be damaged, so be prepared to have to replace the relay.  If you email me or leave a comment with your contact info, I can provide replacements that WILL work with your unit for $25.  If you purchase on your own, be careful of your source, as it appears there are a lot of used units on eBay that will not work.

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How do you know if your relay is good or bad?  If you measure the coil with your ohmmeter, it should have a value between 120-140 ohms.  The proper pins to  test are the outer pins of the three in a row.  In picture below, it would be the pins that go into the three holes in the center.  Here you can see that I have removed the fog light relay, and replaced the parking light relay with a new unit.

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Connect the unit back up, and if you press the button, you should hear the relay click, and you now have parking lights!

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Put everything back together in the reverse order, and have a cold one.  Think about the $750 you saved by not going to the dealer, and leave a comment with your success story.  If you have any questions on the process, connect me and I will see what I can do to help you out.  Good Luck!

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Simple DIY Lotus Elise Front License Plate Bracket

Lotus Elise License Plate Holder

Since buying my Lotus Elise in 2005, I have been pulled over three times for not having a license plate on the front of the car.  Fortunately, the friendly police officers always seemed to let me go with just a warning.  While I definitely don’t like the look of the license plate mounted up front, I really did not have one installed because there just is not a real  good bracket out there.

Recently I came across a company that utilized the stock tow-ring nut located within the grill to mount a license plate bracket.  It was a very sexy solution, and I got ready to plunk down my credit card.  However, when I saw the final shopping cart price of $100, I decided to take a different course.

I found that an 8MM x 60MM bolt with the appropriate nuts and washers did an excellent job of mounting a left over garage door bracket to the front end of the car.  I lined up the holes in the bracket with the license plate, and painlessly drilled a couple holes in the license plate to match up with the bracket holes.  A few sprays of black paint, and it was ready to bolt-up.  I think it turned out pretty well, and saved me a cool $100.

 

Lotus Elise License Plate HolderLotus Elise License Plate HolderLotus Elise License Plate Holder


How to beat the CEL – Custom Lotus Elise Cold Air Intake

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I have tried a number of different cold air intakes for my 2005 Lotus Elise, and while I loved the sound and performance, I have been plagued by the infamous P0171 code that accompanies the inevitable check engine light.

Finally I decided to take matters into my own hand a develop my own solution.  The conventional wisdom was that the aftermarket cold air intakes modified the intake pipe size, and MAF sensor location just enough to confuse the Elise’s fragile ECU.  This seemed to make sense, as I did have varying success with the aftermarket units, my last one was a simple pipe with a K&N filter clamped on the end.  However, the pipe had a slightly larger bore size than the stock air-box.

So, what was my solution?  It was simple, I purchased a used Exige air-box and carefully cut-out the enclosed air-pipe using a sharp sawzall and some pliers to clean up the ends.  Go slow and take your time.  Once you have it removed, find a K&N filter that will fit the end of the pipe, and clamp it down solid.  I think you will find that it will solve any CEL issues you may have had, you can say goodbye to P071 for good!

 

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Lotus Elise – How to Replace your Steering Rack

Ready to Fix Lotus Elise Girl

As soon as she is finished with her car, she will give you a hand replacing your steering rack.

Simple step by step directions in how to replace your Lotus Elise Steering Rack

1. Disconnect battery ground wire
2. Remove the upper and lower column shrouds
3. Disconnect switch wire attached to the lower shroud
4. Pop out the switch stalks, but leave the wiring connected
5. Snap off the plastic cluster cover by pulling towards the driver’s seat. This required more force than I’d like, but didn’t damage anything
6. Remove the cluster and set it some place safe
7. Remove the two 13 mm bolts that retain a black wiring box and the upper steering column (bolt 13 from parts list)

8. Push the black box inside the dash to get it out of the way of the next bolt
9. Remove the 13 mm bolt at the far end of the steering column (bolt 18 in parts list) using an extension and swivel through the cluster hole. It helps to use some tape on the swivel to restrain it’s movement as you align the socket to the bolt head.
10. Remove the pinch bolt at the rack end of the steering shaft. If you will be re-installing the same rack, you would be wise to scribe or paint mark the two parts so they can be reassembled *exactly* where they were.
11. Jack Car. Remove the wheels.Pink Lotus Elise
12. Disconnect the outer tie rods using a Pitman arm puller or some better tool. No speed wrenches. No pickle forks.
13. Remove the 4 bolts holding the rack to the chassis
14. Disconnect the steering shaft from the rack. It may easily pull off from inside the car, but I removed mine by grabbing the rod end and flicking my wrist quickly.
15. Slide the rack out through the wheel opening
16. Do whatever rack stuff you intended to do
17. Put it back together
18. The hardest part is mating the steering rack splines with the shaft. That is why you loosened the column bolts. You should now be able to pull the column out the 3/4″ you need to get things properly lined up.
19. To center the wheel is pretty easy. The stock Elise rack is 2.85 turns lock to lock. I put some Yellow centering tape on the wheel at 12 o’clock. Turn the wheel side to side until you understand which direction you need to go to get it centered. I found it easiest to center at the lock positions. Basically, I could see the pie slice that exists between the lock positions after working the wheel left and right. I then turn the wheel to lock (right or left, your choice) and decide where my centering tape needs to be to make the ideal pie slice. I disconnected the shaft while someone holds the wheel at lock. I then have the assistant move the wheel to the ideal location and re-engage the shaft.
20. Now go through and tighten everything up.
21.  Get an alignment.

If the steering shaft can’t be pushed onto to splines, try marking and removing the shaft at the upper joint and cleaning and trial fitting the shaft to your old rack until it slides on as you expect. Screw a wood screw into the groove to open the joint up slightly. Don’t go crazy with this. Just tighten the screw into the groove until the shaft slides on and off of the old rack. Then go try the real thing.

Exploded View of Lotus Elise Steering Rack

Exploded View of Lotus Elise Steering Rack