View Full Version : Elan clutch woes

07-14-2003, 09:05 AM
I fired up my Elan for the first time in over a month and discovered that my clutch was not functional, meaning that when the pedal was depressed the clutch would not disengage. When I tried starting the engine with the car in gear and with the clutch pedal fully depressed, the car lurched forward powered by the started motor. Obviously the clutch pedal was not doing its job. No sign of leaks from the master or slave cylinders and plenty of fluid. Maybe air got into the system? Perhaps worn seals? Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

07-14-2003, 01:44 PM
Donít have Elan specific experience so I can only pass along some general hints.

Does the pedal pressure feel normal? Normally you are actuating the pressure plate, moving the parts against substantial spring tension. If you just have air in the system you wouldnít feel the mechanism pushing back. Does pumping the pedal do anything? It usually will if itís air in the lines.

In many cars you can see the clutch lever from underneath. You should be able to see the slave cylinder push the lever. If the cylinder isnít moving the problemís in the hydraulics. If the cylinder moves but the lever doesnít they got disconnected somehow. If the lever is not moving far enough it may be a simple adjustment or a failure of the adjustment mechanism. If the lever is moving far enough the problem is inside the bellhousing.

If the lever is moving but there isnít much spring tension the throwout bearing let go somehow. If the tension is normal the clutch disk may be frozen or the pilot bearing may be siezed.

Good luck.


07-14-2003, 04:22 PM
fronzen clutch? that sounds interesting, and yes everything was working normally when the car was put away. I'll try pushing it in 3rd and then jacking the car up and applying the brakes. But, if it is a frozen clutch, wouldn't it have broke free when i tried to start the car in gear with foot on clutch pedal? thanks for the advice...I'll let you know how it works out.

07-14-2003, 05:28 PM
If itís stuck pretty tight the starterís torque may not be enough to break it loose. Techniques like the one John mentions generate more force.

Make sure the car is on very stable stands if you try this. Since you have IRS you need to be extra, extra careful.


07-15-2003, 02:35 AM
Hello Nevets,

You really need to keep the clutch down, accelerate a bit and stand on the brakes simultaneously. That will almost certainly free the plate. Jacking up does the same, but if you have some room, it's easier to do on it's wheels.

Good luck,

Alec graemlins/cheers.gif

07-15-2003, 03:25 AM
PC mentioned pumping the clutch pedal - that usually works if it's just some air in the system.
The clutch on my ('67) Elan froze a couple of times after a month of non-use. I was able to free it each time by just putting it in third and giving the car a push.

There are a few "standard" cures for this, including jacking up the rear end, starting the engine in gear (third or forth), and hitting the brakes.

If the clutch was working normally when you put it away, I doubt that it's a throwout bearing etc.

Please keep us updated.

07-15-2003, 09:12 AM
PC, Coldplugs, Piman - Thanks for the good advice. Based on what I am hearing, I will probably resort to jacking the rear wheels off the ground. I think that's the only way I'll be able to get the engine started with the car in gear (foot on the clutch pedal). I will be careful to support the car with jack-stands below the frame per Lotus manual. I've had the car up this way before and it's pretty stable.

In thinking about why this happened in the first place...perhaps the very damp weather was a contributing factor. Although the car is kept in a dry garage, I noticed the concrete garage floor was often wet with condensation on humid days. Perhaps some surface rust formed on the clutch plate?

Anyway I'm optimistic about your diagnosis and I will report back to you with the results of my efforts. Gotta get that Elan back on the road where it belongs!

Thanks guys,

07-15-2003, 02:15 PM
Securing the chassis is definitely a good idea but I would think that the suspension should also be supported in a neutral position. If only the chassis were supported with the suspension at full droop youíd have extreme defection of the driveshafts. I think that this would cause a great deal of vibration and stress. Inspect your drive couplings (Iím assuming you have rubber donuts) before firing it up too.

From the conditions you describe it sounds like simple surface rust is the most likely culprit.


07-15-2003, 05:08 PM

I forgot about the suspension being a full droop which means the angle of the shafts will be extreme. Maybe I better see if I can free up the clutch in another way. Maybe by push-starting the car in gear then depressing the clutch, the brake and gas at the same time?

07-15-2003, 10:49 PM
Unless you have a limited slip rear end, you only need one wheel off the ground at the rear. Yes, you want to jack at the suspension, not the frame, because of the donuts. (And don't give it too much gas...)

If you think you can push start it, that may be easier on the suspension & drivetrain.

Have you tried just rocking it back & forth with the transmision in third or forth gear?

Super 7
07-15-2003, 11:10 PM
After moving them to the dampness of the Oregon Coast, both my 7 and Elan have done this, once quite badly. I started it in gear, and drove it, depressing the clutch and the stabbing the brakes, and also being "lurchy" on the gas. It broke free.

Interestingly, the Cortinas have never done this.

07-18-2003, 03:26 AM
<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by coldplugs:
Unless you have a limited slip rear end, you only need one wheel off the ground at the rear. <hr></blockquote>

In theory yes, if the clutch does break free. But when you stab the brakes there will be torque transmitted to the one wheel on the ground. If the car’s anchored securely it may not be enough to make the thing leap off the stands. Being ultra conservative about such things I’d support both the chassis and the suspension.


07-18-2003, 04:28 PM
<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by PC:

In theory yes, if the clutch does break free. But when you stab the brakes there will be torque transmitted to the one wheel on the ground.

True - but all four brakes would be on (with luck) so everything might be ok....

Actually, I agree with you & would be very careful about doing this with the rear jacked up. However it's done (jacked up or push-starting) there are some risks to be dealt with. A stuck clutch is better than broken fiberglass.

My preferred method is to avoid starting the engine except as a last resort if rocking the car in fourth doesn't do the job.

Dave Thielke
07-21-2003, 02:16 AM
I'm curious as to whether you've checked out the travel and free play in the clutch slave cyl. and lever before going to assuming it's a frozen clutch plate.
A frozen pilot bearing is also a possibility, but unlikely.
As mentioned earlier by others, treat the rubber rotoflex couplings with care as they can come apart with surprising results.
Let us all know of your results.
Dave T

07-21-2003, 09:14 AM
Problem solved!!!
I decided that jacking up the car was too much trouble and a potential catastrophe, so I decided to try it on the fly. The hardest part was getting the Elan to start in gear. But after 4-5 attempts in 1st gear, she lurched to a start, and I proceeded to drive onto the road and began a series of accelerations, while keeping the clutch pedal depressed with my left foot, and tapping the brake hard with my right heel (toe on the gas pedal). It finally broke loose and seems to be okay now. Thanks to all on the great forum who helped me through this crisis.

Now the not so good news....I'm going to sell the Elan. Anyone out there interested in a fine Elan S1 located in Western MA, please contact me for details.

07-21-2003, 07:00 PM
Glad you got it fixed. Good luck finding a new home for your little friend.


07-22-2003, 03:03 AM
Happy to hear you've resolved the problem. Sorry to hear you're selling it. S1's aren't that common - I suspect it'll sell quickly.