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Lotus in the Peak
Chatsworth, 8th-10th July 2022

Lotus Elise s2 `06 plate - Serious brake problem.

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Dear members,

I have searched through the various threads (including Sands Museum) and applied the advice therein, to no avail.

I have a 2006 Lotus Elise 111R, with 52,000 on the clock, which I have owned for about 18 months.  Brakes were working fine until:

In October 2021 I took it off the road for suspension / brake overhaul (wishbones shot blasted / painted, new ball joints, new front hubs - with ABS sensors).

I sent the rear Brembo callipers to a brake specialist in Nottingham, together with new pistons and seals, sourced from a well known independent Lotus supplier.  Shot blasted and painted, I refitted them, together with a new handbrake cable.  I managed to bleed them successfully, with a power bleeder.  The pedal pressure felt OK, but I didn't test drive as the vehicle was `in the air.`

Satisfied so far I repeated the process on the front standard AP twin pot callipers (new pistons, seals and balance pipe - same supplier).  I also fitted stainless braided flexi pipes and new `standard brake discs.  After 3 days (yes 3 days) of trying to bleed the brakes (power bleeder up to 24 psi, old school pumping the pedal and stick on brake pedal overnight - calliper off, inverted and gently tapped), I managed to get some brake pressure, but the pedal was to the floor.  Quiet back road, I managed an emergency stop from about 40mph - but all four wheels locked up - ABS clearly had not kicked in.  I  I took it to an independent Lotus specialist.  New OEM brake master cylinder fitted plus £440 bill for bleeding.  Pedal still just about to the floor. ABS unit `purged` using Lotus software.  No faults detected and dash light extinguishing.  Brake pedal adjusted to provide reduce travel.  Still no joy.

Clearly the front callipers are `bleeding` but the conversation is now to replace the callipers.  I have spent approx. £1500 so far, with the lions share of the work by me.  I am loathe to commit to another 1k plus. I am unable to complete any further work (I`m 63 and riddled with woodworm), and therefore reliant on the garage to do the work.  They have a very good reputation, and I have no intention to sully that.  I am twixt a rock and hard place:  The company who refurbished the callipers assure me the callipers were working fine `when they left us`.  They assure me they pressure test with fluid and not air.  I supplied the components.  I have checked part numbers and yes they are the right ones.

The brakes are not `pumping up` which precludes any air in the system. Interestingly all wheels, which were immaculate, show very faint but fresh speckling, exactly where you might expect `throw off from the pads / discs.  Discs are not overheating.  No leaks. Pedal pressure to biting point is light.

I will be grateful if anybody can pass any comment please on why there is such excessive travel, and further tests I might consider.  I`m not persuaded that new callipers are the answer, unless there is some shot blast damage to bores, even so I would expect either a leak of fluid or binding.

My thoughts are:

a still air in system (ABS unit?)

b faulty new master cylinder

This is turning into very expensive rocket science, where in fact it should be simple laws of physics.

Advice please; especially if you have encountered refurbished callipers.

Many thanks

Mike R



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That's a real downer Mike.  

I'd be back to your independent specialist.  If they test drive the car it should be pretty evident they didn't fix the issue you asked them to fix. I'd expect they need to do some pro bono work to fix it properly. Give them a chance to do that and update the forum on how you get on.

There's so many new parts to the system you've Introduced (most of it 😆) however the still most likely culprit is air in the system especially if you've started with a dry system.  I used 3 bottle of normal casteol react brake fluid and bled mine 6 or 7 times before I got a firm peddle i was sort of happy with. The secret was to  do all of the things you've done and keep doing them all. Don't give up.  What did it for me was taking the car out for an hour then on a quiet unused back road and doing a hard brake session for half an hour from various speeds as was safe.  Then I came back and bled again.  I seemed to get a much better result from the resulting bleed. So When I was half happy with the peddle feel I did another bleed using castrol rsf. It's so expensive....and worth every penny. It's the iron brew of brake fluids. I won't use anything else. 

I don't have abs so can't offer any specific advice on that front.

Good luck!



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Brilliant.  Thanx Mr Will.  Maybe I will try IrnBru instead. I have found an entry on Pistonheads which gives comprehensive procedure. including inverting calliper, tapping and extending and squeezing the inner piston, then repeat on outer piston.  Off to the garage in the morning.  Note to self: check out the definition of diplomacy before attending.

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I started with a dry system last winter after  fitting braided lines. I found I had an inconsistent pedal after 2.5l of fluid through the system. With a friend one pumping the pedal the other looking at the master cylinder we could see a bubble of air in the white plastic sight guide. Had to remove the reservoir and move it to tease the air up to the reservoir. It got caught due to the shape of the pipe having a slight arc. 

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Thanx Matt.  Useful tip.  It sits with the garage now. Did you have any issues with ABS, or am I chasing a loose end. As stated, even with pedal to the floor, and sharp braking from 40mph, all wheels locked up.  I am assured that the ABS pump was purged, using Lotus software.  No codes and no ABS activation lights on dash, although the relevant ABS light comes on with ignition, then extinguishes on start.  Would a faulty ABS unit e.g. stuck valve, prevent effective bleeding?

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I discovered the bubble in the master cylinder before driving because the pedal wasn’t consistent or hard when stationary. 

When I did drive it for the first time to bed the new pads in there was still air in the system but it didn’t stop me from being able to get the pads bedded in it just meant the car pulled to the one side. So I did a second bleed which got 99.9% of the air out. The last bit was removed on a trip to HPE.  

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Dear MLOC,

I have waited until funds have `cleared to update you.  Yes, I have sold the vehicle.  I used the same garage to act as agent.  They have replaced the front callipers and pads at a cost to me of £1232.  Add to that the cost of bleeding £420 and refurbishment £380. This has been a very expensive exercise.  I asked for the original callipers to be returned, which they have been.  On examination I noticed the company who rebuilt them, and have a very good reputation, had applied anti - chatter tape to the inside shoulders, either side where the pads sit.  This is designed to, as the name suggests, reduce high pitch resonance, but with new pins and pads, should not be necessary.  I saw that one of the pieces of tape was missing, and all three remaining were wrinkled, quite obviously where the pads were having to be forced past the tape.  I assume there was sufficient give in the material to prevent binding.  A simple fix - remove the tape.  Voila! Bench testing shows the callipers working properly.  One might question that somewhere in the process e.g. prolonged bleeding without improvement, might raise the question of conducting a visual inspection.  The callipers are bright yellow and the tape is black.  It was immediately obvious to me. The back story to this whole sorry affair is that the vehicle came with a 3 month warranty.  Never intended as a daily drive , and like many owners `a bit of fun.`  It was in fact a 3rd vehicle.  Never tracked or thrashed in my tenure.  Week 2 engine management light came on.  In fairness the garage has honoured that warranty throughout.  I`m not sure why, but I suggested an engine pressure test.  Sure enough cylinder 3 was low.  Head off - two burnt exhaust valves.  Head skimmed and valves replaced.  On return.  Loss of coolant and oil leak.  Back to to the garage. Rectified. Returned - oil leak from top of engine. "Apologies, we have used an aftermarket timing chain cover gasket" - Replaced. Oil leak.  All relevant seals replaced.  Oil leak.  Using a `scope and mirror on stick I found the timing chain tensioner oil seal leaking.  Research suggests that mid engine cars with the Toyota 2zz engine run at higher temperature.  Replaced with higher grade seal.  Disappointed I then made the painful decision to get rid of the car.  It was causing me more stress than the fun it delivered.  O.K. these things happen, but what I do find inexcusable is that the garage conducted its own MoT at the time of purchase, as well as a pre- delivery check.  The front tyres were 8 years old and with reasonable tread depth.  Closer examination showed multiple splits within the tread on both tyres.  A blow out waiting to happen.  When I refreshed the under carriage, both front discs were below minimum thickness and heavily corroded, (I mean great chunks of rust falling out of both).  So, in summary: A great little car, and whoever owns it now will have a very pretty and sorted Lotus Elise.  Enjoy (seriously).  I offer this update in good faith, and perhaps selfishly as some form, of catharsis.  My thanks to MLOC members, a great forum.  An abiding memory is `Lotus in the Peaks` last year.  My son and I were made so very welcome, and we met some great people.

Technical points: anti - chatter tape and high temperature oil seal(s) 

Right.  I shall crack on with the rest of my life.  I wish you all the very best.  Be safe and kind to each other.

Mike R



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Really sorry to read your tale of woe Mike. I would say that you have been very unlucky indeed, all versions of the Elise are generally very reliable and in 12 years (and six Lotus cars) I've had no problems at all (touch wood!).

It's a shame I didn't see your post earlier - a simple check when you have brake bleeding problems is to simply isolate the front (and then back) calipers by clamping the flexible hoses. This immediately tells you where your problem is most likely to be. It's a very quick test and costs nothing to try!



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I'm sorry too Mike but I can see why you got fed up of it with all of that aggro!

I have had my K series Elise now for over 10 years and it has the occasional niggle here and there but it has been pretty dependable throughout, save for when the head gasket failed, which they all do until the updated gasket is fitted. Oh, and I nearly forgot, the rings started letting oil through at about 105,000 miles so I bought a good second hand engine for £850!  I'm now nearly at 120,000 miles.

Gav at Unit 4 in Burton has looked after it for 10 years and has been brilliant. Not dear either.

I would love to think you could get back in to another Lotus and have a better experience - as you say, the camaraderie and social side of Lotus ownership is quite special.  If you buy the right Elise the appreciation should nearly pay for the servicing. 

Whatever you do, it would be nice to see you at Lotus in the Peak again this year - it's at Chatsworth and will be fabulous!


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