Replacing Springs


Atwell Haines did a wonderful job of documenting the procedure of replacing the springs on an Esprit. I haven't added his pictures yet, but you can read his description now.

On a Difficulty Scale of 1 to 10, this procedure rates a 8.



Ever hear the one about the old widow who, after the loss of her beloved husband, could not go on with life? She wanted to end it quickly, and thought that a shot to the heart from her husband’s gun would be the best way.

Upon checking the weapon, she found there was only one bullet left, so in order to maximize her chances of success, she called her doctor and asked, “Where is my heart?” The unknowing doctor replied, “Just below your left breast”.

All ended well, however, as the woman recovered nicely after the surgical repair to her knee.

The moral to the story is, you too may well have a sagging problem that you are not aware of. I’m talking about the springs on your Lotus, which, as on all light cars, can end up settling on the driver’s side over the years.

My Esprit is fourteen years old now, so in order to quantify whether I needed to take action, I measured the ride height. The best way to do this is to measure along the centerline of each wheel, from the top of the rim to the top of the wheel arch. My measurements were as follows:

LF: 135mm RF: 149mm Difference: 14mm
LR: 183mm RR: 194mm Difference: 11mm

So as you can see, my car was ½ inch lower on the driver’s side than the passenger side. Time to do something about that: swap the spring/shock assemblies side to side.

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Tools To perform this task, I needed the following tools and supplies:
  • Wrenches and sockets:
  • 17 mm (two)
  • 13 mm (two)
  • 19 mm (two)
  • ¼ inch wrench
  • Wire coat hangers
  • Small Adjustable wrench
  • Various Socket extensions
  • Wobble Socket extensions
  • Hydraulic floor jack
  • Two jack stands
  • Small bottle jack
  • Tire iron or pry bar
  • Torque wrench
  • Spring compressors
  • Cleaners, towels, and anti-seize compound
  • Armor All
  • Paper & Sharpie marker
  • Phillips Screwdriver

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  1. Starting in front, I loosened the wheel nuts, then jacked the car under the front cross-member (I use a 1 x 3-inch board across the member to spread the load). Then I put the jack stands under the jacking points behind the wheels, and lowered the car until the stand just steadied the body.
  2. I then removed the wheels. On the paper, I wrote down the number of shims between the front ball joints and the upper control arms (one each side on the right side, two shims to the rear on the left). Spraying Armor-All on the hardware makes a great penetrating oil.
  3. At the wishbone’s pivot points, I drew a straight line front-to-back on the arms and the frame, to aid in re-aligning everything on assembly. First remove the 19mm bolt through the shock and lower wishbone. Then remove all but one of the four 13mm nuts attaching the spring top platform to the frame. To allow the removal of the spring/shock unit, it is easiest to loosen the 19mm bolts on the lower wishbone to allow it to move enough. It is also helpful to remove the upper ball joint from the wishbones. Use a piece of wire coat hanger to hold the ball joint and prevent the vertical link from moving outward and pulling on the rubber brake line.
  4. While pushing down on the lower control arm, pry up and outward on the lower shock mount, to move it from its hole. Then, you can remove the last nut on the upper spring platform and withdraw the spring/damper assembly.
  5. To replace, loosely secure at least two nuts on the upper spring platform, then move the lower mount into the lower control arm. Use the bottle jack to raise the control arm while you wiggle the spring assembly to line up the lower bolt. Then, you can reattach the upper ball joint, with the shims in their proper positions. Tighten the four nuts on the spring seat but do NOT tighten the lower bolts on the shock or the lower control arms --- this must wait until the car is back on its wheels, at normal ride height.
  6. Got both front springs back? OK, reinstall the wheels (torque the lug nuts to 74 foot-pounds), remove the jacks and stands, and move to the back.
  7. Jack the rear of the car under the hoop member at the center of the frame. Once again, place your safety stands under the jacking points just forward of the wheel wells. Remove the rear wheels.
  8. To remove the rear springs, they must be compressed. USE CAUTION: springs contain a lot of energy and can cause injury if the hooks slip. Place the hooks with care! Since the safest position is on opposite sides of the spring, you must allow for the movement of the threaded bolt, as the spring becomes shorter. I found the best positions to be A) near the upper link, and B) opposite that, near the rear of the spring.
  9. On the left side, it is easiest to remove the stainless steel heat shield; the fiberglass cover over the damper post must also be removed. Loosen the lower shock nut (19mm), then the fun begins.
  10. Tighten on the compressors a few cranks at a time to keep the spring straight, then once the pressure is COMPLETELY off the upper spring seat, you can use the two 17mm wrenches to loosen the jam nuts on the upper shock post. Unscrew the pinch bushing by holding the top of the post with the ¼ inch wrench and loosening the 17mm nut. If the small wrench has insufficient purchase, use the vice-grips to hold it, but be careful of damaging it.
  11. Once the upper bushing has been removed from the shock you can carefully remove the lower bolt and remove the spring/shock assembly.
  12. If you only have one set of spring compressors, note the exact position of the hooks for later (use the Sharpie to mark the places), release the compressors, and remove the other side. Installation is the reverse of removal…again, do not tighten the lower shock nuts at all until the car is resting on its wheels. Same for the upper shock bushings, use the bottle jack to raise the lower hub until the spring starts to support the car, then tighten.
  13. Once the rear wheels are on the car, and the lug nuts tightened, SLOWLY drive the car back and forth to settle the suspension. Then, with the car at the normal ride height (some weight added to simulate a driver and passenger, I use water softener salt) Tighten the lower nuts on the front and rear shock nuts and the front lower wishbones. Final torque should be 50 foot-lbs.
  14. Take a short ride to assure that there are no undo noises from loose bushings, etc. Finally, RE-TORQUE the suspension bolts again… you will find they can be brought tighter.

After swapping my springs, the car was virtually level:

LF: 139mm RF: 143mm Difference: 4mm
LR: 188mm RR: 187mm Difference: 1mm

That will do for another fourteen years!


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