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
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
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:
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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- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once the upper bushing has been removed from the shock you can
carefully remove the lower bolt and remove the spring/shock assembly.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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