Friday, March 9, 2012

U-Joint Install

In a previous post I promised to describe the lower U-Joint install. This was before I understood the depth of this undertaking. I am now in the middle of it (and an additional repair I found along the way). It turns out to be necessary to unbolt the entire steering column and shift it by an inch or two. I don't want to give folks advice on working in the vicinity of the airbag system, so I will only list some general guidelines as to what is entailed, and not a step by step process. The idea here is to help you understand whether or not this project exceeds your mechanical ability or available time frame, not to provide a guide. Things you must do include:

  • Removal of the bolts for the u-joint shaft where it attaches to the steering rack, and the upper U Joint. This will be very difficult if you are overweight, or taller than 6 ft. If getting into the car is difficult for you, this may be physically impossible.
  • Removal of steering column shrouding, and the binnacle over the instrument cluster.
  • Removal of the instrument cluster, and switch pack
  • Unbolting of the steering column.
Please consult the lotus manuals, or other resources for details and safety precautions. I STRONGLY suggest you read section WD of the service manual on airbag safety. I have purchased a copy myself. Working on any part of the vehicle containing pyrotechnic safety devices (i.e. airbags, and seatbelt pretensioners) without the service manual is very dangerous. Note that in the Elise BOTH airbags will deploy and the seatbelt pre-tensioners will also fire if the system is fooled into thinking a crash has occurred. Static electricity can also set off airbags, so proper disablement is important.

Things you don't have to do that I did:
  • Loosen the steering rack - I thought I might be able to avoid moving the steering column this way, but it is insufficient to allow removal of the U-Joint.
  • Take apart the whole dash board. I did this following a thread on Lotus Talk (see links page), but when I got a copy of the manual, it became clear that the dash could be left in place. However, dash removal is not that hard, and it makes getting to the back bolt of the steering column a piece of cake. 
  • Remove the Steering wheel from the steering column, although it's not hard and makes access into the dash to remove the rear steering column bolt much easier. This requires airbag removal however, so I repeat... 
Please READ section WD of the manual before working on the dash or steering column! Airbag Detonation can cause serious injury or death. Also note, that for dash removal you have to break 4 clips on the passenger airbag cover, and that you must buy new ones to replace them. They were only about $10 for all 4 (plus shipping), but you cannot re-assemble the dash without them.

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