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Sep 142014

So, you want a Lotus Elise?


Just be aware that it’s not like buying another car.

There are many differences – the aluminum chassis and fiberglass body, the fact that many owners track their car, the rarity of the car – that present unique issues for used car buyers.

Listed below is a detailed buyers guide for the Lotus Elise S2 that should keep your smile pointed in the right direction, after you buy. This exhaustive list of tips is based on my ownership experience plus many hours of research and discussions with other owners.

So let’s dive in.

Should I Buy a Salvage Car?

salvage lotus elise

It’s tempting to purchase a salvage Elise, because you can save thousands of dollars and, hey, it’s just a weekend car – right?

In this case, you may be right – as long as the reason for salvage is body damage, not chassis or flood issues.

The cost of labor to replace Lotus Elise body components is so high that the insurance company often totals the car due to it.  In this case, there may not be anything structurally wrong with the car, and you might just get a cheaper Lotus with few issues.

Keep in mind, though, that the resale of a salvage car will aways be less than one that has not been totaled. And they are a lot harder to sell, so you’ll be in the car longer than you think.

To check if a car is a hidden salvage title, you can run the VIN through Carfax.

Flood Cars

While corrosion isn’t a big concern with the Lotus Elise’s aluminum bonded chassis and fiberglass body, electrical issues are always expensive to resolve. And flood cars often suffer from electrical problems. So make sure you test every electrical function thoroughly if you are looking at a flood car.

Avoid Frame/Chassis Damage (at all costs)

The Lotus Elise/Exige uses a unique extruded and bonded aluminum chassis (see diagram below).

lotus elise chassis diagram with callouts

Have your local Lotus Dealer put the car on a lift and inspect the frame and lower crash structure for damage, attachment and alignment issues. If any frame corner is more than 2mm above or below the others, then you may have hugely expensive issues on your hands.

Examine the aluminum chassis for signs of damage. Due to the bonding used in construction, damaged chassis are usually just scrapped. If someone tells you the chassis was repaired, just smile and walk away.

Check the joints that connect the crash structure to the aluminum tub. Suspension attachments to the frame must be also free of damage. If connections or attachments are damaged, a new chassis is required.

Repairing the chassis is generally not recommended by Lotus. If the chassis has been bent or a suspension attachment point ripped, the chassis is considered a total loss and the normal way to repair the car, is to swap the chassis out.

Note: it does not take a large crash to cause chassis damage. Minor body damage does not mean the chassis is okay.

There is also a Lotus designed crash structure bonded to the front of the chassis. This can be repaired and a new one added, but it is not easy and can be expensive.

Suspension Damage

The suspension is easily damaged on an Elise.

lotus elise suspension diagram with callouts

You must remove the wheels to inspect the suspension correctly.

Carefully inspect all suspension assemblies for damage. It’s OK if the suspension arms are bent, but the ball joints, track rods, shocks and the anti-roll bar need to be intact.

Body Issues

The fiberglass body can have serious issues, especially the paint. While not an exotic material, fiberglass is labor-intensive to repair and replacement parts are very expensive.

Make sure you check the fit of doors and check to make sure the body components line-up.

lotus elise replacement clamshell

Lotus Elise Front Clamshell

The clamshell is particularly expensive to replace or repair (I had one replaced myself), so check it for deformation.

Front Lip

The low front of the body may scrape the ground. Check for fiberglass damage.  It’s not super-expensive to repair if the glass isn’t cracked (you don’t need perfect work down there). But replacement parts are very expensive.

Spider Webs

fiberglass spider web stress cracks

‘spider web’ stress cracks

Spidering is often a sign of damage to the fiberglass underneath the paint. Check the front and rear “bumpers” and the doors for any area that could have been damaged by force and are now spidering. Because we are talking body panels, it can be expensive to repair.

Stone Chips

lotus elise stone chips

extreme case of ‘road rash’

Stone chips are common on Elises. Kind of unavoidable, given their use. Fixing isn’t terribly expensive.

Side Mirrors

Check for cracks/cobwebs in the arms of the side view mirrors. The factory may have overtightened the screws on the mirrors.

Vent Damage

 lotus elise side vent

Lotus Elise side vent

The slatted vents on the Elise are fragile, and can be easily damaged if the owner isn’t careful around them.


A design flaw in pre-2006 cars magnified the sun’s light, allowing the inside of the headlamp housing to become melted by the sun. Pretty easy to fix – replace the units.


lotus elise undertray

The undertray of the car can get loose and begin to rattle. This is caused by overtightened bolts stripping. It shouldn’t be a huge issue, but could potentially cost $100-200 for retapping or bolt replacement. Make a note of it

ECU Dump

lotus elise ecu dump

Lotus Elise ECU dump

Definitely make sure you get an ECU dump on the car you want to buy. It will tell you how hard the car has been driven.

A few revs over 8500 shouldn’t be a problem, but 30 minutes of time over that would be a concern. If the car is still under warranty, run the ECU dump by your local service department to see if there will be any warranty issues due to the ECI figures.

Oil & Scheduled Maintenance

Ask for receipts. If they weren’t done at a Lotus dealership, make sure the previous owner used fully synthetic 5w40. Anything else may void your warranty.

Oil changes should be performed every 7,500 miles, or every 3,500 miles for a tracked car.

Rear Toe Link Failure

lotus elise rear toe link

Lotus Elise rear toe link diagram (courtesy SandsMuseum.com)

Some owners who track their cars a lot have reported a rear toe-link failure when the car is pushed hard. The failure is caused by a design flaw, but is not covered under warranty.

If you plan to track your car, you will probably want a toe-link upgrade, which costs anywhere from $500-$1000 depending on whether you want to use Lotus parts or aftermarket parts.

Track pack cars (2006+ only) come with a toe link upgrade installed.

Steering Function

The Elise is an on-rails handler, known for its tight steering.  You don’t want to see any slop in the mechanism, at all.

To check this, move the steering wheel quickly from side to side with the wheels in the straight ahead position. Observe the front wheels: if the wheel moves at all – even a tiny amount – without pushing the wheels, then you need to replace/repair the assembly. Not cheap.

Clutch Wear

lotus elise clutch

Lotus Elise performance clutch (upgrade)

Lots of owners track their cars, so clutch wear is a real concern.

Is there any slipping or late engagement? It will cost you a thousand bucks to replace a clutch.


On earlier cars check to see if the shifter has been replaced under a recall. It may break under stress.


Brembo Lotus Elise brake upgrade

Brembo Lotus Elise brake upgrade

Check the pads and rotors to see how worn they are.

The rotors on the Elise have a short life expectancy, so on a high mileage car you are looking at several hundred bucks to replace ’em.

Wheel Damage

lotus elise broken wheel

Check for damage to spokes or the lip (inside and out).

Check too much added weights – a sign of an out-of-round wheel.

You can see what replacement wheels cost here.

Air Conditioning

Check the unit by turning it on and driving around for 30 minutes. Coil freezovers are common, so keep the unit turned down from max.

Interior Cabin

The Elise’s interior is easy to scuff up, so don’t worry too much about scratches on the plastic sills and dash. Easy and cheap to repair.

Check the pedals for proper operation. Especially check the bushing on the throttle, which has become a point of failure on later-year cars. If it’s sticking, it’s an 8-hour job to fix.

On early-year cars, the window can fall out of alignment. In some cases, they fall completely off of their supports. It’s complex to fix a broken window assembly.

Examine the leading edge seal when going over the car. On early-year models the hood sometimes leaks through the front seals. This is caused by leaning on the hood as they ingress/egress. This is a labor-intensive repair.

The hood latch cable fails often. It can be replaced with any steel cable from a hardware store. Can be a bitch to get at, you have to remove the speaker trim.

Cabin Noises

Squeaks and rattles are to be expected in any vehicle with such a tight suspension.

The top, dash and console are typical problem areas for noise, but all are easily fixed.

Expect the windows to rattle in any Elise. If they do rattle, do NOT close the door with them loose in the pocket – you could wind up shattering the glass!

Tire Wear

lotus elise tire wear

If you’re getting a sport pack car, keep in mind that tires cost $250 each.

Leaky Roof

Rain infiltration is a common issue with all Lotus models – given the weather conditions there, it’s funny that British cars get this wrong so often.

Inspect fabric-covered areas around the roof for stains. Given the construction methods of the Elise, there is no rust concern, however.


The Elise isn’t as expensive to insure as you might think. This is primarily due to the fact that so few of them were sold in America, which means a replacement parts black market doesn’t really exist in most cities.

For US owners, here’s where to get the best deals on Lotus Elise insurance:

  • Call 1-877-416-2296 to get multiple quotes on the Lotus Elise.
  • If you own more than one exotic or own classic cars in addition to an Elise, then call Hagerty. They are the best in the business and offer surprisingly inexpensive insurance (based on mileage). But they require exotic/classic multiple car ownership.

Other Guides To Check Out

GGLC video series

The Golden Gate Lotus Club put together the following excellent 3-part video series that walks you through the modern Lotus Elise (S2) in about 30 minutes. Highly recommended!

Part 1: Cosmetic

Part 2: Mechanical

Part 3: Maintenance

Ready To Shop?

In my opinion, TrueCar is the best way to save money on a new or used car today. There’s a reason many dealers don’t like them 😉  Find your car now.

Older Models

Listed below are sites that also cover the points above, with a focus on the older S1 models.

 Posted by at 9:17 pm
Sep 222013

Should I Upgrade My Lotus Brakes?

carbon ceramic brake

More expensive discs are generally more stable and stay straighter at higher temperatures.

A more expensive disc may also have better air ventilation which helps the brake cool down more quickly, allowing for longer periods of heavy driving.

That said, the decision of whether you should upgrade your brakes boils down to your driving style and whether you race or track the car regularly.

Standard Lotus Elise Brake Setup

The standard brakes on the Elise/Exige are a cross drilled and ventilated iron discs.

The disc thickness is 26.0 mm (new). Minimum thickness before servicing is 24.0 mm (replace).

Rotor Upgrades

Why do rotor prices range from $60 to $300+? First of all, understand that dealers have a financial interest to replace rotors. But there are good reasons to upgrade.

Too thin of a rotor is hazardous if the caliper piston moves out. In this case, you can get wheel lockup and the results can be disastrous.  So, if the spec calls for a 24 mm minimum thickness, then this is probably the safe minimum to avoid this trouble.

The thickness of the disc rotor also determines the rotor mass, which determines how much heat can accumulate before failure during braking. The greater the mass, the less the rotor temperature will rise under the same application.

That said, keep in mind that the Lotus Elise has big discs for the car’s weight. The car was designed to run on a track with standard components. During street use, it will be difficult to overheat the pads.

Bottom line, if you don’t see your pads fading during your style of driving, then the discs are heavy enough for your application. If you plan to track the car regularly or race it competitively, then a disc upgrade is recommended.

1-Piece or 2-Piece?

A one piece rotor is good for low temperature / street applications, and two pieces are better for high temperature/track use.

Two-piece discs save weight (a few pounds makes a difference on such a small car).  Since the hub is aluminum and not part of the disc itself, the disc has less of a tendency to curve at high temperature.

Watch The Front Bias

Don’t add more braking power to the front than the rear on a stock car: the Elise/Exige already has braking bias towards the front. A bigger brake in the front just increases this (incorrect) bias.

Disc Hardness

If you choose aggressive brake pads, then harder discs make sense. If you use standard pads on the street and don’t run into high temperature issues, then stay with cheaper discs.

If you use aggressive compound brake pads, then definitely use harder discs.

Doing Your Own Brake Maintenance

It’s not that hard, but you will need to have a safe way of lifting and holding your car.

Here is a great DIY brake maintenance guide for the Lotus Elise (with photos) from the Sands Museum.

Lotus Brake Components For Sale Right Now

[sellfire id=”523a32820c888c0cfca86664″ name=”Braking”]

 Posted by at 3:35 pm
Sep 152013

Lotus Elise racing


This site is dedicated to uncovering the latest gear available online for the Lotus EliseLotus Exige and Lotus Evora. 

On this site you’ll find the latest:

  • cars for sale
  • performance parts
  • tires & wheels
  • ECUs and engine tuning
  • racing clutches
  • headers and exhausts
  • safety harnesses
  • seats and interior gear
  • suspension upgrades
  • and more!

To find this stuff, we scan the web for the latest items for sale. Some of the sources we pull from include:

  • online retailers like Amazon.com and Walmart.com
  • auction sites like eBay.com
  • car listing services including Cars.com, Autotrader and Dupont Registry
  • online forums dedicated to the Lotus Elise, Lotus Evora and Lotus Exige
  • social networks, especially Twitter and Facebook

Some of the listings on this site are updated in real time from stores that can do that.

Your time is valuable, so we try hard to make sure pricing and availability are up to date. If a store/site will not or cannot give us accurate information, then we may not include their listings.

We Love Lotus!

Our CEO owned a Lotus Elise – a 2005 Titanium S2 with Sport and Touring packs – and he wishes he’d never sold it.

Here’s a picture of his 3rd place win at a local Florida car show a few years back:


Check Us Out On Flipboard

We maintain two popular Flipboard Magazines dedicated to modern-era Lotus Cars.


Lotus Elise & Exige – The Experience is about the experience of owning and driving the Lotus Elise and the Lotus Exige. It is chock-full of photos, videos and articles about driving, racing and modding.

Our other magazine, Lotus Elise & Exige – Buy/Sell/Trade (not yet published), is basically a shopping magazine. This one is designed for discovering cool new stuff you can purchase in a “catalog browsing” mode. Perfect for an evening read with your favorite beverage.

If you’d like to contribute to our magazines, let us know by sending an email to support@needtagger.com.

If you haven’t tried Flipboard yet, you should! You’ll find rich media magazines on just about any topic imaginable. Over 80 million people use Flipboard, and it’s growing faster than Twitter!

Built for Mobile

If you are visiting on a PC, you may notice this is a “sparsely designed” website. That’s because we designed it for mobile devices first.

What’s Your Favorite Source?

Let us know and we’ll add it to our web crawler.  Click here to send us an email. Or leave us a comment, below.

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 Posted by at 5:34 pm