What's wrong with my steering?

I’m all out of ideas. Can anybody offer any suggestions?
For about a year now, I’ve had an unpleasant knocking through the steering over bumpy roads. I recently felt that the car wasn’t handling at all well in the wet, so I decided it was time to get the steering and suspension fully checked out.
The guys at Nick Whale’s went through everything. They found a little bit of play in the rack, so they replaced it, and the track rod ends. They also replaced the rear toe link joints, and the rear tyres, and did a full geo setup.
The car felt fantastic for a few miles, but then the knocking came back. The handling still feels fine, but the knocking gradually got worse until I could really feel the play in the steering. I got it checked again, and they diagnosed a duff UJ in the steering column. I asked them to replace them both because I want it perfect.
If anything, the slack in the steering felt worse than ever.
Next, they reckon there’s some play in the actual column. They replaced that, and at the same time told me that one of the wheel bearings is on the way out: just rumbling slightly, and one of the front wheels is slightly buckled and wobbling slightly.
I drove the car back home from the dealer, and I couldn’t believe how good the steering felt. Smoother, more responsive, and absolutely no knocking. I was thrilled. This is how the car should have been for the past year!
20 miles later, the knocking and the play in the steering is back in full effect
What’s going on?

Has anyone checked your balljoints

Good question. What balljoints? Sorry if I sound thick, I just don’t know where we are.
Is there any way these balljoints could mysteriously work really well for 20 miles after a few things have been tightened, and then become loose again?

They connect the hubs to the upper and lower wishbones, so thats 2 per wheel.

Yes its possible they can do that, infact they can cause poor handling and knocks without you seeing any movement in them when tested.

I suppose it could also be your dampers knocking as well ?

Thanks Phil, sounds like a real possibility, though it does feel sound as though the problem is in the column.
Don’t think it’s the dampers, as you can hear the knocking when you wiggle the steering when the car’s static.

Hi Brendan, hope you’re well. Was good to meet you at Donnington.

If it is ball joints then you may well question why your dealer hasn’t spotted it.

My understanding going into Lotus ownership a couple of years ago was that ball joints were one of the most likely failures - seems odd if your servicing people haven’t looked at that possibility.

Hello. Twas good meeting you too.
You’re not wrong, if there is a problem with the balljoints, they should have found it by now.
I’m sure we’ll get there eventually

Brendan, it’s probably going massively out of your way, but the Lotus Service Garage at Hethel, or whatever they now call it, is, I would have thought, guaranteed to get to the bottom of the issue. Let’s face it, if Lotus themselves can’t sort it then who can?

As I think I explained at Donnington - or was I talking to Dedgood? - I have my Exige looked after at Hethel and they really are the business. There’s also 10% off if you’re a member of Lotus Life (in other words membership pays for itself!).

You could probably make a day of it and arrange for a factory tour etc. or go shopping in Norwich while you wait. Plus you get to see new Loti and VX220’s rolling out of the production plant and there may be cars that have been serviced whizzing round the test track as a final test.

Last time I was there they had about five Exiges parked up, which I think were still being used as company cars.

I will doubtless be going there again in June for the annual service and the floor recall repair.

Can give you all the details if you need them.
It’s a long trek but I’m sure would save you any further heartache.

as you can hear the knocking when you wiggle the steering when the car’s static.

Brendan - I have the exact same issue on mine I have changed everything - including ball joints and its still there - I thought it was in the rack as I can feel the knock when I hold the column but your thread put me off that idea …

Anyway, Im looking at anti-roll bar mounts and drop links ( mine are rose jointed ) as a next step ( actually that means disconnecting teh drop links and turning the steering to see if the knock has gone )

Problem is I had the same issue some time ago on a mini … it was the rack

Nick Whale’s are getting a visit from a Lotus field engineer on Wednesday. I’ll be there to make sure he gives it a damn good looking at
Mr Hethel, sounds a bit extreme to go that far, but if things don’t work out soon…
Andy, I’ll keep you posted.

How about you put the car up on stands at the front jacking points then wiggle the wheels from side to side… any play will show up in the rack if you do this… ??

A Lotus field engineer has spent some time with the car this morning. He’s convinced the problem is somewhere around the steering wheel itself. He’s not entirely sure, but he thinks it’s the boss. Not seating properly on the tapered shaft, and moving slightly on the splines. Sounds sort of plausible. Very unusual though.
I wish he seemed more certain about it
He seemed to be unhappy with my Reverie carbon steering wheel. Thinks a heavier wheel would damp out knocking better. Personally, I’d rather get rid of the knocking than try to damp it out

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve just changed my removable steering hub and got rid of a knocking that was caused by wearing on the pins.


At least it’s easy to spot some play in the removable section. My problem seems to be the standard hub part just behind it.

I’ve just realized that the field engineer probably hadn’t correctly attached the detachable wheel. You have to physically push the locking pins into place rather than relying on the springs. I think this is why he thought the problem was at the top end.
I’ve just tried an experiment: I grabbed the lower UJ and twisted it hard against the resistance from the tyres. Then I tried joggling the steering hub, and guess what? No play whatsoever. This surely means the play is somewhere lower down from the UJ.
Complete waste of a morning

Brendan, what exactly is a lotus field engineer?

Brendan, what exactly is a lotus field engineer?

Suited techie from the factory who spends most of his time visiting dealers, to assist with problems/warranty issues (eg faulty paintwork) they cannot fix/authorise. If he can’t sort a problem on site, he will discuss it with “specialist” colleagues back at the office, with a view to relaying their thoughts back to the dealer. Can work quite well in practice - so I’m told, but wasn’t much use with mine when I had a “tickover” problem after the “updated” recall ECU was fitted. As soon as the car moved, the revs shot up to around 2000rpm & wouldn’t drop until the car was stationary again. A new wheel speed sensor didn’t cure it, so the field engineer was called in to assist. He couldn’t resolve it either! A couple of days later, the dealer received a list of things to try - but still no joy! Turned out to be a duff ECU (after desperation, I persuaded the dealer to swap the ECU) which was replaced FOC.

Sorry for the rambling reply.

I remember a field engineer called out to diagnose my poor power and pinking after a 190 upgrade…

After a morning examining the car he gave me the bullsht excuse about manufacturing tolerances and plus or minus 5% crp…

It was two years later that Dave Andrews found the answer in five minutes… They had put the new pulley on the original spline not the new advanced one !!!

Some specialist, eh???

(Signed - Not impressed of Bristol)

Well, the car’s been back to Nick Whale’s. They rechecked everything and found some play in the new UJs. They tried to tighten them, but found they were having to do the bolts up so tight that they were stripping the threads! They actually went out and sourced some better, high tensile bolts and the car seemed great when I collected it. Now, having driven over some bumpy roads, the car feels better than before but I still feel a knocking on the worst bits.
I’m not sure any more: Am I expecting too much? Should I expect a bit of knocking over the rough stuff. Does my lightweight carbon steering wheel mean that I can feel a tiny amount of knocking that would exist on all Exige/Elises?
Does this problem with tightening the UJ bolts up mean that the UJs are faulty?
When the car is sitting still, I can hear the knocking if I jiggle the wheel left and right fairly vigorously. Is that normal?

Hi Brendan,

Sorry you’re still struggling with this one.

I wonder is it time to bite the bullet and let the gurus at Hethel loose on the problem? If they can’t solve it no-one can and don’t forget they have the distinct advantage of a test track to experience the problem and to tweak it out as well.