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122 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys, i am a new comer and I might be converting from the ford place to the covette. Here is the deal. I have a '97 Mustang Cobra (black/black) with some work done to it. Last work done was a long tube headers.... Anyway to make a long story shot I am seriously eyeing the vettes and thinking of getting a used c5. My question is what things should i watch out for and also make sure the c5 comes with. What problems do these cars have, if any? Also i might end up trading the cobra in for the vette and btw the cobra has 98k on it not one problem.... Cobra right now is not my daily car since i have a '94 lexus ls 400 that made the cobra take a break for over 1 1/2yrs now now... Anyway ppl, please give me some imput and i am also worried about monthly payments dont want it to be more than $450 a month.....


Grey Squirrel
22,780 Posts
Check out ebay to get an idea of what used C5's are going for and the kind of mileage you can expect them to have. If you go 2000 or newer you'll get a good car that didn't have to many problems. Here is a link for recalls and techinical service bulletins.

Just click on the search type you want and fill in the information. I would look for the lowest mileage car you can find. And look at it for the obvious signs of accident, misuse etc. You should be able to get a 2001 or so with 10-20,000 miles for the mid to upper $20,000 range.

30 Posts
I sent this to a guy that wanted to know more about what to look for and prepare for in a C5. It was a two part email.

Part I

Leaking Battery
The early C5's (5th generation Corvette) came with AC Delco Freedom batteries that had a tendency to have it's case crack open near the battery posts. The leaking battery acid would drip down the side of the battery, down the funnel-like battery support, straight down onto the PCM and the wiring loom. Sometimes car crippling damage would occur, sometimes not. It worst it would mean replacing the battery, the PCM, the wiring harness, grinding the rust off the frame to repaint it, and possibly swapping out another computer as well. This mostly happened on '98's like my car.

Check this out on any car you look at. Use an 8mm monkey wrench, preferably a racheting closed-end version, to removed the battery cables. You also remove a holding block on the front side of the battery. The battery basically lifts right out. Also remove the black plastic battery tray. Look beneath the tray for rust or white powder. Signs of both are evidence of battery acid damage. It would probably be best to move to the next Vette unless you don't mind possibly tackling this repair in the future. It's possible that the car will throw codes for no apparent reason.

No matter what Vette you buy, just make sure you replace the battery with a gel-type battery, like the Optima Redtop, sold at CostCo for $100.

Corvette seats are delicate.

If you slide across the bolster, you can break it, causing it to flap side-to-side.

The leather is cheap, and there's little protection for it. It will form cracks, which is normal.

The wire springs in the frame can also wear thru the foam and leather, but that can be fixed by placing layer of burlap between the springs and the foam.

Check the black plastic surround on the bottom of the seat to make sure it fits snugly against the leather, and isn't cracked. Older style plastic surrounds had a tendency to seperate from the seat, but could be pushed back in. The newer style plastic surrounds can be used as a direct replacement.

The seats tend to rock back and forth by about a 1/4" during acceration and braking. Someone just recently found a fix, and posted it on the forums, but it hasn't been thoroughly tested yet. The seat backs swinging forward under braking is normal, and not considered a problem.

Headlight bezel plugs
There are 1-1/2" plugs that are located on the headlight bezels that would fall off on the older Vette's. The newer style plugs, the only ones available now, have a twist-lock that prevent them from falling out.

Roof noises
If you buy a coupe with a removable roof, you can expect wind noise and some creaking. The wind noise will never totally go away, but if there's creaking, you can eliminate that by thinly applying grease to the weatherstripping. There's a specific kind of grease "elect"...something. It also prevents the weatherstripping from cracking, so you should do this to all your weatherstripping, on any car.

Drivetrain rattling
The valvetrain makes a significant amount of noise at idle. It may sound like mild knocking, but the frequency is much too high. Converting the valve rockers to true roller rockers, or even Jesel shaft mounted roller rockers, effectively eliminates the valvetrain'll get something like $20 more horsepower too.

During cold weather the rubber hood stops can also rub and rattle against the hood. Lubricate the rubber stops.

On manually shifted cars (M6 or M12), the transmission sounds like it is rattling when leaving the line. It is normal. It is just the clutch throwout bearing rattling around. Sometimes you'll hear a horrible rattle if you shut off the engine. If you press the clutch pedal in while shutting off the car, you won't hear it.

Shaky breaking
The front brake rotors warp easily under heavy braking. It's really not the heat caused by braking that warps the brakes, but the rapid cooling that's enhanced by the brake cooling ducts. As far as I know, no one has attempted to block off the vents. Most people deal with it since rotors are pretty cheap, $55, versus +$300 for aftermarket vented rotors....that still warp and crack anyway. Resurfacing the rotors is only a temporary fix, one that is less effective each time your resurface the rotors due to the reduced thermal capacity of the rotors. Under normal driving you shouldn't warp the rotors.

Scraped front ends and rocker panels
Checking for scrapes is an easy way to tell if the car was treated well. It's almost impossible not to scrape the front end, but there are two metal crash bar loops that should prevent the bumper from scraping. The bumper itself should not have scrape marks on it. If the crash bar gets scraped enough, eventually it will wear down to the point where it needs to get replaced. It costs about $220, and can be replaced in a couple of hours at the hobby shop.

The rocker panels tend to get scraped too. I scraped mine at the hobby shop before learning a better way of getting my car on the lifts. Rocker panels usually don't get scraped, and they are difficult to repair or replace.

A & A Corvettes invented two products that help prevent damage from both kinds of scraping. They have wheels that attach to the crash bar, allowing the car to roll on driveways instead of scraping. They also make two aluminum strips that are attached to the rocker panels, and they take the scrapes themselves instead of the rockers panels. Neither of the devices are visible unless looking under the car, and they are discreet enough to possibly be missed anyway. If you see these devices installed, you can be pretty sure the owner took good care of the car. Without this extra protection, you can expect to replace the crash bar and repair the rockers several times over the life of the car.

Hood seal weatherstrip
The sides and back of the hood compartment have weatherstrip installed from the factory. The front is left open. Many owners install weatherstrip along this front edge. You may not even notice it since it looks identical to rest of the weatherstripping. This extra weatherstrip helps keep the engine compartment clean, and may also help the air intake system work better. This is another sign that the owner took good care of the car. The engine compartment stays pretty clean, but this the "extra step".

Climate controls
There are two kind of climate controls. One is manual with knobs, and the other is a dual-zone electronic system. The dual-zone system did cost more, but when it does work, it doesn't work as expected, and tends to break anyway. It is cool to look at, but I don't miss not having it...except that I like pressing buttons and like blinking lights!

Squeeky steering wheel
When you turn the steering wheel, you may hear a squeek. It's just the plastic surfaces rubbing against each other. A shot of lubricant fixes this.

Squeeky wheel bearings
Drive slowly, better yet, coast along at low speeds with the windows open in a quiet location. Listen for a squeek from the rear wheels. Try turning in different directions. If you hear the rear wheels squeeking, you may have a worn wheel bearing. A replacement bearing costs $600 list, but you can usually find it for $400-450. I've heard that Autozone has a better replacement for $220 by a company named Timken, but I haven't found the part number yet. The part is easy to replace, but it's expensive because it has an integrated speed sensor. This problem can persist safely for a few months, but eventually will become annoying. It seems to be a common problem, but I've never heard of it happening twice to the same car, so if you fix it once, you're probably good for life.

Oil woes
Many Vette's burn over a quart of oil per month when the engine is kept constantly over 4,000 rpm's. This is caused by ring flutter, which allows extra oil to seep past the oil control rings, but doesn't seem to cause any extra wear to the engine. Chevrolet has rebuilt and replaced engines for owners that complained about excessive oil consumption. Their policy is that while the engine isn't normally operated like that outside of racing, it is the owner's prerogative to drive around in second gear all the time if they want to.

The older PCV system also has a tendency to suck oil back into the intake at high rpm's. It doesn't seem to cause any problems, other than a slight mess inside the intake manifold. The newer style PCV system can be installed, but this requires removing all the components in the top of the engine valley. Usually only racer's bother with the hassle.

Overheating & burning smells
Even though the engine can heat up to 220 degrees farenheit, this is normal. The radiator will keep the engine cool enough unless the radiator is blocked. It's not uncommon for plastic bags to get sucked up under the front bumper, and cover the radiator, thus causing the car to truly overheat. If this happens, take a quick peek under the bumper, and remove anything under there. Sometimes bags get stuck to the exhaust pipes too, causing quite a stench as they burn away.

Locked steering column
Early Corvette steering columns had a tendency to lock and stay locked. Usually it could be unlocked once, but just once. Dealer's are able to disable the locking mechanism, and supposedly have fixed the problem on the newer Vette's, but few people believe the problem is really gone. If the steering column does lock for the second and final time, the car must be towed via flat-bed towing truck back to the dealership. There is a $100 kit that disables the steering column lock, and can be installed easily.

Faulty gas gauge
If you have bad gas (phew!), the fuel sender can be affected by the high sulfer content in the fuel, and cause the gauge to read empty. They car will still operate normally, and the gas gauge will work again if you use better gas, and will usually start again when you restart the car. It's just better to use good gas.

Noisy fuel pump
There are two fuel tanks, and two fuel pumps. As far as we're concerned, it's just one since one of the fuel pumps equalizes the two tanks for us. One of the pumps is pretty loud, and you can hear it whine behind the driver's seat at any rpm or driving speed. It's normal, and not a sign of a failing fuel pump. Chevrolet does have a bulletin out instructing how to better insulate against the sound of the fuel pump. This is merely an annoyance.

Suspension squeeking
In cold weather you may hear the suspension creak when you go over speed bumps. To fix this, clean (optional) and lubricate the tie-rod ends. Upgrading to spherical metal tie-rod end links and black polyurethane bushings usually doesn't experience this problem.

Tough shifting
The shifter in manually shifted Corvette's takes a strong arm to get it into gear. You really have to make sure that the shifter is fully in 1st and Reverse, or it will pop out of gear when you let the clutch out. This is not the fault of the car, but rather the fault of the driver.

If it is especially tough to shift into 2nd or 4th gear, it's possible that the synchro's are worn out. Abuse causes this problem. You can still drive, even quite well, without synchro's....or a clutch for that matter.

Some aftermarket shifters make it easier to make sure you're fully in gear, and prevent gear grinding, but they also shake more, and require more effort to shift. The stock shifter has a tuned weight damper that reduces the shaking, and aftermarket shifters don't have this. Some people aren't annoyed by the shaking, and there are some fixes, but they don't always work. The shaking isn't bad for the car, it can merely be annoying, so think about that before installing a short shifter. The Breathless Performance shifter seems to be the highest quality short shifter on the market right now.

Inside tire spinning
If you make a tight turn, and the inner rear tire spins, the differential needs more friction modifier. This isn't really bad, just that the last mechanic didn't bother to "tune" the differential properly.

These problems, and many other's, are addressed at the in the Tech Center -> Knowledge Base.

While these problems do sound numerous and severe, just remember that JD Power considers this a very reliable car. If you buy a Corvette, consider yourself fortunate that there are many resources available to help you locate and correct problems.

Never buy a wrecked Vette. These cars have hydroformed frame rails, and once bent, the car is totaled. You must also jack the car properly. It's kind of a pain, but you'll get used to it, especially since it's starting to look like all the new cars from GM and Ford will be like this. These frames are strong and light, but require proper care.

30 Posts
Part II

Seat choice
Get the sport seats. The sport seats have a hole under the headrest. Some people put racing harness belts thru those loops. While you may not do that, the sport seats are more comfortable.

Interior rattles
The visors may rattle when they are put up, but if you flip them down, the rattle goes away. Squeezing the mirror lid down seems to take care of it. I will try glueing a piece of velt between the mirror and lid to see if that fixes it. Caravaggio also makes replacement leather visors, but they go for $400. He also has a package where he'll install two cowfuls of leather into your interior, to include replacing the crappy leather on our seats with quality long-lasting leather. He also has a customized seat with bigger bolsters, but is still very comfortable.

The stereo is Bose, and to go along with the historically crappy build quality of Bose products, Bose has graced the Corvette with Bose emblems on the door speaker covers that rattle when you play music with bass. A Bose system doesn't exist that puts out good bass, but the system still manages to rattle the emblems when playing Country, Hip Hop, or Techno at moderate volumes. If you somehow find a car that has had all the components removed, and a comprehensive quality wiring system installed, it's worth more than it would be with the Bose system installed. Look at it this way, if the front speakers go, and they do if you crank bass heavy music like any other speaker, you have to purchase a $350 replacement speaker/amp unit for each side. If the rear speakers go, which is rare since they hardly do anything, you won't pay much. If you want to replace any part of the stereo with (high or low end) aftermarket stereo components, you will be forced to replace everything and get some custom fabrication done. If you want to install a subwoofer, you'll have to run wires to your front speakers for a signal.

If the roof isn't tightened down enough, it will rattle. There are some adjustment screws in the roof to make this adjustment. I don't know how to do it, but many C5 sites have instructions.

Aftermarket shifters rattle...more info in my last email.

Wheel bearings...part II
I found the bearings at both Autozone and Napa. They are sold under different brand names, but are in fact the same exact parts. Autozone charges $126 for Timken wheel bearings part #512153. Napa charges another $100 extra. Pep Boys sell it too, and offer a lifetime warranty. I'll be picking my bearings up from Autozone after work today.

There are many options for making more power.

First you should get a diagnostic scanner like for about $350 plus a laptop to find out if your car is operating correctly, and to get a baseline.

Buy tuning software. Bolt-ons may add more power, but will add more power if the car is tuned properly. Even unmodified brand new cars have shown an increase of 25 hp in the midrange and 12 hp at the peak with optimized tuning. Auto tranny cars benefit the most. LS1edit is the best and only real way to tune. All the other chip programming products do not have the capabilities of LS1edit, and most of them do not provide permanent changes so you must occasionally retune your car, while LS1edit changes permanently changes how the car should react to the inputs from it's sensors.

Swapping out the intake can give you up to 35 horsepower. I went with a Vararam system. It's ram air type system that utilizes the normally blocked off scoops in the front of the car. I got mine for $365 shipped. It's a pain to install. The fastest naturally aspirated Corvettes (by Cartek) use Vararam intakes.

Changing the exhaust from the headers back hardly ever provides significant power gains. Only swap the cat back exhaust for a better (louder) exhaust note. Swapping the headers with long tube headers can add 20-35 horsepower, but is expensive, and makes your car louder. LG Motorsports makes the best headers. Headers must be sized to the power output of your engine, so plan accordingly.

The fuel system can only accomodate about 550-650 hp, after which you'll need to upgrade the fuel pump, injectors & regulator.

Superchargers can give you about 450-500 hp for about $6-8000. If you upgrade both your fuel system and connecting rods bolts, I think you can safely boost up to about 650 hp without breaking the bottom end. If you run nitrous, which is the gentlest way to add power, you'll still want to upgrade the connecting rod bolts ($200). Don't believe all the stories about how bad nitrous is. Nitrous is bad for stupid people, and safe for smart ephedra. Andy at A&A is probably the best person to go to for a supercharger. Andy has developed some innovative products for the Corvette, and is very well respected by Corvette owners. At least one person has 650 hp at the rear wheels (rwhp) with upgraded connecting rod bolts. 550 rwhp is considered the max without upgrading the connecting rod bolts.

Head & cam packages can give you a lot of power while allowing your car to keeps it's stock appearance. Cartek has head & cam packages that put out nearly 550 hp with no mods to the bottom end of the engine, and with normal bolt-ons like intake/headers/exhaust. I believe Cartek offers the best power-price ratio. I think the better head & cam packages go for $4000, but you must also get it installed and tuned. Even if you have someone else do all the work, you should pay more than $1500 in labor. If you do it yourself, and you already own and know how to use LS1edit, you'll pay $100 for the head gaskets and ~$300 for dyno time.

The convertible and coupe (it's really a targa) come with run-flat tires, with 17" wheels in the front, and 18" in the rear, with tire pressure sensors. The hardtop and Z06 come with regular tires and 17" wheels all the way around, and no tire pressure sensors, but have a tire repair kit. Non runflat Kumho tires cost ~$200, any Goodyear costs ~$300. Switching from run-flat tires to regular tires will allow the C5 to ride softer, accelerate faster, and corner harder, but if you use the tire repair kit (goo) on wheels with the unobtainium tire pressure sensors, you'll destroy the sensors. No C5 has a spare tire.

The C5 was the first car to use hydroformed frame rails. Hydroformed rails are quickly becoming a common platform for new cars, but not many shops are prepared to lift these vehicles. The C5 requires an adapter for regular jacks and lifts to fit the jacking points. Make your own adapters with a hockey puck (or two) with a 1 1/2" eye bolt screwed thru the center. Stick the eye bolt thru the slit in the jacking point, turn 90 degrees, place jack under adapter and jack away....if you can get the jack under the car. You may have to use ramps. The C5 is so low that most people make their own wooden ramps....rhino ramps are too steep.

Active Stability Control
This allows you to keep some control of the car even when you do really stupid stunts. It doesn't bend the laws of physics, but will keep the car pointed where you are steering; you may still slide off the road, but at least the car will be pointed in the direction you were steering! One of the sensors is located behind the passenger seat, and I do not believe you can replace that seat with a racing bucket. If you move that sensor, Active Stability will not know how to balance the car, and can be very dangerous. Active Stability came out around '99.

Noise, aerodynamics, and weight
The hardtops and Z06 have shorter rear windows, are less aerodynamic, noisier, and weigh less than the standard C5 couple like mine. Even though the Z06 has 55 more hp than my car, I still have a higher top speed due the the better aerodynamics of the coupe. The choice is really between ultimate handling versus aerodynamics. With the coupe you can still modify the car to make the same power as the Z06, and you can still lighten the couple by up to a couple hundred pounds while retaining all the accessories. There's nothing you can do to make the hardtop cut thru the air easier.

Weight reduction
You can achieve weight reduction with the following mods, while still having a car that's very comfortable to drive. Most of these mods will directly increase the safety of the car, while safety is indirectly improved due to the better handling and limits of a lighter car. Fighter pilots say "speed is life". Acceleration, deceleration, and lateral acceleration are all forms of acceration, and lighter cars acceralate better in each of these ways because the tires have less mass to control....thus a lighter car is a safer car.
Racing buckets (40-50 lbs)
Non-popup headlights (~40 lbs)
Braking rotors with an aluminum hat, or titanium rotors (unproven on street cars) (~20-30 lbs)
Carbon fiber hood (~12 lbs)
Z06 (thinner) windshield and side windows (~4 lbs)
Non runflat tires, even slicks (~20 lbs)
Z06 wheels (~4 lbs est.)
Aluminum flywheel (~10 lbs)
Racing steering wheel & delete both airbags (~30 lbs, but get a 4-6 point harness)
Corsa titanium exhaust (~35 lbs)
Long tube headers (~20 lbs)
Halltech aluminum alternator & bracket (10 lbs)
Less options [HUD, elec AC, Active Stability, seat/mirror/steering wheel memory, cd changer] (~50 lbs)
Less gasoline & wiper fluid (No wiper fluid=9lbs, 6 lbs for every gallon of gas in that 18 gallon tank....~81 lbs for autocrossing)
Go on a diet =p

8,067 Posts
HOLY **** MARIE!!! do you still want one?

1st, Welcome to Digital Corvettes.

2nd, do your homework on finance and determine how much you can finance for how many months to get your payment manageable. Know how much BEFORE you go looking so you don't get screwed by some saleman who says , we can work that out later.

3rd, you can contact Vettefinders, a supporting vendor here, see if they can help, they are pros at it.
If not try and or for dealer and or private listings in your area. also has an area you can work with to detemine prices and then a search engine to find cars.

4th, if you know anyone in your area that has a Vette, maybe you can have them go along with you when you look at used ones.

5th, don't buy something just to have a C5, if you have to wait for price to adjust, til you have a few $ saved or whatever...wait so you won't be unhappy later.

Just my opinion on how to approach it. Good Luck, let us know how it's going.

30 Posts
You're exactly right, it's all nit-picking. If I wasn't a car enthusiast, I probably wouldn't know or care about these issues. Because I want to know everything about this car, and make it better than perfect, I learn all these problems. As JD Power has shown, the C5 is a high quality car....imagine what other cars are like! With all that I know about the C5, I'd still like to buy another one....only problem is that I want the C6 too. How 'bout you guys using your voting power to push for another military pay raise. Nothing more patriotic than a military man in America's Sports Car! :)

Extra Crispy
5,119 Posts about toasted everything except the muffler bearings!:surprised Why did you buy one!:lookinup:

30 Posts
It's still light years ahead of my 89 CRX. Granted the CRX is older, but since I bought the CRX I have:

1. replaced headgasket
2. replaced water pump
3. replaced timing belt
4. rebuilt wiring harness
5. fixed about a dozen flats, and replaced irrepairable tires
6. replaced clutch
7. cleaned or replaced all engine sensors

Most of those problems probably won't ever happen on the Vette.

I still need to:

1. rebuild or swap motor
2. repaint car
3. replace cracked windshield
4. replace stolen stereo
5. reupholster or replace seats
6. replace worn out shocks
7. replace worn out bushings
8. replace holely floor mats
9. fix broken water temp gauge
10. replace ragged steering wheel
11. weld cracked front upper crossmember

That pretty much means fixing or replacing everything on the CRX. The Vette really has minor problems, but I still want to fix it. The problems are still minor in comparison to other cars. Like I've never heard of paint or rust problems. The windshield holds up rather well to rocks. The engine rarely has problems on unmodified unraced cars.

I haven't done much research on other cars, but I know from friends' vast experiences that Corvette's are damn near perfect when compared to Jeep Wranglers and Cherokee's, Dodge Neon's...okay, make that almost any Chrysler Corp vehicle.

Even if Vette's had more problems, I'd still buy them on account of parts being readily available. Part availability is why my next car will be a C6 Z06 instead of a BMW M3.

The C6 will share parts with my other GM vehicles, many of which I should be able to find in almost any junk yard, and it will still be well suited to be a daily driver.

43,424 Posts
First, Welcome cenwesi.:buhbye:

Second, Awesome list leaftye. Most of the stuff that C5 have heard of but few remember. Thanks for gathering it in one place:thumbsup:

122 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Thanks guys now i think i am ready hopefully by summer i should have one. Seems like everyone is selling thier c5 left to right. Now the other thing i need to decide on is is if to get a coupe OR a convertable. Any pros and con on either one will be appriciated.

30 Posts
If you want an open top, there's nothing like a convertible. Sure the targa top of the coupe is kinda cool, but I hardly ever make the effort to take the top off, and it just isn't the same as a convertible.

I bought a coupe because I wanted the best high speed aerodynamics, and the convertible and hardtop weren't up to the task. If you don't care to ever have an open top, or go for ultra stupid high speeds, then a hardtop/Z06 may be best for you.

315 Posts
Leaftye. thanks

Leaftye, Thanks for all the info. I just replaced my windshield. If I had known about the z06 W.S. I would have installed one. New to the vette world and having fun with it. Thanks Patrick for the Forum and Leafye thanks again.


21 Posts
Hey Leaftye your information;

Hey Leaftye: Somepeople might say that a little to much information to consider when purchasing a C5. Your information has value and anyone considering purchasing a C5, should be informed. I own a 97/C5 and just broke 17,000 miles....... Thanks
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