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5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Newb here,
So there is this 90 vette at a dealer for a decent price (it appears so to me), and I was wondering what I should look for that would be a common failure or problem with this model.
I do not know how to tell if it is the 240 or 250-ish hp model, but I do know it is not a ZR-1, of course. Manual tranny, adjustable suspension, metal targa, a/c is still good, no leaks that I could find, the clutch feels as though a competent driver did the clutching, and all of the electronics function (power everything). 88k miles, runs pretty strong, (I say "pretty strong" because I used to own a 67 Camaro with a 454) steering is tight, starts and idles easily, a/c will run at idle, and the body is good enough. Brakes need new fluid and pads all around and two of the tires will be replaced.

So hit me with some items that I have missed. I am reasonably familiar with cars and their mechanical aspects, but I have never owned a vette.

Thanks for listening to a Cherry,
sincerely Woollaa:nuts:

3,584 Posts
Welcome to DC :buhbye:

When I had my 90 Roadster I didn't have to many problems with it.:thumbsup:
Had to replace to shocks at around 67k (FX3 option) it cost me around a grand.:lookinup:
Depending on how good of shape the rest of the car is in,like interior,carpet and paint,it could end up costing you alot of money:surprised

5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, I hope to be a true member soon. Maybe if things work out I will be able to put up some pictures of my new ride. Do you mean that the price of the vehicle might be high, or the money that I would need to put into it could be high? If the car is as mechanically sound as it appears, I will not be putting any significant money into it for a while. As I said before, the price seems fair enough to me, but what does the dealer know that I don't? That is what worries me. I have always operated under the assumption that dealers needed to make money on cars by charging folks more than they are worth. So maybe there is something corvette-specific wrong that I don't understand. I will be getting its codes checked and putting it up on a lift after a hard drive to see what I can see.

Why did you get rid of your 90?

376 Posts
You've mentioned twice that the price seems to be fair but you haven't said what it is. Without that information it's hard to tell if the car is a good deal or a ripoff. A lot of people think all Corvettes are expensive (they're not, of course). Also remember that a dealer naturally has a prfit margin built into the price. On a Corvette it's usually bigger than on a lesser car. Don't jump at his price. There are several checklists floating around on this and other forums. Do a search to find one, print it out and familiarize yourself with it or bring it with you. If you know someone who is familiar with these cars bring him along.

Here's something to get you started:

-Look for floppy interior door panels when you shut the door. That's an expensive fix.
-Put your hand in and feel all around the floorboard carpet. You're looking for dampness, which is bad.

-Look at the outer window seal weatherstripping. They crack after a while, and they're $60 each, and a pain in the butt to replace.

-Look for abraded fiberglass on the underside rim edges of the hood, that's where a poorly-adjusted hood is wearing itself away on the bolt heads.

-Look for floppy ears on the sun visors. That's a nuisance.

-Look for missing ashtray and coin cup inserts in the console. Look for missing lighter. Look for missing top ratchet wrench in the console.

-Look for the lug nut wrench behind the driver's seat. Look for evidence that it's been used.

-Look for shiny spots in the black 'rubberized' interior trim.

-Look for abraded leather seat bolsters and sill carpeting.

-Especially watch for worn-out carpet over the footwell speakers. This is critical, because foot-dragging in and out of the car wears them out, and they are no longer available from ANYONE. Grrr...

-Look for chunks missing out of the windshield weatherstripping. Examine the windshield seal at the very base of the windshield on the INSIDE of the car. It gets cracked and crappy.

-Look at the frame directly behind the driver's front wheel. This is directly under the battery tray, and C4s tend to rust here first, if at all. Ask to take the gill panel off if they'll let you, you'll need a 10mm wrench and a Torx set.

-Get in the car and sit in both seats, and operate ALL of the seat controls several times.

-Look in the storage compartment behind the passenger seat and check to make sure the package tray is in there.

-Check the color and condition of as many fluids as you can get to - PS, oil, tranny, coolant.

-Lie on your back and look over at the rocker panels. They get sandblasted over the years, and look worse on dark-painted cars.

-Check the parking brake for good operation. Check the hood release.

-Check the RPO codes to make sure that the car isn't missing something that should be there. Specifically, "C2L", which means that it should have BOTH tops, because it came that way.

-Run the A/C and the Heater, make sure you get both, especially with the C68 electronic climate control.

-Look for a floppy tilt steering wheel. Put the wheel down in driving position, then try to flex it downward. If it moves more than a smidge, it's going to be a problem sooner or later.

-Look around all the interior trim, A-pillars, halo trim, etc. for missing screws.

Check exhaust system for nicks and/or missing hangers(why are they missing?)

-Pull out the seat bottoms and look for anything under the seats(ie cut wires,food etc).

-check the locks in the console and hatch compartments, make sure the key you have works in those locks.

-if equipped with PKE, check all operations of it

-look for the jack, later C4's have it in the passenger side compartment in the hatch, earlier ones, in a bag within the spare tire

-check rear tire tread, low or no tread means the previous owner drove it properly.

-check wheel orientation, make sure right rear is on the right rear etc, if unsure, pull the wheel off(early C4's had the location stamped on the inside).

-make sure you have two lefts and two rights(wheels)

-check tire orientation, make sure they are rotating in proper direction.

Power seats - do they work?
Power mirrors - do they work?
Power antenna - does it work?
Look for oil leaks around the valve cover gaskets

Check the Air filter element and the casing for it

See if that optional $895 Bose stereo works and all speakers are working properly.
- Try the key in both door locks to make sure the lock is working properly.
- Make sure the digital dash is working properly, try all of the gauge readings by using the switches (i.e. temp/voltage, mileage instant/mileage avg., etc).
- Check to see if the headliner is intact and not starting to sag.
- Check the popup headlights a few times to make sure the gears are working and not sticking.

Check condition of serpentine belt.
Check condition of hoses.
Look for leak on rear diff.
Check play on all 4 wheels for possible hub bearing failure.
Check condition of glass top if equipped. Look for cracks or peeling in clear coat.

check intake manifolds. oil leaks for all years, coolant for L98s.

- oil on the oil pan. could mean a front main or bad pan gasket.

- belt tensioners

- on 1992-93e, the belt is 2 sided, make sure it is good shape, and buy 2 when you order!

- rear window defroster. that is an annoying thing at times.

Check the DIC for proper lights with ignition is in the on position (Batt, SES, etc.). Check that ABS is active at 3mph. Pull codes to see what is in the history.

- make sure if its a 4+3 that the OD works correctly
-check the suspension for signs of wear
-make sure winsheild wipers and switch work in all speeds
-check for al interior screws

-Check for back Glass fit.

Check to make sure the stupid electronic climate control actually works, and doesn't have a mind of its own!

1984-1996 Corvette

• 1984-1996 Carpet without insulation backing — $460/complete set

• 1984-1996 Carpet with insulation backing — $500/complete set

• 1984-1996 Door Panel Carpets — $50-100/pair

1984-1996 Standard Leather Seat Covers — $700-750/set

• 1984-1996 Standard Vinyl Seat Covers — $350-375/set

• 1984-1996 Standard Seat Foam — $300/set

• 1984-1996 Sport Leather Seat Covers — $700-750/set

• 1984-1996 Standard Vinyl Seat Covers — $350-375/set

• 1984-1996 Standard Seat Foam — $300/set
1984-1996 Aftermarket Acrylic Panel — $1100

• 1984-1996 GM Restoration Part Acrylic Roof Panel — $1250

• 1984-89 Dash Cluster Repair — Usually around $1500-$1800 if repairable

Premium Member
5,157 Posts
jrzvette - Excellent post!

Here's one that I created a while back ...

The purchase of a Corvette is NOT like just buying any other used car.

If you were looking for a ten year old beater car, you wouldn't care so much about the condition of things or how well some things work (or don't work!). A Vette is different - for one thing, you'll be paying more for it than you would say a '96 Beatmobile, and you also need to take into account the cost of potential repairs.

This is a love affair, not a platonic relationship!

Here are some specific inspection items that I can recommend. These are pretty much off the top of my head, so don't think of it as a complete list.

1. Quality of paint. Expect rock chips, but look for mismatched panel colors, which may indicate body work.

2. Weatherstripping. C4 W/S is expensive, and is sometimes difficult to install properly. Look for cracks and missing chunks. Even when new, the W/S looks kind of folded and wrinkled, so don't let that throw you. There are inexpensive sources of weatherstripping, but the GM stuff is generally regarded as the best.

3. There was an exterior styling change in '91. Some owners of earlier C4's will install the later front and rear pieces if the car sustains damage (or sometimes just because they like that look better). If that's important to you, you'll want to keep it in mind.

4. Power antenna. These have a tendency to not go all the way down. However, the antenna can usually be persuaded to go down with a little help from your hand. Check this out to make sure it goes up w/the radio on, and down w/the radio off. A replacement mast is about $40, and a replacement power antenna unit will run between $130 - $160.

5. Wheels. Right wheels? Right size tires? There are several combinations, although '89's and up should have standard 17" wheels. How do the tires look? How long since last alignment? How do the wheels look? Curb rash? Oh yeah - ask the owner if he has the wheel locks installed, and if he has the wheel lock.

6. Brake dust. If it's been on a recent drive, there will be some brake dust on the wheels. Is it relatively uniform, or does either side have more build up than another? Speaking of brake dust, does it appear that the owner keeps the wheels clean? Brake dust will eat through the clear coat, and can make the wheels impossible to clean back up.

7. Suspension. Any obvious broken or bent parts? If the car is equipped with Bilstein shocks, it isn't unusual to see oil on the bottom of the shock. It shouldn't be a grease pit, however. If the car has more than 50k miles, you may want to consider replacing the shocks (~$300 for a set of non-FX3 Bilsteins). If the car has adjustable suspension (FX3 or F45), make sure that the electronics work - repair/replacement is significant, but if you don't care about it, then just look for a car without it.

8. Exhaust. Stock exhaust, cat-back replacement, or headers? The stock exhaust is the quietest. Many of the aftermarket systems introduce a resonant drone at highway speeds, so you want to note that during your test drive.

9. Engine compartment. Condition of hoses, belts, underhood rubber, and wiring. Early C4's had wiring that will crack/harden over time due to engine compartment temps (I'll have to find the reference for that - I don't have it at my fingertips). How does it look? Does it appear reasonably intact, or does it look like mice sleep in it? Wiring issues are tough gremlins to solve, and you don't want to buy somebody else's wiring nightmare. How about fluid levels and smells? Sniff the AT, PS fluids, and take a gander at the coolant overflow tank.

10. Engine. You'll want this checked out during your pre-purchase inspection. However, you can learn something by removing the oil filler cap and looking closely in the head. Repeat the smell test here. Burned smells or evidence of sludge may be a warning sign. The LT1 engine, introduced in 1992, is a great motor. However, the weak link is the Optispark system. The ones from '92 - '94 are very prone to fail if they are exposed to water (so DON'T wash the engine!). The 95 and 96 had a vent system, and are much more bulletproof.

11. Lights. Do all the lights work? Do the headlamp pods come up together, or do you have C4 lazy eye? Check the interior lights as well (especially the dash lights). Speaking of headlights, the gear system from 84 - 87 is different than 88 - 96.

12. Interior. Carpet and seat wear. Driver's side bolsters typically wear out. Later C4's had a rubber coating (I don't remember when it started) on the doors, and console called Dulco or something like that. When it wears, it comes off. There are some references on how to restore it, but I haven't tried any of them. Replacing the Dulco upper console with a reproduction part runs about $150 for the part. Does the A/C work, and does it blow cold air where you expect it to?

13. Radio/CD/Cassette. If you really like listening to your tunes while you drive, then you can plan on replacing the stock stereo with something else. I don't play the radio in mine (the sound of the car is all the music I need), but if you invest in repairs, it will run $150 - $600 (or maybe more if the head unit needs work).

14. Undercarriage. Look for the typical suspects - leaks around seals and such like that. If you have to replace the pinion or transmission rear seal, you'll have to remove the exhaust system to get to it. Of course, if you do that, then you can add C-Beam strengtheners from ZFDoc.

15. Targa top. If you have a blue or bronze clear top, be sure to look for cracks and/or crazing. Crazing will occur if the car has been stored outside, as the plastic reacts to UV radiation (do a google search on crazing). Crazing looks crappy, but doesn't affect the strength of the top. Cracks, on the other hand, may be cause to replace the top (depends - some people have repaired their cracks, and it never gets bigger - but it still looks like crap). A replacement top from a quality source will run about $700+.

16. Manual Transmission. If you want a manual, then you will want to make sure of a couple of things. The early C4's (84 - 88) had a four speed with OD (called a 4+3, because the OD would electronically engage in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th). The '89 - 96 MT cars came with a ZF six speed. Both cost a lot to repair, so you want to make sure that they operate properly. The six speed has a Computer Aided Gear Selection system (CAGS) that forces you to shift from first to fourth under certain conditions. If you don't expect it, you'll grind up the syncrho in second during these forced shifts. Thus, if you inspect a six speed car, make sure that the CAGS defeat (a $20 item) has already been installed or plan on buying that as your first mod!

I'm assuming you plan to spend some money for a pre-purchase inspection of the potential car. Find someone that has a C4 that you trust to go with you.

Look at and drive lots of cars - I spent a year looking for mine, and learned a lot of the things I mentioned along the way.

Good Luck in your search - I love my '95! Let us know if you have any questions, or you can PM me if you'd like.


376 Posts
OldVetteFan, I like your list too.

I would just add is that it is easier to see crazing of the acrylic top looking out from inside the car rather than looking into the car from the outside. If you sit in the car and look out throught the top and feel like you're having a bad acid trip the top is crazed.

Premium Member
5,157 Posts
OldVetteFan, I like your list too.

I would just add is that it is easier to see crazing of the acrylic top looking out from inside the car rather than looking into the car from the outside. If you sit in the car and look out throught the top and feel like you're having a bad acid trip the top is crazed.
Absolutely! I'll add that tip to my list.


5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·

Holy Crap!
TONS of awesome information....thank you guys.
I have studied both lists and printed them. They will accompany me to the dealership.
The price is 6700, with about 93K miles.

I will let you guys know the status tomorrow after I give it a two-hour interview!
The dealer seems to be quite amenable toward enthusiasts who are big on details, so it should be fun.

I am looking forward to the adventure.

Thank you again gentlemen, I will use this wisdom and go forth....
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