There comes a
time in every Corvette owner's life when a decision has to be made
about basic auto maintenance. The real decision is whether to schlepp
you Vette down to the local dealer or attempt to do some wrench turning
yourself. Repair work involving a major component, ie. a tranny, rear
end or internal engine part, usually falls outside of the skill sets of
most backyard mechanics. Major repair work is in most cases better left
to a dealer or professional repair shop.
Basic maintenance is another story. With a little guidance and practice
most of the mundane work can be accomplished in your own garage or back
yard. Basic maintenance includes fluid changes, tune ups, brake jobs,
belt and hose replacements and scores of other little things.
Regular maintenance is essential if you want your vehicle to perform
properly. In the case of a high performance vehicle like the Corvette
deferred maintenance will in time bring your machine to a grinding
Back to the question; do it yourself or take your car to the dealer?
The pros and cons of this decision must be considered.
The Dealership maintenance process:
1. Make an appointment
2. Drive your car to the repair site
3. Find alternative transportation ( remember you are at a Chevy dealer
not Mercedes, in other words you are on your own)
4. Approve the work and the estimated expense (@ $80/hr labor plus high
5. Pick up the vehicle
6. Pray that they actually did the work
DIY Maintenance process:
1. Buy the parts (at a fraction of the cost that the dealer charges)
2. Turn the radio on in the garage
3. At a leisurely pace turn some wrenches and replace the parts
4. Open a beer and pat yourself on the back
5. Spend the money you saved on a gizmo in one of the countless Vette
catalogs you get every month
The quality of the finished service is something that you really have
to consider when farming out basic maintenance repair work. People are
like water and electricity in that they tend to take the path of the
The service bay at the local Chevy dealer is no exception to this.
Taking shortcuts and getting the car out of the dealers garage is the
rule not the exception. This is especially true when it comes to
working on a Corvette.
If you have ever looked into the engine bay of a modern Vette you will
immediately realize the doing even the simplest of tasks is not for the
faint of heart.
GM engine bay designers were given the task of squeezing six pounds of
shit into a three pound bag. Wires, hoses and inaccessible clamps and
bolts often lead to a dealership mechanic to skip some crucial
They figure, correctly I may add, that most customers will never know
the difference. I am not saying that all dealership service departments
are lax, but you never know.
The only mechanic that you can really trust is yourself. The problem is
that many would be shade tree mechanics are intimidated by today's
seemingly unserviceable engine compartments.
With some good tools, proper parts and good info, you can do just about
anything that the ding dong at the dealership can do. Best of all you
can do it right.
Job of the month - The C5 Cooling System
If your C5 is approaching or over the five year mark you need to
service the cooling system. All you C6 people still have about a year
to go so listen up.
The C5 uses Dexcool coolant. The capacity of the C5 is about 12 quarts,
you will need one to two gallons of Dexcool to complete the job.
While you are at it you should replace the upper and lower coolant
hoses as well as the accessory drive belts. A high compression engine
like the LS1 generates an enormous amount of heat. Heat and the
elements tend to destroy rubber components like belts and hoses in
about three to five years of under hood use.
The following is a list of things that you will need prior to starting
Two gallons of Dexcool coolant - $20 (Walmart)
Upper and lower radiator hoses - $25 (Advanced Auto or Autozone)
10 quart catch basin - $5 (KMart)
Serpentine accessory belts -$40 (Autozone)
Redline Water Wetter - $9(Advanced Auto)
Throttle body bypass tube - $18 (Mid America)
Total Cost: @ $117
Installation of the above parts is pretty straight forward. The most
difficult part of the job is accessing the lower hose clamp. The
easiest way to drain out the old fluid is to remove the lower hose and
just let the coolant drain into a basin.
Replace with new hoses using screw clamps (you can reuse the factory
spring clamps but they are a pain in the neck).
Refill through the surge tank using a 50/50 mix of distilled water and
Dexcool to one half inch over the cold fill line. Run the engine for
one minute with the tank cap off. Refill the surge tank again to one
half inch over the cold fill line. Put the cap back on and run the
engine cycle the engine to 3000rpm to idle for a couple of minutes.
When the temp gauge gets to 210 degrees turn off the engine. Let the
engine cool for about an hour. If the surge tank is low refill again it
to one half inch over the cold fill line.
That should be it, if the engine runs hot you probably have an air
pocket or have put in too much Dexcool. Remember water cools the
engine, the Dexcool protects the radiator from corrosion, boiling over
An air pocket should work its way out after several hot/cool down
Here are a few tips to make your life a little easier:
- Remove the air intake assemble prior to starting the work. This will
give you better access to the belts and hoses.
- Use a 15mm socket and breaker bar to loosen the drive belt on the
pulley tensioner. Remove and reinstall the main serpentine drive belt
using the alternator pulley as a staring point.
- The bottom clamp of the lower radiator hose is more easily accessed
from under the car
- When refilling the system use Dexcool and at least 1 gallon of
distilled or clean tap water. Use of only Dexcool will cause the engine
to run very hot.
- Replace the factory spring clamps with old fashioned stainless steel
screw clamps. This will make future maintenance a lot easier.
- When purging the system of air do not open the surge tank
cap on a hot engine
as the coolant is under pressure. The pressure must be
released very slowly or you can be injured.
- Install a throttle body coolant bypass tube if you live in a warm
climate. You will pick up a few free horses by keeping the heat out of
the air intake.
- Mix a bottle of Redline water wetter into your new Dexcool/Water mix,
it will help keep