101 Corvette Tech Tips

101 easy performance, restoration, maintenance & shop tips

Wayne Scraba Feb 8, 2005 0 Comment(s)

Working on and maintaining your Corvette is supposed to be fun, butthere are times when you run into a mechanical brick wall that seemsalmost insurmountable. Sure, you can throw $100 bills at the Corvettemechanic to overcome the obstacle, but that isn't always necessary.While there is no question that money and preparation are precariouslylinked on the path to improved Corvette performance, in many cases cubicdollars can be supplanted by ingenuity.

That's where we step in.

We've poked, we've prodded, and we've generally nosed around until wefound 101 ways to make your Corvette faster, easier to work on, and makethe details shine. Some of the ideas we discovered are safety-orientedwhile others are simply good, old-fashioned "time savers"; butnonetheless, they all make life in the Corvette fast lane a buncheasier. Pick and choose the tips that suit your Corvette. We're positivethat you too can work on your pride and joy without breaking the bank!

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1. THE BIG SQUEEZE

When considering the compression ratio for a new Corvette normallyaspirated engine and factoring in today's gasoline octane, there aresome variables you should consider. Here's the rundown:

* A higher compression ratio requires higher-octane fuel

* More spark advance requires higher-octane fuel

* Lower humidity requires higher- octane fuel

* Higher altitude allows the use of lower octane

* Leaning of the air/fuel ratio requires the use of higher octane

2. GETTING TORQUED

The folks at NGK point out that torque is one of the most criticalaspects of spark-plug installation. Torque directly affects the sparkplug's ability to transfer heat out of the combustion chamber. A sparkplug that's under-torqued will not be fully seated on the cylinder head;hence heat transfer will be slowed. This will tend to elevatecombustion-chamber temperatures to unsafe levels, and pre-ignition anddetonation will usually follow. Serious engine damage is not far behind.

An over-torqued spark plug can suffer from severe stress to the metalshell which in turn can distort the spark plug's inner gas seals or evencause a hairline fracture to the spark plug's insulator. In either case,heat transfer can again be slowed and the above-mentioned conditions canoccur. NGK also states that the spark-plug holes must always be cleanedprior to installation; otherwise you may be torquing against dirt ordebris and the spark plug may actually end up under-torqued, even thoughyour torque wrench says otherwise. Of course, you should only installspark plugs in a cool engine, because metal expands when it's hot andinstallation may prove difficult.

3. DULL DRUMS

Plenty of vintage Corvettes are equipped with drum brakes (actually,everything prior to '65, and even a few '65 models), and for the mostpart, servicing these components is pretty much a no-brainer. One thingto remember, however, is that when you replace the shoes, use a bit ofScotch-Brite to clean the contact points on the wheel backing plates.Next, lube these contact points lightly with white grease. This allowsfor smooth shoe action. Just be careful not to drop any grease on theshoes. If you do, use some spray-on brake cleaner to clean it.Otherwise, the friction material won't be too happy!

4. TURKEY TIME

If you're encountering a tough brake bleeding operation on one or moreof your Corvette calipers, try this: A turkey baster can be used to pumpbrake fluid into the bleed screw to force the bubbles out of theirhiding places.

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5. BATTERY BASICS

If you're going to store your Corvette for months at a time, disconnectthe battery. This will reduce the discharge. On the other hand, you canalso charge the battery once every two to four weeks and leave it hookedup. If you have the battery stored and disconnected, a charge everymonth or two will help keep the self-discharge from draining thebattery. Also look for regulated trickle chargers that are designed forthis type of application.

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6. BROWN OUT

If you find brown, foamy residue in the coolant of your Corvette you mayhave also located a cracked cylinder head, which can cause overheating.Have your radiator pressure checked at your local radiator shop.Pressure loss can cause overheating. Before you start peeling apart theengine, give this some consideration: Many times a failed radiator capis the culprit. A cap that has failed to hold system pressure can causecoolant loss and overheating conditions.

7. TIRE HIEROGLYPHICS

The air pressure listed on the sidewall of a tire is not the correct airpressure for your Corvette. The number listed on the sidewall is themaximum air pressure for the tire. Follow Chevrolet's publishedrecommendations. You and your Corvette will be much happier.

8. ROOFER'S FIX

Many vintage Corvettes came factory-equipped with Holley carbs (and morethan a few other Corvettes were retrofitted with Holleys). If the bowlscrew on the carb leaks (normally due to a torn gasket), find a commonroofing nail. Use the rubber washer from the nail to fix the leak.Problem solved.

9. CYLINDER CONFLAGRATION

Is your Corvette misfiring? Are you scratching your head trying tofigure out which cylinder is the culprit? If the car is equipped withheaders, here's a quick test. With the engine running, squirt a smallamount of water on each header tube (close to the exhaust port). Oncylinders that are functioning properly, you'll see the water evaporateinstantly. Not so on the dead cylinder(s).

10. PLUGGED ARTERIES

Most cam break-in lubricants are moly-disulfide concoctions. Werecommend you use them when installing a new cam in your Corvette. Butremember: They can easily plug an oil filter within 20 minutes ofoperation. When the filter is plugged, it will typically bypass and theresult will be copious quantities of dirt inside the engine. Afterbreaking in the camshaft (or a new engine), replace the filter after 20minutes of running time. It's cheap insurance.

11. SQUEAL ON YOU

If you have a persistent squeak from your brakes and you've triedeverything to stop it, try this: Remove the pads and clean the back toremove dirt and dust. Brake cleaner works perfectly. It dries fast anddoes not leave a residue. After cleaning, spray or brush on a goodcoating of disc-brake anti-squeal compound on the back of the pads (mostauto parts stores sell it). Allow it to dry for half an hour, thenreplace the pads and anti-squeal shims (if used on your car). The squeakshould be banished for a couple of years.

12. IN HOT WATER

The folks from Fel-Pro point out that a water-temperature gaugeindicates only the average temperature of the coolant in the engine. Awater-temp gauge does not indicate the cylinder-head castingtemperature. The casting temperature is what the head gasket issubjected to.

13. NAIL BITER

Believe it or not, nail-polish remover makes an effective andinexpensive small-parts cleaner. The polish remover is acetone, and themost potent, least expensive stuff comes without scents or oils. By theway, in diluted form it will remove bugs and tar from chrome, and removegrease and oil instantly. Just keep in mind acetone is also a wonderfulpaint remover, and, for a perfectly restored Corvette, that's the lastthing you need to spill.

14. MORE MATH

Tire diameter of the metric or P-metric tire can be calculated by usingthe tire size nomenclature. The section width and aspect ratio aremolded into the sidewall. The section height (SH) of a tire is thesection width multiplied by the aspect ratio. The overall diameter (OD)includes two section heights converted to inches, plus one rim diameter.The following formula is valid for all metric and P-metric tires: OD =(2 x SH) + Rim Diameter

15. BRAKE LINE BOBBLES

When it comes to brake lines, what size should you use? That's simple:Use 3/16-inch steel line wherever possible. Use flex line only wherenecessary.

16. CORROSIVE CONCERNS

If you're plagued with bulbs on your Corvette that constantly needattention, think about this: Is there corrosion at the base of the lightbulbs? If so, apply a wee bit of electrical grease to the bulb base.This goes for the prongs of blade fuses as well. Your problems should besolved.

17. DIMWIT

If you have a dim headlight, the cause is a bad ground (and on aCorvette, there are plenty of them). Clean the ground and the headlightwill work well again.

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18. BACKSPACE STATISTICS

Don't take aftermarket wheel backspace dimensions with a grain of salt!When you buy new or used wheels, be sure to check the backspacedimensions of all of the wheels. This is particularly important when itcomes to multiple-part wheels (wheels where the center is bolted,riveted, and welded to the wheel rim). Why so? Simple. Some folks havefound that wheels can be out by as much as 3/16 inch. And that can causeyou nothing but grief when fitting wheels to your Corvette. Double-checkthe wheel backspace. You'll be glad you did.

19. BEARING THE BRUNT

Wheel bearings don't last forever (most grizzled Corvette owners canattest to that). To check wheel bearings, grab the wheel at the top andbottom, and push and pull to determine if the wheel will move in or outat the hub. If there is noticeable movement, it indicates the bearingsare loose and in need of adjustment. It could also indicate the bearingsare badly worn. Translation? It's time to tear things apart.

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20. DRILL STOP

While commercial drill stops are readily available, it's pretty easy tomake one by wrapping a piece of tape around a drill bit at the depth youneed the hole. It's cheap. It's easy. It works. What more could you askfor?

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