With our C5's vents once again pumping out cool air, it wasn't long before we were ready to head out for an enjoyable evening cruise. Upon turning on the headlamps, however, we were greeted by a most unpleasant grinding noise emanating from the right headlamp pod. The noise reared its ugly head again when we turned off the lights to put the Vette away for the night
The following morning we took a ride over to Whisper Motorsports, in Clearwater, Florida, to meet company owner Larry French and C5 specialist John Wilson. Turning the headlamps on and off with someone positioned near the front of the car confirmed that the sound was coming from the right-side drive motor. We shut off the vehicle and headed under the hood, disconnecting the negative battery cable to prevent sparks or shorts.
With that accomplished, we raised the lamp manually by turning the headlamp-control knob counterclockwise, then disconnected the wiring-harness connector from the forward lamp harness. Next, we removed the headlamp's bezel surround, the front fascia's lower closeout panel, and the brake-cooling duct.
We were then ready to disassemble the hardware that raises and lowers the lights. (If you're following along at home, be sure to support the headlamp assembly with a handful of shop rags or soft towels before you proceed.) We removed the two 10mm bolts mounting the headlamp bracket to the framerail, then moved on to the three 10mm nuts holding the bracket to the headlamp-stud plate.
Next to go were the nuts securing the headlamp assembly's pivot arm to the motor, followed by the three bolts mounting the motor to the assembly itself. With these out of the way, we could remove the headlamp motor from the car. (Note that the '97-'99 Corvette headlamp motors have the gear-drive cover bolted in place, while the '00-up covers are glued in place.)
Once we had the unit apart, the cause of the problem was obvious. With the nylon drive gear meshing with a metal ring gear, it was only a matter of time before the former piece wore down, causing poor and noisy operation. We went to Whisper Motorsports' vast parts shelf and found an Eckler's rebuild kit (PN 47791), which includes a new, stock-replacement drive gear. (For a little extra money, Eckler's also offers an upgraded repair kit, PN 45211, that utilizes a more durable bronze drive gear.)
With the new gear and bushing installed, it was time to close up the gear chamber. On early C5s such as ours, this procedure involves reinstalling the three bolts and tightening them lightly, but securely. With the '00-up units, it is necessary to use the kit-provided epoxy to securely seal the cover to the gear chamber.
With everything buttoned up, we were pleased to find that our Shoestring C5's right-side headlamp once again functioned smoothly and quietly. Couple that fix with the car's freshly rejuvenated climate-control system, and we were finally ready to head out for a relaxing evening of warm-weather cruising. Tune in next time as we begin a much-needed cosmetic overhaul on the car's interior.