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C4 good/bad?

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Chris N

Guest
First, I'm really enjoying this site and all of the great info and humor. :)
I've been shopping for my first corvette and have checked out a few C3s and C4s. Each have their good and bad features and costs. Would anyone like to pitch in some of their feelings on the C4 that come form actual experience which I do not have? One of my concerns about C4s is their cost and more difficulty working on them which is something that I enjoy doing. Thanks for the input, I'm really trying to be patient and get the best vette for me. :)
 
C

c4ever

Guest
Chris,
Decisions,Decisions:)

I guess I'm somewhat bias but the C4 is a great car and requires less mait. than you may think. For daily driver I couldn't ask for a more dependable car. If you can find a solid,straight, well maintained C4 you won't be dissapointed. It also allows for mods from extreme to subtle. Parts availability is great. As far as cost, they're probably the most bang for the buck. You'll get plenty of input from all the members. I think it's safe to say they've done it all. You've definitely come to the right place for some straight answers. I do own a shark also and love it to death. In the end they're all great cars. :xmas
Good Hunting:w
 

JT ZR-Won

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 6, 2000
Messages
1,273
Location
Bradenton, FL
Corvette
'90 ZR-1 #365 (SOLD...but Dad's got it now)
Chris,
Welcome to the CAC. You picked a good time to ask your questions on the C4 because it seems there are a lot of threads floating around with info that can help you out. Check some of these threads:

http://www.corvetteactioncenter.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=6469

http://www.corvetteactioncenter.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=6606

http://www.corvetteactioncenter.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=6647

http://www.corvetteactioncenter.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=5377

These are just a few threads with a bunch of info. Another fancy feature is the SEARCH option located towards the top of the page. If you're looking for specific areas this will come in very handy. Let us know if you have any other questions :)

Jay
 

singledad_9

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 7, 2001
Messages
189
Location
Glastonbury Ct USA
Corvette
Y2k vette, 73 under construction
My last vette was a C4

The problem that I had with my 89 was getting in it and getting out of it when the top was up. The frame rail was rather high. It was totalled after a lady came out of a side street and hit my passenger side door spinning me sideways into oncoming traffic. That frame rail stopped a Ford Probe which was about to sit on my lap.

Personnally, the C4 is easier to work on from the perspective that everything is accessable. However the C3's are easier to work on from the perspective that there aren't as many computers.

I am still rebuilding my 73.
 
D

Don Martin

Guest
The C-4's are very expensive to drive and not reliable at all but they are fast and very exciting.

First the jacking. It's almost imposible to jack one up! The jacking points on the side look like a cheap edge of sheet metal that a regular jack will crush. So a special jack (like the one that comes with the car) is needed. As far as jackstands on the rear? I don't think so! Tell me where to put them. I suppose you can go to near the rear on the side with a jack. I put ramps under the rear wheels. Go to the CF and "VetteNutt's" site. He has the best advice that I have seen.

In general figure that it will cost about 5 times as much per mile as say a reliable car like a Caprice or a Crown Vic.

Go ahead and open the clam shell hood and try to change the plugs or wires. It's a 2 hour job. You have to take off the fender wells, the wheels and jack the car up. That 2 hours is for 2 people. You will not need 2 people all of the time however. Try to reach the distributor with your hand on a LT-1.

In summation the C-4 is sort of like a racing car. Very fast but they break down like heck. You will need another car.
 
J

jerrys96lt4

Guest
Don has some good points . They are hard to jack UP . It does Take a wile to change the plugs and wires . Its a little hard to get in and out of. But mine has not broke down. other than regular maint. its been wonderfull. And its my only car.:_rock :grinsanta
 
C

Chris N

Guest
Thanks for info

Thanks for all of the excellent info, thread links, and opinions.
I'm trying to be patient and will keep looking. I'm hoping that the right one is just going to bite me so that I'm sure it's the right one; just like my wife did. By the way she has run great and been very little maintenance! ;)
 
D

Don Martin

Guest
Today I drove my Corvette up to Vermont and back. It may be the last time this season as winter is very close. The roads were wet in a lot of spots until late in the morning and even a damp road can be slippery.

There were no other cars on the road with anywhere near the performance of this Corvette. I drove slow at first just enjoying the ride and the miles racked up once again as the old LT-1 gave me a good 26 plus MPG. Then I got behind a car on a nice highway and it was fun time. I passed the car going up a steep hill. Few cars have the power to do it in the short spot I had but with 300 HP it's easy. What a car!

Of course I had some aluminum foil over the "check ride control" light so I would not have to look at it all day. I am facing having to figure it out myself or go to the dealer. I guess I will get into it in January when the weather is really bad.

So Corvette is the king of the road, few people drive cars with this kind of performance. It's expensive but about as much fun as you can have.

As to the person here shopping for a Corvette. I suggest you do your search now and then be happy with it! So many buy one and then want to change this or that right away.
 

Rob

Site Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
Sep 16, 2000
Messages
13,541
Location
New Hampshire
Corvette
1990 Corvette ZR-1
Don Martin said:
The C-4's are very expensive to drive and not reliable at all but they are fast and very exciting.

First the jacking. It's almost imposible to jack one up! The jacking points on the side look like a cheap edge of sheet metal that a regular jack will crush. So a special jack (like the one that comes with the car) is needed. As far as jackstands on the rear? I don't think so! Tell me where to put them. I suppose you can go to near the rear on the side with a jack. I put ramps under the rear wheels. Go to the CF and "VetteNutt's" site. He has the best advice that I have seen.

In general figure that it will cost about 5 times as much per mile as say a reliable car like a Caprice or a Crown Vic.

Go ahead and open the clam shell hood and try to change the plugs or wires. It's a 2 hour job. You have to take off the fender wells, the wheels and jack the car up. That 2 hours is for 2 people. You will not need 2 people all of the time however. Try to reach the distributor with your hand on a LT-1.

In summation the C-4 is sort of like a racing car. Very fast but they break down like heck. You will need another car.

Don,

I'm a little confused by your statements above. I guess my confusion comes from the fact that I've known a lot of C4 owners that have not had very many probems with their C4s at all. in fact, they've been extremely reliable daily drivers which, considering their performance, makes this particular generation a bargain for those who cannot afford a C5. The L98m and LT1 engines are not complicated engines at all and other than I believe head gasket problems on one particular model year and optical spark distributor problems, I can't really think of anything else that is a well known problem with C4s. What am I missing?

As for the jacking....I own a 1990 Corvette....I have yet to have a problem jacking up the car. I follow the instructions in the owner's manual. A special jack to jack the car up is not needed and in fact, in all the years I've jacked mine up to remove the wheels for cleaning....I've never used the jack out of the car. I've used the $99 Craftsman jack from Sears with a towel on the end of it . I haven't bent any metal or broken any body parts.
 
B

BubbleHead

Guest
Don Martin said:
The C-4's are very expensive to drive and not reliable at all but they are fast and very exciting.

First the jacking. It's almost imposible to jack one up! The jacking points on the side look like a cheap edge of sheet metal that a regular jack will crush. So a special jack (like the one that comes with the car) is needed. As far as jackstands on the rear? I don't think so! Tell me where to put them. I suppose you can go to near the rear on the side with a jack. I put ramps under the rear wheels. Go to the CF and "VetteNutt's" site. He has the best advice that I have seen.

In general figure that it will cost about 5 times as much per mile as say a reliable car like a Caprice or a Crown Vic.

Go ahead and open the clam shell hood and try to change the plugs or wires. It's a 2 hour job. You have to take off the fender wells, the wheels and jack the car up. That 2 hours is for 2 people. You will not need 2 people all of the time however. Try to reach the distributor with your hand on a LT-1.

In summation the C-4 is sort of like a racing car. Very fast but they break down like heck. You will need another car.

YIKES!!! Looks like you had some bad experiences with the C4's.

I picked up my 1993 Coupe on April 2nd, 2001. It had 53,998 miles on it. It's now closing in on 69,000 miles. I drive it every day, rain or shine and haven't had ANY problems. It's been a blast to drive!

It has been in the shop for a new Corsa exhaust (stock is too quiet for me), a Dana 44 with 3.54 gears (knocked 7/10ths of the 1/4 mile) and will be back in for long tube headers right after emissions testing. It has seen some shop time, but only for upgrades.

Jacking the car... you can easily use a floor jack. Just pull off the "cup" portion that is on the jack and jack it up using the flat metal portion in the prescribed jacking locations. It's the same when the C4's are put on lifts. My mechanic is strictly Vettes and he has never had a problem. It does look flimsy, but I haven't seen one problem with the jacking locations.

Gas mileage was AWESOME when I had the stock 2.59 gears. I was averaging 32-33 mpg on the highway (at 75-85 mph). It's dropped a little with the new gears, about 3mpg on average. I don't drive it easy.

Reliablity... my car has been perfect for the last 15,000 miles. Expensive... only as expensive as the cost of gas and oil changes. I've never owned a car this fantastic!!! I'd put my cars cost of driving up against anything else with a V-8.

I have a car that runs 13.2x's @ 107-108 mph in the 1/4 and I still average 16 mpg (after gears).
The only expensive part is modifications... :D

Personally, I would choose a C4 over a C3 for safety (airbags), performance (stock vs. stock), fuel economy and reliablity. I love the C3 looks almost as much as the C4.

Things to look at on the C4's... WEATHERSTRIPING!!!!! I can't stress that enough, it's not cheap to replace. Also, most Vette owners take great pride in their cars, look very closely at the paint quality. If the paint looks bad, the car was probably not taken care of.

Drawbacks of the C4... Optispark. I haven't had any problems yet.
 

FrankM

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 4, 2001
Messages
154
Location
Derry, NH
I feel the C4 is the biggest bang for the buck.

Its technology is far advanced from the C3 and that gap is not as wide when comparing it to a C5.

Very durable reliable cars when properly maintained. Of course beating on any car will cause more failures overall, but the C4 stands up as well as any other in this department.
 
B

Bullitt

Guest
What may look as a flimsy jacking point, is actually very strong, structually. GM doesn't want the cars falling on the owners and the liable suits to follow, so it's pretty safe. Alot of European cars, Mercedes and BMW, have the same type of lifting points also. If you're overly concerned about this though, you may want to purchase a Pinch Weld Adapter that was made for unibody cars, originally. It's a bit overkill, but if it makes you guys feel safer, you might want to look into it. BTW, though I have a Shark, C4s rock! :_rock --Bullitt
 
B

Bullitt

Guest
for me it usally takes 100 miles to feel comfortable in a car.
I get comfortable in a car after adjusting the seat and mirrors correctly, looking both ways for traffic and then.................going into a four wheel drift!!! :L :L :L Keith you're right about trying to be graceful exitng the car. An old girlfriend of mine would always wait till I opened the door for her when she was wearing a short dress. No need to show everyone, everything. ;) I enjoyed my view, though. Yes, I am a baaaaadd man! :D --Bullitt
 
D

Don Martin

Guest
Using a flat surface on a jack! It can slip off! A towel! A towel!!!!

So far in 22,000 miles the following has broken or is still broke.

Brake linings
Turned rotors as they were really bad
5 studs were stripped - new studs and nuts
Fire under dash. Wire bundle wore thru it's insulation near the shifter and it shorted out the alarm. Wires under the dash fused together. $703.
Transmission stopped up shifting. Flush $125, Dropping pan to look for wear and problem $100, Rebuilt tranny $1750.
New ignition wires and plugs. Done by me and my friends. 3 hours labor + parts.
New optispark and water pump. $ ??? Just can't recall, but it was lots of money, maybe $700.
Serpentine belt
underhood light wire hit the belt near the alternator and now no lights under the hood
"service ride control" light on. May be failed FX-3! Covered light so I can't see it'
Flat in RF tire, fixed that.
Lumbar seats never worked.

I have had a 86 Caprice with the 350 that I ordered new with just what I wanted on it. It cost $13,250 with the sales tax. It has 303,000 miles on it and every thing is orginal except the left front seat where a spring broke, the right side of the car is a Pontiac Parisianne when my son sideswiped a guard rail, the seals on the rear axle and 2 water pumps, 1 radiator and various tires and hoses and belts. The shocks are original and fine, the front end is fine and has never needed alignment, the tranny has never needed anything but fluid and filter changes. Also it's had a new windshield as they get pitted at 150,000. This is a fault with this car. The tape player broke long ago. So not counting tires and mufflers which has been the biggest expense this car has cost about $500 for repairs in the last 16 years or $1.65 per thousand miles

The Corvette has cost $168.00 per thousand miles not counting the FX-3 that just died so the real cost is up near $200 per thousand miles.

My big mistake was buying this "racing" car for a daily driver. I can afford it at least but its getting boring.
 
B

BubbleHead

Guest
Don Martin said:
Using a flat surface on a jack! It can slip off! A towel! A towel!!!!

So far in 22,000 miles the following has broken or is still broke.

Brake linings
Turned rotors as they were really bad
5 studs were stripped - new studs and nuts
Fire under dash. Wire bundle wore thru it's insulation near the shifter and it shorted out the alarm. Wires under the dash fused together. $703.
Transmission stopped up shifting. Flush $125, Dropping pan to look for wear and problem $100, Rebuilt tranny $1750.
New ignition wires and plugs. Done by me and my friends. 3 hours labor + parts.
New optispark and water pump. $ ??? Just can't recall, but it was lots of money, maybe $700.
Serpentine belt
underhood light wire hit the belt near the alternator and now no lights under the hood
"service ride control" light on. May be failed FX-3! Covered light so I can't see it'
Flat in RF tire, fixed that.
Lumbar seats never worked.

I have had a 86 Caprice with the 350 that I ordered new with just what I wanted on it. It cost $13,250 with the sales tax. It has 303,000 miles on it and every thing is orginal except the left front seat where a spring broke, the right side of the car is a Pontiac Parisianne when my son sideswiped a guard rail, the seals on the rear axle and 2 water pumps, 1 radiator and various tires and hoses and belts. The shocks are original and fine, the front end is fine and has never needed alignment, the tranny has never needed anything but fluid and filter changes. Also it's had a new windshield as they get pitted at 150,000. This is a fault with this car. The tape player broke long ago. So not counting tires and mufflers which has been the biggest expense this car has cost about $500 for repairs in the last 16 years or $1.65 per thousand miles

The Corvette has cost $168.00 per thousand miles not counting the FX-3 that just died so the real cost is up near $200 per thousand miles.

My big mistake was buying this "racing" car for a daily driver. I can afford it at least but its getting boring.

Did you buy this car new??? If not, you can never really know how it was takin care of before you got it.

Mine has been FANTASTIC!!! Sorry you got a raw deal on your Vette.

$180 for four oil changes over 15,000 miles (next oil change is coming soon). So 180/15000 = .012 or just over one penny per mile. This figure is only for maintenance and/or needed repairs.

Since you didn't include any figures for regular oil changes, my total would come to $0.00 per mile or thousand miles, take your pick.

I do have to say I'm impressed with the $500 figure for 16 years on ownership. Hell, you would have a hard time finding a new windshield here for $500. You even changed 2 water pumps and a radiator along with belts and hoses. That's one sweet deal for only $500.

But, according to your math, my Vette has you beat, hands down for being a cheaper vehicle to operate. Not to shabby for a "race" car. :D

Oh, about using the flat surface of the jack... not sure how anythings going to slip. I can't tell you how many times we have done this and never had a problem. C4's and C5's. Just don't be stupid and try jacking the Vette with the very edge of the flat surface. Try it before you knock it.
 
B

BubbleHead

Guest
After re-reading your last post Don, I get the impression you do things half assed! Part of your Caprice is now a Pontiac, you list a flat tire like it is a manufacturing default from Chevy, brakes wear out sorry to tell you. Light under hood doesn't work and you haven't fixed it, serpentine belts do wear out and your service ride control light is on and your solution is to cover it?!

No wonder why you have problems, you are not taking care of your car!

Tim
 
D

Don Martin

Guest
Yes this Corvette is a lemon but it's a Corvette so it's history goes into the mix of data. I view the problems with this Corvette as only starting. Next the rear suspension will start to fail. Now I am not sure of that but it's a possibility.

I do not factor in regular maintenance items like lubrication or tires of course as they wear out on all cars. I did mention the serpentine belt however as it went in months after I got this used Corvette. The belts on the Caprice were still good after 150,000 miles but the water pump started to go so the belts were replaced. So I am comparing the 150K miles the Caprice belts went to whatever this racing car got for belt life.

There seems to be a misunderstanding as to why the Caprice's rights side is from a Parisiane. My son totaled the car and the body shop had a Parisisiane which is the same body. I got it painted also then. The damage was just to the body and the front suspension did not need to be aligned. Have you noticed that I said the front suspension is orginal and the tires wear even and the car steers well and goes straight. I use moly grease on the front end and grease it every 5,000 miles. I know how to grease a fitting so the boots are still good.

The new windshield cost $99 dollars installed including tax so whoever said $500 for a Caprice is just guessing.

But it's only money. I do wish I had bought a Impala SS however as it's a far more useful car. I thought the Corvette would be similar to the Caprice but not so, It's a lemon.
 

singledad_9

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 7, 2001
Messages
189
Location
Glastonbury Ct USA
Corvette
Y2k vette, 73 under construction
Don,

Had a similar experience with my c4. The car had 250k miles (no typo). Couldn't pass up the price. I spent 4 months getting it road worthy. New radiator, belts, hoses, a tune up, new intake gaskets... Spent about 2 to 3k on fixing it up and was getting it ready for paint. I finally passed emissions 4 hours before my accident.

Relearned a lesson that I keep going back to, you do get what you pay for. However once I got it road worthy the car was a good car.

2 months after the accident I finally decided to get what I want. Was looking for a replacement c4 or c5 and found a C5 in excellent condition, right color and right options.

The only thing that my co-workers say now is that "I'm the man"

You know, maybe I do deserve to be a little spoiled.
 

69MyWay

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 3, 2001
Messages
4,364
Location
Auburndale, Florida
Corvette
1969 Killer Shark
We have owned four C4 models
Here is a short novel about them:

1985 Coupe w/ auto trans
1986 Pace Car convertible w/ Auto trans
1989 Coupe six speed
1990 Coupe six speed

For the most part, the 85 was a fantastic car considering how much abuse I put it through. In other words, I was 18 years old with a nearly new Vette in my single college years. I went through four engines. Never blew one, just always in the pursuit of more power. I was going for a hotter engine in late 89 when the aftermarket had yet to catch up with them. I had to follow in the footsteps of Lingenfelter etc. That car went through tons of tires, three or four paint jobs. two water pumps, four transmissions, two sets of shocks, two sets of interiors, two windshields (that was my fault-don't close your hood with large tools sitting on the cowl), one set of injectors, one fuel pump, etc. etc. This is not typical as this car got raced, and went for months when I don't think I shut the engine off except to change the oil.

The 86 was soooooooo sweet when I bought it with less than 50K miles. I had to put a rear main seal, valve stem seals, belt, hoses, brake pads, and really strange, a left front lower ball joint. The problems it had were a direct result of not being driven. The soft seals on the car just dried up. I sold it just over 50k miles and in fact it now belongs to a member here at CACC. It has passed through two owners since I last saw it, and happend to see it a couple of months ago sitting at a local sports bar and left a note on the windshield.

The 89 was Nikki's first Vette. I bought it from a wholesale yard in "as is condition". It took me about four weeks to get it safe to drive as it was missing the brake resevoirs, Mass Air Flow, etc. etc. The prior owner had yanked the check engine light to mask the calamity of problems lurking under the hood. This car had been abused. We bought it with about 68K or so on the clicker. It had obvious collision damage that was poorly repaired, and the electrical was all goofed up from a previous Bubba mechanic. Okay, after getting it together it was a good freaken car. I had to put a clutch in it around 76K, Mass Air Flow, U joints, new Stereo, Tires, Belt, headlight bushings, valve stem seals, exhaust, (this was my first experience with a C4 and bad cats), and that was about it.

The 90 Nikki has now has been a real trooper. After 150K, it is still stroking. This car has posed some more difficult issues as it has the CCM and other more sophisticated electronics than the 89. I have to admit the computer gremlins have been a headache. On the 90 I have changed, valve stem seals, the idler/a/c bracket, several belts, EGR valve, brake hoses, master cylinder, reconditioned a bent rim, radiator, cooling fans, relays, stereo several times, emergency brake assembly, replaced the entire instrument panel from a donor car, replaced the climate control head, replaced the tilt portion of the steering column as it flat wore out and was flopping around (took me about seven times to get it right), driver side door hinge assembly, several sets of tires, exhaust, Cats, headlight bushings, a/c hoses complete, timing chain (I changed the timing chain trying to solve another problem-turns out it was not bad, but at 120K it did not hurt to put a fresh one in-trying doing that job in the car :bang) We still have a shorted wire in the back up light circuit which is also tied to the blinkers. The only way to get the blinkers to stay working without blowing a fuse was to snip the back up light circuit out. I am sure the wires is rubbing between the fuse panel and back up switch, and it needs a clutch now. The passenger seat power switch burned up years ago, it has a wicked water leak that poors in somewhere behind the dash and soaks the driver floor, and the stereo still comes and goes as it pleases. Several weeks ago the windshield wipers just quit, then they started working again.

So, I don't know how reliable they are, but mechanical stuff is destine to break. If it didn't they would never sell new cars.

Good luck in your search.
 
C

Chris N

Guest
Still searching

I love working on cars too, but it seems as though a few folks have gotten more work than they expected.
I need my new (used and first one) corvette to be a driver a few days a week, so maintenance is ok but I don't need another project, already have a few. I sounds like most folks have had good luck. So if I decide to go with the C4 (still considering C3) I suppose the best bet would be to get the lowest milage with the best service documentation available. For me the top price is going to be 12K.
At first I was leaning toward C3, then some of you folks changed my mind because of your positive comments and praise of the better technology. Now I'm considering the C3 again because I think that I will be more able to work on it, and it sounds like they all will need some work. (in my price range)
Although cost wise, for a good vehicle there in not a very big difference between the C3 and C4. Any thoughts? Thanks again for the free education, it could be saving me headaches and dollars, I appreciate it! Chris Nugier :)
 

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