C5 100K Miles – An Owner’s Experience

C5 100K Miles – An Owner’s Experience
Considering purchasing a Corvette C5? Are you wondering how durable the car might prove to be over time? While a single owner’s experience can’t predict what will happen with your C5, problems that occur in one car often predict what others will find. With that in mind, here’s my experience with my 2002 C5 Corvette Coupe which I purchased new in April of 2002. The car turned 100,000 miles near Iowa City, IA in September of 2013.  

Body and Paint, Exterior – Grade “A”
I didn’t know what to expect from the fiberglass body? Would it get cracks? Would the paint fade? Would it get chips that would be hard to fill? I give the Corvette body an “A.” The paint looks like new (the car has been garaged and not driven during the Winters here in Ohio.) The fiberglass resists dings and chips better than metal. I have not seen a single crack form and there are still none of the “creaks” I expected.

Interior – Grade “B”
The C5 was not known for a great interior in the first place, with large panels of uninspiring plastic on the doors and a basic mid-quality leather covering on the seats. The plastic materials have held their colors and have not developed cracks. However, the seat foam has deteriorated and should be replaced in my car. (A friend rebuilt his seats with good results. Body shops can do this for you and I’m likely to have them fix mine.) The leather is still okay, the carpet is wearing well, and I have not had problems with the electrical accessories.

Electrical Systems – Grade “B”
I have experienced three problems with what I will call the “Electrical System” in general. First, my ABS computer required replacement at approximately 40,000 miles. The text in the driver information display that normally shows the odometer reading or other messages began displaying “Service ABS.” I took my car to the Chevrolet dealer and they happily replaced the ABS computer for $1,200! I later found out that ABS Fixer, with a reference on the Competition Corvette website, repairs the ABS computers for $200 and they plug into the system with little difficulty. Lesson learned, $1,000 wasted! Second, my right headlight stopped popping up when I turned the switch at about 80,000 miles. I was able to fix this for $65 by purchasing a brass replacement gear kit and taking about two hours of my time to rebuild the gearmotor the powers the headlight. The Chevrolet dealer wants $500 to replace both gearmotors, but you can save this expense. Third, my fuel gage began to abruptly drop to zero fuel from about a half tank with about 65,000 miles on the car. C5 owners will tell you this is a common problem and it can be solved by adding Techron fuel system cleaner every 10,000 miles. (Note that I almost always use regular (not premium) fuel and perhaps this problem would not occur with premium, but I doubt that would make a difference.) Apparently something in the fuel renders the fuel sending unit intermittent until it is cleaned by the Techron. In general, I consider these problems (except the brakes!) to be minor.

Mechanical Systems – Grade B+
In this category, I include the engine, engine accessories, the transmission, the suspension, and the brakes and tires. (This forms a big category, I know!) First, here are a few simple things. I change the oil and filter myself with high-quality, conventional 5W-30 once per year, or approximately every 8,000-10,000 miles. (I know that this sounds like sacrilege to some Corvette owners, who swear by synthetics, but I am stubborn and believe that the anti-rust properties of conventional oil outweigh the anti-wear properties of synthetics for applications like everyday driving that don’t require much power from the engine. If I was running on the track a lot, I would use synthetic!) My first set of tires (Goodyear) lasted 36,000 miles. I replaced them with Michelin as the price was about $1,400 – or $120 less than the Goodyear offering. That set lasted 38,000 miles. I replaced them with another set of Michelins at 74,000 miles and that is the set on the car now. Brakes, including pads and rotors, front and rear were worn and replaced at the same time as the tires. (JJ’s in Concord, OH did an excellent job on both brake jobs.) Some people have told me that my experience with tires and brakes is better than average. I don’t know. I have taken my car on the road track at Beaver Run eight times for a total of about 700 miles of track driving, plus a few Corvette club low-speed events. The other driving is mixed highway and suburban/city streets.
While my automatic transmission has performed very reliably, it’s probably the weakest point on the car. It’s a four-speed with a six-inch torque converter, standard for the C5 in 2002. If you’re going on the track, especially road courses, four speeds are just not enough to put the Corvette power at the wheels! Much less powerful cars gain on me as the engine speed on my automatic C5 builds to allow me to regain position. Frustrating! This problem is solved, I think, with the 6-speed in the C6. (Yes, I could have bought the six-speed manual, but I wanted the automatic for everyday driving. I know that might be a bad compromise for some of you!) Not only does the 4-speed automatic not offer enough gears to match the engine, it also overheats under track conditions. Transmission over-temperature has caused me to leave the track on several occasions. However, in all normal driving, the transmission has performed very well with no problems.
The engine has performed flawlessly! Telling about 28MPG on the highway in a car like the Corvette causes me to be accused of fibbing, but I promise the mileage is accurate! The engine remains as good as “day one” after 100,000 miles. However, whoever designed the accessory drive train needs a bit of remedial work. I have spent over $1,500 resolving some problems with the harmonic balancer, the air-conditioning compressor belt tensioner, and the water pump. With these replaced, the belts run smoothly and quietly.
The suspension presents a high-point for the car. Beautiful forged aluminum pieces underneath are strong enough to handle racing loads and are loafing on highways. No problems with the bushings, shocks, etc.
Overall, I have been very satisfied with the first 100K miles on my C5. I expect to drive it another 100K over the next ten or so years. Stay tuned!

Ken Deken

3 Responses to “C5 100K Miles – An Owner’s Experience”

  1. FredD says:

    Great piece Ken! I seem to be following closely on your chronological sequence of events for my C5!
    Mine just turned 84,000 and I thought that was high. But as you say these cars were really put together by some great people using good quality parts.

    Like you I get an amazing 28-30 mpg but I do use high-test. I found that regular pings a bit too much.
    I do most of the fairly easy repairs including the ABS unit from ABS Fixer. And have replaced, brakes, pads, plugs, wires, leather seats, tires, and even added an iPhone interface.
    And I do race mine and have the smiles to go along with it.
    I just started to do some paint / chip touch-up especially on the sides by the ground. Lots of road rash that is not too noticeable.
    Another member, Ted, just told me that using WD-40 in the wheel wells maintains a nice finish and is easy to clean. It’s the next project for the upcoming winter.

    Hope the others post some of their experiences!
    Thanks again!!

  2. KBD says:

    Fred, I don’t know anybody who does more on their C5 than you! I changed the plugs one time and that’s it for me. A royal pain! And that seat video you made convinced me that the body shop is going to get some business. You forgot that you changed your headlights to HID’s, too!

    As for the bottom getting a bit chewed up, yeah, I’ve seen that to an extent, too. Not much to be done about it and it really doesn’t affect the appearance if we don’t do shows where perfection is required. You and I have the same thoughts on driving the cars!

    Interesting that you felt you got a lot of pinging on regular fuel. I agree definitely for going on the track. However for day-to-day driving, which is almost all of my miles, I seldom notice it and the engine has a knock sensor to keep damage from occurring.

    One more point . . . to us, 100K miles seems like a lot but I did some investigation on the Web. Many cars have 150K and several over 200K, so we have a way to go. I’m sure my car can make it to 200K more easily than I can drive it to that number!

    Enjoying the exchange. Thanks for showing me the ropes on the Blog.

  3. KBD says:

    An Update to my original Post!

    125K and 140K Miles – Update to “C5 100K Miles – an Owner’s Experience”

    Since my car achieved 100K miles on the 30th of September 2013, I have driven 25,000 more miles on my 2000 Corvette C5 Coupe. The odometer reads just over 125,000 miles on this, the 25th of August 2016, so I drove the car about 8,000 miles per year during the last three years. This is an update on my experience during that additional time.

    First, I ran the car on a chassis dynamometer on the 24th of June 2014. The peak HP reached 266HP at 5800 RPM in second gear with a wheel speed of 102MPH. While some of you will say “that’s not very high for a car with a nominal 350HP engine,” remember that my C5 is a 4-speed automatic. With a six-speed transmission and a different rear axle ratio, it’s likely the car would have produced closer to 290HP on this inertia dynamometer. Interesting to me, nonetheless!

    I have run into three fairly minor problems in the time from 100K to 125K. First, my right rear wheel bearing needed replacement.
    Second, my oil pressure sending unit failed and it’s tough to get to it to replace it. My oil pressure now reads 130PSI all of the time and I don’t plan to get this repaired until it can be done with some other work by the dealer or another shop.
    Third, my hazard flasher/switch is failing which
    causes the turn signals to stop working occasionally. If I “jiggle” the flasher switch, they start working again, so I figure I’ll replace that switch if it gets much worse.

    One major change I made was to switch to regular tires from run-flats. I wish I would have done this sooner! The regular tires are much quieter, much smoother, and I paid $800 for my Kumho’s installed – less than half the price of the Goodyear or Michelin run-flats. An inflator can, a compressor, and a plug kit now reside in the compartment in the rear of the car.

    That’s about it. The car is still running great! I remain impressed with the engine, transmission (durability, not flexibility!), the chassis, and the fiberglass body. Most people think the car is only a couple of years old unless they know the C5/C6/C7 body styles. –

    Ken Deken 25 Aug 2016 –
    140K Miles update – 29th of July 2019
    Beyond the 125K mile update, I have driven an additional 15,000 miles in the last three years. Here’s a summary of what I’ve experienced since then.
    First, the cooling system seems to have become weaker as I have noticed the coolant temperature rising in the summer in traffic. One time it reached very nearly to the red line but it did not officially “overheat” and some highway driving cooled it back to about 225F. Still, I removed the radiator shroud and cleaned the radiator thoroughly and verified operation of the two electric fans. The shroud was very dirty, so this could have been part of the problem. I recommend this maintenance step.

    I had the transmission fluid changed (18 quarts!) and the plugs and wires replaced at 128K.
    The hazard/turn flasher failed and I replaced it myself at 131K with instructions from the Internet. Cost was $40.
    No surprise here, the left side headlight motor failed. I had purchased the Dickman kit years earlier and replaced the plastic gear with a bronze gear should be good for the life of the vehicle. $60 for this repair which I did myself.

    I replaced the battery at 134,000 for $139.
    A friend (Bob Fultz) from the Corvette Club fixed my oil pressure sending unit and a PCV hose connection leak for $162. The oil pressure gauge works properly and the car idles better now! (Thanks Bob!)
    I replaced the headliner and foam on the removable top myself for $50 as the
    previous factory stuff was falling down and couldn’t easily be repaired. Bought the material from eBay.
    I replaced the low beam headlights with LED bulbs and I absolutely love these!

    Simple to do, cost $100, much brighter and they look way cool!
    At 139,633 I replaced the Kumho tires with another set. The previous set lasted 38000+ miles. The new tires were from Tire Rack and cost less than $600 plus $230 for mounting, balancing, and four wheel alignment.
    During the tire and alignment work, the shop discovered that my rear anti-sway bar had broken. Looking on the Corvette Forum, this is fairly common. Replacement cost $472 for the parts and labor.

    Finally, with the car running great, at 139,000 I noticed a coolant leak. I figured a loose hose or clamp, but the problem turned out to be a hole in the
    plastic/aluminum radiator. $619.48 later, it’s running great and cooler than ever!

    That’s it. The car is a delight to drive with the top off and it runs and sounds great.

    Can’t say there have been no problems, but the main items have continued to be reliable – engine, transmission, fiberglass body. Even the seats have held up pretty well!


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