ZR-1 Maintenance Tips

General Maintenance

by Jim VanDorn


The most common call we receive by far is from a confused ZR1 owner. After years of reading everything from which thermostat to use, to what type of spark plug is best, the average owner is totally and completely confused...and for good reason. There are many varied opinions of what is best for our cars but that may depend greatly on how you use your ZR1.


After seven years plus, many ZR1's are finally accruing some mileage. We have had the opportunity to closely inspect many engines with a variety of types of use from normal street driving to severe "weekend" use (track time). Compiling this information we can now offer the ZR1 owner some observations. One rule we've adopted after hearing so many owners say the same thing is the "DIMWIT" or "Darn, if I didn't Mess With IT" rule. In other words, if you didn't have a problem, then what are your intentions in the first place? To date, the only company known to have a fleet of engineering ZR1's to test with was GM and it's affiliates.


Therefore, we must ask ourselves if their suggested procedures and parts recommendations should have a considerable amount of merit. Obviously they do, but on the other hand, there are no doubt areas for improvement. Although we will begin our segment discussing the routine and normal maintenance of the ZR1, there are many areas where an upgrade will be suggested.


Please understand that these are personal opinions and experiences and are not intended to conflict with service procedures outlined in the appropriate service manual.

Some of you have found out the hard way that the LT5 engine is not "cleaning friendly." IN fact, we would more likely say that the LT5 is a real challenge in more ways than one. First of course, the LT5 cannot be rinsed down with water or the puddling within the intake valley will damage your starter resulting in a $600 repair bill. Secondly, the LT5's finish is not a very durable one to say the least. Although similar powder coat was used on all year models, you may have already noticed a change in the appearance of your LT5. This change can be caused by several factors including UV damage, improper use of cleaning solutions, and reactions to underhood chemicals including coolant, oils, and brake fluid.  Cleaning of the LT5 should only be accomplished when absolutely necessary by using a damp towel and MILD soap solution such as dishwashing soap or Simple Green. Remember, the LT5 paint is readily damaged by harsh chemicals so the milder the better.  In the event your engine's finish is already damaged or simply suffering the adverse effects of time, there are some remedies. There are some spray paints out there that can be applied but obviously are not very durable. The other choice is to have your competent technician carefully remove approximate labor charge of 8-10 hours) the visible components (cam covers, injectors housings, water outlets, plenum, throttle body and air horn) and have them re-powder coated by an experienced powder coater.


CAUTION. Improper application of the powder coat can result in terminal damage of your LT5 parts. Some of these are very expensive. Cam Covers, for instance, come only when attached to the $5,000 cylinder head. There are also a variety of types of powder coat with some being more suitable for engine compartment use. Be sure you use a facility very familiar with this type of work.

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