ZR-1 Buyer's Guide
The most common question asked is, "Are ZR-1's reliable?"

The answer is YES! When taken care of like any other car, a ZR-1 will last a lifetime. We've heard of ZR-1's with over 270,000 miles and still running strong. See our 100,000 mile club.

I'm not going to get into the obvious things to look for when buying  a ZR-1 because it applies to any used car you buy. For example looking for obvious damage or repaint, worn seats, tires etc. What I will touch on is items particular to the ZR-1 that  you should look for when buying a ZR-1 vs any other car.

Buyer's Checklist

(Cheap) Less than $100*
(Moderate) $100 to $1,000*
(Expensive) Over $1,000*

*Note: (Assuming you do the work yourself)
 

YEAR
PROBLEM
REPAIR
ALL Look at the engine, very easy to stain the plenum and cam covers. Can be repainted but may not be cheap. (Expensive)
ALL Check tires for unusual wear that might indicate autocross racing or drag racing. May have to replace tires. (Moderate)
ALL Check wheels for damage from curbs, brake dust, etc. May have to replace one or more wheels. (Moderate)
ALL Check the plastic clear roof top for cracking, specially around the mounting points. Sometimes you'll see spider web like cracking from the inside looking out. You'll have to replace the top or do an exchange (Moderate)
ALL Check to see if the ZR-1 has the option for both roof panels, painted and tinted and if so, that the seller has both.
'90-'91 Check to see if car has original owners kit which is a box that was sent after the owner purchased the ZR-1. This box contains items like another copy of the window sticker, soft leather case, a couple of books, video tape and ZR-1 key chain. Aftermarket for one of these can cost you several hundred dollars (Moderate)
'92-'95 These owners kits are just a zippered pouch with a video tape, owners manual, etc  and in '92 and '93 owners kit a black ZR-1 key chain. You can still purchase an owners kit from GM (Moderate)
ALL Check for oil leaks especially around the oil pan. Common problem for the oil pan screws to become loose. In most cases tightening the bolts will work, some are hard to get at (Cheap)
ALL Check fans behind radiator for not working, being loose, missing hardware, common problem. Replace missing hardware or fan (Cheap)
ALL Check that CD player works. You'll have to replace or find a shop that will repair it (Moderate)
ALL Check that each speaker is working, not uncommon to have a bad speaker/amp. Most common for the capacitors to go. Find someone who might be able to just replace the caps (Moderate)
ALL Check for a vacuum leak. Open hood, turn ignition key on but don't start the car. Listen for vacuum pump to come on which is located under front right headlight. It should come on only for a few seconds and turn off. If pump stays on  or comes on every few seconds then you have a vacuum leak. If pump doesn't run at all, replace pump. If runs all the time then trace and repair vacuum leak which in most cases is under the plenum. Moderate)
ALL Check that all 3 lumbar air bladders in the seats inflate. If they don't inflate most likely bad seal on pump under seat or vacuum leak (Moderate)
ALL When the LT5 is cold, some owners may experience a rapping noise on start up until oil pressure comes up. Once oil pressure is up the noise goes away. Most likely this is the cam chain tensioner (CCT). Doesn't seem to cause any problems. You can replace CCT with newer update but you don't need to (Moderate)
'90-'91 When you come to a stop the idle may stay high for a few seconds and then drop to normal. This can be fixed with a new updated PROM from GM.(Cheap)
ALL The windshield may have a problem with distortions in the glass or glass delamination. Normal in that almost all ZR-1 windshields do this new or used. Check and make sure it has a ZR-1 windshield with the cutout in the middle just above the dash. You can replace the windshield if you can find one. (Expensive)
ALL Check to make sure the oil pressure gauge is working and steady. In '90-'91 the oil sending unit is know to leak/low pressure which is false and should be replaced. Replace oil sensor. (Cheap)
'94-'95 Some ZR-1 owners may experience glass scratching on the side window glass. This can be caused by several different problems. Cleanliness, number of window cycles, etc.  Replace glass. (Moderate)
ALL Check the Oil lines running from the oil cooler to the front of the engine. They maybe leaking where they connect into the block or at the connection where the rubber meets the metal line. Replace with newer lines from GM.(Moderate)
ALL Oil leak from header studs. May have to remove, coat bolts to keep from leaking and retighten. (Cheap)
ALL Check clutch fluid level under ECM. If low it may indicate a bad slave cylinder. Replace slave cylinder. (Moderate)
ALL When driving make sure there are no grinding noises in any gear. If so, you may need a transmission rebuild. Rebuild transmission. (Expensive)
ALL Watch water temp gauge when driving. If over heating it could be several things. Make sure secondary fan is coming on. Check around radiator for debris, not uncommon for leaves and such to get behind radiator where you can't see it. May have to remove radiator to clean behind it. (Cheap)
'90-'91 Transmission may sound a little noisy at times. Noise changes with clutch in vs clutch out. Replace the throw out bearing and pilot bushing. (Moderate)
ALL Under hard acceleration you may find the shifter will lift 3/4" or more. Check the front two torque beam bolts for the transmission, you will probably find them loose. Retorque to spec. (Cheap)
ALL The fuel injectors in the ZR-1 use a steel ball. So it's not uncommon for these injectors to rust and start to leak or not flow correctly. Only fix is to have them flow tested and cleaned or replaced. (Moderate)
ALL Make sure the antenna works correctly. Repair or replace antenna. (Cheap)
ALL Before starting car, check information center for proper functioning of information/lights, etc. Sometimes owners will have a warning light and remove the bulb rather than fix the problem. Have bulbs replaced and fix problem.
'90 On 90's low coolant light may be displayed as it's a known problem. Simply add small amount's of coolant until light goes off (may only come on when driving car and turning vehicle). (Cheap)
ALL Check and make sure the backup light is working. Replace backup light switch. (Cheap)
ALL Check and see if any error codes are stored in the computer. This can be done shorting out two pins on the computer connector under the dash. (Cheap)
ALL ZR-1's stored for long periods of time with a low tank of gas can damage the fuel pumps. They will rust and have to be replaced costing as much as $1100. However you can now just replace the fuel pumps with '96 Suburban for less than $100. It uses the same fuel pump and is a direct replacement. GM part number is 25163473. Make sure the ZR-1 was stored with a full tank of gas. (Moderate)
'90-'92 Power on key switch might not be working. Due to use the contacts inside spread apart. You can either take it apart and squeeze the contacts back together or replace the switch. (Cheap)
  Caution
The following is a check list of items to look for when buying a used ZR-1. As always use common sense whenever buying a used car. Check to make sure the car hasn't been in an accident. Check to make sure the ZR-1 has a clean title. Don't let your emotions drive you into buying a ZR-1 and most of all do your homework. Remember "buyer beware".
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