By on January 4, 2011


Though an objectively awesome car by any (non-environmental) metric (review forthcoming, I promise) some Corvette ZR1 owners are plagued with a strange brake vibration. Which, thanks to the Corvette Forum, is available for all and sundry to see. But let’s dig a little deeper: bearing in mind the customer involved is a personal friend, and his paraphrased comments are as follows.

I picked up my new ZR1 on Oct 29 and as soon as I got up to 75 the steering wheel began to vibrate…I then took the car straight to the only person on this earth I feel good about working on my corvette, Danny Popp at McKluskey Chev in Cincinatti OH. Pulled wheels and all balanced 0 on Hunter balancer.

In simple English, the diagnosis made it clear that the Michelin tires are not the problem. The next diagnosis goes one step further: Brembo rotors.

Unhappy, scratched head, went back to Danny. Pulled rotors and stuck them on balancer and they were out 1.5 oz!

An imbalance of that size, on a car with such little un-sprung weight at the (ceramic) rotors can be a significant problem. The solution?

We then balanced my carbon rotors by inserting bolts from the inside out and then threading on nuts from the outside with a set of long pliers. Put them back on car and took it out and OMG for the first time since owning the car the highway ride was dead smooth. So happy I want back and hugged Danny. Mystery solved. Now for the permanent fix which obviously should be new (balanced) rotors and should only be a phone call away for a new 120 k vibrating car. (Or even a vibrating cobalt for that matter)

But then again, that often leads to another problem: Customer Service, or lack thereof:

GMs first reply was that they know about the problem and the fix is to counterbalance the assembly by adding 1.5 to the wheels and indexing them so if removed they could be placed back in same location. Bull$&@#!

But wait, there’s more:

Danny had to work his way up the food chain until he got to talk to a brake engineer who basically admitted that they had run out of the supply of “Validated” i.e. balanced rotors and at some point had begun to put on non-validated rotors but that he would immediately send me out a set of validated and balanced rotors which he did.

Which, of course, gets a customer thinking:

I have mine and I am happy, but I hate to think about how many man hours are spent by customers like myself who are taking time off figuring this out and getting it fixed while GM knows about the issue and is still putting these S#%t rotors on their flagship car. I have lost serious loyalty and faith in GM on this one. They need to come clean now and do a recall on these.

Tru dat. A recall is the only way, even if the problem comes from Brembo, not GM. Read towards the end of the thread, and we find the real problem: the major flaw in GM’s customer service. The following is taken from the Corvette specialist who worked on the ZR1 in question:

I have gone through all of the GM protocol to fix this car properly and GM is interested in fixing his and all Corvette owners problems correctly. They are very aware of current situations more than you know…..they may even know about this particular thread (ask me how I know ;-) ).

If GM knows, why doesn’t the person associated with the Corvette brand post on the Forum on their behalf? Is silence really a smart PR move in the Internet age?

New in stock rotors have balance potential from Brembo and in speaking with GM they are deriving a procedure to check and balance rotors for cars that have this problem in the field. They are feverishly working on the protocol for this. This is obviously not a GM manufactured component; they have worked with the supplier to have this not happen from here in the future.

In fairness to GM, we must consider these are not commonplace GM parts. Who else had the stones to put these on a mass-produced vehicle as standard equipment? Then again, that isn’t our beef.

For those of you who have these problems and are frustrated, please contact your dealer and have them address your concerns and involve technical assistance. On that note all dealers are not created equally and every dealer my not have a Corvette only specialist that may be as involved as I.

So where you buy a six-figure Corvette ZR1 isn’t necessarily the same place it should receive service. And now would be a good time to make a significant donation to the Corvette Forum, ‘natch. Which doesn’t speak well of any Chevy dealer lacking a Corvette specialist, if we had a list of said dealers. And while I once disagreed with RF’s way-back-when comment about the Corvette’s relevance to Chevrolet

“At some point in the near future, as soon as we can, the Corvette will rejoin GM’s fleet as a Cadillac. It will be a different car, with the same goal: to give enthusiasts the world’s best and most thrilling sports car, bar none. An all-American product.”

…honestly, a low volume niche car like the Corvette ZR1 deserves a more worthy customer experience. Perhaps Cadillac dealers should be the only retail distributors of the Corvette brand, as we can assume superior service comes with The Penalty Of Leadership.

And with that thought, back to you, Best and Brightest.

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51 Comments on “Between The Lines: Them’s The Brakes, Corvette ZR1...”


  • avatar

    Used to watch Danny AutoX a C5 Z06….good to see his name, in any context.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Had a similar problem with my 2006 civic. The factory rear suspension arms are too short, causing vibrations and cupping on tires after very few miles. Honda knows about this problem, but is happy to leave you in the dark about it until you’re out of warranty. Yeah I know, this is only a 16k car vs a 120k ZR1, but it’s still irksome, and it has the same effect on my feelings of brand loyalty.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    > Who else had the stones to put these on a mass-produced vehicle as standard equipment?
     
    I thought the new Mustang GT 5.0′s came with Bembro’s?
     

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    Sounds like your buddy had the same GM Experience that drove myself and many others to another car company.

    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

    • 0 avatar
      obbop

      Several dealers, same tune “Unable to replicate the problem” when taking truck in for warranty repair.
      Inform corporate Chevy/GMC “Take truck to dealer.” Hang-up click.
      Dealers:  “”Unable to replicate the problem”
      And GMC wants folks to be oozing with excitement about new, longer new vehicle warranty?
      BAH!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Anyone who has had to climb the chain of GM customer service knows; it sucks.  GM should just rename it the Ministery of Misinformation of Customer Diservice.  To get the run around press 1, to be disconnected press 2, to have your call transfered to Venus, press 3, to be put on idefinite hold press 4, to speak to a representative that will do nothing to fix your problem, press 5…

    HOWEVER, I don’t feel GM is unique in this club given our recent Nissan (not with a GT-R) experience, the experience itself isn’t relevant, and to a degree nor is the lack of customer service.

    The problem is you just bought a $120K car from a company that doesn’t normally service or deal with $120K cars.  You’re getting Chevy Malibu (or would that be Nissan Altima) grade customer service for an exotic priced car.

    Lets not forget on the point of silence, that compared to what Nissan did to GT-R customers with self-destructing transmissions online is vastly worse than saying nothing at all (e.g. you’re all a bunch of morons who don’t know how to drive our superior car – go f’ yourself, love and kisses, Nissan).

    I agree that the Corvette, if the entry for even a handful of options is pushing $60K and the beast is over $100K easy doesn’t belong in the service department along side an Aveo. Not even close.  It belongs at Cadillac, and while their at it, the steering wheel abomination in the Corvette can be addressed to.

    As far as giving customers the push pull treatment on supplier caused problem, the Honda brake pad recall, and Honda trying to tell customers with a straight face that rear brakes wearing out at 10K and 15K miles is “normal” is a great example of a good company providing really bad service.

    Sadly, “not our problem.” or, “we’re working on it but too bad,” is the way of many car companies today.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    What a shame for such a world class car. If GM put just a little more effort into the interior, they could surely steal many sales from some of the much more expensive exotics. The Corvette is such a world class car mechanically, that I just don’t see the reluctance to upgrade the interior. Common sense dictates that the customer has to interface with the interior on a daily basis, so why not make it as upscale as possible? As far as the brake problem, If I was in a position of authority at GM, the person who made the decision to knowingly allow unbalanced rotors on a car like this should be fired immediately. Parts from vendors will occasionally be out of spec, but to knowingly use them is just inexcuseable.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “Who else had the stones to put these on a mass-produced vehicle as standard equipment?”

    So I recall myself standing in Porsche’s Leipzig plant gazing at the ceramic brake disks and the sexy bright yellow calipers … and I recall that these were the more expensive of two optional brake hardware set-ups that were available … (as I recall, the red calipers were cheaper but not really different performance-wise…) such an interesting trip, and then to be passed while going a flat-out 240kph in my Audi Q7 by a Porsche Carrera GT screaming – amazing engine sound – by at 100 kph faster was otherworldly…

    But back to the problem, if the supplier can’t meet spec due to quality or capacity limitations, then ‘stones’ is no excuse for making parts with inconsistent quality a standard feature on a halo vehicle. The reality is that any OEM who does this is simply stupid for deciding to make such a feature (and such a problem) standard with a very high-profile/-price vehicle …

    GM needs to learn how to stop wasting customer’s time and patience, i.e. either get the design/process under control from the start, or make the feature optional up to the limit of quality capacity … if the issue later gets corrected, make the feature standard as a running upgrade…

  • avatar
    NotFast

    Do you really expect quick action in the midst (and aftermath) of Carmageddon and mass layoffs at GM?  At least the people who make the ZR1 supercar speak English and are on this continent.  Do you expect better results when dealing with Porsche or Ferrari?

  • avatar
    werewolf

    Unfortunately, most businesses including car companies see you as a source of cash not a customer. Once you’ve plunked down the cash for car, your only value is to provide more cash in the form of parts and service. The more things break, the faster parts wear out the more valuable you are.
    Why do BMW auto trannies rarely last past 150k miles? B/c they’re 4k minimum to replace, that’s why

    • 0 avatar
      BMWfan

      If I get 100k out of my BMW auto tranny, I will be happy. Auto trannys nowadays are not what they used to be, but of course it was easier when they were 3 or 4 speeds instead of 5 or more. Plus in the old days, weight was not a consideration. To me, it is amazing they last as long as most of them do. I have to say that BMW makes an amazing slushbox, all things considered. I would have bought a manual if it was up to me, but I have to keep things happy on the homefront. As far as teaching my wife to drive a stick, I could write a book on why that would not be a good idea

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Solution:  Buy a stick.  Learn to drive.  Enjoy driving again, and leave the latte at home.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      This is where you are wrong, BMWfan. I taught my wife to drive a stick and she has thanked me for it thousands of times. We have never owned an automatic and, hopefully, never will.
       
      Try it, she might like it.

    • 0 avatar
      karvanet

      BMW doesn’t make automatic transmissions.  I believe they use either a ZF or GM sourced automatic on their cars.

  • avatar
    red60r

    My (red) Volvo S60R came with metal 13″ 4-piston Brembos all around; the front rotors are a bit thicker than the rears. They don’t exhibit any vibration problems, and lasted 60K miles with one pad replacement set at the halfway point. GM really needs to observe due diligence if they want ant credibility in the motor-head market.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Danny had to work his way up the food chain until he got to talk to a brake engineer who basically admitted that they had run out of the supply of “Validated” i.e. balanced rotors and at some point had begun to put on non-validated rotors but that he would immediately send me out a set of validated and balanced rotors which he did.
     
    WOW! Even by GM standards this is terrible.
     
    Did the conversation go something like this:
    Guy #1 Hey we got a batch or two of really messed up brake rotors over here!
    Guy #2 So what do you ME to do about it? Lunch is in like 10 min, I got no time for this.
    Guy #1 Well I guess we could just stick them on anyway, no harm in that huh?
    Guy #2 OK, and when any customer complains we’ll tell ‘em its their tires or something about driving the car too hard.
    Guy #1 Great idea, why didn’t I think of that… so what is for lunch today?

  • avatar
    segfault

    Same problem happened with my G6 with the problematic transmission.  Using GM’s established repair procedures, the dealer replaced individual components inside the transmission (valve body, etc.) rather than ordering a remanufactured unit directly from GM (as was done in years past).  GM had to buy my car back under the lemon law, and because of the grief I got from GM corporate, I will never buy another new GM product.  I wonder how much that cost them?

  • avatar
    Commando

    Whenever I brought my Corvette in for service, I usually had to wait in line where there was a mother holding 3 toddlers bringing in her leased Aveo.  In front of her was Joe the Plumber bringing in his 150k mi. work truck.
    Scary.   very scary.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    That the parts weren’t "validated" in GM-speak suggests that there was a design or process chsnge (or both) to the rotors and that the new design/process parts were not completely run through "PPAP" (Production Parts Approval Process). Not complying with PPAP is a cardinal sin at GM and heads should roll, unless the engineer was misdusing the term "validation". Google PPAP to see what it entails.

    This sounds to be much more than parts that were just not balanced.

    • 0 avatar
      stroker49

      Yes. As a purchser I know that you can never, ever blaim the supplier. No one is forcing a manufacturer to choose bad suppliers. The manufacturer is responsible to have a quality assurance system (ex. PPAP) so no unconforming parts gets into the production.
      What was GMs requirments? Maybe Brembo has delivered against the spec? After working for Saab Aircraft, Ericsson, Toyota (Fork lift trucks) I know that a purchasers priorities shall be
      1 Quality
      2 Quality
      3 Quality
      4 Deliveries
      Und so weiter…

  • avatar
    BostonDuce

    It’s pretty funny that Cadillac dealers are mentioned when thoughts of “superior GM service” are dreamed about. You roll the dice with each dealer, nay, each ‘technician’.

    As for the ceramic disk thingy, let me give you a GM service tip from way back: ” If it vibrates at 75MPH, then DON’T GO 75MPH”. Problem solved.
    AFA other marques ceramic disks go, Porsche’s are an $8K option on all but their most expensive cars. Track junkies routinely change them immediately for old-school rotors due to their $2K/rotor replacement cost. They are easily cracked by careless wheel changers, and are prone to squeal and moan like a squirrel with his tail caught in meat grinder. (note: no animals were harmed with this analogy).
    Ferrari specifies only two pad changes per life of the rotor-and of course you replace them in pairs. That’s one hellava bill at the local Midas franchise on your road to Pebble Beach.
    So, in the realm of $100k+ cars with ceramic disk availability, a little vibration is the least of your worries- take it like a man.
    BD

    • 0 avatar

      The ZR1 rotors are damn near silent, no squealing or moaning.  And that’s before AND after the burnishing treatment required by GM to properly break them in.
      Torque the wheels down correctly and these stoppers should be perfect for street and track use.  Just my $0.02.

  • avatar
    Nick

    ” they had run out of the supply of “Validated” i.e. balanced rotors and at some point had begun to put on non-validated rotors ”
     
    Oh, GM, I do so love you guys.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Somebody along the line didnt want the production to be stopped or delayed because of rotors were not balanced.
    history repeats itself, they just let the problem to be fixed at the dealers, sometimes it can be picked up at the dealer sometimes not. if u the dealer spotted the issue u would fix it but if u didnt saw it u let the customer take her home, only to find out when he shows off the new car to friends.
    what it really means gm had not changed her modus operandi , is buying her cars at your own risk.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Don’t really understand why you would want ceramic discs/rotors on a road car. OK for competition use , but then you are dealing with mechanics who would be familiar with these kinds of problems.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    or another way of looking at this is, dont buy anything expensive from gm, they only know and good at building cheapo aveos, kind of wal marts’ motto  ” One size fits all”
    Perhaps that was the reason Porsche yanked the dealership from VW, as u go in service dept  waiting with a guy owning a 2,000 vw and your porsche  is 10,000.

    • 0 avatar

      GM can’t even do the Aveo well; it’s farmed out to Daewoo. Ditto the Cruze (with the added shame of UAW assembly of those fine bargain Korean parts.)
       
      Whenever I hear a GM owner lamenting their misfortune, I think of a classic line from the movie “Airplane:”
       
      “Shanna, they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let ‘em crash.”

  • avatar
    Morea

    Remember that it was Brembo calipers on the new Camaros that were vibrating necessitating the placement of wheel weights on the calipers.

    It would seem that Brembo and GM have not created a good (technical) working relationship.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Shocker… GM’s faux bankruptcy didn’t change it’s corporate culture.  Even on their topline product, it’s still sloppy QC, and worse – sloppy, lazy, nonchalant, response.
     
    Pa-thetic.

  • avatar

    Hmm.  A vette guy is more likely to push the car.  A ZR1 guy is even more likely to push the car.  At this price, the owners are not bound by a note or depreciation, and will get out of the car quickly.
    After a $50k depreciation bath, they will never go near GM again.  A 120k car you can’t balance ?
    You darn well know that there’s a few guys out there cursing they didn’t go for a loaded 911 or Aston.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    How does a brake disc leave the factory unbalanced, ceramic Brembo especially?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Since we are still all owners we deserve better from our company

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    I still can’t figure out how those got onto the factory floor? What is GM doing with nonVal parts? The whole system is in place to prevent that!

    As for the idiots at Bowling Green, the vette ain’t a high volume car. If you run out of parts, stop the f#*&!g line!

    • 0 avatar
      Ben

      GM ain’t Toyota who actually empowers its employees at all levels to stop the production line if there is a quality problem. Any GM employee who stopped the production line would probably be fired on the spot.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Why is Brembo shipping bad parts to begin with? I suspect they hadn’t had problems prior at incoming inspection so a decision was made to use them.  Not as others have suggested, “let’s just use bad parts and ship the cars”.

  • avatar
    JimC

    The General’s arrogant “Problem?  What problem?” reaction to this issue reminds me of how Intel first mishandled the infamous Pentium floating point bug in the 1990s…

    • 0 avatar
      Matthew Sullivan

      Was it Dilbert who satirized the floating point fiasco with the “uality is job 1″ slogan?  Just tried to find it on the ‘Net and could not.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      The infamous “floating point bug” had no effect at all on the vast majority of users.
       
      Intel’s “mishandling” was treating a minor technical issue as a minor technical issue, and being slow to realize that it had become a major PR issue.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      @Steve- true, I should have phrased that better.  It’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison because the ZR1 is far more unique and special in the car world.  Playing devil’s advocate for a minute, is this rotor imbalance really a major technical issue or a minor one?  That’s a pretty crude “fix” but hey, whatever, right?  After all, how many customers take their ZR1 to the track and how many only ever drive them on public highways?  That’s a rhetorical question and I believe it’s also the wrong question.  People bought these world-class cars with certain implied expectations of excellence and GM sold them with certain implied promises of excellence, “no ifs/ands/or buts.”
       
      Everyman’s supercar or everyman’s superchip, what stinks in both cases is the company’s attitude basically telling the customers to GFY.

  • avatar
    jkk6

    Reading half way through the replies I felt as bad as though I owned an R8 and getting it denied service.

    Just as angry as when I found out Hyundai used to sells cars at half price overseas, and then I take an import into Korea, drive a nice car for five years and make money lets me sleep nice at night. Sorry off topic lol!


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