Between The Lines: Them's The Brakes, Corvette ZR1

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
between the lines thems the brakes corvette zr1

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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5 of 51 comments
  • JimC JimC on Jan 04, 2011

    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...

    • See 2 previous
    • JimC JimC on Jan 05, 2011

      @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.

  • Jkk6 Jkk6 on Jan 07, 2011

    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!

  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
  • Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !
  • VoGhost It's very odd to me to see so many commenters reflexively attack an American company like this. Maybe they will be able to find a job with BYD or Vinfast.