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First-Time C5 Owners Guide

CorvSport has curated all the tips, tricks, fixes, and common issues in one place

Wrenching on my 2000 FRC

As an owner of 20 Corvettes with my first in 1999 (mostly C5s), I thought it would be helpful to offer some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years, in addition to the fixes for common issues I’ve experienced. I’ll also combine that with resources we have here at CorvSport, as well as curated information from around the Corvette community, in what can hopefully become the go-to place for all things C5.

C5 Tips, Tricks & Fixes

1. Cheap Cold Air Intake.

My favorite trick is converting the stock air intake to a cold air intake for the cost of zip ties. And if you really want to get extravagant, you can spend about $90 and buy the upgraded K&N drop-in filter. This setup from my current 2000 FRC is pictured below. It’s tempting to spend considerably more for a “true CAI” but the risk of hydro-locking your engine is real, especially with the CAI systems that require you to cut the radiator shroud. In 2001 I destroyed the LS1 on my nearly brand new Coupe in a flash flood that caused suction under the shroud.

The process for this cheap conversion is fairly simple. First, disconnect the stock system from the throttle body, pull the pins from the air bridge fasteners, remove the other 3 connectors (MAF, etc), and pull out the system so you can remove the restrictive top from the air intake. At this time you can also pull the nipples off the front of the frame if you desire a cleaner look. Once the top is off, use the zip ties on each side to hold the frame and filter in place and replace the system.

C5 cheap col;d air intake mod

2. Performance Hood Seal.

This next trick dovetails nicely with the intake because once you have the filter exposed you’ll want a tighter seal between the hood and bumper to prevent the water that inherently enters, and this cheap mod checks the box. This is the one I acquired off eBay, but if you want to choose another just type “C5 performance hood seal” in your preferred vendor/search engine and pick the one that talks to you. I chose this vendor because of price, delivery time, volume sold, and most importantly their 100% feedback.


3. How to Lower Your C5 at Home (including making homemade ramps).

The C5 actually has an adjustable suspension from the factory, which is why you’ll see some that have the “4×4 effect”, with sometimes more than a 4-finger gap between the fender and tire.

I’ve lowered well over 10 C5s in my lifetime at home for zero cost (aside from the alignment), and it was one of the first things I did when I recently acquired my FRC. I did a how-to guide on it here, including how to make cheap ramps so you can easily put your C5 on jack stands.

4. How to Make Your Stock C5 Exhaust Sound Like a Corsa for $0.

Unlike newer generations, GM really dropped the ball with the fifth generation, as it’s just way too quiet for how potent the LS1 is. Most enthusiasts don’t want to spend upwards of $2000 for an aftermarket cat-back type exhaust, so years ago I experimented with this modification. I liked it so much that I did it on my current FRC, and did a feature on it here.



5. Monitor your Harmonic Balancer.

The harmonic balancer (crank pulley) is a known weak spot for the C5 (and C6), most notable with a wobble when looking straight down on it. This was due to a bizarre two-piece metal design with rubber in between. Why GM used this method is beyond me. Now, most enthusiasts will say that if you have the wobble you better replace it asap before it comes apart and damages components, or insist that the failure rate is near 100%.

I have a more “scientific” method to determine if you need to spend $1500 plus to upgrade your balancer, and it’s best demonstrated with pictures.

Here is a harmonic balancer on borrowed time

Notice the clear separation between the metal pieces.

old and worn C5 Harmonic Balancer

Here is a healthy one

This is from my current 2000 FRC with 34,000 miles, which coincidentally has a wobble, but is clearly fine with no rubber pieces falling out, and no separation. Some also suggest using a sharpie to mark across both pieces, to monitor if the two pieces are slipping.

Health C5 Harmonic Balancer6. How to check codes without a scan tool.

The C5 has a unique feature, in that you can check all the engine codes, current and history, without using a scan tool connected to the OBDII port. By simply using the DIC center on the right side of the dash cluster, you can see if there are any codes present, which can occur even if your check engine light is not illuminated. Over the years I’ve looked at many resources on how to do this, and oddly this one I found recently from MotorTrend is the most comprehensive.

*Click here for a full tutorial on how to check your C5 codes*

7. Sticky Clutch Issue.

Most enthusiasts remember to take care of the obvious like oil changes and the transmission and rear-end fluids, but if you drive a manual C5 this one is often forgotten about. What am I referring to? The fluid for the clutch master cylinder, which is essential for a properly operating clutch pedal.

Here is where the reservoir is located, on the driver’s side right next to the windshield fluid tank.

In my 25 years of experience, Ranger was the pioneer on the Corvette Forums for the care of the C5 clutch, and here are two of his resources that will be invaluable as you enjoy your manual C5.

*Click here for the Ranger Method source link*

8. Service Column Lock Issue and Fix.

When this happens to you the first time, it will be quite shocking. GM issued a recall, but the issue can still occur when performed. There are also older fixes that aren’t cure-alls. I recently experienced this dreaded issue, where the column does not unlock when the vehicle is started, and just completed the most up-to-date fix.

*Click here for a full tutorial from when I did the install on my FRC*

Here is the part I highly recommend buying and installing, and for the average mechanic, it’s a DIY job. It’s also a “preventative maintenance” job, and access to the passenger floorboard kick panel to check if it’s already been done is easy.

C5 Common Issues

CorvSport has done the work over the years for you, and here are our features on the common issues (and recalls) that affect the C5. You can click directly on the section that interests you.

  1. 1997 Common Issues
  2. 1998 Common Issues
  3. 1999 Common Issues
  4. 2000 Common Issues
  5. 2001 Common Issues
  6. 2002 Common Issues
  7. 2003 Common Issues

I hope this has been a useful resource, and welcome to the C5 family! I’ll be updating this resource periodically, so check back often. We have an active community on our Facebook page, I would love to hear from you!  Douglas B.