As I was coming back from St. Catharines earlier this year I picked up a noise from the front passenger side wheel area. It was a metal on metal rubbing sound – not the kind of thing you really want to hear on any car let alone your precious Corvette. It was hard to pin it down but there were really only a few possible suspects – I just hoped it wasn’t one of the more expensive ones.
Once home, I jacked up the car, put stands underneath to make everything safe and took the wheels off. One of the advantages of the C4 clam-shell hood design is it gives you great access to the front wheel area. Initial visual inspection didn’t really tell me anything but turning the hub allowed me to better pinpoint the sound. It was definitely coming from the caliper/rotor area.
I’ve upgraded my front brakes to a C5 setup which offers higher performance braking and better looks than the stock ZR-1 units. This complicates disassembly very slightly because of the need for an adapter bracket but isn’t really a concern. I took the calipers off and left the adapter in place. I already had new GM Performance Parts Rotors and Hawk HPS pads so I thought I might as well install these at the same time for a further upgrade.
After installation on the passenger side and tightening everything finger tight I gave the caliper a heave to check it was solid. This was meant to be just a sanity check, so you can imagine my surprise when the caliper moved by over an inch! Even just finger tightened there shouldn’t be that much movement.
Taking another look I noticed a bolt hole in the adapter with no bolt in it. Sure enough, when I checked the driver-side set up there was a bolt in that hole. Four bolts on the DS and three on the PS! Not a good situation. I guessed that one of the bolts hadn’t been torqued properly when the new brakes were installed last year and must have slowly worked loose until it fell out. This allowed the caliper to move until the rotor was rubbing.
The missing bolt is a standard C5 bolt so I ran out to the local Canadian Tire to see if they had one. I wasn’t especially hopeful so wasn’t too shocked to be told they didn’t have anything suitable. It was a Sunday and nowhere was open so resigned myself to hitting our local Chevy dealer’s parts desk on Monday.
Knowing first hand the “quality” of customer service from the local dealer I went to the trouble of looking up the part numbers for the bolt and washer before I visited. My hopes that this might help reduce confusion quickly came to nothing though as the parts guy couldn’t find the part even after I’d given him the numbers. Another fifteen minutes of searching and he finally found the right one.
“Oh! The part number is correct.” he announced. “We have to order it.”
This wasn’t a surprise either and I bowed to the inevitable.
“It’ll cost $35 + tax”
Thirty five bucks! For a bolt and washer! Are these made from Unobtanium? And how come I saw these in the U.S. listed at less than $10 and that was before discount. The Corvette tax is bad enough; the Canadian Corvette tax is worse, but over 300% markup just for bringing a bolt over the border? My nether regions certainly puckered at that.
“Oh and we have to order from the manufacturer. It’s going to take four weeks at least.”
My head swam. $35+ for one bolt and over four weeks? That would leave me out of action for most of our all-too-brief summer. I told the guy to order it, but determined to try and find an alternative.
I talked to my ZR-1 brother from Baltimore. He was happy to order one locally and ship it. That would save money for sure and cut down the time significantly but would still probably mean two weeks out of action. That left me staring at the damn bolt, frustration levels high. I knew for sure that it wasn’t anything special, it was a standard bolt. The only thing likely to be “exotic” about it was that it was probably metric. My measurements suggested it was an M15 x 30 and the head showed it to be Grade 8.
In my drag racing days back in England I would have gone to a local fastener company, found a wrinkly old guy who’d been dealing with bolts since 1906 and give him the bolt. He’d ID it by sight and that would be it. The problem is I’m now in Sudbury, which has it’s fair share of wrinkly old guys but not necessarily “progressive” ones working in metric…
Wracking my brain I remembered an industrial fastener place on the other side of town. I took samples of the bolts and headed there after work. Sue enough, there was my desired wrinkly old guy who identified one bolt as an M14 x 30 as I thought and the other was an M15 x 35.
“How many do you want? he asked.
“How much are they?”
“I’ll take a full set. I need four of each.” I didn’t have the gall to buy just one!
He rang up the sale and as the bill was printing he mentioned he’d given me a bit of a discount because those Grade 8 bolts were expensive, which he shouldn’t have as I wasn’t a trade customer. The whole set came to just over sixteen bucks!
I called the dealer and cancelled the order. The guy seemed relived. Maybe the idea of screwing someone that much was gnawing at his conscience. I wish someone would tell GM Canada the price of “expensive” bolts.
I finished the work that week, putting some blue thread sealant on as I torqued the bolts to ensure I wouldn’t have a repeat occurrence. Job done! Time for a beer!