text and photography by John Pfanstiehl
The clamp bolts on the tie rod sleeves should be checked for tightness. A close visual examination of the threads may show evidence of movement.
Push up and down on the idler arm to check for excessive clearance. The original rubber bushed arms become loose fairly quickly. Replacement arms, which have greaseable bearings instead of rubber bushings, are much tighter and last indefinitely.
Tighten the four nuts that attach the power steering cylinder bracket. Don't search for a bolt head to hold on the top - two plates keep the studs from turning.
Examine the power steering cylinder hoses when the wheels are turned all the way to the right to make sure the hoses aren't forced into the bracket.
Slowly turn the wheels all the way in both directions to observe the movement of the power steering pump hoses. They may have been bent or replacements were not properly adjusted when installed. Check for interference, binding, stretching and wear.
It doesn't hurt to snug the three nuts on the steering box and check the tightness of the three nuts on the exhaust manifold. The exhaust has a tendency to loosen up, but checking the nuts every oil change can prevent the gaskets from blowing out, which often causes additional damage. Also tighten the bolt that clamps the power steering valve to the drag link.
Look at the bottom of the steering box but don't be too worried if the pitman shaft and arm are moist with a little oil or grease. The pitman shaft seal usually seeps a bit and many of them looked damp when they were new.
Measure the distance of the outer end of each lower A-frame from the center crossmember to determine if a problem exists with the frame or lower suspension components. Hold one end of a tape measure in the appropriate hole in the crossmember.
Pull the tape measure out and over the top of the lower ball joint. Record the measurement at the center of the grease fitting and do the same on the other side. If the two measurements differ by more than 1/4-inch, look for the reason.
Also measure the distance between the lower A-frame bushing bolts on both the front and rear bushings. If the frame bracket or the bushing shaft is bent, the measurement will be unequal. This is a common result of a hard hit to a Corvette front wheel.
Check the outside of the spring for evidence of rubbing. A shiny area on the coils shows it has been rubbing against the frame and indicates uncorrected frame or suspension damage - not at all uncommon with older Corvettes.
The frame bracket that extends backward to the rear bolt of the lower A-frame has two common problems. First, it can be bent during collisions, even relatively minor ones. The measurements taken earlier will test for that. Also, closely inspect the welds. Look for cracks, rusty edges or other signs of separation or movement caused by years of stress at this location.
The section of frame that bends down and out behind the front wheels is one of the first places to check for evidence of collision damage or repairs. Look for kinks in the steel, welding, undue undercoating or repainting.
The frame extension in front of the springs deserves a good inspection. It is the portion of frame most likely to get damaged in a collision. Check the sides of the frame for straightness and alignment. The mounting of the bumper brackets can also give a clue as to the car's history and care.
Check the rear starter bolts for tightness. A loose starter can cause ring gear damage on the flywheel, and the labor to remove the flywheel makes this an expensive repair. Also check for proper attachment of the ground wire. It is frequently forgotten or attached to the solenoid. If you have heater blower or windshield wiper problems, look here.
Check the front starter bracket. If you don't have one, I'd strongly recommend it. I've seen the back of a friend's original big-block torn off where the starter bolted on because the starter wasn't securely mounted, and it cocked. Check the condition of the ground cable, too.
Inspect the rubber on both motor mounts. When the rubber separates from the steel plates, it allows the motor to jump up, particularly during hard acceleration. For replacements, buy the later model "safety" mounts which have strong metal tabs to limit movement of the motor if the rubber separates.
Wipe away any grease that is covering the ball stud for the clutch bell crank. The stud has two flats which allow a thin 5/8-inch open end wrench in to tighten it. With the rotating action and pressure of the bell crank, this stud is often found loose on Corvettes.
If the fuel pump and lower hose are oily, suspect the front main seal. When it leaks, the oil gets slung to the passenger's side and has caused premature deterioration of many a lower rear A-frame bushing.
Clearance around the lower portion of the radiator is often overlooked. If the tank or tubes are close to any steel parts, the radiator is in danger of being perforated.
While inspecting the front of the car from below, examine the underside of the fiberglass panels for splices or other repairs. After examining a few original Corvettes, the proper look of the fiberglass and bonding strips will be apparent.
Look at the brake hose when the wheels are turned all the way to the left and to the right. During brake repairs, the hose may have been twisted so that it rubs on the frame as the suspension moves up and down.
Inspect the firewall for open holes which were once sealed by rubber plugs or grommets. On later model cars, rubber plugs were used to attach carpeting and insulation near the steering column. Also examine the clamp and mounting plate on the lower end of the steering column.
Because it is very common for them to loosen with use, snug the bolts or nuts on the shift levers. Two cautions: don't overtighten the nuts and return the levers to their neutral position after tightening.
Although it's a little harder to reach, tighten the nut on the reverse lever. Also check the reverse light switch, wires and rod while you're there.
Check the stop nuts on the shifter rods, too. Now is a good time to adjust the shifter if it hangs up on the gates when going into or out of reverse.
Use a 9/16-inch box wrench to tighten the nuts and bolts on the rear bracket. The lower bolt is easiest to reach, but the upper bolts are usually in need of attention, too. The bracket on later model Corvettes is a little different but it loosens up just as often.
Use a 5/8-inch wrench or socket to tighten the rear mount bolts, both the pair going into the mount and the pair going into the transmission's rear case.
Check the transmission to bellhousing bolts - the right 3/4-inch box wrench can get onto all four. Each bolt should have a large lock washer.
The exhaust bracket came in one size for the 2-inch pipes and one for the 2-1/2-inch pipes. If the curve doesn't match the pipe, the wrong bracket may have been installed. Originally only one clamp was used on each pipe, but it's not uncommon to find that a second clamp was added to reduce exhaust leakage.
Look at the positioning of the exhaust pipes as they go through the frame. If they are not centered, the pipes can rattle and knock against the frame as the motor vibrates. With good lighting, this view also permits inspection of the transmission real seal. Push up and down on the front of the driveshaft to check for an excessively loose tailshaft bushing.
-John Pfanstiehl is a contributing editor to Corvette Fever and is author of the new Corvette Weekend Projects by HP Books.
Author's Note: Thanks to John Dubois of VanSteel Mint Restorations, 1141 Court St., Clearwater, FL 34616 for the use of his lift and his 1964 coupe for many of these photos.