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Common problems with LT1 Camaros?

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Old 05-25-2008, 05:35 PM   #1
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Default Common problems with LT1 Camaros?

Been looking at getting myself a LT1 Camaro lately. I don't know a lot about em. I have have friends with LT1 cars (SS impala, caprice), fun cars....sound sweet too. But I'm just wondering if there are any common problems these engines/cars have? Just so I can address them right from the start and save myself some headaches. Also what year would be best to get? and the differences? I found a real nice 96' locally...

Thanks.
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Old 05-25-2008, 06:02 PM   #2
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I believe 95 is the semi-agreed upon year since it has the vented opti, some other benefits but still is OBD1 which I can't remember why people prefer that :\

Only real bad thing I can think of is the Opti (distributor) and even your buddies can attest to that. I mean, that's beyond the standard issues that pretty much all engines have. They last a damn long time and can take quite a bit of abuse (even after mods).
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Old 05-25-2008, 06:05 PM   #3
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96 is good... I have one. However here are a few things I have picked up on.

1) Optispark Nightmares... just replace it... and if you really want to save the headache do the dynaspark:
http://www.dynaspark.net/products/

2) They have a PCV System problem get a catch can for 30.00 shipped off eBay and solve the problem. Normal cause for oil in the IM and such. Also put a PCV on the Passenger side VC where there is just an elbow another big problem solver.

3) If you have to pass emissions shorties will be easier if not long tubes are great... not really advice just something most everyone does. I run LT's.

4) The Coolant Sensor low light always goes off and on, and this is the one next to the battery box on the radiator. Replace it... it will make you much happier.

5) Me personally I say do an actual oil flush and change, plug and wire change and wrap the wires they make sleeves that work great and are whats on mine to save them. Change the tranny and rear dif fluid. (Tranny is easy if its a manual on an auto ask around I don't own auto's but they are harder I know that much) Fuel Filters are easy too... again this is all stuff you already knew.

6) If you do the Opti make sure to take your time sealing the disty cap on and get a good one ask around for pref I have an MSD. Also again they Dynaspark is the best in my mind but there are other options. You also have the option of replacing the water pump with another stocker or going with electric which most guys here like.

7) There are a lot of free mods, take a look at them.

8) 96 and 97 are the hardest years to tune... only PCM's for less and Trifecta Performance will do it... OBDII and LT motors... seems to be a pain I am going through with my LT4 setup. I am sure I will find another way but PCM's for less has a great reputation... I just pref dyno tuning... however 95 and below and 98+ are much easier to find someone to do.

9) Skip Shift for the T56.... it will make you happy. 25.00 and worth every penny.

I know there is more but theres some for you to think about. I know they guys will tell you many more, I have many more that meet my spec list but then this is your car so I am not sure what your looking to do. Personally I say visit BMR or UMI and get the control arms, pan hard bar and sub frame connectors... and a torque arm bar and your car will become a whole new toy... and faster just because your getting the power to the ground correctly. (Not to mention all the other added bonuses)

Enjoy it!
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Old 05-25-2008, 07:12 PM   #4
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#1 problem...

too many chicks not enough seats


#2 problem...
gotta find a Cobra if you want a real Race, GT's just cant hold up
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Old 05-25-2008, 07:27 PM   #5
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thats interesting, i have never heard of that dynaspark before...looks neat...i wonder if its worth it or not..
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Old 05-25-2008, 08:03 PM   #6
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Default Speaking from experience

All I can comment on is what I've learned in the year since I bought my 97 Z28:

1. I would say 97 is the best year because you get the newer interior, and the newer tri-color taillights (although I think the 93-96 lights look better). Plus I think due to a less restrictive exhaust, you get 10 more HP's with 96-97's.

2. Optispark - A lot of people complain about the dreaded Optispark (Opti) distributor. What I've found is that as long as you go with the factory opti and not some eBay cheapo, everything will be alright. I cheaped out and paid dearly. No probs since I've been running a AC/Delco opti.

3. Overheating/head gasket - These car (like a lot of cars with aluminum heads) are sensitive to overheating. Nothing more than other cars, but you can't beat on them like a Jeep straight six 4.0. Watch the temp gauge and shut it down quick if it's running too hot.

4. Cooling system quirks - The LT1 has reverse flow cooling, again nothing bad about it, it just isn't a "normal" SBC, you just got to make sure you "burp" it properly. Also, like mentioned above, the low coolant light seem to be a problem, most of us just unplug it and watch the temp gauge.

5. Plugs and wires - A lot of people complain about changing the plugs and wires on LT1's. The plugs aren't really too hard if you follow the advice on this forum, the wires are the real hard part, especially if you go with 8mm instead of the stock 7mm.

6. Finding aftermarket parts - Aftermarket companies seem to treat the LT1 like the ugly stepchild, but if you look around you can usually find what you need, it's just a little harder to find. For example, It took me months to find a "new/used" timing cover (no longer made) and there are about three different covers from 93 to 97. I've got a GM parts catalog and I think it only mentions the LT1 about five times.

7. Finding someone to work on it - If you plan on doing you own work, just make sure you get a good manual. I've done some work on my car and it really isn't too hard despite the tight engine bay. If you plan on having someone else do the work, be careful they are familiar with LT1's. Again, I let some knucklehead try to solve my overheating problem and he made matters worse.

That's all I can think of right now. I'm finally starting to enjoy my car after getting off to a BAD start, but the car is a ball to drive.

Hope this helps.
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Old 05-25-2008, 08:16 PM   #7
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Invest in the over the valve cover spark plug wiring kit from Thunder Racing. It makes running wires easier in the future, and you wont toast them if you do headers (ask me how I know). Then eventually go with an electric water pump. Good a for a few horses and amazing cooling. MSD also makes a great replacement opti, other than those quirks there a good car.
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Old 05-25-2008, 08:57 PM   #8
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Great motor that has a bad rap. Try and find one that has a history as many performance cars are just beat on with no maintainence and then passed on when the problems start.
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Old 05-25-2008, 08:58 PM   #9
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Overall LT1s are pretty reliable engines when taken care of. I believe a lot of their bad reputation comes from the fact that not only are they getting older, but they have just about all been beat on except for a lucky few. The opti IS a bit of an issue, however if you get a vented one those are usually not as delicate as people think. My car is at 83k with the original opti, which is COVERED in oil from the timing chain, and still runs like a top. In nearly 2 years of ownership it has only needed maintenance items.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Formula350 View Post
I believe 95 is the semi-agreed upon year since it has the vented opti, some other benefits but still is OBD1 which I can't remember why people prefer that :\
OBD1 is easier to tune, but if you are in an area with emissions there is an advantage to OBD2 as well. In most cases, OBD2 cars will only be tested with a computer scanner. No sniffer required. In other words, pretty much anywhere but California or somewhere with a visual inspection, you can do whatever you dam well please with an OBD2 car (96+) as long as you get the computer reprogrammed for any deleted emissions equipment as they typically only scan the computer for codes. A 95 was my preference, but if I had gotten one I'd be pissed now because I couldn't do what I wanted with my car.
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Old 05-25-2008, 09:47 PM   #10
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I hope that I don't have too many issues tuning my LT4 when it gets running here soon. OBDI's are easier to tune thats for sure. My LT1 was very reliable for me, it broke down a few times but that was wear and tear items and I waited and it bite me in the butt. Don't wait if you know the Opti, water pump, etc needs to be changed do it.

I really can't say anything negative about my 97, other then the already mentioned PITA opti spark. I am planning to convert mine over to the deltech system.
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Old 05-25-2008, 10:06 PM   #11
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Yea, after reading Cross' post, I remembered that it was for ease of tune.
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Old 05-26-2008, 01:28 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Runamuck View Post
#1 problem...

too many chicks not enough seats


#2 problem...
gotta find a Cobra if you want a real Race, GT's just cant hold up
I have a better one for problem #2 you gotta find a 1998, 2003 and up or a modded Cobra for a real race
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Old 05-26-2008, 08:27 AM   #13
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Never really had any major issues with my LT1. As with any engine LT1/LS1, you run them hard enough without any needed maintenance, something is bound to take a dump. Keep it in top health, and it'll run without skipping a beat.
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Old 05-26-2008, 08:50 AM   #14
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LT1's are pretty damn nice when you keep them maintained..you will have a fun time with that.
I switched Engines cause I wanted to go a little faster..that and you can't beat 15 min Spark Plug Changes..
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Old 05-26-2008, 09:27 AM   #15
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spend a little extra time and money and find a clean one. don't jump on one that looks nice on the outside but grimey as hell under the hood. unless your looking for project car.
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Old 05-26-2008, 10:20 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grn95t/a View Post
spend a little extra time and money and find a clean one. don't jump on one that looks nice on the outside but grimey as hell under the hood. unless your looking for project car.
Good points - I should have mentioned this in my first post. It took me a long time to find my car because a lot of these cars are beat down pretty bad - I guess they were so cheap a lot of people considered them "disposable cars" especially since they are cheaper than LS1's. I figured if the interior was nasty, then the engine/mechanicals were probably just as bad. Low mile cars aren't always a good thing either. Mine was a low miles car, but I'm still fixing dried out seals and gaskets because the previous owner just parked the car for awhile, which isn't good.
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Old 05-26-2008, 10:50 AM   #17
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I would say i got lucky with my 97, i've had it for 3 months now, it has 158+ on the clock, still retains the original opti & WP & fuel pump, it even had the original wires untill i changed them, but this car was WELL maintained & only was driven on the highway the last 100,000 miles, i keep it in storage, then drive it to the track about twice/3 times a month & have alittle fun, i am very pleased with these LT1s, there a great engine, if the opti does go, i'll go back with a Delco or MSD, the only weak link to these cars is that dreaded 10 bolt (with a 6sp. mainly), for a bolt-on 3500+ car, they run out quite nice, just plan on falling hard in the wallet with mods, because they respond VERY well to them.

2.17 60ft. 13.79 @ 101 with bolt-ons & 158XXX miles.
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Old 05-26-2008, 12:58 PM   #18
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I pulled my lt1 out of a 95 caprice, it had 342,xxx miles on the clock. (the engine still ran fine, it was just time to make hp) Great engine, just has a bad wrap. they will run forever and get great mpg!
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Old 05-26-2008, 07:21 PM   #19
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Wow thank you everyone for your input, lots of VERY helpful info. This is probably the nicest forum I've ever posted on.

I'm just looking for a fun car to buy, getting tired of the daily driver but I'm not rushing into anything. So far I have 3 cars in mind, Buick GN, LT1 Camaro and maybe a Syclone. I'd look at LS1's but for that price (around here) I'd rather just get a GN which is my first choice. The only problem with getting the Camaro is I don't know of anyone around here that works on them and the car would be a huge heat score with cops around here just because of the noise especially with headers, etc.....But it would seem like the car that would give me less problems in the long run depending on what I want to do with it.

Is it possible to get these cars into mid 12's w/o being stroked, slicks, nitrous/turbo/supercharger, long tubes; running a A4 w/ 4.10's and still be civilized for street driving? What about emissions? Some of you guys are running LT's, high flow cats, cam etc......how do you pass emissions and keep cops from pullin' you over?

Thanks again.
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Old 05-26-2008, 08:06 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sof86 View Post
Wow thank you everyone for your input, lots of VERY helpful info. This is probably the nicest forum I've ever posted on.

I'm just looking for a fun car to buy, getting tired of the daily driver but I'm not rushing into anything. So far I have 3 cars in mind, Buick GN, LT1 Camaro and maybe a Syclone. I'd look at LS1's but for that price (around here) I'd rather just get a GN which is my first choice. The only problem with getting the Camaro is I don't know of anyone around here that works on them and the car would be a huge heat score with cops around here just because of the noise especially with headers, etc.....But it would seem like the car that would give me less problems in the long run depending on what I want to do with it.

Is it possible to get these cars into mid 12's w/o being stroked, slicks, nitrous/turbo/supercharger, long tubes; running a A4 w/ 4.10's and still be civilized for street driving? What about emissions? Some of you guys are running LT's, high flow cats, cam etc......how do you pass emissions and keep cops from pullin' you over?

Thanks again.
Mid 12s on a LT1 with no bolt-ons i don't think can be done without the bottle & stickies, i know a mid 12 @ 110+ is very doeable on these cars with 100 shot in almost stock form, because i saw it done, all he had was a CAI & a gutted cat, ran 12.5s @ 112+ with a 6sp., on the emissions, just do like most, get a sticker first, then start moding, when it comes time for a sticker again, you'll find someone who will put one on, just ask the F body guys in your area, they know where you can go.

I will say this, if you really want the GN, spend the extra & go that route, i really like my Camaro, but i would give my left nut for a GN , they hold there value & are increaseing in price, they freakin hall azzzz period in almost stock trim, but you need the ones with the inner coolers, i went for a ride in a 87 GN, it was totally stock & we were at 4500 ft. alt., that car got my attention BIG TIME. I never ever realized that a V6 could be so freagin fast. I hate to say this, but you'll run circles around the stock LT1 Camaro with a GN.
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