Roadside Repair - 2014 SLP Panther Camaro Long-Term Road Test

2014 SLP Panther Camaro Long-Term Road Test

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2014 SLP Panther Camaro: Roadside Repair

February 26, 2014

2014 SLP Panther Camaro

So, this happened. But what, exactly, is this, and what happened?

Here's the situation. There I was, driving our long-term 2014 SLP Panther Camaro on side streets in Orange County.

The car sounded a rather urgent chime. I instinctively lifted and looked down to the display in the instrument cluster to see this:

2014 SLP Panther Camaro

Sure enough, the coolant temp gauge was pegged. Fortunately, the road on which I was traveling at the time had ample street parking, so I immediately swung the big coupe alongside the curb.

Upon reaching a halt, the engine ran roughly for a second before quitting. I attempted to restart it (idling allows the coolant to keep circulating...assuming there's still coolant to circulate) but it wouldn't start. It was then that I took the lead photo.

Popped the hood and half-expected a geyser of steam, but no such thing happened. Instead I found the serpentine drive belt shredded and shoved into one side of the engine bay.

Okay, so that explains the overheating warning. With nothing to drive the water pump, the ECU saw that coolant temp was rising faster than it liked and threw up the alert. That the alert was raised in less time than it took for the belt to make a complete departure and stall the engine suggests to me that true overheating never actually occurred, only that the potential for overheating is what triggered the alert. Especially since the overflow bottle hadn't puked a drop of coolant.

So there I was. Stranded. Call AAA? Hell no, I don't give up that easily. Besides, this is an easy fix. All I needed was a new belt. And some basic hand tools. Of which I had none. Hmm.

It turns out I was only about four miles from Specialty Cars, a shop which has been instrumental in a couple of our project cars. I rang the owner, John, and asked him if he wouldn't mind terribly running a ratchet and a socket rail out to my location so that I could move the belt tensioner. Endlessly helpful, John immediately dropped everything and headed out to my rescue. John is good people.

Another silver lining here is that a major auto parts store was located, I kid you not, about two hundred feet from where the Panther was parked. That never happens. I grabbed the shredded belt, headed over and bought a new belt. John showed up minutes later and we popped the new belt on.

In the process, I discovered what caused the old belt to be chucked off. The alternator pulley was loose. Bingo. Belts will walk right off of loose pulleys. In yet another silver lining, the nut that secures the pulley had backed off a few turns but was still in place. Had it flown off and bounced down the road like it should have, the pulley would have made a similar hasty exit from the Panther and I'd have been pretty much boned.

Anyway, the alternator shaft needs a T50 torx bit to properly secure the nut, and that's not something any rational person would ever in ten thousand years bring with them anywhere. Instead I spun the nut down by hand, installed the belt and then gave the nut as much torque as the tensioned pulley would hold.

Started it up and it ran fine. After giving the alternator nut a proper tightening at home later that day, I drove the Panther to San Diego and back with no issues whatsoever, and it ran the same as it always has.

It's not clear yet whether the (aftermarket) alternator pulley simply wasn't fully torqued at SLP in the first place or if there's something else more nefarious afoot.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 4,248 miles


  • kirkhilles_ kirkhilles_ Posts:

    Is it wrong that as I was reading this article, I was pretty sure that the actions taken were a guy and not a girl?

  • hank39 hank39 Posts:

    Crisis averted. Glad things were worse than they could've been. And kudos to being at the right place and having good peeps help you out in a pinch!

  • diigii diigii Posts:

    Edmunds' card to the rescue. Not a lot of owners will have the luxury of just calling their mechanic and they'll be right there in a few minutes.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    Almost every writer has gushed about the wonderful job SLP has done, but honestly, the center console is coming apart where SLP installed their gauges and now you've encountered some reliability problems. Yup, SLP is by no means like all of those other tuners who have fitment and reliability issues...

  • jaguar36 jaguar36 Posts:

    Wait, you broke down next to an auto parts store, near a 'friends' shop and the nut was still on the pulley? You sir need to buy some lottery tickets.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @diigii: I have built up a good relationship with my mechanic and while he hasn't driven 4 miles to do a roadside repair for me (that's never come up) he has gone the extra mile to get things done. Years of loyalty and referring him to friends will do tha

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    now, who do you submit the bill to in order to get reimbursed for the belt? GM? Will they accept that the work was not done by a repair facility? Maybe the cost of the belt is not worth your trouble.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    quadricycle, as usual I agree with you completely - seat adjuster lever came off, probably because it was removed to install the different seat skins SLP puts on; the console is loose, probably because it was removed to install the SLP short-shifter, and the alternator pulley was loose, probably because the whole serp belt arrangement was changed to accommodate the supercharger SLP adds. If this were my car, I would get a comprehensive list of everything SLP does to the car, and I would spend a day in the garage making sure everything that had to be removed to change it from an SS to a Panther was secured correctly, because whoever at SLP did the conversion on this particular car was a hack. And I would be backcharging SLP for the new belt and my labor to get the car back on the road after this particular episode. I'm glad this car has the full bumper-to-bumper warranty...looks like it's going to need it. The two cars I own right now were both modded by me, one to the tune of about a thousand bucks and the other to the tune of about three thousand bucks...and neither one has ever had a mod-related failure and I have never been refused warranty coverage on either car due to my mods. I would rather have a modded car with some of the warranty voided but the work done correctly than this SLP Panther, the way it's looking from here.

  • And this is why the Camaro ZL1 is a much better deal than this tuner car. Still insane 550+ supercharged hp, but built by the factory. Think about how much worse SLP cars are that are delivered to regular customers, not an internet publication that is writing about it.

  • I wish unionbuster and nukedetroid were here to comment!

  • Another reason why old school gauges are becoming obsolete. The Camaro has a full set of gauges but it was the warning chime and message in the information center that got the drivers attention. People who hate "dummy gauges" that don't give real time info wouldn't know they have a problem until it is too late. Sure, if you paid attention you would notice the gauge moving from the normal center position. But most people don't usually scan gauges. The ability for computers to predict a failure before it occurs is pretty cool. The computer knows that it has all of the cooling systems on (the fans were probably on high speed) but the temperature is continuing to rise. It determines that overheating is now inevitable so it sounds an overheat warning BEFORE it happens to protect the engine and give you time to find a safe place to stop. GM's ECUs seem to have some artificial intelligence. Good job. The computers, sensors and their abilities are mind blowing. Last summer while I was washing my girl's Hyundai Sonata I placed the large towel I was using over the grill while it was running to go move the hose pipe. After a few seconds I noticed the cooling fan switch to high speed. When I moved the towel the fan slowed to a lower speed. Put the towel back and the fan switched back to high speed. I can only assume there is a sensor that tells the computer how much air is flowing through the radiator/condenser even when the vehicle is not moving. I thought it used vehicle speed for this function.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @fordson1: Indeed, one could make a pretty good habit out of finding out known reliability problems and regularly checking them for wear, clearance, and proper torque. Out of curiosity, I'd be interested in knowing wether you chose the ST or GTI to pour t

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    I would like to say that this is how posts should be done. You have a problem, you identify a problem, then you fix the problem. It would have been disappointing if you guys just had the belt break and you left us guessing for a few weeks as whether or not you guys toasted the engine or something like before showing your simple repair job. *hint**hint*

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @hybris: I guess this is what you get from the engineering editor!

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    It's a 2003 SVT Focus, not an ST. Its weak spot was not a lot of power or torque, so it got a high-flow intake, high-flow cat, larger throttle body, 93-octane reflash and lighter wheels. Cosworth/SVT had already taken the engine from 130 hp to 170, so the mods I did added only 10 whp and 13 wtq. The GTI is boosted, so all it got was an APR reflash and an intake...but those added 35 whp and 55 wtq. It will get a $300 Golf R intercooler this spring, because the higher boost can overwhelm the stock one under extreme summer conditions. The other thing I would be looking at with this SLP Panther, come to think of it, would be if the stock tensioner and idler were swapped for better units as part of the SC install - if they were, was it done right, and if not, are the stock ones up to the additional duty. Also, is there anything in the modified belt path that looks likely to increase the belt-throwing risk - what other than the alternator got moved (especially the tensioner and idler...)? These just as a looks like jkav found the immediate problem and remedied it.

  • "Upon reaching a halt, the engine ran roughly for a second before quitting." --- I'm curious, is there some sort of safety system that shut the engine down? The followup comments about it not spewing coolant and running fine with the new belt due indicate it didn't end up with the fate of most cars I've known where the engine stopped due to overheating. But it does make it odd that it stopped on its own.

  • " I attempted to restart it (idling allows the coolant to keep circulating...assuming there's still coolant to circulate)" --- I've always heard the idling recommendation too, although it might be best to check for what is causing the overheating first. I've had a belt snap on me before but I was fortunate that the car had a AMP gauge rather than a volt gauge so I could instantly see that all charging was also gone as the temperature climbed which was a quick indication there was no belt driving the water pump and alternator. Duct tape twisted together and wrapped around the crank and water pump pulley managed to get me the short distance to a parts store (and being an old car I always kept some tools in it)

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    Oh, I must have just read "Focus" somewhere and assumed that it was an ST. Regardless, I appreciate the information, as I think that there will probably be a hot hatch in my future (or a Tacoma, go figure). As for the SLP Camaro, I'd definitely scour forums before buying to see what I could dig up. Might be hard to find with the small sample size though.

  • diigii diigii Posts:

    @stovt001: I agree with you about building a relationship with your mechanic and referring friends to him. I have done that too. But what I was trying to convey is that not all drivers, despite their good rapport with their mechanic, will not have the l

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @zimtheinvader: More likely, it hit the "overheat warning" threshold and actually shut down before the engine actually spewed coolant (can go up to 245 deg F without too much issue for most modern engines). If the car actually DID spill coolant

  • kiiwii kiiwii Posts:

    typical GM crap built by morons

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