2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Overheating on a Mountain Road
September 3, 2014
Maybe it's all my fault. The plan, inside my head, was to get an early start for a good old-fashioned flogging of our 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray on one of my favorite mountain roads.
But plans changed and, instead, it was late morning by the time the Vette and I rolled out.
And it was hot. Like 100 degrees on the flatlands, 93 degrees on the mountain I was aiming for.
The Corvette didn't like it. Overheating ensued. Here's the story.
Things were going fine. The Vette was operating normally, the air conditioning was working perfectly and I was taking it easy on the two-hour-or-so drive to the mountain. I started wicking things up a bit on some sweepers, all third- and fourth-gear stuff.
As I made my left turn onto the actual mountain road, I picked up the pace considerably. It's a tight bit of blacktop, lots of decreasing-radius curves, mostly second gear, high-rpm stuff with fun, slightly tail-loose exits. I was just starting to get comfortable with the car's limits, getting into a rhythm, when a chime came on. Uh-oh, that can't be good.
A quick glance at the instrument panel. A readout was saying something to the effect of "Engine Overheating, A/C has been turned off, please idle engine."
The temp gauge was absolutely pegged to the max at 260 degrees. And the oil temp was high, too, nearly into the red. And this was maybe eight turns into the road.
With no turnout to pull into, I shifted into third, dialed things way back, took it nice and easy but still driving fast enough for air to get to the engine. And no, I didn't get a photo of the temp gauge or the IP warning (don't worry, I'm getting plenty of flack about this from the guys here already), I was more concerned with cooling the car off and figuring out what the heck was wrong.
A few minutes later when I got to the top of the 5,000-foot-high mountain road, the temp gauge was nearly back to normal. I parked the Vette in some shade, let it idle and completely cool off.
After lunch at the restaurant, I headed back down the mountain. This time I kept it in third gear the whole way, the pace fairly dialed back. The temp gauge stayed close to normal.
Later on the way home, on a much faster, third-gear sweeper-filled road, the temp gauge rose yet again after maybe 10 fairly hard turns, this time to about 240 degrees (normal is closer to 220) before I dialed it back.
Now, this actually wasn't the first time we experienced something like this with our C7 Vette. Josh Jacquot had a similar event during some hard charging on the mountain roads near Malibu. It was nowhere near as hot out when he was driving, but he also had driven hard for much longer before he noticed the temp gauge had risen nearly to the red zone (he never got the chime or IP warning). The roads were similar, lots of hard, second-gear turns. Josh rectified the situation simply by driving through the turns in third gear, which of course was nowhere near as much fun.
In normal duty, both before and after, the Vette has been perfectly fine. And yes, the car has coolant. The one thing I could have done that might have made the situation better was to take off the front license plate and bracket, which Chevy recommends for hard driving and track use (we did this, in fact, at the two-day Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track event we attended. That weekend we had brake-fade issues, but no engine overheating. Of note, it was also far cooler). It's illegal to drive without a front plate in California, and it seems a bit silly that we should have to take the plate off to drive our Corvette hard. This is a world-class sports car, after all.
Was it simply a just-wrong combination of a really hot day with hard driving in pretty much the worst conditions you can put a car in (sharp, second-gear turns, high-rpm running, minimal air flow)? Possibly. Still, this seems wrong for a modern car, and we'll be taking the Corvette to the dealer to see what they have to say about it.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 24,697 miles