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Monday, 05 November 2012 14:00

Boxster Buyers Guide

You have chosen to buy a Porsche Boxster.  Congratulations!  An excellent and capable sports car with shore-footed handling, great looks and great performance.

As with all cars, the Porsche Boxster has its own problem areas to look out for, as well as some great features, so do not be put off yet!

In the early 1990's Porsche was still in production of their 944 and 968 entry level sports cars, however they knew they needed to produce a new product to compete with two seater Japanese sports cars which typically sported a mid engined layout. Even before the first 968 left the production line, Harm Lagaay and his team had produced the first designs and even a prototype model of the Porsche Boxster.

As you can see from the images here, the original prototype was very close to the version eventually released in 1996.

Harm Lagaay and his team were inspired by the iconic Porsche 356 speedster and Porsche 550 Spyder of the 1950's, which can be seen in these original prototype photos as well as the car that was eventually released as the Porsche Boxster.

 

 

The first generation of the Boxster, also known of as the 986, was made from 1996 until 2005 at which point it was replaced by a new version with many improvements, some of which cosmetic, some of which were mechanical, this new generation of Boxster is known as the 987 and was made up until 2012 with the advent of the 981 Porsche Boxster.

 

Chronology of the Porsche Boxster

  • 1992 - First prototype of the 986 Boxster designed by Harm Lagaay and his team at Porsche.
  • 1996 - The first 986 Boxster rolls off the production line as a 2.5 engined car with 201 BHP
  • 2000 - 2.5 engine replaced with the 2.7 engine with updated performance of 217 BHP and improved internal components
  • 2000 - Boxster S released sporting a 3.2L engine and improved brakes, performance was set at 249 BHP
  • 2003 - 2.7 Litre engine improved further to produce 225 BHP and the 3.2 engine improved to provide 258 BHP)
  • 2004 - Special eddition Boxster 550 released with improved 3.2 engine providing 266 BHP
  • 2005 - Boxster 987 released with improved bodystyling and performance of 2.7 improved to 237 BHP and 3.2 S models improved with 276 BHP
  • 2007 - 2.7 engine improved to provide 241 BHP and 3.2 S engine improved to provide 291 BHP
  • 2009 - Boxster 987 Generation 2 released
  • 2009 - Non 'S' cars equipped with 2.9 litre engines producing 252 BHP
  • 2009 - 'S' models equipped with 3.4 litre engines producing 306 BHP
  • 2012 - Boxster 981 released with further improved body styling and all new 2.7 (standard) and 3.4 'S' Engines
  • 2012 - Non 'S' cars equipped with 2.7 Litre engines producing 261 BHP
  • 2012 - 'S' models equipped with 3.5 litre engines producing 311 BHP

Bodywork

Of course when you are looking to purchase a Porsche Boxster it is important to inspect the body for accident damage, signs of previous paint repairs as well as lookings for corrosion.

The Porsche Boxster models have all been extensively treated at the factory to inhibit the possibility of corrosion forming in the bodyshell. So it is unlikely that the Boxsters that you are interested in purchasing will be suffering from corrosion, however as time goes on, the possibility of seeing corrosion on Boxster models will increase.

In particular, corrosion on a Boxster can be a sign of poorly completed body repairs, where the repair has involved the removal of paint, which may have removed the corrosion inhibiting coatings at the same time, which can lead to premature corrosion forming in the future.

On any Porsche you view it is important to ask the seller some direct questions, such as "Has the car ever had any repairs made to the bodywork, including paint repairs?". If the owner says there has been previous body repairs, you need to ask why the repairs were performed and who performed them.

Ultimately you need to be happy with the condition of the car's bodywork and if there are any signs of repairs, or if the seller admits to repairs having been performed, you need to be happy with the answers you are given and that you are happy to buy a car which has had repairs to the body in the past.

Otherwise, look out for any dents (using "The Dent Finder" tool and our accompanying guide), body filler (take a small magnet and run it around any points on the car which seem to have irregular contours that could be hiding body filler.  Also keep an eye out for uneven panel gaps which could show signs of previous accident damage.

A point worth mentioning here would be lights. The very early Boxsters had orange indicators whereas the post 2003 models had clear indicators. While this may seem like a minor observation, the cars with the clear indicators are more sought after and the parts to retrofit an early car to have clear indicators will cost in excess of £1500 for new parts or will often will cost around half that price using used parts, so not as simple and cheap process as people may expect.

Interior

Typically the Boxster models have very similar interiors of various colours. The major changes in interior design happened in 2005 and 2012. Other than options for full screen sat nav units, and audio systems comprising of 2 speakers (basic), 4 speakers (hi-fi) or multi speaker (Bose) as well as the optional chronograph packages, the interiors are very much the same for the same models years.

The audio and radio options can be upgraded on all Boxsters, with the upgrade of speakers, addition of sub bass units and the integration of iPod, Iphones, MP3 players and Sat Nav units can be done without loosing the character of the car or it looking non standard.

Suspension

One weak point of a Boxster would be the suspension bushes in the track control arms, which tend to fail every 5 to 6 years. Typical symptoms of failure is squeaking as the car crosses speed humps or pot holes, as well as eventually accelerated tyre wear.

Another issue with the Porsche Boxster can be broken coil springs, for which the symptoms are unlevel stance, as well as knocking noises over rough ground, as well as failed suspension top mounts which often cause groaning noises from the front or rear of the car when the car is being manoeuvred into parking spaces.

Brakes

All Porsche Boxster models have superb brakes as standard, utilising Porsche aluminium callipers all round and vented brake disks.

When inspecting a Porsche Boxster it is important to check that the outer lip of the brake disk has not developed a pronounced lip, as this may be a sign that the brake disks are worn out or almost worn out and could soon require replacement.

In addition it is important to check the brake disks on both sides (inner and outer) to ensure that the surface is smooth and has no circular grooves which can be felt by hand, as well as checking for a surface which seems corroded or rough on any part of the surface of the brake disk, as this can be a sign of corrosion damage to the disk, or even a disk thats hardened surface is peeling away.

During a test drive, a Boxster should be able to pull up squarely and quickly to a halt in an emergency stop without any squealing or squeaking from the brakes. Should there be any abnormal noises or should the steering pull one way or another during braking, it could be a sign that the brakes require repairs.

While checking the car's service history, it is also important to see when the brakes were last replaced and by whom. Ideally you should be looking for brakes that have been replaced recently and by either a Porsche specialist or by an official main dealer. There are some very cheap and nasty brake disks and pads available to garages, which if used on a Boxster could cause serious consequences due to the performance and nature of the car. In addition it would be easy for a non Porsche mechanic to miss issues with the braking system, such as inspection of the aluminium hubs where the calipers attach, which if in need of repair and not spotted could potentially cause a fatal accident.

Engine

If there is one area of a Boxster that should be checked on a regular basis by a Porsche specialist, it should be the engine.

There are several ways that a Boxster engine can potentially terminally fail, requiring either rebuild or replacement with a new or used item, these are commonly as follows.

  • Bore failure - Fractures or distortion in the bore can happen to a Boxster engine at any point in its life without warning. The engine casing can be repaired, however it will require a complete engine rebuild.
  • Intermediate Shaft Failure - There is much discussion as to the cause of this problem, which we will touch on later, however intermediate shaft failure, if caught early enough can be repaired without a complete engine rebuild, however if not caught when early signs may be seen, such as during servicing, then it can cause major engine damage, requiring a replacement engine. This can be spotted early during an oil change by inspection of the oil filter during an oil change, as well as the trained ear of a Porsche technician noticing the tell tale rattle from the engine at idle. In addition its failure can be predicted by noticeable oil leaks from between the engine and transmission.
  • Camshaft chain failure - During a service the engine will be listened to by a technician using a stethoscope in the area of the cam chains, listening for the sound of the chain rattling or slapping within the engine. Usually the failure is caused by the chain becoming slack due to it stretching or through wear in the cam chain guides.

As well as head gasket issues, which are common to any model of car, the above are the most common failure causing complete engine failure if not spotted early. However, it is important to say at this point that the above failures are by no means as common as you may imagine if you read posts on forums. instead, the vast majority of Boxsters continue to give good service without issue. However it does highlight that often it is a good idea to have a Boxster inspected by a professional before you buy it, and to have Porsche only specialists or main dealers care for your Boxster after it is purchased to ensure that expensive repairs can be avoided with good servicing or problems being caught early.

A Boxster should also run smoothly at both idle and at higher speeds under load. No matter what car you are used to, a Boxster should feel as if it has a smooth balanced engine which produces power without flat spots or hesitation. Some unscrupulous salesmen may say that a flat spot, rough idle or hesitation as a normal feature of a high performance engine. However this is not true with the Boxster engine and may be a sign of faulty sensors or other components on the engine.

When checking the service history of any Boxster, it is important to make sure the car has had at least one oil change every year. Even on post 2005 models where Porsche specified that it can be stretched out to every two years. Failure to do this can contribute towards all of the above engine problems.

It is also important to note when looking at the service history, that if the service book indicates that a low mileage minor service has been performed, this does not include an oil change and minor services do not include oil filter replacement. At JMG Porsche, all services include oil changes and oil filter changes.

It is also worth asking the seller when the drive-belt and water-pump was last changed on the car, as either of these if neglected can turn into a rapidly overheating Boxster, without warning, which in turn can cause head gasket failure.

While checking the exterior of the car, is is also worth looking into the vents either side of the front of the car, where the main radiators are located. If there is a large amount of debris or leaves, there is a chance that the radiators and air conditioning condensers may have been subjected to corrosion caused by rotting biomass. If the areas seem clear, look for stone damage to the fins of the air conditioning condensers you will see. Any damage here could result in large expense repairing the air conditioning system. 

While checking for problems with the radiators, with the engine hot and running, smell around the front wheels, if you can smell a sweet chemical smell, it may be a sign of leaking radiators which may be about to fail.

Transmission

Until recently only two transmissions were available for the Porsche Boxster, the manual six speed transmission and the tiptronic transmission. However in the newer models there is also the option of a PDK transmission with up to 7 speeds.

Typically all 3 types of transmission are very reliable, as long as they are serviced on a regular basis.

Porsche specified quite a lengthy service interval for their transmissions, which we have observed can lead to problems eventually requiring a complete transmission rebuild or premature failures requiring repairs. Typically we recommend that all Porsche vehicles have the transmission fluids changed every 35,000 miles, and in the case of tiptronic transmissions that the filter be changed at the same time.

With the manual transmission there are some problems to look out for.

  • Sloppy or stiff gear change - probably caused by linkage and cable issues, the Boxster should be as easy to select gears as any other car you have driven.
  • Heavy clutch pedal - Probably caused by a severely worn clutch. The clutch pedal should be very easy to depress and no heavier than the lightest clutch you have every experienced.
  • Clunks from the transmission when switching off the engine - this can be a sign of flywheel failure, which will require replacement of the transmission.

With all models look out for the following.

  • Clicking sounds from the rear of the car which increase in speed or frequency with the car - This can be a sign of driveshaft issues.
  • Deep bass sounding hum from the rear of the car at or above 40mph - This can be a sign of rear wheel bearing failure.
  • Echoing ghostly hollow sounding noise from the rear of the car - can also be a sign of wheel bearing failure.

Again, please do not be put off by any of the above explanations, as a rule Boxsters are very reliable cars, but the above are items we recommend you look out for when buying a Boxster, which a salesman may comment as being a feature of the car.

Electrical system

The electrical system in the Porsche Boxster is very robust and reliable, however there are a couple of problems to watch out for when buying a car as well as while owning the car.

Alarm system.

The Boxster security system features an electronic control unit, which in right hand drive models is located under the passenger seat. A good location for security purposes, as a potential theif would have to spend a large period of time removing the drivers seat to gain access to the unit, with of course the alarm system siren sounding very loudly the entire time! The down side to this location is that if during servicing the leaves and debris accumulated in the rear roof drains have not been cleared, rainwater leak into the cabin behind the rear carpet on the bulkhead and then can collect around the control unit destroying it or causing random issues with locking, the alarm system, the roof or even the electric windows. Another case in point for regular servicing by technicians who only work on Porsche models. 

Wheels and Tyres

Various wheels and tyres were available for the Boxster models, some of which were 16" rims, 17" rims, 18" rims or even 19" rims on the later Boxster models.

Typically for the purpose of your personal inspection of the car, it is not important to know the names and types of the various wheels, however it is important to ensure they are in good condition. Curbing marks, corrosion or damage will only become worse with time and complete refurbishment of wheels will cost between £75 per wheel, through to £200 per wheel depending on the type of wheel.

In addition, rear wheels can be prone to suffering buckles, which is due to their width and reduced strength across the width of the wheel. A buckled wheel is almost impossible to repair successfully and safely. So should the car exhibit any issues with vibration at speed, we recommend that the car is inspected on a car lift to look for buckles in the rims, in particular the inner edges of the wheels.

Tyres

When Porsche buy in tyres from manufacturers they test to see which ones give the best performance, driver comfort and speed of wear. Once they have selected a tyre, they then approve that manufacturer and allow them to display the tyre as N-Rated, also that manufacturer offers a discount to the factory. When a Porsche is new, not using N-Rated tyres can invalidate your warranty and actively encorages owners to use the N-Rated tyres, which is part of the deal with the manufacturers who supply the tyres. Once a Porsche is out of warranty, there is no reason to use N-Rated tyres, the non N-Rated version of a Pirrelli Tyre (for example) is exactly the same as an N-Rated one. Likewise, since any Porsche model has been released, the European standards for tyres improve, as do materials and production techniques. So do not be put off if the tyres on the car you are looking at are not N-Rated.

Also with the tyres it is important to check the tyre has good amounts of depth of tread across the whole width of the tyre, as if the car has alignment issues, it may suffer from the tread wearing thin on the inside edge of the tyre only.

One other item to look for would be to make sure the tyres are not over 5 years old, as it is commonly accepted that beyond 5 years old a tyre is more likely to be hard, prone to cracking or even prone to complete failure through shredding, which is especially important with a car with high performance such as a Porsche.

Future Values


Like all modern cars, Boxsters are currently still depreciating. Obviously the older the Boxster the less likely it will be to depreciate further, with more modern models likely to depreciate more rapidly. To see how much a Boxster will be worth in two years or more, just look at the prices of Boxsters of that additional age to be able to assume the rate of depreciation you are likely to suffer.

In the distant future the Boxster models will appreciate in value, but it is not anticipated that this will happen for 10 to 20 years from time of writing. However it will happen as it has happened before to every other Porsche model.

The future models which will be most valuable will be the 550 models, the Spyder models and to an extent the 'S' Models

 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 21:14

The Dent Finder

Finding dents is often easy as the dent is obvious.  However some minor dents are the kind of thing you only find when washing or waxing your pride and joy.

When buying your next Porsche, being able to find dents is often a good way to help negotiate a good price, but also helps you avoid buying a car which may have hundreds of tiny dents.

At JMG Porsche our detailing toolbox has for a long time included "The Dent Board": a simple printable document with parallel lines marked at variously spaced distances and thicknesses.  The board is the result of time and effort taken to find the correct patterns and spacing, thus when used correctly, will enbable you to find dents that would be difficult to find with the naked eye.  JMG Porsche have released this tool to Porsche buyers everywhere to help them find dents and even paint texture issues with ease.

So how does it work?

When looking into the paint of a car you will see reflections - often your brain will switch off noticing these reflections in day to day life.  You can, however, use these reflections to find irregularities in the paint or panel shape.

Unfortunately, usually the reflections are random and mask dents and paint defects.  However, with "The Dent Board" you can find them with ease because now the reflection is regular, straight and highly contrasting.

Simply download the pdf file at the bottom of this page called "The Dent Finder".  Print out this document and put it onto a clipboard or some stiff cardboard, we tend to laminate them as well because we use them everyday.

Then, whenever you are inspecting paint for texture issues such as orange peel or checking panels for dents, hold the dent board against the panel in a position so you can easily see its reflection and move over the panel keeping an eye on the reflection as you do so.

Even minor dents, orange peel textures or other undesirable blemishes on your Porsche bodywork will become instantly visible.

Variations of "The Dent Finder" are used by car detailers, paint specialists and bodyshops around the world.  Now you can also use our dent board or dent finder for free!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 13:13

944 Buyers Guide

You have chosen to buy a Porsche 944.  Congratulations!  An excellent and widely undervalued sports car.  Probably the best kept secret of the Porsche marque.

This will be a particulary long article because the 944 had a 10 year run of production and the multitude of sub-models and options.  Hopefully it will be helpful in choosing your future Porsche 944.

In the 1970's, Porsche had designed and developed the Porsche 924 with a 2.0 litre engine, and by 1982, Porsche had released the Porsche 944 - an evolution of the 924 with an all-new Porsche 2.5 four cylinder engine, wider coachwork aerodynamically designed for the 924 Carrera GT, and much of the car redesigned and updated.  Like the 924, the 944 enjoys near 50-50 weight distribution which makes it a very stable car that handles like a dream.

Designed by Harm Lagaay of Porsche-AG, the 944 is also a favorite with both Jeremy Clarkson of TopGear and Sun / Sunday Times fame, and Tiff Needel of TopGear and 5thGear fame (as well as touring car racing)/  They both often lament about memories of the Porsche 944 Turbo, which is no surprise - the 944 really is a drivers car, with the turbo having unparalleled performance in its day.

By now you should have read our Porsche Buyers Guide Introduction - if not, read it now, as this article will try to avoid repeating what we have already covered in that article.  Instead, this article will concentrate on the model specific information and what to look for when buying a 944.

 

Chronology of the Porsche 944

  • 1982 - Launch of the model featuring a 2.5 litre normally aspirated, electronically managed engine, with wide flared arches and 'Cookie Cutter' wheels.  In the UK, the standard car was sold as a "Lux" featuring as standard an electric sun roof, alloy wheels, electric windows, electrically heated mirros, heated rear wipe tailgate with electrical release from inside the cockpit.  In other markets a more basic specification was available.  Power steering, Air conditioning and leather seats were expensive options rarely taken.  Other options such as headlight washers, rear slotted (toast rack) lower valance, box sills and many more were also available;
  • 1986 - Complete face lift to the 944 model, with revised suspension (aluminium arms), electrical system updated and the interior changed to what is known as the oval dashboard.  In the UK, the standard or 'Lux' specification now includes power steering, an antenna within the windscreen, central locking, basic alarm system and basic immobiliser.  Additional options now included Fuchs wheels;
  • 1986 - Turbo model introduced - 220 BHP, rear lower spoiler as standard, single piece front bumper (PU).  Typically fitted with 16 inch teledial wheels;
  • 1987 - All models updated to use different suspension geometry with new suspension arms and shallower offset wheels;
  • 1987 - 944 S Model introduced with 2.5 Litre engine, now with 16 valve cylinder head and similar appearance as 944 Lux or base models.
  • 1988 - 944 Turbo S and Silver Rose models released, 250 bhp, limited slip differential, MO30 suspension, M030 larger brakes as standard, Forged CS wheels, made in Stuttgart rather than Neckarsulm and usually without sunroof (option included to have it).  Non-S turbo version still available and manufactured in Neckarsulm;
  • 1989 - 944 Turbo SE (controversial model) manufactured in Neckarsulm in Germany as with other 944 models version of the 944 Turbo S available.  All other Turbo versions now 250 BHP as standard.  Any car could be optioned to include all Turbo S items. Standard Turbo wheels are now Design 90 type;
  • 1989 - 944 Lux revised to have 2.7 Litre engine, fitted with standard with 15 inch teledial wheels, available with automatic or manual transmission.
  • 1989 - 944 S2 released. Turbo body with 3.0 Litre, 16 Valve engine.  Options include 10 speaker audio, LSD transmission, M030 Suspension, M030 Brakes, sports seats and much more.  Usually fitted with Design 90 wheels, as standard;
  • 1990 - 944 S2 also available as carbriolet version;
  • 1990 - Lux model discontinued;
  • 1990 - S2 and Turbo models now fitted with Bridge spoiler rather than rubber spoiler;
  • 1991 - 944 Turbo Cabriolet available;
  • 1992 - Production of 944 has ended, due to the ecconomic climate and the renaming of the model to the '968'.  Some models were still available unregistered for some time afterwards.

 

Bodywork

The Porsche 944 was galvanised at the factory.  This is a simple coating to the bodywork which inhibits rust formation.  In reality this system has worked very well, but now, some three decades after the launch of the car, the evil rust is begining to become a problem on some examples, so is something to look out for.  In particular rust tends to form in the following locations:

  • rear of sills on the outside.  Often seen as bubbling of the stone chip textured paint coating;
  • Rear of sills on the inside.  Check between the inner sill and the rear suspension beam for a hole forming about 6 inches in front of the rear wheel arch on the inside, easily reached by holding the bottom of the sill and probing with your fingers;
  • Front wing bottoms.  The lower trailing edge of the wheel arch accumulates a lot of road debris, which then causes the bottom of the wings to corrode.  Look for blisters, orange staining and probe this area.  If it makes a crunching noise, it needs repairing. New front wings are expensive, however a good bodyshop can rebuild this area in steel;
  • Front wings where they meet the front bumper.  Not often serious or holed, but it is becoming more common to see some rust blisters forming in this area;
  • Between back bumper and back panel right bellow the Porsche script decal.  I believe that for some reason insufficient paint was applied by the factory in this area, as the inside edge from the luggage area always seems to be fine, but often blisters can be seen between the bumper and the back panel.  These are normally superficial;
  • Around the windscreen, again usually superficial, but for some reason it seems occasionally the 944 can blister around the windscreen trim.
Otherwise, look out for any dents (using "The Dent Finder" tool and our accompanying guide), body filler (take a small magnet and run it around any points on the car which seem to have irregular contours that could be hiding body filler.  Also keep an eye out for uneven panel gaps which could show signs of previous accident damage.

Originally from the factory, the 944 Turbo and S2 had a rear wing under the back bumper.  All models should have a boot spoiler, either rubber (as shown on the red car here) for all pre 90 models, or an ABS Plastic one on on post 1990 cars, known as the bridge spoiler (as shown in the white car here).

Lux and S models have a seperate front bumper and front valance.  The Turbo and S2 models have an all in one front bumper known as a PU.

 

Interior

Early interiors were available in fabric or leather, typically with manual adjustments.  Post-1986 cars more often have electrical adjustment of the seats, however it was an optional extra sometimes only found on the drivers seat.

Early cars also share the same dashboard as the 924, however for 1986 models, Porsche indroduced a new dashboard and door cards to update the appearance of the car.

Later cars have an option for a higher quality sound system, including multiple speakers in the doors under the arm rest area where the door pocket normally resides.

If the interior is fabric, make sure the fabric is not torn or threadbare as replacement cloths to retrim a section - although still available - cost anything up to £1,000 per square metre!

The leather interiors are far more hard wearing, but larger sports seat bolsters do suffer serious wear and can be expensive to repair or replace.

 

Suspension

The later post-1986 models have aluminium suspension arms on the front and rear.  As of 1987, these components were updated to change the wheel offset required and the suspension geometry - this is said to have been to improve handling, although many report that the pre-87 cars are more track biased in handling.

Earlier cars, when requiring ball joint replacement for the front wishbones, are cheaper to replace than the later suspension arms which are a sealed unit.  Once the ball joint is worn, a new wishbone is the official repair.  However rebuild kits are available in the aftermarket, as are reconditioned wishbones.

Ball joint issues usually manefest in a 'clunk' from the front suspension when manovering.

Some post-1989 cars may have sealed non-servicable suspension struts at the front which are expensive to replace, or they are fitted with the optional Koni M030 suspension.  A new alternative for repair of the sealed variety, would be to refurbish the struts with special Koni inserts, or an option for both types would be to upgrade to KW suspension, although it is a more expensive option.  The M030 suspension can be rebuilt, although not cheaply.

944 models do benefit from shock absorber replacement every 50,000 miles.

The power and non-power steering racks are usually trouble free, however the power steering pumps can leak.  Recommended repair of the power steering pump would be to exchange your old unit for a rebuilt one, and is an inexpensive exercise.  A tell tale sign of the pump leaking would be groaning on tight turning of the suspension, and the front anti-roll bar bush on the drivers side swelling (as the power steering fluid tends to attack the bush).  The bush is not expensive to replace, but should be checked as it is a good indicator of a leaking power steering pump.

 

Brakes

As standard the non-turbo and S2 versions of the 944 are fitted with single piston calipers all round, with vented brake disks.  These are usually trouble free, although they can require attention as they age.

The standard 944 Turbo and S2 brake calipers, as well as the M030 brake calipers fitted as an option, are made by Brembo and can be expensive to service and repair.  In particular, they can suffer from slider plate lift, which then can cause issues with binding brakes and problems changing the brake pads.  Ask any vendor of a car you are looking at if the slider plates had been replaced.  They typically need it every five to ten years.

The MO30 brake disks are very large at the front and are more expensive than the normal ones to replace, although this should not put you off buying an M030 equipped car.

All types of brakes should stop the car without very much fuss.  ABS equipped models have a very compentent ABS system which works well in both wet and dry conditions.  This ABS system is usually trouble free and not difficult to repair.

If the brake disks look to be scored or have a lip around the outside edge, it is recommended the the disks and pads are replaced.  Most models also feature pad wear sensors which should illuminate a warning lamp on the dashboard when they require replacement.

 

Engine

The 944 engines all use an aluminium block, using a technology called Alusil.  The engines have aluminium bores, which are very hard wearing, but can be suceptable to scoring which can cause oil consumption, although this is usually a sign of another problem and is not common.

The engines were available in several configurations as follows.

  • 8-Valve 2.5 Lux engine
  • 16-Valve 2.5 S engine
  • 8-Valve 2.5 Turbo engine (different pistons, con rods, head and valves as well as of course a turbo!)
  • 8-Valve 2.7 Lux engine
  • 16-Valve 3.0 S2 Engine
Typically the 8-valve engines require routine maintenance of regular servicing, cam and balance belt replacement every 4 years, and relpacement of the front engine oil seals, belt tensioners, belt rollers, water pump and thermostat every 8 years.
 
The 16 Valve engines require also that the small chain between the two cams is inspected whenever the cam and balance belt is replaced, along with its tensioner pads.  We would also recommend that the small cam chain is replaced, with its slipper pads, every 8 years.
 
All engines should have their engine oil and filter changed every year, regardless of mileage.  The turbo should have the oil and filter changed every 6 months - failure to do this can result in failure of the turbo. 
 
Typically these are reliable engines and have been seen to have over 300,000 miles traveled without needing a rebuild.  Who knows how long they really can last!
 

Transmission

The standard Lux, S2 and Turbo transmissions are very reliable and can cover massive mileages.  It is recommended that they are serviced every 48,000 miles and that you check the output shaft flanges every year for excessive wear.  Luckily the transmissions are relatively cheap to buy in used condition, however a full rebuild could cost around £3,000*.

The Turbo and S2 transmissions were also available with an LSD and oil cooler option.  These transmissions are also relatively reliable and should not provide problems.

It is reasonably normal to hear a slight rattle from a 944 transmission when idling.  This is due to a modification to the transmission housing to allow the use of a 5th gear, adding a new section which produces the 'rattle' side effect.  They will also have a slight whine when driven - this is normal, but it should not be loud or distracting.

While checking a prospective car, you should look at the transmission and check for leaks. During a test drive, whilst taking up drive, you should listen for abnormally loud whining and clunks, and ensure that the car enters gears smoothly.

Loose play within the gear change mechanism is unlikely to be anything serious, more likely requiring just replacement of some wearing components such as the front lever pin or the rear linkage block which are affordable to replace. 

 

Electrical system

The 944 electrical systems tend to be trouble free and quite robust.  Every component should be working correctly when you buy the car, so do not be fobbed off by a vendor saying "they all do that" because it really is not true.  Every electrical system in a 944 should be working fine.

The sun roof can be complicated to setup and repair, but should be fully functioning.  Check that the sun roof opens and closes smoothly, and without any unusual noises or clicking sounds.  The electric windows should move smoothly without issue, as should every electrical motor, such as the wiper motors (front and rear) as well as the headlight mechanisms.

Make sure you check every switch, every knob that every item works as it should, sometimes a 944 may have been neglected and so multiple electrical issues may be evident.  In these cases walk away from the car, even though repairing those systems should not be complicated or expensive, it could be a sign that the car has been neglected as a whole.

 

Wheels and Tyres

Cookie Cutters - These wheels were used on the very first 944 models in 1982, until the introduction of the facelift model towards the end of 1985.  These wheels are reasonably good wheels, but it is becoming hard to find them in a good condition.  Refurbishment of the cookie cutter wheel will cost anything from £100 to £200* per wheel, unless you want a DIY project for yourself.

Fuchs (15 Inch - Deep Dish) - The Most expensive optional wheel to be offered for the 944 is the Fuchs wheel.  As used on the 3.2 Carrera as standard and optional equipment, this wheel is light in weight and probably the one wheel that everyone thinks of when someone says "Porsche wheel".  To refurbish properly will often cost up to £300* per wheel, they are not cheap to maintain or repair, but they are a classic wheel and very sought after.  Often fitted in 7J and 8J, these wheels were available on other models in 6 and 9 inch widths.

Teledials (15 Inch - Deep dish) - The early 1982 to 1985 teledial wheels were available in 15 inch, usually 7 inches wide on the front and rear. Also used on some 911 and 924S models,.  These wheels are also available in 6 inch and 8 inch widths, although they are quite rare.  Refurbishment of these wheels could cost between £50 and £100 (at date of article) per wheel.

Teledials (15 inch - Shallow dish) - These wheels were fitted between 1986 and 1989 on the 944 2.5 Lux, 944 S and 944 2.7 Lux.  These wheels are relatively common and cost a similar amount to an earlier teledial to refurbish.  Often available in 7 and 8 inch widths.

Teledials (16 inch - Deep dish) - These are very rare wheels, normally only fitted to the 1986 944 Turbo, as such they are sought after by owners of 86 Turbo's as well as owners of earlier 944 models.  These are typically 7 and 8 inch widths. Cost of refurb would typically be between £50 and £100 (at date of article) per wheel.  Value of the wheels second hand can be very high.

Teledials (16 inch - Shallow Dish) - These wheels were optional extras on the 1987 to 1989 Lux models, typically they are not sought after, but are a nice original feature or upgrade to a 944 Lux.  Cost of refurb would be the same as with other teledial wheels

Forged CS (16 Inch) - These wheels were the original wheels used on the official Porsche 944 Turbo S and an expensive option for the later Porsche Turbo's, and were typically not offered after 1989.  These are a rare, tough and very lightweight option.  These were originally anodised rather than painted, so refurb can be very expensive unless you are happy with them being painted like other Porsche wheels.  These are 7.5 and 9 inch widths.

Forged Disk (16 Inch) - This wheel is quite unusual, an option on 1988 944 Turbo's.  A forged wheel again (although a cast version was available) very similar in design to the CS wheel, but rather than triangular cut outs it has slots.  Again available in 7, 8 and 9 inch widths.  Just like the CS wheel, some were anodised from the factory, however some of these were painted silver or platinum.  To have them re-anodised would be expensive, however refurbishing the wheels could be from £50 to £100 (at time of article) if you are happy to have them painted. Also interesting is that these wheels were available for the 928S4 and known as the CS wheel, although they are a different wheel to the 944 CS wheel.

Design 90 (16 Inch) - This is the standard wheel used on the 944 S2 and Turbo after later in 1989. Available in 7, 7.5, 8, 9 and 9 inch widths, (as well as 6 inch on 911 models) this wheel is the typical £50 to £100 to have refurbished.

Tyres

When Porsche buy in tyres from manufacturers they test to see which ones give the best performance, driver comfort and speed of wear. Once they have selected a tyre, they then approve that manufacturer and allow them to display the tyre as N-Rated, also that manufacturer offers a discount to the factory. When a Porsche is new, not using N-Rated tyres can invalidate your warranty and actively encorages owners to use the N-Rated tyres, which is part of the deal with the manufacturers who supply the tyres. Once a Porsche is out of warranty, there is no reason to use N-Rated tyres, the non N-Rated version of a Pirrelli Tyre (for example) is exactly the same as an N-Rated one. Likewise, since any Porsche model has been released, the European standards for tyres improve, as do materials and production techniques. So do not be put off if the tyres on the car you are looking at are not N-Rated.

Future Values

Over the last few years (2005 to 2012) the value of 944's have stayed pretty much at the same point, regardless of economic downturn or with the passing of time, which means that the 944 is in a phase just before values begin to appreciate.

When a Porsche is new, its value depreciates every year, eventually it reaches a price where enough have been removed from circulation, as well as renewed interest by people who were young adults when the car was released reaching an age where they can afford one, causes the price to level out and stop depreciating anymore. Eventually, as examples continue to be removed from the market, due to accidents or export, the value begins to climb.

This very same process has happened to the 356, 912, early 911's and even the Carrera GT (gone from worth £13k in 2008 to £23k in 2012), and so the same thing will continue to happen to the 944. So when buying a 944 for the long term, buy a good example and provide good care of the car, unlike any other car it will not depreciate in value, it will increase in value and every penny you invest in its purchase and maintenance will eventually be repaid with interest in years to come.

Good luck with your hunt for the right 944 for you, once you have bought it, why not pop into the garage and tell us about it!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 12:26

Porsche Buyers Guide Introduction

So, you're thinking of buying a Porsche? you may have already chosen the model for you, you may even have looked at some. What this article aims to provide is the background information and tips for buying a pre-loved Porsche.

We say Pre-Loved because that is the kind of Porsche you want to buy, it needs to have previous owners who have looked after the car well, one who's servicing is up to date, has been serviced by a specialist or a main dealer and one which is the very best example you can find.

What you want to avoid is one where the servicing has always been minor, performed perhaps by a normal all makes garage, that is less than perfect, has issues and is cheap. There is a well used expression that I in particular like to quote, which is "There is nothing quite as expensive as a cheap Porsche". This means that although you might get what seems to be a bargain, but often it will cost so much to repair, maintain and bring up to scratch, that you would have been better off buying the one you thought was overpriced but was in great condition, with a good history of maintenance and has obviously been loved.

Do not buy a fix-er-upper, unless you are doing it because you want to work on a car and restore it, more than you want to drive it. If you are buying one to fix up, you are probably better off buying some books on car repairs and restoration rather than reading these buyers guides.

So, buy the very best one you can find, and before you buy it, make sure that you have read not only this article, but also the one specific for the model you are buying, perhaps also print them out and take them with you when you view a Porsche.

One last word of warning before we begin. Ebay, be very careful of buying a car from ebay and do not look at the ebay prices and decided that those prices are what the cars are worth. Ebay is typically a car vendors (private or trade) last avenue to sell a difficult to sell car.

Lets start at the beginning, finding the car.

There are lots of places to find a Porsche for sale, you might see it parked on the side of the road, you might even see it advertised in a local paper or other publication that you read. Which is fine, but before you buy one, or even go looking, I would like to recommend some places to look.

Specialist and main dealer websites.

Yes it is a good idea to check out what we have at JMG Porsche, or what our customers are selling. But as an unbiased article, I need to also advise you look at what other reputable Porsche specialists have for sale. Henry at 911 Virgin always has good cars, as does Jonus at JZMachtech and the guys at Strasse in Leeds. Check out all these sources, what they have and use them as the yardstick as I know that they, like me, take a lot of pride in their cars and will stand by them if there is an issue.

There are also a new breed of Porsche specialists, who will often advertise in the Porsche publications but are not of the same school and level of experience, so sometimes you need to be careful which specialists you trust.

TIPEC

The independent Porsche Enthusiasts Club (Tipec) is exactly what it says in the name, visit their forum, put the word out that you are looking for the model you have chosen, and see what comes up. Its not often that a true enthusiast will sell their pride and joy, but when it does happen, its often a good car. But also the members in the forum may be able to help you with your search, as well as they may know of some of the cars you are looking at and what is wrong with them.

PCGB

Porsche Club of Great Britain is much like TIPEC above, and also has some very helpful members.

Pistonheads.com

Pistonheads is a great resource for buying a Porsche. Whatever model you are interested in, simply because it has such a selection being advertised by both traders and enthusiasts. Which is the important point, enthusiasts! A community like pistonheads is filled with enthusiasts, enthusiasts generally look after their cars, which are just the kind of cars you are looking for. Like anywhere though, you will notice that their are cars there that are advertised at a lower price, and some at a higher price. Always start looking at the highest price cars first, there is usually a reason why some are so much cheaper than the rest.

AutoTrader

When selling a Porsche, a normal non enthusiast may advertise it via AutoTrader and it may not be listed in the forums or on Pistonheads. Although Pistonheads tends to have more Porsche examples than Autotrader, it is often worth taking a look to see what is around.

You have the short list

Once you have a list of cars to start looking at, things are going to get serious. There is the usual advice to call the people advertising as private vendors and say "I am calling about the car for sale", if the vendor says "Which car?" you know he is a trader and not a legitimate private sale. But everyone knows that, don't they?

When calling about cars, the important information to gather is....

  • Has the car got a service book? Is it showing a complete service history without gaps?
  • Does the car have any original MOT's over the years? (This can help prove mileage)
  • Does the car have any known issues? (Sometimes vendors will not tell you about any faults until you get there)
  • Are there any blemishes on the paintwork or any corrosion or damage?
  • Has the bodywork ever been repaired?
  • Is the interior in perfect condition?
  • Has it had any major jobs completed why they have owned the car?
  • How long has it been for sale and have many people viewed it?
  • How negotiable is the price (always ask this, after they have had to list any bad points!)
  • If so, how low would be their lowest price? (You will be able to go lower than this, even if they say it is the lowest price)

Once you have gathered this information, you will have a reasonable idea of how good or bad the car is, as well as a starting point for your negotiations after, and only after you have seen the car, test driven the car and have identified any additional issues with the car.

When you arrange a viewing, tell the vendor not to start the car that day before you get there, you need to make sure the car starts well and without smoke. Make sure the vendor is aware of this requirement.

Viewing the cars.

OK, so you are now going to look at some (hopefully) excellent examples of the Porsche model you are interested in. Take a pad and a Pen, so you can record details about the car and leave your humanity and love of your fellow human being, you are now a car buyer. Put on your best poker face and prepare to buy a car.

When viewing the cars there is one important piece of paper to take with you, a bodywork inspection card. There is an article on this website showing how to use one as well as how to make one. This is an important tool to find every single dent on a car, even the ones you usually only find after buying the car and washing it for the first time. Every dent you find can effectively devalue a car by £40, which is what many paintless dent removal companies will charge to remove a dent without breaking the paint.

Look for stone chips. I personally prefer to see some stone chips on the front of a Porsche I buy, it shows that the car has not recently been re-sprayed, which may be due to accident damage. You seriously would not believe how many Porsche for sale have recently suffered an accident.

The next job is to use our buyers guide specific for your intended model of Porsche, read the article before you view the car, but also read the article and follow its directions while you look around the car.

Chassis numbers.

Check the chassis numbers. Car's since the mid 90's have a chassis number in the windscreen. Older cars have them in various other locations. Check this matches the chassis number in the service book, on the log book, on the option sticker in the car, as well as other locations. The locations are also listed in the buyers guides specific for each model. But make sure they all match. If you end up interested in the car, you also need to check the chassis number matches the HPI report on the car, as well as the chassis number matches the specification of the car that has been advertised (read our chassis number reading guide) as you can learn a lot from the details hidden inside the chassis number. If all the details match, hopefully you are looking at a good honest car. If they do not, or they look like they have been tampered with, be cautious about the origin of the car.

Wheels and tyres.

Are the wheels fitted to the car the ones you would expect to have been fitted from the factory? If not, why not? and are the original wheels available? Many people want a Porsche with the original wheels, even if you are not bothered, the next owner might be.

Are the wheels damaged at all? Any curbing on the wheels is not only a sign the car has not been cared for as it should, but can also be a sign that the wheels have been structurally damaged. When viewing a car, make sure you point out any damage to the owner and negotiate the price accordingly.

When examining the wheels, check the tyres. How much tread do they have? Are they all the same make? How old are they (Tyres should be changed every five to six years, even if they have not worn out as they get hard and begin to crack after that amount of time. Missmatched tyres can be a sign of poor maintenance, especially if the two tyres on the same axel do not match, as tyres should be replaced at very least in pairs.

You also do not want to be test driving a car with poor tyres, bald tyres can cost the driver 3 penalty points and a fine for each defective one, a car with a bad set of tyres can cost you your licence!

Before the test drive.

Before you test drive the car, check the engine is cold to the touch. If it is warm, especially after telling the owner to not start the car that day, they might be trying to hide a fault with the car not starting easily when cold, a battery issue or even a puff of smoke as the engine starts, which could be a sign of a worn engine.

Check the engine bay for leaks, any leaks can be expensive to repair. A good engine bay will be dry of fluids other than the reservoirs that hold them.

If you see any fluid or damp patches, in the engine bay or under the car, here is a small rule of thumb for indentifying the cause.

  • Blue, green, pink or orange fluid with a consistancy of water, could be anti freeze.
  • Red or pink fluid with an oily touch, could be power steering fluid on pre 98 models, or transmission fluid on an automatic model.
  • Clear fluid is usually brake, clutch or in post 98 cars power steering fluid or sometimes automatic transmission fluid.
  • Black or golden fluid is typically engine oil or transmission oil in manual cars. Transmission fluid often smells bad, a little like cat pee (if you know what that smells like)

So there are no leaks? What else to check? Pull off the engine oil filler cap, look on the underside of it, as well as bellow it. Look for any signs of a thick creamy substance that has a coffee colour, any sign of this can be an early sign of head gasket problems. Although it can be a sign that the car has not been driven often and moisture is building up inside the engine, possibly still not a good sign and may require professional inspection.

Next you should pull off the coolant cap, is there any dry signs of evaporated coolant around it on the header tank or on the cap? It could be a sign that the cap is either faulty or the cooling system is building up too much pressure. In any case, its not a great sign and may require professional testing.

Lastly, check the brake and clutch fluid levels, they should be between the minimum and maximum level.

You can start the engine.

Any Porsche should start without the need to tickle the throttle. Make sure the car is not in gear, the handbrake is fully applied and that the drivers window is wound down. If it is a newer model, you may need to depress the clutch or press the brake peddle while you start the car, this can be normal if the vendor says you need to do it.

Once the car starts, get out of the car and look at the exhaust, there should be no blue smoke, if it is cold there should maybe be a small amount of visible white water vapor, but no smoke as such.

After observing the car running for a few minutes, you can proceed with the test drive.

The test drive.

You need to take the car for a reasonably long test drive, at least 30 miles. This should include stop-start town driving, country lanes as well as motorway cruising.

During the test drive the car should be taken very close to the rev limit on acceleration at least a few times, occasionally checking the mirrors for signs of smoke, which if blue, can be a sign of engine wear.

Also during the test drive it is important to at least once hold the car in gear at high rpm, let off of the throttle and coast to a lower rpm under engine braking and then accellorate hard. If you get a puff of blue smoke seen in the rear view mirror, it could be a sign that the valve guides are worn and require a top end rebuild.

The rest of the test drive should be spent listening to the engine note, searching for squeeks, rattles, vibrations or knocking noises which seem to be abnormal. They could be an issue with the suspension, engine, transmission or trim, but if you experience any, it will be best to ask whoever you get to perform a pre purchase inspection (PPI) to look into these.

If at close to 40 mph a rhythmic, deep humming noise can be heard, this is often a sign of wheel bearing issues.

It is during the test drive that you will reap dividends in experience from test driving more than one car. You will become familiar with what is normal, what is a quirk of the model, as well as what is most definitely not normal.

All Porsche models should have a relatively easy gear change (some older 911's may have a slight awkwardness) and a reasonably light clutch, in particular the later Porsche models after 1988 should have a clutch which is no heavier than a normal domestic car.

While in the cockpit, check the odometer digits are straight, sometimes (but not always) the digits not being level can be a sign that the mileage has been tampered with. Check the rest of the interior seems to match the same mileage. A car with only 30,000 miles shown, should not have a worn out gear knob, steering wheel and pedal rubbers!

Likewise a very low mileage car should not have worn out seat bolsters or carpet.

Once back after the test drive, I recommend you leave the engine running for at least 10 minutes while you make some last checks. You need to be sure that the engine does not overheat, the oil warning lights do not illuminate (except for some very early 911 models) and that the exhaust is not blowing. Also, once you switch the engine off, watch the car for 10 minutes to make sure the car does not begin to leak coolant or oil.

Now the test drive is over, it is time to check the paperwork.

The service record should have a stamp for each service, often with ticks or notes to say which service was performed. Look for the mileage not being sequentially rising after each service, it would not be the first time that I have seen the mileage of a car go down in one year, which can be a sign that the mileage has been tampered with.

If there are old MOT's in the paperwork, check through them and make sure they mileage ties in with the service history, you are asking the vendor to be patient while you check the paperwork, so it is worth thanking him before you start and explain that you are checking everything is in order. Most honest vendors will have no problem with this.

In an ideal world, there will be stacks of receipts with the car. However, if the car has been owned by a business at some point, there is a chance that the receipts are not with the car because they have been archived as evidence of the business accounts. So do not be too alarmed, as long as there is some record of servicing, even if it is just the book. If there is a pile of receipts, it is a bonus.

Negotiation.

If you are interested in the car, but want to try some more, it is worth telling the vendor this and negotiating the price. It is worth trying a low offer, perhaps 60% of the price you know they will accept. This may seem harsh, but sometimes a vendor is desperate to sell, so you may get a bargain, if not, at least you have started at a good point to negotiate upwards, as the vendor negotiates downwards. But if you are interested in driving more, please do, even if the negotiated price is good. It will still be good tomorrow, even if the vendor says the price is if you buy it right now, ask yourself why would it change to a higher price tomorrow? Don't fall for this.

Before you pay any money for a Porsche, I would recommend a pre purchase inspection by a recognised Porsche specialist, yes it costs money, but so does buying the car and a professional pair of eyes can often save you a fortune or at least give you some ammunition to negotiate the price downwards further. I would also recommend you have a HPI report produced for the car to ensure it has no finance outstanding, is not stolen and has not been a total loss or a category A, B, C or D. Cat C and D should not be an issue if there is a valid reason, it is quite normal after an accident for an owner to refuse a repair from an insurance company if they are not prepared to pay for a authorized Porsche repairer, or Porsche specialist to make the repairs, which can result in the insurance company to list the car as not inspected, which can result in a cat-C or cat-D marker being placed on the HPI history, some investigation may be required to find the reason, and the car should be discounted by up to 25% to reflect this.

My main advice in closing would be to recommend the following.

  • DO NOT buy the first example you see or test drive.
  • DO NOT be soft on the vendor just because he is another human being.
  • DO NOT trust the vendor just because they are a business.
  • DO thoroughly check every car you consider.
  • DO have a pre purchase inspection performed by a Porsche specialist on any car you consider.
  • DO pay for a HPI check on any car you consider.

Happy Porsche buying and remember, please read the buyers guide for the model of Porsche you are interested in.