Get Your Kicks in a Porsche 996

[Editor's Note: We originally ran this article in our May 2016 edition. Some information and prices may be different.]

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First, before buying a 996 it’s absolutely essential that you be willing to pay to have a professional inspect the car. Make sure you pick someone who has lots of experience with the 996. Having a service history that your professional can check is also a plus.

Once you’ve verified that the whole car is up to snuff and have it in your garage, we recommend first turning your attention to the suspension. Original components like shocks and bushings are typically completely worn at their current age. Other than the basics, you can install lowering springs and stiffer shocks to match for an even sportier feel. Also keep in mind that a good alignment makes all the difference in the world on these cars. It’ll make the car much more fun and safer to drive.

The second most common upgrade is typically replacing the stock exhaust with an aftermarket setup. Many owners enjoy the better sound and roughly 5-to-6-horsepower gain that can result depending on what system you buy.

Combine that new exhaust with an ECU flash and you could see gains of more than 10 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like too much, but the biggest difference the flash makes is in the torque curve. It also reduces the “throttle-by-wire” lag between the pedal and the stepper motor, which makes for a much more responsive feel and more power gains lower in the rev range. Although the ECU flash is probably the best overall bang-for-the- buck upgrade, it’ll set you back about $1000. There are quite a few companies who provide them, including FVDand Softronic.

If you’re planning on driving your 996 hard, you’ll want to expand the car’s oil capacity by adding the deep sump. Some companies offer a metal spacer that lowers the stock unit; if you use the original sump, make sure to remove it and inspect the inside. The rubber oil-control flaps are mounted to a cast-metal extension with rivets, which have a tendency to disintegrate and clog the sump.

Some owners modify their cars’ intakes. We specifically do not recommend changing anything in this area of the car. Modified intakes have a tendency to have trouble getting cool air, killing performance. They also often cause problems with how the air is directed through the air mass meter. A modified intake might sound better, but the factory system works best and doesn’t cause as many problems.

These cars represented a quantum leap in complexity over the previous model, meaning more sophisticated ABS, traction control and other systems. However, these more capable systems also come with an Achilles’ heel: They require additional maintenance and can lead to higher repair bills than previous generations such as the 993.

As for maintenance, rear main seal leaks are common. There’s a revised seal available that has a Teflon lip instead of the traditional rubber-and spring setup. These seals are the same type found on Cayenne and are much more effective.

As you may know, the 996 was the first generation of Porsche 911 to sport a water-cooled engine. If the water pump hasn’t been changed yet, it should be.

Belt rollers tend to fail. You’ll usually hear a squeaking noise coming from the engine before any catastrophic failure. Locate the roller that’s squeaking and replace it.

Replace the coil every 50,000 to 60,000 miles. While you may not feel a misfire or observe a check engine light, a diagnostic scan may reveal a misfire code. It’s better to replace the coil at this point before the car starts running noticeably worse.

The most important maintenance item is changing oil more frequently than the factory recommends. Oil change intervals of 12 months or 6000 miles are necessary to avoid the somewhat common intermediate shaft failure. You should also check the oil filter elements every 12 months–and before the car goes on track–for metal particles that may hint at this condition. Cars driven harder and more often typically fare better than garage queens.

If your car is running with an original air-oil separator, that’s another item that should absolutely be changed before the car sees a track. It’s a $125 part.

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Comments
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markwemple
markwemple SuperDork
10/13/16 10:44 a.m.

Wow, I wish the writer spoke to real owners first. The 996 is by far the cheapest 911 to own with regards to maintenance. To say anything else is ludicrous. Secondly, the oil pan thing is nuts again. Get an X51 pan. It has a better design to prevent oil starvation on track days. Remember these still carry a lot of oil, almost 9 qts. I can go on and on.... I agree with the garage queen analysis. Also, with regards to the pulley and water pump, do those as you would any other car, when they show actual signs of failure. The pulley can be removed and tested for noise and play and the wp, well again, check for bearing noise, leakage, etc. Common sense. The air-oil separator will give you a sign when there is smoke. The coolant reservoir is a PITA to change but should be done every so often. That IS a failure part. ....

Mike
Mike Dork
10/13/16 9:46 p.m.

Doesn't hurt that a 996 Carrera Coupe for $12k has almost exactly the same curb weight, horsepower and 0-60 as a 718 Cayman.

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
10/13/16 10:04 p.m.

"Oil change intervals of 12 months or 6000 miles are necessary to avoid the somewhat common intermediate shaft failure."

I like how he doesn't bother to mention that the "somewhat common failure" is a tad catastrophic, requires careful monitoring over the life of the car it's the entire reason folks like myself can buy a nice 996 for Yaris money.

markwemple
markwemple SuperDork
10/13/16 10:16 p.m.

A nice 996 is still 20k. More like a high end civic. But, yeah, very cheap for what it is. Remember, though, I'm so is about 5%. Head studs on an air cooled 100%. Non pressure fed tensioners 100%, although, you can drive on them for a little while after they fail. I'm living proof. So is my 76.

markwemple
markwemple SuperDork
10/13/16 10:17 p.m.

Oh and oil changes try 5k and 6 months.

Vigo
Vigo PowerDork
10/14/16 8:57 a.m.
Mike wrote: Doesn't hurt that a 996 Carrera Coupe for $12k has almost exactly the same curb weight, horsepower and 0-60 as a 718 Cayman.

Yes, but... i think midrange turbo torque would honestly make my $12k 996 feel a lot more special. I am spoiled by turbo cars at this point.

singleslammer
singleslammer PowerDork
10/14/16 9:01 a.m.

In reply to Vigo:

And Hybrid power, the turbos of the future!!

Mister Fister
Mister Fister New Reader
10/14/16 1:28 p.m.

I've had two, they're wonderful. Maintenance was not as bad as the horror stories you hear. Parts are a bit more expensive but if you keep up with routine work (which can almost all be performed on your own with hand tools) you shouldn't have many problems.

Crazy value cars right now.

Lug_Nuts_23
Lug_Nuts_23 New Reader
2/22/19 10:40 p.m.

I've read that the 996 Turbo wasn't susceptible to the intermediate shaft bearing failure because it used a different design.

Also, I think the part can be checked and only certain cars have an issue. If you see it's from the bad batch you can replace the part and that's that.

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS HalfDork
2/22/19 10:53 p.m.
Lug_Nuts_23 said:

I've read that the 996 Turbo wasn't susceptible to the intermediate shaft bearing failure because it used a different design.

Also, I think the part can be checked and only certain cars have an issue. If you see it's from the bad batch you can replace the part and that's that.

Yes the turbos do not have this issue.  The turbo is still expensive to maintain.  There is no bad “batch.”. It’s an imperfect design.  The problem can be addressed while doing the clutch and rear main seal though.  I’m in a class for these engines right now.

 

Mike
Mike SuperDork
2/22/19 10:55 p.m.

Turbos have a problem with coolant hoses popping off. 

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS HalfDork
2/23/19 12:29 a.m.

In reply to Mike :

And other issues I’m learning about this week.  What I’m really learning is that there is no such thing as a cheap 911.  If you want a driver and to have Porsche fun, the hot ticket is a 2.5 or 2.7 Boxster with good service and a fresh IMS bearing.  Spec Boxster is awesome for lots of reasons.  

 

docwyte
docwyte UltraDork
2/23/19 5:00 p.m.

Anthony, the turbo isn't an expensive car to maintain if you do most your own work, as the majority of this community does.  My friend has well over 100k miles on his (bought it at 35k) and has done nothing but normal maintenance on it.

Mike, the coolant hose popping off thing does happen but its not all that common.  It's a "while you're in there" type of job.  Ie, when I eventually get around to replacing the clutch on my Turbo, I'll probably drop the whole motor, do the clutch and then reglue/pin all the coolant lines in place.

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS HalfDork
2/23/19 10:05 p.m.

doc, you are correct.  If you do your own wrenching all of these cars are more reasonable.  The turbos get into more trouble when the owners get power greedy.

More hands on M96/7 engine fun.

docwyte
docwyte UltraDork
2/24/19 8:34 a.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS :

The Turbo motors are very robust and can easily make double their output on factory internals.  Mine is very under stressed with just a tune and exhaust but I can't see putting in hybrid turbos unless one of mine blows up.

You really have to be willing to do the normal maintenance yourself on one of these.  The dealer wanted $1300 in labor alone to do spark plugs and coil packs on it.  That's with my 10% PCA discount too!  Considering that it took me 3.5 hours, going slowly and having never done it before, that's an insane quote.  I'm sure the tech could do it in 2 hours, which means they're billing $650/hour.  Uh, no thanks, I'll handle that myself...

When the clutch goes I'll have a decision to make as the tools I'd need to buy to do the clutch cost about 1/2 the labor from an indy shop to do the job.  At that point it may not make sense for me to do it.

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS HalfDork
2/24/19 3:24 p.m.

I’ve been hanging out all week with guys that build engines.  One thing I’ve learned is that all Porsche engines have weaknesses.  The M96 IMS bearing is just the current most famous one.  The turbo motors are good, but they aren’t perfect either.  

 

smash
smash
10/10/19 10:31 a.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS :

Hi Anthony,

You mentioned you're taking a class.  What class is that?

Thanks,

G.

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS Dork
10/10/19 11:54 a.m.
smash said:

In reply to AnthonyGS :

Hi Anthony,

You mentioned you're taking a class.  What class is that?

Thanks,

G.

I took the class.  It was the knowledge gruppe m96/97 engine class.  You have to watch their website.  They have a live hands on class once or twice a year.  They have classes for many Porsche engine variants.  

MrFancypants
MrFancypants New Reader
10/10/19 12:00 p.m.
AnthonyGS said:

I’ve been hanging out all week with guys that build engines.  One thing I’ve learned is that all Porsche engines have weaknesses.  The M96 IMS bearing is just the current most famous one.  The turbo motors are good, but they aren’t perfect either.  

 

My impression so far is that the modern 9A1 series engines are bucking this trend and seem to be showing themselves to be exceptionally reliable, but I’m just a casual observer. What would the folks you’ve been around recently have to say about weaknesses in these?

Wiscocrashtest
Wiscocrashtest New Reader
10/10/19 12:50 p.m.
AnthonyGS said:

In reply to Mike :

And other issues I’m learning about this week.  What I’m really learning is that there is no such thing as a cheap 911.  If you want a driver and to have Porsche fun, the hot ticket is a 2.5 or 2.7 Boxster with good service and a fresh IMS bearing.  Spec Boxster is awesome for lots of reasons.  

 

Truth. I had an 03 Carrera 2 and a 98 Boxster 2.5L. The Boxster was more fun and the looming IMS boogieman was less stressful. The 996 is a great car but, for me, the early 986 pushed all the same buttons for 1/3 the price. I drove the Boxster more as I was less worried about it, pushed it harder b/c it wasn't as powerful, and actually took it on some long distance trips due to the double trunks.

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS Dork
10/10/19 1:13 p.m.

In reply to MrFancypants :

The M97 and 9A1 also have their concerns.  I grew around domestic V8 engines and auto racing.  After seeing the guts of my first Porsche flat six, I realized a lot.  These are really super light, exotic material, high output, really stressed engines.  There is no magic cure for that.  When I was in the class, one of the instructors has already had 9A1 rebuilds for customers of failed engines.  They still make most of their money on air cooled engines.  M96/97 work is expensive and the demand is high but most balk at the cost.  At about 100 hp/liter of the new Porsche engines it's pretty silly to think they will last as long as domestic V8s.  A boxer engine also has other issues compared to an inline or vee type engine.  

Lug_Nuts_23
Lug_Nuts_23 New Reader
10/10/19 8:16 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS :

Cool that you're taking a class on that. Sounds interesting to me--I'm fascinated by the design of mechanical items!

(Just looked here again after a while so I only just saw your reply to my comment -- too bad that there's no complete IMS fix. Oh well.)

Lug_Nuts_23
Lug_Nuts_23 New Reader
10/10/19 8:22 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS :

What sort of issues do boxer engines have compared to inline/V, out of curiosity? Supposedly they're well-balanced, though I've also read that the best-balanced engines are inline-6 and V-12.

100hp/liter doesn't seem that high these days...Honda Civic Si's have had that kind of power for over a decade, for instance. And the non-turbo ones have quite good reliability despite a high redline.

Of course naturally-aspirated engines usually fall below 100hp/liter and lower power density = lower stress = longer life. (One reason why trucks tend to last a long time--lots of heavy-duty, understressed parts.)

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS Dork
10/10/19 8:32 p.m.

In reply to Lug_Nuts_23 :

There is an IMS fix.  You can replace the roller bearing with an oil fed plain bearing.  I will very likely be doing one this winter.  I will post photos.  

Flat engines have oil return issues from the cylinder heads compared to V engines.  The M96 uses scavenging pumps to return oil and they can get overwhelmed in high g corners.  You also can have fuel puddle at the bottom of the cylinder.  You also have gravity aiding wear on cold startups.  All of this leads to cylinder out of round issues compared to V and inline engines.  

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