On top of old Smokey

Ever wonder what a bad air-oil separator looks like?  This is it.

We sent an oil sample off to the lab just to be safe and had the car towed to TPCRacing in Jessup. They did a great job sorting it out and getting me back on the road again.  It turns out I had two unrelated problems: leaking water pump and bad AOS.  I had planned to have the AOS changed during the winter and I suspected it was about time for the water pump, so I dodged a bullet.

The water pump (996-106-011-57-M100) was leaking at the housing and through the pulley seal. You can see from the photo below that the play in the bearing had allowed the blades to touch and score the block just a bit.

Many people make the mistake of using a pump with metal blades thinking it would be an upgrade. The problem is that when they contact the block, the debris can be catastrophic. The plastic impeller fails more gracefully.

Early expansion tanks have a tendency to fail on track cars, so we got the updated tank while everything was apart (996-106-147-56-OEM). Shop around.  Genuine Porsche tanks can run as much as $600, but you should be able to find them for around half of that (which is still nuts…) if you shop around a bit.  In this case, the hoses were also brittle and failing (996-106-850-05-M100).

The Air Oil Separator is supposed to separate oil vapor from the crank case and return it to the intake path. This appears to be an original item. They have gone through a couple of revisions since (996-107-023-55-M100). When they start to fail, you get about a tablespoon of oil that pools in your cylinders causing smoke at start up (see video.) When the fail completely, you can hydrolock the engine. Given where it sits on the engine, it’s impossible to inspect visually.  You should think of it as a wear item and replace it whenever you get a clutch (like the IMS bearing.)

We rounded out the repairs with a new idler pulley and belt.  The idler pulley felt OK when it was on the car, but fell to pieces when we took it off.

Broken Accelerator Pedal

If you track your 996, you want to think about replacing the hinge on the accelerator pedal before it breaks (unlike me who drove home from the track without an accelerator pedal).  Although the hinge can be removed from the pedal assembly, it isn’t designed as a distinct part so it can’t be purchased from Porsche without buying the whole pedal assembly.  Fortunately, you have a couple of options.

First lets start with the pedal assembly. Porsche switched to e-gas (electronic throttle) in 2000.  The pedal assembly has a hinge at the base and a metal rod under the pedal that activates a lever.   The lever pulls a cable which used to be connected to the throttle body.  Beginning in 2000, the cable connects to a sensor (#10) that communicates with the throttle body through the data bus.  This is fortunate for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that it means that throttle response is tunable.

Later model 911s came with the option to control throttle response with a button.  You can add that feature to a 996 with the use of Sprint Booster.  The Sprint Booster plugs in between the throttle position sensor and the bus, giving you  the option of stock, sport, or sport plus throttle response, controlled with a button you locate somewhere within reach of the shifter.  (It really does work as advertised.) The new version has even more settings than my older one does.

To remove the pedal assembly, remove the one bolt (#14) and slide the whole assembly up to release from the catches.  Unless you plan to remove everything shown in the top half of the diagram, you have to open the assembly and release the cable to remove the assembly from the car.  Fortunately it is just held together by three screws on the side and two at the hinge.

Besides trying to find a quality used part (which is just borrowed time) you basically have three options: Get a Porsche or aftermarket pedal assembly ($300-$400); buy an aftermarket hinge from Rennline ($65); or make one yourself ($2).  Since we’re all about DIY, we decided to make one first then try the Rennline part if needed later.

Using the Rennline option as inspiration, we headed off to the local hardware store. Found a hinge of about the right size, scrounged some pop-rivets, and a few minutes later, had a viable hinge again.  It doesn’t look bad and seems to do the job. I suppose we could find a way to screen “Porsche” on it and sell them for $50 each….

In the end, I bought the Rennline part. I couldn’t stand those pop-rivet eyes staring at me.  You couldn’t see them while driving, but I knew they were there. Watching. Judging….


NY Auto Show 2017

The NY Auto Show wraps up this weekend. Traditionally it’s the last of the big annual auto shows for the year that stars in the Fall.  I went to see two Porsches having their North American Premiere: The 2018 GT3 and the Panamera Sport (don’t call it a wagon) Turismo. Along the way there, I got distracted by a couple of Lexus and Alfas. So by the time I got to where I wanted to be, my camera’s battery died, but I did at least get a couple of photos along the way.

The 2018 991.2 GT3 is a well proportioned, beautiful track beast. Click the link and go to the microsite.  Click through until you get to the engine workshop (but turn down your speakers.) Build your own in Guards Red with manual transmission, Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes, Sport Chrono Pack, Full Bucket Seats, and Front Axel Lift system (so you can get out of the end of your driveway) and you’re pushing $170K before taxes.  Which seems like a lot of money, mostly because it is. So then you go spec a Cayman S, and $86K suddenly doesn’t seem that outrageous.

The other car I really wanted to see was the new Panamera. I had always thought the old Panamera was the Camel of the Porsche line-up, meaning similar to a horse designed by committee. The front was from a Cayenne, the front doors and rear end from a 911, and the rear doors were just photo-shopped in by your cousin’s friend who knows photoshop.

This new generation Panamera hangs together much more cohesively.  The parts in better proportion, and in Sport Turismo (wagon) trim, seems to work —  though that’s one long wheelbase car, even if it’s not the longest.  That distinction goes to the new Panamera Executive, which is 6 inches longer. That show car must have an adjustable suspension, because the photos on the website show a higher ride height.

Lexus (which generally I don’t get anyway) was also there with their new GTD race car (or a reasonable facsimile of one.) At first I was drawn in by this strange LED wrap. Then I started to check out the GTD car, but somethings just didn’t seem right.  It didn’t have a transponder or any telemetry antennas; it had dark window tint; there didn’t appear to be any exhaust; and the space between the wing struts seemed to be fabricated by the kind of stuff I would use in my garage. Also the carbon-fauxber panels weren’t very well fitted.  Still it was an interesting car.

The final car of interest was the new Alfa SUV, the Stelvio. On a new platform that will be shared by Maserati, Dodge, and Jeep (which is a wicked mash-up), it very much reminded me of the Red Angry Bird. It’s a very striking design, but I have a few issues, not the least of which is that an Alfa SUV is somehow blasphemous.

At an angle from the rear, you start to sense that things just aren’t quite right. The rotors are too small for these ridiculous low profile wheels, but take a closer look at the rear glass.  There’s a huge panel of black masking on the inside of the glass, meaning that visibility out the back is problematic at best. The back just doesn’t relate to the  rest of the car, sort of like the enormous buttocks on some baboons. Maybe it’s an thing: “Le natiche di un babbuino”. Dunno.

I like going to car shows because you can see the entire range of cars from each manufacture in one place in similar lighting. A few trends are worth noting.  The love affair we have with SUVs shows no ending. Most manufactures now have at least three variants of small, medium, and large SUVs plus tall sedans or wagons.  If the huge profit margins on these cars allows the manufacturers continue to produce interesting sports cars, then I’m all for it.

But the problem is that many of them just aren’t that interesting.  I don’t really like the current design language of BMW or Mercedes. Chevy and VW were opposite one another on the convention center floor and given the two, the Chevys were more visually appealing.  That doesn’t say so much about Chevy as it does about how bland VW has become. “VW — when Buick is too exciting.”


Porsche Steering Grinder Fix & New H&R Springs

The steering on the 996 has been a bit creaky lately. Noticeable when backing up or parking, there was a distinct grinding noise coming from the front right strut. Having experienced that before in the MINI, I suspected it would be a strut bearing and was right. Getting it off to replace proved to be a pain though.

The part that needed to be replaced is shown as #11 in this diagram.  It sits between the strut mount on the top and the spring below.  Between the bearing and the spring is a plate (#4) and the rubber spacer (#5). The interesting thing about this design is that you can fine-tune the ride height by using a thicker or thinner (in my case) rubber spacer. The way the design works, the piston of the strut is held in place by the retaining nut, and the strut body and spring rotate underneath it. When I took it apart, the plate (#4) was missing and the bearing was falling apart — hence the groaning whenever it spun.

Here’s a helpful hint to see if something might be wrong.  When you take the strut apart and the bearing comes out as three pieces. Something’s wrong. It’s supposed to be one sealed unit. The good news is that it isn’t terribly expensive (part number 996-343-515) and is usually $35-$45 each.  There must be a Porsche Motorsports part that’s more robust….

Since I had to tear down both front struts, I decided to go ahead and swap out the springs now rather than come back and do it in the Spring as originally planned. The new springs are H&R Sport Springs so not a huge change from the ROW M030 Sport Springs that were already there. They offer a slight drop of about a quarter inch over ROW M030 and an inch and a half over stock (US). Mostly I wanted to see if I could drop the front slightly to better match the rear and I think it worked. [ROW M030 on top; H&R Sport on the bottom]