KEEPING IT COOL
The 996 is a great long distance car, but there’s not much point in going the distance and sweltering with it. Time to replace the air-con rads and regas the system. Oh, and replace the cooling rads, too, with uprated, hand-crafted CSF radiators
Now that the 944 has gone to a new home, I've got more time and less in the way of distraction for my 996, which I've now had for over two years. I must admit I was quite surprised by that, but at the same time slightly ashamed to note from the odometer that I've barely put much more than 4000miles on it since collecting it from Edinburgh in June 2015.
Not that I've been neglecting it, mind. It has generally wanted for nothing, despite demanding a lot. There is no such thing as a cheap Porsche. Well, that's not quite true. Yes, you can buy a Porsche at a very tempting price, but don't expect that state of affairs to last. Age and complexity will creep up and bite you in the wallet.
With its full service history prior to my ownership, and two years of maintenance under my belt, it's easy now to get a picture of what it takes to keep a modern, watercooled Porsche on the road. Largely it's all about the consumables. Excluding oil changes and tyres, by consumables I mean brakes, suspension components and aircon, and blimey these cars don't half get through that stuff. Prior invoices are all for the above. In its 82,000-miles and 19-years on the road it's been through three sets of coffin arms, numerous suspension bushes and control arms, bump stops, top mounts, brake discs x 3 sets and three lots of aircon condensers. None of this stuff is hugely expensive in isolation, but if it all requires doing at the same time then it does mount up. Oh, and it's had a clutch, too, but then you'd probably expect that.
Is it normal for suspension components to wear out so frequently? Well, I don't know really, but I guess it's down to the complexity of the 996 set up, with its myriad of control arms etc, plus those coffin arms, which are renowned for wearing out pretty rapidly. At least mine have now been replaced with Rpm/eibach adjustable jobs, which also feature bushes that can be replaced, without having to bin the whole arm. The pay-off, of course, is a car that handles and stops, which, when all is well and optimised, the 996 does extremely well.
In the two years that I've had my 996 I've done the vast majority of the above, bar the air-con condensers. The air-con has never worked and RPM identified the problem when they inspected the car just after I
bought it. No surprises really, they had rotted out, thanks to their vulnerable position at the front of the car where they collect crud and leaves. It was something I could live with, while attending to other more important stuff.
Eventually, though, the air-con issue worked its way to the top of the to-do list and I booked the 996 into local specialists, Michael Cleverley, at Cleverley Repaired Cars. Michael's stock in trade is generally classic cars and the booming MX-5 market, but he's more than up to the job of looking after local Porsches too. Give him a try if you happen to be in the radius of Stradbroke in Suffolk.
To make life easy, I sourced the air-con condensers. Naturally I tapped into the aftermarket, did a bit of research, and hit upon Budget Radiators on ebay. At £96 for the pair and backed up by over 32,000 positive feedback comments, it was something of a no-brainer. The condensers arrived the following day complete with Orings for fitting. Quality? Well, they looked just fine to me, but the proof is always in the fitting with these things.
With the front apron off all became clear, and it wasn't just the air-con condensers that were looking sorry for themselves. Predictably the cooling radiators, that sit behind the condensers either side, were looking rather worse for wear and starting to weep slightly, too. I had a little cry at the thought and cost of replacement! I had been kind of expecting this. There was no evidence that they'd ever been replaced, so it was no great surprise. Like the air-con condensers, they're prone to corrosion from the ingress of crud and leaves, which turns the delicate aluminium cooling fins to dust. As you can see from the pics, that's exactly what had occurred.
So another call to Budget Radiators? No, not this time. Fine as I'm sure they would be as an OE replacement, I knew when the time came to replacing the cooling rads that I would be looking to improve on OE. In the admittedly somewhat inexact science of 996/M96 engine woes, there are plausible theories surrounding the cooling system. I've already had a low-temp thermostat fitted and super-duper Mobil coolant. Some uprated radiators, then, seemed like a good plan and I knew exactly where to go for them: CSF Radiators in America.
Our man in the US, Matt Stone, dropped in on CSF about 18-months ago and filed a fascinating story looking into CSF'S handmade aluminium radiators and the technology behind them. I knew that when the time came, I would be speccing these for my 996. They are a work of hand-crafted art. Each one hand-polished, it's a shame that they have to be hidden away.
Critical to the CSF radiator over the
standard item, is an improved – 33% larger – core and what CSF calls 'B-tube' technology. Unlike a regular oval shape 'O' type radiator tube, CSF uses a specially engineered tube in the shape of a 'B’. The design increases the heat transfer surface area of the tube by approximately 15% over regular tubes, offering the efficiency of two smaller tubes vs one larger tube within the same space criteria.
Efficiency and heat stability is exactly what I was after, as well as a higher quality item, and that's certainly what the CSF radiator offers. Fitting is straightforward, with all the same fixtures and fittings as the standard radiator. All that remains now is to finally fillup with Evans Waterless Coolant at some point, with its higher boiling temp and low pressure formulation for the ultimate cooling system. You see, you air-cooled owners don't have to worry about this sort of stuff! Oh, and if you fancy fitting some CSF rads to your water-cooled Porsche then not only do they cater for the 996, but most other modern Porsches including Boxster, Cayman, plus Turbo and GT models. UK distributor is Design 911 and price for the 996 rads is £480 per side.
Fitting went smoothly as expected, likewise with the air-con condensers. Michael then re-gassed the system and amazingly it all kicked back into life, with no other parts (driers, compressors etc) required. And boy, is the air-con icy cold now. A great result.
And the cooling system? Well, that's a slightly trickier thing to analyse, obviously, but there is no doubt that it runs cooler on the gauge and is quicker to return to normal temp after running in traffic, whereas before it would take some time for the water temp to fall. There is also a certain peace of mind that comes with knowing that your cooling system is working at its best.
Anything else before I sign off? Oh, yes! While scribbling this a UPS van arrived and delivered a big box from Ohlins containing a full 996 coilover kit and I couldn't be more excited. Regular readers will know that I've twisted myself up in knots over my 996's suspension, rejecting Porsche's MO30 kit and then moaning that my Bilstein/eibach set-up was too stiff for my tastes. I've recently driven a couple of 996s on Ohlins (including Richard Beaumont's amazing 996 CLR, as featured in the Aug 2017 issue), and have been very impressed. I will be getting the kit fitted and set-up for the next issue and if I'm still in any way dissatisfied, then feel free to drop round and run me over with my own car. I would understand! PW
Left: On the ramp at Cleverley Repaired Cars. Below: CSF radiator is a work of aluminium art. More efficient, too, with greater cooling capacity over standard
Above left: Hanging out with this month’s cover car, Brian Gunn’s similar vintage 996 C2. Above: Close up of the air-con condenser, which is clearly past its best
Below left: Not a pretty picture. Bottom of cooling radiator going nicely rotten thanks to vulnerable location. Below: With front apron off, there’s plenty of room to work on the rads
Above: Not my radiator, but an excellent illustration of the hand-crafted nature of CSF radiators
Left: New CSF radiator in situ. Fitting is straightforward, being a direct replacement and using standard fixings. Ohlins coilover kit. More on that in the next issue