Brett Fraser re­moves head from sand and con­fronts the var­i­ous is­sues with his Boxster S, just not all at once though! First on the agenda is to re­place ragged front tyres and brake discs

911 Porsche World - - Practical Porsche -

As reg­u­lar read­ers will al­ready have sur­mised, I have a fairly lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude to­wards car ser­vic­ing. I’m not ig­no­rant to the wis­dom of reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing as preached in this mag­a­zine and many oth­ers. It’s sim­ply that there’s an­other maxim that I fol­low more avidly – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My brother’s old Toy­ota Hilux pickup made it to 350,000 miles in his hor­ri­bly abu­sive hands with no ser­vic­ing – he just topped up the oil and re­placed worn-out parts – so I know it can be done. I also know that it isn’t re­ally all that sen­si­ble…

The Boxster had started send­ing out its own lit­tle sig­nals that it would ap­pre­ci­ate some de­cent at­ten­tion. It wasn’t ac­cel­er­at­ing as smoothly as nor­mal and the idle was lumpier than it had been. The brake pedal had grown soft un­der­foot and the gearshift was be­com­ing more and more re­cal­ci­trant when cold. And then the rear lower cor­ner of the hood on the driver’s side de­tached it­self from the rub­ber seal that sits just below the body­work along a two-inch sec­tion. All these things had sort of crept up on me; one day, though, I no­ticed them as one, large ugly pack­age of ne­glect and re­alised that the time had come to do some­thing about them. Es­pe­cially as the Boxster’s mileage is now gal­lop­ing along the fi­nal fur­long to­wards 100,000.

My choice of in­de­pen­dent Porsche spe­cial­ist was steered, in a small way, by a chance en­counter with an­other Boxster owner dur­ing the sum­mer. Walk­ing into town one sunny af­ter­noon, a Speed Yel­low 986 S pulled up to the kerb a few yards ahead: for a brief mo­ment I thought maybe some­one had nicked mine. A guy jumped out with a slightly dis­tressed look on his face and started to look around the car – there was a nasty, high­pitched metal­lic screech­ing noise, he told me. Could be a stone be­twixt disc and caliper, I sug­gested: punt the car for­wards and back­wards a cou­ple of times and brake hard. Screech­ing cured. So we had a lit­tle chat about Boxsters be­fore he pro­ceeded on his way, which was when he said what a great place PIE was and that I should re­ally take my car there when the next ser­vice was due.

As it hap­pens, PIE was on my list any­way. It’s not quite my lo­cal spe­cial­ist but it al­most is, and the drive down there through the Suf­folk lanes to the edge of Laven­ham is both pleas­ant and en­ter­tain­ing. Be­sides, hav­ing been there once be­fore to do a story on the place, I like the vibe that Chris Lans­bury and his team have got go­ing on – and when I spoke to Chris last time he seemed very clued up on the sub­ject of Boxsters.

Sure enough, when I ar­rived with my car there were al­ready a cou­ple of Boxsters up on the ramps – one in for an emer­gency sus­pen­sion spring re­place­ment, the other for a bit of an over­haul – and a third in a state of se­ri­ous dis­as­sem­bly. Turns out that the lat­ter is the ba­sis for PIE’S en­try into the Boxster Cham­pi­onship in 2018, which is some­thing we’ll be fol­low­ing as the car comes to­gether. While I was there I met the young guy who hopes to be driv­ing it for Chris, who turns out to own his own Boxster S.

When I’d rung to book my car in I was asked by PIE’S Frank Row­land – whose own Boxster S we fea­tured in 911&PW – what sort of ser­vice I was af­ter, big or lit­tle? The sk­in­flint in me mo­men­tar­ily won­dered if I could get by with the lat­ter, but then I re­called that dur­ing my ten­ure the car hasn’t had a ma­jor ser­vice: re­ally, it was time it had to fix that sit­u­a­tion.

PIE’S pro­ce­dure is to thor­oughly in­spect your car be­fore start­ing work on it. Watch­ing two eagle-eyed tech­ni­cians – one do­ing the shak­ing and rat­tling, prod­ding and pok­ing, the other writ­ing down all the first bloke’s ob­ser­va­tions – giv­ing my Boxster a very thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion was nerve-wrack­ing. The amount of ink be­ing used on the check­sheet caused my wal­let to shake it­self free of my pocket and start run­ning to­wards the door.

The chaps told me not to worry. That much writ­ing was fairly typ­i­cal for a 17-yearold Boxster. Just reg­u­lar wear and tear stuff. They’d com­pile a re­port later, de­tail­ing the bits that would re­quire pretty rapid at­ten­tion and those that could be put off for an­other day: but, per­haps de­tect­ing my lack­adaisi­cal out­look on main­te­nance, they in­sisted I shouldn’t leave the lat­ter for too many more days.

To my re­lief the oil emerged from the sump a very healthy hue. Not so the des­ic­cated bird – species un­recog­nis­able – pulled from the leaves and other de­tri­tus that had ac­cu­mu­lated around the front ra­di­a­tors de­spite my best ef­forts to keep the area clear. The other area I’d failed to keep clear was the drain holes in the hood’s stowage re­cess, so I was thank­ful to the Piemen for

un­bung­ing them. They also showed me the old pollen fil­ter, which had be­come a re­tire­ment home for sy­camore seeds and crushed leaves.

As I’ve men­tioned in pre­vi­ous re­ports, the Miche­lin Pi­lot Sports on the front of the Boxster had suf­fered ter­ri­bly from me not check­ing the sus­pen­sion ge­om­e­try prop­erly af­ter the car was low­ered – even though the ge­om­e­try has now been done, the Pieguys thought it pru­dent to high­light the fact that the in­side edges of the tread are get­ting worse, not bet­ter…

That, I was ex­pect­ing. The con­di­tion of the front discs, now that was a sur­prise. A sur­prise even though I was aware that the brak­ing wasn’t as crisp and ag­gres­sive as it once was. I’d sim­ply put that down to the pads be­ing tired. But while the outer faces of the front discs looked fine, the in­ner faces were cor­roded and pit­ted. Ap­par­ently the outer pads typ­i­cally bite on the discs frac­tion­ally sooner than their in­board twins, and if you’re not bold and pos­i­tive with your brak­ing then the in­side sur­face of the disc doesn’t get the full force of the pads and can there­fore suf­fer cor­ro­sion. Do I feather the brakes a lot, they asked. Ac­tu­ally, I’d al­ways fan­cied my­self as one of the last of the late brak­ers… So the cause is a mys­tery but the out­come is clear – I need new front discs and pads. To go with the new front tyres.

While the rest of the ser­vice was rou­tine stuff – mainly flu­ids and plugs – and per­formed with swift ef­fi­ciency by the Pi­eteam, the 37 item in­spec­tion sheet I was handed along with the mod­estly priced bill, re­vealed a plethora of prob­lems in wait­ing. I might have burst into tears had the guys not urged me not to be too con­cerned: they know how to look af­ter their cus­tomers in their hour of need.

Cor­ro­sion is one of the big is­sues, even if it is com­men­su­rate with my Boxster’s age and the fact that it’s used all win­ter-long. Rust has de­voured, to­tally, one of the ex­haust clamps and laid waste to the rest. It has nib­bled round the ex­haust back box’s seams and the ex­haust header bolts. Most of the brake pipes have been licked by the Red Devil’s tongue, as have the dampers, if only on their sur­faces.

And there are leaks. Lots of leaks. Mostly from seals. The mere men­tion of the three ini­tials I, M and S had me twitch­ing ner­vously, but the seep­age from its seal was marked as an ad­vi­sory. As was leak­age from the seals of the gearbox se­lec­tor, the chain ten­sioner on the num­ber one bank of cylin­ders, and both banks’ rocker cover.

Then there was wear. Largely in the sus­pen­sion de­part­ment (but also to the ig­ni­tion bar­rel). The top mounts were dry and noisy, and the pas­sen­ger-side front cof­fin arm noted as worn. The bump-stops were shot. Even the con­i­cal wash­ers on the – frankly dread­ful straight from the fac­tory – wheel nuts showed signs of de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. Dam­age was also recorded. To the front of the floor­pan. To the front split­ter. To the wind­screen and front num­ber-plate. And in ad­di­tion to the hood ma­te­rial on the driver’s side part­ing com­pany with its rub­ber seal, on the pas­sen­ger side some of the stitch­ing had come un­done.

Frankly: bloody hell! A sen­si­ble per­son would just get rid. Punt the car out at a price that re­flects the fact that it’s in far from per­fect con­di­tion. But Porsche own­er­ship can af­flict you with a sort of mad­ness. A need to pre­vail in spite of the odds. Boxster val­ues re­main in the gut­ter, so even if I sold mine there’d be a fi­nan­cial chasm to vault be­fore I could ac­quire a half-de­cent Cay­man. And be­sides which, I’ve come so far with my car that I can’t con­sign it to an un­cer­tain fu­ture: per­haps even more un­cer­tain than the one I’m likely to af­ford it.

So the plan is this – lit­tle steps. Tyres and brakes first, for safety’s sake. If any­thing else were ur­gent, PIE would have said. Then maybe the hood. No-one likes rain in­doors. Af­ter that, a mas­sive gulp, a huge in­jec­tion of cash, and a whole­sale re­place­ment of weep­ing seals that will doubt­less re­quire drop­ping the en­gine and gearbox. The seals won’t be alone in weep­ing…

At the end of the day it’s a story Boxster own­ers know so well – you can buy a Porsche for a snip, but you can’t run one on a shoe­string. But at least af­ter its ser­vice at PIE, it’s run­ning more sweetly than it’s done in a long while. PW

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