BOXSTER GETS AN OVERDUE SERVICE
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
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