BOXSTER GETS TYRES AND BRAKES

Af­ter a pe­riod of wil­ful ne­glect, Dep Ed Brett’s Boxster is get­ting the me­chan­i­cal love that it de­serves. First up it’s the safety items like tyres and brakes, the lat­ter not helped by a seized brake pipe fix­ing on the caliper

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Last month’s ma­jor ser­vice at PIE Per­for­mance re­vealed the ex­tent of my ne­glect of the poor old Boxster. Lots of weep­ing seals and cor­roded parts and clonky sus­pen­sion com­po­nents. Most of it was stuff of lit­tle im­me­di­ate con­cern: the front discs and tyres, well, they were a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. They were marked up as re­quir­ing ‘im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion’. Can’t ar­gue with a di­rec­tive that ex­plicit.

So for once I didn’t. But which to at­tend to first? Prob­a­bly the tyres, as they were more likely to up­set my re­la­tion­ship with the lo­cal con­stab­u­lary. So new brake discs it is, then…

Ac­tu­ally it was mere chance that was the way it panned out. I’d asked 911&PW’S ad man­ager, James Stainer, if he could rec­om­mend a good source of discs and pads. Her­itage Parts Cen­tre ( her­itageparts­cen­tre.com), he sug­gested. Rang a bell. And then I re­called that the bell was chim­ing for Volk­swa­gen parts. VW Her­itage Parts. Had checked out the web­site sev­eral times for my VW Bay Win­dow Camper. Hadn’t no­ticed Porsche bits and pieces. Turns out that’s be­cause Her­itage Parts’ Stuttgart pro­cliv­i­ties are a rel­a­tively fresh en­ter­prise. But an ac­tiv­ity that makes sense. There’s some cross­over of parts be­tween the Ger­man soul­mates. Cer­tainly back in Porsche’s be­gin­ning. And def­i­nitely now that Porsche is part of the Volk­swa­gen Group. Also help­ing was that a few mem­bers of VW Her­itage’s team had ac­quired Porsches of their own – what bet­ter way to keep them run­ning than es­tab­lish­ing your own parts com­pany…

Turn­around from or­der­ing was im­pres­sively swift with email up­dates as to how things were mov­ing along. I’d or­dered a pair of ven­ti­lated and cross-drilled front discs com­plete with pads and wear in­di­ca­tors and they ar­rived within a cou­ple of days. And as the or­der was over £35 there was free UK de­liv­ery.

Next I needed to find some­one to fit

them. Al­though I can, at least, iden­tify the use­ful end of a ham­mer from the han­dle, my work­shop skills are very, very ba­sic. By chance, Michael Clev­er­ley of Clev­er­ley Re­paired Cars – who Editor Ben­nett uses to fet­tle his 996, and both of us rely on for tech­ni­cal ad­vice on an­other CHP mag we work on, To­tal MX-5 – had a gap in his oth­er­wise rammed sched­ule. Michael has pre­vi­ously sorted out the sus­pen­sion ge­om­e­try on my car as a means to al­le­vi­ate the chronic front tyre wear, so I was happy he could at­tend to the brakes, not least be­cause he’s a metic­u­lous en­gi­neer, and also be­cause he likes my car.

With the front wheels off he com­forted me by say­ing that if you sim­ply looked at the out­side faces of the discs there’d be no rea­son for think­ing there was any­thing awry. But with the Boxster up on the ramp there was the chance to look at the in­ner faces and they were, well, chewed up and skanky. PIE’S shout of ‘get ’em out’ was on the money. Not that it was so sim­ple…

The driver’s side caliper had a re­cal­ci­trant bolt that re­quired a dous­ing of old en­gine oil to free up be­fore it could be re­moved from the car. Then the cor­roded brake pipe sheared off, leav­ing its threaded fix­ing com­po­nent em­bed­ded in the caliper. For­tu­nately Michael had what I would call a ‘top­i­cal’ heat gun – a metal coil that heats up and can be ap­plied to a very lo­calised area, such as around a stub­born stub of bro­ken brake pipe – that helped con­vince the stick­ing thread to get twirling loose. He was then able to fash­ion a new brake pipe from cop­per tub­ing and at­tach it to the freshly re­leased fix­ture, ready for re­assem­bly.

Af­ter that mi­nor – by Michael’s stan­dards – hic­cough, the driver’s side (new) disc and caliper re­fit was a dod­dle. Re­mov­ing its near­side twin was far less prob­lem­atic, al­though Michael in­sisted on fab­ri­cat­ing a new brake fluid pipe for this side, too, that I vaguely re­call might have been an advisory on the last MOT. Re­gard­less, I’m glad that it was done. As I write this I’ve been bed­ding in the new discs and pads so can’t vouch for their emer­gency ef­fi­cacy, but what I can say is that the brake pedal is now an in­stru­ment that in­spires prompt con­fi­dence, where pre­vi­ously it was slightly numb.

I’m curs­ing my own ig­no­rance for the con­di­tion of the Boxster’s front Miche­lin Pi­lot Sports. When I had the Eibach low­er­ing springs fit­ted I kept a very keen eye on the rear tyres be­cause as the sus­pen­sion dropped, their cam­ber an­gle ap­peared to change the most. And yet over the miles they seemed fine. But then at the last MOT the advisory on the fronts in­sisted they were barely le­gal for tread depth. Didn’t see that com­ing.

But – damn – the fronts were grim. Al­most like those mo­tor­sport or track­day spe­cials where part of the tyre is slick and the rest deeply treaded for all-weather per­for­mance. Ex­cept that in this in­stance the slick bit wasn’t by de­sign but was po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous. As in, you’ll soon be through to the car­cass con­struc­tion. As in, crap…

With lots of life left in the rear Miche­lin Pi­lot Sports, some more of the same made per­fect sense on the front, par­tic­u­larly as even when badly com­pro­mised they’d up­held their end of the front end grip agree­ment. A pair of 205/50 ZR17S were duly or­dered, to be fit­ted by my long-term friends at Tread­first Tyres in Diss, Nor­folk. I like Tread­first be­cause they’re car en­thu­si­asts as well as tyre fit­ters, so they take ex­tra-spe­cial care of cars that de­serve it. Even my Boxster… Fit­ting was quick ‘n’ slick and within the hour I was back out the door, full-width tread re­stored.

There’s been no time be­fore writ­ing this re­port to fully bed in ei­ther the tyres or brake discs and pads, but the process is in hand. Even so, the fact that the crit­i­cal el­e­ments of the Boxster’s front-end hard­ware are now in rude health has given me fresh con­fi­dence in the car, an up­date on which you can read next time around.

Mean­while I shall be check­ing out if it’s re­pair or re­place time for the gen­tly leak­ing front cen­tral ra­di­a­tor, as re­ported on PIE’S List of Stuff You Should Re­ally Sort Out Soon that came along with the ser­vic­ing in­voice. I’m keen for that to be the next job on the car, as I plan in the not too dis­tant fu­ture to try Evans Wa­ter­less Coolant: it’s rel­a­tively costly stuff, so I’d pre­fer it stays within the cool­ing sys­tem and not drip­ping out on to my drive­way.

New front Miche­lin rubber be­ing fit­ted to Brett’s Boxster

Be­low left: New discs should re­store brak­ing ef­fi­ciency. Be­low: Brake pipe sheared from caliper. Re­main­ing seized fix­ing re­moved us­ing neat heat gun, which can be ap­plied to lo­calised area

Above left: Not pretty! The in­side face of the front brake disc. This is not un­usual on a mod­ern Boxster or 911. Above: New brake pipe fab­ri­cated

Be­low left: In­side of front Miche­lin barely le­gal. New Miche­lin front (be­low) should be safe from a sim­i­lar fate thanks to cam­ber align­ment

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