Bennett cleans up his 996 to rid it of winter grime and really goes to town, even removing the wheels. The interior comes in for some attention too, as the drivers’ seat gets a leather refurb job courtesy of a Colourlock kit
Editor Bennett restores the leather in his 996 and Dep Ed, Fraser, has a new clutch and more on his Boxster
Spring has sprung and with it a desire to get on top of things, which means getting on top of 996 things. For most of the winter it remained in hibernation and every time I did take it out, on what was supposed to be a guaranteed 'dry' day, it seemed to rain, generating a swirling mist of salty spray, which meant that I had to clean the bloomin’ thing (again) and get the jet wash into all the nooks and crannies. In the end I just gave up and resolved not to drive it until winter had well and truly buggered off, which, as we know, took some time.
But eventually the time was right and out came the 996, looking not as clean as I though I'd left it and with a salty residue still clinging to the bodywork, which meant it could only be worse underneath. I knew that I needed to do a proper job and put aside a day to do it. By 'proper' I mean getting the wheels off and getting it up on axle stands. And is there a frankly more back breaking job than that, for single-handed home mechanic? F1 teams, in the heat of action, manage the task in 2.5 secs, but I reckon it took me the best part of 45mins of stooping, kneeling and generally rolling around on my back, before the thing was safely perched minus its wheels, while I recovered.
But it was worth the effort and I was able to get to work under the arches with the jet wash. It also gave me the opportunity to clean up the brake calipers and the wheel arch liners, plus the very visible hubs, all of which came up extremely well. The wheels also came in for a good spring clean. It's easy to clean the wheel face, when it’s on
the car, but the inside rim is much harder to get to, and really lets the side down, so I spent as much time there as I did on the outer, with a good coat of Swissvax wax. And when you've got shiny wheels, you also need black tyres, rather than muddy, brown ones and so I attacked my new and expensive N-rated Michelins with 303 Space Protectant, which cleans and protects rubber from UV fading and gives a very natural finish. Apparently it was developed for use on the Space Shuttle! Whatever, I've been using it for years on rubber and plastics, and it's never let me down and definitely does the job. And should my 996 ever go into space (well, you never know), then I know my plastics and rubber bits will be UV safe.
The wheels went back on with more pain and strain and I took the opportunity to replace the horrible rusty wheel studs with some smart black anodised jobs that I had picked up on ebay some time ago, on the basis that they would work well with my anthracite wheels. And they do and they were very reasonably priced, too, for what can be very expensive. And so with some more scrambling around in the gravel and dust that is my driveway, I had the car back on its wheels. Job halfway done.
I'm ashamed to say that in the three years that I've had my 996, I haven't actually polished or waxed it. I know that shortly before I bought it, it had been professionally detailed and the paintwork had been worked on to remove any swirl marks etc, before being waxed, but really it was well overdue. I'm no detailing fetishist, but I do know that the secret to a good finish is in the prep and the previous work on the paint was still standing up to close scrutiny, so I elected to clean the bodywork the traditional bucket and sponge way and then remove any remaining wax and other surface contamination with Klasse cleaner polish. I love this stuff. It's easy to use and is an allin-one solution, but it can be enhanced with a layer of good quality wax too and to this end I applied a layer of Swissvax Carnauba wax. And then I stood back, clasped my poor back, and admired my efforts. Certainly my 996 had never looked better, with a deep shine, enhanced by the possibly above the call of duty wheel, tyre and caliper and wheel arch liner detailing. Good job, too, because it was due at Silverstone a couple of days later for a starring role on the cover of Johnny Tipler's latest tome: 911 Carrera: The watercooled years, where it would line-up with a current 991 to illustrate 20-years of the modern 911.
With the exterior gleaming, a few days later I tackled the interior, or to be absolutely specific, I tackled the driver's seat. Twenty
years of jumping in and out induces wear and tear, particularly on the seat bolsters, which on Sports seats is even more pronounced, due to their enveloping nature. The Space Grey leather was dry and cracked in places, but I had a solution in the shape of a leather repair kit from German leather care outfit, Colourlock, which comes complete with the correct Porsche shade of Space Grey leather dye.
Now I dare say that you can do the job with the seat in situ, but it's always going to be easier with it out of the car, for maximum access. I mean it's not a difficult or back breaking job to man handle a heavy, awkwardly shaped, electrically adjustable seat through the small hole of the open door... But I'm getting ahead of myself.
With full confidence in my tool kit, which I've diligently built up over the years, I removed the plastic covers and the ends of each seat runner to reveal the fixings. Expecting a conventional 13mm head, or an Allen fixing of some sort, I was surprised to discover some sort of star-shaped bolt head. Great! I don't have anything even close, so it was into the car, into town (for the second time that day) and into my local motor factors, where (somewhat begrudgingly) I purchased a set of suitable sockets. Then, returning to my 996, I spotted a distinctly saggy looking nearside rear tyre. Clearly punctured, I limped it to the nearest tyre centre, where they discovered a ruddy great nail in the centre of the tread. Fortunately for my wallet, they managed to fix it with a rubber bung. Phew...
So, two hours later and the seat is finally out and sitting on my Workmate, and I'm pondering a selection of lotions and potions. Colourlock obviously supply perfectly adequate instructions, and there's some very handy tutorials online to gen up with, too.
As ever it's all about the prep and getting the leather ready for the dye. Colour lock supply a mild foam leather cleaning solution, which is sponged on, followed by a leather cleaning spirit, which removes any grease, wax and silicone. With the leather squeaky clean, there is the slightly disconcerting step of taking a sanding pad to the seat to slightly roughen the surface, so that it absorbs the dye, which of course is the fun bit and certainly the most satisfying procedure.
Applied with a sponge, the dye is wiped and dabbed on to achieve a good covering and create a textured effect. I worked on a panel at a time and Colourlock recommend drying each layer with a hairdryer on a low heat setting. I probably applied four layers to build a good solid colour base and I was absolutely delighted with the transformative result and the colour match is perfect, too. Final procedure, after leaving the seat for 12hours, is to use Colourlock leather protector to protect from UV fading. Overall the seat has shrugged off 20-years of wear and tear, and the leather is back to its smooth and soft best, rather than dried out. And that, of course, is the beauty of leather. It is endlessly repairable and while I didn't need them, the kit also includes the necessary intructions and products for filling cracks and even holes and again it's worth looking at the online tutorials to see how this is done. Price for my kit was £80 and, while I've only done my driver's seat, there is enough product to easily do a whole interior at least twice over.
Needless to say, putting the seat back in was as awkward as removing it, but it was absolutely worth it. My 996 has never looked better and while there are still other issues to attend to, its spring clean has given me a certain pride in its appearance, plus a 'job well done' satisfaction, which should keep me going while I ponder my next move...
Top: Bennett’s 996 makes a guest appearance in cover shoot for Johnny Tipler’s new book on the modern watercooled 911 Carrera generation. Left: Spring cleaning
Wheels off. Is there a more back breaking job for the home mechanic? Worth it though to really get under the arches, plus clean up the brake calipers, hubs and the wheels, too
Below: The full Colourlock kit includes everything required to repair and re-colour your leather, including correct shade of Porsche Space Grey leather dye
Below left to right: Roughen the leather slightly with sanding pad. Correct shade of Space Grey leather dye is applied with a foam pad. Dry with a hair dryer between coats. Finished seat is transformed
Left to right: For maximum seat access, it’s best to fully remove the seat from the car. Wear and tear can be clearly seen on the bolsters. Procedure starts with mild foam cleaner