996: THE KNOWN ISSUES
One of the reasons the 996 has struggled to gain popular acclaim among 911 aficionados can be laid at the door of… the internet. Allow me to explain. Like almost all cars that have reached this age, a few common problems have manifested and while they range from easily fixed to catastrophic, the echo chamber of social media has exaggerated these to a level beyond reality. It’s nigh-on impossible to research any 996 purchase without the words ‘IMS’ and ‘bore scoring’ popping into your results. Both problems can be terminal for the much-maligned M96 motor, with fixes approaching £10k to put right.
Were you to believe the internet you’d imagine it’s inevitable your 996 engine will catastrophically fail at some point. The reality is somewhat different. For starters, as most M96-powered
996s approach 20-plus years old with mileages to match, many of the engines with problem parts will likely have failed long ago. If your potential purchase has accrued 80,000 or more miles on an original engine it’s probably one of the good ones. Class action lawsuits in the US put the failure rate well below 10 per cent, and for double-row bearing cars (in other words, later models) that figure is around one per cent.
With that in mind, the prospect of a six-figure mileage 996 doesn’t seem so scary, does it? Of course, there’s more to it than engine failure. Common faults include the air-con rads that are situated in the nose so they’re exposed to the elements; not catastrophic but easily a few hundred pounds. Another fault which can look terminal (but isn’t) is the air/oil separator – I know this well because it happened on my C4S. The result is lots of smoke under load, but rather than engine failure it just means oil inadvertently finding its way into the combustion chamber. Not a cheap fix, but £700 is better than a £10k rebuild.
So-called ‘coffin arms’ are a common item that wear out; like any car with age and mileage, suspension components will need replacing.
Not cheap (of course), but once they’re done you can forget about them. It’s not unusual for exhausts to rot through given their exposure to the elements, but again once fixed (numerous quality aftermarket solutions exist) you can put it to the back of your mind.
The interior is liable to show its age. Some of the switchgear can feel a little flimsy, but mostly it’s quite hard-wearing. As with any car, a shiny steering wheel and scuffed seat bolsters will belie usage. Glovebox and middle lid catches can fail at any time – most owners don’t care. Overall, the 996 is a well-built and reliable car, no more susceptible to problems than a similarly aged Golf. A specialist check is well worth the investment, and with a clean bill of health you can expect many miles of driving enjoyment.