By on November 7, 2008

Are you aware of the appalling rate of Boxster engine failures, which I’m only now becoming aware of through participation in some Boxster forums? Some estimates (Bruce Anderson, for one) are that 20 percent of Boxster engines don’t make it past 100,000 miles witout a catastrophic failure. The standard failure is what the cognoscenti universally refer to as the IMS–the intermediate shaft. It’s apparently bolted together, and the bolts fail, then everything internal claps hands and you’re looking at a replacement crate engine. I’m hoping the fact that Susan never revs past maybe 4,000 will spare us, but I’d be careful if I were you. There was a recent Porsche Club event that 11 Boxsters participated in. One had an IMS failure during the event and two of the other Boxsters participating had previously had their engines replaced due to IMS failures. Three out of 11 equals 27 percent. It’s a quiet secret within the Porsche community, and there are reasonably knowledgeable people who claim these engines were built as cheapies to get through the warranty period unscathed–which the apparently often don’t–and that PAG hasn’t the faintest interest in second, third and fourth owners. And they used to say the entry-level Porsche was a used Porsche.

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97 Comments on “Porsche Boxster Engine Failures Mount...”


  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    That’s what made GM the company it is today.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    You guys didn’t know about this?

    This is one of the three or four known failure modes on the Boxster motors.

    Rear Main Seal. Piston bores coming apart. The IMS. One more that I’m forgetting.

    Very nice cars. It’s just evident that these cars are built to a price point, whereas the older Porsches were not.

  • avatar
    JeremyR

    There’s no “rumor” about this. Porsche Pete’s Boxster Board is awash in IMS-related discussion much of the time. Several members have experienced IMS failure (one of them twice), and some have left the Porsche brand because of it.

    Only Porsche knows for sure what the failure rate is, and they’re not talking. Anecdotally, most engines that do fail, do so before 50K miles. The factory warranty (in the US, anyway) is 4 years/50K miles, but many owners don’t put anywhere near 50K on their Porsches in 4 years, so a lot of failures happen out of warranty.

    Porsche sometimes steps in and helps out with engine replacements for cars that are out of warranty, but they are not consistent about this, and even under a “cost-sharing” arrangement, the hapless owner can still be on the hook for thousands of dollars. If Porsche doesn’t help at all, one is looking at around $15K for a replacement engine, give or take, which is nearly what some older Boxsters are worth.

    The IMS failure isn’t limited to the Boxsters, either–Caymans, 996s and 997’s share the same “M96″ engine. The model year 2009 911 features a all-new engine which does not have an IMS; this engine will eventually find its way into Boxsters and Caymans as well. But besides that, Porsche apparently has no plans to address this design defect.

    As the relatively new owner of a 2005 Boxster (with lots of miles to go before 50K), I’m a little concerned about this myself, although I knew of the potential for a failure before buying the car. If my engine suffers a catastrophic failure before the warranty expires next year, I’m not sure what I’ll do, but it certainly would tarnish my opinion of the Porsche brand.

    But until that happens, the car is simply a blast to drive! So I try not to worry about it too much…

    • 0 avatar
      jdscoco

      I have a 2004 Boxster with 58,000 miles and have taken great care of it. I just had a major engine failure and was told by the dealer that the engine needs to be replaced. This all began with a check engine light coming on and 2 seconds later everyting shut down on the freeway at about 65 MPH. It appeared that the engine was on fire.

      When I asked if it was an IMS failure, I was told “probably not”, but an additional $3500 would be required to dig deeper to find out what went wrong. I was told, after a $165 fee to diagnose the problem, that there was coolant and oil in the exaust and the thought was that the wall of a cylinder slipped causing the engine failure. Bent rods, blown piston etc. $15,000 replacement engine for a car worth less. I am appauled and will fight this with Porsche. What the hell do I do now?

    • 0 avatar
      Dtw808

      Good luck to you. I just had the same problem that some Boxsters owners have been complaining about. I now must decide if I want to spend $15K to fix the 2005 “lemon”.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Yeah, Porsche Pete is where I learned about it too, and the reason I referred to it as a rumor–probably the wrong word–is that I thought I was a Porsche guy, what with a 911 track car and constant participation on the Pelican board as well as a Boxster (2004), is that I’d never heard about it.

    And yes, of course you’re right, the M96 is not Boxster-specific. I’m delighted that The Farago has opened this container of wiggles.

    But I coulda sworn my warranty was three years/30,000 miles, which I thought I’d checked recently due to a weird ignition failure. I’ll look again…

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Didn’t Porsche have a lot of engine block oil porosity problems with Boxster engines as well? This kind of stuff is bad news for Porsche. Can’t blame hard use for oil leaking out of what is supposed to be solid alloy. Oh, well, even if this engine hs a shorter life than a first gen Quad 4, at least it’s fun while it lasts…I think Motor Trend stated that Porsche was readily and willing to replace engines…

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I was scared away from used boxster. Not just that engine, but the whole dealer maintenance thing. I work on my clean low mile Miata myself, and its not serious money at all. Miatais more engaging as an overall car experience, since I like to be able to work on the car myself.

  • avatar
    troonbop

    That’s what you get for buying a reworked Kharmann Ghia.
    (Ssve the flames, I’m just jealous. Although the engine failure has made me feel better.)

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Makes me glad I bought a Corvette instead. I was this close to getting a Boxster or Cayman too

  • avatar
    jaje

    I’ve owned many Porsche’s over the years and currently race in a spec series in one. The IMS is not the only problem as the rear main seal often leaks. The mating on the block where it mounts is not exactly perfectly level making the fact that installing the rear main seal much harder job to do it perfectly.

    To make this more alarming it is not just centered on the 986/987 Porsche’s but also the 996 and 997 911s have these same failures. Ever note that the early 996s (99-03) are actually now much cheaper than a comparable 993 (94-98).

    For the 996 and 986 Porsche outsourced the engine design to an unknown party and partially built there – Porsche is very tight lipped on this fact. They then brought in Honda to help improve their production efficiency and quality capabilities. Quality went up through the roof and their profit margins skyrocketed leaving them the funds to design the Cayenne and now purchase VW. Porsche though has quietly kept these engine failures a secret for a long time – well unless you owned a Porsche and talked to others.

    If you look at it this way – a crate 3.4 engine is $14k installed by the dealer. Make sure you have a CPO and you will be fine.

  • avatar
    Morea

    For the 996 and 986 Porsche outsourced the engine design to an unknown party and partially built there

    They then brought in Honda to help improve their production efficiency and quality capabilities.

    The story gets curiouser and curioser.

    Dyson Racing also dropped the Porsche RS Spyder and instead will race another marque (Acura?) in ALMS.

  • avatar

    Well this is disappointing. Glad I bought an S2000 instead, mostly because the insurance on anything Porsche is 3X’s as anything not…

  • avatar

    That’s okay, I always preferred the 993 911 and the 928 anyway. :)

    There are a lot of cars with undeserved good reputations. Toyotas/Lexi with 3.0L V6s come to mind (rampant engine sludge problems that Toyota refuses to acknowledge).

  • avatar
    Cerbera LM

    Dyson Racing also dropped the Porsche RS Spyder and instead will race another marque (Acura?) in ALMS.

    Penske will not be racing the Spyder next year since he’s going turtle racing in Grand Am. Dyson will likely be racing a Mazda.

  • avatar
    onerareviper

    OK. Now I’m concerned… I was hoping to pick up a slightly used 2005 Boxster S. So let me be clear in my question. This is a concern for EVERY Porsche Boxster ever made (up to 2009), correct?

  • avatar
    schadenfred

    Guessing they outsourced this design to Harley. Ah, too bad, another dream deferred (Cayman).

  • avatar
    JeremyR

    golden2husky, it’s not so much “bad news” for Porsche so far, as they seem to still be making money hand-over-fist. Yes, there are some who have left the marque, but until buyers stay away in droves (which I don’t see happening), Porsche has no reason to address the issue.

    BlueBrat, my insurance premium for my 2005 Outback 2.5 XT is (slightly) higher than that for my 2005 Boxster. YMMV of course.

    onerareviper, all Boxsters except the very earliest (1997 and maybe 1998) are potential IMS victims, as are all Caymans and all type-996 and type-997 911’s (except the aforementioned 2009’s). But the early cars have their share of problems such as slipped cylinder sleeves and rear main seals (which seem to be less of an issue in the later cars).

    Anyway, in my opinion Porsche forfeits any bragging rights to “engineering prowess” as long as they fail to put their money where their mouth is and address this obvious design issue. In the meantime I’ll continue to try to enjoy my “borrowed time”!

  • avatar
    phaphaphooey

    Is this Stephan from PPBB? I had no idea you wrote here. I mainly participate on Rennlist and 6speed but as a 986 owner I got my start on PPBB and remember your name from there I believe. Are you aware that the early 3.4 996 cars (99-01) have a similar, if not higher rate of failure? It seems as though everyday a new “I need a new engine” thread is posted on Rennlist. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why those early 996 cars have become so cheap.

    Also, for the record, my 986 is at 63xxx miles and still kicking. RMS leaks slowly and my top transmission is broken right now but otherwise it has been and continues to be a delightful car.

  • avatar
    onerareviper

    JeremyR :
    November 7th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    onerareviper, all Boxsters except the very earliest (1997 and maybe 1998) are potential IMS victims, as are all Caymans and all type-996 and type-997 911’s (except the aforementioned 2009’s). But the early cars have their share of problems such as slipped cylinder sleeves and rear main seals (which seem to be less of an issue in the later cars).

    THANKS! I knew about the rear main seals in the older models, but I had no clue of this IMS. If/When I purchase a 2005, I’ll be sure it’s still covered under the factory warranty or gets extended (CPO). What I find interesting is most buyers of Boxsters typically don’t drive them hard (IMHO). You don’t see them at the track too often, and many drivers ‘appear’ to buy them on price/looks. Of course I’m making a judgement on people I don’t know… None-the-less, that type of failure rate on a car that is not ‘typically’ raced is CRAZY!!!

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Perhaps TTAC should have a new feature: “Known Fact of the Day”

  • avatar
    jaje

    A very good friend of mine is a Porsche mechanic and the IMS still occurs even in the 997s and 987s. But it is not as common as everyone things but the early 996s were atrocious for such (I’d say it was > 20% failure for them – even on replaced engines!)

    I love my Porsche’s and you honestly get what you pay for. My favorite track rats are 944s, 968s and Boxster / Cayman. They are honestly some of best cars to drive with 50/50 weight distribution and the ability to drive them to the limit and survive. The 911 is fast…and in the hands of a professional driver one of the fastest cars out there – but they can bite you in the ass faster than you can imagine and when I have a student in a 911 – I have them more slowly approach higher speeds than I do in other cars.

  • avatar
    jet_silver

    Blundering onto Porsche Pete’s scotched my plan to pick up a 2007 Cayman. I’ve wanted one ever since it came out. Now… I’ll wait until the engines are fixed. Warranties are no substitute for good engineering.

  • avatar

    You German car owners have no idea…

    Try owning a 40+ year old Jaguar! Your rear main seal against mine any day of the week! I bet you a new cayman I’ll lose. Quitcherbitchin and thank $Diety you don’t have Lucas to contend with as well! Just add oil and keep driving. HARD! DRIVE IT HARD!

    –chuck
    (kids today…I swear. They just need perspective.)

  • avatar
    Qusus

    I love that whenever a marketed “premium” product is shown to have some cost cutting/engineering shortcomings/defects, no one thinks that this in any way a poor reflection on their products. If anything, it just adds to the value.

    I mean, can you IMAGINE what the response would be from enthusiast community if an American sports car like the Corvette or Mustang were to have a similar problem?

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Corvettes and Mustangs have much worse problems. Like the fact that they are Corvettes and Mustangs.

  • avatar
    Samir

    Scary… in a couple of years time I’m looking at a Vette or a Boxster (if all goes well). Old Vettes (even C5’s) seem to age very well. Porsche used to be the car you can drive every day~!

  • avatar
    JJ

    Perhaps that is one of the reasons why those early 996 cars have become so cheap.

    I think the main reason for that is the ‘Spiegelei’ headlights. The 996, especially the early ones, are the ugliest ‘elfers’ out there together with the 964 (90-93).

    By comparison, the 993, was one of the best looking ones, and it was the last air-cooled one, and it has a relatively limited production run (the 996 was already on offer come 97).

    Interesting stuff about the engine design being outsourced though, and obviously Porsche has fallen a long way. I remember in older TüV reports the 911 always used to win reliability contests for cars of 9 years and older. I guess I was about 10 at that time so they would have been talking about the 964s/911/930s(?). Which is fine for me. I’ll take one from just before the 964 was launched with aircon and the G50 gearbox.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s just evident that these cars are built to a price point, whereas the older Porsches were not.

    That’s actually insulting. Honda (and I used Honda as an example because Toyota** doesn’t build the MR2 anymore and the Miata lives a less-stressed life) can build an engine that puts out similar power levels and doesn’t self-destruct, yet their “price point” is much lower than Porsche’s, I’m sure.

    A company that charges–base–more than Honda charges for it’s top-end S2000, with options that can double MSRP, and is reportedly “the most profitable car company in the world” can damn well engineer a car that won’t fail. Price point, my ass: Porsche’s price is high enough that they can damn well build a good car.

    One of the reasons I like cars like th Corvette, NSX and Ford GT is that they demonstrate to the (spit) storied marques of Europe that you can build a performance car without it being a mechanical princess: the original NSX scared the hell out of Ferrari and Lamborghini, and they’re a better company for it. I hope someone like Honda or Mazda takes Porsche down a peg in the near future.

    ** Hey, Porsche, how’s the Toyota 2ZZ-GE in the Elise and Exige holding up?

  • avatar
    jademat

    Blundering onto Porsche Pete’s scotched my plan to pick up a 2007 Cayman. I’ve wanted one ever since it came out. Now… I’ll wait until the engines are fixed. Warranties are no substitute for good engineering.

    I had the same situation. All ready to buy an 04/05 Boxster S this past August after being a BMW fan for years. But, I kept seeing comments about IMS failures on Rennlist, then found the thread on the failures on PPBB. While I understand that the Internet attracts reports of problems, it is abundantly clear to me that the IMS issue is not an overblown, isolated issue. We will never know the exact percentage of failures, but it is too large for me. Though I would have purchased as CPO, I really don’t want to start every drive wondering if this is “the one”. Plus, I would not own a Boxster out of warranty.

    No two ways about it – this is just poor engineering. I believe that too many folks are drinking Porsche’s kool-aid and not raising enough hell about this – so Porsche gets away with it.

    I ended up with another BMW Z4 3.0si – which I love.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Ah yes, bring back the 944 and the 968. Another problem appears to be cracked blocks on 911s – across the board.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Kevin Kluttz :

    As much as I like the Boxster/Cayman (the 911 in all iterations is ugly and extremely overpriced in my opinion), I wouldn’t say the Corvette has a ‘problem’ when it takes a 911GT3 at twice the price to beat the performance of the base Corvette. The Carrera and Carrera S can’t even match the base ‘Vette’s performance, despite costing about 50% more. I’ve also put about 43,000 miles on my Vette in the past 2 years and I have no concerns about the engine failing any time soon. Not to mention the Vette looks better (subjective), gets better mileage, etc.

    Not to throw the thread off topic, but I had to come to my car’s defense

  • avatar
    jaje

    psarhjinian – please note that the 1.8 liter engines (code: 1ZZ-FE [GT] and 2ZZ-GE [GT-S] – the latter which is used in the Elise – Toyota sold these at a substantially reduced rate as Lotus was looking at an Integra Type R engine) were designed and originally built by Yamaha.

    thetopdog – As for the age old Vette versus 911 debate – for an amateur a Corvette is much easier to drive as understeer is much easier to control so it seems faster – but put a good driver who has learned how to drive a 911 and a stock Vette and 911 performance is about even (if you race you’ll find that some tracks will be favorable to certain platforms over others). A base Vette will get slaughtered against a GT3 and will not be as fast as Carerra S. Whoever told you that a base Vette is substantially faster than a base 911 is wrong or just plain biased – which is what you find with Vette versus 911 arguments.

    As for those who are “scared” or uncertain of buying a Boxster or Cayman. They are quite reliable and very, very fun to drive. Porsche does need to own up to this problem and they have the profit margins on those sales to do so. As with today’s modern society if you admit fault (a.k.a. be honest up front) you get much more bad press than if you quietly maintained the problem (see Ford and their cruise control fire issues on 16m cars) and hope it goes away with time and doesn’t too much damage.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Shhh…foreign cars never ever have engineering deficiencies or ever break for that matter…I thought you folks knew that better than anyone else!

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    IMS failure picture here.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    good point about NSX.

    They are out there, clean low mile for a few ten thousand $. I am OK never owning the Boxster S, the NXS would be the way to go.

    Although I would likely be happy with 356B.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Let’s not have this thread go the way of the GT2 vs. Nissan GT-R at the Nürburgring (or worse, Republicans vs. Democrats): just a he-said she-said borefest.

    The questions is, How did Porsche allow this to happen?

    1) Bean counters overruled engineers? (a la GM)
    2) Porsche engineers are overworked and let this one slip by? (or, horrors, Porsche engineers are not as good as Honda engineers!)
    3) Management was so busy with the Cayenne it took its eye off the ball? (And with the energy that went into the VW purchase are we to expect Porsche engineering failures in its more recent designs?)
    4) Is it a manufacturing error (not a design failure) meaning that you can’t make good cars in Europe? (And who made these engines, Porsche or a contractor?)
    5) Is this the seed of a Porsche Death Watch (poor Porsche reliability; unattractive performance/cost ratio; higher than traditional depreciation; massive losses at VW/Audi (in the near future?)).

  • avatar
    dolo54

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve had “used Boxster” on my want list for a while. Good to know.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    I can understand that a design/manufacturing flaw or assembly error can be made by most any marque. What I don’t understand is that they play the statistics game with their customers. Hoping that the claims and bad publicity will be less than the cost of owning up and fixing them all. Sometimes, in the name of safety, they are forced to if they haven’t owned up already. Sometimes.

    Many of us can name examples where the customer has been forced to eat that error: C5 Corvettes with their column-lock fiasco, Toyota with their engine sludge, Audi with their A8 suspension bushings, Land Rover and the LR3’s suspension/Goodyear tire wear, and on and on.

    The end result is that people who have been burned will likely ditch that brand for another. I hope Porsche feels the heat. It’s not as if we’re talking a failed sun visor bracket here. And Jesus, $14K for an engine replacement? Are they not valuing the old one at all? How about one that doesn’t crap itself on the garage floor in the first place.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I’ve heard about the RMS leaks for years. I’m amazed Porsche hasn’t grabbed this (and the IMS fault) by the horns and re-engineered them. After all, isn’t their USP that they are, first and foremost, an engineering company; and that they have been refining and improving that pancake 6 over decades? And what makes any owner (or potential buyer) think that a new crate motor isn’t gonna fail again @ 50K?? Pathetic!

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    Stephan,

    Thanks for sharing this information. Perhaps this is why used Boxsters can be had so very cheaply, even with very low miles. It seems that Porsche doesn’t care so much for their customers.

    This is all the more reason to buy a used Z3-M instead. (Also because the BMW will eat the Boxster alive).

    The saddest part is that Porsche does not want to admit an engineering/design failure. This reminds me of their stubborn insistence on NOT using head gaskets in the old 911. This is why I will never buy a Porsche but will buy BMW or MB instead.

    Here is a true story. About four years ago I had a 1995 MB E320 with 110K. When I took the car to the dealer to replace the head gasket due to an oil leak, they damaged the wiring harness when removing the head. The service manager explained that the insulation on the harness gets brittle with age and heat. He said it was a common failure. A new harness was over $1000. To make a long story short, MB sent the dealer a brand new harness. It cost me nothing. That is why I will happily buy MB.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    I love the new failure picture. There appear to be broken pieces of crankcase in the bottom of the photo. There must’ve been some pretty good flailing around inside that engine to do that. That sucker must’ve been loud when it blew !. It reminds me of a lawnmower engine that I saw that broke it’s connecting rod and knocked a 4″ hole in the engine block.

  • avatar
    Nickatnyt

    Mercedes? Only pre-2000 thanks. I pity the poor fools who own any made after 1999.

    My first Porsche drive was a 2000 Boxster. I swore I would someday own one, but I opted for a cheaper 82SC 911. Not sure if I made the right choice financially, but I sure feel better about it now then I did before reading about the Boxster motors here on TTAC!

  • avatar
    blowfish

    My bro has 2005 Porsche the water cool job.
    Some how the crank shaft broke according to him, perhaps is the Intermediate shaft.
    Feel like a klutz but have to ask the best & brightest what does the Intermediate shaft does?
    Is not bringing the power though, is it one of those that spins double the speed to make it run smoother than a baby’s bum?

    TIA

    I have seen the odd Boxster even dropped to low 10 grand here on Vancouver Craigslist, wonder what the owner knew & we dont?
    Not that i have the mulla in a hurry to buy one.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    No, what you’re thinking of is a “balance shaft,” to cancel out typical four-cylinder vibrations. The intermediate shaft is driven through a bevel gear by the crankshaft and carries sprockets that drive the camshafts, via chains. On an air-cooled 911 engine, which is what I’m mostly familiar with, it also drives the oil pump. Dunno what it does (other than drive the cams) on the water-cooled engines.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    jaje :

    There have been several tests done with professional drivers over the past few years that have had base Vettes finishing well ahead of 911s on various tracks. Off the top of my head, the base Corvette beat a 911 turbo around VIR in Car and Driver’s lightening lap last year. It came pretty close to the GT3’s time as well, and the GT3 was riding on R-compound Michelin Pilot Sport Cups as opposed to the garbage Goodyear runflats on the Vette

    Again, not trying to be a magazine racer or throw the thread off-topic, but I have to correct erroneous statements when i see them

  • avatar
    Morea

    On an air-cooled 911 engine

    So Porsche has past experience with such a design that, I assume, was not known for failures. Curiouser and Curiouser.

    Looking at the photo, it seems that a shaft of that length supported only at the ends would be susceptible to vibrations that would destroy the bearings (even if it were going only at 1/2 crank speed). The large diameter and the fact that it is (likely) hollow would help some. Note that the crank shaft and cam shafts would be supported along their length at several places, although the forces on them would be vastly different of course. Why no bearing at the center of the intermediate shaft? Cost cutting?

  • avatar
    Balr14

    Many thanks, TTAC! I’ve been seriously shopping for a used Boxster. I was torn between that and a Solstice turbo. So, my choices seem to be a car that’s likely to have a $14k engine meltdown or one from a defunct company where I won’t be able to get any parts at all, in a few years.

    I always thought the NSX was overpriced and had very dated styling, but it’s starting to look real attractive.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Balr14, in this day and age you can still get replacement parts for 1950’s Chevys as well as Studebakers and AMC’s.

    So long as there’s money to made with parts, you will easily be able to get what you need for the Solstice.

  • avatar
    jaje

    thetopdog: so you are taking magazine tests as your proof of a base vette is faster than a C2, C4 and 997TT / 996TT? Using a magazines tests really doesn’t prove me erroneous. If they ran VIR full course – which I have driven several times – it has some very, very long straights – nice smooth corners (except Turn 1) where the Vette does have an advantage and can make up time. Take all those same cars and test at a different track such as Lime Rock Park or Road Atlanta and things change. As taking one incidence of proof from a magazine that one car is faster than another is really not proof.

    I’ll also let a fact be very well known. A 911 is something entirely different animal and takes a special knowledge and talented driver to really drive them. The old adage is nothing is faster than a 911 and nothing is harder to driver fast than a 911.

    Don’t get me wrong – a stock Vette is a very nice car and very fast. With a good driver they are very quick. A stock 911 is just as quick and it widely depends on the track and driver – they can make a very, very large difference.

  • avatar
    carnick

    I owned a 2006 Porsche Boxster S for 2½ years, and recently sold it and bought a Honda S2000. I sold the Boxster because of the looming problem of IMS. I personally am done with German cars, at least new(er) ones, pretty much anything German built since about the late 1990’s onward.

    The Boxster is an absolute blast to drive, as are all Porsche cars. There’s nothing like a mid-engine car and its low polar moment of inertia for phenomenally neutral handling. But, while I loved driving it, owning it was a different experience than a half hour test drive. It is a great combination of performance and luxury. However, Porsche has also done a fantastic job of marketing itself over the years. The company has set standards for skillful product placement. So many movies and television shows have Porsches in them whenever “upscale, affluent” lifestyles or “beautiful people” are depicted. Porsche itself now touts the “Porsche lifestyle” in their marketing, just like BMW. Their efforts have been phenomenally successful. Most people think “Porsche” when they think “upscale” car, or “upscale” lifestyle. Just like the cigarette advertising of the second half of this century, a whole generation – us – now has Porsche successfully branded on our psyches as the “it” car to have. Most people that are – or want to be – “upscale” want to have a Porsche (BMW has been even more aggressive with brand image marketing, maybe Porsche gets the silver medal to BMW’s gold in this regard).

    For many years Porsches richly deserved that reputation. The 911, which started the whole legend, was for decades fun to drive, beautifully engineered, and reliable, the standard by which all others were judged. There has never been anything else like it. I’ve owned several air-cooled Porsches before the Boxster, starting with the 356. The last one I had was a 1990’s 964 series 911, one of the later air cooled ones, and will always regret selling it. Unfortunately (IMHO), Porsches today have morphed into a different animal. After years of aggressive marketing, Porsche is now focused on maximizing profits.

    Think about this: Porsche’s company mottos in the past used to be “Excellence is expected”, or “There is no substitute”. For the past 10 years, ever since the introduction of water cooled Porsches, the official company motto is now “The most profitable car company in the world”. The IMS issue is what you get when a company – and its CEO – are focused on maximizing short-term profit, no matter what.

    If you take a close, critical, objective look at the Boxster, it is apparent that the company has gone through it with a fine toothed comb looking for ways to cut costs. They clearly looked at everything and asked, “will people still buy it for the same price if we do this”? The Boxster doesn’t even have a limited slip differential, which is shameful in any sports car (but then, the mall profiling crowd will never know the difference). It even lacks an oil dipstick, instead using an electronic oil measuring system (might seem cool at first, but it’s a lot more straightforward, and reliable, to just pull out a dipstick and see the oil level and condition). Save $5 here and $10 there, the next thing you know, it’s $1,000 more profit per unit, an impressive accomplishment in the razor-thin margins of the automobile industry – and you’re on your way to becoming the ‘most profitable car company in the world’.

    People may poke fun at crudeness of Mustangs or the rattles of a Hyundai, but even in a $12,000 Korean car you can reasonably expect the engine to last 100,000 miles if it is given a modicum of care. In this day and age, when reliability is expected, selling any car, especially a $60,000 one, where 10% to 20% of engines can fail at any time, without warning, is reprehensible and completely unacceptable. Think about how people would react if 10%-20% of Toyota or even GM engines would fail unpredictably. People would take to the streets with torches and pitchforks like the villagers heading for Frankenstein’s castle.

    In addition to the appalling IMS design flaw, there were other a few other things that ultimately I just couldn’t stand about the Boxster – which screamed of cost-cutting and brazen attempts to reach into my wallet and empty it – which is why I sold it –

    1) The car is fragile. The seat leather was so cheap that every 4th or 5th time I drove the car I had to recondition the leather because it would wear through the dye. Buttons would break. Electrical components would fritz. The top was wearing holes through it (which might not have been tolerable if a replacement convertible top wasn’t $6,000).

    2) You can’t see the engine. It’s in a sealed bay, accessible only from the bottom. Engine access in a mid-engine car is always tight (I’ve had mid engine cars before), but the Boxster is specifically designed to discourage owner access and force you to bring it to the dealer for everything, since the only way to get to the engine is on a lift and by removing the belly pan. Which results in…..

    3) Maintenance costs are heart-stopping, and for no good reason. The Boxster was designed to make owners dependent on the dealer, and addicted to expensive – and not easily substituted – maintenance. Oil changes are $230. Brake rotors last about 15,000 miles. The final insult was when the dealer tried to shake me down for a $450 annual “comprehensive inspection”. When I asked why, they said that if I ever had a warranty claim – like, just maybe, IMS – they wouldn’t back it up unless they did this “annual inspection” to verify proper maintenance, no abuse, etc. Which means, the dealer wants a $450 yearly bribe just to honor the warranty the car came with. I guess the dealers are just following Wendelin Wiedeking’s example of vacuuming up owner’s money any way they can.

    Where the Boxster was unreliable, the S2000 is a robust Honda. Where the Boxster was fragile the S2000 is well built. To the Boxster’s lack of engine access and outrageous maintenance costs the S2000 has the best engine access of any car I’ve owned in the past 10 years, and with simple, straightforward upkeep costs.

    Overall, after owning both, the S2000 to me just feels like more of a true enthusiast’s car, while the Boxster has evolved into more of a car for posers, or for orthodontist’s mistresses (some posers might be too insecure to have an objective discussion about cars, but then, maybe the old joke about (some) Porsche owners and porcupines is true…. ). To me, the S2000 has similar performance, is much more reliable, and costs half as much. Every time I drive it I get a huge smile on my face, and can’t believe a car can be this much fun (in some ways even more “fun” than my 911, which was a fantastic but ‘serious’ car).

    And, I don’t worry about a ticking time bomb of a design flaw in the S2000’s engine waiting to grenade itself without warning or provocation like the Boxster’s IMS Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of every owner.

    I know some people will consider it sacrilege for me to not unquestioningly worship at the altar of Porsche, and I’m sure I will no doubt be lambasted for my blasphemous comments. But, I’ve been to the top of the Porsche mountain, and while I loved my old 911, the Boxster just is not a Porsche from the “excellence is expected” school – it seems to be built by the same kind of people and mentality that brought us the current wonderful economy.

    Porsche’s CEO Wendelin Wiedeking, and his CFO Harald Härter, should be congratulated on their masterful and cunning, but also devious scheme in which Porsche acquired VW. Since hedge fund managers are among the lowest forms of life on Earth, maybe Wiedeking and Härter should get a medal for giving them a taste of what they have been doing to the rest of us. But, I think this also shows where their heads are at. They are obsessed with profits at any and all costs. They are not focused on making great cars. Their priority is to come up with conniving tricks to make money. Good for them, and good for their shareholders (in the short term – profits may be up 52% now, but let’s see what happens in a few years as more people realize what the reality is with current model Porsches). But that doesn’t mean I want to be part of it and own a car built by these kind of people.

    The fantasy is that Porsches are built by bespectacled engineers in leather aprons, lovingly assembling each engine by hand. While there may have been some kernel of truth to that image in the past, today the reality is Wiedeking and Härter with a spreadsheet looking for one more corner to cut to make another buck (or Euro, as the care may be) today.

    Porsche owners can be very passionate about their cars. I used to be. That passion could easily become anger as people realize they were duped. Wiedeking better look out his window to check for a crowd with torches and pitchforks on the horizon…

    Wait a minute…. I think I may have seen this movie before. Let me think…. Glorious past history… great cars that were the standard of the world, that people genuinely wanted to buy…. Dedication to engineering and quality…. Then, mushrooming egos, sacrificing quality for the sake of chasing more short-term profits, obsession with money, growing disregard for the product which ultimately led to buyers getting tired of being burned and walking away. Isn’t this the same kind of myopic nonsense that got the American car manufacturers swirling down the porcelain bowl?

  • avatar

    20 percent would be an extremely high failure rate these days.

    If enough Boxster owners sign up to participate in our research, TrueDelta will figure out that actual failure rate.

    If anyone wants to help get the word out, here’s where to send Boxster and Cayman owners:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar

    http://www.flat6innovations.com/reliability.htm
    http://www.renntech.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=19855&st=0&p=101862&#entry101862
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BQ5XAIzNVA

    semi-related: http://video.aol.com/video-detail/porsche-boxster-s-engine-rebuild-06/959510121

    -unrelated, but still cool: http://forums.pelicanparts.com/showthread.php?s=dec5b17f5ab60c6dc36ce2136123dac3&t=369745

  • avatar
    NickR

    I mean, can you IMAGINE what the response would be from enthusiast community if an American sports car like the Corvette or Mustang were to have a similar problem?

    I can imagine alright. It would be trumpeted from the hilltops.

    I have scant sympathy for anyone who is a big enough sucker to ante up for some overpriced, under-engineered German crap. I don’t know how they get away with it. My old c-class? An automotive turd. The newest c-class? Check them out and see how many already have non-functioning third brake lights. My bosses new A4? A huge lemon, particularly the electrics. My friends Passat wagon? A basket of eletrical gremlins masquerading as a car.

    And now this about Porsche. A 20 percent failure rate? I don’t think that any of the big 3 have had any engine that bad since the Olds diesel and the old Caddy V8-6-4, which was decades ago.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    carnick, two minor points to dispute in your interesting and thoughtful Boxster analysis: The first-generation Boxsters (like mine) do have a dipstick, as well as the instrument-panel monitor. It’s a yard long, but it’s by god a dipstick. Also, I don’t think eliminating dipsticks is a craven cost-cutting move, since a number of manufacturers have done it. It’s simply an admission that for 99 percent of American new-car owners it’s a device as useful, and as often used, as a starter crank.

    We pilots used to “stick our tanks” to assess fuel quantity, back in the not-so-old days–put a ruler into the gas cap and see where the wet line was. Now we use cockpit gauges, just like the Boxster’s oil-quantity indicator.

    Also, the engine is surprisingly accessible and not just from the bottom, if you remove a couple of panels behind the seats that are as easy to take off as is the dishwasher cladding of a typical front-engine Lexus or Mercedes.

    I’ve had two Boxsters with no problems, other than the retard who rear-ended my wife at 50 in an Excursion while disciplining the kids in the back seat. The fact that that Porsche saved her life–cost her a couple of hours in the emergency room and the pain of eight broken ribs, but she’s an athlete and used to that–makes me a fan. Wonder what an S2000 would have done in the same situation…

  • avatar
    tubacity

    Honda Acura had rates of transmission failures in that same range. “20 percent would be an extremely high failure rate these days.” Acura CL and TL reached nearly 25% transmission failures according to Consumer Reports Auto issue 1 to 2 yrs ago. Odyssey and MDX are high also. S2000 sounds good but it tends to have manual transmission problems. http://forums.s2kca.com/showthread.php?t=1178

  • avatar
    jaje

    tubacity – Honda provided a 100k transferable warranty for affected cars and resolved the problem with a redesign of transmission oil circulation. Though no MFGR makes a perfect car that’ll never have a defect it’s how they address it. The problem with the 996 / 997 / 986 / 987 is that Porsche never corrected the problem until near the end of 997’s production run. Also consider much more egregious offenders such as Ford’s cc devices with known fire problems and they still used them for 14 years and put them in some 16m cars / trucks.

  • avatar
    niky

    Hmmm… and just the other week, when discussing the GT-R gearbox incident, somebody was crowing to me that this kind of thing would never happen to a Porsche… m-hm.

    Not that I’m apologizing for Nissan… I’ve seen too many broken gears and drive-axles in my time to have any illusions about them being bulletproof.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    jeje:

    Not to belabor the point, but I’m not just saying the base Vette is faster than the 911 Carrera S because of one test, I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen a comparison between the C6 and 911 Carrera or Carrera S where the Carrera/Carrera S was faster, either in a straight line or around a track. I highly doubt the base C6 is faster than a 911 Turbo in every instance, but it was in at least one case. At the very least, the base Vette can hang with 911s costing 50% more, which I find extremely impressive

  • avatar
    mitchim

    Well all this is VERY interesting as I too am in a large flock of younger 30 somthings who dream of one day owing a porsche. A week ago I was able to test drive and inquire about a 2008 Boxer S. Of course the deals on these cars are great (told 10k CAD off sticker I am from Alberta) as the new 09’s are scheduled to arrive soon. The dealer was very secretave about when it will be released and if it will have the new direct fuel injection system that the cayman and others now have. I may have to reconsider the SLK 350 with this brought to light.

    Can anyone here say they have been directly involved in these failures and what occured? I hope to keep living the dream but at 70-80 thousand here that is too much money to be taking risks with a blown engine.

    • 0 avatar
      longislander1

      Go back to, say, 2005 and do a comparison on resale value at KBB or other sites between the Boxster and competitors (SLK, Audi TT, BMW Z4, Corvette C6, etc.) and you’ll find the Boxster at the bottom of the heap even though it is widely recognized as being superior to the other cars in handling, braking and other areas. If you think this engine failure issue hasn’t affected value, think again. You and your 30-something colleagues are too smart not to see that there are scads of engine failure episodes around the internet and this is being reflected in resale value of the Boxster.

  • avatar
    Morea

    The factory block repair pictures at the site metioned above (http://www.flat6innovations.com/reliability.htm
    go about halfway down that page) are interesting. Casting the block around the cylinder liners is cool technology (and that’s what Porsche should be about), but the downside is that you don’t want to discard blocks with minor casting imperfections so you try to rework them to save $ at the factory.

    That site also gives this cryptic, unreferenced statement:

    “It is a known fact that the casting plant that made the blocks for Porsche was unable to keep up with demand and also experienced casting problems, turned to a 3rd party with a freeze-cast MMC (metal matrix composite) liner which was cast into the block.”

  • avatar
    carnick

    Stephan Wilkinson – you’re right, the 986 Boxster had superior engine “access” and oil checking than the 987 Boxster which I owned. The 987 series (2005 – present) Boxsters do not have any dipstick, only the electronic readout.

    About 6 months after I bought the car, the electronic oil level gauge on the dash showed that the oil level was increasing. At the same time, the coolant level in the overflow tank was slowly decreasing. Souunds like coolant may have been getting into the oil, right? Well, there was no way for me to tell for sure. The changes in fluid levels were not enough to affect the exhaust smoke (whatever white smoke may have been there was obscured by the typical Porsche light blue haze of cold start-up oil burning). I had no alternative but to take it to the dealer.

    The dealer confirmed that there was no way of telling what was happening except to drain the oil and physically inspect it (which revealed that there was no coolant in the oil, it was a slow leak in a hose, and the electronic oil level sensor was faulty and had to be replaced). The dealer confirmed that the only way to know the oil level for sure was to drain it, measure it, and re-fill it – which they happily did for $150.

    If the car had a simple dipstick, I could have diagnosed the situation myself in 5 seconds, and for free, by just pulling the stick and seeing if the oil was contaminated. Oil level is different from oil quality. But that would not allow the dealer the opportunity to charge for a needless procedure.

    As far as engine “access”, such as it is, the 986 also seems better than the 987. In the 987 series if you remove the rear mounting of the convertible top where it attaches to the car, then remove a panel under the top mount (about a 30 minute procedure), there is indeed a gunslit through which you can peer and see the engine, and even stick your hand in and touch it. But it is impossible to do any real work through it (unless you are a contortionist or have the apendages and dexterity of an octopus). A friend with a 986 showed me how he can remove the seats and then the interior panels on the engine bulkhead to gain access to the front of the engine, but it seems like a lot of work for what should be a simple process.

    Anything is possible with enough time and money, but somehow, I still prefer the 5 second long procedure of popping the hood and having before me an engine bay that allows me to do anything on the engine, even changing the oil filter from above. The 5 seconds it takes me to open the hood encourages frequent trips to the engine, whereas my friend plans entire afternoons well in advance dedicated to accessing his 986 engine.

    But then, having the primary engine access from below makes most engine work feasible only with a lift, which again provides the dealer with a nice annuity (the engine access in my old 914, X1/9, and even a mid-engine V8 Corvair was not great, but was good enough that I could work on them myself).

    As far as crash test protection, the S2000 has NHTSA ratings of 4 star front, 5 star side, and 5 star rollover – the same as a Volvo sedan. The NHTSA website does not list crash test specs for any Porsche, but there doesn’t seem to be much room for improvement over 4/5/5.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    I wonder why they don’t test for rear-end crash protection, since that’s by far the single most common collision point. Admittedly the vast majority of rear-enders are minor, but the one my wife had was a solid, no-brakes-applied impact from a Ford Excursion at 40 or 50 directly to the rear of the car. the car was of course totaled, hardly a minor impact, and the engine and ancillary structure saved her. I doubt an S2000’s trunk and fuel tank would have done the same.

    Amazing that Porsche further restricted engine access in the 987 over the ‘6. Or maybe not. As you say, more opportunity for dealer maintenance.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Stephan – Honda at one point had more 5 star crash rated cars than any other MFGR. In fact the 2001 Civic Coupe w/ SAB was the first ever compact car to get all 5 star crash rating and the only car at that time that also had that safety rating was the Volvo S80. Hondas are actually very safely built cars and since the late 90’s they’ve really stepped up the game. Honda also along with Daimler Benz designed a 2 stage folding out airbag system which was rated the safest deployment system which all MFGRs now use. Then add to the fact that Honda built a crash center in Ohio and crashes a car every 1 hour 24 hours a day to studies it – gives you notice.

    The old Hondas are rust buckets and unsafe b/c they are so small compared to bigger cars argument is no longer valid. In fact of most cars on the road I consider them be the most complete package from mpg, fun to drive, safety, reliability / quality, resale value, etc.

    As for all the crash ratings and size matters – ever see a 50mph head on crash between 2 body on frame suvs? It is catastrophic b/c there’s less safety built into them b/c they rely so much on their mass which only helps if they hit smaller things at a higher impact point (above the other vehicles bumper zone).

  • avatar
    Blastman

    If Porsche is having issues with engines, they are going to have to step up and provide an extended warranty on the engines to assure their customers. Like a 10 year 120,000 mile engine warranty. If Porsches are built as well as they are perceived to be, and cost wise are slotted as a premium product, Porsche should have no problem doing this.

  • avatar
    JeremyR

    While it’s true that the Boxster engine isn’t particularly accessible, the assertion that it can only be accessed from below is false–it is also accessible from the front and top with the removal of some panels.

    Anyway, engine accessibility is a tradeoff that some of us are willing to accept. In exchange, we gain trunk space superior to that of any other two-seater roadster (to my knowledge). This is rather useful to those of us who enjoy taking our cars on trips longer than a weekend!

    I too think Porsche should step up and extend the warranty on these engines to something like 10 years/120K miles. Unfortunately I don’t see this happening anytime soon. And while the spectre of a grenading engine didn’t prevent me from buying a (used) Boxster this time around, when the time comes to replace the car it may not be with another Porsche.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    jaje, yes, I have viewed numerous actual crash tests as an automotive writer and as an EMS volunteer have viewed numerous real-world “crash tests,” so I doubt there’s as whole lot you can tell me about what happens when worlds collide.

    But you still miss the point: I’m not talking about star ratings for front, side, front-oblique crashes or airbags, I’m talking about a catastrophic rear-ender.

    My wife’s Boxster airbags never even deployed. The impact was in the wrong direction–from behind.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I knew about the RMS but not of IMS failure.

    Porsche looks like the inverse of most car companies, whose entry level cars are decently reliable and their flagships are nightmares. Maybe they’re taking after Mercedes and riding on brand equity. It’s working so far–I’d still like to drive a Porsche some day.

    And to think I considered a 986 & 996…

  • avatar
    tubacity

    “Honda provided a 100k transferable warranty for affected cars and resolved the problem with a redesign of transmission oil circulation. ”

    The partial information above is convenient but is deceiving in this case.

    100k warranty? 5 speed Odyssey and MDX are not covered. Yes, these were some of the affected.

    Don’t pretend that fixing something under warranty is as good as making a good transmission to begin with. Many Acura CL and TL owners needed multiple transmission replacements.

    “Redesign oil circulation” DID NOT resolve the main problem which was the third gear clutch. The oil jet solved yet another problem. Many failed after this redesign.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    As far as Porsche addressing the issue…they won’t until they replace it with a new design. Remember the ’70’s 911 with the plastic airbox? The one that if the car back fired, it would explode and burn the car down? Porsche’s answer then was that “if you maintained your car properly, it wouldn’t back fire”. Dad did well with a nice stainless air box to replace them. Don’t expect Porsche to address this issue untill the 2009 engine comes out.

  • avatar
    Morea

    tubacity : Don’t pretend that fixing something under warranty is as good as making a good transmission to begin with.

    No one is claiming this (and who would?) but there is a difference between accepting responsibility for a mistake on one hand and just ignoring it on the other. This separates the companies with good long-term prospects (Honda) and those without (GM). Now where does Porsche fit in? (For the sake of gear-heads everywhere, I am hoping they stay with the former group.)

  • avatar
    Kevinm

    The December issue of Excellence magazine has an article pertaining to M96 failures. There was a company mentioned that has a fix for the M96 IMS failures.
    It includes a new bearing,carrier, larger shaft and nut. along with O Ring sealing.
    Good read.

  • avatar
    jaje

    tubacity – my point is no MFGR is prefect. They do make mistakes and have some problems across a wide array. They also do not perfectly resolve them. It is just their willingness to. In this light Porsche only will honor their original warranty of 3 years. To get the extended warranty you have to pay for it out of your own pocket. Honda extended their warranty free of charge to all owners (not just original buyers) on 80% of the affected models. Read Morea’s comment as he understands my point exactly.

    Stephan Wilkinson – From researching the IIHS and NHTSA crash test focus – we are only now making the rear end collision a larger focus and now testing for whiplash. Outside of the craze caused by the Pinto not much has been done outside of measuring costs of 5 mph rear bumper impacts and some simple whiplash tests. Most modern cars do not have sensors for rear end collisions – mainly a reason I see is that during a rear end event one car is either stationary or moving away from the object striking it reducing the potential for an impact [versus the headon impact exponentially increase the impact]. I see the current focus over front / side impact and rollovers due to the glut of huge SUVs driven by soccer moms on the road – where nothing is safe even the driver of the SUV (who has a false sense of safety).

    Maybe I’m misreading your point as I’m really not sure of your comment of how an S2000 could/would fair worse than a Boxster in the aforementioned rear ender. Are you saying that the Boxster is safer car than an S2000 in that crash? There is an implied point that I am reading from your statement. I’m not sure as I do not think you are too at least until empirical evidence is established and it won’t for these older cars b/c of the late focus on rear end crash safety. I’d figure from Honda’s focus on safety not only to passengers but to pedestrians and their focus on ACE and other technologies that the S2000 would have fared just as well.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Kevinm – I’ll wait for my latest issue. I’m interested highly in this as I was briefly considering purchasing an older Boxster for some daily driving and trackrat duties. They are so cheap now (now see them < $10k) – less than a 968 or even some well kept 951s and S2s.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Stephan,

    About 10 years ago I was rear-ended by a Chevy Tahoe in an 11 year old Honda Prelude that was already rusting on the rear quarter panels. I was stationary at a stop-light and the Tahoe must have been doing a good 30+mph before hitting the brakes. Needless to say I am alive and living quite well to tell you about it today.

    While 30+ mph is not 50mph I did come out of the accident with no injuries and a repairable car. I guess I lucked out because the force of the hit knocked my foot off of the brake while the car was in neutral. Nevertheless I was 100% fine after the fact as was my passanger.
    That Prelude was one solid car. While getting a child seat in and out of the back was a hassle I did feel quite secure for my child in back surrounded by the doorless coupe structure.

    Mid and rear engined cars can be quite dangerous in a frontal collision because the engine and drive wheels are still running fine with excellent traction, pushing the the front of the car and the passanger compartment further into the point of impact.

    You might be missing the point with your praise of the Boxster’s design. There is a very good chance that your wife’s injuries could have been considerable less IF the the weight of the engine/transmission was not transfer forward during that crash. That “hollow box” of air provided by a trunk void and solid chassis might have simply cruppled as expected and absorbed the majority of the impact as opposed to getting slammed in the back by several hundred pounds of heavy metal.

    Something to think about!

  • avatar
    paulz

    With the high percentage of Porsche Boxster engine failures, has anyone heard of a class action against Porsche?

    1998 Boxster owner with engine problems.

  • avatar
    John R

    What? No GT-R tranny jokes?

    [/ducks]

  • avatar
    rhodes22

    Thank you to all contributors (especially Messrs carnick and wilkinson). My Boxster had engine failure this week and I was just advised of this problem by the dealer. I am a second owner and the car has just 45k miles (of which I put on 31k). I am still in shock and awe from this event.

  • avatar
    rapzilla

    Well, looks like my car can be added to the list :(, Its a 2004 special edition with just under 73K kilometers (45.6K miles). I did purchase an extended warranty with the car an the insurance co is currently evaluating whether or not they will pay for a new engine…

  • avatar
    oscarw

    You can add me to the list as well. So here is the question.

    Driving along, no worries. Started to get a clanking sound from under the car. Sounded like it was coming from the exhaust. Drive some more, the sound changed and felt something in the gas pedal. Then it gets louder. I drive a little further and the sound disappears. I get home, park the car, walk away and as i look back i see oil seeping out of the car.

    So, WHATS THE PROBLEM? Is it the rear main seal? Why would it go from perfect to horrible so fast? Why can it still start, and run fine?

    Car is a 2003 Porsche Boxster S 986 with 37,000 Miles on it.

  • avatar
    longislander1

    I would encourage engine failure victims — especially those who have received partial or no compensation from Porsche — to send brief accounts of their experiences to Joe White (joseph.white@wsj.com) the automotive columnist at The Wall Street Journal.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    Interesting stuff.  Found this website the suggest the failure rate to be 10% at 90K miles and they sell solutions…albiet expensive ones…but considerably less expensive than a new engine. They suggest owners consider the IMS bearings a service item…like timing belts.  They also mention Porsche dumped the design in 2009.
    http://www.lnengineering.com/ims.html

  • avatar
    PartialFish

    My ’05 987 blew up a month ago at 29,000 miles. The IMS bearing was chewed up, the cam cover was perforated when the timing belt blew, there was metal all through the engine and past the screen on the oil sump.  It is important to know that the ’05 engine is unique.  It can’t be rebuilt as per the IMS bearing…the design is different.  If one buys a crate engine they get the newer version of IMS bolted in, which is what the gentleman who bought my car (for $3000) got.  But you can’t take an ’05 and refit the IMS the way you could on an ’99 or a 2002.  So far as I know.  This is a Boxster, maybe the 911 engine is a different 996, but I don’t see why it would be.  Just something to think about if you’re anticipating buying a used ’05.  I would say……don’t.

  • avatar
    longislander1

    Sorry to hear about your problem, PartialFish.  Are you saying that you only got $3,000 in salvage value for your car?  That’s a real shame.  It means you took something like a $22,000 hit on depreciation after the engine failure.  There are posters on other boards who have deluded themselves into thinking that the failures have had no effect on Boxster resale value.  They need to look at sites like this.  There are also plenty of 911 failure stories as well.  You should really take your story to the news media, as I’ve mentioned above.  I think it would be received as a great story, especially because you got so little for the carcass.  Only bad publicity can force Porsche to compensate victims and other owners with these M96 engines.

    • 0 avatar
      PartialFish

      Well, it seems the time period where Porsche might help with the engine replacement is over.  More and more of these are piling up as the warranties run out and Porsche abandons them.  That’s bad enough, but lots of Porsche owners openly put down those like myself who report problems, either we’re “whiners” or “shills” for those who repair the problems.  Others have been accused of making the issue up.  All I can guess is that those individuals are overly-loyal Porsche fanatics whistling in the dark, unaccepting that such could happen to them.  I think it’s important to get the word out to those thinking of buying an out-of-warranty car.  Hence this post.  Anyone worried about the car they already have can easily search the web for those who can help.  At the very least, drive your car hard and change the oil every 5000 miles, which seems the best advice.  An oil analysis at change time is not a bad idea either.  There are a number of attorneys, I am told, who have attempted to resolve their misadventure by legal mean, to no avail.  I have no idea how to persuade a media outlet to take up this story, but it seems odd that, so far, no one has.  I’m not interested in damaging the Porsche company, but I do wish they would stand by their customers, even secondary ones.  I think this will eventually catch up to them.  It may be rare (who knows?), but how many other cars have you heard of where complete engine failure at low miles occurs enough to be an internet phenomenon?  As for myself, I’m done with Porsche.

  • avatar
    longislander1

    I agree that I don’t think anyone wants to damage Porsche as a company, but when an owner has to take a $22,000 hit for a manufacturer’s design defect, well, that’s kind of a big deal.  Even when General Motors had engine problems, it compensated both existing victims and potential victims. More recently, Subaru had engine problems and it shut down the line and recalled all cars, both those that were already affected and those which might contain the faulty engines.  And Toyota has certainly taken the necessary steps to address safety issues (although media and government pressure certainly helped it along). 

    This issue goes beyond the ’05 Boxsters. Because of Porsche’s silence, you can’t really be sure of buying any used Boxster or 911 between the 1997 and 2008 model years.  And also because of the manufacturer’s silence, why should we trust even the Porsches built in 2009 and beyond?  From the reports I’ve read, Porsche has appeared to honor warranties by replacing the engines free of charge.  But, if you’re out of warranty, even by just a little, you might get partial payment or nothing at all, even if the car has relatively low mileage and the problem has clearly been diagnosed as the IMS defect.   If Porsche’s policy is to hide defects, sell cars that might contain them,  not correct them in a timely fashion and not compensate owners adequately, why should anyone consider buying this brand at all?

  • avatar
    PartialFish

    Well, that just about says it all.

  • avatar
    dmatz


    I have an 04 Boxster that had catastrophic engine failure last week at 58K miles. Not confirmed yet, but all symptoms are indicative of IMS failure. Dealer employees have admitted to me that they have a significant number of IMS failures in this engine, and didn’t deny that it should have been a recall. I didn’t know of this defect until it (probably) happened to me, and feel angry that Porsche sold me a car without revealing a fatal design flaw (sealed bearing with seal that fails in normal use, then relying on inadequate lubrication from crankcase oil splash). 

    When I called Porsche (1-800 Porsche), I was told there was no recall for the IMS defect because “the government orders recalls and they didn’t order a recall” for the IMS issue. Recalls are triggered by complaints to the NHTSA – not very many complaints, no recall. NHTSA complaints and investigations can be researched at their website: http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Owners . Between MY 2000 and 2005 there were only 6 IMS failures reported withe std or S Boxsters. Brief internet searches reveal that the actual failure rate is certainly much higher than these numbers would suggest. Complaints can easily be filed at the NHTSA website. If everyone with IMS failures went to the NHTSA website and filed a complaint, perhaps an investigation and thus a recall might be triggered. I’m not sure if a recall could be ordered for cars this old, but at least the relevant government agency should adequately notified. If the government took action, Porsche would be forced to respond.

    • 0 avatar
      longislander1

      dmatz, sorry to hear about your situation.  If you do a Google search, you can find these engine failures all over the web, including many cases where owners of low-mileage cars are left with the bills for full engine replacements or they have to sell the car for salvage.  A noted Porsche expert estimated the failure rate at 20%, a huge amount if you consider that more than half a million of these M96 engines went out into the market.  It’s disgraceful, and it’s one reason why I would never buy another Porsche.  Why every engine failure victim is not filing a NHTSA complaint and going to major news media is beyond me.  (You could be the first.)  I have now read of two cases where engines failed during high-speed driving on an expressway.  If that isn’t dangerous, I don’t know what is.  I also read of another guy who only got $3,000 for the sale of his car when he couldn’t afford the engine replacement.  Most Porsche owners that I’ve encountered — in person or on the forums — seem to be intelligent people, yet a lot of them are so loyal to the brand that they refuse to do anything about this situation and they spew venom at those who dare to complain.  I just don’t get it.  My engine is still OK, but I can tell you that if it fails, I’ll pull out all stops to get some compensation for what is an inherent engine defect.  Porsche knew about it and yet they continued to sell the cars to unsuspecting customers.  Disgusting.

      • 0 avatar
        PartialFish

        Thanks for posting this. I will definitely file an NHTSA complaint. Read about my car above (I sold my car for $3000, and I’m not the first to do that).  I now own an ’08 Audi TT roadster.  If there were a recall, I think my grounds for compensation would be better.  I don’t see how the 20% failure rate could be accurate, but a 1% failure rate (and that may be close to the truth) would cause a recall of any Toyota or Ford product.  Porsche is simply taking advantage of a very loyal customer base, loyalty that is undeserved.

      • 0 avatar
        dmatz

        longislander1 and PartialFish: I am hoping that the word will spread around about the NHTSA complaint mechanism. Either people don’t know about this, or there is (as longislander1 suggested) an enthusiast’s misguided sense of loyalty to Porsche (I recently bought an Apple computer after years of using PC’s and encountered a very similar attitude of denial about Mac faults in their forums).  The Boxster engine obviously has a number of problems, and to some extent we should probably be grownups and accept the risk of purchasing a complex, high performance piece of machinery with a warranty that is designed to limit the exposure of the manufacturer to liability for mechanical problems when their probability becomes high. But the IMS defect appears to have such a high frequency, and is so catastrophic that it seems to be a special case. Plus the fact that there are a number of defensive actions that could be taken if Porsche had chosen to inform the users of the problem and had recommended those changes. It is hard to remain loyal to a company that has so little regard for its customers that it hid this critical information from them. 

        The live person I talked to at NHTSA, after listening to my description of this issue, showed me the NHTSA complaint mechanism, and said “tell all your friends”. That’s what I’m doing. So if you happen to frequent other formums dicussing the Boxster IMS (as I have been doing quite a bit since my run-in with this little design flaw), you might want to spread the word.

  • avatar
    longislander1

    No one knows what the true failure rate is.  The 20% figure comes from Bruce Anderson, a very highly regarded Porsche technical expert who, I believe, mentioned that in an issue of Excellence, the Porsche enthusiast magazine. 

    Here are some excerpts from a December 2008 Excellence article on the several types of mechanical failure issues associated with the M96 engine: 
    “Early on, there were several reports of problems with the case castings, specifically in the cylinder areas.  Porsche attempted to repair the affected cases with replacement cylinder inserts, but the inserts posed their own set of problems and typically led to more engine failures.  At this point, the engines were replaced with new factory units.”
      
    “Perhaps the most common problem experienced by owners of Porsches with M96 engines is rear main seal (RMS) leakage. Typically, the leaks were caused by insufficient crankshaft support on the RMS end – small movements of the crank inside the case resulted in a failed seal.  Some owners reported RMS leaks with relatively few miles while others have exceeded 100,000 miles with no problems.  Some owners have remedied the problem with a new seal – Porsche has updated the design since the engine was released – and a few applications of well-placed epoxy.  Others have had to resort to a complete engine overhaul or replacement to stop the leaks.”
      
    “Will this kind of (Porsche) repair support continue?  Perhaps, but I don’t predict the M96 will have the kind of mechanical support enjoyed by earlier air-cooled 911s.  The bottom line is that Porsche is moving on and its M96/M97 engine family is obsolete.”
      
    “Intermediate shaft failure (IMS) issues are the most common failure associated with 986/996 (the series numbers for Boxsters and 911s, respectively) engines.  All versions, no matter the displacement or model year, have experienced IMS issues.  Tellingly, Porsche has eliminated the IMS entirely in its next-generation, 2009-on 9A1 engine family.”
      
    “Porsche has made many revisions to the IMS and its bearings, but none of them appear to have been a 100-percent solution.”
      
    “The exact cause of IMS failure is not yet known, but the trio (of independent experts mentioned in the story) feel that it is a mix of materials and engineering that were impacted by Porsche’s overall price targets for car and engine . . . Engines with IMS failure immediately stop running, make lots of noise at the time of failure, and can suffer damage that is not worth repair if the valves and pistons collide at significant speeds.”
      
    “Interestingly, (Jake) Raby (one of the experts) notes that cylinder failures from the M96 engine are generally limited to street driving and most happen ‘in town.’  Also, he says failures seem to occur more often with female drivers, who may drive the car less aggressively.”
      
    “Porsche ‘cracked-cap’ connecting rods were implemented for their strength and cost savings, but they cannot be rebuilt.  Also, they cannot be fitted with new, stronger rod bolts as is typically done on the air-cooled engines. . . . Raby, Hoffman and Navarro (the three experts) say they are now finding rod failures more common with these engines in both street and track conditions.  Recently, there has been a surge in higher-mileage (early) street M96s breaking rod bolts under normal conditions.  There are also reports of failed rod bolts in 996/997 engines used for DE (driver education events) and other track-day-style events.”
      
    “As the M96 engines log more time in service, some areas of the oil system that use rubber and plastic are showing signs of deformation and deterioration, possibly due to engine oils, heat and fuel intrusion.  In some extreme instances, engine failures have occurred due to oil starvation when these internal parts fail.”
      
    “ . . . Raby feels that the oil temperatures of the Boxster engine are higher than they should be and the level of fuel and coolant intrusion into the oil – coupled with the extended drain intervals – may lead to increased component wear.”
      
    “’The biggest issue with the M96 engine is the mystery surrounding it,’ says Raby.  He hopes that local, independent Porsche shops will soon be able to support the M96 for years to come using updated processes and procedures so that owners will not have to take their cars to a Porsche dealership that may be less and less interested in working on them.”
      
    “Today, few independent repair shops will tackle an engine rebuild for a 986 or 996 because they don’t have the experience, support, components or training to do so.  Thus, their only viable choice is to remove a failed engine and install a factory replacement unit.  But what happens when the Porsche engine replacement program no longer supports older cars?  What happens when the cars are old enough that total engine replacement costs more than the cars are worth?  These are real issues that are already happening in some M96-engined Porsches.  The bottom line, according to Raby?  ‘Local shops must be given the capability to learn about the M96, but Porsche won’t teach them.  So we will.’”
     

  • avatar
    car car

    hi
    anyone know the name of this outsourced casting company that porsche used to do the cylinder liners on the 997

  • avatar
    longislander1

    Over on Planet 9, they’re building a list of people so they can file complaints with NHTSA. They have 18 complainants thus far. Here’s the link: http://www.planet-9.com/cayman-boxster-problems-complaints/59790-oiling-problems-blown-motors-nhtsa.html.

  • avatar
    kvolkan

    Interesting thread. I have owned 2 porsches, a 67 911, which was mechanically quite sound but had terminal rust problems, and a 98 Boxster. The Boxster suffered from the cylinder insert breaking which destroyed the engine at 34k miles. I had an aftermarket warranty and I called the west coast service rep at Porsche everyday for 2 months and left him a message about my situation. The warranty co lanyard wanted to put a used engine in the car but after I complained Porsche coughed up the additional 6k to put in a new engine. I was out of pocket for 1.5 K which I thought ok as I got a new engine. Then I read about the rms, IMS, and other problems and decided to get rid of the car. Got an Infiniti g35 – faster car than the Boxster, now has 100k on it, no problems whatsoever. Gave this car to my wife and got a specia edition mazdaspeed turbo miata. About the same power as the Boxster and as reliable as a doormat. Mine is stock but with a few bolt ons it starts to make super car power. Not as solid a car as the Boxster but pretty fun the drive. Then I got a 2006 mustang gt. Replaced the stock suspension and the car jpcpmpletely changed I to a real sports car – what an amazing difference and the handling even with the live axle is phenomenal. This car is just incredibly fun to drive. After a year of owning it I still get a huge sh*t eating grin every time I drive it. Now I am thinking of dropping 7k into it for a supercharger. It is reliable too. I am debating getting a cheap 996 or cayman and doing the IMS on it, but threads like these sober me up quick…maybe a vette, lotus Elise, or nix….


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