How user-serviceable should a car be? Should special tools be required to perform basic tasks? If the car in question is a sporty car, should there be less effort on the manufacturer’s part to ensure serviceability (because it’s a “toy” and more likely to be owned by people with multiple cars) or more (because sporty cars tend to have longer in-service lifetimes and have a more self-service-oriented owner base)?
After performing most of the 30,000-miles service on my 2004 Boxster S “Anniversary Edition”, I believe I’ve become a little more passionate about my answers to the above questions.
This is what Porsche recommends for the 30k on a Boxster:
- Oil and filter change, with Mobil 1 15-50
- Air filter
- Cabin air filter
- Fuel filter (with caveats, see below)
- Sparkplugs (really? At 30k????)
Start with the easy stuff. Cabin air filter: open the front trunk, remove a trim panel with a Torx T20 screwdriver, remove the top of the filter compartment, install in the same flow direction as the original. This isn’t too bad, although requiring a specific Torx bit to do gas-station-level work on the car seems odd. (If you have an Asko dishwasher, you already have a Torx T20 sitting around to remove the front panel, right?)
Fuel filter: Around the year 2002, Porsche switched from a removable inline filter to a “lifetime” tank filter. If we define “lifetime” by the MTBF for the M96 watercooled six, that’s not encouraging. I prefer to think that Porsche expects me to use the same fuel filter across two, or even three, complete engine replacements, so I ain’t gonna mess with it.
Oil and filter change: Using the rocker-panel dent you made the first time you jacked up your Boxster as a guide, jack up the left side of the car. The Boxster has four strong, durable lift points under the car, but you need those for your jackstands, so the shade-tree Boxster mechanic jacks the car up on the seam and puts the stands under those jack points. This does not always go well. There is a lot of plastic, and bendable metal, under there.
My fix is to jack the car up on the appropriate point, leave it on the jack, and put a couple of mounted wheel/tire combinations underneath the middle of the car for safety. I do think, however, that this says a lot about Porsche’s expectations for its owners. Take it to the dealer, and save your paint finish.
The Boxster holds ten quarts of hot oil. If you jack the car up, instead of putting it on a lift, it doesn’t all come out. Hmm. The oil filter is tucked under the car, on the driver’s side. It looks like a conventional filter, but it isn’t. It’s a twist-off housing. The real filter is inside. Porsche sells the appropriate “cup tool” at dealerships for $59. A regular filter wrench may remove it. If you damage the housing, it will cost you. Be careful.
Did you enjoy buying ten quarts of Mobil 1? Nowadays, that’s $80 most places. The rest of the parts mentioned above will run you $150 or so. $230 is a lot of money for a self-service, but the dealership charges $750 or more to do it. I wouldn’t buy regular oil to save money. Boxsters get hot. We’ll find out why in a moment.
Time for the air filter. The informative video which heads this article is applicable to pre-2004 Boxsters without the Bose stereo option. If you have an Anniversary car with Bose, as I do, you will need to add the following steps:
- Unplug subwoofer while removing the first of the three covers on top of the engine. Do not damage plug. Remember where plug goes, since that area is not visible when replacing the cover.
- Using a Philips head screwdriver, disassemble the air filter cover and filter mount, then work the old filter out sideways, being sure not to break the mouth of the air intake. The air filter arrangement on my car is the 987 filter arrangement, which flows much more air and sounds cool but which is more complex than the original.
Did you watch the video? Have you noticed that this is not a one-person job? Doing it yourself will damage the pieces and scratch the car, unless you use the Porsche factory rear fender covers. Your dealership has a set. They’ll do the work for you… but do you really trust them to swap the filter, when they can charge an hour’s labor and not bother with it?
Now we are ready to do the sparkplugs. I haven’t done those yet, but it’s as simple as jacking up each side of the car as described below, removing the rear wheels, removing the inner fender covers, and using a couple of ratchet wrenches and universal-joint extensions to remove the old plugs, wipe a little anti-seize on, and install the new ones. In an era where Hyundais and Fords have 100,000-mile plugs, why did a $62,220 Porsche come with 30,000-mile ones? They’re cheap, by the way. Oh, that must be why.
Congratulations! You’ve serviced your Boxster! Now have your friends work with you to reassemble the vehicle. Carefully, because if you happen to damage the very fragile “ball end” mounts for the top or break the crappy plastic hooks which hold down the back of the top liner, you will buy a new top for your Boxster, and you do not want to do that.
Normally, at this point I would deliver a stirring lecture about how the crappy new Porkers are far tougher to service than the awesome old ones… but as a 993 and 944 owner I know that isn’t the case. Changing the oil on a 993 is a serious affair involving two different filters in separate locations. Changing the plugs on a 993 involves dropping the motor. Let’s not even talk about the infamous 944 clutch job. Nope, the Boxster is business as usual at Zuffenhausen. The question is: Why?
Are Porsches made deliberately difficult to service in order to encourage their owners to use the dealer? Is it a side effect of trying to pack a lot of performance into car which are absolutely tiny by modern standards? Does Porsche, like much of the German auto industry, see its products as fixed-life, disposable items? Are there even any other recent-model Porsche owners who want to service their own cars?
I don’t know the answers to any of those questions except the last one. When I explained to my Porsche parts supplier that I needed a “987″ air filter for a 2005 Boxster, instead of the “986″ filter, he shook his head. “Might be a problem.”
“Really?” I figured that this company, which sells enough parts every year to finance a Daytona Prototype team, might be aware of a fundamental flaw in the new filter. But that shouldn’t be the case, since Porsche’s been using that filter in the Boxster for six years now. Surely the bugs are worked out after Six. Long. Years. Right?
“We don’t know where to get it. Nobody’s asked us for one yet.”