The Truth About Cars » engine failure The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » engine failure Drag Racing Depends & Powertrain Pampers: Ballistic Engine Diapers Tue, 25 Mar 2014 09:00:56 +0000 images

Motorsports enthusiasts sometimes don’t realize that behind the glamour of car and motorcycle racing we see on television there is an extensive support industry that makes everything from specialized dipsticks to complete racecars. Much of that industry is located in three locations around the globe. England’s so called Motorsports Valley is where 8 of the 11 F1 teams have their race shops within about an hour’s drive from the Silverstone track, in  Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and the South Midlands. About 45,000 people in the UK make their living from motorsports. In the U.S., the racing industry is primarily centered, not surprisingly, around Indianapolis, Indiana and Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR, respectively. It should also come as no surprise that Indiana’s Purdue University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have both examined the economic impact of motorsports in their states. Purdue reports that more than 23,000 people are employed directly by the motorsports industry in Indiana which in turn are responsible for another 423,000 indirect jobs. A decade ago UNC Charlotte found that motorsports then contributed $5 billion to the North Carolina economy.


Every year in December there is a big two day trade show in Indianapolis that was originally put on by Performance Racing Industry magazine. The PRI show, which draws thousands of racing professionals and is not open to the public, is now owned by the promoters of the SEMA show in Vegas. Dave Szerlag, who owns D&M Motorsport Promotions in Brighton, Michigan, and his business associate Luke Bogacki, realized that Indy and Charlotte aren’t the only areas in the country that have a critical mass of companies devoted to performance and racing cars, so they decided to organize the first Motor City Hot Rod & Racing Expo, held outside Detroit in Novi. Based on the fact that 140 vendors, from Michigan and around the country, bought up all 65,000 square feet of available display space, and the fact that every vendor that I spoke to said they were happy with the business they did at the show, I’d say that the inaugural event was as success. Szerlag and Bogacki told me they’re already planning next year’s show.


One of those vendors was J&J Performance of Shreve, Ohio and the main reason why I stopped by their booth was because the words “Engine Diapers” on their sign caught my eye. When a drag racing engine breaks, the term “grenading” is appropriate. Hard metal parts start flying and connecting rods or other components will simply break holes into the side of the crankcase or down through the sump as they continue on their vectors.

Why they call it a "thrown" rod.

Why they call it a “thrown” rod.

Considering the kind of damage that can happen when the engine in a production street car throws a rod, you can imagine how violent it is when a racing engine putting out more than a thousand horsepower (and in the case of top fuel engines running on nitromethane, several thousand horsepower) starts to break. That creates a safety problem since those flying parts can be in the proximity of the driver and the leaking oil can cause a fire or create traction problems for both drag racing competitors. It also annoys track owners when drag racers’ engine parts and oil get dumped on their tracks. Hence ballistic engine diapers are now being required by the NHRA and IHRA for some racing classes.

When a top fuel engine blows up, it really blows up.

When a top fuel engine blows up, it really blows up.

J&J is one of a number of firms that make engine diapers. The name is appropriate as an engine diaper wraps around the engine’s bottom end, keeping any leaking oil or stray parts contained. The diaper is secured to the engine with straps, not safety pins (nor for you modern parents who don’t know how to use cloth diapers, adhesive strips). J&J offers two styles, one of woven Kevlar aramid fabric and the other made of an outer skin of ballistic nylon with an inner core of thin ballistic armor. Other companies make similar soft sided engine diapers as well as more rigid units fabricated with carbon fiber. J&J’s rep told me that the styles are about equally effective and end up weighing about the same, so it’s really more of a personal preference thing.

Back when Formula One allowed purpose-built qualifying engines, some folks called them “hand-grenades”, built to put out massive amounts of power for a limited number of laps. Drag racing engines only need to last 1/4 mile, so they tend to be built very close to the edge of the performance envelope. At the highest echelons of drag racing, the engines are rebuilt after after run. Drag racing in particular is going to experience more blown engines than other kinds of racing, so it’s understandable that the drag racing community has embraced the idea of engine diapers. I’m just surprised that they haven’t caught on in other forms of car racing. One driver’s blown engine in a NASCAR race often leads to yellow flags, so the oil on the track can be cleaned up, if they’re lucky and that oil hasn’t already caused other drivers to spin. Many top level racing series mandate safety items like tethered wheels to reduce the chance of flying debris causing an accident. More widespread use of engine diapers in other forms of motorsports could mean safer racing for drivers and more exciting racing for fans, who don’t pay money to watch fast cars parade around the track behind the pace car.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Piston Slap: Porsche Customer Service doesn’t Stink? Tue, 27 Dec 2011 17:47:54 +0000


Sam writes:

Hello, can you tell me what ever happened with the Porsche IMS concern? At 18K miles, an IMS bearing failure has caused a catastrophic engine failure in my Porsche 911. My Porsche dealer (who has done all of the Porsche recommended service on the car since new) just told me that there is nothing that they or Porsche can or will do, and that it is an isolated incident. I have since been doing research online, and I find out that an IMS bearing failure is not at all a rare occurrence.

I am not a litigious person and I am not out to tarnish the Porsche name. But with a repair cost of $19k, I cannot afford to get my car fixed. I am looking to get Porsche to step up and address what would appear to be a bearing design defect.

The problem exists in Carerras, Boxsters and Caymans, and Porsche has redesigned this bearing 4 times and have even designed the IMS completely out of the newest 997 direct injection engines. I need some help please and would be sincerely grateful for any help you can give me.

My Porsche dealer here at first told me that only the stud on the Intermediate Shaft had broken, and that they had caught it in time to prevent catastrophic engine damage. They quoted me on a $2000. repair in which they would install an aftermarket-3rd party bearing manufactured by LN Engineering. They told me that they have installed as many as 6 of the LN Engineering bearings in cars brought in for Porsche authorized service. Then 3 days later when the aftermarket bearing arrived and they went to remove the IMS from my car they discovered that the damage had been much more severe than they had initially thought and thus would only be able to proceed using a Porsche factory rebuilt engine at a cost of $19K. Even if the failure rate is <1%, the cost to the car’s owner is huge (I will not be able to get mine repaired as I do not have that kind of money). It is very telling that an authorized Porsche dealer would be installing non-Porsche manufactured bearings in Porsche engines unless of course…….it is because they know that there is a problem with the OEM bearing design.

While I do not want to see the dealer get into trouble with Porsche Corporate (call me selfish since I only want my car fixed and not some class-action lawsuit) I think that this is significant.

Respectfully yours,

Sajeev answers:

Your assessment of the situation is complete and seems even more accurate. Yes, the IMS bearing is junk and they fail on many Boxsters, 996s non-turbos and even 997s…except for the latest DI motors which silently resolved the problem. My question to you, at what year of ownership did this happen? Because at 18k, any late model 911 is under warranty and they are legally obligated to fix it under that warranty.

Reading between the lines, many Porkers run out of warranty because of time, not mileage. Such is the life of a play toy. And in that case, I fully understand your situation and I wish you and your 996 (probably) the best of luck.

Months later, Sam updates:

Mr. Mehta: Porsche came through for me in a big way. My 2003 now has a new engine and my feeling is that they went above and beyond for me. I will be buying Porsche again as they stand behind their Products.

Sajeev Concludes:

Maybe Porsche isn’t the only one, but they are in our scope for now: this Piston Slap shows that a loyal customer gets the treatment they deserve, warranty or not.  And those who deviate from the dealership’s paper trail tend to not get what’s coming to them. And heaven forbid you put your Porker on the track, accidentally hit the rev limiter (Big Brother is Watching) a couple times, put a K&N/cat-back exhaust and get your service work done elsewhere.  My argument hinges on your statement:

“My Porsche dealer…who has done all of the Porsche recommended service on the car since new.”

Congrats Sam, I will consider you one of the lucky ones. Best and Brightest, your thoughts???

Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: Hello Kitty! Contouring the American Mondeo’s future? Mon, 10 Oct 2011 16:50:42 +0000  


TTAC commentator sastexan writes:


You proved yourself smart by changing over to the older rod shift transmission linkage on your Cougar SVT. My shift cables are broken again – although this time probably due to the 1st mechanic’s ineptitude and unwillingness to finish the job he started and align it correctly. The end that attaches to the shifter is worn out so the shifter keeps popping off the cable end – which was interesting to reconnect while I was driving in stop and go traffic on the (in)famous Washington Beltway. Unfortunately, the plastic insert on the Contour cables is not replaceable – the only way to fix it is to replace the entire cable set – which is a giant PITA. Oh well.

I also talked to Terry Haines, the transmission guy – if you haven’t heard of him before, he’s a former Ford engineer who has his own shop now, mostly working on MTX75 transmissions. He rebuilt my transmission at 100k, upgraded the shift forks, put in a quaife, replaced two syncros that were going bad. He walked me through the procedure to replace the shift cables (more than I can handle) and we also discussed why the Duratec V6s are puking rods – he unequivocally believes that it is due to the powdered metal connecting rods Ford started using around ’97 – he said that some spec must have changed because earlier Duratec have no con rod issues. In his teardown of motors, he said all the ones that have thrown rods had nothing to do with oil starvation – it all had to do with the con rods stretching out of spec and causing spun bearings then snapping the con rods. He also said SVT engines are more susceptible, due to higher compression and typically harder lives. And he said that the 3L upgrades everyone is doing has the same con rods and is just as at risk – Ford just ignored the problem in the Duratec.
Since you have plans for your Cougar, thought you would be interested in this line of thinking.

Sajeev answers:

Thanks for the heads up on Mr. Haines’ theory: it’s a direct contradiction to what I heard about bits of catalyst from the “pre-cats” in the exhaust getting sucked up, from a bad design of catalytic converter/exhaust manifold.

Either way, that’s just faaan-frickin-tastic.

I have yet to “buy back” my Cougar from Luke, the central Texas Ford Contour genius and all around cool cat. Even if he did put a Hello Kitty tailpipe on it, which implies I now have “Girl power” combined with the same connecting rod worries that decommissioned this Cougar in the first place?

It’s all good, because this Cougar will never be a daily driver. It’s a sleeper with quite a well sorted chassis that even Clarkson rather enjoyed. More to the point, the 3.0L Duratec swap fixes the only problem both myself and Clarkson felt: a lack of balls on this kitty. Try 250-ish horses, put down through that solid rod-shift transaxle and a Quaife diff.

I visited the Cougar last year, drove it around the block just to feel the catnip. SHO-nuff, this Cougar will hunt. There’s reasonable low end, with a smooth (and torque-steer light) powerband that screams all the way to 7000rpm like any other Contour SVT. Except with something approaching 12:1 compression, which sounds absolutely thrilling with every run to redline: I could really put the hurt on unsuspecting racers in this ride. Me likey everything about this plan…except the Hello Kitty Tailpipe.

Back to your points: old cars are such a pain in the ass! Granted the numerous cases of Duratec V6 failures are unfair to the thousands of people in Dearborn that made the rather awesome American Mondeo—and the rest of us who enjoyed them—there’s still the matter of driving a complicated car well past its “expiration date.” In general, bad stuff happens. Some dude won’t rebuild your tranny right, and the cables get fubar’d. And there you are on the beltway fixing your ride, hoping for the best.

It. Never. Ends. So when are you sidelining it and getting a more trustworthy daily driver?

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

The Contour/Cougar/Mondeo is proof of two things. First, some cars win our hearts and minds…even if they didn’t do their job, ahem, as well as planned. Second, they will get better with age, if they aren’t driven as primary transportation.

Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Porsche’s Deadly Sin #1: 1999 Porsche 911 (996) 3.4 Tue, 03 Aug 2010 07:33:24 +0000

Great artists steal, and I’m obviously inspired by Paul Niedermeyer’s GM’s Deadly Sin series here. I am currently the owner of three Porsches, as pathetic as that may be, and I’ve experienced firsthand the many ways in which Porsche disappoints its fans and buyers. Few companies have been as comprehensively whitewashed by the media and the corporate biographers, but the truth is available to those of us who wish to look a bit harder.

We will start with the big betrayals, of course, and the unassuming fastback you see above represents perhaps the worst of Porsche’s many middle fingers to the customer base. It is a 1999 Porsche 911, known to everyone in the world as the “996″.

From 1964 to 1998, the 911 evolved on an incremental basis. As with the first and last Volkswagen Beetles, there are very, very few parts which survived the thirty-four-year journey unchanged, but there’s an amazing amount of interchangeability. It is possible to “update” a 1971 911T to look just like a 1998 Carrera 2S, and it’s also possible to “backdate” a 1994 911 Carrera to look like a classic 1973 Carrera RS. Both of these offenses against human decency have occurred many times, incidentally. Take a look here to see a rather lovely example of a “964″ turned into a “long-hood” 911S, in a color that will be familiar to many TTAC readers.

The 911 was never intended to last thirty-four years. The front-engine, water-cooled 928 was supposed to replace the 911 in the Seventies… but it didn’t, so the 911′s lifetime was extended another decade. The costs and inefficiencies of building a car with a Sixties architecture tortured Porsche. A complete re-engineering was necessary, and Porsche worked with Toyota to squeeze every last dollar out of the new 911′s design.

The list of cost-cuts in the Porsche 996 can be recited by nearly every Porschephile. Frameless doors, complete commonality with the Boxster from the door latches forward, horrifying interior trim quality, drop-in assemblies provided by the lowest bidder, and the engine…

An article on the most common failures suffered by the 3.4L watercooled boxer six can be found here, but for those of you who don’t click on links, the problems range from oil leakage at the rear main seal (which is more or less universal) to cylinder head failure. In nearly all cases, the “fix” is the same: to purchase a complete rebuild from Porsche, at your expense. Figure on $15,000 or more for the “subsidized” engine.

Porsche had been “fighting” failures of the watercooled engine, which appeared first in the 1997 Boxster, from the very first car that rolled off the line. Porous engine blocks, intermediate shaft failures… the watercooled boxers were junk. This is enough for a Deadly Sin — knowingly equipping every naturally-aspirated Boxster and 911 they sold from 1997 to as late as 2008 with failure-prone engines — but, as always, Porsche raised the bar in the customer-screwing department.

During those years, Porsche worked with its dealers to deny warranty claims, place blame on customers, withhold knowledge of fixes, and generally burn every last bit of goodwill they had built up over years of… um… previous engine failures in air-cooled cars. Again and again during those years, owners of pampered, low-mileage cars found themselves paying five-figure bills to keep their cars on the road. For more than a decade, Porsche simultaneously denied knowledge of engine problems while claiming that their newest engine revision did not suffer from the problems that they were denying had occurred previously.

While waiting for his $75,000 Porsche to experience a $15,000 engine failure, the 911 owner could at least fail to enjoy the most dismal, fragile interior ever seen in a production Porsche. Buttons wore out, dashes cracked, radios committed suicide in new and interesting ways, and every single electrical component in the car seemed prone to intermittent, untraceable failure. Naturally, the fabulously low prices Porsche paid suppliers for the jumble of garbage components in a 996 were never reflected at the parts counter. The replacement cost for the “Litronic” headlamp assemblies is enough to make an NBA player weep. I saw brand-new 996s with cracked leather on the seats when the cars were still in dealerships. Make no mistake. Every possible corner was cut.

Long-time Porsche owners found the 996 driving experience to be as bewildering as the build quality. This was a quiet, flimsy-feeling car that outhandled, outaccelerated, and outbraked the outgoing 993 while never feeling anything like as substantial as said air-cooled predecessor. The flimsy feeling came honestly — amazingly in this modern era, Porsche actually cut weight out of the car compared to the previous model — but it didn’t satisfy.

The men from Stuttgart knew they had a loser on their hands, so the 996 was freshened in 2002 with a more durable, more powerful engine, interior revisions, and a facelift. The market’s opinion on these cars, however, is written in the resale values. If you had purchased two Porsches in a row — a 1998 Carrera 2S for $75,000 and a 1999 Carrera 2 for $75,000 — and put 50,000 miles on each, you would find that the 1998 car would command an easy $50K in PCA classifieds, but the 1999 would struggle to fetch $20K.

The 1999 Porsche 911 was a failure in every way but one: the massive savings realized with the new model made it possible for the company to plan new models. And since the new model in question was the Cayenne, you could say that all the news was bad, after all. But that’s a Deadly Sin for another day.

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