By on July 2, 2014

porkerodo

Oh, Porsche. You so crazy.

When it comes to the Ohio spring, I typically leave my Porkers inside until the second rain after the last salting. When I did so this time I was greeted by an odd Nurburgring-looking disfigurement of the multi-function LCD on my 2004 Boxster S Anniversary. Over the past decade, the little water-cooler has displayed a middling variety of idiosyncrasies, but this one annoyed me more than most for some reason.

A trawl through Google showed that plenty of 996-generation Porsches eventually suffered from frozen pixels or a pixellated display. Nobody seemed to know what caused it or how to fix it. A search for replacement instrument clusters didn’t turn up anything terribly affordable, and it didn’t help that most of them were white-faced gauges instead of the black faces that came standard on the Anniversary car.

What to do? I thought long and hard about what might have caused the issue. Porsche painted the negative terminal on my Boxster with red paint, so at least twice I’ve blown out the fuse in the radio jump-starting the car, but this wasn’t the case for this spring. The only thing I’d done was run it when it was a little cool — forty-nine degrees, as you can see.

It made sense that the prehistoric Porsche LCD might have frozen or locked the pixels when activated in “cold” weather. Forget, for a moment, the fact that you’d put your fist through the dashboard if your Ford Focus or Chevy Cruze behaved this way. Porsches made it to the top of the Consumer Reports survey because nobody drives them and when they do they assume the problems are their own fault because they are nouveau trash who don’t know who to operate a fine Finnish convertible.

If cold weather was the fault, perhaps hot weather could be the cure. So, while I was traveling I left the Boxster to sit outside in ninety-degree heat for a week with the windows up. Any dog in there would surely have died a thousand deaths and in fact I bet the leather seats aren’t too happy about it. But when I returned and fired it up — voila!

After a few weeks away, it was nice to put the top down, put on my Paradise Valley straw hat, and drive downtown to hang out a bit. I really felt like the carefree old guys you always see in Boxsters. Sometimes I think I’ll sell this thing. Sometimes I think I’ll keep it. For now, my doubts have vanished like frozen pixels in the summer sun.

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79 Comments on “How To Fix Your Instrument Cluster For Free...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Oh my what a high mileage Porsche! Certainly they’ll be sending you a badge for your grille soon like Volvo.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      FYI, Jack, this fix does not work for children.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I’ve never seen a Volvo grille badge, but I know Mercedes still gives them.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Volvo doesn’t do it anymore. Tried to write them to get one for my 850R and the bastards ignored me. You have to go to e-bay, where Volvo geeks will pay eye watering sums of money for them. Fortunately, I imagine there’s a lot fewer 996s that will make the club.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        I got the 100k and 200k mileage badge for a ’77 242 from VCNA, for free after I send them an email. I live in Norway, btw, so that’s great service.

        Any Chinese factory will probably make those for 30ct a piece, so I sense a business opportunity here.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I’m surprised they do one for 100k. Conversely, since they do one for 100k I’m surprised I don’t see more badges. I’m guessing most people don’t know about it.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Very nice! Just like in IT, if you leave a problem long enough it fixes itself…sometimes. Or else the user gives up on getting support and finds a workaround.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      We call it the 3 minute Microsoft miracle. Turn PC off. Wait 3 minutes. Boot back up. Works most of the time unless it is a wireless networked printer; then you need a shaman, a virgin, and an active volcano.

  • avatar
    bauerjw

    You did not reset your trip meter this entire time? My brain just cannot process such an act (or lack thereof).

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    They don’t call them frozen pixels without a reason

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Where does the term “Porker” come from?

  • avatar
    Battlehawk

    The Porsche 917 livery with the cuts of pork outlined? http://www.mad4wheels.com/webpics/hires/00002881%20-%201971%20Porsche%20917-20%20Pink%20pig/1971_Porsche_917-20_Pink_pig_004_6310.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Oh, okay. Thanks!

      I kinda thought it was some British nickname, like “soccer” is for association football.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I think Battlehawk’s explanation is correct, although mine also had to do with British speech. I though it was because certain dialects in England add an intrusive R to vowel-ending words in certain contexts, so that Porsche became Porsche[r], which eventually became Porker.

        But again, I think Battlehawk is right.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s really a Fiat in Porsche clothes.

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    Ugh, that’s awful from a hyper expensive car.

    Wouldn’t an MR2 with a VTEC swap be more interesting and reliable? I think they had that featured on Best Motoring International.

    Also, I came across a Ferrari 308 fitted with an Honda H22 (on the Internets of course).

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Hyper expensive?

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      In my experience the most reliable crossbred swaps are right up there reliability wise with a Chevy Citation unless you spend uber bucks at a shop that specializes in that particular swap. I know of a couple places that would drop a Cummins and an Allison in your defunct Power Stroke and one place that would put said Cummins in your Land Cruiser and make it work like it came from the factory. I also have seen places that will throw an LS in a Miata and make it work factory (around 35k plus your Miata if I remember). Most homebrew stuff ends up with check engine lights (assuming it works), inoperative gauges, and wiring harnesses from hell.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Ahhh, Porsche driver-interface equipment. My ’68 912 had a malfunctioning (read:broke) turn signal/headlight stalk; would work if you held it in the correct position for the desired direction of turn. Didn’t self repair. The parts department at the local VW/Porsche dealer in Idaho Falls quoted a ridiculous price for a replacement stalk/switch. The counter-man also brought out another box, this one without the Porsche logo on it – it had the VW logo. He opened both boxes and both stalks/switches were identical down to the molded part number and color. Needless to say I purchased the VW switch (it was about 20% of the price of the Porsche switch). The switch I purchased was for a Type 1 and worked fine…..

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    seriously? THAT antique display is physically part of your high-end sports car made in the current century?

    I had a more elaborate display in my $30 graphing calculator back in middle school. when I say ‘middle school’, we’re talking a time frame where current classic rock was on pop channels and the high school student parking lot was loaded with T-top cars.

    I’m embarassed for Porsche.

    • 0 avatar
      krayzie

      Porsche will probably argue that your middle school Casio graphing calculator wasn’t backlit lol!

      • 0 avatar
        qest

        You can’t compare automotive electronics to things like calculators or smart phones.

        How do you think your calculator have fared going from winter freezing to “…I left the Boxster to sit outside in ninety-degree heat for a week with the windows up. Any dog in there would surely have died a thousand deaths…” If left upon the dashboard near this display?

        • 0 avatar
          Hillman

          My hp financial calculator has survived sitting in my car for years. Personally I don’t think it is an excuse since cars are expected to be outside. My calculator is expected to be at my work desk.

    • 0 avatar
      tooloud10

      Sheesh, it’s a MY04, and the Boxster was never really considered to be a “high-end” sports car. That display is pretty much what all cars had until they all started switching to the larger TFT displays between the gauges.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Was Jack’s car built in this century?
      I can’t figure out why the Euros don’t just contract out the electronic displays to the companies that can get it right. It can’t cost that much more. The sort of people who will pay around $4K for Porsche’s special GT Silver or $9K for a paint to sample color are unlikely to notice a small premium for more reliable displays.
      Porsche now lards its cars up with the modernistical electronics whizbangery available in cheaper cars. So now there will be more of it to fail more often and at a higher price to repair.

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        The Boxster was designed and started production last century, actually!

        On top of people paying 4k-9k for special paint, you can also have the AC vent slats covered in leather, in a color of your choosing.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I am hoping you will explain why you continue to encourage this manufacturer’s bad behavior? I will admit to an unnatural bias, as in 1975, I purchased a 911S, which cost me as much as four years of school. Their attitude was they were doing me a favor taking my money. They thought my wanting to drive it off the showroom floor “quaint”, and things didn’t improve from that poor start. Arbitrating service problems was a nightmare, and my lack of familiarity with fuel injection didn’t help. Fast forward to today. I have a neighbor, who much like me, wanted a performance car that did more than go in a straight line. He drives an Audi Q loaner more than his own car. They actually had the balls to present him with a bill for $25k for a clutch replacement on a four year old car with less than 20,000 miles. Had that been my car, hostages and firearms would have been involved in the negotiation. It seems to be the exception that buyers have a good experience with Porsche ownership. So, you Porsche owners, why do they sell record numbers today? Why haven’t they died within two generations of buyers? I am not being sarcastic – I am really curious.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      “He drives an Audi Q loaner more than his own car. They actually had the balls to present him with a bill for $25k for a clutch replacement on a four year old car with less than 20,000 miles.”

      Do elaborate. I’m guessing they classified the clutch as a wear item and told him to stop launching so hard. Also, what kind of clutch job costs more than a loaded Civic? R8/RS model with DSG?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “25k for a clutch replacement on a four year old car with less than 20,000 miles.”

      Lol, prove it.

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        I obviously lost my head. Asking a well-respected businessman who has been kind enough to include me in a couple of deals is not on the agenda. His word and reputation is sufficient. I have religiously tried to stay out of the fray, and leave my worthless two cents away from the conversation. It won’t happen again. Sorry.

      • 0 avatar
        tooloud10

        Yeah, I’d love to see that $25k clutch bill, too. I had a Porsche dealer replace the entire engine in my 996 and it didn’t cost half of $25k. My normal mechanic will put a new clutch in the same car for a couple thousand dollars.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I suffer the same problem at home. My 30″ LCD monitor displays a stuck blue column upon startup, but after 15 minutes in summer and 30 in winter, it heats up enough for contact to be made and that bright yellow line disappears.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    If the problem was “frozen pixels”, I don’t understand how the lines in the display are of a finer resolution than the pixels.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      Good observation!

      I’ve seen LCD panels freeze like the picture shown – the frozen parts aren’t relegated to the grid of pixels, and the effect seems to be amplified by what looks to be nucleation sites. Some manufacturers get it right on important stuff – the displays on the old Motorola Iridium phones work well in cold temps.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Jack’s obviously barking up the wrong tree about pixels.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        I think that there is a top layer of plastic that has delaminated from the display, pulling the adhesive away, producing (vacuum)* bubbles smaller than the resolution. Heating causes the adhesive to re-flow and refill the space between the layers.
        *Edit: If they were air bubbles, they would prevent the re-joining of the layers.

  • avatar
    desmo21

    My 2001 911 lives in a warm garage in South Florida and has the same issue. I will bake it in the sun over the holiday weekend and report back!

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    The LCD display on my old stereo I keep out in the garage does the same thing in the winter except it goes completely blank. It wakes back up if I run the heat out there, or midway through spring. I would have thought Porsche would have a better quality screen than my Aiwa dorm room stereo from 1997.

    Been meaning to get one of those bluetooth speaker deals, since I just play music from my iphone via aux cables anyway.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Oh my, JB, if not for your candor about this Porsche family, I might be driving a used 99 Boxster at this minute. Reading about your car’s latest ‘display of character’ only intrigues me; if I had Porsche owner problems I’d be only upset, given the delimited fun you can actually have on the roads these days. (Whenever I see one go by, I hope to heaven it’s a lease)

    But do tell, what thoughts are you having when you think about selling the old Helmut?

  • avatar
    TW5

    The graphic leads me to believe that if I drive from the northside of Richmond Virginia on a chilly morning in May to the southside of Miami, and I reset my trip computer roundabout Vero Beach, FL; my instrument cluster will fix itself.

  • avatar
    Discoman

    The cold never bothered me anyway…

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    At least your Boxter’s display looks like it came from some part of this century. E39s all do this, and the pixels are at least 4x the size of these. The fix is equally cheap (though not as easy).

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This is pretty endemic to many European cars (and Blaupunkt car stereos) going back to the 80s. There is a ribbon cable that supplies the signal to the display. It is heatbonded/glued to the display, and over time it starts to work loose. Heat and cold cycling seem to make it worse, and as Jack found sometimes they will work fine in the heat when everything is expanded, but when it gets cold the parts will contract and lose contact again. Some folks have had good luck with heating the ribbon up with an iron to reseal it, but that tends to be temporary. Solution is to send it out to one of the myriad places that can fix it. I’ve had to do this with two Saabs, not that big a deal, costs ~$100 for a Saab display, probably $200 with the “Porsche Tax”. Most places give a lifetime warranty on the repair – though that does not mean you won’t be sending it in again in a few years…

    I admit it, I would love a car that drives European but has a Japanese electrical system. But since that doesn’t exist, I put up with the little foibles.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      If you want German with decent electricals the Russelheim-built SAAB 9-5 and 2011 Buick Regals may be worth a look if you like sedans. After GM bought Hughes Electronics, they pretty much sorted their electricals out.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        The ’11 Regals unfortunately had teething trouble: http://www.truedelta.com/Buick-Regal/reliability-521. The later ones should be better.

      • 0 avatar
        1967mgb

        I really appreciated your comment…learned something. It made me think, imagine if you climbed into your car and looked at displays made by Garmin, Avidyne, or Rockwell Collins! Yeah,contract with them to wire the whole car.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      BMW had a strikingly similar issue with the MFD’s on their cars circa 99-03. The ribbon cable seat would come loose, or dry out, or get humid, and you could beg and plead for the ‘unofficial’ recall replacement, or you could grunt and sweat to remove, clean, and re-seat the damn thing.

      Funny that I’ve now seen the same kind of thing on Audi’s and Porsche’s. At least the insulation wasn’t biodegradable … ahem, Mercedes….

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Miata?

  • avatar
    dude500

    This is a big problem for Audi instrument panels too, so I assume the cause is similar.

    It has to do with the connection between the IP and the controller. Apparently the wires are so thin that if the temperature contracted or expanded them too much, the connection was lost and so you’d get intermittent dead pixels.

    You can either beef up the connection yourself with solder, or send to guys like ModuleMaster to do it for you for $160 (also works for your ABS controller and other electronic gremlins).

    My A6 was “cold blooded” in the sense that all the pixels worked fine in the winter, but it was completely dark in the summer! And the spring/fall would be inbetween: “Pus utch o S art”

  • avatar
    mitchw

    It’s German Pretensiousnsess in Engineering. Come on, they don’t live up to their hype or aspirations.

    More suckers needed, enter China.

    • 0 avatar
      mitchw

      Beg to disagree, Zuffenhausen? WTF with your IMS bearings? Eh? How many tears? Antworte!!

      How effing dare you even stand up straight. Bullshit Artisten.

  • avatar
    Johnny_Cakes

    Cold Solder joints are the culprit As dude 500 mentioned.
    Not cold as in temperature but as a term used in electronics repair that means weak solder connection. Temperature definitely affects the weak connections. I repaired many Delco GM Radios back in the day and learned that this was the cause of many car problems in general. When you have weirdness like this best to start with just heating up all the connections and adding a drop of solder.

  • avatar

    Agreed. I’m the lifelong geek who will buy a toy at some point. I had the 911 poster on the wall as a kid.

    I am amazed that there are so many problems, things which would be inexcusable in a Corolla at 1/4 the price.

    Makes me wonder. I saw a TV show where they assembled the 911, and I was amazed at the amount of hand work done, compared to other assembly lines. I could see as it was being assembled the amount of work it would take to do routine things…typical layered German assembly, which is easy to build but tougher out in the field. (I’ve spent two hours replacing $20 parts in BMW)

    I would think you’d get something pretty tough though, not with cellophane bits interspersed. Of course, a lot of owners are going to be tough, thinking they are “good drivers” so the cars may see a decent amount of ham-handed (and footed) use.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    This shows how subjective the CR info is.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “$105,000 – and this is a limited edition.”

    “Oh, you damn right it’s limited. Ain’t got no cupholders, no backseat…this car’s a shiny dick wit two chairs in it, and I guess we the balls, just draggin’ the fuck along!”

    Really? A display that shits the bed because IT’S COLD OUT? German engineering indeed.

    One C5, please!

    • 0 avatar
      3Deuce27

      Reg; “A display that shits the bed because IT’S COLD OUT? German engineering indeed. One C5, please!”

      Pure bias.. Plenty of the Generals sporties have had their display panel die, as have other vehicles at any price or MFR.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Yeah, because the Corvette’s digital displays are the absolute pinnacle of quality! Perhaps Jack should just replace the whole mess with the CRT out of a Buick Reatta.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    Jack, nothing was fixed, pixels aside, it is just that there are Winter cars and Summer cars. Your ‘996’ has aged into a Summer car.

    The expense of owning a infrequently driven fun car, measured in per miles driven, escalates with every un-driven mile. Plus there is the loss of not having an intimate relationship the vehicle you traded hard earned treasure for. The highest value relationship is one where the vehicle is driven and put a way wet, repeat, repeatedly, always putting a mellow smile on you face. Now there is value received, memories made.

    Expense and loss.. or true value.

    When your dead, you won’t get any of that ‘E&L’ back, but you lived the smiles. Priceless’

    Buy’em and drive the hell out of them. When they get old and tired, rebuild them for more fun, or sell them so somebody else can pile on the miles and smiles.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Meh. Typical 10 year old car stuff. I work on 996s daily. Not a big issue.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    So were one to live un upstate New York this cluster would work for about two months out of the year. Pity, the mid engine would probably be OK in the snow.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    My S2000’s garish digital display is just fine at 1 year older and more than 2x the miles.

    Just sayin’….

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