Q – My ‘88 Carrera was driving great until I let my son borrow the car for the Woodward Cruise. I never had a bit of trouble with my transmission but when he brought it back it wouldn’t go into third gear without loud gnashing sounds. It doesn’t matter how easy I shift or at what speed either. All the other gears including reverse, work normally. The other thing that is different is that the clutch pedal is about a half inch lower than it used to be. I am hoping it just needs a clutch adjustment. I was told by my mechanic that these gearboxes are bullet proof so I wonder. How good are they? The car only has 41,000 miles on it! – Denny

A –The G-50 transmission is generally bulletproof. They are hard to break but even the best sometimes fail depending on what mayhem is committed. The Woodward Cruise has caused some normally sane people to get a little crazy. Have you been down to the loop in Pontiac? Yeah baby!!

I have some bad news for you Denny. When I have seen this symptom, it is usually due to a broken synchronizer ring or damaged gear set.  “Internal transmission damage” is how I describe it. Any way you slice it the repair will not be cheap or easy. The first step is to perform a basic “eyeball” inspection of the clutch pedal, hydraulics and lever at the transmission…but that probably won’t turn up anything. The next step is to pull the powertrain out, separate the transaxle from the engine and find out what broke and how painful this is going to be.

The low clutch pedal on this car is another issue that may have contributed to the transmission failure. On this model, although the pedal linkage is adjustable, it rarely if ever needs to be adjusted. What does happen is that the rubber center of the clutch can fail and over a period of twenty years or so, it starts throwing chunks of rubber into the pressure plate. These chunks get lodged in the pressure plate, some of the clutch spring fingers warp, and this changes the release bearing height. Now I have a question for you (and your son): What happened just before third gear started grinding?

“Well, he shifted fast from second and got the shifter part way into third and let the clutch out. The shift lever kicked back at him into neutral, and then it would not go back into third without grinding”

At least you know when and how it happened but now to find out how bad it is. With the powertrain removed, things to consider at this age and mileage include rubber and plastic parts. On this list I include: the rubber center clutch, release bearing, input shaft seal, crankshaft seal, engine compartment insulation, oil thermostat O-ring, breather gasket, and possibly the oil light switch. Whenever the powertrain needs to be removed, overlap between related operations can benefit you by easier access. For my money, if I have the budget for it, I want to do it once and do it right. MC

Q – The starter on my Carrera is making unhealthy sounds and I would like to get your opinion on my choices. I see some aftermarket gear reduction starters available, some rebuilt Bosch starters and Bosch Reman starters. What’s the difference? Jeff

A – Your car was built with a Bosch starter and they work for decades, not years. The aftermarket gear reduction starter is lighter, and in some cases cheaper than the original. The benefit of that starter is weight and power. For racers, they are an excellent choice. The warranty is not as good however and it is a fabricated part meaning that if a component fails, you might just need to buy another one.

The rebuilt Bosch starter can confuse things because all original starters were Bosch and anyone can rebuild one. That’s the problem.   Who rebuilt that starter? Who knows? Generally the warranty on rebuilt or reman Bosch starters covers the part itself but no labor. Another issue is terminology. What constitutes a rebuilt starter anyway? I have seen (and been victimized) by supposed rebuilt parts that simply did not work well and sometimes not at all.

A Bosch Reman starter comes right from the source, Bosch. When Bosch remanufactures a starter, ALL the working parts are replaced…not just “the bad ones!” Bosch also supplies Porsche with their “Factory Rebuilt” starters…the Factory in question is the Bosch facility in Broadview, Illinois. The quality is unsurpassed and the warranty on them is rock solid.   If you take your Porsche to the dealer for a starter, you get a top quality part and a warranty on labor as well. Any Porsche dealer can correct the problem at no charge for parts or labor. If you buy a Bosch Reman, the same parts and labor warranty applies. Anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, you can get the Bosch part warranted and if it was installed by a Bosch affiliate, the labor as well.

Naturally, although the warranty is a factor, having the peace of mind knowing that you will probably never need to take advantage of the warranty is even better. My vote, saving money by choosing a “no brand” is not worth it. MC

Q – My 2001 Cabrio has developed some weird electrical oddities. The door lock on the driver side automatically locked itself when I put the key in the ignition a couple times. When I drive the car, the seat belt / key in ignition chime goes on at random. John

A – John, I got out my crystal ball and determined that your car is possessed. Electronic demons are attacking! But seriously the common denominator is the ignition switch and these are known to fail. The switch is the same as the one in many late model Audis. The trouble is, without a consistent fault, you are trying to find a needle in a haystack. I suggest that you disconnect the battery and let the car sit overnight. Reconnect the battery the next day and drive the car. I have done this and it worked for me.

I am sure that someone reading this can explain this phenomenon but I can’t. It just works and when you find the solution to your problem, naturally you stop looking. If the symptom continues after dumping all those errant electrons, I would lean toward the ignition switch. My logic is based on likelihood of failure based on history and the price of the switch (very low). Not long ago, a car just like yours had the ignition switch melt in the “on” position and the poor guy could not shut the car off! One thing I have noticed is that sometimes when engaging the starter you really have to rotate the switch very hard to get it to engage. I think this might be a clue. If yours works like that and if there is sometimes a pause before the starter begins to spin, bet on the switch. MC

Q – What you can tell me about the different valve cover gasket kits for my 1988 911. Which ones do you recommend? I know that original Porsche parts are probably the best and when I saw some O.E.M. gaskets on the Albatross Parts website for $22.00 or so, I was impressed.   Why would anyone pay twice that from the dealer when they can get the same part for less than half. I also saw reusable silicone gaskets, gaskets with a sealing bead and I was surprised at the wide variety and pricing. I need some power window switches and I noticed that switch prices are all over the map too. I found some O.E. switches for $15.00 and other sites wanted $30.00 for them. Tom

A – I’m with you. I need a compelling reason to pay more for the same thing so I contacted Albatross for their side of this story. I know that O.E. M. is the acronym for original equipment manufactured. When I scrolled down the site I found that the Porsche brand was indeed more expensive. Naturally I had to ask. Is O.E.M. genuine Porsche in a plain brown wrapper?

I called the 800 number and spoke to “Chuck” (not his real name) who said that the O.E.M kits were not made by Porsche. He told me that the O.E.M. brand is just a brand, not the origin of the part at all. He was not at liberty to tell me who made them either but he assured me that they were indeed an O.E.M manufacturer of gaskets.

All the kit contains gaskets, washers, and nuts. The lower priced gaskets are made to just “get the job done” and are manufactured as cheaply as possible. When you compare them to the Porsche gaskets, you can see the difference but it’s not easy to tell when the picture on your monitor is one inch by two inches. Then there is the hardware. Who knows if the washers and nuts are equivalent to the originals? I bet they are not made in Germany. Well maybe they are but the problem is, they can’t tell you the origin.   I have been shipped stainless steel components that are magnetic. I had to wonder… how “stainless” are they?   Off shore products are here to stay. After all, we just celebrated America’s independence with Chinese fireworks. But this “O.E.M.” brand reminds me of a line in a Frank Zappa tune: “Who you jivin’ with that cosmic debris?”

If we are only talking about gaskets or window switches, they are relatively cheap compared to labor.   Since a valve adjustment takes a number of hours to do properly and carefully, I won’t risk my time to save $25.  There is an old saying in this biz “If you don’t take the time to do it right the first time, somehow you always find the time to do it again.”

In general, why pay double just because it’s genuine? Do it when it matters, either personally for your peace of mind or for longevity or safety. In an application where a replacement part is good or better than an original, buy it.   I’m guilty of looking for the good deal. I have been searching for that “good, cheap painter” for years! If I can get it wholesale, I do. The key is making an informed decision and that leads me to yet another Zappa line, “Is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho?” When your wallet and engine are at risk, don’t chance it. Some parts that seem to be a bargain often cost you double in the long run.

To answer your original question about my preference in kits: I prefer the German kits that have the Porsche tag, date coded but with the Porsche trademark removed. I like the gaskets with the factory applied bead of sealant. Those kits have the nice original gold cad plated nuts and the soft aluminum sealing washers.

As far as window switches, “Chuck” told me that Albatross only sells “Genuine Porsche” switches and they are over $30.00 each. I checked into the source of the cheaper ones and they are NOT Porsche, they are a crap shoot.  You can tell how they feel and the plastic finish is different as well. At least an aftermarket switch won’t generally damage anything when it fails; it merely annoys you – MC

Q – The AC system on my 1986 911 is no longer cooling and I have heard that the old R-12 Freon is very expensive and getting harder to find. I never felt that the car cooled very well to begin with and I am wondering about the cost of fixing it or updating it. Karl

A – You are correct in saying that the old R-12 is getting harder to find and expensive but don’t worry about that yet. Typically the older cars that sit around a lot tend to seep Freon. If it has been a few years, don’t be surprised if it simply needs to be topped up. My philosophy is that in the absence of gross leaks or total failure, keep the R-12.

Have the system tested for leaks and if none are found, have it evacuated and put under vacuum overnight. Usually a system is considered leak free if it holds vacuum for a half hour but on an older car, especially one that uses the expensive Freon, I like overnight better. If it holds, have it charged and leak tested again with a full charge. Now here’s the rub: If the system has not been charged (under pressure) for a long time, and then you have it charged, sometimes a full charge brings out a weakness in the seals. No one can say for sure that a system will hold a charge for any period of time but Porsche systems are usually pretty tough. Unless you have a corrosion issue or damage to one of the hoses, you can usually get a few more seasons out of it.

If you decide to upgrade to R-134 (the cheap stuff) the cooling will not be as good but in Michigan, you will still find it adequate. The cost to change it over is nominal and if you had a gross leak or component failure, I would recommend it.   As another option, there are “drop in substitutes” available that cool better but they are more expensive than R-134 but once you change the car over, you have to use that brand. I have used a product called “FR12” and it works fine but I still run R-12 in my Carrera.

Now if you have a Carrera 1990 or newer, it still uses the old R-12 but in the case of these cars, I would suggest an update to R-134 since the system is better engineered and will work fine with R-134.

On the older Carreras, the system is wholly inadequate no matter what. If you want to be truly cool and you have a 70’s or early 80’s car, there are a number of well documented and expensive solutions. When properly installed (and watch out for interference between the coil and condenser in the engine compartment) R-134 can be used – MC

Q – My 2007 Carrera had a lot of brake dust on the calipers and wheels and it was ugly. I bought some wheel cleaner, sprayed it on, and now it looks like the wheels and calipers are discolored. Help. John

A –   Wheel cleaners usually contain acid and you may have permanently damaged the finish. The best suggestion that I have is to remove the wheels and clean them inside and out with a PH balanced wheel cleaner (P-21S or Griots). Then apply a thick coat of “wheel wax” which is specially formulated for wheels. Your wheels are painted and clear coated so other than removing some of the clear coat, they will probably look OK. As far as the calipers, if the finish is etched by the cleaner, other than painting them, the damage is done. Incidentally, since you take the car to the track, most paints will tend to burn off so if you decide to paint them, use paint formulated for brake parts that is heat tolerant. – MC

Q – I opened the glove box on my 1986 944 and the two plastic brackets that keep it from flopping to the floor broke, one right after the other. They are part of the glove box door and when I checked on the price of a new door I practically passed out. Does anyone make a repair part for it?   John

A – I like making things. And I would rather repair something than buy it new, provided it is cost effective. The solution I used on my 944 was some thin gauge aluminum cut in the pattern of the original broken part with an added flange to secure it under the inner cover of the door. With some small screws that won’t poke through the outer cover, the repair pieces can be glued in between the inner and outer parts and only you will ever know that it was ever broken. – MC

Q – My 928 hatch release is driving me crazy. Sometimes it works and sometimes not.   The other thing that’s strange about the car is the window switches. They worked fine until I parked the car for a few weeks and now one works 9 times out of 10 and the other one only works if I push it down really hard. I already replaced them but I got them online, not from Porsche.   Tom

A – The problems that I see most frequently on 928 electrical issues have to do with storing the car and this goes for 944, and Carrera too. The switches get oxidized and quit working. If you keep trying the switches sometimes they will miraculously start working again and the more you use them the better they will work.

I usually trust original Porsche switches but my faith was recently shaken when a brand new switch blew the fuse for the windows as soon as I plugged it in.   The markings on the switches were identical for the O.E. switch and the aftermarket switch. Both were made in Hungary, by the same manufacturer, had the same markings, with only one exception. The Porsche switch was date coded. And for the extra 30%, it still blew the fuse.

As far as the hatch release, once you go through all the usually tests and adjustments, you will notice that the switch only works with the door open. I was fooled by this one and wasted some time and money (mine) researching a phantom problem. Sometimes I am better at giving advice than taking it. I should have read the book on this one. Duh! – MC

Q – My Boxster flooded and now my power locks don’t work. I sopped a half gallon or so of water from under my driver seat and I am afraid that the box under there may have gotten wet. Ed

A – In the “boot”, where the top lives when it is down, there are two drains that sometimes clog with leaves, twigs, etc. Think of them as an onboard composting pile. (Boxster owners take note) When the drains clog, the boot overflows and that is how the water got in.   After you get them unplugged, the driver seat should be removed and everything dried well. As soon as an electrical component gets wet, you should disconnect the power and dry the component. If you leave them wet and powered up, they are certain to get fried in short order.  –MC

Q – I was wondering about lowering my 1985 Carrera. I was told that the front torsion bars are easy to adjust and that the rear ride height is adjustable too. Is this something I can do my self?

During my investigation, I also removed the side skirts on my Carrera to clean them up and tidy up some rough spots on the body. When I turned a couple of the screws that hold them to the brackets on the right rocker panel, the whole bracket ripped off my car! The oil lines run along that side and I am wondering how I am going to replace them without removing the oil lines.   This is really starting to get complicated. –Wade

A – Lowering the front end is easy and inexpensive on this generation Carrera. The rear end ought to be fairly straightforward except that I have found that the torsion bars are set from the factory, to go up, not down. Maybe they expected them to sag? That, combined with the age of the rubber bushings (that are now over twenty years old) turns this job into a nightmare. The rubber donuts act as bearings and get destroyed along with the torsion bar caps.   While it is expensive, I think that most folks will not have access to the wide array of dangerous tools needed to do it safely.

As far as the side skirts, you are skewered on the horns of a dilemma. To replace those brackets, you will have to lower or remove the oil pipes, grind down (or cut) to solid metal and weld them back on. That is going to hurt.

An alternative method that I have used is rectangular plastic blocks that attach to the rocker panel with two stainless steel screws. If you engineer them well, the side skirt can be secured to them. They are every bit as solid as the original bracket. When the car does get restored in the next decade or two, you might want to put the original brackets back on but if you want to drive your car this summer, it is hard to beat plastic and stainless steel. – MC