Porsche 996 Turbo: Long-term report, January 2016

Porsche 911 Turbo

The Turbo does four-seater duty and PCM problems rear their head this month.

Since my last report a few months ago, the Turbo has been in regular weekend use and even served as a daily driver for a week or two while the family car was in for repairs. As a result, I’ve spent quite a few miles as a passenger in the car, sat in the back entertaining my young son while my wife handled the driving. I can report that it’s perfectly comfortable back there, providing you’re no taller than 5’8! I had about half an inch of headroom but otherwise it’s not a bad place to sit, provided you don’t get annoyed by the road noise from those 295-section rear Michelins and the roar from the stainless steel sports exhaust. Fortunately, I’m used to the noise, and it did help to lull Spain Jnr to sleep on a couple of occasions. The ‘practical four-seater’ line that’s often used to sell the prospect of a 911 to our significant others is actually not a complete lie!

It’s not all been good news, though. While out on a drive around my local B-roads just before Christmas, the front suspension started making some very worrying clonking noises as I rounded a series of bends. I pulled over and got out to take a quick look under the car and make sure nothing had fallen off, but in the pouring rain I couldn’t really spot anything wrong. After the stop I wasn’t able to reproduce the clonking, even with some fairly brutal waggling of the steering wheel to try and upset the suspension. I drove home slowly and carefully and checked the car over again once it was parked on the drive. Nothing seemed to be loose or broken and the noise hasn’t returned since, but I’m going to get the technicians at RPM Technik to inspect the suspension while the car is in with them for an oil change.

I’ve only done around 4,000 miles since the oil was last changed but I’ve decided to get it done anyway. The Porsche handbook says 12,000 miles between oil changes, but given that this car is now 13 years old and has done 5 trackdays since the last change, it seems like a good idea to get some fresh oil in there and have everything checked over. Much like Jack and his criminally-underdriven GT3, I believe that over-servicing these cars is a better bet than waiting until the designated distance between services has passed under the wheels. After the big bill from last year I’m hoping that there aren’t any nasty surprises lurking out of sight, but I’d rather know now than find out at 140mph on the back straight at Bedford Autodrome.

Along with the suspicious suspension noises, I’ve also had another intermittent fault show up on the car, this time with the PCM nav/entertainment system. While cruising along the motorway, the screen suddenly began to flicker on and off, first quickly and then strobing more slowly. Switching the system off and back on again didn’t make any difference, so I turned it off completely and drove home in silence, wondering how much a replacement unit goes for on eBay. Sadly, the answer to that question is ‘a lot’. Mine is a 2002 car which means it has the early 8-bit PCM1 unit fitted, and these can fetch £500+ on eBay. Some digging online found a few threads with others suffering the same issue, and while some companies offer a screen repair service, the cost isn’t far off the price of a replacement PCM1 unit anyway.

I’ve driven the car subsequently with the stereo on and the issue hasn’t resurfaced, but I’m wary of the PCM system now. I’m not going to replace it until it definitely dies, but if the fault does reappear I’m tempted to look at fitting a modern CarPlay head unit rather than replacing it like-for-like with a used PCM system. It goes against my oft-stated desire to keeping the car looking OEM-spec, but the PCM system is horribly dated and clunky even when it’s working perfectly.

Since it’s the new year and the Turbo has suffered a few niggles, I’ve decided to put together a list of items that I want to address over the course of 2016, with the aim of keeping the car as cosmetically and mechanically sound as possible. Mechanically there’s not much to do other than the aforementioned suspension inspection, but there’s quite a few items on the cosmetic list. These range from simple things like replacing all of the scruffy wheel centres with new ones to match the refurbished wheels, to getting the left-hand front brake caliper reconditioned and repainted so that it matches the brand new one on the right-hand side of the car. (Yes, that sort of thing bothers me!) I’d also like sort out two little chips on the right rear wheelarch that have been there since I bought the car. They’ve been badly touched up by a previous owner and I’d love to get them properly filled and painted. I only hope that it doesn’t require the entire right rear quarter to be resprayed.

This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of GT Porsche magazine.