Prices of the 996 generation Carrera remain low although the cars seem to be becoming more appreciated and there is some talk of a revival in values. This model is the best value way to own the iconic Porsche 911.
We have a lovely 996 which we bought recently and we got it up on one of our lifts so we could show you what to look for when buying one – and find out what was wrong with ours! Most of these points apply to the facelift version the 997 and, indeed, to the Boxster and Cayman siblings.
Firstly, a scan of the forums will have you walking away in fear. Everyone talks about the problems but few people talk about the good points. These are, by any standard, incredibly strong, reliable cars built to last a lifetime. Well maintained they will give years of trouble free enjoyment and can absolutely be used as every day cars.
Here is our Porsche 996 buying guide of what to look for:
The famous IMS bearing is covered by an earlier blog here
Another forum favourite is the rear main seal. This car has some oil on the join between the engine and the gearbox which is a tell tail sign but not enough to cause concern in this case. We will check along with the IMS next time the gearbox has to come out.
The third famous one is bore scoring, usually in the right hand bank. This is caused by uneven cooling and will cause high oil consumption and piston slap in extreme cases. The only solution is an engine rebuild. A mysteriously cheap car might be hiding this problem. Thankfully this image is not our car although it is not a bad example.
Coolant Pipes. As you can imagine, there is a system of pipes and hoses which runs from the radiator at the front of the car to the engine at the rear. These start to leak over time and, if you lose coolant, your engine can be damaged. The ones in the image are fine. Most cars that we look at need these pipes doing. Water pumps are also a weakness but easy to spot with noise from the bearing and / or coolant loss.
As you can see in the image, debris collects in the air intakes for the two condensers which can then corrode. If the AC is not working this is the first place to look, thankfully fine on our car. You should keep these air intakes clear as much as possible.
While on the subject of AC, the screens on the control panel can fail.
Brake discs do well to last 50000 miles. The ones on this car look fine on the outside but look at the inside! They need replacing urgently along with the pads of course.
Light suspension knocks are likely to either be drop links or anti-roll bar bushes. The bushes in the image needed replacement.
Suspension groans and knocks can be caused by perished bushes in the ends of the coffin arms. You have to replace the whole arm. You can see one end of a drop link in this image too – all 4 needed replacing on our car which had light knocking. You should always replace suspension parts in pairs.
Less common but the bushes on the rear upper control arms can fail. These ones were actually deemed OK for now.
Similarly the bushes in the trailing arms can perish and cause unwanted movement. These ones are fine.
At the front the top mounts can corrode as can the top of the shock absorber. These ones are in great shape. Leaky shock absorbers should be replaced (in pairs).
As with most cars, track rod ends can perish and move. These ones are very dirty but fine. It is always worth having a 4 wheel suspension alignment set up, especially after any work. It is fundamental to the amazing handling if these cars.
Exhaust manifolds (or headers) rust where they fasten to the engine. Amazingly the ones in this photo are typical and working fine. Porsche advise leaving them be until the manifold needs to come off for another reason. This is exactly what we are doing on this car.
Exhaust clamps rust. Ours are pretty nasty but not blowing so will just be monitored for now.
Likewise then exhaust itself will corrode over time. This one is fine. If the car you are looking at has a blowing exhaust make sure you do your home work. Porsche exhaust systems are very expensive indeed. There is, however, a whole world of after market exhausts which are cheaper. If your car has an aftermarket exhaust check that you like the exhaust note.
Engine mounts can drop over time. You may notice wonky exhaust tailpipes. If this happens it can affect the quality of the gear change. Not a big job to sort. These one are just fine.