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Old 10-06-2009, 01:28 PM   #1
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Flashing CEL

Got done at work today, and went out and started the Boxster. The Check Engine Light came on, and it was the dreaded (from what I've heard) flashing CEL. I shut the car down, then decided I wanted to at least move it back into an actual parking spot (I had started to back out). So I re-started it, and moved it back.

When I started it to re-park it, the CEL (flashing or otherwise) did NOT come back on, so I let her idle for a couple minutes. Still no light.

Tried calling the local stealership...for some odd reason, nobody answered after like 20 rings. (This was 3:40 in the afternoon---I guess they closed early to go spend some of the huge amounts of profits they take in repairing Pcars! )

So I called an indy shop that I used (on recommendaiton of another 986 member) to do my axle boots and repack CV joints. He told me it was likely tied to the ignition and that, when I restarted it, it had gotten into a slightly different position and hence no CEL was displayed. "Should I drive it?" I asked. "Drive it" was his reply.

Everything seemed smooth the trip home (about 10 miles): Engine sounded the way it usually sounds and no CEL seen.

What do you think? Ignition-related or not? If so, is it fixin' to need replacing before long? Should I proactively take her in to be checked out or not?
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Old 10-06-2009, 01:44 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodo
Got done at work today, and went out and started the Boxster. The Check Engine Light came on, and it was the dreaded (from what I've heard) flashing CEL. I shut the car down, then decided I wanted to at least move it back into an actual parking spot (I had started to back out). So I re-started it, and moved it back.

When I started it to re-park it, the CEL (flashing or otherwise) did NOT come back on, so I let her idle for a couple minutes. Still no light.

Tried calling the local stealership...for some odd reason, nobody answered after like 20 rings. (This was 3:40 in the afternoon---I guess they closed early to go spend some of the huge amounts of profits they take in repairing Pcars! )

So I called an indy shop that I used (on recommendaiton of another 986 member) to do my axle boots and repack CV joints. He told me it was likely tied to the ignition and that, when I restarted it, it had gotten into a slightly different position and hence no CEL was displayed. "Should I drive it?" I asked. "Drive it" was his reply.

Everything seemed smooth the trip home (about 10 miles): Engine sounded the way it usually sounds and no CEL seen.

What do you think? Ignition-related or not? If so, is it fixin' to need replacing before long? Should I proactively take her in to be checked out or not?

If the DME tripped a flashing CEL, there will be a stored or pending code, get the system read ASAP………………
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Old 10-06-2009, 02:08 PM   #3
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+1 on the "get it to a shop ASAP"

Don't blow this off.
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'97 Boxster (Black Hole for 42,000 Dead Presidents and counting) - 122k
New motor, transmission, suspension, and on and on and on it goes...
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Old 10-06-2009, 03:23 PM   #4
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OK, I will check it out.

Isn't kind of unusual for it to go on for such a short period (seconds, though I did shut the car down in response)? I figured it would come back on as soon as I re-started the car (and stay on until reset)

Also: can the code readers at AutoZone and/or Advanced Auto Parts read the codes on Pcars? (I called, and got sort of equivocal responses, like "Uh, yeah, it should read that OK..")

It's OK to drive short distances? (Like to the shop?)
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Old 10-06-2009, 04:45 PM   #5
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Update: Checked at Advanced Auto---no codes found.

When I asked about whether it should read a recorded code for the CEL, even though the CEL was no longer lit, he said "sometimes." I guess when certain events throw a code (he said they're usually emission-related), they don't always get recorded into the memory (I think he called them 'passing codes') unless they are recurring.

Sound reasonable? He sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

Anyway, guess I'm going to drive her for now, and keep my eyes and ears open...
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Old 10-07-2009, 05:29 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodo
OK, I will check it out.

Isn't kind of unusual for it to go on for such a short period (seconds, though I did shut the car down in response)? I figured it would come back on as soon as I re-started the car (and stay on until reset)

Also: can the code readers at AutoZone and/or Advanced Auto Parts read the codes on Pcars? (I called, and got sort of equivocal responses, like "Uh, yeah, it should read that OK..")

It's OK to drive short distances? (Like to the shop?)
Literally any OBD II scanner should be able to see “death codes” (those that trigger flashing CEL’s); that said, many scanners may not be able to clear them, but that is a separate issue. The DME can self clear erroneous codes, so it may have simply been a fluke. I’m not aware of the ignition switch triggering a flashing code, but anything is possible with electronic gremlins…………
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:14 PM   #7
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Additional follow-up: Started her up this morning, and (unlike last night, driving to Advanced Auto) the CEL appeared again. It flashed briefly, then became a steady light. Talked to my usual mechanic on the phone, then drove into the shop so he could test it.

The read-out indicated 'misfire, cylinder 1', which he said could be either ignition-related or fuel injector-related. (BTW, when he switched his tester to generic, it---like the tester at Advanced Auto---also read 'no codes'. So, heed Mike Focke's discourse on "CELs in the Boxster" wherein he says: "Be aware that there are codes that the Actron can't read that could be helpful in diagnosing a problem that a Porsche System Tester 2 (PST2) or the later PIWIS can. Dealers have these system tester and some independent mechanics specializing in Porsches have them."

My guy at the indy shop said as long as it's not flashing, it's OK to drive for a short while until I can get her into the shop, but watch for the flashing CEL. He said that it flashes when the misfires are actually occurring, and that's where the serious danger to the catalytic converter exists.

I'm new to all of this. Any comments?

BTW, the only reason I'm driving the Boxster at all at this point is because my other car---a Toyota with 185K miles on it---is getting checked out. I've never before simultaneously had TWO cars that had CELs displayed. It kind of sucks...
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Old 10-08-2009, 05:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodo
Additional follow-up: Started her up this morning, and (unlike last night, driving to Advanced Auto) the CEL appeared again. It flashed briefly, then became a steady light. Talked to my usual mechanic on the phone, then drove into the shop so he could test it.

The read-out indicated 'misfire, cylinder 1', which he said could be either ignition-related or fuel injector-related. (BTW, when he switched his tester to generic, it---like the tester at Advanced Auto---also read 'no codes'. So, heed Mike Focke's discourse on "CELs in the Boxster" wherein he says: "Be aware that there are codes that the Actron can't read that could be helpful in diagnosing a problem that a Porsche System Tester 2 (PST2) or the later PIWIS can. Dealers have these system tester and some independent mechanics specializing in Porsches have them."

My guy at the indy shop said as long as it's not flashing, it's OK to drive for a short while until I can get her into the shop, but watch for the flashing CEL. He said that it flashes when the misfires are actually occurring, and that's where the serious danger to the catalytic converter exists.

I'm new to all of this. Any comments?

BTW, the only reason I'm driving the Boxster at all at this point is because my other car---a Toyota with 185K miles on it---is getting checked out. I've never before simultaneously had TWO cars that had CELs displayed. It kind of sucks...
As I do not know the specifics of the scanner used, I cannot definitively answer your question. That said, I have never seen a scanner that would not pick up a “P0300” series code (misfires are defined by number, e.g.: a “0304” code indicates that the number 4 cylinder is misfiring, and so on). Even really cheap “read only” scanners can see those.

As for Actron scanners; yes there are codes they cannot see on all cars. These codes represent “restricted access code” areas of the DME such as the airbags, stability management, and often the ABS systems. All OEM’s play this game under the guise that the “protected code” is for “the safety of the owner” because you wouldn’t want an “unqualified technician” working on these areas. In reality, this nonsense is an attempt to exclude independents’ from doing certain repairs, forcing you to go to a dealer. A great example on the 986/987 is the airbag light, which is probably the most accidentally tripped MIL (there are several ways to trip this MIL without there actually being a problem); most dealers charge $75-125 to clear an accidentally tripped airbag light. In reality, it takes about 15 seconds to do; we get $25 to reset them, and often do them for free to regular customers.

As for the PST II/PIWIS; that is another sore point area for independents. The PSTII was a “free standing” system, software that ran on a laptop. Only problems was that the software could be copied, so a lot of PSTII “clones” got into independent’s hands. So Porsche came out with the PIWIS system when the 987 was released, which is a network system that gets its upgrades, etc. over the network rather than on a CD to prevent “illegal cloning”. With the advent of the 987 – 1&2 models, more and more DME functions could no longer be accessed by the older PST II, rendering it obsolete. To be sure, Porsche has offered to “lease” access to the PIWIS system to independent shops, only problem is that the lease starts at about $30K, and that is just for the first year………… and even then the leased systems do not have access to everything the dealers system does, so not many have taken them up on their “offer”.

We use both Actron and Modis systems for about 80-90% of the diagnostics at the shop, and a Durametric Pro system for the rest. I would highly recommend that “backyard enthusiasts” buy a good scanner for their own use as it is one tool that works on any car sold in North America since 1996. While they cannot clear all codes, they can see just about everything, giving you some idea of what is going on. I would suggest getting a unit that is OBD II and CAN bus capable, upgradeable over the internet, and has real-time data capture/PID capability, which allows you do drive around with the unit connected so it can capture random or intermittent codes. Good examples are the better Actron models, which meet these criteria. I would also recommd that you get access to a unit that has data capture and leave it in your car for a while to see if it can see anything other than an occasional misfire. Then, if it is only a misfire, address that issue, which is often a bad plug or a cracked coil pack.
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