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Old 12-03-2018, 02:42 PM   #1
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Need Some Advice About Hard Shifting 986 Gearbox!

Hi Everyone, I just tentatively purchased a 2001 Boxster with about 55,000 miles and from the pictures it is amazingly clean and well cared for. I have had a 1997 that is a little beat up but mechanically sound and this 2001 may or may not be a replacement. I know my way around it pretty well, done my own maintenance and repairs for years and I can fix just about anything.

Here is the rub, I will need to do my own inspection as the car is in a remote location so no shop around to do a PPI. I am confident that I can spot most basic issues but the car has been reported to be hard to shift, but driving operations are otherwise normal. No slipping of the clutch etc. Owner has stated that the issue is the cables but who knows really? Could be a bad clutch after all. That's as much as we can get out of him and we will need to inspect the car on Saturday.

So what are some checks I can do to eliminate one thing or another? Visual and operational? What are some of the tell-tale signs of this or that? I'm willing to accept it iif it needs a clutch, but want to be sure.

Finally, the price is $5,300 and they buyer has agreed to let me back out of the deal should I find any major issues during the inspection. Color is Meridian Metallic, one you don't see around these parts.

Thank you all!!


Last edited by Tommy2; 12-03-2018 at 03:36 PM. Reason: Added color.
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Old 12-03-2018, 02:47 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Tommy2 View Post
Hi Everyone, I just tentatively purchased a 2001 Boxster with about 55,000 miles and from the pictures it is amazingly clean and well cared for. I have had a 1997 that is a little beat up but mechanically sound and this 2001 may or may not be a replacement. I know my way around it pretty well, done my own maintenance and repairs for years and I can fix just about anything.

Here is the rub, I will need to do my own inspection as the car is in a remote location so no shop around to do a PPI. I am confident that I can spot most basic issues but the car has been reported to be hard to shift, but driving operations are otherwise normal. No slipping of the clutch etc. Owner has stated that the issue is the cables but who knows really? Could be a bad clutch after all. That's as much as we can get out of him and we will need to inspect the car on Saturday.

So what are some checks I can do to eliminate one thing or another? Visual and operational? What are some of the tell-tale signs of this or that? I'm willing to accept it iif it needs a clutch, but want to be sure.

Finally, the price is $5,300 and they buyer has agreed to let me back out of the deal should I find any major issues during the inspection.

Thank you all!!
You could inspect those parts and pieces with which you've had experience... and maybe bring along with you a mobile mechanic to effect the rest of the inspection? Porsche experienced, of course.
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Old 12-03-2018, 05:38 PM   #3
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Can you explain how it is hard to shift? Requires a lot of force? Moves easily, but won't go the last bit in? Grinds when you shift? I could go on and on. Can't give you any advice until you explain some more.

Our 2002 2.7 shifts like a dream.
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Old 12-03-2018, 06:55 PM   #4
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From the seller (in broken Google translated English):

"Shift feel is heavy.
It is probably a deterioration of the shift cable.
Shifts are heavy, noises, difficulty entering, shift missing etc. are not.
Normal driving is possible."

On the telephone, he also said no slipping or smells. Just hard to shift between gears. Maybe a front motor mount?
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Old 12-04-2018, 03:18 PM   #5
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I don't understand how a car can be "well maintained" and have that severe a problem, and be on sale. Why hasn't the seller had it fixed, if he fixed so many other things. He must know that it seriously detracts from the value of the car. So he must think that the drop in value must be less than the cost of repairing.

I would be very suspicious with a car that seemed to have been well maintained except for some "small" problem.
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Old 12-04-2018, 05:28 PM   #6
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So be on the lookout!
Hard to shift may be an issue internal to the transmission (worst case $ wise). It could be hydraulics (clutch master, slav or both). Check the fluid level and look for leaks in front trunk. Slave cylinder is located on the left front side of the transmission (facing forward).

Motor mount may result in tough shifts and also presents itself (sometimes) with a resonate vibration around 3K RPM.

Last edited by dghii; 12-04-2018 at 05:29 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 12-08-2018, 12:27 AM   #7
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Thank you all and here are the results! So, took a 4 hour drive to see the car. Met the owner, very nice, and found the care to be exceptionally clean for a 2001. Color is interesting and changes depending on the sunlight.

The shift lever is definitely stiff when cold, warm, standing still or driving. Clutch itself is nice and light and is almost as good as the new one in my 1997. I'm pretty sure the clutch itself is fine.

I inspected the linkage at the back of the gearbox and all looks OK. When I peeked under the shift boot I found an el cheapo short shift kit installed. I'll investigate further later. Maybe some broken or mis-aligned bits in there so that is where I will start.

The car has 90,000 kms and I have service records for all service since 23,000 kms. Each oil service was done every 3,000 kms. It also had a recent AOS installed. This is the second owner. No IMS problems (...reported, we will see if anything can be found in the filter when I do a service).

Good points
Recent top (soft window)
Sport Seats that look like new
Service records


Some of the negatives:
Smells like a smoker's car
Electronic Key does not work for locks, front or rear trunk
Front trunk switch/solenoid works intermittently (rear ok)
Battery is weak, probably needs replacing
Awful textured grey plastic trim that is scratched up and peeling but not sticky
Craptastic radio
Minor cosmetic things, but can be lived with
Front brakes are at their limit, I already have the parts and it's an easy swap

Now price, the car was about $5,300 plus some mandatory expenses here in Japan (recycle fee $200, inspection fee/registration $500 which is refundable) and these are always added to the price of the car so $5,300 becomes $6,000 essentially. He waived both fees so $5,300 out the door.

So I bought it and just got back from the 4 hour return trip. With the exception of the shifter it is extremely tight and responsive and very peppy with plenty of torque. I guess my 2.5 is just tired and worn out but they are both great, and both very different.

So back around to the crappy short throw shifter. I'm considering buying a stock used one on ebay or something if I can't get it adjusted. What do you think?
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Old 12-08-2018, 05:48 AM   #8
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Cheap short shifters are notorious for poor shift performance . But even great short shifters make shifting stiffer it's just basic physics . Is there any service history for the transmission ? How old is the tranny fluid ? Buying a used OEM shifter should be cheap and a great way to determine if the short shifter is the problem .
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Old 12-08-2018, 09:43 AM   #9
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Congrats! Why not buy a stock shift assembly (cheap) and swap to see if it clears up your problem. If it does, you can decide from there if its good enough or you can swap to a better shift kit (997 or aftermarket).

I have no idea what shipping to Japan would be but I'll bet Woody (Itsnotanova) on this site could set you up with a stock shifter.
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Old 12-08-2018, 09:57 AM   #10
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Congrats! Why not buy a stock shift assembly (cheap) and swap to see if it clears up your problem. If it does, you can decide from there if its good enough or you can swap to a better shift kit (997 or aftermarket).

I have no idea what shipping to Japan would be but I'll bet Woody (Itsnotanova) on this site could set you up with a stock shifter.
There's a short shift kit I think sold on this forum -- it is very nice.

Woody would also be able to get you a solid shifter I'm sure -- but like you said -- shipping?

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Old 12-08-2018, 11:05 PM   #11
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New 987 shifters are not particularly expensive. If you buy one used, it might be cheaper, but could be well on its way to being worn out. Not sure how parts are best obtained in Japan, but I’m sure there is a dealer somewhere. If not, check on Suncoast, they have the shifters and they are a nice upgrade. EBay might be a possibility too?
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Old 12-09-2018, 03:52 AM   #12
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Thank you all for your continued input, I really appreciate it!

So, shipping to Japan. It can be expensive and yes, Suncoast DOES ship to me. I also have other options that sometimes work.

I'm afraid I have misled us all a bit. I had a little bit of time today so I did some checking. Have not dug too much, but the shifter has an engraved P on one end and a part number 09/03 0003 on the other and is anodized a dark maroon/brown. Looks a lot like the one on Pelican Parts DIY on replacing the shifter (although a different PN). Maybe genuine Porsche?

So, back to digging for ideas. I can move the linkage at the back of the gearbox by hand. When I disconnect both cables back there the shift lever frees up and feels OK. Likewise when I disconnect them at the shifter it is fine. They are probably out of alignment at least some. I don't have the tool so an suggestions to adjust without it are welcome.

With both front and back cable ends are disconnected, the cables move freely without binding so the should at least be serviceable or adjustable at this point.

I don't have any records that the gearbox oil has been changed. So here we are back to the beginning.

Hot/cold, moving or stationary it's quite hard to get into gear. Effort doesn't change.
Clutch itself feels great and ok
Disconnect cables front and/or back the shifter moves unrestricted
When connected, the cables don't seem to be stressed
Can manually shift gears at rear, seems easy enough by hand
Don't know the condition of the gearbox oil

I should probably start by adjusting the cables, but without a tool need some ideas such as put in in 1st then attach cables etc.

I will also consider an oil change. Will that really help since the condition presents itself in various circumstances? It might!

Could some of the linkage at the back of the gearbox be bent or damaged? Visually looks ok.

Well, there we are for now. Let's see what smarter people than I can come up with.
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Old 12-09-2018, 02:11 PM   #13
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Hi guys, I posted a reply but don't see it. Let's try again. Thank you all for your input, I really appreciate it!

Shipping to Japan can be quite expensive and yes Suncoast does ship. I have several orders with them. Parts on the whole are about 4x more expensive here so even with shipping and taxes it's best to order from the US, sometimes the UK and sometimes Germany. Fortunately, there is a large selection of used parts here that can be quite reasonable.

Anyway, upon closer inspection, the short shifter may not be a cheapo as I though. It is stamped with a "P" on one end and the numbers 09/03 0003 on the other and is anodized a dark brown or maroon.

I didn't have much time to inspect, but I did check a few things out. I can manually move the linkage at the back of the gearbox fairly easily. No binding and consistent resistance. Cable ends and such all look fine and are free. When disconnected back there the shifter works great. Likewise when they are disconnected at the lever. When both ends are disconnected, the cables seem unrestricted as well. Hook everything back up and back to hard shifting. I'll note that I have no idea if the cables are properly adjusted and I don't have an alignment tool. Any ideas to adjust without it?

So that seems to narrow it down to an adjustment at least. I don't know if/when the gearbox oil was serviced. I know it can't hurt, but can changing the oil smooth things out? Again, the hard shifting happens regardless of temperature and/or if the car is moving and the clutch itself feels great.

I still may go back to a stock shifter setup, but after this is sorted out.
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Old 12-09-2018, 03:23 PM   #14
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I wonder whether the axle boots have been torn and thrown grease all over the place, including the cable ends, and the grease and dirt has coated the cables and sheath. If it has, then any pressure or tension on the ables cause them to ride in the gunk and make them stiff.
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Old 12-09-2018, 03:51 PM   #15
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Under the car is nice and clean and dry, no signs of a torn boot or grease slung about, but thanks for the suggestion! I wonder how smooth should the cables be if operated by hand when disconnected....they seem ok.
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Old 12-09-2018, 04:17 PM   #16
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Car is nice and dry underneath, no signs of any recent CV boot splits but thank you for the suggestion. How smooth should the cables operate by hand i.e. how much resistance?
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Old 12-09-2018, 06:14 PM   #17
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...and to bring up another overly discussed topic, compatible gearbox oil for the 5-speed. Can't get the OEM Porsche stuff (dealer only service item, an over $400 job to drain/refill!!!) here and it can't be shipped. Stuck with something local. There is a good brand here called WAKOS and they make a fully synthetic 75W90 GL4/5 rated oil. I can also get Motul, Mobil 1, and occasionally Royal Purple.

Just found:
Royal Purple MaxGear
Castrol Syntrans GL-4
Liquid Moly GL4/GL5

Last edited by Tommy2; 12-09-2018 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 12-09-2018, 11:35 PM   #18
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Your dealer won’t sell you the gearbox fluid? Seems odd, but perhaps a Japan thing. Can you get it shipped from Germany, or Europe? Your best bet is the Porsche blood, but maybe some of the race guys will chime in with a few ideas. Get rid of that cheap short shifter, that could be everything. Your cables could be shot too. If you buy a new shifter the lever center tool is included...
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Old 12-10-2018, 02:28 AM   #19
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Yeah, Japan is weird about that kind of stuff and especially Porsche! But there are of course enthusiasts here and they are maniacal (in a good way).

I'm geting Motul Gear 300, Wakos RD, Castrol Syntrans, and RP as mentioned before. Gotta be a GL4 compatible fluid in the bunch.

It's cold, dark, and of course I had to spend some time checking around tonight. I know this is a repeat but for sure cables are nice and free, linkage as well and I have the cables somewhat adjusted OK. I also have NOW access to my 1997 Boxster! When I bought it it had a new clutch, cables, linkage and shifter (swap??). I got under the car and the fore and aft of the linkage is sooo much easier to operate. That leads me to believe it's internal to the gearbox in combination at least with the shifter. Mind you every gear is tight.

So I'll start looking for oil and a replacement shift lever assembly (and auction off the offending short shifter). Has anyone here had an issue with tight shifting improve with the oil change?
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Old 12-10-2018, 04:42 AM   #20
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When you go to do the transmission hydraulic oil change make sure you remove the FILL plug first then the drain plug . That saves you the headache of having an empty trans with no way to fill it . And of the choices you have available I would go with the Castrol as long as it has the proper rating .

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