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Old 01-02-2019, 12:11 AM   #1
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Just picked up a '97 with a laundry list of issues! Steering, locks, CELs, etc!

TL;DR - Bought rough '97 Boxster. Car pulls hard to the left, power steering system is whack, very left-biased (think: Bernie Sanders). Fluid seems okay, no leaks found. Keyfob and central locking issues - electronically remote does nothing. Only good for physical use in locks. CELs: P1123, P1128, P1130 runs rich. Power top is FUBAR'd

Hi there,

I'm a pretty car savvy guy. Been buying, selling, wrenching, flipping, driving for ~9 years now. I got bold and tried out the German auto world, and recently VAG cars. I got a rough MK4 Golf TDI, and liked tinkering with that, so I kept going. At first, I was looking for a steal of a 996, then I came back to my senses, but still somehow found myself buying this 986...
Asking price was low, the seller was an older woman, and 65k miles. Additionally, she had had $5000 in work done at the dealer, and another $1600 for a new top. All in the last ~400 miles. I felt bad buying it for less than she had forked over to the dealer in the past 3 months, but it still needs a lot. Let's get into it!

First, I partially bought this car thinking it was a "VAG platform". I found that I'm quite incorrect. VAG-COM won't even work. After doing some research, I see this is also the case with the immobilizer and programming keys?

Issues the car has:
  1. The steering - The car pulls very hard to the left. Also, the power steering is very biased to the left. It is extremely easy to turn the wheel left, but much harder to go right. It feels like there is 3x P/S assistance turning left, and zero P/S assistance turning right. I can literally flick my finger and the wheel will turn 1/2 rev left. Turning right, I need to use both hands/arms. This is true while stopped, as well as all speeds. At highway speeds, if you flinch your wrist, the car would jump all the way into the left lane, and I must use constant force to keep straight. Flicking left feels like it's on rails, but certainly dangerous. If I jerk it right, it also responds sharply, with much more effort required.
    • I checked PS fluid. At first I thought it was quite low. I checked a week later (no driving in between) and it showed between cold and hot marks on dipstick after sitting for ~2hrs. I am 90% sure the fluid is clear, and did not stain paper towel. From my research, I assume this is Febi fluid?
    • I aired up all tires. This improved the issue immensely, but still quite biased to the left.
  2. Key fob/ door lock issues - I received 1 remote key, which works in all 3 locks. The car has zero response to either remote button. The remote LED blinks red when pressing buttons. The interior door lock switch does nothing. Sometimes pressing the button causes a faint click behind the driver's door panel. Pressing again does not repeat this. As a result, I have found no way to lock the passenger door. I can lock the driver's door manually via the key. The car locks the door, makes another door lock noise, then beeps twice. Passenger door remains unlocked. I can open the passenger door with no response from the car/alarm. Interior light responds to either door open.
  3. CELs - When I first saw the car, the CELs were on. I used my code scanner to see that it had 3 codes - all listed as oxygen sensor codes. At that time, I could smell the car running rich. I cleared the codes. Within ~50 miles, I found the codes as "pending" ( CEL not on), and 30 miles later, CEL is tripped. My generic code reader reports P1123, P1128, P1130. In the 80 miles prior to CEL coming back on, the car seemed to run great, and did not smell rich. CEL trips, car smells rich, does not seem to be down on power.
    Seems like an open-and-shut "replace oxygen sensors" scenario here, but just want to make sure. I'm assuming the car has 4 O2s and $70 ea, even on ********************************... Any preference between Denso and Bosch?
  4. Power top - The previous owner, in all her wisdom, told the upholstery shop to "make the top manual operation" when getting the fabric replaced. Yeah...awful I know. So they removed all of the cables, levers, rods. As a result, the red convertible top icon is permanently lit on the dash. The motor and transmissions are still intact, so they just spin endlessly when I do press the button on the dash. I am fairly certain the microswitch in the top handle works (although possibly wonky) as the windows change their behavior when I tinker with the top. As a result of the rods being removed, the middle bonnet/hood is not secured. It bangs around loudly while driving, and there doesn't seem to be a contact point between the lid and the sensor/lever directly on top of the electric motor. No rubber bump stop or anything. I found someone shoved a piece of foam in there, but still no response on the dash that the sensor is depressed. Is this possibly why the central locking does not work?

Battery is new, but trashed. Very weak. Needs jump start within 3 days of sitting. Is this a possible cause of wonky electronics? Alternator is a champ at 14V+

Thanks for being a trooper and making it all the way to the end. I'm looking forward to learning a ton about these cars and Porsches in general.

Thanks in advance for any help!
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Old 01-05-2019, 10:51 PM   #2
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Spent a ton of time working on the car in the past few days.
Changed out the rear wheel bearing. Not so bad, but the SIR tool would have saved several hours.

I also removed and tried to restore both door lock actuators. Just a few weeks ago, I did the same thing on my 2000 Golf. When I removed the 986 door lock module, I saw that it is ~100% identical to the one from my Golf. It's even got a VW stamping on it.

I took it all apart, and inspected carefully. I didn't find any glaring issues, but I re-soldered the 6 pins by the connector for good measure.

The car acts differently now.
The car now does not lock the driver's door when using mechanical key.
Central locking button on dash is now more responsive. It also now permanently displays a solid red light when the car is on.
The 1/4in window microswitches on my driver's door do not register, exterior or interior. They worked perfectly prior.

I also dug a bit deeper and found more info. When locking via mechanical key, the car does cycle the locks on the trunks release lever solenoid, and the fuel filler door. Lock --> unlock --> honk honk
When pressing the dash button, the same items lock, and stay locked. Now I can sometimes unlock them with the dash button.

When restoring the door lock module circuitry, I plugged in both naked circuit boards and tinkered with the microswitches. I actually got the alarm to arm and managed to set it off!
This only happened when I pressed on the microswitches corresponding to position of door lock: locked.

The issue now is that the little door lock motor will not actuate. I think if I could figure this out, the car would be functional...
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Old 01-06-2019, 07:47 PM   #3
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Issue 2 could be the ECU is dead but more likely is the door lock actuators are dead and need to be replaced. After 22 years of use they fail. I had one fail in my 5 year old VW Jetta. They get constant use and its an aggressive action.

I had to replace the door lock actuators in both doors on my 97 when i bought it. Have a look through my post history in the DIY section i posted a while ago about using a VW door actuator. Its the exact same part just without the Porsche part tax.

I would make that priority one as theres no point in fixing the steering, CEL, soft top if it gets stolen because you can't lock it.

I bought a new lead acid battery from Porsche 6 months ago and haven't had any issues with phantom battery drain but YMMV.
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Old 01-07-2019, 10:19 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stomachbuzz View Post
Spent a ton of time working on the car in the past few days.
Changed out the rear wheel bearing. Not so bad, but the SIR tool would have saved several hours.

I also removed and tried to restore both door lock actuators. Just a few weeks ago, I did the same thing on my 2000 Golf. When I removed the 986 door lock module, I saw that it is ~100% identical to the one from my Golf. It's even got a VW stamping on it.

I took it all apart, and inspected carefully. I didn't find any glaring issues, but I re-soldered the 6 pins by the connector for good measure.

The car acts differently now.
The car now does not lock the driver's door when using mechanical key.
Central locking button on dash is now more responsive. It also now permanently displays a solid red light when the car is on.
The 1/4in window microswitches on my driver's door do not register, exterior or interior. They worked perfectly prior.

I also dug a bit deeper and found more info. When locking via mechanical key, the car does cycle the locks on the trunks release lever solenoid, and the fuel filler door. Lock --> unlock --> honk honk
When pressing the dash button, the same items lock, and stay locked. Now I can sometimes unlock them with the dash button.

When restoring the door lock module circuitry, I plugged in both naked circuit boards and tinkered with the microswitches. I actually got the alarm to arm and managed to set it off!
This only happened when I pressed on the microswitches corresponding to position of door lock: locked.

The issue now is that the little door lock motor will not actuate. I think if I could figure this out, the car would be functional...
Did the rear wheel bearing solve your pulling issues?
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:49 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by speedyspaghetti View Post
Did the rear wheel bearing solve your pulling issues?
Not sure. Haven't driven it yet. I finished up the wheel bearing, and my path to drive it out of the garage was blocked, so then I got carried away diving into the central locking issues and the car is now partially disassembled lol
I suspect not though, as my Power Steering is still very left biased, but I do believe the high-friction wheel bearing was contributing.

The driver's seat is now removed, and I've taken out the immo/CLU box and discovered a lot of corrosion on the wiring harness. I've now ordered a electrical connector pin removal tool, where I plan to remove all the wires and likely re-pin everything.



Quote:
Originally Posted by brainles71 View Post
Issue 2 could be the ECU is dead but more likely is the door lock actuators are dead and need to be replaced. After 22 years of use they fail. I had one fail in my 5 year old VW Jetta. They get constant use and its an aggressive action.

I had to replace the door lock actuators in both doors on my 97 when i bought it. Have a look through my post history in the DIY section i posted a while ago about using a VW door actuator. Its the exact same part just without the Porsche part tax.

I would make that priority one as theres no point in fixing the steering, CEL, soft top if it gets stolen because you can't lock it.

I bought a new lead acid battery from Porsche 6 months ago and haven't had any issues with phantom battery drain but YMMV.
Yes, I discovered that the Boxster door locks are 100% identical to the VW door units. I re-did the lock on my 2000 Golf 1 week prior - replaced door ajar micro switch and re-soldered the circuit board. Works perfect now.
With the Boxster, I noticed something very odd. I got all of the microswitches to work and communicate properly. But, for some reason, the little door lock motor would not spin. I tried observing it with a multimeter and it receives 12v for a fraction of a second.
That's when I gave up and tore out the driver's seat. I will update when I re-pin the wires and eliminate the corrosion.

Sidenote: how would the car get stolen if the doors are unlocked....? How are they going to start it? Besides, the best way to steal cars nowadays is to use a snatch truck.
I've heard of many Boxster, convertible, or even just older car owners leaving their stuff unlocked because they would rather the thief look around and leave than the thief cutting the top or breaking a window to achieve the same result.
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Old 01-07-2019, 02:13 PM   #6
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The power steering may be fubar from whacking a curb, bent linkage or bent stuff inside the rack would account for that. It would probably help if you got the front up on jackstands and check functions and conditions of all the parts. Or run it out to an alignment shop and have it inspected.

In my experience, the top and linkage is a nightmare. You can find all of it on Ebay for not too bad prices. On mine, I suspect that I've got to take it down to very basic operation to do proper adjustments and alignment. Pelican has pretty good stuff about aligning the transmissions, but it seems to me that if it's even a little out of adjustment, the top and the clamshell linkage will bind and even pop off or bend. A true nightmare.

What happens when you clear the codes is that the readiness monitors also reset. When you drive the car after clearing, the readiness monitors set and detect the cel's. Google "drive cycle" for a generalized discussion of this.

I bought mine in Aug. 17. Like you, I got mine very cheap. The saying around here is "There's no such thing as a cheap Boxster!"
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Old 01-07-2019, 02:22 PM   #7
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I guarantee you will learn a ton before your done.

Take the battery out, charge it, and load test it. When fully charged it should be over 13.6.
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Old 01-07-2019, 02:56 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Brian in Tucson View Post
I guarantee you will learn a ton before your done.
That's the idea!
I've bought, sold, flipped, fixed about 30 cars now. And I've even started sending them off much better than how I got them.
At this point, I find something I like and hunt for a deal. I picked up a beater '00 Golf TDI in April, and done a lot tinkering on that. Engine in limp mode, trans in limp mode, worst brakes I've ever driven on, soggy interior, sagging headliner, non-working central locking, on and on. Now I drive it 500 mi/wk to school and back! My first exploration into diesels and turbos. The saving grace was 'low mileage' (140k), and had solid bones with a surprisingly mint body.
I've learned a lot, and not only do I find it personally enjoyable, but I realize I'm building extremely valuable skills for a lifetime of entrepreneurship as well as a career using my mechanical engineering degree.

I bought a couple other MK4 VWs as too-good-to-ignore deals popped up (or I sought out), and I was rather hooked. I found VW's way of doing things remarkably similar to BMW's way. A rather proper way of designing things, even if they may be overly-complicated and prone to failure. When it all works properly, it sure is nice to look at.
I then made the false assumption that these Pcars borrow all the VW systems, simply with a different drivetrain and body. I was quite wrong.
This is my first Porsche, first boxer engine, first convertible, and first rear/mid engined car. I think I'm doin' okay so far.


The battery is shot. And I'm just too irked to submit and buy a new one. $130 even at Costco...
What itches me is the battery is dated 7/17, and it has a 3 year warranty. And the guy who owned the car at that time is now in prison for possession of $65,000 worth of fentanyl!! ...found that out about 3 days ago.
I wonder if the penitentiary will let him send the receipt via snail mail. Maybe I can convince him it will help soften his sins.
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