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Old 01-17-2007, 01:45 PM   #1
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97 Box 47k miles - safe?

Hello all,

I've been looking at buying a Boxster for a few months now and, after reading the forums, am scared to death of purchasing one with an engine about to blow. I am currently considering a 1997 Boxster with 47000 miles on it. Do you think that is past the point where I would have to worry about the engine blowing? Is there a model year where this failure stopped occuring??

I have learned a lot of great information from the forum so far (thanks!), but it's still hard for me to pull the trigger on one with this known issue.

Any help would be appreciated, thanks!
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Old 01-17-2007, 02:12 PM   #2
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I am a proud owner of a '97 Boxster. Make SURE you get a PPI on the car. I drive mine every day and am totally satisfied with the vehicle. Be sure to look at Randall's website on buying a used Boxster. Check the following: convertible cables replaced?, coolant tank new?, seat belt receptacles replaced?, miles on tires, iginition switch - original?, oil pan seal leaking?, RMS dry? I bought my '97 with very low miles and overall its been great. Just be aware that stuff can be lurking that can cost a lot to fix. A PPI is great insurance, but not 100%. I am a proponent of keeping the '97's original and on the road! Just be prudent and very carefull about inspecting the car in question. Best of luck!
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Old 01-17-2007, 03:09 PM   #3
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97's aren't bad cars at all as long as the car was cared for and the things needing replacement got replaced. Neglected Porsches are REAL expensive to own... see my web site for all the gorey details.

Just so you don't get freaked out when you visit my site (links below) ... I foolishly bought a very abused, neglected boxster that had been raced, wrecked (spin out that caused subframe damage) and obviously owned by a couple of stupid people who smoked a lot of pot in it and threw up on the seats, etc.

Of course, you'd never know this now... everyone mistakes my car for a pristine 2002!

Just goes to show that loving attention and piles of cash can turn a piece of crap into a nice dependable Porsche.

Would I buy another 97? Not on your life. I'd buy a 2000 S or younger S if at all possible. The 2.5 just lacks the grunt that I want in a sports car for long-term ownership. Hence my reason for saving up for a supercharger.
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Old 01-17-2007, 03:57 PM   #4
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Make sure that the PPi includes a leak down compression test. If the block is suspect, this will likely find it.

After you buy it, only the best motor oil and keep it changed often.

Good luck.
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Old 01-17-2007, 04:00 PM   #5
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Another happy '97 owner checking in... I bought our '97 in April '06 with 36,000 miles on the clock. We're now well over 40,000 with no real trouble to report. The car was well cared for and in nice shape when I found it. Be sure to do as rdancd816 said and get a PPI on whatever car you choose. Also, check the known trouble spots, as he's pointed out. Randall's write-up on his experience is excellent reading, as well. Don't rush into the first one you lay eyes on. They are reasonably plentiful and sales are slow, particularly at this time of year.

The '97 2.5 won't take your breath away as far as acceleration goes, but it's not a slug either. It handles and stops very well and it's a lot of fun to drive. I purposely chose a '97 because they are reasonable (allowing some extra change for maintenance and modification) and they don't have the same engine trouble that some of the '98/'99 cars do. That's not to say that the RMS doesn't go bad in the '97s because it does, although mine didn't.

Your original question was about the mileage. From what I know, (which isn't much, because I'm obviously not very smart) the car should have grenaded by now if it was going to. After all, it has been running without incident for 10 years. Forty-seven-thousand miles is about where I'd begin to be concerned with clutch life, though we recently had a clutch life thread and the numbers were all over the map. A clutch is just a maintenance item anyway, and it'll give you the opportunity to take a peek at your RMS.

Good luck in your search. Check back with us when you settle on one.

Our '97...
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Old 01-18-2007, 11:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rdancd816
I am a proud owner of a '97 Boxster. Make SURE you get a PPI on the car. I drive mine every day and am totally satisfied with the vehicle. Be sure to look at Randall's website on buying a used Boxster. Check the following: convertible cables replaced?, coolant tank new?, seat belt receptacles replaced?, miles on tires, iginition switch - original?, oil pan seal leaking?, RMS dry? I bought my '97 with very low miles and overall its been great. Just be aware that stuff can be lurking that can cost a lot to fix. A PPI is great insurance, but not 100%. I am a proponent of keeping the '97's original and on the road! Just be prudent and very carefull about inspecting the car in question. Best of luck!
Thanks for all the help, I have read Randall's links and they are very informative.

How much are you talking to replace the convertible cables? Coolant tank? Ignition switch? Seat belt receptacles? I've seen the problem with the cables, but what was wrong with the coolant tank, ignition switch, and seat belts?

I do plan on getting a PPI, but I'm not convinced they know as much what to look for as some of you guys!

By the way, I really like your wheels Grizzly.
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Old 01-18-2007, 12:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HIFI
Thanks for all the help, I have read Randall's links and they are very informative.

How much are you talking to replace the convertible cables? Coolant tank? Ignition switch? Seat belt receptacles? I've seen the problem with the cables, but what was wrong with the coolant tank, ignition switch, and seat belts?

I do plan on getting a PPI, but I'm not convinced they know as much what to look for as some of you guys!

By the way, I really like your wheels Grizzly.
Chances are if the prior owner kept up with service bulletins the convertible top cables were upgraded. If not (mine were not) the price to replace can approach $2,000. My dealer advises me to "watch the top" closeley to avoid damage to the clamshell if the cables stretch. The ignition switch is a notorious problem with most Porsche's, not difficult to replace on your own and if your not a DIY type I spent about $400 to fix it. Coolant tanks on older 986's can crack and leak coolant. Mine's been OK but take a look under the rear carpet in the trunk of the car you evaluating to see if any coolant has pooled under there. Older Boxsters used tin connectors on the seatbelt receptacles and over time the contacts fail resulting in the "airbag" light illuminating. Mines been on for months. Dealership advised the airbags are functional but to get the light to permanently go off I need to replace the seatbelt receptacles with new ones with gold contacts -$750. I will live with the light for now! I would also advise you to look at the tires as to age. The tires on my car were original factory Michelins, they looked like new (only 9700 miles on them) but they were 9 years old! $1000 to replace. My car was PPI'd and I agree the value of it was suspect (missed the top cables). I have had a slight RMS/Oilpan leak in the past but it has stopped. My suspicion is that the car was not driven enough to keep the seals in condition. No drips for about 5 months now. All in all I would buy another '97 if the car was right. I have been very pleased with the car in all respects so far. You do need to be prepared to spend some $ on maintenance - after all it's 10 years old!! Good Luck!
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Old 01-18-2007, 02:48 PM   #8
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To answer a couple more of your questions, the ignition switches go for about $20.00 on ebay.

Also, I was the victim of a very expensive top repair, to include bodywork and paint on the clamshell. Unfortunately, my repair was due to my imbecile Brother-in-Law, as opposed to cable stretch. To avoid a multi-thousand dollar repair, check the cables to see if they've been replaced with the improved version (the outer covering is different, making them easily distinguishable). Also, check the top's rod ends to see if they've been replaced (originals are red, replacements are white. You can buy metal ones from Paragon, but check with our sponsors first to see if any of them carry them). If not, make those improvements for less than a couple hundred bucks and you'll save yourself a whole lot of money and aggravation in the long run. I put the metal rod ends on mine instead of the plastic ones from Porsche. They'll never break again. There's a ton of information about the Boxster top on Renntech's forum. It's worth reading.

Thanks for the compliment on the wheels. They came from Wheel Dynamics in California. The owner's name is Carlos and he's great to work with.
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Last edited by Grizzly; 01-19-2007 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 01-19-2007, 07:01 AM   #9
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[sorry for this very long post...] A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, and I have no pictures, so it's a wordy explanation for sure]

HIFI, as I read Grizzly's post (which I completely agree with) it occurred to me that the location of these cables and rods are probably a complete mystery to you as they were to me when I bought my car, and I had the car right in front of me.

You can find some close up pictures on the web of the parts on the car themselves, but that still may not help you find them!

Here's some verbal direction that might help you.

If you were to open the top half way, the rear end of the clam shell cover would be sticking up in the air. Just in front of the third brake light is where the motor for the top is located. There's a plastic latch there that tells the motor when to cut off and the motor is directly under it.

There are two cables that fit into each side of the motor and go around the outside edge of the top storage area to the sides of the car where they are attached to the "transmission". The old ones look like the same kind of cable casing on your cable TV, and the new improved ones look the same size, but have a criss cross pattern of reinforcement inside them to keep them from stretching when it gets hot.

The cable sheath contains a steel wire that has a square pin on both ends. The pins go into the motor and the transmission and use a twisting action to make things happen. The reason the old cables failed was that the plastic stretched when it got hot but the steel wire didn't, and the streching caused the cable to disengage.

The problem, of course, is that both cables don't stretch and disengage simultaneously, and that's where the expensive repairs make their grand entrance. One side of the top works while the other side doesn't and the clamshell gets bent, the top gets all twisted up, and it's a major pain to remove it all, straighten the parts, and most importantly, time the new transmissions to work together to raise and lower the left and right sides of the top simultaneously.

So, to see these cables, raise the top half way and stick your head down by the back of the top storage area (also the engine compartment) and look along the outside rim of the area toward the back of the car.

The rods of which Grizzly speaks can also be hard to find if you don't know where to look. Best thing to do here is to raise the top half way, then look for a cable that holds the base of the top to the car on each side. It's about 8 inches long and has a ball joint on the bottom that pulls straight out... might be tough to pull on to get it loose, but it needs to be done.

After you get both free, grab the base of the top and bring it upward as if you are going to work on the engine. Now look toward the cabin of the car and you'll see a rod that has a white plastic ball joint on one end and is about 8 inches long. This is the rod that Grizzly is talking about. It's below the top, so you have to look under what you've raised to see it.

I must say though that there is some speculation as to whether replacing these rods with aftermarket steel ones is a good idea. They tend to crack and break under stress— stress caused by a failed transmission, a bad or dislodged transmission cable, etc. So, a steel one would keep everything going in the wrong direction and may cause far more damage than the cost of replacing a rod. Plus, Porsche has improved the part and made it out of sturdier plastic from what I read on the PCA web site.

I have the plastic ball joint-type rods and they're working fine right now. I did inspect mine when I learned about the cracking issues, and found one of them had lost the nut and was rattling around there freely. I replaced the nut, eliminated a nasty rattle, and had a lot more peace of mind that my top wasn't going to fall apart on me and cost me two grand to fix. My rods are indeed the upgraded ones though and not the originals that came with my 1997 model car.

If it was warmer outside, I'd do another top inspection this weekend. Typing out all this has made me wonder if my top components are all intact and bolted down tightly. I have come to the conclusion that if you have some annoying rattles in your top when it's closed, that's the top telling you to inspect it because something's about to come loose or is already broken.

I hope this long explanation helps.
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New motor, transmission, suspension, and on and on and on it goes...

Last edited by RandallNeighbour; 01-19-2007 at 07:06 AM.
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Old 01-19-2007, 07:19 AM   #10
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Thanks Randall,

It never occurred to me to explain the ins and outs of actually doing the inspection. Duh.

Also, you are correct, there is debate regarding whether or not the steel rod ends are a good idea. Porsche may have designed them specifically to fail first to prevent more extensive (read: expensive) damage. I can tell you that it didn't work in my car. The plastic ends broke, but so did everything else.

HIFI,

So you know, my top failure was not a malfunction of the car; it was a malfunction of my Brother-in-Law. While I'm confident I've never heard the truth about what happened, the long and short of it is that my wife allowed said Brother-in-Law and his idiot friend to drive the car. I think they tricked the emergency brake micro-switch and attempted to operate the top, at speed. Whatever really happened I'll probably never know. What I do know is that it was not pretty.
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Old 01-19-2007, 07:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RandallNeighbour
[sorry for this very long post...] A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, and I have no pictures, so it's a wordy explanation for sure]

HIFI, as I read Grizzly's post (which I completely agree with) it occurred to me that the location of these cables and rods are probably a complete mystery to you as they were to me when I bought my car, and I had the car right in front of me.

You can find some close up pictures on the web of the parts on the car themselves, but that still may not help you find them!

Here's some verbal direction that might help you.

If you were to open the top half way, the rear end of the clam shell cover would be sticking up in the air. Just in front of the third brake light is where the motor for the top is located. There's a plastic latch there that tells the motor when to cut off and the motor is directly under it.

There are two cables that fit into each side of the motor and go around the outside edge of the top storage area to the sides of the car where they are attached to the "transmission". The old ones look like the same kind of cable casing on your cable TV, and the new improved ones look the same size, but have a criss cross pattern of reinforcement inside them to keep them from stretching when it gets hot.

The cable sheath contains a steel wire that has a square pin on both ends. The pins go into the motor and the transmission and use a twisting action to make things happen. The reason the old cables failed was that the plastic stretched when it got hot but the steel wire didn't, and the streching caused the cable to disengage.

The problem, of course, is that both cables don't stretch and disengage simultaneously, and that's where the expensive repairs make their grand entrance. One side of the top works while the other side doesn't and the clamshell gets bent, the top gets all twisted up, and it's a major pain to remove it all, straighten the parts, and most importantly, time the new transmissions to work together to raise and lower the left and right sides of the top simultaneously.

So, to see these cables, raise the top half way and stick your head down by the back of the top storage area (also the engine compartment) and look along the outside rim of the area toward the back of the car.

The rods of which Grizzly speaks can also be hard to find if you don't know where to look. Best thing to do here is to raise the top half way, then look for a cable that holds the base of the top to the car on each side. It's about 8 inches long and has a ball joint on the bottom that pulls straight out... might be tough to pull on to get it loose, but it needs to be done.

After you get both free, grab the base of the top and bring it upward as if you are going to work on the engine. Now look toward the cabin of the car and you'll see a rod that has a white plastic ball joint on one end and is about 8 inches long. This is the rod that Grizzly is talking about. It's below the top, so you have to look under what you've raised to see it.

I must say though that there is some speculation as to whether replacing these rods with aftermarket steel ones is a good idea. They tend to crack and break under stress— stress caused by a failed transmission, a bad or dislodged transmission cable, etc. So, a steel one would keep everything going in the wrong direction and may cause far more damage than the cost of replacing a rod. Plus, Porsche has improved the part and made it out of sturdier plastic from what I read on the PCA web site.

I have the plastic ball joint-type rods and they're working fine right now. I did inspect mine when I learned about the cracking issues, and found one of them had lost the nut and was rattling around there freely. I replaced the nut, eliminated a nasty rattle, and had a lot more peace of mind that my top wasn't going to fall apart on me and cost me two grand to fix. My rods are indeed the upgraded ones though and not the originals that came with my 1997 model car.

If it was warmer outside, I'd do another top inspection this weekend. Typing out all this has made me wonder if my top components are all intact and bolted down tightly. I have come to the conclusion that if you have some annoying rattles in your top when it's closed, that's the top telling you to inspect it because something's about to come loose or is already broken.

I hope this long explanation helps.
Wow, thanks for all the effort on this guys, I really appreciate it. I can't wait to see the look on my seller's face when I pull this printout and start inspecting the car... it should help in negotiation!

Another quick question... is there a concensus on when many of these problems were fixed in production? Would, say a 2000 base model be pretty free of these unique first run problems (ie. would a PPI cover the majority on a 2000?)? From what was said earlier about the 98-99 engines... I may stay away, but the 2000 is really pushing hard on my budget and may not leave room for first year maintenance.

Thanks again for all the help, it's going to be hard for me not to jump on the first one!
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