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Old 06-25-2010, 08:04 AM   #1
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light flickering/dimming?

Hello, I've recently purchased a 1997 Boxster a little past 40,000 miles. I've noticed a bit of an electrical problem, so it would seem. Hopefully I'm posting this in the right area. If not I'll be happy to move it to the right area.

Now, granted, I understand the car is 13 years old, and it did sit for a few years in the lot of the dealer I got it from, but I noticed that the radio very briefly cuts out at random while driving. The sound will cut out for a split second and come right back, sometimes a few times in succession, other times once every few minutes. I also noticed while driving at night that the headlights and dash lights seem to flicker and dim while the car is running. I haven't noticed a change in the car's idle to correspond with the dimming and flickering, and I gave the battery terminal connectors a good shake and tug to make sure they're snug, and they are. Could I be looking at a bad ground somewhere? If anyone can let me know what areas I should look into or components to check, ground locations and such, any help would be appreciated. Thanks for you time.
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Old 06-25-2010, 08:30 AM   #2
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Never had any problems like this on my 2000 except sometimes the radio or cruise control go off until I start the car again, but from what I have seen on this thread I would GUESS that it's ignition switch related & you might want to start there. Do a search for ignition switch & you may agree.
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Old 06-25-2010, 08:52 AM   #3
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+1 on ignition switch replacement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Overdrive
...I also noticed while driving at night that the headlights and dash lights seem to flicker and dim while the car is running....
I had similar symptoms with my head lights and dash lights - replacing the ignition switch resolved those issues, along with some other gremlins in the stereo related to it turning on and off randomly.

The ignition switch itself is pretty inexpensive, but can be tedious to install due to the location under the dash. Pedro has a great write up I followed to replace the switch here:

http://www.pedrosgarage.com/Site_3/Replace_Ignition_Switch.html

Also has details on the part #, price, etc..

Images (cell pics, sorry) show what my bad switch looked like, completely cooked and even broken plastic/metal in some areas.





Last edited by pschaub; 06-25-2010 at 10:00 AM. Reason: added images
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Old 06-25-2010, 03:17 PM   #4
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Thanks, guys. It sounds like a pretty good place to start, and it couldn't hurt to replace the part on the car.

I'll start poking around the pics and the diy and update. Thanks again.
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Old 07-21-2010, 06:19 AM   #5
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Hey, everyone, just putting in a little update. I finally got some time to speak to the dealer I bought the car from, and I explained the issues I was having, showing him the information I got from you guys and Pedro's write-up. I'll be going to pick up the switch this afternoon and dropping the car off to him next Tuesday for the whole day to look into my issues (this switch, no cold air from A/C, etc.). Might as well get what I can out of my warranty period. I'll update again to let you all know whether or not it solves the problem. Thanks again!

More updating for today: Went to the local Audi/Porsche dealership, gave em my part number and got the $35 switch for $29.75. I was about to show concern for something I thought needed to be there that doesn't, though. I thought I'd seen some sort of covering for those contacts at the bottom, but it seems there isn't one (can one of you confirm?). I can just see in the pictures above that the contacts are exposed on that switch, as well. And holy crap, this thing is tiny!

Well, got the part, so I'll be dropping the car in a little less than a week to get some things worked out, this included. Hopefully it'll be just what she needs.
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:58 PM   #6
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FYI if you ever need to order the part again... www.************************************************************ $11.
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Old 07-21-2010, 03:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blinkwatt
FYI if you ever need to order the part again... www.************************************************************ $11.
Thank you, blink, I'll definitely check these guys out in the future, especially if they carry other parts for the car. I just wanted to make sure I got the right one this first time around, and the highest it could be ($35) wasn't all that disagreeable for me. I'm just appreciative of the fact that there are some parts on this vehicle that don't go into the 3 and 4-figure range.
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:28 AM   #8
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no dice

well, had them change the switch, which did not resolve the problem, unfortunately. Surprisingly, the old switch looked nearly as good as the one I bought from Audi...I really had to check to see the slightly higher amount of corrosion on the contacts to convince myself that he had indeed replaced the switch...and am just now literally realizing I should check for the Audi symbol on the part.

Here's some more info I've noted while driving I figure I should share that might help others recognize the issue:

- when driving the car, I will almost consistently get headllight and instrument light dimming and/or radio cutout when I initially step on the brake, and it seems to happen more often when in motion versus stepping on the brake when stopped. I've tested this out a few times and lifted my foot and pressed again a few times in succession. At night it is especially noticeable to see the headlights and instruments dim briefly and come back, or to see them doing their flickering thing in the reflection of the lights on the body of the vehicle in front of me at a light.

-If I have a bit of a slow start where the RPMs drop pretty low, where it seems the car could potentially stall, the lights will dim and the radio will cut out, all of which goes right back to normal once I'm rolling.

-This one I can't confirm entirely, but it seems that sometimes when making small adjustments to the accelerator input that the radio seems to cut out during this. It will sometimes do this as well if I lift off of the accelerator to begin breaking or otherwise slowing down, so somtimes I can get two radio cutouts in a row, one from the lift, the other from stepping on the brake.

-It is any and all lighting in the vehicle, from the dome light to the little door mounted lights, and seems to be only when the engine is running that this occurs, though I'll have to try playing the radio, turning on some lights, and stepping on the brake just running off the battery to see what happens then.

Anyways, he managed to resolve pretty much all my other concerns with the car unrelated to this (I have cold air from my A/C now ), which is great, but my light flickering and radio cutting out are still occuring. And I will say, I don't often drive with the radio or a CD playing, I prefer to listen to my cars when I drive them, but it's kind of annoying when you occasionally do so and have the thing cutting in and out. Can anyone tell me where else I should have him look for a problem? Could it be the alternator? I pretty much have this week and the next to get it resolved while still under the warranty, so I want to try and do so. Thanks again for all the help so far...hopefully I'll be able to get this fixed.
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Old 07-29-2010, 12:33 AM   #9
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This sound like you have a high resistance grounding problem.
Try removing both battery connections (make sure you have the radio code beforehand) and clean them both thoroughly - including the internal faces of the clamps.... grease the cleaned external connections to stop future corrosion.
The other end of the negative terminal (-) connects to the chassis - this must be rust and corrosion free. Wire brush (emery cloth) the mating surfaces after removal and make sure the connection is tight.
The Boxster headlights are a "plug in" type which could have a high resistence connection which robs the rest of the electical system of voltage.
If you have a multi meter, you can sheck the resistence of the various grounding (negative) terminals but this can be very time consuming and if you don't have an electrical background a little confusing.
Hope this helps....
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Old 07-29-2010, 05:37 AM   #10
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Steve, thanks for the advice there. I don't have a meter handy, unfortunately (one of those round-to-it items I haven't gotten around to ), and this of course is a time where it'd be handy. I'm trying to remember where the ground connection for the battery cable is located. Was it somewhere in the passenger side fender?

I'll make a note of the items you've listed, and I'll likely be bringing the car back to him on Tuesday to have him attempt this. Thanks again.

Anyone got anything else I can have checked out?

EDIT: Forgot to mention, I checked into something else last night. I opened the door so the interior lights would be on, no key in the ignition, and pressed on the brake a few times to see what would happen. No flickering of those lights, though I also noted that unlike some cars, the brake lights didn't light without the car on. So I put the key in and turned it to ON (didn't start it), and stepped on the brake a few more times. Just about every time I got a little dim from the lights. They pretty much stayed steady unless I was doing that. Turned on the headlights and did it again, got some momentary dimming from them as well on brake pedal presses. So it does kind of sound like what you were saying, Steve. If anyone else has an idea of what might be afoot, lemme know. Thanks again.
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Old 07-29-2010, 06:06 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Overdrive
Thank you, blink, I'll definitely check these guys out in the future, especially if they carry other parts for the car. I just wanted to make sure I got the right one this first time around, and the highest it could be ($35) wasn't all that disagreeable for me. I'm just appreciative of the fact that there are some parts on this vehicle that don't go into the 3 and 4-figure range.
THANKS FOR THE LINK ON AUTOHAUZ. I PURCHASED MY SWITCH TODAY. HOPEFULLY THAT WILL SOLVE A FEW OF MY GREMILNS
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Old 07-29-2010, 01:17 PM   #12
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I recently had some issues similar to yours and it ended up being my alternator.

To test it you will also need that 'round-to-it' multi-meter...

With the car running, test it at your battery terminals and the result should be 13-14v, if I remember correctly. I can't remember if I removed the ground or not but if you do a search on the forum you can find out the proper procedure to do the test.

Mine was putting out 11v which told me it was not generating enough power to charge my battery and help run the car's auxiliaries. Once I changed my alternator the problem went away.
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Old 07-30-2010, 12:54 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by idheaton
I recently had some issues similar to yours and it ended up being my alternator.

To test it you will also need that 'round-to-it' multi-meter...

With the car running, test it at your battery terminals and the result should be 13-14v, if I remember correctly. I can't remember if I removed the ground or not but if you do a search on the forum you can find out the proper procedure to do the test.

Mine was putting out 11v which told me it was not generating enough power to charge my battery and help run the car's auxiliaries. Once I changed my alternator the problem went away.
idheaton, thanks for your input. I'm going to whip up a little list of all these things to have them checked. At this point I'm suspecting the alternator, too. Seeing as the ignition switch change didn't solve the problem, I'm back to my original suspicions of either grounding issues or a bad alternator. I guess we'll see what happens next week, and I'll be letting you guys know. Thanks!
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Old 06-10-2011, 05:29 AM   #14
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Well ladies and gents, time for an update to this oldie but goodie thread, nearly a year later, too.

So, winter finally came and went and I found some time to bring my car to a local independent shop that specializes in all cars German (BMW primarily, but they also service VW, Audi, Porsche, and M-B). They're called NEO Autos in South Windsor, CT for anyone in the local area looking for a good and reasonable indy shop for their Porsche, including those in the Springfield, MA area.

I'd been having some problems as time wore on, and my alternator actually just crapped out over the year. The battery was not getting recharged, and after a few starts would be completely dead, the latest incident of this leaving me marooned in front of a gas pump (thanks for the bail out, AAA). The AAA guy who helped me ran a diagnostic and found that the alternator was shot, and basically unless I kept the car on a maintainer, the battery would never charge. So while my light flickering suspicions were leading me to an alternator replacement, it now became a necessity just to be able to drive the car without fear of stalling in rush hour traffic and getting stuck.

I brought the alternator to NEO Autos, which I bought from John Magistro (JMINMD923), a great guy to deal with who I found through this forum, so if you need 986 parts, check him out. Anyways, I had them test the replacement alternator for me, which tested good, and had them put it, a new accessory belt, and a new battery into the car for me, to the tune of a little over $600, the majority of that cost really being labor for having to pull the passenger seat and material to gain access to the alternator. The mechanic who worked on the car is a former mechanic for a Porsche race team, so I felt much more comfortable leaving the car in their hands after speaking with him for a good amount of time about my experiences with the car in the past year.

I received the car back at the end of last week, and it immediately started up with a strength I haven't experienced since a year ago. I drove it on a 42 mile round trip commute every day from Saturday to Tuesday, and it started up and ran strong every time. So my dead battery/alternator issue is solved, and I'm quite happy about that.

However, the light flickering is still occuring, and I received a call from the shop owner a few days ago asking about the car, so I was sure to let them know this. The owner said he'd speak to the mechanic to see what other possibilities there could be for this issue. It's not as prominent as it once was, but it still occurs as before, when stepping on the brake while in motion or from hitting the turn signals. It also occurs the most consistently at idle, where the lights basically do their dim flickering in time with the engine's idle. What I did not remember to do when I took the car back was ask the mechanic who worked on the car whether or not he checked the grounds as I had asked. I'm considering bringing the car back to them and telling them to drive the car at night to really see what goes on when the car is running with all the lights on.

I won't fault the mechanics or shop here because they really are good people and did a great job for me, and are going that extra step by continuing to look into the problem on their own time. I'm defintely glad I found this shop and will continue to use them to work on the car for me.

I'll continue to update on here more frequently as I continue to look into the problem. Thank you again for all the help and advice on here.

EDIT: BTW, finally got around to getting my multi-meter, so I'll be doing a little troubleshooting myself, too.
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