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Old 05-25-2016, 05:57 PM   #1
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Buying a non-running Boxster S

I am considering buying a 2002 Boxster S with 130k miles. The engine cut out on the owner while he was driving and he says he doesn't want to bother getting it fixed since he has another car. The price is pretty low so I'm intrigued.

The story:
Owner was driving, the engine cut out. It was running a little rough right before it died, as if the car ran out of gas. He tried starting it up again and it started, but then died again a few seconds later. Then it never started after that.

The facts:
- Engine turns over but doesn't start
- No oil leaks visible under the car
- No clicking or clunking sounds when the car died on him
- No check engine light
- Wasn't raining when this happened, so likelihood of M535 immobilizer having gotten wet is low. Car locks and unlocks with remote so at least that portion is working
- No white froth oil dipstick

Any opinions on what it could be? If it's IMS bearing failure, then I'm not interested. But the fact that the engine turns over would lead me to believe its not IMS. Any ways I can check to verify it is not IMS failure? I have durametric so I can scan the codes. If cam deviation is within spec can I safely assume IMS bearing is good? I really don't want to have to inspect the oil filter for particles in the guy’s garage or take spark plugs out and borescope inside the engine to check if valves are broken. If the cam deviation test with durametric is not definitive then I will consider having it towed to a shop to check oil filter and spark plugs.

Other possibilities are crank position sensor. I don't think it is CPS since it would throw a check engine light right?

Could also be fuel pump or its relay. Does this type of failure indicate a fuel related issue?

Could it be a head gasket or cracked head/block? There is no white material on oil dipstick, can I safely assume it is not head gasket or cracked head/block?

Thanks in advance for the help!


Last edited by leafdude555; 05-25-2016 at 07:39 PM. Reason: added another fact
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Old 05-25-2016, 06:15 PM   #2
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Hi there,
Well you didn't mention what the intriguingly low price was. A non running engine is difficult to diagnose. For instance, you can't check the cam deviations unless it is running.
"Doesn't want to bother getting it fixed" is a telling statement in my eyes. IMHO you should treat it like a roller and price it accordingly. Who knows, you may be lucky and find a rather small problem. Or not.
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Old 05-25-2016, 07:36 PM   #3
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The price is only a couple thousand lower than the market price I think. I'm hoping I can negotiate that down though.

I just want to be sure that it's not IMS bearing, chain tensioners, cracked head/block, head gasket or anything else that is several thousand dollars to fix.
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Old 05-25-2016, 07:36 PM   #4
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Could be the fuel pump.
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Old 05-25-2016, 09:18 PM   #5
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Rule #1: Never trust anything that a seller says unless its backed up in writing.

There is no way to verify the list of possible engine failures without tearing down the engine. Hence, you have to assume that the engine is toast and needs to be replaced.

If you can get the car to a shop for an inspection, you might have a fighting chance. But very few sellers will allow any work to be done on their car until you buy it. What if your mechanic damages something while removing the spark plugs? Who pays?

Also, you have to assume that there are other things wrong with the car that won't be detectable since the engine won't run. Things like air conditioning, cooling system, power steering, brakes (master cylinder/booster), wheel bearings, CV joints, clutch, transmission, engine sensors, fuel pump, etc, etc.

If the battery is dead and you can't turn on the power, then the list of things that you can't test goes up dramatically to include windows, top, lights, wipers, radio, climate control, CEL codes, alarm system, etc, etc.

I bought my 97 Boxster with a known failed engine. The seller swore that there was nothing else wrong with the car. I spent almost $1,000 repairing things that the seller didn't disclose and that I was not able to test since the engine wouldn't run. And there was no way that the seller didn't know about the CEL for the fuel vapor recovery system before the engine failed as it had nothing to do with the engine itself.

Now, I'm not saying that every seller is a liar, but I am saying that you won't be able to tell the lying sellers from the honest sellers.

And do you really think that someone is going to sell their car for thousands less than market value because they "didn't want to fix it?" Who does that? No one.

The seller is keeping his cards hidden and transferring all of the risk to you in this transaction.

Bottom line: The car is worth around $3,500.
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Last edited by thstone; 05-25-2016 at 09:25 PM.
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Old 05-25-2016, 09:20 PM   #6
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Easy, get under the car and remove the oil filter and inspect that will tell you if it is something expensive, if oil is clean with no metal or plastic debris then I would buy it hoping for something easy
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Old 05-25-2016, 09:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jager View Post
Could be the fuel pump.
That is a possibility. But if fuel pump failed, would the car start up again for a few seconds after dying?

If the pump fails and fuel pressure is gone, I don't think the car would start again right?
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Old 05-26-2016, 03:07 AM   #8
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Totally agree with thstone. You're buying a cat in a sack. Pay accordingly. A couple thousand below mkt is NOT what this car is worth. You have to assume it's a roller and pay a roller price ($3500).

I bought a 77 VW conv 1.5 yrs ago with an engine that wouldn't run. Based on the symptoms and the Internet chatter, it sounded like an air leak into the FI. Worked extensively with a neighbor to get it running, but it didn't run well. Took it to a VW shop (twice), who blew my budget by lining his pocket with stuff it didn't need to run. Once I got the faulty part replaced (not the repair shop), it ran well but was pushing oil out the dipstick. That meant weak rings. So I bit the bullet and put in a long block. Bottom line, it turned out to be way more expensive than I anticipated. But it runs well now. Not sure I'll make any money on it.

Few of these purchases end up like Mike and Edd's 986 purchase (Wheeler Dealer), which only needed an Tip oil change. They give us hope, but it rarely happens.
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Old 05-26-2016, 05:28 AM   #9
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Hello,

so we have a 14 year old car with 180K miles on it and we don't know what exact problems it has besides it's engine is not running.

So, how high is the risk that something else fails or has failed in a 14 year old car with 180K miles? I would say high to very high.

Will a 14 year old car with 180K miles on it and an engine that doesn't run be a good seller? I would say no.

Would i sell a 14 year old car with 180K miles on it if ha a bigger problem and i know the Porsche repair and part prices and i couldn't fix it myself easily? I would say yes.

But what if the repair isn't an easy fix? And what if there are other things to repair? Will i really throw a lot of money in a 14 year old car with 180K miles on it?

No, i would look for a newer car with less miles on it in a good and everything working condition at a reasonable price, because i've had burnt enough money in my life.

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Old 05-26-2016, 05:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stelan View Post
Easy, get under the car and remove the oil filter and inspect that will tell you if it is something expensive, if oil is clean with no metal or plastic debris then I would buy it hoping for something easy
I disagree.
I have an honesty problem. When I sell a car, I spend more time telling the buyer everything I can think of that is wrong with it, then make sure they get it for at least 10% less than I am asking.
If I was not like that, I would find it quite easy to drain the oil and place a brand new filter in an engine that was toast, and sell it for a few THOUSAND more.

I am not aware of a simple, non-invasive way to verify that a non-running engine will be a cheap repair. As Tom pointed out, even knowing that it does have one problem, does not mean there aren't many others lurking.

Leafdude, If you can't afford to make an expensive mistake on this one, keep looking.
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Old 05-26-2016, 06:45 AM   #11
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If serious about purchasing, recommend offering to pay for or do a basic investigation and afterwards purchasing at at agreed on price if fix is reasonable. Best case you end up with running car for cheap. Worst case seller ends up knowing exactly whats wrong for free and you save yourself a headache.
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Old 05-26-2016, 10:10 AM   #12
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This is all great information. I will talk to the seller and see if he is flexible on the price and if he can come down to the $3500 roller pricing. Will keep you all posted. Thanks!
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Old 05-26-2016, 10:52 AM   #13
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Leaf, if he balks, tell him that without knowing what caused the motor problem the only safe assumption is that it will need to be replaced at a cost of X thousand dollars.
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Old 05-26-2016, 12:11 PM   #14
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Here in NorCal, even non-running Boxsters seem to be worth more than elsewhere in the USA. Could be the economy here or the high number of sports car buffs. Whatever. A nice looking 2002 S roller is worth closer to $5K in these parts.
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Old 05-26-2016, 12:26 PM   #15
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It is worth $3,500, bottom line. Buy it if you feel lucky.
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Old 05-26-2016, 04:30 PM   #16
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If you don't want to do any investigation to determine whether it's an IMS failure or not, then treat the purchase as if it IS an IMS failure and in effect prepare yourself for the worst.

If it was local to me I'd buy it for $3,500CAD and put something interesting and non-flat in the back.
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Old 05-26-2016, 05:01 PM   #17
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Talked to the seller, he said he's had offers for $5k so he won't take any less than that. I don't think anyone has come to see it in person and inspected it, so those might be offers over the phone from people that are more optimistic.

Might be worth going to check it out and seeing if I can gather more clues as to whether it is IMS or not. Probably not worth the time though as it is in a different city.
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Old 05-27-2016, 02:35 AM   #18
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Pass on it. There is NOTHING more expensive than a CHEEP Porsche.....
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Old 05-27-2016, 03:03 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leafdude555 View Post
Talked to the seller, he said he's had offers for $5k so he won't take any less than that.
Offers over the phone mean nothing. Show up, check it out, and if it looks good, pull out $4K cash. CIF talks (Cash In Fist). Ask him how many people have shown up in person with the money to buy? And those people who offered $5K are long gone to other projects. His reality of the value is not what the market will bear. If he won't take it, tell him if you leave without the car, you're not coming back. Then walk if you have to.

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