Before I get to the meat of my story, we need to go back a while. Ever since my wife has entered professional life (she’s a veterinarian) it has been our policy that she gets to drive the newest car and when her car needs anything beyond very routine maintenance, she takes it to an independent shop or the dealer. In this way, she typically gets the car back in the shortest period of time and, if the work falls short of her standards, the poor mechanic gets to experience her scorn, not me. This has worked out well for both of us over the years. I avoid car repair deadlines. She gets her car back in a timely fashion. Also, I really don’t get much satisfaction working on newer cars. Things rarely go wrong with new cars and the maintenance schedule is pretty dull. Where’s the fun in that!
But we must also go back to another event. That event was when she fell in love with the then newly launched Porsche Cayman. One look at the dealership and she was gobsmacked. A very spirited test drive sealed the deal. I just stood out of the way and ponied up my half of the purchase price. And it has been a wonderful car. Goes like a bat out of hell. Corners like it’s on rails. Intoxicating exhaust note. What’s not to like?. Well, for one thing there’s nothing to tinker with on this car. Sure, there’s the oil changes and replacing the cabin air filter. Not much there to get Harvey Ferris’s interest. The car is now 9 years old and just hit 60,000 miles. You do the math. Driven a lot more than a Ferrari but at this rate we will probably be willing it to one of our children.
This car gets taken to the dealership for its yearly NC safety and emissions inspection. You see, the guys at the regular emissions check stations can’t inspect it because they can’t see the top of the engine! As if my wife maybe secretly installed a nitrous system or something. Whatever, at the last inspection the helpful man in the service department at Leith Porsche gave her a quote on her 60,000 mile maintenance. Let’s see. Oil change, oil filter, air filter, cabin air filter, plugs, and serpentine belt. $1500. Looking a little closer I see $25 a piece for spark plugs. Wow! $1500 will buy me 3 track days at VIR. So against my better judgement and after getting a quote on parts from Paragon Products, I suggested to my wife that I could beat Leith’s price substantially. Surprisingly, she said go for it!
I admit that I entered upon this job with some trepidation. Sure, I’m the same guy that rebuilt the engine of his first car when I was 16. A 1957 Chevy. Straight six. As I recall, ,when I paid $150 for it, it got roughly 50 miles to the quart of oil. To save face, I told folks that the county has hired me to drive around and fog the neighborhood for mosquitoes! I’m the same guy that rebuilt the engine of a VW Westfalia camper in the driveway and then immediately set off on a 5000 mile trip. I’m even the same guy who did a nuts and bolts restoration on a Jag Etype. But change the plugs on my wife’s “baby”. Oh lordy, what was I thinking.
What the hell. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And the internet is my friend. Initially the toughest part was removing the engine covers. A quick Google search later and covers removed. On to the cabin filter. Cake walk! The engine air filter was a little tricky to get seated but there is a helpful retaining screw that tells you when it’s lined up. On to the plugs. Thank you someone on Planet9 for perfect instructions on how to remove the covers that allow access to the plugs. In retrospect, the plugs were the hardest part and that is only because access basically sucks. You don’t have to drop the engine but I used quite a few of my tools. Spark plug socket (the small one) with the rubber insert. Torx bits. Allen head bits. Flex socket connector and a host of different length extensions. Torque wrench. I think the reason they charge so much for the damn spark plugs is that the mechanics have a blood borne pathogen event every time they have to work in such small spaces. The OSHA requirements on all that lost blood must be onerous. But I got 6 old plugs out and 6 new plugs in. The old plugs looked great, by the way.
The one job that had me mildly concerned was the serpentine belt. But in reality, it took me longer to get the engine cover off than to change out the belt. Check out the youtube video by the Brit entitled 3 minute serpentine belt change. Sorry, mate, it took me 5 minutes! In my defense, I had to draw a diagram first of how the thing was routed. Finally, the oil change, which as I expected was very straightforward and a non-event.
Now just call me old fashioned but before I started out on the above, I disconnected the battery. That’s always the first step. So after I was finished, I reconnected the battery so I could fire up the engine and check for leaks. As I put the key in and turned the ignition, I got a warning message. Something about PASM failure, as I recall. You don’t need PASM (Porsche Active Stability Management) to run a car that’s on a lift, so I went ahead and started the car. It fired right up with no problems. Oh, the dash readout said I’d have to wait 60 minutes before it could tell me the oil level (No dipstick in this car!). Whatever, I had the time. The internet confirmed that the PASM message was routine after disconnecting the battery and that it would go away shortly after driving the car.
On to the front brake pads. Not specifically on the 60,000 mile checklist but they were looking a little thin so why not now. Another quick trip to the internet and my level of understanding about pulling the pads was topped off. Pulling the pads was no worse than pull circlip, drive out pin, pull pads. Simple. Here’s where things got a little weird. The new pads were similar to the old ones but definitely not the same. They fit OK but the old pads were drilled to accept the brake pad thickness sensor. The new ones weren’t. For this scenario, the internet had nothing for me. It was a Saturday. I’d started on a Friday. My goal to have the car back to my wife promptly was in the toilet. She took the news gracefully. She was going to be out of town the following week and had not planned to drive the Cayman to the airport. So I bought a week of grace.
On Monday Jason at Paragon and I quickly determined that the brake pads on my very early Cayman had been superseded by a new improved model. One of the improvements was that the brake wear sensors did not require a hole to be drilled in the pads. A pair of sensors were shipped. $10 from Jason, $30 from Porsche. Remember, they have a lot of overhead at Porsche what with mechanics bleeding from big hands inserted into small places! If James Sokolove hears about this, it’s more TV commercials saying you or the loved ones of the deceased may be entitled to compensation!
The following weekend we hit one more snag. The retaining clips for the brake pads didn’t fit. This resulted in a rare event. I went to Leith and paid retail for the parts! I know, pretty bold move but it kept me from losing another week. (Disclaimer- I work out of town during the week so the weekends are it for me and car work). The brake pad retaining parts kit did the trick and the pads were safely ensconced in their calipers. What the hell, let’s bleed the brake fluid while we’re at it. With my Motive Products pressure bleeder this is a quick job. Fortunately none of the bleeder screws snap off. Murphy was staying out of this so far!
I can’t remember what came up but it was late in the day Friday and I decided to put off my test drive until the next day. The next morning I came out and did a quick check. Everything looked good. I lowered the car off the lift and pushed the front hood firmly closed. Inserted the key and turned. Nothing! Damnation!! Deader than my aunt Martha.
The Cayman has a lovely feature. When the battery is well and truly dead, the only way you can get to the battery, which resides in the front compartment, is by exercising the ELECTRIC LATCH that opens the front hood. The first time I was exposed to this I was amazed but never fear. Porsche conveniently provides a jump terminal in the fuse box next to the drivers leg which one can hook jumper cables to and energize the system long enough to release the latch. Mere moments later, I had hooked up my battery charger and gained entry to the front hood. At this point, I removed the plastic covers and hooked up the charger to the battery. Man, that sucker was dead. It pegged the amp meter on my charger. I throttled it back to 2 amps for fear of fire and explosions. After an hour and still not enough juice to crank the engine, I hooked up jumper cables to my trusty F150 and get the old girl running. I was rewarded with the following display on the dash!
I’m already in the “workshop” but somehow I think they are talking about the expensive workshop at the dealership. What have I wrought! Needless to say, I was not happy. A quick trip to the internet told me that Planet9, Pelican, and Rennlist had never seen such an impressive light show. Whatever, a real mechanic sucks it up and troubleshoots.
Does Harvey get to share a night in the doghouse with his bulldog? Does the Cayman have to make the rollback “tow of shame” to the dealership for repairs? Stay tuned for Part 2.