At the beginning of this hellish week I awoke from a deep slumber with a start. “What if my engine explodes tomorrow?” I said to myself. My half awake wife told me to shut up and go back to sleep. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m overthinking it.
I’ve had a 1997 Porsche Boxster for about six years. I bought the car with 95,000 miles on the odometer, and I’ve since added about 46,000 miles to that total. The previous owner replaced the infamous original intermediate shaft bearing at around 90,000 miles, thankfully, so I pushed that dread out of my mind and never really let it bother me. Until recently. The last time I did an oil change on my Boxster, I noticed a thin film of ferrous material coating my magnetic oil drain plug. And it’s been tugging deep at my soul ever since.
Metal in the oil is an early warning sign that the intermediate shaft bearing is starting to fail. That bearing was spec’d by Porsche as a metal ball-bearing style behind the flywheel, and was allegedly a lifetime part. Over a few thousand heat cycles, the bearing’s rubber seal shrinks and engine oil washes the bearing grease out of the bearing. Bad shit ensues. If the bearing seizes, that glorious Porsche flat six engine is toast.
I don’t really want my engine to explode. I like my engine. It makes fun sounds when I push the pedal on the right. So, there are a few options here. I can do what the previous owner did and put another OEM Porsche sealed bearing in there. Sometimes they last forever, sometimes you need to replace it in 40,000 miles. Sometimes you don’t catch it going bad and your motor asplode! Or, I can get an upgraded ceramic ball bearing IMS for around $800 that is rated to 70,000 miles before needing replacement. The problem with this is that ceramic doesn’t stick to a magnetic drain plug, so I would have no advance warning if it did happen to fail.
Or, if I’m feeling really hardcore, I can replace that sealed bearing with a permanent fix, the LN Engineering “IMS Solution” pressure-fed oiled bearing kit, which is around $1900. I wouldn’t ever need to replace the thing again, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it seizing on me. I like this peace of mind, but is it worth the extra cash?
Ant from Wheeler Dealers makes this IMS Solution kit swap look so fucking easy in this short video that I want to punch his incredibly kind and likable face. I’d be doing this same job on my back in a concrete floor metal wall shed. Which is another reason it might be worth it for me to only do this job once.
Then again, I could just as easily take a gamble, let it ride, and when the motor explodes, swap in an LS3, or the 3.4-liter flat six from a 996 Carrera. I’ve driven an LS-powered mid-engine Porsche before, and it was absolutely glorious in every way. Maybe this little 2.5 blowing up wouldn’t be the end of the world.
I’m not asking for your answer to my problem. I’ll eventually figure it out on my own. But I am prompting you to ask yourself a similar question. To what lengths would you go to make your fun car as reliable as it could be? Whatever the common failure is on your car of choice, how much would you spend if it meant never having to worry about it again? And if it meant doing a difficult transmission-out job every 50,000 miles, would you pay double to never have to do that job again?
Sound off in the comments below. What car are we talking about? What is the major failure mode? How far are you willing to take a repair to make sure it never fails? Let’s chat.