By now most of you are probably pretty familiar with my Pandemic Project Porsche. Now it’s time to get even better acquainted. Let’s dive into the interior and let me walk you through what I’ve done to make the cabin feel like a home away from home.
When I bought my 2001 Boxster I made sure I got one that was as mechanically sound as I could realistically afford. That meant I would accept a car with some minor aesthetic issues, and that’s exactly the car I got. Don’t get me wrong, the cabin wasn’t exactly a disaster area. There were just a few things that needed attention before everything worked the way it was intended.
The issues to be tackled were — in no particular order — a broken dashboard cupholder, an only partially functional driver’s seat controller, a worn button on the climate control, and a mystery wire in the console storage box. Let’s go through each of these. Oh, and you might want to grab a cup of tea or coffee first; we’re going to go over a lot of stuff.
I don’t typically drink anything in my car and based on the inherent fragility and awkward placement of the cupholders in the 986, that’s not likely to change.
That apparently wasn’t the case with a previous owner of my Boxster, as both of the in-dash cupholders were broken when I bought the car. Now, you might ask why I didn’t leave them that way if I had no plans to use them. Well, one side broke in the closed position, the other side was sticking out like it was really excited to see me. Due to the limited space between the cup holder and the shifter, I kept knuckling it on first, third and fifth shifts. Also, it looked hella crappy.
First, I removed the one that was hanging out to alleviate the shifting annoyance. That left one broken cupholder and one hole where there was once another broken cupholder.
I eventually broke down and ordered a replacement cupholder cassette from ECS Tuning to replace the broken unit. For something as chintzy as the cupholder package is, its $80 price seems steep. That is, until you see that it has PORSCHE on the box. Any time you buy something and it says PORSCHE on the box you can expect to pay about twice what it’s worth.
The cassette mounts above the Becker head unit by way of a pair of brackets that screw through plastic tabs on the console wall. Fours screws followed by a pressed-on faceplate and Bob’s your uncle.
Ok, relation or not, Bob will not be using my new cup holders. Neither will I, they’re just too dang flimsy. Still, I was pretty stoked to get that eyesore in the dash fixed.
As I was getting settled in the car to drive it home after its purchase, the former owner let me know that the driver’s seat didn’t move back and forth. He explained that the tilt function worked as did the backrest which allowed for a satisfactory amount of movement to allow people ofa different sizes to get comfortable and safely operate the car. I found this to be the case, but just like the cup holders, this was a fix that I wanted to tackle.
The first thing I needed to do was to pull up the squab and have a poke at the electronics that make the seat do its thing. My car has eight-way power seats with three-position memory and the whole thing is controlled by a computer distribution box beneath the thigh bolster. Checking on this, and comparing it to the wiring diagram in the Bentley manual showed that the connector for the fore-aft motor had been disconnected. “Ah-ha!” I thought, “what an easy fix this will turn out to be.” Well, no, that wasn’t the source of the problem. In fact, reading through the extensive maintenance and repair records I saw that the issue had manifested all the way back in 2014 and the disconnected plug was just a result of an earlier unsuccessful diagnosis and repair.
Once I dug into the seat, I discovered three main issues. The first was that the wiring loom to the switch had been pinched in an earlier repair attempt resulting in both a loose connection at the board and stripped insulation on the wires. I resoldered the connections and fixed the loom and then tested all of the switches and associated wiring for function and continuity. The switchboard worked fine and now all the wires connected as they should.
Pulling apart the switch revealed the second issue which was unrelated to the seat motor problem. The switchboard has four push switches that operate the lumbar support. One of the tiny pins that slots into one of the switches was missing. This is, of course, not something that you can run down to the local Pep Boys and pick up. I schemed to replace it with a map pin or part of a cheap pen, but nothing worked. I finally did another disassembly of the switch mechanism and lo and behold, found the pin nestled in the corner of the switch bracket, semi-hidden behind the lumbar switch wobble plate. Yippy!
In addition to getting the lumbar switch back in working order I took a methodical approach to the seat motor. After eliminating the switch and motor as possible culprits through testing, I focused on the Hella controller under the seat. Pulling that out, I took it apart and checked all the solder joints I could find for the fore-aft circuit.
That didn’t do anything. And, as I couldn’t find a circuit diagram for the controller itself I gave up on fixing this one, broke down and bought a used one off of eBay. Plugged in, that solved the problem. Now the seat goes everywhichway but loose.
There was yet another puzzling Porsche perplexment 0n my car that was driving me a little nuts. The early 986 lacks a traditional dashboard glovebox, but it does have a locking cubby under the armrest in the center console. Inside that cubby, I discovered a wired connector poking out from under the lip of the floor. That was connected to a free-floating spring-arm microswitch. Turning once again to my trusty Bentley book, I traced that to the security system. Turns out, that wire and switch shouldn’t just be flopping loosely in the cubby. It should be connected to the cubby latch.
It appears that the mount for the switch on the latch had broken. Now the switch was free and not doing its job. Once I sussed all this out, it was time to make it all right again. Naturally, I found that the mount itself is no longer available from any of the usual sources. Fortunately, the entire latch mechanism is readily available on eBay through disassemblers. And, they’re not too expensive either. Once I had one in hand, I transferred the key lock from the broken latch to the new one. All that took was popping the cylinder out from below and snapping the old lock into the “new” latch.
This all required taking the console out and flipping it over, but that was a simple job once I learned about the secret screw under the coin holder. Now all my switches were where they belonged and my center console is secure. Just kidding, it’s just a plastic latch, it’s not keeping anything safe.
The Porsche’s interior was really coming together and by now I had everything in the cabin working as it should. There was still one aesthetic issue that needed to be addressed, however. You can see it in the picture below. It’s that worn-off button on the climate control.
My options for fixing the button were limited to replacing it with one from another climate control unit, using some sketchy press-on button covers offered on eBay, attempting to painstakingly re-paint the button with its little white plus sign or just blacking it out entirely with a Sharpie.
After many sleepless nights, I decided to go the first route and bought a used climate control unit with a leaky LCD screen off of eBay. Broken and non-working units cost far less than do working ones and I didn’t need the screen or the support circuitry.
Removal of the climate control unit is fairly straighforward. You have to remove both the surrounding trim piece and the batwing below it, as a tab extends down behind the latter. Two screws are all that hold the unit in place and with those removed it just slides out of the console. Popping the two electrical harnesses off in the back frees the unit entirely. Then, it’s off to the kitchen table!
The climate controller I bought was from a newer car and featured matte-finish buttons rather than the glossy ones on the unit that came in my car. That was fine with me, I simply replaced the entire faceplate rather than just the one offending button.
Switching the faceplates proved to be a super simple task, requiring the removal of just three screws to detach each of them from their housings and an additional seven to separate the button surround from the PCB and LCD backing.
Once I screwed everything back together — ensuring I put the same screws back in their same places — I put the repaired unit back in the car and turned everything on to make sure it all still worked. To my pleasant surprise, it all did.
This was one of the simplest repairs I have made on the Boxster, but, seeing as I have to stare at it every time I get into the car, it’s also one of the most satisfying. To treat both myself and the car, I bought some new mats with jaunty red PORSCHE logos. I think they really tie the space together.
Having everything in working condition makes my old Boxster feel less like a hooptie. Things like the climate control button and the cup holders I’ll never use are really are only about making me feel better. The seat controls and security system fixes will have a much bigger impact on how I use the car.
The first-generation Boxster is easy to wrench-on and also engaging and fun to drive, which makes it the perfect car for someone like me. I can only afford to maintain a fun car like this by doing 90% of the work on it myself. So far I figure I’ve saved myself something like 40 hours of shop time by rolling up my own sleeves and delving into the minor maintenance and fixes the Porsche has demanded. Not only that, but I love both doing the work and the feeling of satisfaction that comes when work... well, works out.
That’s just one way to enjoy the car. The other way is by dropping the top and pointing it in the direction of the nearest winding road. Lucky for me there are plenty of those around.
Next time, we’re going to get under the Boxster. While down there, we’ll undertake the replacement of one simple part that, I have to tell you, makes the car feel like brand new.
Until then, thanks for coming along on the ride.