There exists an insane performance value in the used car market, and it's called the Porsche 911 – specifically, the 996 chassis that spanned the years between 1999 and 2004. However, there is a catch: They experience premature engine failure due to a small but integral part of the engine. Here's how to fix it for good, and drive a Porsche 911 for next to nothing.
The Porsche 996 is, by any stretch of the imagination, a capable performance car. Its 3.4 liter (and later 3.6 liter) naturally aspirated flat-6 variants produced around 300 horsepower and were mated to a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. This, coupled with an aerodynamic and relatively lightweight chassis made the car a sprightly performer. However, the car's Achilles' heel was a small but vital engine component called the IMS, or Intermediate Shaft bearing. The problem with this particular part was that there wasn't a realistic way to feed pressurized oil to it, and it relied on its internal grease to stay lubricated. As any astute gearhead can imagine, over tens of thousands of miles of hard driving, the grease would dry out and the bearing would seize, causing catastrophic damage to the intermediate shaft, requiring a rebuild of the engine.
The dinglecherry on top of this turd sundae was that this issue would happen seemingly at random, with no noises to signify that impending doom was coming your way. This was a huge concern for anyone buying a 996, which drove the price down substantially in the used car market, as the failure rate was as high as 10 percent for some years of the production run, prompting a class-action lawsuit against Porsche.
That's why you can currently find low-mileage, looked-after examples in the marketplace for frankly ridiculous prices. Here's a pristine All-wheel-drive, manual 911 Carrera with an asking price less than the cost of a Nissan Versa.
And if you want to drive down the price further, private party sales are definitely the way to go.
If you just purchased a new-to you Porsche 996 and are losing sleep due to the pin-less grenade now lurking in the engine bay, rest assured that a few cost effective solutions have been found. Keep in mind these solutions are for running engines, not ones where IMS failure has already occurred. If that happened, the engine needs to be taken apart and the damaged shaft and associated parts must be replaced. For those 996 owners with running engines, here are the options:
1. Get an upgraded aftermarket ceramic IMS bearing.
The most prominent and stout bearings for the car are made by a company called LN Engineering. Instead of using ball bearings, they utilize ceramic and steel for their bearings, which have an increased load rating for more heavy duty use. The full cost for a kit and all required tools is a little less than $950. Here is the procedure for the removal and installation of the new bearing:
2. Get an upgraded aftermarket Direct Oil Feed IMS bearing.
This bearing, instead of relying on a sealed construction, routes pressurized oil to the vital part, drastically increasing its life span, making it all but impervious to seizure. The bearing is made by TuneRS Motorsports, and you can buy it here. The kit and all required Porsche-specific tools will set you back around $1100. Here's the procedure on how to install the DOF bearing:
And for added security, here is a sensor that detects wear in the bearing, without you having to take apart the car a second time.
Either solution will last quite a while longer than the stock explosion-prone bearings, but the real value for use and resale lies in the DOF bearing, since it all but guarantees a stress-free operation at any operation, if the car's oil changes are kept up to date and regular. These procedures are a DIY job and completion is around 10 hours, and access is such that any weekender with a garage or driveway with jackstands and hand tools could complete it.
If you're not the DIY type and want an independent shop to complete the oily task, they'd charge you about $1000 for the privilege, with a 2-3 day downtime. As the car doesn't have any other major mechanical faults, it's a small price to pay for a Porsche 911 that runs reliably and will be worth more if and when resale comes along, because just like all other Porsches, these cars are due to appreciate in the coming years.
For more life-saving fixes for otherwise awesome cars, check these out:
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.