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You could pull the serpentine belt off and run the car for a few seconds to see if the sound disappears. I guess that would only work if you can hear the knock at idle or revving while stopped. Or maybe pull the oil filter and look for metal. In fact, I think I'd do that first since it's so easy.
I was at a quick oil change place and another customer commented how much trouble he had with squirrels chewing up the wiring in his truck (sat outside). He used Coyote urine under the hood to protect the truck from the squirrels. The guys on the oil change crew were not amused.
Gee, I wouldn't put a lit torch near my car. There is a product named "Gunk" that is made for cleaning engines. I've used it a lot and it works great. Somehow it turns oil & grease into some kind of emulsion that rinses off with water. My garden hose has a nozzle that spins around to produce different spray patterns. One of them is "shower" and it makes a gentle rinsing action. That's what I would do (on a cold motor). Spray the area with Gunk and gently rinse it off. Stay away from electrical devices and connectors as much as you can. Drive the car right away afterward to dry everything off. I've got to say I've never actually done this on my car but the propane torch idea scares me.
I've been using a very inexpensive heated seat cushion that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket. Works like a champ and cost less than $20. I've done a bunch of driving in the 40's and 50's with the top down and love the comfort. I wish I had factory heated seats but figure I'd be out several hundred dollars to get an upholstery shop to do the work, not couting the hassle of dropping off and recovering the car.
I've read it's important to drain the diff before pulling the left side axle if your car is a Tiptronic. Otherwise the Tip can be contaminated by the diff lube. Don't know if this applies to you or not. I think the service manual talks about the issue.
Go ahead and try one O2 sensor. That is the only input the car's computer uses when it decides whether to throw that code. Here's a quote from the Porsche training document... The monitor for air injection monitors the oxygen sensors in order to detect if air is actually being injected into the exhaust. It looks for the oxygen sensors to drive the voltage low (low voltage high oxygen content in exhaust), since normally the sensor voltage would be high due to the rich start up mixture. The only way that the sensor voltage will fall close to ground is if air is actually being injected into the exhaust.
This is kind of far fetched but during a period of storage it might be possible that mice or other animals have entered the car and taken up housekeeping. You could check the air filter. Go ahead and laugh but it happens. I remember a TV show about finding classic cars and there is a Ferrari that's been stored for years. The first time they start the car a whole bunch of nuts and shells came flying out the tailpipe because animals had been living inside the muffler.
You might want to buy the Durametric diagnostic unit. It can check a large number of the systems of the car, including the fans. You can activate the fans manually in low or high. I wasn't sure my fans were working right but I tested them with the motor off using the Durametric and I could hear them running in low and again in high. You'll definitely know they're running in high because they're pretty loud at high speed. I believe the fans each have a big resistor that comes into play to create the low speed. If the resistor is bad the fan will run in high but not in low. The Durametric is good for some of the other problems, like diagnosing check engine lights. It costs about $300 USD.
Arent' there some screen filters in the evacuation "pumps" on the ends of the cams? If those were clogged (maybe with debris from the tensioners) would they allow oil to accumulate in the cam areas? I'm just guessing here. I like the idea of measuring crankcase vacuum and comparing it with a known good car. Seems like you might be able to to adapt a plain vacuum gauge to the dipstick tube but I admit I've never tried it.
Does the key make the normal loud "clank" sound when you remove it? As I remove my key I get the clank and the car's interior lights come on. My dash lights will stay on for several minutes after I shut down the car and walk away (I never lock my car). I tested the drain on my battery and got about 21 milliamps. The way I tested it was to expose the battery and pull the negative cable. I took a set of vice grips and clamped one lead of the meter to the post and another set of vice grips and clamped the other lead to the cable end. The front trunk will be open and of course the light is on but it goes out after 2 hours. I waited the 2 hours before taking the reading and that's when I got the 21 milliamp reading. I was having some problems with the battery failing to start the car. I bought a volt meter that plugs into the cigarette lighter and with a full charge on the battery from an external charger I saw 13.75 volts but gradually over a few days (no headlight use) the volt meter would drop back. After a couple weeks the battery wouldn't start the car. I'm used to car voltages being in the 14.5 volt range and I took the car to O'Reilly's and they put their tester on the car and pronounced the battery and charging system good. I bought a new voltage regulator (mounted on the back of the alternator) but the voltage readings didn't change. Eventually somebody on one of the forums said my alternator was weak. I bought a remanufactured unit from the same O'Reilly store. The voltage level immediately went up to 14.4 volts while driving and I've never had another problem. From the details of your story I doubt you have an alternator problem but sometimes they can be "weak" and be difficult to diagnose. Mine would have been easier to figure out if the damned thing had quit completely.
I do all my driving with the top down. Basically the only time I put the top up is when I wash the car. I let it dry out completely before lowering it but I hardly ever drive the car with the top up. I bought my 2000 S last winter and the top looks pretty good and the window seems pretty flexible (and clear after I cleaned it with PlasticX). But I can see some fold lines and crease points at the outer edges of the window. I'm careful to be sure the window folds smoothly horizontally (I stop the top motor and manually adjust the window fold if it's starting to crease). But at the edge of the window where the horizontal fold line transitions into the canvas the window gets a more complex pattern that has some crinkles. Would I be better off putting the top up when I get home and park the car in the garage? My theory has been the less cycles I put on the top the better but now I'm thinking maybe the window will last longer if it'stretcheded out the way it sits when the top is up.
A/C stuff is generic in the sense that a shop that does A/C work should be able to work on any kind of car. To the OP I'd say it's worth taking to a shop. I think it ought to cost about $100 to evacuate the system and put in a measured refrigerant charge. That is pretty likely to have the car blowing ice cubes when they're finished. I had good luck at the fast oil change place when the A/C in my old Sebring was getting weak. You really won't know what you've got until you know positively that the charge level is right.
The plain Jane generic battery works just fine. I took a 5 year old Walmart battery out of my 2000 S because I thought it was bad but it was really the alternator. I put in a generic O'Reily battery and it works great. The vent tube even connected perfectly. I think the Tip cars have a higher capacity battery.
I think the loud clunk when removing the key is normal. The dash lights stay on in my car for several minutes but go out on their own eventually (maybe 5-10 minutes). I never lock my car so I see this stuff every day. My clock doesn't flash but the other stuff sounds normal to me.