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Not buying a 996 because of engine failures, fear


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I just sold my 2000 BMW M Coupe and I have been looking for a 996 911 because they are beautiful and I like how they feel on the track...but as soon as I started doing some research I found so many reports of engine failure. At first I just read things about a coolant tank having issues, and then about a rear main seal leak...and I started asking private sellers about that.

I found many with no issues, a couple with minor oil seepage from some gaskets, and one which had a replaced engine with 15k on the clock.

But then I read reports of perfectly fine low mileage ~30,000 cars just having sudden unforseen failures, failures which apparently left people with 8-15k bills.

Now if I plan to buy private party for a used 996 1999/2000 with about 35-50k miles for around $30,000 how could I expect to pick up some sort of warranty that would cover this? Or even to take measures to ensure it doesn't happen? Are there warning signs? How big of a deal is minor oil seepage at 50,000 miles?

Thing is, I have enough money to pay for scheduled maintenance, oil changes, plenty of detailing tires and brakes but I don't have the kind of financial reserve to worry about a sudden catastrophic engine failure that will run me $15,000 I don't have liquid.

Can anyone weigh in on this? Any warranty available to private party sales? Warranty transfers or extensions and cost as such? Or should I just give up because I can't afford a mid mileage 993 or a time-bomb 996?

<_<

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Lightfall --

Here are 2 forum posts that should help you. I just bought a 2000 C2 Cab 33000 miles. I can't afford a divorce, but I got married anyway. Do your best due diligence with PPI from an Indie, understand its history, where it was manufactured, converse with previous owners, then enjoy yourself. If the extended warranty gives you the peace of mind then great, spend the extra on it and make sure you know what it really covers.

I'm sure I will not be the only one to chime in on this topic.

Warranty:

http://www.renntech.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=17762

Engine reliability:

http://www.renntech.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=6470

--Tom

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I think it's blown a little out of proportion. Probably just because of how much money a 911 costs. I don't see them having any more issues that your typical sports car. There will always be a few duds or someone not following manufacture recommendations. I've seen a few 996s with over 100K still original engines in them. The RMS issue isn't that big of a deal. The horror stories are most likely people who don't know anything about the car and neglect to see it happening. If an engine seal is leaking a good amount of oil, probably should get it fixed not continue to drive on it, loose oil, and have none left for the engine. Engine seals are sort of temperamental, leaving the car sitting for long periods of time isn't a great idea from my experience with any car. I'd try to find a good one that has been serviced, and also get a pre-purchase inspection on it. Just price out in your head, worst case scenario, if _______ happened what would I do.

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Or you could do what I did (selling my 99 Z3 BTW, same reasons) and buy a 2002 with the far superior 3.6L engine. It has a significantly lower RMS failure rate (according to my mechanic, maybe 5% of the pre-2002 failure rate cars, as he's only seen 2, and no unexplained engine failures. Read the article at top about 996 reliability..the engine builders from Autofarm have some fantastic photo's and insights. I got my 2002 C2 coupe in Seal Gray w/ black interior with 37.5k miles on it 3 weeks ago for $32k from a private seller. It has PSM, Comfort package wiith supple leather, heated seats, lumbar, memory, Technic package (BiXenon w/washers & "upgraded" stereo, (which BTW, even tho they complain about the stereo on these Porsche forums, it's many times better than the utter crap that came in the Z3's!), 18" open spokes, leather wheel w/ leather airbag, & rear wiper.) It had new front brake pads & rotors, new tires, and the coolant expansiontank had just been replaced, so new tank and coolant, and the 30k service. The only issues are all 4 wheels have some rash on them (I'll send them to Metro Wheels in Atlanta over the winter), and the front bumper was backed into, so needs some R&R. Seller had car for 18 months & had paid $50k for it with 29k miles, but after 4th ticket was told by wife to SELL IT. I WAS trying to hold out till I could afford a nice used Z4M Coupe, as I'd driven them at the last 2 Spartenburg Homecomings, but the 911 seriously blows it away in almost every way. ( The steering wheel and shifter/pedal positions, are IMHO, still better on the new M Coupe)

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but after 4th ticket was told by wife to SELL IT.

Ha!

I haven't gotten any tickets yet, but when I do ... I'll probably need bail. :o

Anyway, I'm aware of several early 996s in the 80k range with no motor issues.

Perry, you got a great deal, but this just reflects the current market/economy....

Edited by der meister
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Lightfall:

If your main concern is with sudden, unexplained, unexpected massive failure of the engine, one approach might be to buy a car with more than 50K on the clock and that has been driven regularly.

I don't recall reading any horror stories for engines above that mileage.

There is also a claim that the newer engines are more reliable (i.e., less prone to massive failure) because of a beefed up Intermediate Shaft (after 2005, IIRC).

Most rear main seal leaks that you read about on the board are of the light variety. Those aren't very meaningful except in terms of a dirty garage floor (and engine in that area). Again, if you have one that hasn't leaked for the first 50,000 miles, that will greatly lessen the chances that it will leak.

Just some thoughts for you to consider.

Regards, Maurice.

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Lightfall,

Bought a 2000 C2 coupe tiptronic last June. Car had 76k miles on it and it now has 91k and is my daily driver (100 miles every day in highway traffic). No issues at all with rear main seal. Car had a PPI and everything was in order. Still in that time frame I have spent ~$4000 on repairs, that includes me doing some of the work. Little stuff, but still costly. Right now car is at the dealer getting the drivers side radiator fan replaced. I love the car as it always gets looks (aero kit, Gaurds Red) as compared to my neighbors M3 convertible. Personally, I have owned a couple of BMWs and they were very nice cars. Perfect for running around town and doing some road course stuff. Still the Porsche has a unique flavor that I really like. Unfortunately if the little bills keep stacking up it may sour my opinion. As others have mentioned every manufacturer has some issues with certain cars. I have had 3 Acuras and all had transmissions replaced. Nothing is perfect.

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Lightfall,

Bought a 2000 C2 coupe tiptronic last June. Car had 76k miles on it and it now has 91k and is my daily driver (100 miles every day in highway traffic). No issues at all with rear main seal. Car had a PPI and everything was in order. Still in that time frame I have spent ~$4000 on repairs, that includes me doing some of the work. Little stuff, but still costly. Right now car is at the dealer getting the drivers side radiator fan replaced. I love the car as it always gets looks (aero kit, Gaurds Red) as compared to my neighbors M3 convertible. Personally, I have owned a couple of BMWs and they were very nice cars. Perfect for running around town and doing some road course stuff. Still the Porsche has a unique flavor that I really like. Unfortunately if the little bills keep stacking up it may sour my opinion. As others have mentioned every manufacturer has some issues with certain cars. I have had 3 Acuras and all had transmissions replaced. Nothing is perfect.

I was also worry about the reliability of the Porsche so I had a new Acura TL (6 years ago) as my extra vehicle. End up my Porsche has less issue and more reliable. Honda & Acura should be a brand name Japanese build, but I found out most 6 cylinders carry the same components as the 4. The extra weight and power cause problems with front rotors and the transmission. It is a known issue over all the Honda forum and Honda has not corrected it when I sold my TL last year.

Bottom line is the known problem issues of the 996 like the cooling tank or the RMS, compare to a $3000.00 Honda transmission, is nothing. Also only a small percentage of 996 owners have these problems. All the TL owners I meet have front rotor issues before 30K miles and half of them have transmission problem.

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Lightfall,

Bought a 2000 C2 coupe tiptronic last June. Car had 76k miles on it and it now has 91k and is my daily driver (100 miles every day in highway traffic). No issues at all with rear main seal. Car had a PPI and everything was in order. Still in that time frame I have spent ~$4000 on repairs, that includes me doing some of the work. Little stuff, but still costly. Right now car is at the dealer getting the drivers side radiator fan replaced. I love the car as it always gets looks (aero kit, Gaurds Red) as compared to my neighbors M3 convertible. Personally, I have owned a couple of BMWs and they were very nice cars. Perfect for running around town and doing some road course stuff. Still the Porsche has a unique flavor that I really like. Unfortunately if the little bills keep stacking up it may sour my opinion. As others have mentioned every manufacturer has some issues with certain cars. I have had 3 Acuras and all had transmissions replaced. Nothing is perfect.

I was also worry about the reliability of the Porsche so I had a new Acura TL (6 years ago) as my extra vehicle. End up my Porsche has less issue and more reliable. Honda & Acura should be a brand name Japanese build, but I found out most 6 cylinders carry the same components as the 4. The extra weight and power cause problems with front rotors and the transmission. It is a known issue over all the Honda forum and Honda has not corrected it when I sold my TL last year.

Bottom line is the known problem issues of the 996 like the cooling tank or the RMS, compare to a $3000.00 Honda transmission, is nothing. Also only a small percentage of 996 owners have these problems. All the TL owners I meet have front rotor issues before 30K miles and half of them have transmission problem.

Have a 99 C2 coupe manual. Bought it with 62K on the clock 18 months ago, no PPI, no service records, $30,000. Not too smart, but after test drive my enthusiasm got the best of me. Found this forum following my purchase and began my eduational process. I have put 10K on it since purchase and it runs like a dream. Maintenance and tires, then pads, oil, and replaced a water pump. None of which was cheap. My vehicle doesnt leak a drop of oil and I drive it daily. I do not feel any imminent dread of engine failure, the car EATS the road. It salivates to get out of the garage. I think the reported risk of engine failure overrated, and these cars come at a bargain! Even if it eats the dust, life is not over, pick yourself up dust off, and find that next Porsche to drive!

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I'll through mine in. 99 C2 tip., I'm the third owner, fourth 911. Bought at 79k miles, 84k now and runs like a top and is my daily driver. I looked at all of the service records and talked to several Porsche mechanics about this engine and this car specifically. The only thing I was warned about was low miles or unusually low miles. I will paraphrase the comments from the shop foreman at the local dealer in Santa Clara CA... Though it sounds good to have low miles these engine are designed to be driven. Sitting around allows the seals to dry out on the top and that can be worse than the normal mileage (8 to 12k a year). He has never seen one of these failures.

So I bought it and love it.

Edited by gary996
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Don't misunderstand my comment to mean that I also think the 99 -01 3.4's are grenades waiting to go off..they are not. I've only got the MB's and my mechanic to use as a reference. I would say the frequency is about the same as the 01/02 Mcoupes & roadsters with the S54,,,,,The VAST majority have no problems..but there is definitely a higher chance than with an 02 where they've already beefed up the IMS and bearings, changed the oil suction and drainage in the heads, beefed up the heads, added Vario-ram + etc, etc. If you read the Autofarm articles, you'll find that most RMS leaks are not...they are IMS bearing mounting bolt leaks, that dribble over the RMS...still not good, but not death. I was hell bent on getting a 993 with all their known issues, but after driving a 996, I couldn't go back just for looks. There are several 02 996 with 50 to 70 k for less than $34k in the southeast, (or there were 3 weeks ago), one with 67k was still CPO for a year! and asking was only $33k,,If I hadn't fallen into this deal, I would've gotten that one. NO ONE that has driven my car can believe that you can get that much performance and handling for less than $35k..they are BARGAINS for what you get. When I drove my Z3 yesterday to show to someone, I kept checking the parking brake, because I couldn't figure out what was wrong..nothing, it just doesn't remotely have the throttle response of the 996...GO FOR IT...you will not regret it!

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I appreciate this feedback - I was out looking at cars all day, including the new S4, the M3, and a couple of 4x4s like the g wagon and a new range rover...I know they are nothing alike, but they are what I like. But, of course, I kept coming back to the small two seat sports car and kept lusting after the 996. I found a few with 30-50k miles for 28-33k$ and I am trying to figure out which would be the best. One of them has a factory replaced engine with 15k on the clock, and another has minor oil seepage from some gaskets.

This is an extremely tough decision to make since it will be my only car, my daily driver.

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I appreciate this feedback - I was out looking at cars all day, including the new S4, the M3, and a couple of 4x4s like the g wagon and a new range rover...I know they are nothing alike, but they are what I like. But, of course, I kept coming back to the small two seat sports car and kept lusting after the 996. I found a few with 30-50k miles for 28-33k$ and I am trying to figure out which would be the best. One of them has a factory replaced engine with 15k on the clock, and another has minor oil seepage from some gaskets.

This is an extremely tough decision to make since it will be my only car, my daily driver.

Lightfall:

If this is going to be your daily driver, the very last thing you want is a Range Rover... "Unless you can work it into your schedule to go for service at the dealer every other day or so."

This is a direct quote from the service manager of a Range Rover dealership here in the Metro New York area.

The guaranteed permagrin on your face if you end up with a Porsche outweighs the remote chance that your engine will self-destruct, IMHO.

Regards, Maurice.

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IMO, I would not get a 996 for your only car. Forget your concerns about dependability. It is just not practicle if it is your only one. Get a car that can seat at least 4 people.

That's what the wife's car is for. Even better if it's an S4!

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IMO, I would not get a 996 for your only car. Forget your concerns about dependability. It is just not practicle if it is your only one. Get a car that can seat at least 4 people.

That's what the wife's car is for. Even better if it's an S4!

Guys I hate to rain the 996 parade, but I have had two 1999 996's that had engine failures at 47,000 and 30,000 miles respectively. I have two friends that have had the same thing happen. The one thing we all have in common is we autocross and DE the cars, people I know with 100,000 miles seem to not punish their cars at race events. As for a 3.6L, it is not much better than the 3.4L, just give it time and you will see just as many failures. Note - even the 997's are starting to have the same type of problems..the one's running in koni challenge are poppinng motors and transmission already......these water cooled cars are not your grandfather's porsche, so just be ready to drop $13K on a new engine if it happens and at about $3-4K when the second gear shift sleeve and ring go out on the transmission. Overall if you buy a good 1999 996 for $30K and have to spend $16K on a new motor and transmission rebuild you still have a hell of a car for less than $50K. Note the only comfort is a new porsche motor comes with a 2 year warranty and if you have Gbox rebuild your transmission it comes with a one year warranty and they have a fix to protect the second gear ring.

VM

BTw if you choose as I did to upgrade the motor when it failes to a 997 3.8 X51 figure on that costing you $30K after motor, transmission, and new clutch work. If you are on the east coast you are lucky as FVD and Farnbacher are close by to do the work, if you are on the west coast plan on another $3,500 for shipping. Also, if you have stock suspension you will need to upgrade to at least a bilsteins PSS9 kit and say goodby to traction control so must have a factory or Guard LSD.

Edited by Vman
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You should actually be able to get a third-party warranty, actually, no matter who you buy it from. I know Eagle warranty doesn't seem to cover Porsches, but a guy from Carchex quoted me about $3300 for a 3-year contract on a 1997 986 Boxster with 97k miles (examples of which also had some occasional catastrophic engine failures, such as cracked cylinder liners and failed intermediate shafts). That's not an endorsement, as I haven't bought one from them, and I'm sure there are other companies that sell them.

One thing to be careful of, though, is that some third-party warranties may provide provide repair funds only as a reimbursement for a bill, and may take some time to do so. Some pay the mechanic directly. If you Google "Porsche service contract", you'll come up with a list of possible providers.

Edited by Delusionary
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As a relatively new owner of a Porsche 996 I would say be careful. I don't want to seem negative but I feel you have the right to be fully informed.

During my first two months of ownership I had substantial problems with a vehicle that had been absolutely cherished by it's previous owner (luckily I was covered by a warranty). There are a number of Porsche 996 apologists around who just don't want to admit there pride and joy might have a major manufacturing defect. Don't get me wrong these cars are wonderful to drive, v.beautiful and the initial outlay is reasonable but the following points all need to be considered before purchase:

-Porsche won't release statistics so we are forced to judge on the available information and anecdotes.

-Due to supply and demand coupled with the perceived reliability problems the M96 engined vehicles depreciate at a greater rate than previous 911s. This needs calculating in to the cost of ownership.

-Make sure you can and do get a warranty, Porsche have different car age limits in different countries. Your car will need to pass an inspection (more money) before qualifying for warranty. Porsche warranty plus the inspection cost plus the inevitable work they will imagine each year also needs calculating in to the cost of ownership.

-Porsche have by action admitted faults with the M96 engine with their revisions (despite this 3.6s and 997 engines fail in the same ways though!)

-The 996 turbo and GT models have different engine bottom ends and do not suffer the same perceived failure rates.

-One workshop I visited while getting my car sorted had a couple of wrecked M96 engines on the floor. The owner said he gets them 'all the time', 'the cylinder walls crack'.

-I know of one person with a late 996 that has had 3 replacement engines!

-The demand for engines from salvage 996s is a great deal larger than for similar vehicles, hence the excessive prices. This is a new phenomenon according to people I know in the salvage trade (again they are making money on it).

-Some businesses have developed specific fixes for these problems (such as Autofarm), they don't do this for fun; they do it because there is a demand.

-Ignore talk of 'my 996 has done 100,000 miles with no problem', so it should! Oh and how many engines/seals/gearboxes did the earlier owners go through on the quiet?

-Specialist warranty companies either won't touch these cars or the small print makes them worthless.

-The independent dealer I purchased my vehicle from told me that many of the 996s he has come across have a record of replacement engines, to a far higher extent than other performance vehicles of this age.

-Once again Porsche admit by default to a problem by often massively subsidising the cost of replacement engines, this tends to only happen if you make a fuss and threaten legal action though.

-It doesn't matter how careful you are; you can lavish time and money on maintenance but if there is a fundamental engine or gearbox defect it will eventually fail.

If I were to turn back the clock I would not get a 996 but it is too late for me! I like to think there is nothing more that can go wrong and I've now invested too much time, effort, and I admit it......... emotion in my car! They are like an expensive mistress, you know you shouldn't but...............

My advice is if you feel the need to get a 996 budget in all the extra costs of ownership and see what the alternatives are. If the 996 still appeals then make sure you get the Porsche inspection done and that it qualifies for a warranty with Porsche prior to purchase, then GET THE WARRANTY! Those who have been lucky with their cars won't be helping when yours goes BANG!

Good luck.

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You should find a method by which you can satisfy yourself that the horror stories are not the norm. If you can't, then you should stay away from any vehicle that worries you so.

In the early 80s, I bought a brand new, vaunted for its quality, Volvo sedan that went to live in the shop immediately after the warranty expired .... with wiring harness failures; 3 alternators in a year; 2 water pumps on 1.5 years, etc. Does that mean all Volvos 144s were like that? Not likely.

I bought a 2000 996 Cab when it was 4 years old with 30k miles. 4 years of daily driving later, with 80K miles, it has not been in the shop for unscheduled maintenance. I have had to adjust the hood latch, and clean out the cab water drain lines .... both with directions from this forum, I might add. It runs great, looks great. I suggest (without scientific proof) that you will find many more examples like mine than you will horror stories.

Its just not as much fun to post a message about how reliable your car has been. We're all too busy out driving with the top down.

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So then what kind of warranty will protect me? Can I buy a used car from a private party or a non-dealer with 52k miles and buy some sort of warranty that will bail me out if my engine rains on my parade? Or is there no way around that? Can I get said warranty if it is NOT from porsche and doesn't pass whatever their special elitist tests are?

I almost pulled the trigger on an 02 with 64k miles and a 4 yr/50k mile warranty from MAP for 31k (an EFG company) but I had no idea if this warranty was legit, or would cover the aforementioned catastrophe. Anyone have advice on this now that it is down to the point that I don't know if I can NOT get a 996 911?

//BTW the girlfriend really loved the hell out of it.

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Nevermind...I have scoured the hell out of this forum now and I can officially say that I am disgusted with Porsche and their treatment of what is an obvious engineering defect that they should find embarrassing. I thought; I should just get a newer model, 02 and newer with the 3.6...then I saw plenty of reports of those failing in the same way. Then I thought, hmm...plunk down the few K on an aftermarket warranty; it seems as if these are quite hit-or-miss on whether you will end up screwed with a big bill, without a car for a while, with a lawsuit. The 996 911 seems like such an enormous gamble!

I am now looking at the 911TT and GT3 as an alternative...too bad they are too damned expensive for me anyway. **** you Porsche I wish I didn't love these cars so much. But as a young professional who moves every 4 months around the country and has one daily driver and only makes 105k a year I don't think I can afford this gamble now and safely put away enough money for a large house downpayment in 3-4 years as well as a substantial retirement plan.

Bullocks.

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Oh my........

Just had to say something here.

I have had my 1999 C2 996 so called "time bomb" for a little over three years now with no engine issues whatsoever.

When looking through the receipts from the previous owner (as well as the Carfax report there are no records of any engine problems.)

In three years I have replaced the water pump, the ignition switch and the spark plug tubes.

I drive it almost everyday. It has 69k miles and still has original clutch. It runs extremely strong and doesn't leak a drop of anything. I can see this car running easily into the 100k mile plus range.

It is actually much more trouble free than any of the BMW's or Mercedes I have owned.

Before you start bashing every 996 Porsche you should realize that most cars have no problems at all. I have at least a half a dozen friends with 996's and 997's and they are trouble free cars as well.

My Scion is my car for long work runs or bad freeways. If I drove the Porsche for everything it wouldn't be as special and the roads would beat it up.

Just had to post my opinion because it is based on experience not what I read or heard.

But if you really have your mind set on it . ..... Yes all 996 engines blow up. Mine might have blown up while I was writing this post. I better go check...

Success,

Phillipj

Edited by phillipj
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I guess his last post said it all...he "only" makes 105k a year but hasn't got the down for a house yet, so maybe the 996 isn't right for him.....good luck...I got news for you...NO car is bullet proof....a percentage all have issues, the difference is the internet makes it sound like every other car...stick to new cars with warranties, then you'll only be paying 7k a year for depreciation..plenty of $3500 warranties will replace an engine for you.

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