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Power steering problem = ?


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On the verge of trading my 986 Boxster in on a 2008 CS. Prepurchase inspection revealed an empty power steering fluid reservoir and evidence of fluid leakage. My mechanic said he couldn't discern the whole story due to the tight location of the PS pump. He saw evidence of dark fluid on the block and was unsure because PS fluid should be light in color, but the stuff he could see was dark-colored. I've read around that PS boil-over and failure can happen when the car is tracked, especially with race rubber. Wondering what to make of it. It's a Porsche certified car, the dealership says they'll take care of the issue and the car will be under warranty for the next 2.5 years, but I am speculating on a few things:

1. I'm wondering if the car may have suffered a boil-over / leak / failure at some point and the leaked fluid cooked to a darker color. Plausible?

2. Can a power steering problem be taken as evidence the previous owner tracked the car or otherwise drove it hard, or do PS issues often appear in cars driven on the street only?

3. Any suggestions on what I should accept as a "fix" from the dealer before buying the car? It's a reasonable suspicion that they'll do as little as necessary to remedy the problem, and I'll have to keep a close eye on PS levels and potentially return the car for warranty service. I plan to autocross the car and some DE events. Not worried about autocross overheating or stressing the PS system, but the DE events might. Where should I place my concerns?

4. The car shows evidence of being driven hard and treated like the leased vehicle it was. Clutch, shift cable and brakes all replaced by the dealer. I'm wondering if the PS issue may be further evidence of hard treatment that might lead me to opt for a different specimen?

Thanks.

Edited by secretdonkey
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  • 3 months later...

I had PS failure at the track this year in a 08 cayman s. The remedy was to replace the PS unit and the steering rack under warranty. The mods that I did was to supply the dealer with small $50 transmission oil cooler which was installed under the car. Additionally we cut out a rectangle from the plastic under pan to vent air to it. We replaced the factory PS fluid with Red Line PS fluid which has a higher boiling point. If you need more info, I'll be glad to pass it on. The solutions can be also found on Planet 9 or the Cayman Registry. Best

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The power steering systems in these cars suffer from a couple of issue; first, the reservoir volume is too small and in a location where it is seldom looked at (even worse in a Boxster or Cayman); and second, due to how the system is packaged, they tend to overheat.

Street cars typically do not suffer a lot of problems unless the steering reservoir was allowed to run dry. Track cars suffer a lot more due to accumulated heat. In either case, once steering pump noise or issues develop from heat and/or low fluid levels, nothing can be done to save it, component replacement is on the horizon as the pumps are not easily rebuilt (lack of parts availability).

Employing an external cooler is a good move for someone into serious track use, as noted by another poster. Changing fluids to another manufacturer is questionable as these systems use a lot of seals that can be adversely affected by the wrong fluid type.

If you are committed to buying the car, I would get a couple of quotes for replacing the pump and rack, and factor that into the offer.

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