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Just picked up a '97 with a laundry list of issues! Steering, locks, CELs, etc!

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TL;DR - Bought rough '97 Boxster. Car pulls hard to the left, power steering system is whack, very left-biased (think: Bernie Sanders). Fluid seems okay, no leaks found. Keyfob and central locking issues - electronically remote does nothing. Only good for physical use in locks. CELs: P1123, P1128, P1130 runs rich. Power top is FUBAR'd 


Hi there,


I'm a pretty car savvy guy. I've been wrenching on my own vehicles for about 8 years now, and I've bought/sold/flipped ~25 vehicles along the way.

Some years ago, I got bold and tried out the German auto world. A BMW here and there, and, recently, gotten pretty heavily into VAG cars. I got a rough MK4 Golf TDI, and liked tinkering with that, so I kept going. I can't quite remember how, but I got a weird attraction to Porsches while browsing Craigslist. At first, I was looking everywhere for a steal of a 996, then I came back to my senses, but still somehow found myself buying this 986...

But asking price was low, the seller was an older woman, and 65k miles. Additionally, she had had $5000 in work done at the dealer, and another $1600 for a new top. All in the last ~400 miles. I felt bad buying it for less than she had forked over to the dealer in the past 3 months, but it still needs a lot. Let's get into it!


First, I partially bought this car under the assumption that it was a "VAG platform". In other words, the cross-compatibility of tools and scanners between my MK4 Golf and this 986 would be similar. I found that I'm quite incorrect. VAG-COM won't even work. After doing some research, I see this is also the case with the immobilizer and programming keys?


Issues the car has:

  1. The steering - The car pulls very hard to the left. Also, the power steering is very biased to the left. It is extremely easy to turn the wheel left, but much harder to go right. It feels like there is 3x P/S assistance turning left, and zero P/S assistance turning right. I can literally flick my finger and the wheel will turn 1/2 rev left. Turning right, I need to use both hands/arms. This is true while stopped, as well as all speeds. At highway speeds, if you flinch your wrist, the car would jump all the way into the left lane, and I must use constant force to keep straight. Flicking left feels like it's on rails, but certainly dangerous. If I jerk it right, it also responds sharply, with much more effort required. 
    1. I checked PS fluid. At first I thought it was quite low. I checked a week later (no driving in between) and it showed between cold and hot marks on dipstick after sitting for ~2hrs. I am 90% sure the fluid is clear, and did not stain paper towel. From my research, I assume this is Febi fluid?
    2. I aired up all tires. This improved the issue immensely, but still quite biased to the left.
  2. Key fob/ door lock issues - I received 1 remote key, which works in all 3 locks. The car has zero response to either remote button. The remote LED blinks red when pressing buttons. The interior door lock switch does nothing. Sometimes pressing the button causes a faint click behind the driver's door panel. Pressing again does not repeat this. As a result, I have found no way to lock the passenger door. I can lock the driver's door manually via the key. The car locks the door, makes another door lock noise, then beeps twice. Passenger door remains unlocked. I can open the passenger door with no response from the car/alarm. Interior light responds to either door open. 
  3. CELs - When I first saw the car, the CELs were on. I used my code scanner to see that it had 3 codes - all listed as oxygen sensor codes. At that time, I could smell the car running rich. I cleared the codes. Within ~50 miles, I found the codes as "pending" (CEL not on), and 30 miles later, CEL is tripped. My generic code reader reports P1123, P1128, P1130. In the 80 miles prior to CEL coming back on, the car seemed to run great, and did not smell rich. CEL trips, car smells rich, does not seem to be down on power. 
    1. Seems like an open-and-shut "replace oxygen sensors" scenario here, but just want to make sure. I'm assuming the car has 4 O2s and $70 ea, even on rockauto... Any preference between Denso and Bosch?
  4. Power top - The previous owner, in all her wisdom, told the upholstery shop to "make the top manual operation" when getting the fabric replaced. Yeah...awful I know. So they removed all of the cables, levers, rods. As a result, the red convertible top icon is permanently lit on the dash. The motor and transmissions are still intact, so they just spin endlessly when I do press the button on the dash. I am fairly certain the microswitch in the top handle works (although possibly wonky) as the windows change their behavior when I tinker with the top. As a result of the rods being removed, the middle bonnet/hood is not secured. It bangs around loudly while driving, and there doesn't seem to be a contact point between the lid and the sensor/lever directly on top of the electric motor. No rubber bump stop or anything. I found someone shoved a piece of foam in there, but still no response on the dash that the sensor is depressed. Is this possibly why the central locking does not work?
  5. Battery is new, but trashed. Very weak. Needs jump start within 3 days of sitting. Is this a possible cause of wonky electronics? Alternator is a champ at 14V+


Thanks for being a trooper and making it all the way to the end. I'm looking forward to learning a ton about these cars and Porsches in general. 


Thanks in advance for any help! 




Edited by Stomachbuzz
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Welcome and Happy New Year!


First off, this forum has a wealth of knowledge based on experience, and I found it so helpful with the pre-purchase education that I became a contributing member several days before I picked up my Boxster. Within one day of purchase this knowledge base came in handy for a problem that sprung up  . . . .


I got a "D-4" flashing led gear indicator lights, long story you can search for if interested, and it turned out to be the weak battery which was diagnosed during the Pre Purchase Inspection. After replacing the battery, no more issues. You might consider replacing the battery "before" replacing parts listed as the cause of CEL's. These electrical systems have a way of doing strange things when operating on a "under-volt" battery. So this would be for #2 and #3.


For #2, just as an FYI, when our cars are locked for about a week or more you will not be able to open the locks with the FOB until after using the key to manually unlock then start the car. This is not what is happening with your car at the moment, but I bring it up because it might possibly be related to weak battery?? Don't know, but if it were me I would replace the battery now, then clear everything, then retest. 


edit: btw, love the Carmon Red!

Edited by ttocs
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Thanks for the reply.

Yeah, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to get a new battery. It just sucks that battery prices have pretty much doubled from when I bought my first battery just 7 years ago. It was $80 for a battery for my pick up truck!

Now they're all $130+... 


Also sucks when the battery that came with the car is labeled 7/17 

I may try to redeem the warranty but not sure how well that will go 


Even so, I'm very skeptical that the low battery is causing O2 sensor errors. 

I actually managed to get a Durametric cable and found that the alarm system logged faults

47: present

41: not present

46: Present 


So I guess I gotta go chase those down. 


Thanks for the compliment on the color. I'm actually a fan of it as well. At first, it kinda struck me as an awkward/unfortunate maroon/dark red thing, but it's really grown on me. 

I'm by no means any sort of purist, or one to be anal over the details, but it's apparently been named "Arena Rot Metallic" which I've read translates to Arena Red. 


IMG_2597 4.jpg

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