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a bit of a puzzle from my 1998 986

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Sorry guys, kind of a long story but necessary for the background. Crossposting from a post I just through on rennlist. First post so feel free to yell at me if it's too long! Or call me out on being an idiot if I making mountains out of mole hills.

A few months ago, I had to take in my '98 986 to the shop due to transmission (tiptronic) issues. Turns out the transmission was leaking oil and the oil pan needed to be resealed and fluids filled. While I was there, I brought up that my hood and trunk release switches were both locked out and I hadn't gotten around to checking them out. Happens all the time and is a pretty easy fix. They asked where I was at in terms of servicing the vehicle and I told them I was getting close to an oil change (due in about 2,000 miles) and that we might as well do it now, but everything else had been done within the past 3,000 miles and shouldn't be due for a while, but no harm in checking it all out. They said they would give it all a look and with a handshake and a thanks, I was out of there feelin pretty good. 

Sounds simple, but the problem is, it took nearly a week and a half to get information and estimate for the repairs needed. I'm talking dropped the car off on a Thursday and didn't hear back until the the next Monday eleven days later. Now I had never been to this shop before, and had to go out of town anyway, so I was understanding every time I called them to check on what the hold up was. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and they claimed they were busy- for record the shop is nearby my home and they do a lot of business, so I thought nothing of it. However since I live just a mile up the street they're on, I passed by their shop multiple times over the course of that following week. And on multiple occasions I saw my car lifted in one of their garages, which to me indicates they were working on it (FISHY). Yet still no estimate or information on what had gone wrong.

Here's where things get interesting. I finally get an email for the repairs needed. See below (or skip for rest of story) copied invoice:

Low in fluid due to leak. Customer was advised transmission may have internal damage at this point but will not be able to find out until transmission oil pan is resealed and fluid level is refilled to specs. Parts needed $125.77 Trans Filter and Gasket Kit (102043011) and $107.40 Transmission fluid (00004320700) 5 Quarts at $21.48/pq 

Labor: $490.00
Parts: $233.17

Hood and Trunk Release Switches: 
CUSTOMER STATES:HOOD RELEASE AND TRUNK RELEASE SWITCHES DO NOT WORK. CHECK AND ADVISE. upon inspection found complete trunk handle release mechanism is faulty and needs to be replaced. customer was advised. as far as the handle assembly for the trunk and hood release, It a Germany only item so if you would like order this it will take about 7 to 10 business days to arrive. Trunk / Hood Handle mechanism $654.87

Labor: $280
Parts: $654.87


CUSTOMER STATES:CHECK WHAT SERVICE VEHICLE NEEDS.upon inspection found vehicle in need of major service. customer was advised. renew engine oil, oil filter, drain plug washer, replace spark plugs, air filter, pollen filter, renew brake fluid, renew steering fluid, reset service reminder, clear faults in engine computer, top coolant and washer fluid levels, top off all other fluid levels. clean sunroof/top/a/c drains, lubricate door hinges and test charging system. set tire pressure to manufacture specs. mobil 1 0W-40 mobil1 7.00/$10.90=$76.30; drain plug washer 1.00/$1.60=$1.60; oil filter 911/boxster 1.00/$24.70=24.70; Air filter 1.00/$40.88=40.88; Cabin filter 1.00/$53.90=53.90; Spark plug Boxster 6.00/$20.70=$124.20; brake fluid MOTUL RBF600 1.00/$25.00= $25.00; steering fluid 1.00/$25.65=$25.65

Labor: $560.00
Parts: $372.23

upon inspection found battery not holding charge. customer was advised battery needs to be replaced. battery has 4 year warranty. New H7 VAR Battery 1.00/$354.98= $354.98

Labor: $70.00

Parts: $354.98

Breakdown of Total Quote: 
Labor: $1,400.00
Parts: $1,615.25
Environmental: $80.77
Shop Supplies $60.31
Subtotal Charges $141.08
Tot. Before Sales Tax $3,156.33
Total Sales Tax $153.45

TOTAL: $3.309.78


Now I'm no mechanic, and I'm probably on the lower end of the totem pole of the DIYer's, but I was incredulous. Not only do I wait for 11 days to hear anything about my car- while being told that my car hadn't been looked at the entire time while I can see it being worked on (FISHY)- but I went in for a ATF leak and get an estimate for a new battery (mine was a little over a year old), spark plugs (3500 miles on them), brake and steering fluid (3500 miles on them), and nearly a grand to fix the non-electrical '98 trunk/hood latch (can be fixed with a thin flathead screwdriver). 

Now I'm a pretty clear headed individual and don't really make scenes, so after viewing the estimate, I give them a call and walk through the invoice. I tell them that I want to focus on the the transmission issue to make sure the leak didn't damage anything further before focusing on preventative or cosmetic issues. The service manager seems to be pretty amicable and receptive to this and agrees that we should prioritize the transmission over everything else. So we agree to have the transmission repair done and the oil change, and push everything back till later since the transmission was the main focus and nothing else was a legitimate issue, just their recommended servicing. 

To be honest, by this time I thought they were trying to rip off someone they thought they could pull a fast one on, but by this point I was already out of town and didn't really want to deal with any arguments or taking the car to a different shop after paying for their diagnostics while I was out of town, so I OK the repairs.

This is where the puzzle begins. Another week later, my car is finally ready. 18 days from drop off for an oil change and the transmission work. They give me a call, tell me the transmission is shifting gears well- that it was a little dicey at first but ran well after being driven around for a few miles and there was no major damage done to it from the leaks and while low on fluid. They state the car is ready to be picked up so I head on over, pay for the repairs (Transmission and oil change= $990), get the keys, and hop in to go on with my day. 

Not sure the SOP others on here abide by, but maybe I should've checked the car out before I paid? 

I hop in the car...start the engine...and I immediately notice my instrument cluster doesn't turn on. Analog and digital on the tachometer not working, analog and digital on the speedometer not working, no odometer, tiptronic lights in safe mode (alternate blinking from D to 4), spoiler warning light on, airbag light on. 

I immediately hop out, go back inside and tell the service manager who I had dealt with the entire time the issue. He seems confused and comes out with me to inspect. He brings the mechanic that worked on the vehicle over and they speak to one another in spanish, and my entry level spanglish doesn't keep up. The service manager tells me that the instrument cluster had been like that since the repair was done and that the mechanic said that they were unable to get it to work, however the car drives fine. For record when I came in only the tiptronic safe mode lights were occurring. 

I'm like WTF do you mean the car is fine, I literally have no idea what speed I'm going, what gear I'm in, or if any of the other dash lights even work. The service manager and mechanic agree that that is an issue and tell me that they believe that it is an issue with the cluster, that they go bad with age, and that I will most likely have to have it replaced. I tell them that it was working fine when I dropped the car off, never had an issues before, and that it must've been something that occurred due to the work they did on it. We talk a little more about it, and I tell them that I want to drive the car around for a bit and look at it myself before I have them take another look (NO CHANCE) at the cluster. They agree and say that sometimes the computer works things out after driving around for a bit and if not, come back. 

I start to leave, and this is where things get even more ridiculous. The service manager runs out and stops me. He tells me that the mechanic informed him that I have their battery in my car. WHAT? I ask why and he informs me that my battery couldn't hold enough voltage and that they had to switch it out with theirs so they can carry out their repairs. So what happened to my battery? He tells me that since it had gone bad they threw it out. By now I'm finally speechless. What do you mean you replaced my battery, got rid of it, put yours in, didn't notify me of any of this, completed the transaction, caused and ignored additional damage to the vehicle, and practically let me drive off the lot before telling me that your battery was in it? And batteries don't get thrown out. 

I literally don't know what to do by now, so I ask, well what next? He asks me if I want to keep their battery, which I of course have to pay for, or get my own battery and return theirs. On the spot, I tell him that I decided that I'm going to drive the car around to see how the transmission does, take a look at the cluster, see how the car runs, and go from there. We agree to follow up in a week or so to see how everything holds up and part ways, though it's pretty clear that both parties just wanted to get rid of each other.

I haven't been back there since. They haven't followed up and asked about their battery. I have no intention of ever having them do any work on my car ever again.

In that time, the car has driven fine in terms of the tiptronic transmission shifting in automatic. However, the problems with the cluster still remain, with some additional issues. If you've made it this far, this is the main puzzle of this post. I have had no success in getting the cluster to work, while also being introduced to new issues as I believe the problem lies in something electrical that was most likely caused by whatever the hell they did to destroy my battery that they took over three weeks to cover up. Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that whatever the problem is with the battery having to be replaced and instrument cluster going bad was caused by them and that the length of time it took to get a quote, the time it took to get simple repairs done, and the overcharging and ridiculous mark up on my estimate for repairs needed all go hand in hand in them screwing something up and trying to cover it up and make back whatever they had to spend to get it right.

Or I actually am crazy and this is all unrelated and the 986 is just being itself and these things happen.


So, here are the issues.

Instrument Cluster
No speedo, no tachometer, no odometer, no clock/oil level, spoiler warning light on/switch doesn't work.
Tiptronic safety mode lights on, however gears shift normally and are not in just 4th as that would indicate.
- Note: when key is turned to the 2 position in the ignition, all cluster lights are working. All go away and work fine except spoiler light.
- Note: airbag light and seat belt codes cleared by durametric scanner conducted by independent shop owner (that rocks btw), haven't returned since. 

- Note: when vehicle is off, but headlights are on, the red gear light on the cluster shows to be in drive and not park...can't remember if it is even supposed to be glowing in park when the car is off.

Cigarette Lighter
No longer works, won't heat. Light turns off if lighter is pushed in.

Doesn't blow cold, even when on low and turned all the way up

Not sure if they're running. With AC on and turned up, can't feel anything blowing out of them, but at times while driving I will hear fans running. Temperature gauge has never gone too far past 180, not sure if warning lights work.

Appears to be leaking. Hoses and tank were replaced a couple years ago. No evidence of leak in trunk. No evidence of leak in engine oil. Minimal leak under vehicle, vehicle could be dumping. Is coolant leak related to radiators/ac not working- lead to overheating and expanding coolant that gets dumped?

Good guy mechanic that cleared the airbag light and seat belt codes said that the battery voltage was low. This was the new battery that bad guy mechanics left in my car. Car had sat for a few days before I took it to him, and the scanner read that the alternator was working fine and after a few laps around the neighborhood voltage was looking good. Checked it again two weeks later, but had driven it daily in that time, and battery read good again. To me this means that something is not turning off and is draining the battery if it sits for too long.

Attempted Remedies to no avail

As of right now, the car drives fine and no other codes are showing up. Other than the spoiler warning, which is no surprise as the spoiler is activated by the speed and it appears the sensors aren't working properly. In the time since I got my car from bad guy shop: I have checked all the fuses, none were blown and all worked fine. Still, I changed B1,B2, B8, B9, B10, C8, C10, D5, D6, D8, E1, E7. None remedied any of the above issues.

I tried to turn on without B1 fuse in, turn off, put in, turn back on to no avail. I tried to disconnect the negative battery cable with key in igntion, put ignition in 1, foot on brake to bleed power to cluster, turn back to off, reconnect negative cable to no avail.

I removed the instrument cluster and checked to see if all connectors were properly seated, disconnected them and reseated and locked them into place just in case and that also didn't work.

Next, I changed out the Ignition Switch as many of the symptoms I have were mirrored in the symptoms that a faulty ignition switch can cause. Again, no dice, though I did notice the ignition seems to work better/less loose. Certain lights that I forgot existed (ashtray, power window switches, cigarette lighter light) all work again, though I could be imagining that they hadn't worked and am looking for things that the switch could have fixed.

I am officially out of ideas. I've thought about the relays, but I know nothing about relays.

What happened to the electricals of the car? Are any of these issues interrelated? Can they be traced back to whatever happened when the transmission was worked on? Is there a fix outside of replacing the cluster? Would replacing the cluster even solve the problems? What is going on?!?!

 If anyone can solve this puzzle, or give advice on how to proceed with the whole situation, please do so!

Thanks everyone, and I apologize again for the length. Any and all help is so appreciated!

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First off, I feel for you.  I've been in similar situations before I really started to DIY this car and I am still far from an expert.  Not dissimilar to what you describe, taking it in for a simple service turned into a very long job (big red flag), and ultimately resulted in major transmission and cooling system damage.


I would focus on transmission first.  My first check would be the transmission wiring harness and plug.  Maybe they damaged it, or did not plug it back in properly/completely, or got some oil in there that is causing a short between the pins, which is causing the speed, etc. to not be displayed on your cluster.




Since they put on a new transmission pan seal, maybe they accidentally damaged one of the plugs/sensors on the valve body, but I would expect that to issue a transmission code to Durametric and throw you into limp mode (D - 4 blinking lights).  You mentioned airbag and seatbelt codes, which again I can't imagine are related, but I would have the codes read again to see if they have reappeared, and at the same time make sure to have the transmission codes read.  Just FYI, a transmission code will not cause your check engine light to come on, so unless one tells Durametric to check for them specifically they do not show up under the typical engine codes.


None of this explains A/C issue, but since your original quote mentioned to fill A/C, maybe they bled and did not fill?  Can you tell if there is a change in rpm when you activate a/c?  There should be a slight change when the clutch engages the compressor.  I have never checked a/c system pressure on my 986, but have done it on BMW's and it is an easy check with a tool that your local auto parts store will usually loan out for free (or check for free).


Front radiators should activate when A/C is turned on.  Make sure the snowflake light is on (sorry for being Mr. Obvious).


Coolant leak:  wonder if they filled properly or if there is a bunch of air in the system (I see "top coolant" in their quote)?  Make sure tank is filled to proper level and you can try to flip the bleed valve and drive with it open for a few days to see if it helps.  Continue to check your coolant level in your tank and refill when the car has completely cooled off (if coolant level is low).


Battery:  hard to say, but doesn't sound like there is a huge problem to me there, other than the shenanigans pulled by the shop, and the price for that battery is absurd.  If I leave my car without driving for a week then the battery is usually drained.  Maybe that's not normal, but normal for me.


Personally never had any issues with the instrument cluster and haven't heard this as a major issue with these cars.  In the least it would be too coincidental that you have a cluster problem just after having work done by a shop that sounds questionable at best. 


All the problems you are having sound very shady to me.  We've all heard the nightmare stories of shops causing problems purposely:  A simple clip of a wire or pull of a fuse that they know the exact location of is an easy fix that they can charge thousands of dollars for, but can be a nightmare for someone else to diagnose and find in a sea of wires, components, fuses, etc. 


Ok, yes, I'm a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but I've been burned in the past.

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Yea, I feel like a conspiracy nut telling this story but it all just seems way too shady to me. I wanted to throw as much info as I could out there in the long post to get the full picture of the situation. I forgot to mention that after I left with the car, I decided to inspect the battery myself. Well as it happens, to get to the battery you have to pop the hood with the hood release latch, which was of course stuck. I was already aware of the common issue with the locking cam getting stuck and that it can be moved with a thin flathead screwdriver to free up the latches before I dropped the car off. I had been intending on doing it but life and then the transmission issue happened and it slipped to the wayside.  So I never got around to it, and threw it out there when I dropped the car off since I figured they've seen it a million times and would get it done in a jiffy. Instead, they had told me that it was broken and had to be replaced. Luckily, I declined that because the second I got home, before I even went inside to grab the skinniest screwdriver I owned, I decided to just put my foot down on the floorboard and gave it a good hard yank. Voila, fixed. Greased up the insides of the mechanism and haven't had an issue since. Saved myself from the $900+ job they said was necessary.


When it comes to the transmission, I haven't come across any info that says it can be an issue with the transmission wiring harness and plug or sensors on the valve body so I will definitely look into those, thank you!


As far as the A/C, it had worked fine up until then, and something tells me its an electrical issue but I will go ahead and check the ac system pressure. Radiators do not turn on when AC is on with snowflake light on (no worries and no offense taken, thorough is much appreciated). I will also take off the bumper and clean out the radiators to see if there is an obstruction issue/leaks there.


Coolant was topped off after noticing the leak, and current level is stable, however when car heats up the level rises to the max. Honest mechanic I mention in the post above says that the excess, if there, dumps itself (I guess something all cars do?). 


Battery charges fine/holds its charge/alternator fine according to durametric however the fact that the voltage was low after sitting for a couple days worries me that something staying on after turning it off and is draining the battery when the car should be off. I also just realized that the recommended battery size for the 1998 986 is H6, however they put in an H7. Would that have any negative effect?


The reason why I think that it is all related is that all the symptoms happened in the immediate aftermath. After hours of sleuthing around various forums and threads, I've noticed a lot of the symptoms are connected in various ways, but haven't come across anything that pins them all together. In terms of the cluster issue, the same exact occurrences have happened to others, but in those cases it seemed a bad fuse, loose connector pins, or ignition switch replacement seemed to do the job. No cigar for me however.


I will look into the transmission recommendations you made as they are a new angle that I haven't yet explored. Hope it works! Thanks a lot!


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Are your temperature and gas gauges working?


Also, check the gear selector switch and plug while you’re under there, given the mismatch between displayed and actual position. 


There is no reason why the plugs should have been removed or damaged but there’s also no reason based on the work performed that your car should be having these problems.  I like to look at the simplest things first. 


I fill coolant level to full if low when the car is cold. The level will always show full when the car is hot and has been running. And you don’t want to open that cap when the car is hot! It may have been overfilled and is now pushing out the excess as mechanic mentioned. There is an overflow hose coming out of the bottom of the tank so you can check there if that appears to be the source of the coolant. 


Battery is not something I know about so will have to leave that to the experts. Did you confirm manufacturing date? It is always posted on the battery and should be a very recent date if they truly gave you a new battery. 

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Temperature and gas gauges are both working.


In terms of the instrument cluster, everything appears to be in working order EXCEPT: 

analog speedometer= gauge does not move

digital speedometer= blank/LCD does not turn on, however the backlight works

tachometer= gauge does not move 

odometer= blank/digital LCD does not turn on, however the backlight works

digital clock/oil level= blank/digital LCD does not turn on, however the backlight works

tiptronic lights are in limp/safe mode (blinking lights alternating between D and 4)

tiptronic light is on D when car is parked and turned off, but headlights still on


On second look at the battery, it is a Varta H-6. Found it online here: https://worldimpex.com/part/battery/2320H6VAR/ and at pelican parts: https://www.pelicanparts.com/More_Info/H6VAR.htm?pn=H6-VAR-INT



Retails a lot less than the $354 they quoted me... also, they quoted me with an H-7 battery and put an H-6 in there. Don't know what that means but it is suspect. Maybe they would've put the battery I was quoted on in there if I signed off on it initially but something tells me that was the battery they would have always put into it. Even more ridiculous is that they told me that I can buy and put my own new battery in there and give theirs back to them OR pay them the quoted price.


As far as manufacturing date I haven't been able to find it, though there is a green sticker with 11/18 on it? I'll attach a pic of the battery if you want to take a closer look.



And thank you for the advice, I'll add the gear selector switch and plug to the list of things to look into!


Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 12.05.23 AM.png

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Given the D/4 limp mode, there should be codes stored for the transmission.  Check with Durametric and hopefully that will provide some guidance.  It is odd to me that the car drives normally in limp mode.  Any time I have gone into limp mode, the car is only in one gear and does not shift (reverse will work).


Manufacture date codes on batteries can vary so it is hard to say for sure, but my guess is that the important numbers are 758 which indicate October 2017.  Additionally, Varta batteries used to have a date code engraved on the negative battery terminal, and there is not one on yours.  That terminal appears to be a little beat up in your image.  Varta may have stopped doing that, though, there is a lot of conflicting information out there.  H6 and H7 are the case size, and H6 is the correct size for the 986.  Some of the 911's (and I'm sure other Porsches) use the H7 and H8 size.  Of course, price increases with case size (i.e. battery capacity), so the H7 quoted is more expensive than the H6 installed.  Yet another indication of shady behavior and poor business practices.

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Yea it makes no sense. Gears up-shift and down-shift as if automatic is working fine, but cluster lights stay in limp mode. Can't really switch to manual to test it out as I have no idea what gear I'm in or what my rpm's are. Will have to head back to my new shop that I've really enjoyed so far. One man show with a client list of 4,000 with a full shop and nowhere to store the car when I went in. Spent an hour with me clearing codes and getting all the info out of me, while also giving great advice and tips. Did it all and wouldn't take money- just told me to drive around for a few weeks to see if the codes he cleared stick and to try to isolate the problem and come back if I can't figure it out.


And jeez my original battery that they took out and made disappear was a year younger than that. WTF

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