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We’ve talked ad nauseam about how the late-’90s to early 2000s Porsche Boxsters are one of the best affordable sports cars you can buy right now, but there’s another side to that coin. With the Porsche brand comes expensive everything-insurance, parts, and labor. So if you’re someone buying a Porsche 986 Boxster on a budget, it might be worth looking into how hard they are to fix. Learning how to fix a car yourself could save a fortune on mechanic labor, that is if everything’s done correctly. Before delving into buying a Porsche 986 Boxster on a budget, see if you’re willing to learn how to fix it.

The good news is Porsche 986 Boxsters are reliable

Porsche 986 Boxster cut in half on display
Porsche 986 Boxster cut in half on display | Bernd Weissbrod/picture alliance via Getty Images

Generally speaking, these Porsches are reliable. If you do your due diligence prior to purchasing, you may not have to get your hands very dirty, and not very often either. That said, it’s more than 20 years old and bound to have some problems. Before buying your 986, have it inspected by a Porsche specialist. Some Johnny-fix-all may not know what to look for with the particular year you’re looking at purchasing. 

Pony up the $100 and find out everything there is to know about the car. Get some service records and maintenance history. If this car has been well taken care of, it’s a smart purchase. This next part might be worth looking into for those who are more impulsive and don’t think they have time for inspections.

How hard is it to fix a Porsche 986 Boxster?

Porsche 986 Boxster assemblyline
Porsche 986 Boxster assemblyline | Bernd Weissbrod/picture alliance via Getty Images

Porsche Boxsters of this vintage can leak oil from several places. One of the most common places is the rear main seal. This requires transmission removal, but thankfully, it’s a relatively straightforward process, according to Pelican Parts. Thanks to the Porsche design, you don’t need to move the engine to drop the transmission. While you’re down there, a clutch job is highly recommended. While it might not be the most challenging job in the world, removing the transmission will free up a lot of areas and make replacing other parts much more manageable. Inspect and replace anything else that needs replacing while the transmission is out.

Beware the intermediate shaft bearing

A common problem with Porsche 986 Boxsters, or at least some of them, is the intermediate shaft bearing. It sits at one end of the intermediate shaft (IMS), which connects the two ends of the engine timing gear. A bad bearing means the engine will fail soon. If you find during your investigation that the IMS bearing has been replaced, rest easy. However, if it hasn’t been replaced, you’ll want to do that pronto. There are many guides on Youtube directing how to replace it yourself, but the short of it is once the engine is on stilts, remove the transmission and the clutch assembly. While you’re replacing the rear main seal, you might as well fix the bearing as well.

Timing chain rattle means engine removal

Mechanic working on Porsche 986 Boxster engine
Mechanic working on Porsche 986 Boxster engine | Harry Melchert/picture alliance via Getty Images

The previous two jobs you can do in your garage with relative ease and plenty of space. However, another big problem with the 986 is the timing chain tensioner. A rattling may occur when you start the engine, and a check engine light might show. This indicates the timing chain is probably too loose; thus, the tensioner is failing. It’s not an easy job and requires engine removal. If you encounter this problem, it might be worth looking into a shop. 

Other problems can occur but aren’t so daunting

1997 Porsche 986 Boxster parked near the water
1997 Porsche 986 Boxster | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

You’ll want to consider checking a number of other areas on your 986, specifically the cooling and ignition systems. Some of these areas can be checked from the interior of the car, while others require a bit more work. All things considered, the Boxster 986 isn’t the most difficult car to work on. Approach each project with patience and all the correct tools, and you should be able to fix almost everything that comes your way.


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