Ask Jason

Green Mountain PCA Member Jason Eastman, mechanic and owner of Bullfrog Auto in Milton, Vermont, has graciously agreed to answer members’ questions about their Porsches in a club feature we call “Ask Jason,” appearing here in the Tech Talk section of the website and in our Mountaineer Newsletter.  Any member with a question should email Communications Chair Sandy Gilmour or Webmeister Alessandro Iuppa who will forward to Jason.   In approving this feature, your GMR Board also invites any club member with mechanical expertise to submit similar Q&A’s or articles they believe would be of interest to members; just email Sandy or Al.  

Q: Jason, when I step on the pedal from a dead stop in low gear, my ’99 Boxster is not taking off like it used to.  The last time I changed plugs was seven or eight years ago at 90,000 miles, now I have 122,000. Should I change plugs? 

Jason: This is not a straight forward simple answer as the car has aged and they are many factors to consider. Think of it like this: A high school track star may run the 200-meter dash in 15 seconds. As this same athlete ages, their body changes, wears and overall, it deteriorates slowly. The same track star won’t be running the 200-meter dash at 15 seconds when they are 70. (Editor’s note: tell me about it!) The same basic principles happen to an automobile engine. The degradation is so slow most people don’t notice until something major happens. 

So, to answer the question — yes, spark plugs can contribute to this concern and as a general rule of thumb should be replaced every 30,000 miles. However, there could be a number of other things that can also be adding up to this concern. For instance, the pistons and piston rings are no longer sealing as tight as they once were when leaving the factory. They will be allowing some air to pass by resulting in less power. The valves are also likely not sealing as well as when new. In addition to mechanical parts, sensors also wear and don’t register as accurately as they should.  Nothing lasts forever but unlike the human body, sensors can be replaced, or an engine can be rebuilt over and over. The only thing that limits this is the cost. 

Q: How often should I get a wheel alignment?  

Jason: Wheel alignments are a part of routine maintenance that is commonly overlooked until tire wear is noticed. A basic rule of thumb is to have an alignment performed with every set of new tires. Aligning more often will help extend the life of tires and suspension components. If a vehicle is driven on rough roads then the alignment should be checked more frequently as frost heaves, pot holes and, heaven forbid, curbs, will alter the alignment angles. One last thought: An alignment will typically cost about the same as one tire. By having an alignment performed you can protect your investment and ensure you will get the most out of a set of tires.

Q: I am getting some oil drip on the garage floor under my 1971 911E. Is that a problem, what should I do?  

Jason: Old Porsches are prone to oil drooling. Is this oil leak something that has been going on for some time or just started suddenly? Some small spots, dime sized or smaller would be considered normal to me. If the spots are larger than that, or there is a steady drip, then this should be addressed sooner rather than later. First step is to check the oil level. I recommend doing this at every fuel fill up until you are familiar with your engines level of oil consumption. Also, the oil level should be checked at least every 1,000 miles. On this model of Porsche, the engine has to be running and up to operating temperature. The oil level should be about 1/2-2/3 above the min mark on the dipstick but certainly not over the max mark. Anything above 3/4 above the min mark will typically just burn off due to the engine design. 

The gaskets and sealants have improved immensely in modern cars. We often forget this and compare our old cars to the modern cars that are by and large free of oil leaks thinking that there shouldn’t be any oil leaks.  There are many areas of an air cooled 911 engine that can leak oil and certain generations are prone to mechanical problems that enhance the ability of an oil leak.

Common areas for oil leaks are from the oil return tube seals, oil pressure switch, cam tower oil lines and rocker shafts. Proper evaluation of these leaks will require someone to investigate who is familiar with these engines and willing to take on a project like this. Some of these aforementioned parts are minor repairs; some such as the rocker shafts are more involved and require special tools and experience to successfully repair the leaks.  

Editor’s note:  To submit a question to Jason, please email Communications Chair Sandy Gilmour and Webmeister Alessandro Iuppa.  If you have a comment or would like to submit an article on a mechanical issue you have experienced, please email it to Sandy and Al.