2.0 Boxster Basics


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Porsche Boxster (986) FAQ

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2.1 Porsche 986 Boxster Standard Equipment
2.2 Specifications
2.3 Extended Warranties
2.4 Dry Sump
2.5 986 vs. 996 Engine
2.6 Factory Warranty
2.7 Tires
2.8 Climate Control
2.9 Wipers
2.10 Gasoline
2.11 Oil
2.12 Battery
2.13 Change Holder
2.14 Warning About Using a Tiptronic Transmission on a Dyno

2.1 Porsche 986 Boxster Standard Equipment

Click here to see the Boxster standard equipment list.

2.2 Specifications

Click here to see the Boxster specifications.

2.3 Extended Warranties

In North America, 1997 and 1998 model year Boxsters come with two year, unlimited miles warranties. Starting with the 1999 model year, Boxsters come with four year, 50,000 mile warranties. You may feel that you need additional protection against major problems. This site, http://www.toolworks.com/bilofsky/boxster/contract.html webout.gif (902 bytes), gives an analysis of some of the extended service contracts offered by various companies. [Thanks to Walt Bilofsky for compiling and analyzing the information.]

2.4 Dry Sump

PAG claims that the Boxster engine has an "integrated" dry sump, yet there is only one drain plug and no oil reservoir as on 911's. The instrument panel gauge and the dipstick read from the same source. There is an oil pump in each of the camshaft housings for oil return. The biggest difference from the 993 dry sump is the sump is located within the engine block on the Boxster rather than beneath it as in the 993. The sump, by definition, is the bottom of the crankcase where the oil flows to and collects after being pumped over whatever surfaces it was intended to lubricate/cool. The 993, and every 911 before it, uses a scavenge pump to pull out the oil as it flows into the sump and pump it into a holding tank under the right rear fender on all but a couple of early model years. Hence the term "dry sump;" oil is not allowed to sit in the bottom of the crankcase and so the sump remains (conceptually) dry. The main oil pump takes oil from the bottom of this holding tank and pumps it back into the engine's system of oil passages. The advantage of this system is that it prevents oil starvation during hard cornering. With a conventional wet sump system, high cornering loads can cause the pool of oil sitting in the sump to slosh away from the oil pump feed tube. With the dry sump's large vertical storage tank, you'd have to turn the car upside down to keep oil away from the pickup point. In the Boxster and 996, the tank is integrated into the engine block below the crankcase.

There are two techniques for oil to get from the crankcase to the tank below it:

  1. A hole in the wall between the crankcase and the tank lets gravity flow the oil from the sump to the tank. If that's the case, then this is really just a conventional wet sump arrangement with an extremely large and well designed sump. Baffles and walls are designed into the sump to prevent the oil from sloshing out during cornering and the high capacity should ensure that plenty of oil is always available at the pick up point.
  2. A solid wall between the sump and the tank prevents oil from flowing between the two. A scavenge pump moves oil from the sump to the tank when the engine is operating.

Both techniques are used in the Boxster. There are two oil pumps that take oil from the cylinder heads to the main oil pump. This oil is fed into swirl pots to be centrifuged and defoamed. There are oil collection channels cast into the crankcase to return oil to the oil pump.

2.5 986 vs. 996 Engine

The Boxster and the 996 have different bore and stroke because a different crank is used. The engine casing of the 996 in the area of the crank has been beefed up considerably to accommodate significantly increased torque and horsepower. Also, they use a totally different intake and exhaust systems. Although based on the same basic engine design, the 986 and 996 engines are significantly different from each other. The 986 transmissions would not hold up to the power and torque generated by the 996 engine, nor would the 986's rear suspension pieces. You cannot bore the 986 engine block. The LOKASIL liner prevents it. The Porsche Boxster Service Tech Manual, page 1-6 says:

To reduce the wear along the cylinder sleeves to a minimum, a production method was chosen whereby a highly porous sleeve (25% silicon and 75% air) is cast directly into the crankcase.

2.6 Factory Warranty

The 1997 and 1998 model years come with a two year, unlimited mileage, bumper to bumper warranty. The 1999 and later model year Boxsters come with a four year 50,000 mile warranty. The 1999 model year cars began being built in May of 1998.

2.7 Tires

There are several brands of tires that Porsche puts on Boxsters. These are shown in the Boxster Technical Bulletins in the discussion of approved summer tires. Which of these tire brands is put on your car is entirely random and determined by what tires are the next on the rack when your car gets to the point in the build process where it needs tires. You cannot pick which brand goes on your car. For a discussion of the features and tradeoffs of the various tire brands, see http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tests/max_rd.htm webout.gif (902 bytes).

When Porsche approves a certain tire (through testing), they label it N0. When the tire manufacturer makes a revision to that tire and Porsche approves it again, they label it N1. Hence, N2 and N3. "N" is NOT a measurement of tire rubber compound. Porsche says, Only one manufacturer and one specification no. (N1; N2;...) may be mounted on the vehicle; otherwise, driving performance can vary significantly.

The Boxster has negative camber on its wheels. This means that the tops of the wheels slant in toward the middle of the car. This negative camber will result in more wear on the inside edges of your tires than on the outside.

For more information on tires in general, see http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/2195/tyre_bible.html webout.gif (902 bytes).

2.8 Climate Control

The climate control in the Boxster can be switched from metric to English units and back by using an undocumented feature. Hold down the air recirculation button and simultaneously press the temperature plus button.

2.9 Wipers

If you push up slightly on the wiper stalk, you will get a single swipe of the wiper across the windshield. Useful when the wiper has mist on it.

The 996 has a variable speed wiper knob in the circular cutout opposite the cigarette lighter. This can be installed in the Boxster with a little work. More information on this feature will be posted here when it becomes available.

2.10 Gasoline

You should use 93 octane, using the (RON+MON)/2 method, gasoline in your Boxster. If you can't get 93 octane gasoline, you should use the best gas you can get and at least 90 octane. The engine will compensate although your performance and fuel economy may suffer. Gas from one station may be better than gas at another station because of the cleaning compounds they add to the gas. Chevron and Texaco have good reputations for their additives.

Oxygenated gas is used in some parts of the country. Oxygenated gas will not hurt your car. However, it will result in lower gas mileage.

This web site, http://www.repairfaq.org/~filipg/AUTO/F_Gasoline.html webout.gif (902 bytes), will tell you more than you'd ever want to know about gasoline.

If you make major changes in altitude, make sure you refill the gas tank. This causes the OBDII computer to reset itself and adapt to the new altitude. Otherwise, the check engine light may come on and you will need a trip to a dealer to reset it.

One owner warns not to run the Boxster too close to empty. It lost power and started backfiring. His follow-up said:

The dealer's version: Their diagnosis indicated that my car's computer had detected fuel starvation, probably because I was running on an empty tank. Once this occurred, the computer entered a "safe" mode, stepping down power to the engine and lighting the check engine light. However, once this happens the computer loses all its codes and the car misses and produces a consistent noise of a valve tap. In order to avoid permanent engine damage, the car should not be driven any further but towed on a flatbed to the dealer so the computer can be reset. There apparently was no damage to my car and the tapping would be no louder than before.

My version: The problem developed as I made a sharp (but not very fast) turn and at first I actually thought I had run out of gas. I looked at the gas gauge and saw the light on, but the on-board computer indicated that I had 18 miles to empty. The check engine light did not come on. I immediately drove to a gas station (tapping all the way) and filled it up--13+ gallons without topping off, meaning I probably had about one gallon remaining. Fortunately, apparently there was no damage and the car taps no louder than before, which is none at all.

My lesson:

  1. Pay close attention to the fuel gauge--I only get 17 miles per gallon and probably can only rely on 13 of the 15 gallons (220 mile range) despite what the onboard computer says (300 miles to empty when I fill it up).
  2. Fill up at a quarter of a tank.
  3. If the fuel light comes on (it does not attract your attention on a sunny day with the top down), drive to a gas station avoiding very hard acceleration/braking, very steep hills and very sharp turns.
  4. If difficulty develops, stop at the closest safe place and call Porsche Roadside Assistance which is very responsive.

[Thanks to Pat for this information.]

When the car is locked, the access to the gas cap is also locked. There is a manual backup release of the gas cap door that can be found in the door jamb on the passenger side.

2.11 Oil

Read your owner's manual, as it has a good description about oil. This discussion is to supplement the owner's manual. Porsche is initially filling the Boxster with Mobil 1 oil, and recommends you use Mobil 1 for all refills.

Oil Changes

The maintenance schedule on the Boxster recommends changing the oil every 15,000 miles, including the initial oil change. Since the Boxster takes about nine quarts of oil, an oil change is expensive compared to other cars. While changing the oil early won't harm your car, it may be unnecessary and expensive. The feeling is that Porsche is probably pretty conservative about its estimates of oil lifetime. Unless you are particularly harsh on your engine, running it in particularly cold or hot weather, or driving a lot in stop and go traffic, you can probably wait until the 15,000 mile points.

Oil Grades

Mobil 1 comes in several different grades. Porsche is initially filling the Boxster with 5W-40, but this grade is not available in the U.S. In the U.S., Mobil 1 comes in four grades: 0W-30, 5W-30, 10W-30, and 15W-50. Porsche does not recommend the 0W-30 weight for any driving conditions. For the other three weights, you should pick a weight based on the following criteria:

  • 5W-30 For areas where continuous ambient temperatures get below 32F/0C for significant periods of time.
  • 10W-30 For areas where continuous ambient temperatures get below 50F/10C for significant periods of time but remain above 32F/10C most of the time.
  • 15W-50 For areas where continuous ambient temperatures stay above 50F/10C most of the time.

Because of the long intervals between oil changes, you should probably pick the oil for the coldest temperatures the car will experience between oil changes. In climates with extreme weather changes, you might consider changing the oil twice a year.

Dealers have been charging in the vicinity of $120 for an oil change, including oil, filter, filter ring, and labor. You can change it yourself for less. See Changing the Engine Oil.

For More Information

Information on Mobil 1 can be found at http://www.mobil.com/mobil1_racing/about/ webout.gif (902 bytes). Since the interface at this site is a little convoluted, a few of the more interesting pages you might want to visit:

2.12 Battery

The battery in the Boxster is not a sealed battery. As such the water level in the battery needs to be checked periodically and filled with distilled water. The correct level is achieved when the electrolyte just touches the indicator prongs that stick out horizontally as you peer down into the battery's cells (having first removed the caps).

Problem is, when you are leaning way over the car squinting at those teensy indicators, it is very hard to tell where the level really is. Next time you look in the cells, notice that you can see the plates under the clear liquid. They are visible as parallel lines. But when the electrolyte touches the indicator prong, it will "meniscus up" onto the prong and will distort the lines so they no longer appear parallel. Presumably when the electrolyte drops below the prong (i.e. it is low) the lines would appear parallel. This is extremely easy to see and makes checking whether the level is low an absolute cake walk.

Note that this method would probably not work for telling whether your level is too high, which is also a no-no. It the level were above the prongs, which would be too high a level, the parallel-ness of the lines would still be disturbed.

But if your level is correct now (just touching the prongs), this method should accurately and easily tell you when the level has dropped too low. This method really does make seeing when the level is low much, much easier.

Also, remember to follow all your Owner's Manual precautions when working around batteries because it can be dangerous.

[Thanks to Martin for this information]

2.13 Change Holder

If you look inside the oddments compartment between the seats on the Boxster, along the side toward the front of the car is a horizontal plastic rack that will hold eight coins.

2.14 Warning About Using a Tiptronic Transmission on a Dyno

There has been a reported problem getting a Tiptronic Transmission dynoed. This may be a problem, even if you don't want to dyno your car. In at least one area, you are required to get an emissions test every two years where the car is run on a similar device. The owner said the traction control was switched off and reported:

What a day...I took my 97 Tiptronic Boxster to be dynoed today. Getting it set up was no problem. However at the first dyno run the computer rightly surmised that the front wheels were not spinning while the rears were turning fast. This put the computer in some sort of fail safe mode. The traction control and ABS lights lit and the car would not manual shift. Automatic shifting was unaffected. The car did not go into full fail safe mode for the Tiptronic, which is going into 4th gear only. I stopped the dyno and drove back to my dealer to get things checked out. The ABS and traction control reset themselves but the Tiptronic remained in full auto mode only. The computer fault codes had to be read and reset. All is fine now. I wonder what would happen to a manual Boxster??

Manual Boxsters have been run on a dyno. There were no problems. The ABS idiot light lit up for a while, but went away again. You should turn off traction control. See this site for info on a dyno run: http://grr.xoc.net/boxster/articles/dynotrip.asp webout.gif (902 bytes).


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