996/997 Common Issues
Here you’ll find a few things to look out for when looking to buy, or owning, a Porsche 911 (996/997).
996 Gearboxes are generally very tough and there are hardly any cases of them failing or needing replacing. Early 996’s did experience some problems with broken gear linkages, but the majority of cars will have had this fixed under warranty. Clutches however, are not quite as robust, they aren’t a huge issue but they will need replacing the higher the miles go. Look out for any clutch slip or juddering moving off from a standstill.
This is probably where the biggest of the 996’s problems lie. Rear Main Seal (RMS) is known to seep oil, this will run onto gearbox bellhousing and eventually drip to the ground. The majority of cases with the RMS is more of an irritation than anything else, as long as the leak doesn’t get considerbly bigger than just a drip, it’s also important to keep the oil topped up with good engine oil. Eventually it will need replacing, but many owners wait until the clutch needs replacing as it is an engine out job. A leak from the RMS is not fatal as long as the problem is contained and eventually repaired.
A potential fatal problem with the 996 is the Intermediate Shaft (IMS). The IMS is driven by the crankshaft and powers the double overhead cams on each bank of cylinders. There is a stud that holds a sprocket on the end of the IMS shaft, this stud is known to fall off, this means the IMS then wears the bearing that holds it in place. First signs of this problem will be a rattle from cold start up. This rattle will get worse and eventually the cam chain will fall off, destroying the engine.
If there is oil in the coolant, it is likely that one of or both of the cylinder heads have cracked, allowing oil to seep into the water jacket.
A smokey exhaust is more than likely a fault with the engine oil breather system, this can lead to a cylinder filling with oil and the car not starting. This is fixed by replacing it with a modified part from any specialist.
Most suspension parts are long lasting and good servicing and maintenance normally keeps things well and good. Obviously expect to be replacing parts at higher miles. Creaking from the front often means a worn track control arm. A set of replacement arms for the front can be found for around £80, whereas rears come in at about £350 for a set.
All 996’s came with leather as standard, the leather is very robust but look out for wear on the drivers side seat bolster. Check that all the lights on the dash go out, airbag light is known to stay on which is a fault with a connect in the buckle which can be cleaned out. Remember to check all the buttons and make sure it does everything it is meant to. Also crank up the air con to see how well that works. Do not be fooled into paying more for a car with sat-nav, this unit is very dated now and many people have either changed it for a standard radio or for an aftermarket unit.
Gearboxes are rated very strongly in the 997, many specialists say that they are pretty much unbreakable. Clutches last around 50k miles and are around £500 to replace.
Intermediate Shaft bearing failure (IMS) is no where near as common on the 997 as on the 996. Bore scoring is the other issue and affects a tiny percentage of 1st gen 997’s. A sooty left hand exhaust pipe, and a clean right hand one, as well as a ticking noise from the engine are signs of Bore Scoring, if the car you’re looking at has those systems, walk away, as a rebuilt engine will set you back £8k plus.
Creaks from the suspension often means the bushes will need replacing. Other than the suspension parts are very robust with no real issues. Expect to replace some parts with higher miles.