Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: 4000 miles, one engine scare

A lot has happened since my last diary entry, where I reflected on my first six months of Porsche 911 ownership. My 996.2 Carrera 4 and I have visited six countries (more on that very soon), amassing over 4,000 miles in the process, and by and large the Porsche has been faultless – except for one potentially catastrophic incident.

Driving back south from a meeting one afternoon, my dashboard illuminated with the sort of warning sign that could elicit instant heart failure for a discerning 996 owner. I’m pretty sure that for a second on the M27 motorway that day, I came close to such a fate.

The electronic display showed a picture of an oil can followed by the dreaded words ‘failure indicator’. Bollocks. Blood pumping fast, I switched the radio off and listened intently for any foreign noises emanating from the back of the car, but could only hear the conventional thrum of an M96 engine chugging car and driver along at motorway cruising speed.

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Bravely (or naively, I’ll let you decide), I drove gingerly back to base, the radio remaining muted while my ears pressed to pick up unusual sounds and my eyes scanned the road ahead as well as, every half a minute or so, the dashboard for any new info. Bizarrely, save for that failure indicator message, nothing else happened, adding to the unwanted mystery that had unfurled on an otherwise nondescript journey.

A quick Google at home revealed the likely cause of the problem which, I’m told, is common for Porsche 996s. It’s a relatively easy fix and, most importantly, nowhere near as catastrophic as that on-board warning message will have you believe.

The culprit is the oil pressure sender unit, located above bank two (on the right-hand-side when looking at the engine through a raised decklid). The connection points can deteriorate or come loose altogether, meaning the oil pressure gauge in the cockpit becomes erratic, perhaps momentarily dropping to zero when driving under load. Giving the connections a wiggle could help but a replacement unit, for the avoidance of doubt, is less than £50 from Design911.

Thanks to Jim Gaisford for the above picture.
Thanks to Jim Gaisford for the picture.

 

Relieved at the prognosis, I dropped the 996 up to Ollie at RPM Technik, where it was booked in for some geo work anyway. A short time later I got the car back, oil pressure sender problem gone, and with much better handling too. I’ve previously mentioned the C4 suffered from serious understeer all summer but thanks to a stiffer rear and more negative camber on the front (as well as some replaced bushes), a lot of it has thankfully been dialled out.

So much so, in fact, that I managed to sneak onto one of the last track days on the Porsche Club GB’s 2016 calendar, which took place at Castle Combe. I’m a real advocate for track days with PCGB; the standard of driving seems to be pretty good and best of all you’re sharing track space with similarly powered cars. This means you’re not likely to go barrelling round Druids at Brands Hatch, for example, in a 991 GT3 RS, only to be met on the apex by a comparatively crawling mk1 Mazda MX5 (not that there’s anything wrong with those, as a former Eunos owner). Gawping exclusively at Porsche metal in the paddock during breaks and chatting with like-minded enthusiasts provides added appeal for any Porschephile at these events, too.

The 996 kept good company on track at PCGB's Castle Combe track day.
The 996 kept good company on track at PCGB’s Castle Combe track day.

 

Completion of the track day and subsequent drive home ticked the car over 6,000 miles since the last oil change, so the 996 will get new oil imminently before a renewed campaign of driving through the winter season… so long as there’s no more oil warning lights on the dashboard!

Comments (1)

  • lastonsunday

    Just had mine changed for the very same reason. Thankfully mine was an intermittent fault that corrected itself. But that moment, as the oil pressure gauge drops to zero, I think my heart might have stopped!