Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: OPC v independent specialists

It’s the age-old debate for Porsche owners the world over: do I take my 911 to my local Porsche Centre or an independent specialist for servicing? In years gone by Porsche Centres have seen a phenomenal customer base drop out of the network once their cars are out of warranty (which is two years, unless an optional third year is purchased as an extra at the point of sale). This clientele has willingly been picked up by a healthy array of independent businesses renowned for their Porsche specialism. However, Porsche Centres have fought back, lowering labour costs and introducing specially-appointed ‘Classic Centres’ to fashion a very competitive servicing and maintenance marketplace. This is great news for owners of non-new 911s.

So which is best? Well, the answer will often come down to personal preference – and as a newcomer to Porsche ownership, I’m excited to decide for myself. As you may recall, last month I purchased a second-generation Carrera 4 as my own ‘project 996’ from independent specialists RPM Technik, who had taken one in as part exchange and gave me a trade deal in light of the fact the car needed some attention in order to be considered ‘ready to retail’. Before collecting the 996, I was given a printout of RPM’s pre-purchase inspection, which resembles the 110-point check undertaken at an OPC (a common practise among reputable specialists).

The 996 gets a CSR lightweight flywheel before its PPI and collection.
The 996 gets a CSR lightweight flywheel before its PPI and collection.

In RPM’s report I found nothing of immediate mechanical concern, with just the following points of contention: the power steering pipe crimping is starting to split (a common problem, 996 owners), front and rear lower arm bushes are delaminating, and my A/C condensers are in need of replacement. The report showed I’d bought a good car, however the inevitable question soon surfaced at the forefront of my mind: would Porsche themselves view my 996 in the same way? I was eager to find out.

At the start of the month I visited my local OPC, Porsche Centre Bournemouth, where Senior Service Advisor, Richard Pearce, booked my car in for a complimentary health check. I returned to the Centre just days later, dropping off my C4 and collecting a 981 Cayman loan car in return. The inevitable ‘sweetener’ before a financial hammer blow when said health check was complete, perhaps? I was fearful.

However, I need not have worried. Around four hours into temporary Cayman possession, I received a concise email from Richard containing a first-person video assessment of the 996. You can see the video for yourself here: Senior Technician, Nick Perry (who incidentally has more than 25 years of experience at Porsche Centre Bournemouth) provided a comprehensive breakdown of the car in just three minutes, picking up on the same points made in the PPI from RPM Technik. Three notes to consider from the video: I do indeed have a CSR lightweight flywheel fitted to the car, I covered 1,700 miles between the PPI and health check, which is when the tyre gash likely occurred, and Porsche Bournemouth were not aware of my 996’s PPI at the time of the health check being conducted.

Porsche Centre Bournemouth carried out a complimentary health check on the 996 one month into Lee's ownership of the car.
Porsche Centre Bournemouth carried out a complimentary health check on the 996 one month into Lee’s ownership of the car.

After collecting my 996 from the Porsche Centre, I was happy, relieved and suitably impressed, the latter thanks to two key points of the health check. First was the video link which, though commonplace today at many manufacturer service centres, elucidates transparency. Unedited video evidence is unequivocal: I can see for myself what niggles Nick had found, giving me confidence that I’m not being fleeced. Second was Nick’s mechanical sympathy. Rather than just proffer that I replace anything remotely worn – a stigma often associated with a Porsche Centre in general – I was told, for example, that my exhaust nuts have one year left and that the lower arm bushes are perishing but useable. I appreciated that greatly.

What have I learned? For starters, RPM Technik are excellent. Their PPI was meticulous, easy to understand and, above all, accurate. My Porsche Centre experience was also exceedingly pleasant: I felt as welcome in my 996 as the rather more fortunate chap next to me collecting his 991.2 C4S, and was bouyed by the knowledge of the technicians and Senior Service Advisor, Richard Pearce, who knew his way around my 996 far better than even I did. Both businesses have therefore given me complete confidence in them caring for and maintaining my 996 going forward. Of course, the real battle will commence when parts need to be ordered – more on that soon…

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