Chaos Missile and trust your mechanic

Chaos Missile and trust your mechanic

What you don’t want to see on a regular drive in the pouring rain.
Photo: Kyle Hyatt/Jalopnik

So sometimes owning an older car is no fun at all. It can be quite stressful and expensive as things you planned to fix when it was convenient to do so start to break when it is decidedly inconvenient to do so. This is where I found myself this week with my new 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera, but luckily I have a good mechanic.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the weather lately, but we’ve been getting an insane amount of rain in California. While this wouldn’t really be a problem for most cars, in a 996 with questionable ignition coils that are relatively unprotected and inches off the ground, it can cause problems. Here, though, I knew I had to do this job thanks to my PPIso I had already ordered the parts from FCP Euro.

By trouble, I mean I found myself trying to drive my wife to her job in one of the recent torrential downpours we’ve had in normally sunny Southern California. Halfway through this drive, I continued to have misfires, which I knew because of a flashing check engine light. I was able to limp the very unhappy car home and scan the OBDII codes, which confirmed the misfires and also told me they were all on the same bank of cylinders. I also got a catalytic converter efficiency code on the same cylinder bank which was annoying.

Way too much rain in Pasadena

The solution, at least to start with, is to replace the coils and plugs, and I was planning on replacing them last weekend as it’s not a huge deal, just an awkward one. Unfortunately, being Jalopnik’s resident old man at the age of almost 38, I’ve managed to absolutely destroy my spine when I bend over to pet a cat. Silly, I know, but “live by the sword, die by the sword” as the saying goes.

That’s why it’s important to have a quality mechanic. If you have a Porsche and don’t have the money from the dealership, finding a good independent mechanic you can trust is essential. I have used Auto Werkstatt for a larger job but the truth is they are an hour’s drive from me in traffic so finding someone closer to things was essential. Of course, having a good mechanic isn’t just a Porsche thing; it’s key when you own any older car.

Pasadena, where I live, has a bunch of Porsche shops, which is strange considering it’s not that big of a city, so I had a lot to choose from. One of the city’s most acclaimed independent Porsche-specific shops is a place called Car House, and I’m just a 10-minute drive from my humble abode. So realizing I wasn’t going to get to the plugs and coils on my own anytime soon, especially with more rain on the horizon and that cat code looming, I called House and they managed to get my car in at the same time . day.

A silver 2003 Porsche 911 sits in an elevator undergoing repairs.

A tidy shop is always a good sign.
Photo: Kyle Hyatt/Jalopnik

Now, before you throw your lot in with any mechanic, you should try them out. My method for doing this was to send my car in for something low risk and low cost. If the shop treats you well on that job – mine with House was an oil change and a reverse shifter a few weeks ago – then chances are you’ll still be treated well when you spend more money.

The team at House did a great job with the small stuff, so trusting them in my car for something a little more involved was no big deal. Another sign of a good store, at least in my experience, is that the store was clean. There weren’t piles of parts and junk everywhere or a thick film of shmutz on everything, which means they’ll probably be at least as meticulous with my car as I am, which is reassuring. Finally, the store offers a discount to members of the Porsche Club of America, known for having somewhat retentive members, myself included, so bonus.

They were also kind enough to let me bring in my own parts, which is usually not something the shops will do (and I don’t recommend doing that either, especially if you’re not very good at ordering parts) . However, since I already had the parts on hand, this was a way to save a little Cashish to an unexpected repair, although that meant the shop wouldn’t guarantee the parts if something went wrong later. It’s a roll of the dice, but I always order high quality OEM parts and check not only the boxes the parts come in, but also that the parts are the right ones for those boxes.

The underside of the engine of a 2003 Porsche 911.

You can only see one of the spark plug holes and that is one of the two easy ones.
Photo: Kyle Hyatt/Jalopnik

So after a few hours of sitting in House’s waiting room and working on my laptop, my car was done. It ended up being a good thing I brought the car in for this job as a previous owner or mechanic had left part of the spark plug socket in one of the spark plug wells and it took some effort for the guys at House to get it take out. together with the old socket. Knowing me, I would have spent a lot of time swearing, and the air in LA is dirty enough without me swearing in it.

Now that I was a few hundred dollars lighter, the last thing to do was take the 911 out for a real tear down to see if the misfires or catalytic converter codes came back, and luckily they didn’t. The car runs smoother than ever and I suspect I might even see a little better fuel economy from the big flat six.

The moral of the story is that sometimes, even if you enjoy working on your car yourself, either your skill level, time availability, or something else can get in the way and you’ll need to take your vehicle to a professional. Spending that money is never fun, but it’s not a sign of failure, and finding the right mechanic to build a relationship with can save you money in the future if they find something you didn’t know you were looking for.

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