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How a $300 Battery for an Air-Cooled Porsche Becomes $3,300

I am never amazed at how a simple service on an air-cooled Porsche can quickly add up to a major bill.  I recently took my ‘86 air-cooled Porsche in for a battery service expecting a $300 bill and left a week later with a bill for $3,300.  It was one of those jobs where you say:  “While you have it, can you look at…”. And then: “We found…, do you want us to take care of it?” 

 


Repairing a 1986 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2
Tuning up Meteor for the Air Brigade Driving Season

I am sure we have all had that experience in service, but I just went through it when my 1986 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 (Meteor, my Meteor Gray, first Porsche that I’ve owned over 25 years) was having starting problems. The problem actually started happening at the end of the driving season so I decided to garage the car and defer the maintenance until just prior to the 2024 driving season.

 

The problem I was experiencing was the car would start on the tender, but then at the first stop, it would not re-start.  Well, the immediate thought was it needs a new battery, but I knew the battery wasn’t that old so I feared something beyond my mechanic skills were needed to diagnose the issue.

 

So, with February rolling around and driving season potentially starting in March here in North Carolina, it was time to get Meteor into the shop.  The starting issue could leave me stranded as it would sometimes die as I was driving, so a rollback was called and Meteor was off to Renn Werx, an Asheville-based Porsche repair shop known for their air-cooled Porsche expertise.

 

The owner, Kevin met me as the rollback arrived.  I had a list of issues to handle “since he had the car”:

  1. First and foremost, the starting issue

  2. Remove the play in the steering column – the bushing was shot so the steering column had north/south play; a common air-cooled Porsche problem

  3. Change the Oil and filter– yes, I could do that myself, but while it was in the shop, might it not be easier to have the Renn Werx team handle it

  4. Conduct a general inspection

 

Renn Werx first attacked the starting issue and started with the battery.  It soon led to let’s look at the voltage regulator and the alternator.  It was decided that a new voltage regulator was needed, the alternator brushes were shot and the battery, though it was not too old had just gone through too many discharges and had damaged its reserve capacity. 

 

At this point the $300 battery became $936.48 (before taxes, $1,002.03 after taxes):

  • Voltage regulator:  $123.54

  • Battery:  $249.99

  • Alternator assembly, remove, install and overhaul:         $562.95 labor

  • Total:  $936.48

 

The next issue was to fix the play in the steering column.  Every air-cooled 911 is eventually going to have this problem and it was time to fix it on Meteor. The problem is caused by a bushing failing in the steering column.  Rather than use the standard 911 part that is going to fail again, Renn Werx uses the 928 bushing that fits and has a longer life. 

 

The steering column bushing was a low-cost repair, but they all add up

  • Bushing:  $55.82

  • Labor:  $162.63

  • Total: $218.45 plus tax, it totals $233.74

Any repair under $1,000 on a Porsche is something to be thankful for.

 

The oil and filter change were next, totally $323.29 for oil, filter, two crush rings and labor. ($345.92 after taxes) Chalk this expense up to laziness and lack of desire to crawl under a car on cold concrete in the middle of February.

 

When my car arrived at the shop, I mentioned to Kevin that typical for an air-cooled Porsche it leaked oil and specific to the 915 transmissions, it has a hitch in the first to second gear shift.  Since the car is not on the road that often, I do not want to go into an engine reseal or transmission re-build; I am willing to live with both issues.

 

The all-encompassing multi-point inspection brought up other issues to address relative to these problems:  the oil leaks were not from seals but instead were from worn valve cover gaskets and the oil return tube needing replacing.  The spark plugs were also inspected and it was recommended to replace them at this point.

  • Spark plugs (6):  $52.92

  • Oil return tube kits (4): $317.92

  • Valve cover gasket set:  $89.84

  • Labor:   $825.66

  • Total:  $1,286.34 – after taxes $1,376.38

 

And then, the final issue, the tough shifting that I always attributed to the quirkiness of Porsche’s 915 transmission.  Technician Clark test drove the car and suggested that the shift lever ball and socket bushing needed replacing. I have probably had five shops say they can solve the shifting issue of the transmission and none of them have yet provided a solution that works beyond changing the transmission to the G50.  But this repair was being estimated at $275 so at this point, let’s give it a try.  The shift lever ball socket, the shifter bushing and labor totaled $260.82 and $279.07 after taxes.  So, did it solve the shifting issue?  The shifting is smoother, but there is still that little hitch as you go from first to second.

 

In the 25+ years of ownership, literally nothing had been done to this car besides routine maintenance so it was hard to fault a need for $3,300 of service when it included routine maintenance items that fail with age and use:  spark plugs, bushings, oil, etc.

 

The 3.2-liter 911 engine is a workhorse and I believe under-rated by many Porsche enthusiasts.  It is fast, strong, reliable and very dependable so the first $3,000+ bill after 25 years of ownership couldn’t be faulted.  That equates to $126 a year for the Porsche driving experience and joy of ownership of an air-cooled Porsche.  I am not sure a Ford or Chevy could deliver the same cost per smile that Meteor has delivered to me over the years.

 

Drive on!


Complete Renn Werk Invoice



 



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looking for a quirky 86 coupe with a sunroof, is this car for sale?

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