Disrupt the chaos and trust your mechanic

2003 Porsche 911 generation 996 instrument cluster with check engine light illuminated.

What you don’t want to see on a normal trip in heavy rain.
picture: Kyle Hyatt/Jalopnik

So sometimes owning a cool old car isn’t fun. It can be stressful and expensive because the things you planned to fix when it was appropriate start to fall apart when it is 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’re getting a massive amount of rain in California. While this wouldn’t be a problem for most cars, on a 996 with questionable ignition coils that are relatively unprotected and two inches off the ground, it can cause problems. Here’s the thing, though, I knew I needed to do the job Thanks 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 rains we’ve had in usually sunny Southern California. During this drive I kept getting ignition misfires, which I knew thanks to the blinking check engine light. I was able to get the very unhappy car home and scan the OBDII codes, which confirmed the errors and also told me they were all on the same cylinder bank. I also got a catalytic converter efficiency code on the same cylinder bank, which was concerning.

Lots of rain in Pasadena

The solution, at least to start, is to replace the coils and sockets, and I was planning on replacing them this past weekend because it’s not a huge jobIt’s just uncomfortable. Unfortunately, being an old male resident of Jalopnik at about 38 years old, I was able to completely crack my spine when bending over to pet a cat. Stupid, I know, but “live by the sword, die by the sword,” as they say.

This is why it is important to have a quality mechanic. If you own a Porsche and have no selling money, finding a good independent mechanic that you can trust is crucial. I’ve used Auto Werkstatt for some larger work, but the truth is they’re an hour’s drive away from me in traffic, so finding someone closer to things was key. Of course, having a good mechanic just isn’t a Porsche thing; It is key when you own any old car.

Pasadena, where I live, has an abundance of Porsche stores, which is odd, since it’s not a big city, so I had a lot to choose from. One of the most popular independent Porsche shops in the city is a place called motor homeThey are only 10 minutes drive away from my humble abode. So, realizing I wasn’t going to be getting plugs and coils on my own anytime soon, especially with more rain on the horizon and cat code looming, I called House, and they were able to get my car the same day.

A silver 2003 Porsche 911 is on a lift being repaired.

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

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

The crew at House did a killer job on the little stuff, so trusting them with my car for something a little more involved was no big deal. Another mark of a good shop, at least in my experience, is that the shop was clean. There weren’t piles of parts and trash everywhere or a thick film of shmutz on everything, which says that they’re likely to be at least as meticulous with my car as I would be, which is reassuring. Finally, the shop offers a discount to members of the Porsche Club of America, known for having somewhat anal retentive members, among which I count myself, so bonus.

They were also kind enough to let me bring my own parts, which is typically not something that shops will do (and I don’t recommend you do that either, especially if you’re not really good at ordering parts). Still, since I already had the parts on hand, this was a way to save a little cashish on an unexpected repair, though it did mean that the shop wouldn’t warranty the parts if something were to go wrong later. It’s a roll of the dice, but I always order high-quality OEM parts and double-check not only the boxes that the parts come in but that the parts are the right ones for those boxes.

The engine underside of a 2003 Porsche 911.

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

So, after a couple of hours of sitting in House’s waiting room and working from my laptop, my car was finished. It ended up being a good thing I brought the car in for this job because a previous owner or mechanic left part of their magnetic spark plug socket in one of the plug wells, and it took some effort for the guys at House to get it out along with the old plug. Knowing me, I’d have spent a considerable chunk of time swearing, and the air in LA is dirty enough without me spewing curses into it.

Now that I was a few hundred bucks lighter, the last thing to do was to take the 911 out for a real rip to see if the misfires or the catalytic converter codes came back, and, blessedly, they haven’t. The car runs smoother than ever, and I suspect that I may even see slightly better fuel economy from the big flat-six.

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

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