The Thing no 996 Owner wants to Hear

Anyone who owns a Porsche 996 (or even a Boxster 986) never wants to hear their mechanic say “we found metal shavings in your oil.” That one sentence means you’re in for a hefty repair bill which runs around $3,000 on the cheap side.

Tuesday, I heard that sentence from my mechanic.

If you’ve been following this site, then you know I bought my 2001 Carrera in February of this year (2017), and it was delivered at the beginning of March. The Porsche 996 is plagued with a lot of bad press about three little letters: IMS. If you’re not familiar with the IMS Bearing issue, read this and this to get up to speed, or watch this video.

60k

Simply put, if the IMS Bearing fails, you’re buying a new engine. You can find rebuilt engines with varying mileage for $8,000 to $12,000, and I’m sure a new one would be more than double. Then there’s labor costs on top of that. It’s a catastrophic failure, but not really as common as the internet would lead you to believe. Regardless, it’s not something you want to leave to chance, so it’s worth taking precautions. LN Engineering and Flat 6 Innovations have developed a retrofit kit and a full solution, but they aren’t cheap. They are, however, considerably less than what it would take to replace your engine.

The deciding factor for me in purchasing this particular 996 was the fact that it already had the IMS Retrofit kit installed by Flat 6 Innovations—the people who invented it! I was provided with pictures of the car in the shop with the engine out, transmission open, parts everywhere! Additionally, there’s the serial number sticker of the IMS Retrofit in the door jamb, and I have the receipt for the work that was performed in September of 2013.

Don’t be fooled, there’s a lot of “fake news” out there about the IMS Retrofit kit, mostly that it’s a permanent fix. It’s not. They do offer an IMS Solution, that is a permanent fix, but the IMS Retrofit is not a permanent fix. It’s recommended to replace IMS Retrofit every five years or 75,000 miles, at least that’s what it was when mine was installed. Since then, they’ve come out with a ceramic version that lasts a bit longer: six years or 75,000 miles. Knowing that, I knew that sometime around September of 2018, I might consider getting that updated. In other words, I should be able to drive this car worry-free for a couple of years.

Nevertheless, once I got the car, I had the oil changed using the LN Engineering recommended Jack Gibbs oil, just as the previous owners had done before me. The oil should be changed every 5,000 miles, which coincidentally would be 60,000 miles for the car after I got the oil changed the first time. That means it would also need the 60,000 mile service performed (which includes an oil change anyway).

That brings us up-to-date as my car just turned 60,000 miles a couple of weeks ago. Being a good steward of my car, I took it to RMG for the 60,000 Mile Service. But, when Dan went to change the oil, he found metal shavings in the oil filter. Immediately, I triple checked everything—the receipts, photos—you name it! Yes, indeed, the work was performed. But, it’s only been four years and barely 30,000 miles since the IMS Retrofit kit was installed. Why is this happening?

filter.jpg

Oil filter with metal shavings. This was incredibly hard to photograph, and I’ve seen far worse, but it looked a lot like glitter (there’s a lot more than that which can be seen in the photo).

I jumped on the phone and called Flat 6 Innovations. I was fortunate enough to speak to Jack Raby, the one guy on the face of this planet who knows the whole IMS thing better than anyone else alive—he invented the fix. I was calling to see if there was any sort of warranty (which there was, but long expired at this point), and why this would be happening so early.

Admittedly, I’m not very mechanically inclined. In fact, I frequently make the joke: “I’m very mechanically inclined. When something breaks, I’m very inclined to call my mechanic.” Jokes aside, I do try to read, understand, learn, and educate myself on such things, especially since I insist on owning cars with fun quirks like this. I discovered very quickly that Jake was on a completely different level than me! He asked a lot of questions that I didn’t really have the answers for (yet) because I had just found out about the metal shavings minutes before calling him. I had been lead to believe (thanks to the internet!) that the only cause of metal shavings in the oil of your 996 was from a failed IMS Bearing. Turns out, there’s lots of other things it could be.

It could be Bore Scoring, but that’s generally an issue with 996.2 and 997 engines. It could be camshaft deviation angles, timing chain, baffle tank, or even just natural wear from the block. When I saw the oil filter, it really looked like there was glitter inside the oil, and I’ve definitely seen worse—way worse. I didn’t want to believe it was the IMS Bearing, and Jake pretty well convinced me it wasn’t. But, in all honesty, we wouldn’t know for sure until my mechanic, Dan, separated the transmission from the engine.

The next morning, I spoke to Dan and he had some good news. He had removed the oil sump and it looked good (meaning, no metal shavings), and that really is a good sign. He also found that the IMS Retrofit appeared to be in great condition. However, he did find the flywheel to be in really bad shape, so we replaced that along with a new IMS Retrofit kit as you don’t want to reuse the old one now that metal shavings are inside. While this is still going to be an expensive repair as it costs a lot of labor to look at this, I’ll at least have my peace of mind. After I picked it up, Dan recommended I drive it around 1,500 to 2,000 miles and bring it back and they’ll look it over again to ensure metal shavings aren’t in the oil. Which is a damn good idea.

IMSR

This is the original IMS Retrofit Kit installed by Flat 6 Innovations. Yes, the IMS Bearing is just this tiny little thing that’s only 1¾” in diameter, yet it can completely destroy the engine.

Additionally, I’ll be getting an oil analysis done… next time. I hadn’t heard of such a thing until after this, so, I didn’t have my mechanic save an oil sample for me. But, going forward, I will have my mechanic save a sample and I’ll be sending it to Blackstone Laboratories. I’ll simply make this part of the routine maintenance. They’ll analyze the sample and send back a report of everything that’s in your oil. Over time, you’ll be able to see trends and determine what’s normal and what’s not. If something massively changes, such as a huge increase in iron or aluminum, that can help you catch a problem early and give you an idea what the source may be. Although, if I ever run into any real trouble, the waiting game can be very tricky since my car is a daily driver.

For now, my 996 is back on the street and being daily driven and enjoyed just as much as always. While this was a bit of a scare, and very costly, it’s not a deterrent. And it shouldn’t be. The 996 is an amazing car to drive, incredibly nimble, quick, and capable. It’s also reliable, and not many performance cars can boast such a claim. But, like any car, you need to take proper care of it. And, like any performance car, you may need to do a few special maintenance things like sending your oil out for analysis every time you change it. If you treat the 996 right, it will treat you right.

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