Things have been a little bit weird for the last 18 months. Chances are you didn’t get much of a chance to take your Porsche out for a good long trip in 2020, and as Coronavirus restrictions begin to ease around the country, it’s time to fire it up and take it for a rip to some distant locale, preferably a tropical one by the ocean, or a secluded cabin in the mountains. Summer is here, and there’s no better time than now to drive your Porsche. Here at FlatSixes, we always recommend driving your car as often as possible. That’s what they were built to do, after all!
For the last year and a half, many of us have been stuck indoors avoiding other people. It’s been a heck of a thing to not have a commute anymore, working from home, right? Your Porsche’s been neglected, and you haven’t had that special Friday commute with your favorite sports car. With all that time at home with your Porsche stuck in the garage, it may have developed a few new quirks in the last 18 months. And that’s in addition to the weird little gems you already knew about.
If you’re anything like me, you probably put on a few pounds during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you probably put off some work on your car that really should be carried out before you take that summer road trip. So now is as good a time as any to catch up on your Porsche’s deferred maintenance before a breakdown bites you in the ass in the middle of nowhere. The folks at CarParts.com came up with a handy checklist to look over before you head for the hills. Let’s tweak that list a little bit to apply to the old Porsche in your garage.
1. Repair Known Problems
This is a no-brainer, really. My 912E has had an annoying steering shimmy ever since I bought the thing. I have gone through every component of the steering and front suspension system to make sure that everything was good and tight. New parts replaced old worn components and now the car is as good as new. If there’s something you know your car needs, there’s nothing to do but to get it buttoned up right now. If your alternator has been wonky or your timing belt is getting long in the tooth, change them out before you go on a trip to avoid a potentially costly breakdown.
2. Get Caught Up On Maintenance
If you need ball joints or tires or brake pads or wheel bearings or what have you, don’t risk it. Get that stuff fixed and you’ll have the peace of mind you need to truly relax this summer.
3. Check Your Fluids
Do you remember the last time you changed the oil in your Porsche? Even if you didn’t drive the car much last year, it’s time to change it. Time can breakdown your oil and its effectiveness at lubricating your engine. Don’t risk it, give it a fresh filter and fluid.
While you’re under the car doing these jobs, check for fluid leaks all around. Whether it’s by finding spots on your garage floor, or spray underneath the car as it whipped around in the wind, it’s easy to spot an oil leak. Spotting a leaky transmission or differential means you’re probably in for a job that will be a pain in the ass, but it’s far less of a pain than running out of fluid and blowing up your gears on the road.
4. Inspect Your Tires
This might be the most important piece on the list. For one thing, your tires have probably lost some pressure from sitting, so pump them up at a minimum. If they sat on the ground with the weight of the car on them for too long, you may have developed a flat spot in the sidewall which will take a lot of miles to round out again.
Inspect the tires inside and out for bubbles in the sidewall or chunks of missing rubber. Dry rotting rubber is also extremely unsafe to drive on, so if you notice a lot of cracking in the sidewall and around the edges of the tread, replace your tires as soon as possible. Tread depth is also important. If your tires are down to the wear bars, get new ones immediately.
Check the date of manufacture for your tires as well, because old tires are extremely dangerous. An old tire can lose a lot of its grip, giving you a much worse driving experience, but worse than that it can blow out without much notice. In general, especially on a sports car, you don’t want to drive hard on tires more than 6 years old.
5. Check Your Cooling System
If your Porsche is one of those fancy water-cooled jobs, you’ll want to check the coolant system for issues as well. If you don’t know when it was last flushed, you’ll want to do that. If your coolant overflow bottle is getting yellowed and brittle, replace it with a new one. If your radiator has leaks or punctures, replace it. German cars are very serious about their cooling systems, and a bad one is a problem waiting to happen.
If your Porsche is cooled by the air, as it should be, you don’t get off scot free. You’ll want to inspect your fan and shroud for any potential damage. I’ve seen enough fans missing blades to know that these systems aren’t infallible. If you’re in a particularly hot climate, or heading up to altitude, or planning to do any trackdays this summer, you might want to add an auxiliary oil cooler as well.
6. Test the Air Conditioning System
If you’re lucky enough to have A/C, you’ll probably want it to function. None of my Porsches have air conditioning, which is kind of a pain in Northern Nevada. Test your A/C system at home before you get caught in Death Valley with no cool air and a Porsche Sport Seat saturated with sweat.
7. Inspect the Brakes
One of the biggest things people avoid doing is flushing their brake fluid. Because it is hygroscopic, brake fluid loses effectiveness over time as it absorbs water from the air. The more water in your brake system, the more likely it is to cause issues, especially in a panic stop. Fresh fluid will fix a lot of braking issues.
Obviously pads and rotors are super important as well. The last thing you need is to run out of pad material in the middle of a highway panic stop. If you have less than 3 mm of friction material left, ditch those pads for new ones. If your rotors are grooved, get you some new fresh discs.
8. Check the Wipers
It’s hard to stress this enough, but wipers are vitally important for your Porsche. If you can’t see, you can’t drive, and getting caught in a summer downpour with dried out old wiper blades is a major faux pas. It’s a relatively cheap piece of the puzzle, but one you desperately need. I recommend preemptively replacing wipers every two years, just in case. Order an extra set next time you make a parts order, and you’ll be in good shape.
9. Inspect the Battery
There’s a good chance your battery is dead if your Porsche has been sitting since the pandemic began. A battery that has sat flat for a long time doesn’t usually want to hold a charge as well as it did before. If your battery is getting on in age, say over four or five years, it’s probably not a bad idea to take it in and get it tested. Replace if necessary.
10. Remember to Pack Summer Essentials
I’ve got my vaccine and I’m ready to get back out this summer for car shows and adventures. I’ll still be packing hand sanitizer, a face mask, and some extra distance in crowds, mostly because I have deeply enjoyed not getting even the common cold this last year. If that’s something you care about, pack yours as well.
As for your car, make sure you have the following essentials packed so you stay comfortable and calm in even the worst of situations.
- A packet in the glove box with your car’s insurance, registration, and a copy of your driver’s license (in case you lose your wallet or purse).
- A first aid kit
- Jumper cables
- A few spare water bottles and a handful of meal replacement bars (in case you get stranded)
- A phone charger and a spare power bank. If you’re going way off the grid, bring a solar charger, too.
- Your car’s appropriate spare tire and tool kit
- Your favorite sunglasses
- A bangin’ summer playlist
- A positive mental attitude
The open road is calling, and your Porsche wants to answer. Let’s get back out there this summer and have a good time. We’ve all earned it.