By   January 11, 2017

Porsche 986 Boxster

Porsche 986 Boxster

Currently, the best values in used Porsches are the 986 and 996 generation cars. Both the Boxster (986) and 911 (996) offer a good amount of performance with prices of both being south of $20,000. In fact you can find a clean running early Boxster for as low as $5,000.

While the 996 will run you a bit more, you can find clean running early examples of the 911 For under $15,000 and we’ve seen a few as low $10,000. While there are a few things that attribute to these low prices, there is one major reason that they are so affordable, the Intermediate Shaft Bearing (IMS).

The problem stems from a design flaw that results in catastrophic engine failure. 986, 996, 987 and 997 generation cars (911, Cayman and Boxster) use the design and could have the failure. While all can experience the issue, there are some years that have a higher rate of failures. It is also important to note that 911 GT3, GT2 and Turbo models use a different design so they do not have the IMS problem.

The main design flaw is that the IMS Bearing used an enclosed design for the bearing which would seize when the internal grease would break down over time. Because of it being sealed no additional lubrication is available when this happens.

The 1997 – 1999 986 and 996 cars featuring the early M96 engines used a more durable dual bearing design. While these cars can still have IMS Bearing failure, the rate is estimated very low (depending on which statistics you believe the rate is stated as less than 1%).

Some 2000 and 2001 cars also used the double bearing design, but for the most part the 2000-2005 are the most prone to failure. These cars used a single bearing that was not reinforced. Because of this failure rates have been estimated between 7% and 20%, but most agree it is around 10% that fail.

The 2006-2008 models used a single row IMS bearing, but one that was reinforced which reduced the failure rate. The one problem is with these cars is that the engine must be disassembled in order to make any preemptive updates to the bearing. This raises the skill required as well as labor costs for these years.

Fortunately, it is not all doom and gloom. The IMS Bearing in 1997-2005 cars can be fixed fairly easily. New improved parts are available that keep the bearing lubricated and help prevent seizure. It does require some work around the clutch area, but a competent backyard mechanic is capable of tackling the job. Having said that, it may be worth the peace of mind of having a professional handle such an important task if you aren’t as skilled with a wrench.

Should the IMS Bearing scare you off of buying a 986, 987, 996 or 997? We think not, as long as you go in with your eyes open. Make sure to find out if the issue has already been addressed with any potential purchase and if not you may be able to get the price down to help pay to have it done. In 1997-1999 cars you will likely not experience a failure (although you still could), so most people with these 986 Boxsters and 996 911s are pretty safe to do it when they repair the clutch. For other years we would make it a priority.

For owners that have not installed a redesigned IMS Bearing, cars with over 50,000 miles on them tend to be slightly safer bets as failure often occurs before that mark. When you change the oil make sure to check the filter for metal particles as this can be an early sign that the bearing is about to grenade. We also recommend more frequent oil changes of every 5,000 miles with Porsche recommended full synthetic oil.

For peace of mind we recommend installing a replacement part with a lower failure rate. Do this and you can get a good deal on a modern Porsche that you can enjoy for years to come.


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