Bob Schoenherr  Becoming ONE with your Porsche

  by Bob Schoenherr, Membership Director

"There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it."

- Kurt Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle)

Anita and I are on our way for our yearly pilgrimage to see my family in the southeastern corner of New Mexico.  Every year since 1982, my homesickness kicks in around this time.  As Yogi Berra said, "It's like deja-vu, all over again."  I have been blessed to have done this trip in a Porsche (912, 914, 912E, 924 Turbo, and 986 Boxster) for 16 of the 28 years.  This year (my 29th), "Speedie" will be taking Anita and me on the 4000-mile round trip in 10 days through the great western states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Follow us on Facebook; we leave on the 18th of November. 

I have only had one breakdown since I started doing this trip:  I lost the clutch on the 924 Turbo just as I drove into my parent's driveway in 1989.  Porsches are very reliable cars, even when driven hard.  Besides, it's lot more fun to tour in a Porsche than in a _________.  You fill in the blank!

So, how do you get your trusty steed ready for such a trip?  The preparation is similar to what you would do for autocross or track events.  Let me share what I have done for the past 28 years, as I am very much a road trip veteran.  Many tasks are easy to perform, while others will require more knowledge or mechanical skills.  Accordingly, I've used a star system to rank the tasks:

*_Easiest_items - Almost anyone can do it with the correct tool - usually your eyes and hands.

**_Easier_items - Most people can do it, but you need more knowledge of your Porsche.

***_Difficult_Items - You should be a mechanic or experienced DYI person and have a place to work safely.

****_Very_Difficult_Items_ - I recommend allowing one of our sponsors ike Hi Tec, 9Elf Motorsports, or TRG to perform the work for you.

* Easiest items

1.  Start with checking your maintenance log.  Don't have one?  Start one now by recording when the oil, wiper blades, tires etc. were changed.

2.  Check your tires and wheels.  Check the tire air pressure even if you have those funny modern sensors in them.  Now is a great time to see if the air pump that came with your car still works!  Some Porsches have inflatable spares and came with air pumps.  These days, you may not be able to find air as easily as we used to, so I recommend that you have a pump or at least carry a can of air with you.  It's no fun to be stranded on a long stretch of road with no help or traffic like "The Loneliest Highway in the World", Hwy. 50 in Nevada.

3.  Do a visual inspection of your tires and wheels.  Are the wear bars showing? In some states it is illegal to be driving on the wear bars.  In any case, if your tires are worn to this extent, be safe and get a new set of tires.  If the tires have unusual wear, head to the alignment shop before you wear out those expensive high-performance tires.  Unusual wear could also be a sign of worn bushings, shock absorbers, or ball joints.  If a wheel shows a crack, please replace it for your own safety.

4.  Check your spare tire.  Do a test inflation of the collapsible spare to ensure that it holds air, and does not have cracked sidewalls. 

5.  Check the torque of the lugs or lug nuts and don't forget about hubcaps or center caps.  No torque wrench?  Then go by your tire dealer.  Usually, they'll check it for free.

6.  Check your gas cap and gas cap gasket.  Some newer cars will have ill effects if the cap is loose or leaking.

7.  All moving cars must stop eventually, so check for brake pedal fade while the car is running.  New cars have power-assisted brakes, so starting the car is a must.  Find a back road and do a couple of emergency stops (with no one behind you!).  Check the brakes for fade and pulling of the car to one side.

8.  Check for any visible fluid leaks.  We do know that most air-cooled Porsche are going to seep some oil, but leaks should be minor.  While you're at it, check all fluids - brake, oil, power steering, coolant, windshield washer, etc.

9.  Check engine belts and hoses for cracks or tears and be sure clamps are tight.

10.  Check that the battery is securely in place.

11.  Check that the seats are secured, that seat belts are factory or better, and are not frayed.

12.  Check the gas pedal to be sure it returns smoothly.

13.  Check that the steering wheel does not have excessive play.

14.  Check your mirrors!  Unlike the movie Cannonball Run, you do need to look behind you.

15.  Check all lights for function with the engine running!  If something is not working, check fuses first then check the bulb in question.  Owner's manuals have the bulb type and fuse box location for your vehicle.

16.  Check for the jack, tools, spare tire, and other items and be sure they are secured properly.

17.  Check operation of heating and cooling (the defroster system is especially important in winter weather).  Plan your interior and trunk packing to ensure that there are no loose objects.  The second collision by objects in the car causes the most damage in accidents.

18.  Shake your car...up and down and sideways!  If there are any abnormal clunks then you might have a suspension problem.

** Easier items

1.  Pull the wheels off, after jacking and supporting the vehicle in a proper manner.  DO NOT WORK ON THE CAR WHILE IT IS ON THE JACK!  Use jack stands or a lift.

2.  Check the oil level and fill up as needed.  Change the oil if you can do it safely and can dispose of the oil and filter in an environmentally safe way.

3.  Replace wiper blades, washer fluid, and air cleaner.

4.  Replace worn suspension parts, but only if you are sure that you can reassemble them correctly.

5.  Replace items as needed from your inspection in part 1.

6.  Check transmission fluid levels. This is usually done underneath the car, so ensure that the car is properly supported.

7.  Check that driveline components are secure.  See that CV joint rubber boots are not cracked or open.

8.  Check brake linings.

9.  Check brake lines to be sure they are secure - not rubbing, leaking or swollen.

10.  Check that the throttle linkage is secure and not binding and that the throttle return spring(s) are fully functional.

11.  Check that no suspension components such as shocks, sway bars or suspension arms are loose.

12.  Check muffler and exhaust system for leaks and that the hangers are holding the system in place properly.

13.  Install a new radio or MP3 player.

*** Difficult Items

1.  Drop the engine to replace oil seals.

2.  Replace the clutch.

3.  Replace the brake rotors and pads.

4.  Troubleshoot electrical gremlins.

5.  Install any performance enhancements.

6.  Rebuild or replace any engine or transmission component.

7.  Fix any leak.

**** Very Difficult Items  

Anything that you don't have time for or have any hesitation about the safety of your passenger, you, and/or your car.  The key word is SAFETY!  Are you certain that the repairs you performed are safe?

Any task for which you do not have the tools to do the work properly.

In summary, you can see that there are many things you can do to keep your car properly maintained and ready for a road trip.  Always, when in doubt of your abilities, get the help of an expert.  A 2000-6000 pound car is a weapon on the road; keep your Porsche under control by doing the checks listed above.

Obviously, there are other items that could be added to the lists, depending upon your vehicle (I haven't even addressed cleaning, paint, carpet, etc. I'll save that for concours season). You should also consider reading your owner's manual to see what Porsche recommends for your specific vehicle.

In addition to the above checks, remember that an AAA card can be helpful in a pinch.  Also, consider carrying a Panorama magazine with you in case of a breakdown; you may be able to reach a local PCA member who can assist you. Call the Region President in the area if you are having problems.  PCA folks enjoy helping others in need!

Don't forget that it is both the people and the cars that make our journeys enjoyable.


Speedie Porsche

Speedie at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

(photo by Bob Schoenherr)