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Video | Fixing My Dead 911 Turbo Requires Removing the Engine – But It Could Be Worse

Apparently, I’m the only water-cooled Porsche 911 Turbo owner in the world that never heard of its Achilles heel. I assumed the car I purchased last year was invincible, which — unlike the more fragile non-turbo 911 of the era — I thought it would be perfectly suited for regular track use. After testing that theory, and gushing enough coolant to shut down my local track for 20 minutes, I now realize that I was very wrong.

I don’t have the best luck with track days in general, especially in a Porsche 911, as my last two outings in my old 1999 Carrera both resulted in catastrophic engine failures. Thankfully, that’s not the case with my 2002 Turbo, since it never overheated, and since it ran perfectly until the track official yelled at me to shut the engine off. I was hoping it was something simple that had failed, like a rubber coolant hose or an expansion tank — and I was sort of right. It was a hose, but a metal one, and my mechanic, the Car Wizard said he could reattach it for only $200. Then, he told me to actually fix the problem would be closer to $3,000.

Clearly, early water cooled 911 engines had their teething problems — and with the GT and Turbo models, it comes in the form of metal coolant pipes. Rather than properly securing these pipes that weave around the top of the engine, they were simply glued together. Over time, and especially during heavy track use, the glue gives out. This causes the pipes to bust apart, and the cooling system evacuates itself in seconds. I was lucky the pipe that failed was easy to access and repair, but there are several more hiding around the engine bay that could burst at any moment — and to reach those, it requires removing the engine.

Once all the metal pipes have been reglued, it’s recommended they also be welded together to prevent a repeat coolant squirting disaster. Obviously, this is a massive amount of labor, which explains why it’s so expensive — but if I ever want to trust the car for another track day, or even a long road trip, it’s essential that I fix it properly. So I’ll be waiting a long time before I’m back behind the wheel of my 911 again, though the Car Wizard cushioned the blow by having a few cars finished for me.

After wizarding his way through a Toyota Prius engine swap, and tearing down the old engine just for the giggles of seeing the carnage, he finished up my beautiful 1966 Imperial Crown convertible. Now completely devoid of leaks and rattles, driving it is actually enjoyable, and the bill to sort it all out was way less than the bill for the Prius — or the impending gut punch once the 911 Turbo is back in business. So as usual, I’m a hamster stuck on a wheel of never-ending car repairs — but at least there’s been more progress this week than setbacks.

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  1. Many track operators know about this, and ask for documentation to verify if the pipes have been pinned or welded. I guess not this one. 

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