Stop and go

November 2011

I drove the car a bit over that first weekend, and spent a bit of time under the car re-adjusting the clutch. That did improve the engagement point of the clutch. I put off transferring the title for a few days, having heard horror stories about the lines at DMV on the last day of the month. Drove the car to work on Thursday, and did the title and registration instead of a normal lunch break. Drove the car to work again on Friday, but had other things to do over the weekend, so didn't drive it at all.

Monday came, and I drove to work again. At the end of the day, I got in and started it up, and started home. Got about half way home when it started missing a bit, then a bit worse, and after about a 1/4 mile just died. I coasted onto the shoulder. Tried to re-start, but the starter wouldn't crank. Turned on the hazard flashers and called Deanna to tell her I was going to be late. She arranged to have a flatbed come to bring the car (and me) home.

Not the best start. I'd owned the car all of 10 days before it let me down. Once home and in the garage, it didn't take long to determine that the battery was seriously discharged. I put my charger on it and kept checking. I also noticed that while the alternator warning light had not come on while I was driving, it wasn't coming on with the key as it should either. So this was rapidly looking like a failure of the charging system.

The warning light on these cars is a required part to energize the alternator - if the bulb is burnt out, no charge results. But when I tested the bulb, it was fine. So that seemed to indicate either the alternator, or the integrated voltage regulator. The battery charger got the battery partially recovered after an hour or so, so as a test I tried to start it, and it started and ran fine. But while it was running I confirmed that there was no charge coming from the alternator. So I pulled the alternator that evening.

Porsche engine compartment

I dropped the alternator off at a local electrical shop first thing Tuesday morning. They called later in the day to say that they knew for certain that the voltage regulator was bad, but couldn't completely test the alternator until they got a replacement regulator on it, and they had to order it from Portland. On Wednesday the regulator arrived, and they determined that the alternator itself was fine. I finished re-installing the alternator on Friday morning, and everything (including the warning light) worked properly again. Lesson learned - look at the warning lights BEFORE I start the engine. All in all, not a major deal, once I got it home.

Unfortunately, that was just number 1.

Over the next couple of weeks I drove the car 2-3 times per week. I experienced one glitch during that period, one morning I went to go to work and the car wouldn't start. It would crank like crazy, but no fire. I tried it several times to no avail. I was just about to move to the other car when I gave it one last try and it started normally. No drama, just started and ran. I shut it down and re-started it, again just as it should. Went ahead and drove it to work, no issues. Started fine to come home too. Over the next couple of weeks, it started fine every time, so I was just about to write that off as a one-time glitch.

Then on the Saturday after Thanksgiving I tried to start the car to back it out of the garage for some reason or the other. Again, no start. And this time it didn't come back after a few attempts.

I'd been doing some reading in the meantime, and suspected that the DME relay had failed. It is a special dual relay that energizes both the ignition and the fuel pump, and is a known trouble item on these cars, to the point that many people carry a spare with them in the car at all times. I was actually a bit surprised that the batch of spare parts I got with my car didn't include one of these, and had it on my list of future purchases. Of course, I hadn't bought any of those parts yet.

I tested the DME relay, and found that it was indeed bad. I threw together a quick bypass wire, plugged that in instead, and the car started and ran perfectly again. I then immediately got on the computer and ordered a replacement from Pelican Parts.

Continued in December...