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When I said “then the real fun began” at the end of part one, what I really meant was “then began the year of letting the Porsche sit in my driveway.” Other projects took precedence, and the 944 sat sadly neglected. Eventually I got off my ass and kicked the project into gear, though, mainly because Sean came over one night with a six pack and the suggestion of “actually working on the Porsche.” But before we could break out the tools, we needed to know what the hell we were doing. And to accomplish that we needed a manual.

My first “working on the car” experience came in high school when the alternator died on my first car — a 1977 Datsun 280Z. My father left the repair to me in order to give me some idea of how such things work. And I did what I saw my friends (with more cash than me) do: I took it to the Nissan dealership. They happily accepted the car, replaced the alternator, and presented me with a $280 bill. It wiped out all the cash I’d saved dutifully bagging groceries — and made me seriously consider (for the first time) the cost of owning a car.

As you might imagine, I was livid when the “new” alternator promptly took a dump a few days later. After hearing my angry plea, the dealership told me that a) I’d only paid for a “rebuilt” alternator, b) they offered no warranty on such parts, and c) I could happily give them $280 more for another one. And, of course, d) I could get stuffed.

Thankfully, in a rare moment of teenage sense, I turned my anger inward. If that dickhead on the phone could install an alternator, why couldn’t I? How did he know how to do it? I asked my father. His response: “He has a manual.”

(Years later, I realize that the guy on the phone was just a service writer that takes calls and handles customers. The real mechanic likely had gone to school for the job and knew a good bit about the subject. But when a teenager learns something, you don’t question. You just go with it, right?)

So I got a manual. A real factory manual. It was wonderful. It broke every task — from removing the license plate lamp to pulling the engine — into small steps, included pictures to further illustrate techniques and methodology, and listed all pertinent information like torque specs and special tool part numbers. Armed with this Rosetta stone of 280Z ownership and some tools my father loaned me from his kit, I installed the replacement alternator — a $40 rebuilt job from Chief’s — myself.

I also installed a third one three days later when the $40 Chief’s special froze up and caught fire. But that’s another story. End result: I was mobile again, and I became a life-long fan of owning the shop manuals for my vehicles.

I picked up the phone and called the local Porsche dealership’s parts department to order a manual. I knew it’d be a bit pricey. I paid $30 for the Z manual in the late ’80s and shelled out around $75 for ’88 CRX equivalent in the early ’90s. The manual for my ’97 Jeep Grand Cherokee ran close to $100 in ’01, and I knew from the shop truck that GM’s ring-bound monsters ran around $125-$175 for a two-binder set. But none of this prepared me for what the very patient man at the parts counter explained to me.

First, Porsche’s multi-ring-binder manual for the 1989 944 series (all models including my S2) doesn’t contain all the information required to repair the car. Instead, the information and procedures for each specific system reside in the manual for the vehicle (or variant thereof) in which the part first debuted. For example, if the turn signal flasher module in my 944 actually originated in the 911, all information about it would reside in the 911 manual.

Read that again in case it hasn’t sunk in yet. Seriously.

I looked online and found some explanation, but it didn’t make me feel any better. My online friends told me that in most countries around the world Porsche doesn’t offer factory service manuals at all, leaving the general public to either bring the vehicle in to the dealership or take their chances with a Haynes or Bentley manual or whatever they can glean from the local club. Since the dealerships maintain a full set of updated manuals for every Porsche vehicle back to the beginning, why re-print information they already have in previous manuals? That’s German efficiency at its finest.

Americans do have the honor of actually buying factory shop manuals from Porsche parts. That honor (or at least the bit of it covering only part of my vehicle’s systems) would cost hundreds of dollars.

My solution was two-fold: First I bought access to the AllDataDIY.com manual for the car. Sean and I have written about AllDataDIY.com on numerous occasions, and we stand by the fact that it’s often the cheapest and most effective way to get the information you need for critical repairs. Most (if not virtually all) third-party auto repair facilities in the U.S. subscribe to AllData’s professional service, which offers for a flat monthly fee (a couple grand, I understand) electronic manuals for all current production vehicles. That’s how these guys manage to work on your whatever-you-own when you drop it off — without maintaining a separate building just to house the manuals. For $25 a year (and less for subsequent years), AllDataDIY.com offers DIYers access to the same information for a single make and model.

That’d at least provide the basics, like where to find all the hidden water pump bolts. But it wouldn’t provide all the information I’d need to re-align the top and bottom of the engine before re-installing the timing belt.

After some search, though, I scored an, um, second-hand version of the manual. Because they can’t buy the manuals, the UK plays home to an active Porsche manual black market. That’s right: Like a junkie visiting a crack house I scored my manual off eBay from a shady Brit who cut one up and ran it through a scanner. And it cost more than my Z manual.

Thus armed, we pushed the Porsche into the garage and spent an evening just looking through the yellow plastic box of parts we found in the passenger seat and getting familiar with the world under the hood. Having removed the blinders I wore while buying the car, the value of my Porsche purchase looked shakier and shakier. My visions of restoring the car to perfect condition shrank to less lofty goal: drive the car. Maybe.

But first we had to locate a replacement water pump.


22 Responses to Jackass Projects: Porsche 944 S2, Part Two

  1. Rembreto says:

    Great story. I’m really enjoying it.

  2. Jim German says:

    First off, did you look for the pdf of the manual online first?

    2nd off not all germans hate mechanics, my BMW is a piece of cake to work on.

  3. Chuck Cage says:

    @Jim: Sure did. At the time it wasn’t available. Since then I’ve seen links to other (also illegal, sadly) sources online. Have you heard of a reputable source?

  4. Good lord, get a used Bentley for $50. Bentleys are often BETTER than the factory since they’ll tell you how to do repairs without the $$$ (actually, with Porsches, add an extra couple of dollar signs) special tools.

    Just looking at a 924/944/968 makes my back hurt. Porsche engineers are sadistic assholes, plain and simple. 944s are great (my first car was a 924 and my dad had 3 944s) but the maintenance is miserable. My biggest beef with them was that the chassis is WAY too competent for the amount of power they put down…but I guess the S2 has a bit more oomph over the regular 944S. 😉

    Hopefully this experience teaches you to get an old BMW next time.

  5. Mike Yancey says:

    Excellent series. Like ‘Jim German’ I also used to own a BMW (1985, 325e).
    Wonderful car. Any smallest repair at the dealer was like fixing the Space-Shuttle – $$$.

    And yet? I removed my own alternator, took it to the EXACT SAME shop that did alternator rebuilds for the dealer, and it cost me about $50 (instead of $375 for a rebuilt, and that was around 1990).

    Mike Y
    Dallas, Texas

  6. Josh says:

    Nothing I haven’t said in the previous post….

    I disagree. The maintanence is definitely a mult-step process but everything works so well together(vacuum system exluded). Once you have done it once, no problem. I really enjoy working on mine. Cark’sGarage is your friend. Beats the hell out of a factory manual any day. Definitely love an older BMW though.

    Cheers, Josh

  7. Adam says:

    One of the reasons I love working on Hondas is that they are *very* consistant. I can probably take half of my car apart with a 10, 12, and 14mm socket and a phillips head screwdriver. And even as general as the Haynes manual is, it’s enough to figure out what’s going on.

    Having said that, I haven’t had to do any engine work yet so I might be in for some trouble there if the engine goes… of course, if the engine goes, I can either swap in a replacement engine for a few hundred bucks or spend a couple grand and buy premade brackets and swap in one of a half-dozen other engines… Having a crazy commonly-modified vehicle is nice sometimes 😀

  8. Brew says:

    Well, the 944 is one car i always thought it would be cool to have. After reading this, i think I will pass and just stick to my chevies. Nice to be able to walk in to any parts store and buy any part on the vehicle (including a manual). Plus not break the bank doing it.

  9. Charlie says:

    If you’re looking for original german auto parts, I’ve found http://www.GermanAutoParts.com to be very useful and generally reasonably priced (reasonably for German car parts you want to get new, at least).

    I found the pump you need (according to them it’s part # 944 106 021 24) for $347.07

  10. Toolhearty says:

    Just out of curiousity: How many of you classic/noteworthy car guys live in the land of snow and road salt? I used to think it would be neat to own a vehicle of distinction, but I’ve come to regard four-wheelers as being an appliance with a limited lifetime and more or less disposable.

  11. Beans says:

    I live in New England and own a 1968 Camaro but that stays in the garage if the sun is not shining. I have a neighbor down the street with a 1969 Camaro SS (Indy Pace Car) and he just pulls his out on good weather weekends. Another buddy in town has a ’68 that he keeps in the garage just like me. We all drive more practical cars year-round.

  12. Ted says:

    The later model Porsche’s have fully galvanized bodyshells, I can’t remember the cut-off year but t’s worth knowing.

    Cheers, Ted

  13. jeff says:

    Since my first car, I’ve been buying service manuals for them. Pretty much the first purchase after I get the vehicle whether it have 4 wheels, 2 wheels, or no wheels (snowmobiles).

  14. Josh says:

    The 944 series is full galvi. Never heard of any rust problems if things are properly taken care of.

    $350 is atrocious even for a new pump. I buy quality rebuilt pumps for about $100 every few years when I’m doing belts/pulleys/seals. I don’t find it prohibitive and quite enjoy the work. Once you figure out how everything goes together it really is no issue. The regular 944 is probably one of the cheapest vehicles (on its playing field) to maintain if you do the work yourself and know where to buy parts. I’d say very similar to working on an e30. The 944 s2 or turbo certainly add a little expense but nothing that I have found outragious. The companies that cater to front engined porsche owners are the place to look.

    I have all the manuals on CD rom and haven’t had a question I couldn’t get answered on http://www.clark‘sgarage.com. Don’t be afraid of something a little new. There is a reason porsche is the most reliable vehicle out there (*per car sold).

    Cheers, Josh

  15. KaiserM715 says:

    I have come across the solution to your water pump problem.


  16. Chris says:

    KaiserM715: Glad I’m not the only one who immediately thought of that, too.


  17. Charlie says:

    Well, it looks like a rebuilt one from Pap-parts.com might work too and it’s only $124.95, although they have a “$100 refundable core charge”

    So, I’d imagine they charge you $124.95 + $100.00 and then pay you back the 100 when you ship them (and they receive of course) the “old” pump you take out.

    It says it will work on a 87-89 944 turbo, of course you’d have to confirm if this part working on a turbo means it can also work on a S2


  18. Dano says:

    Good luck with the project. I have a similar ’89 844S2 in baltic blue with linen (white) leather interior with less than 50,000 miles on it, and I very stupidly parked it in the garage 3 years ago and have not driven it since. I’m going to change the oil and filter, add about 10 gallons of new fuel (with some Stabil in it), charge the battery, and give it a try. Wish me luck…..

  19. Michael says:

    I owned 2 Porsches, a 944 Red and a Black 944 Turbo–at the same time (used). I drove one and my girlfriend drove the other. I loved them. The gas mileage, even driving like I did was 20 for the turbo and 25 for the non-turbo–way better than my Denali today. I didn’t do much work on them myself–everything was crammed in there so tight–thankfully not very much went wrong with them, even driving them hard. The plastic gears in the moonroof were fragile and Expensive to replace==once I had to replace a few valves when the timing belt went—I didn’t even know about having to change a timing belt back then–that was about it for maintenance. Wow, did those cars hold the road!!
    and everytime I came to the hills of PA it was like someone dropped a bigger engine in–they were like a pack of huskies pulling at a sled to get to dinner in hills!!!

    I have toyed with the idea of getting a 968 several times …great site, thanks for the nostalgic moment.

  20. Nicholas says:

    @ Michael did you sell your 2 Porsches in PA? Back in 03 or 04, i bought a red 944 and a black turbo as a pair from the same guy in PA.

    I’m currently bringing my 87 944S back from sitting for a year. I charged the battery and it fired right up sounded a bit rough (lifter wise), but i’m attributing it to it being sitting for so long and the old gas.

    I’ve always used rennlist and clarks garage and haven’t had too much of a problem. Good article though.

  21. Ali Nasser says:

    Hi everybody, I am Ali and I am Omani from Sultanate Of Oman(Part of Arab Gulf). I have bought one 944 s2 1990 and it is in very good condition, I brought it from Japan before one monthe. Here I have faced some problems regarding to mechanical.I am watting your support.

    1. I need to replace Timing Belt.
    Question: Is it needs to replace full kit I mean bearings,tensioner and bulles or only the belt itself?? !!

    2. Because the car is Japan space, it has heater and i need to shutdown it ( stop it),because we do not need heaters in gulf as you know.
    it is running directly without stopping only when you swichoff the car, also cooling fans are running and stopping every 5 seconds, I am not sure this is maybe because still i did not fill the conditioning system with cooling gas.
    Question: How to stop that heter?

    Plez i need help quicly. I am saffering.

  22. Johan says:

    answer 1: only the belt will do unless the bearings make too much noise.
    answer 2: looks like ther’s something wrong with yhe switchs. To stop the heater just pull the fuse out.

    greetings Johan

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