Thoughts On Maintenance and the GT3 Loses Another Splitter

Porsche 911 GT3

Jack ponders the process of car maintenance and why some people object to paying to keep their cars healthy, and the GT3 gets some new brake pads.

I don’t know why, but paying for remedial work on my cars has never really bothered me that much. Some people seem to really resent paying for running repairs on their daily hacks, and maybe it’s that attitude of a car being a utility item that makes them riled at the thought of having to spend money on it.

To me, my cars are much more than that. They are a continual source of enjoyment for me. It would be like resenting your child having a birthday and having to spend money on a present for them to begrudge forking out for a new set of tyres or brake pads for one of my motors.

However, that doesn’t mean I relish the thought of spending vast sums trying to keep my cars running and I certainly don’t have a limitless budget to blow on them. When it’s time to put my hand in my pocket to replace a part, I always like to do my due diligence on the job. The first step is to find out if there is a better component than the OEM part available at a decent price. Next is to find out where can I buy it as cheaply as possible, and finally, find a trusted garage or mechanic to do the job.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that there are often many replacement parts for the 996 GT3 that profess to be superior to the OEM versions. Whether they actually are or not is often a hotbed of debate and conjecture on any Porsche performance forum you care to peruse. What is almost universally true is that these upgrade parts are much more expensive than the OEM parts they replace, as well as often being angled far more towards motorsport spec. I may like my trackdays, but I’m certainly not going to be entering the N24 in it any time soon. 3-way adjustable dampers I do not need!

Having said that, there are a couple of components that appear to be de rigueur for those that use their GT3 on track: a decent set of brake pads and an upgrade from the stock limited slip differential to the Porsche Motorsport Cup diff pack. Neither is noticeably more expensive than the OEM part they replace - though still in no way cheap! - but they’re significantly more durable and will last far longer with regular track use. So, using a spot of man maths, that makes them much cheaper, right?

When it comes to sourcing these parts I’ll often start by getting a quote from the place that is going to do the installation. Getting the parts and labour from the same place has the benefit of being nice and easy, though I find hiding one large combined bill from the wife is rather more difficult than losing two smaller ones that can be spaced out over a couple of weeks….

Shopping around is a bit of a drag but can provide some significant savings. I’ve had great luck sourcing parts in the USA in the past, though the savings are very much linked to the exchange rate. In days gone by the savings could be substantial, but now it’s a bit hit and miss as to whether you end up with saving at all. More recently, I’ve found that befriending people with similar cars at trackdays and on forums has unlocked a treasure trove of contacts for well-priced parts and services.

Lately, the latter question of who is going to carry out the work appears to have a default answer. Sports and Classic in Knutsford, owned and run by Mike, have been doing an excellent job of looking after all my needs as far as my Porsches have been concerned. His demeanour is spot on, his prices very competitive and his work is always excellent. The fact that he has just recently had a Hunter laser alignment and corner weighting setup installed and has consequently spent a lot of time tinkering with the suspension on his own 996 GT3 means I have a wealth of hands-on knowledge to pull from when it comes to setups. It should make any changes on my car a lot more straightforward should I decide to go for a more track-orientated setup, or to get a different balance out of it in the future. That kind of first-hand experience is invaluable with these kind of cars, I find.

So, why the discussion about remedial work on the car already, when I’ve only had it for a few months? Well, as I mentioned last month, the brake pads had seen better days. 911 Virgin had replaced both front and rear disks in their pre-sales prep but had decided to leave the partially-worn pads in place. A couple of trackdays had quickly seen these deteriorate and removing them from the calipers showed them to he heavily cracked and partially chunked.

I had originally though that the car had OEM pads all round, but on closer inspection the fronts had been replaced with the default Pagid RS29 “Yellow” pads and the rears were OEM. I think their condition was down to a combination of age and having being subjected to some big stops at Oulton Park on a recent trackday. I placed an order for some replacements from the USA, deciding to fit new Pagid RS29s at the front and RS14s at the rear. From what I gather, that combination appears to give the optimum braking balance and longevity on track when run with stock or Alcon discs (the recommended, if somewhat pricy alternative to the OEM discs). The full set of pads came in at about $650 plus a bit of shipping and tax.

Fitting pads is something I am more than comfortable doing myself and the whole job took no more than an hour. The design of the retaining pin in the front caliper was a bit different to what I was used to, but no big issue. I also took the opportunity to zip-tie the pad sensor cables up and out of the way. It’s just something I’ve always done with my track cars. I monitor the pads closely anyway and a false trigger from the sensors is not unknown on the track.

With the new pads fitted, the brakes are back to full fitness. The discs are already showing signs of cracking but it’s not severe and the cracks don’t join the cross-drilled holes at all. They will certainly last until the end of the year at this rate.

So, that was my first decent-sized bill on GT03 FAB. Unfortunately it was followed shortly afterwards by something I wasn’t expecting!

On the way to the trackday at Bedford (see report from last month) we encountered some rain of biblical proportions on the M6 Toll. It was so heavy that we were forced to slow to a crawl due to the complete lack of visibility. Once at Bedford the car was left to sit for a couple of hours while it received a wash, but on starting there was an obvious misfire and the Check Engine light even popped on for a minute before extinguishing itselt. A couple of laps and a bit of an ‘Italian tune-up’ later the misfire had gone and I continued with the event.

There were no further issues until a couple of weeks later when, driving home in the rain (again!), the car started to stutter under power at low revs. There was no Check Engine light illuminated but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the misfire had returned.

I made a quick call to Mike at S&C and the following morning I was sat outside his workshop waiting for him to arrive for work. An hour later I was on the way to work myself, the proud owner of 6 new coil packs and a bill I wasn’t really expecting.

Why wasn’t I expecting it? Well, only a couple of months before I bought the car it had undergone a full service and sparkplug change at an OPC, and in order to replace the sparkplugs the coil packs have to be removed. If you’re removing the coil packs you would think that the workshop engineer carrying out the work would at the very least note the condition of the coil packs while he has them in his hand. Apparently not, since the ones that came off the car were in a shocking state of repair and obviously had been for some time. You might question the competence of someone that had allegedly worked on the car in such close proximity to these heavily corroded units and had failed to notice their condition. It’s quite shocking, particularly from a main dealer workshop.

Thankfully Mike had a set in stock and fitting them is a relatively quick and easy job so after a coffee and a natter I was away with minimal fuss, happy, but a couple of hundred quid lighter.

Sadly, pads and coil packs haven’t been my only expenses over the last few weeks. I am now on my third Cup splitter. In jest a few people had suggested that I buy a job lot of these and that was before I even owned the car! It’s actually turning out to be a rather prophetic jibe as the body count is rising and my ability to keep them attached to the nose of the car is waning. The last one seemed to be on pretty firmly, but still decided to part company with the car in a very noisy fashion after it appeared to clip and catch on the slightest of steps onto that high grip surface you get on slip roads. OK, so I did have front boot full of shopping after a trip to Costco and I may well have been performing something amounting to an emergency stop down the slip road, but as it ripped off and shot under the wheels my first thought was that I’d ripped all the suspension from the car, so loud and fierce was the noise!

Luckily it was just the splitter and another hundred quid or so down the swanny. Even I would have baulked at having to rebuild the suspension!