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Understanding The VIN

by james on 02 Sep 2016
Understanding the VIN   Every vehicle manufactured since 1954 carries a unique identifier, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).  Since 1979 there has been a global VIN standard so that all VIN’s follow the same format.  The VIN, as its name suggests, identifies the car uniquely, and the manufacturer releases information associated with the VIN.  As manufacturers offer an increasingly wide and deep set of ‘options’ with new vehicles, the VIN becomes more and more important in identifying which parts fit which particular vehicle.   Fortunately for me (and for you, too), MINI and Porsche have stuck to fairly well defined formulae for their cars, so that a lot of the time components such as brakes, clutches and service items can be identified by knowing the car’s model and year.  One notable distinction is identifying the correct steering column switch assembly for 986 Boxster and 996 series 911’s.  In these cars there were 4 different switch assemblies offered: Two lever switch Three lever switch with cruise control Four lever witch with cruise control and onboard computer Three lever switch with onboard computer but no cruise control (this option was mostly fitted to GT3 models)   The manufacturers work with their chosen software partner to make the information available, usually at a price.  So, if you want to look up Porsche information, filtered by VIN, you can subscribe to a service called Partslink24, which provides parts diagrams for every roadgoing model Porsche ever built, from the 356 up to the new (at the time of writing) Boxster and Cayman 718.  (Taking time out en route to geek out over the 959, Carrera GT and 918.)   MINI owners can also use Partslink24 to get information about their cars, but if you have a MINI, you can also get car-specific information at http://www.realoem.com/bmw/enUS/select (Note that MINI’s are searchable by the serial number, which is the last 7 characters of the VIN).   The following table breaks down the 17 characters of the VIN:   Char Value/Meaning 1 Manufacturer identifier MINI use WMW Porsche use WP0 for sports cars, WP1 for SUV’s 2 3 4 General vehicle characteristics.  Australian Porsches will all have ‘ZZZ’ in position 4-6 and the first 2 characters of the model code, followed by a Z in position 9. 5 6 7 8 9 10 Position 10 – 17 are used for vehicle specific information. 11 12 13 14 15 16 17   …and here is a sample Porsche VIN in detail:   W Germany (‘W’ is a carry over from West Germany) P Porsche 0 Sports Car Z These three are always Z for Australian delivered cars Z Z 9 First two characters of the model type 9 Z Always a Z for Australian delivered cars B 2011 model year S Made in Stuttgart 7 Third character of the model type – so this car is a 997 1 Not used in Australia 3 Serial number (designates vehicle type in US market) 1 8 2   Fortunately, for most of the parts sold by Master Parts, it’s enough to know your car’s model year, but if you are ever unsure of the correct part for your car, feel free to call, email or contact us online to identify the right part for your car.

Who Made This?

by james on 22 Dec 2015
Who Made This?   In the world of medicine, you will often have the choice between brand name drugs or generic equivalents.  Developing new (pharmaceutical drugs) is big business.  To protect the company’s investment in R&D, the drug company has a window during which their patented drug may not be copied.  The drug company has a short-lived monopoly, and generally prices the drug the way you would expect a monopolist to price, i.e, they charge like a wounded bull.  Once the patent expires, other companies may market their versions of the drug and all those lovely free market forces come into play, so generic drugs are usually vastly cheaper than the brand name drug.   With drugs, unless you are an analytical chemist, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are buying.  (Although if you want to test for fake little blue pills, it’s not hard.)  Judging by the enormous numbers of spam emails which I receive for gentlemen’s strengthening tablets, there is an enormous market out there for fake pharmaceuticals.  And where a generic drug contains the same active ingredient as the brand name equivalent, a fake drug is exactly that: a sugar coated piece of chalk.   There’s a strong incentive to make fake drugs: the margins are enormous.  I don’t know what the chalk costs, but having researched this stuff, for purely academic reasons, I suspect I am in the wrong business entirely.  The little blue pills sell for around $4 each.  That’s good margin for chalk!   In the world of car parts, it’s a similar story, with hopefully a lot less spam involved.  The pecking order for car parts goes mostly like this: Genuine Parts OEM Parts Aftermarket Parts Fake Parts   Genuine parts carry the marque’s branding.  For some parts, there is no option.  If you want a steering column switch for your Porsche Boxster or 996, it’s a genuine Porsche part.   OEM parts are the same parts as fitted in the factory, but with the manufacturer’s branding.  If you buy a genuine MINI oil filter, you get a Mahle filter in a MINI box.  If you buy genuine Porsche brake pads, you get either Pagid or Textar pads in a Porsche box.  What you don’t get with OEM parts is the ‘genuine’ price.  This is why Master Parts sells OEM parts as far as possible.    Aftermarket parts covers a broad range, from high quality items manufactured by reputable brands, to parts that are just plain junk.  If a Mahle oil filter for a particular car is not the factory fitment, then that filter is not OEM, but it can get murky.  F’rinstance if Porsche use a Mahle oil filter for one model, and a Mann cabin air filter, then Mahle are OEM for oil filters, but aftermarket for cabin filters for that model.  Some aftermarket parts are indistinguishable from OEM (and genuine) parts, and in some cases it doesn’t really matter.  Cabin air filters are probably a good example.  There’s probably very little down side risk to using an aftermarket cabin air filter, but you’d be brave if you made it your mission in life to seek out the cheapest oil filter for your car.   The tricky thing with the term ‘aftermarket’ parts is that it covers everything from totally unserviceable items that bear a passing resemblance to useful car parts to items that are substantial improvements over the factory fitted items.  Within the Master Parts range, examples of aftermarket parts that are upgrades from factory fit items are: Numeric Racing shifters and cables for 996/7 and 986/7 models BMP aluminium coolant reservoirs for R53 MINI Cooper S L and N Engineering IMS bearing updates for 996 and 986 model Porsches   And then there are fake parts.  Piracy in car parts really does exist.  I’ve been shown examples of fake oil filters, air filters, clutch components and brake pads.  It goes without saying that buying fake parts is just not worth it.  Of course, nobody would knowingly buy fake parts but the old wisdom holds true: if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.   So, the question arises: If you have a choice, which car parts should you buy?  The answer is simple:  First prize is OEM, where this is available.  You get genuine part quality without genuine part prices.  If OEM is not available, look for OEM equivalent aftermarket parts.  Within the parts you’ll find on materparts.com.au we’ve made every effort to indicate the part’s manufacturer, and if you are interested in a part that doesn’t have a manufacturer identified, please ask.  

February 2015

What is an IMS and Why Should I Care?

 by james on 12 Feb 2015 |
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IMS is an acronym for intermediate shaft.  The intermediate shaft is part of the valve timing mechanism, which links the camshafts to the crankshaft, to ensure that valves open and close at the right points in the combustion cycle.  The problem – such as it is – relates to the IMS bearing, rather than the IMS itself, and it is the Achilles heel of Porsche’s M96 series of engines, used in 986 series Boxsters, 996 series 911’s and the very first cars in the 987 and 997 series.   Over the life of the M96 engine design, two different IMS bearings were used.  Early cars had a double row bearing and later cars had a single row bearing.  There is no way, short of inspecting the bearing, to know whether a particular car has a single row or double row bearing.  It’s generally safe to assume that cars from 1998 – 2000 will have a double row bearing and cars from 2003 – 2004 will have a single row bearing, but it seems that the crossover was a fuzzy one.  Even the car’s VIN will not provide a definitive answer.   If IMS bearing failure is not detected as a rumbling in its early stages, the bearing breaks up, taking the engine with it.  Unfortunately it’s impossible to know exactly what ‘some cars’ really means.  Trawling the internet will reveal estimated failure rates of anywhere from 1% upwards, but it seems that nobody really knows what the failure rate is.  It does seem that cars with the earlier double row IMS bearing are less susceptible to this failure and that cars that are driven enthusiastically are less likely to have an IMS bearing failure than cars that are mollycoddled.   There are various aftermarket solutions out there, and the market leader is the L&N Engineering IMS Solution.  The recommendation is that this part is treated as a consumable, and replaced when the clutch is replaced.  Replacing the IMS bearing with the clutch lets you save on workshop labour cost (or time if you are tackling the job yourself).   Given that most of these cars are likely to be used as weekend playthings, in practical terms this means every 5-10 years. Important Caveat: Installing an IMS bearing is a non-trivial task.  Get it wrong, and the consequences will be serious, immediate and expensive to remedy!  Give very strong consideration to letting a Porsche specialist workshop tackle the installation.   With the flywheel removed, you should also inspect the rear main seal.  If the seal is weeping or leaking, it needs to be replaced.  If the area around the rear main seal is dry of oil, you will need to make a call as to whether it is worth replacing anyway.  The advantage to replacing a still-dry seal with a new one is that the old seal is likely to be brittle and may be nearing the end of its life.  Best advice is to replace the rear main seal while you’re there.  Oil the new seal as part of installation, and ensure that it is installed straight.   The question of whether to go the upgrade route is best answered by Clint Eastwood’s famous question “Are ya feeling lucky?”  From a rational, statistical standpoint, it may not be worth doing.  However, as the actual failure rate is unknown, and the costs of failure are high, it’s worth doing for the peace of mind.  Installing an uprated IMS bearing allows peace of mind by mitigating a potentially very expensive risk.  (It’s the mirror image of buying a Lotto ticket, where the costs of buying are small but the potential gains are huge, which trumps the “idiot tax” aspect of gambling.)   The next question is whether you should be tackling this job yourself.  And the likely answer is “probably not”.  It’s a procedure with enormous potential for expensive and heartbreaking error.  It’s the sort of job that should only be done by somebody who’s done it before and understands what needs to be done to avoid destroying your engine’s valve timing.  Master Parts newsletter subscriber Pamela Talaue opted to entrust the work to her chosen Porsche independent workshop, and you can read her story here .    If you’ve read this far and you want a modern 911, Boxster or Cayman, but don’t want to worry about IMS bearings, all is not lost.  Apart from the very first cars off the production line, the first generation 997 and 987 engines used a beefier IMS bearing, which seems more reliable than that used in 996 and 986 series cars.  The second generation 997 and 987 cars had a totally new engine design, often referred to as the DFI (oh yay, another acronym!) engines.  DFI stands for direct fuel injection; in these engines fuel is injected directly into the cylinder instead of into a plenum.  These engines do away with the intermediate shaft completely.   And there is another way…   The engine used in 996 and 997 Turbo, GT3 and GT2 models is a totally different design.  This engine is known as the Mezger engine, after the man who designed it.  The Mezger engine traces its lineage from the original air cooled flat 6 engines through to the watercooled endurance race car engines of the 90's.  It's a good way to avoid the potential issues associated with IMS bearings, but it's an expensive option.   Parts Needed IMS Solution – Double Row or Single Row IMS Toolkit – For removal of old IMS bearing and correct installation of new bearing.  Note that this tool kit does not lock the valve timing. 8 Flywheel Bolts (because the flywheel needs to be removed to gain access to the IMS cover) Clutch Kit The following are available: Boxster 2.5 Clutch Kit Boxster 2.7 Clutch Kit Boxster S Clutch Kit 996 Carrera/Carrera 4 Clutch Kit 1999 – 2001 996 Carrera/Carrera 4 Clutch Kit 2002 – 2004 Flywheel for Boxster 2.5/2.7 Flywheel for Boxster S Flywheel for 996 Carrera/Carrera4/C4S Rear Main Seal
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All pictures and references to the brands and logos are for reference only, and do not imply any association with the brandholders. Most parts offered are OEM or quality aftermarket parts.  Genuine Porsche or MINI parts are specifically identified as such.  Master Parts  is not responsible for any typographical errors contained within the site.   Information within this website is for reference only.   It is your responsibility to verify that you are technically competent to carry out repair and maintenance procedures.  By entering this site, you agree to hold Master Parts free from any liability arising out of the use of any information contained within.
 
Master Parts is Australian owned and operated in Australia, for Australian customers.
ABN 56 151 486 654
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