Where does it hurt, Ruby?

October 5, 2016

Today I pulled out to pass a minivan and the car began to shake.  I’d been expecting this.  At 127,000 km Ruby’s overdue for Cardan shaft work, so I eased out of traffic and skulked home, avoiding accelerating on hills to lessen the strain on the drivetrain.

Up onto the hoist Ruby went.  Off came the covering plate, and there was the carrier bearing, its rubber membrane cracked, but still in place.


Nonetheless, I set out with a knife to hack the thin rubber membrane away, then followed with an air-driven hone to polish the last of the rubber off the carrier bearing.

Unwilling to leave the bare metal to rust, I sprayed several coats of black shop paint in the general direction of the bearing case.

Then came the Jimi Fix.  As claimed, it was a “twenty-minute” procedure to compress a series of cross sections of heater hose between the bearing and its frame and hold them in position with a latticework of zip ties.  By the second hour of the twenty minutes Bet had warmed to the job and insisted that I lower Ruby  on the hoist “another inch” so that she could finish the last three ties at the top of the bearing.


We cut off the ends and back on went the plate which hides everything, and Ruby seemed as good as new.

But when I started up the “Check Engine” symbol popped.  Ruby idled roughly as I backed out of the garage, then showed an ominous triangular warning, so back into her nest she went.

The meter showed Error Code P0307.   Google told me that means a misfire on cylinder 7.  Off came a panel covering the left hand coils, fuel injectors, and spark plugs.  The various specialized screws and nuts weren’t about to stop me after the A/C actuator experience last week.  Out came coil #7.  Yep, a 2″ split right there on the side of the coil.

I ordered a set of eight from Amazon.ca, called it a night, and watched the Jays beat the Orioles with a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh.

The rubber on the bearing support was brittle and cracked, though strictly speaking the Jimi Fix had been premature.  Even though Ruby’s Cardan shaft had felt much sloppier than the new one on my son’s 04 Cayenne S, the bearing carrier had still been functional when I butchered it.

Update:  10 October, 2016

The coils arrived from Vancouver Island in four days.  As soon as I slipped a new one into place, Ruby’s engine settled right down.  Why the disproportionate reaction to a single missing cylinder?  Charlie explained that the unburned fuel alerts the O2 sensor, which then leans the whole bank of cylinders out to try to rectify the problem, so a single misfire affects four cylinders.  That made sense.

BTW:  Until that plastic cover removed to access the coils is properly screwed down, the engine seems alarmingly noisy.  It’s likely fuel injector noise, but to my fevered imagination it just had to be the dreaded start-up death rattle of Cayenne V8’s. Once the cover was properly installed, Ruby purred once again.

Ruby has returned to normal duty.  The drive shaft works fine, so I’d have to conclude that the Jimi fix seems a viable solution to a Cardan shaft problem, at least in the short term.  Ruby now has 127,500 km on the odometer.  I’ll report back on this periodically.

More Porsche Yoga, left side

September 22, 2016


Notice the screw in the photo above.  Any idea what’s wrong with that picture?  Today I wasted a day trying to cope with that bit of engineering stupidity.

“Germans would over-engineer butter!”

My long-time insurance broker grew up with a German father who was a Mercedes mechanic before he immigrated to Canada. I thought of Cordelia a few times today as I tried to make sense of the puzzle of five AC actuators crammed into adequate space for…none.

And anybody who would put a screw in the middle of the BACK of a cover in a space as confined as it is under the dash of a first-generation Cayenne, that engineer is either incompetent or a sadist.

For all I know my Lexus has a similar arrangement of actuators for its AC, but I’ll probably never find out: Lexus parts don’t break from a lack of lubrication after 125,000 km.

It’s easy to see why there are so many nused Cayennes on the market.  Not everybody wants to make a hobby of his car, and when the absurdity of a broken air conditioner goes past a certain point, out of the garage it goes to where enthusiasts like my son lie waiting.

Porsche Yoga

September 18, 2016


In need of a way to keep active I accidentally hit upon Porsche repair. HVAC work on the car demands long periods of kneeling on a matt with repeated stretching activities rather like yoga, so I have coined “Ruby Yoga” as the generic term for hours and days spent on this magnificent and exasperating puzzle which is an early model Cayenne.

16 September, 2016, evening

This morning ticking noises from the dash drove me to remove the glove compartment and associated trim in search of something I could bang into place and correct the problem.

I must specify that I haven’t road tested the car at this point, but in the case of the actuator attached to the white plastic rod, I removed it and discovered it was jammed at one end of its travel, so I pried the case apart with a couple of fine screw drivers.

The first of the many actuators (known on eBay as “AC Boxes”) opened up like a lunch box, revealing contents in good condition.  Because of the triple-reduction worm gears I couldn’t wiggle anything, so I popped the gears out and played with a tiny 12V battery and fine telephone wires, laying the bare contacts along the two poles attached to the end of the motor. This worked, so I added a couple of dabs of white grease to the gears and sent motor power along to the complex part at the other end whose gears also appeared to be intact.


Reversed polarity moved the arm back, so it seemed that the mystery part would still function.  Of course the touches of 12V were very brief, as the travel of the actuator is short, so I simply turned over my pair of wires to reverse the motor to complete each cycle.

After I had played with the thing enough to get the grease worked around the gears, I popped the top half of the case back on and put it back on the car.

When I turned on the key and experimented with heater buttons, the “recirculate” and “fresh-air” buttons caused the device to open and close an unseen flap by alternately pushing and pulling on the rod.

My harassment of the other actuator more properly falls into the burnt-fingers-methodology classification.  I could hear the thing trying to cycle, but I could only see the top of a white arm, or lever, where it joined a black box.  Let’s call it an arm for now.  It appeared to be stuck, with a wire or spring over the top of it.  I could just see one end, so I grabbed the scope and started probing, seeing if I could get a better idea of how it worked.  Wary of short circuits, I attempted to put tension on the spring with the lens of the scope, but opted for a forked green twig about ten inches long.  It moved the spring around in a satisfying manner, and it eventually settled in what looked like an appropriate slot from my perspective.

Further examination with the scope revealed a dark something connected to the white arm.  At first I had thought the arm wasn’t working because it had become disconnected from whatever it was supposed to push, but there was something dark and plastic moving around, enclosed by the white nylon.  So I bumped into the assembly a couple of times with the scope.  Didn’t seem to hurt anything.  I cycled the temperature selector from low to high.  The assembly seemed to be moving both ways now, and began to complete cycles.

I set the temperature  for 16 degrees, half-way on the dial, and called it a day.  I had unwisely taken the lower half of the dash off the driver’s side and would need to re-assemble it before any further testing, so I did that and then called it a day.

After breakfast I’ll take the Cayenne for a test drive and report further.

17 September, 2016

Still no heat in driver’s footwell.  The mystery actuator isn’t cycling this morning, so further examination is in order before I reassemble the right lower dash.‬

It stayed quiet at 16 degrees until I turned the heat up.  Then it started making noise again.  At MAX it quieted down, but provided no heat on the left side.  Chances are a part needs to be removed and examined, if not replaced.  There are sets of seven of these AC Boxes for sale used on eBay for $100.  I’m thinking about buying one.

Must examine the manual again.  Seems the actuators are bolted in groups to a metal plate which can be removed from below, though how and where is beyond me at this stage.

The manual keeps departing from illustrations of the actuators on their plates to show this heat exchanger which doesn’t look anything like the one behind the glove box. It explains how to remove one screw and open the thing to make space for the removal of the plates with the many actuators attached. Turns out the diagram refers to a small black plastic box way back in behind the obvious stuff, and there was no way on earth without a 5 mm box end wrench (I think) to get that screw out.

So I worked around it. There was room. Devilishly difficult job removing the two screws holding the plate for the single (surprise) temperature mixing solenoid, though. Took all day. For some reason my predecessor had installed one of those Porsche safety screws, a torx with a centre post, to guard access to this area. The manual had it as a Phillips. Fortunately, my Porsche-loving son has a set of them.

Once out, it was a simple matter to revive the actuator’s jammed mechanism, though. The white part of the hot air-blending adjustment mechanism plugs into a black box in there. The actuator arm is the mysterious black thing I couldn’t see yesterday. I reached in and wiggled that white arm and it came off in my hand. Seems it’s been repaired before and the O-ring which supposedly holds it in place no longer exists and there’s some wire holding it together. I carefully meshed the geared shaft back into the gears inside, still without the O-ring. It’s a bit reassuring to know that even the pros occasionally become desperate enough to jury-rig stuff on Porsches.

Equipment suggestion: a regular torx screwdriver is too short to reach the first screw holding the plate. For reassembly I used a Phillips screw and a long, thin screwdriver I use for assembling door latches.   I taped the screw to the driver and had it jammed in place within a half-hour. Easy.

The second screw? I left it for later. Figured I’d be back with an O-ring if the thing worked. Interestingly, I found the second screw had been so hard to remove because it had been jammed into the surrounding plastic moulding rather than into the metal clip which had come free of its slot and was sitting below. I could feel for my predecessor in this situation: he was on the clock; I have all of the time in the world.

Equipment suggestion: without the scope I would have had no hope of locating, let alone removing, that second screw. I used a 24” flexible device which takes screwdriver bits and holds them magnetically. It was too long for comfortable use in the Cayenne’s cabin. Perhaps if I had removed the passenger seat things would have been easier.

 18 September, 2016, 9:30 a.m.

Ruby’s back together and no worse for the wear I inflicted upon seats and doors. Cabin courtesy lights work normally, and no warning lights have appeared on the dash. I half expected a screen to pop up: “Unauthorized goon has tampered with HVAC controls!” Maybe that will wait until Ruby is fully warmed up.

For now, the AC blows cold all over and the annoying ticking in the dash has measurably reduced. No doubt I’ll have to go into the left side to get the rest of the clicks and some heat to the driver, but that will be an adventure for another day after I have acquired a few small tools and perhaps a set of used actuators, or AC boxes, as they call them on eBay.

Tool wish list:

5/5.5 mm box end wrench

Torx size 20 (safety) screwdriver with a long shaft

Set of replacement actuators for AC

Annotated Bibliography

2003-2008 Porsche Cayenne Repair Manual sourced online for $15 US, it proved to contain valuable and occasionally accurate information, at least on the mysteries of the HVAC system. The big surprise was that my car Ruby contained fewer of the offending actuators than the diagrams promised, and it made no mention whatever of the first one I worked on, the actuator bolted to the big air box sitting behind the glove compartment. But it told me the location of mystery screws so that I could locate them with my scope and labour to remove them.

Ada comes into our lives

September 15, 2016



Yesterday was the beginning of the full moon, so Ada Croskery decided it was time to enter the world at Ottawa General Hospital.  To the delight of Roz and Charlie and the four assembled grandparents, she presented herself as a good natured and inquisitive little creature, undisturbed by the flocking parental units brandishing phone cameras.

Welcome to the world of the selfie, Ada.

I keep telling myself that the birth of a child is the most ordinary thing in the world, but I don’t believe it for an instant.  This is the first grandchild for Ken and Helen Dakin of Burlington, as well as for Bet and me.

While the “competing grandparents” waited in a surprisingly comfortable waiting room for Roz’s 2-hour push, we were joined by a frazzled young woman with three rambunctious toddlers of Haitian ancestry.  Their single mother had come in for a routine checkup with the kids in tow, only to be sent for an immediate c-section.  This kind French-Canadian friend did her best to ride herd on the well dressed but tired and very loud kids who seemed to range from two to five in age.  They had nowhere else to go without their mother.

At length Charlie came along, proud as punch, to announce that Ada Croskery had entered the world — no middle name yet — and that we would be able to visit the family in the birthing room in a few minutes.  A study in contrasts awaited us as Bet and Helen, arm in arm, parted the curtain to meet The One.  Roz was a study in composure.  Ada was relaxed, a little sleepy, but primarily aware of her tongue and upper lip.  To my untrained eye, she looked a lot like a small Cabbage Patch doll.  Maybe it was the toque and the tight swaddling which made her into a 24″ package, readily passed about among the grandmothers.

Roz was a bit tentative on the kid-holding, keeping her positioned across her chest and patting the part of the package opposite to her head.  I assumed there were feet down there, but she could have had a tail for all I knew.  Bet assured me that Biologist Roz would have made sure all of the parts were there.

If she could focus at the time, Ada’s first impression of family members would have to involve smart phone cameras, flashing gently but incessantly.  Charlie had assured us that the flashes wouldn’t be a problem for her.

So today Ada will make the journey home to the family’s downtown apartment.  This will be a new driving challenge for Charlie.  Roz’s mother will stay around for a couple of days to help out, and then they’ll be on their own.  The apartment is a ten minute walk from Charlie’s office, though, so he hopes to get home for lunch each day to give Roz a break.

So away they go down the dizzying slide of parenthood, while we oldsters, bolstered by the new relevance, content ourselves with acquiring trinkets and making plans for visits and Thanksgiving.

It was time to register Ruby in Ontario, so we drove through an emissions test at an oil changing station in Kingston.  No problem.

Then we followed my mechanic’s lead to a new Midas franchise.  At Brian’s request they took Ruby right in for the mechanical fitness inspection.  After a long and thorough inspection and numerous consultations with colleagues, the mechanic reported three items which needed to be replaced before a pass:  both front lower ball joints, and the rear  wiper blade.  Three staff members commented on the lack of corrosion on Ruby’s underbody.  “You don’t see cars like this in Ontario.”

But then came the quote for the parts.  At $455 per after-market control arm, the bill would come to over $1100. plus installation.  I showed the service manager the same parts listed for $99 each on Amazon.com, and we arranged for me to bring  the car back in after I had completed the work.

So I hit the “order” button on my phone.  24 hours later the parts appeared at the local Kinek outlet at Wellesley Island Building Supply,  just across the Hill Island Bridge.


Following these online instructions carefully, I had no difficulty removing the right control arm.

Then I discovered that a $99 control arm may have the odd fit issue.  The casting and bushings looked good on the new unit, but the whole thing seemed bigger than the French one I took out.  Specifically, the threaded tail of the ball joint was about 1/2 inch too long.  With the bump on top of the socket, the unit wouldn’t fit beneath the quarter shaft so that the ball joint could drop into its space. It was too big to fit.   I was forced to round off the top with an angle grinder, and cut 3/8″ off the threaded part.  Then it worked.

I finished my first control arm installation with a fervent hope they could align the car with the new part.  I suspected that it had gone on pretty straight, as I had marked everything and replaced it carefully.  The instructions warned not to turn the bolt heads when removing them to protect the slotted bolts and eccentric washers, so I had to do a lot of box-end wrenching, but it really wasn’t a bad job.
Update, 2 September, 2016
At 4:30 a.m. I had the thought:  “If I can get that other control arm on before 8:00 a.m., I could probably get an alignment today, and thus have Ruby for the long weekend.”
The shop lights came on before 5:00.  The left control arm came off without difficulty.  It’s great working on a vehicle which has no corrosion.
The new part didn’t fit any better than the other one, so I ground away on the thing as much as I thought was wise, but the ball joint still wouldn’t drop into its space.
There was a large metal clamp in the way.  It runs around one of the two rubber boots on the front drive shaft, joining it to the wheel bearing, brake rotor, and so on.  And some slob had stuck the thing on precisely where I had to attach the ball joint (with attached control arm).  And there wasn’t room.
I couldn’t remove the clamp, because replacing it requires a specialized tool we do not have in the shop.  In desperation I decided to try to slide the clamp around the CV joint, and thus out of my way.  I found a wrench consisting of a short metal bar with a hook and a length of bicycle chain.  Before long I had the chain in place around the circumference of the clamp.  I hooked in at the right point and applied the considerable leverage of the bar to the gripping power of a tight bike chain.
The whole thing:  chain, clamp, CV boot, brake rotor, driveshaft and all, smoothly rotated around out of the way.  Duh!  It turns!  It’s a driveshaft!
A little embarrassed at such a rookie mistake, I popped the now-cooperative control arm into place and finished up the installation.
At 7:30 I landed a 9:00 appointment at Hank’s Tire in Smiths Falls for the alignment.
Take Your Kid to Work Day was a big thing in the late 90’s.  Grade 9 kids got to see what their parents did all day.  I’ll never forget one kid whose task had been to help assemble a helicopter engine and install it on a military chopper.  Then he balked at going along on the test flight.  “There was no way I was going to fly in something that I’ve worked on.”
I felt a bit like that boy as I eased Ruby out of the garage, down the lane, and eventually out into traffic on Highway 15.  What do I do if something breaks or falls off?
The car rode well on the highway, though the steering wheel was a little off centre and it pulled slightly to the right.
At Hank’s Tire, Slim allowed me to watch the 4 wheel alignment.  He explained what he did to the various bolts and kidded me about my slowness at doing a routine job.  “If you can’t change a pair of control arms in under an hour, you’d better find another line of work.  We’re not hiring you.”  Then he showed me on the computer screen that my left front wheel was perfect.  The right towed out slightly, but was easily corrected.  The right rear had excessive toe-in, so he adjusted it, as well.
He took off for a test drive and blamed the tires for the extensive road noise in the cabin.  We agreed that we’d know when the winter tires go on.



There are a couple of decent instructional videos on You-Tube which show the replacement of rear door struts on Porsche Cayennes, but there are some gaps which my assistant and I explored recently on our project car, a 2004 Cayenne named Ruby.




The videos do a good job on the disassembly process up to the point that you and your screwdriver must work in the dark to release the old struts from the balls onto which they are clipped.  The comments which follow may allow the reader to avoid an evening of  burnt-fingers thrashing about similar to the one I enjoyed last night.

Don’t bother with the clip which holds the cup onto the forward ball.  You can’t reach it.  The ball is very sturdy and you won’t be re-using the strut.  Pry it off with a large screwdriver and brute force, applied in the direction of the centre of the car, wherever you can find leverage in the restricted area.  Yes, that’s an explosive air bag an inch or so to the side of your screwdriver, but the cavity where these struts hang out is good, solid metal.

Once it is released, get into the back seat and reach over the headrest to remove the rear cup. Push or pry it away from the centre of the car.  From the back seat with the help of a light you can actually see what you’re doing.  Once the strut comes free, push it as far forward as you can, wiggle it to the best possible location to remove it, then persuade it out by compressing it a bit with the large screwdriver levered against the very sturdy sheet metal in this area.

Installing the new struts:

1.  My aftermarket struts arrived with both cups on the ends oriented in the same direction.  I needed to rotate one of these 180 degrees.  This involves the services of a vice and pliers or some other brute-force applicator, as the cups clip on in opposite directions.  A little grease on the cups would be a good idea.

2.  There is actually a line of sight up to the forward ball from the rear luggage compartment, and you can see well enough to place the strut-end on the ball — as long as it isn’t actually up in the cavity where you must install it.  Don’t put it on yet.  Once you have forced both ends of the strut into the cavity (which is 1/8″ too short for it) this advantage is lost, but at least you know where it should go.

3.  If you’ve put a bit of grease on the cups, the first “click” onto the front ball goes very easily.  (Getting it off again is another matter, so don’t experiment too much here.)  The second click onto the rear ball (on the other end) can be achieved  (from the back seat again) if and only if the rear door is held at the correct height.  A piece of scrap lumber from the shop, band-sawn to the contour of the door’s bottom so that it held the door’s lower edge 75 1/4″ from the garage floor, allowed both ends of the strut to pop in without the use of force.  There’s enough taper to the bottom edge of the door to allow for some adjustment using this dimension.



Reassembly:   The videos do a good job on most of this, so I’ll just offer a couple of observations.

1.  The plastic panels are quite durable.  Removing pulled-out clips from the sheet metal slots on the body and re-attaching them to the panels is not a delicate procedure.  Just remember those explosive air bags and take your time and be careful to locate all pins and reconnect them to the plastic panels.  I kept loose metal parts on a magnetic tray in the hatch with me.  You do not want to lose a screw.

2. Those white filler pieces gave me the most trouble, even after I had photographed one to determine its position relative to the panels and the cable before I removed it.  HINT:  start with the screw the furthest from you.  I wasted far too many minutes trying to find its hole after I left it until last.


3. Lost speaker wires can be recovered from the luggage compartments below on either side.

4.  The trim panel won’t fit properly until you have screwed the tiny torx screw into that safety-screen holder.  That tightens the whole thing up.  The trailing end of the left side panel on mine decided to act up.  There’s a plastic pin on it which refused to reunite with the corresponding hole on the black piece below.  A few probes by a 5/8″ woodworking chisel with a view to cutting the pin off (there was none on the right side) resulted in the trim popping into place, so I put the chisel away, recalcitrant pin intact.

The Porsche feeling:

The car is more my own after I have taken it apart and fixed it.

The You-Tube videos gave me the courage to tackle the job.   Initially it was a challenge for a non-mechanic, but once I realized that the  components are quite durable and there is room for the use of common sense in Porsche repair, it went well.

Parts for Ruby

August 28, 2016


Ruby’s rear hatch only remains up during certain combinations of heat and humidity.  Charlie and Roz had held it in place with an umbrella, but I yearned for a wrenching project on the car as far as possible from the oil pump, lest I mess it up.

I acquainted myself with the strut-replacement procedures by watching and rewatching the You-Tube videos and ordered the parts from Amazon.com.  They arrived at the Kinek outlet on Wellesley Island, NY, within two days.  The price was reasonable, shipping was included, and I really didn’t have anything to complain about.

But does this quantity of packaging for the two small black parts in the foreground look reasonable?