After painting the steel roof beneath the bucket, I had to repaint some areas splintered by the roofers’ nails, and get rid of two old wasp nests at the very highest point of the cornice.

 

A mysterious, splintered hole appeared in the coping above where I am applying a tidy patch secured by many small brass screws to bend the plywood to the contour of the moulding.

 

I had a host of little jobs to do around the 1896 brick house which would have been at the upper end of my 40′ ladder.  But it is too heavy for me to put up by myself any more, and I can rent a really cool tool, an electrically-powered cage with which I can climb in comfort while taking along my power tools, paint, and mortar, all in the same trip.  Cash in some ways can be a substitute for youthful vigour.  Bet appreciated having our friend Les around to operate the hoist and easing the pressure on the spousal unit.

This is a shot from the May, 2016 session where over three days we scraped and painted whatever was white, wherever we could reach it from the bucket.

 

The only catch is the rig’s weight.  At 4200 pounds it’s a bit too much for my 4 cylinder Tacoma with its elderly and much-maligned frame.  Even the rated 3500 pounds towing capacity seems heavy for the venerable old truck.

Of course Ruby, my 04 Cayenne S, is rated for 7400 pounds, even if it has been sitting in disgrace since I concluded that her replacement, a 2014 Lexus es300h hybrid, costs 2.7 times less per mile to drive.  But I needed a relatively heavy duty vehicle to pick up the hoist an hour away in Kingston, and prices are down again on premium gas, so Ruby got the nod and a chance to redeem herself.

Ruby’s build sheet lists a factory trailer hitch for $2000 and change, yet it has given me fits to get trailer lights to work on the thing.  I finally used an adaptor for digital bulbs into which I drilled an additional 12V lead, the other end plugged in like a cigarette lighter to the rear-hatch 12V feed.  I connected the constant 12v feed to the running lights for the trailer.  Then the signal lights would work.  Brake lights?  Gee, Officer, they don’t work?  Are you sure?  I just have to remember to shut off the lights.

My son’s Cayenne has an after-market hitch and his lights work brilliantly.  My inability to solve this signal light mystery was not for a lack of trying, though it has removed Ruby from contention as a tug for my son’s 20X8.5 enclosed car trailer.

Anyhow, at the rental place Ruby of course refused to fire the Bil-Jax’s signal lights.  A bit of contact spray the rental agent had got them going.  Once under way, Ruby handled the long, unwieldy device quite well on the road, and we soon arrived at the farm.

It was when I had to take the Bil-Jax up and down a steep slope and along a terraced driveway that I gave Ruby’s low range and centre differential lock a chance to work. Both functioned flawlessly on an off-camber path which unweighted one wheel after another. The diff lock and low range shifted out as easily as they had engaged.  An ’04 Cayenne is a serious tow vehicle at 1 km/hr.  I wonder how many Cayenne owners have really tested the low-speed pulling abilities of their pigs?

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Les operated the Bil-Jax for all sessions, leaving me to juggle masonry, woodworking, and painting equipment in the bucket.

 

The Bil-Jax has a series of three hydraulic cylinders controlling booms.  The topmost boom had a fault whereby it started off with a vicious outward whack, regardless of whether it was asked to raise or lower the cage.  The instrument panel in the cage was ideally situated to injure a vertebrae on an unwarned passenger who was standing with his back to it, holding a pitcher of paint, for example.  Paint falls down through the expanded mesh of the cage without a problem, though it wreaks the usual havoc on brick and stone 40′ below.

Apart from the spilled-paint debacle, the rig allowed us to get a lot of brick repair, painting, tin roof painting, bee’s nest removal and the repair of a hole chewed by a squirrel into a chestnut fascia board 40′ above the ground.  Go figure.

 

Here I am at the height of an extended 40′ ladder, repairing the hole a squirrel carved in the fascia board of the house. A family of greys climbed the brick wall all winter to use their penthouse den.

The 110v feed in the Bil-Jax cage proved quite handy to run a reciprocating saw while I fitted a plug for this hole.   There’s also an air hose installed on each machine, though on the last one it was easier just to run a 100′ hose straight from the compressor to my nail gun.

At just under $300 CDN per day for rental or for a two-day weekend, I find the World of Rentals product a good value.

It turns out that Ruby still has considerable fun potential at the farm, even if Cayenne ownership seems rather fraught in comparison to the mindless ease of a Lexus hybrid’s.

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It was a simple task. Put the utility trailer back on the slightly elevated area where it sits in my trailer yard. There was a bit of a snow drift, but so what?

Before I knew it, Ruby was stuck. I disconnected the trailer and realized that there was a fair amount of snow in that drift, and the ground underneath was pretty icy.

Low range and diff lock did no good. I had forgotten all about traction control and how to turn it off. Maybe that is the button on the dash with a three-letter acronym.

Desirable characteristics of an off-road vehicle are flexibility, light weight, simple power train and aggressive tires. Ruby is the antithesis of this, regardless of winter tires, 4WD, differential lock and low range. She still behaves like a lead anvil once belly-hung on hard snow.

Towing requires a second driver because you can’t leave the car in neutral if you want to remove the key, and if you leave the key in the ignition, Ruby may lock you out if you jolt her through the tow rope.

I matched my 35 hp tractor to the Cayenne. With snowblower, cab and loader as well as loaded tires with chains, the TAFE weighs about the same as the Porsche. At 5400 pounds, Ruby is too much dead weight for my little tractors. My wife operated Ruby correctly and the behemoth came out of the snowdrift after several sharp tugs from the tractor through a 30′ tow strap. No, I did not hitch the strap to the tow ball. I looped it over and around the ball holder.

Ruby does fine on the highway, but I don’t want to go off-road with a vehicle I can’t push.

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In 2003 Porsche came out with a radical machine, a sport utility vehicle to compete with the Range Rover, the Mercedes G class, and the BMW X5. It had to outdo these established models in a crowded field. The engineers went to work, adapting a borrowed chassis from the VW Tuareg into an SUV which was also a Porsche.

The resulting Cayenne succeeded, to some extent. Its on-road handing was so good that many Porsche 911 owners happily added one to their garages because it was so much fun to drive. That level of sophistication did not come cheaply, though. In Canada, with taxes, the original V8 cars cost right around $100,000. and the turbos were even pricier.

Then some problems popped up with the V8 engines. It seems Porsche reduced weight and cost by gluing plastic coolant tubes into centre V of the engines, right above the starter. They also added some plastic T’s to route coolant on the turbo models. Both plastics turned out to have short lifespans. Coolant gushing over the starter and the automatic transmission caused both to fail with annoying regularity. Recalls and a class action suit came too late for the model’s reputation for reliability. Values plummeted.

Other quirks include a coolant-cooled alternator and in some cases a rear battery in addition to the one under the driver’s seat, though these features seem generally reliable, if bewildering to the new owner. On the other hand, air conditioning servos packed in a grease which becomes so stiff with age that it causes the servos to seize causes much angst to owners in regions experiencing extreme temperatures.

The V8 engines have a major lubrication problem in sub-zero temperatures: they don’t get enough oil at start-up to #5 to keep the rings from scraping the lining off the cylinder. Repeated extreme-cold starts with sludge impeding oil flow erode the cylinder wall, evidenced by an incremental ticking noise which eventually renders the engine unserviceable. When word of early engine failures got out, nobody wanted the prospect of a $30,000 engine rebuild. Cayennes dropped in value about that much.

Then came the drive shaft support bearing. For some reason Porsche engineers suspended the tube responsible for transmitting the torque of engines up to 500 hp with an eighth-inch thick rubber membrane. When it failed the symptom was commonly reported as: “An irate midget with a hammer pounding on the transmission tunnel.” Repairs cost about $1200. More depreciation occurred because the potential owners of these cars did not want to be saddled with further expenses.

Then came the do-it-yourselfers. As soon as used Cayenne values descended toward the magic $10K mark, the market changed significantly. Turns out the best way to fix the driveshaft was with a compress of short heater hose sections held in place with zip ties. A perfectly usable repair cost an hour under the car and about $10. They called it the Jimi Fix after the mechanic who did the first one on a Nissan pickup in an off-road race.

All owners had to do to protect their engines from the cold was keep them in insulated garages in winter and change the oil a lot, or else live in a warm climate.

Coolant tube repairs were more demanding, but aftermarket aluminum kits appeared everywhere. Some owners (myself included) were astonished to discover that the repair had already been done on recall years before on their Cayennes. It’s very hard to tell without opening up the engine. I bought mine on the assumption that it would need a $3000 coolant tube repair, and the price had been adjusted accordingly.

The surprise to the determined do-it-yourselfer was that, once the various glitches of the early cars were sorted, the Cayennes proved reliable.

The 5400 pound cars still use a lot of fuel, tires, and brakes. They are far from economical to drive. On the other hand, the bodies are very durable and most still look like new when they are scrapped because their engines have clicked themselves to death or overheated from coolant loss.

My son and I bought a pair of 2004 Cayenne S models because they are tremendous vehicles, priced artificially low, at about 1/3 the price of the desirable Toyota Land Cruiser. They make better tow vehicles, easily handling 7400 pounds in stock trim, and actually use less fuel than the off-road icon. With proper care the Cayenne engines are durable and offer very high performance, though the Land Cruiser has it all over the Cayenne in off-road performance and life expectancy.

A taste for black humour has pervaded the online Porsche Cayenne owner’s culture. Purchasing an early Porsche Cayenne without a full warranty was likened to “going naked.” Buying an ’04 to ’05 model was described as “cliff jumping.” But the naked cliff jumpers communicated among themselves and took a perverse pride in sorting out the various quirks of their “Pigs.”

The coach work on the Cayenne is of exceptionally high quality. Every reviewer who has driven one on the highway loves it. The bad reputation has cut the price of the early Cayennes down to where a knowledgeable do-it-yourselfer with moderately deep pockets can buy and own an outstanding car.

A car provides a space where you are effectively autonomous. This power is the result of mobility and anonymity. For the teenager its initial appeal is sudden control over vast distances. The process of conquering the previously inaccessible develops the taste for freedom in the forms of speed and unsupervised time with others, the chance to cut loose.

For my generation the car was the trysting place of young love. Woe betide the swain whose mechanical skills weren’t up to the task of reviving the battery of his car in the gravel pit at the end of a country road with the local clergyman’s daughter in the front seat beside him.

A car is its own economy. It provides mobility, the product, in return for considerable effort to pay its costs. This usually involves using that mobility to go to a variety of places of employment at regular hours, so the car imposes a discipline on the individual which we generally accept as normal in Western society.

Leaving the farm for life at university comes as a wrenching change to the young auto enthusiast. All of the sudden in a high-density environment, a car is a real nuisance and his newly acquired repair skills are in low demand. Parking on campus is prohibitively expensive. Cars are the fashion statements of well-to-do fathers and there is no correlation whatever between the price of the car in front of the residence and the level of satisfaction of the kid in the room above.

Walking provides amazing mobility in the microcosm of a university campus, but a bicycle is even better, if less anonymous. Kamikaze rushes across campus to the lunch room fill the need for speed, and the frequent short stair descents on the route provide adventure. Winter riding enhances these thrills, especially when a blast through a snowbank encounters a fire hydrant.

A car is a much warmer vehicle in winter than a bicycle. It is also much less likely to lose traction on an angled railway crossing under slush, or to spin out on glare ice and slide into a curb.

One’s first new car is a shining, wonderful thing, a sensual delight of smells, sounds, and G-forces. It comes with worry. The owner signs away his freedom in a contract promising to pay a significant amount, each month, for the foreseeable future. The new job imposes even more regularity to the driver’s life, this one with a 35 year contract.

Over the duration of this contract marriage and dogs, houses and kids happen, the trappings of a happy, successful life.

All to pay for that first new car.

The fill around our expensive septic tank seemed to be receding, and it had left what looked like a truck tire track along the uphill edge of it.  This did not look good for winter frost, so today I resolved to repair the damage.  I called Don Day, the installer, to ask him where I could find some topsoil which wasn’t frozen.  He offered a load today at about 1:00 from a basement he was digging in Seeley’s Bay.  I hitched Ruby to my newly acquired 1996 4X8 trailer and turned up on time for a half-yard bucket of beautiful, dry, clear, black topsoil.  A house is going on the site.

Our septic tank sits on a side hill, down below the basement of the stone house and above an old orchard.  The problem is getting a heavy vehicle up the hill or down from above without crushing the drain from the house to the tank.

On the twenty-minute drive home I thought about possible approaches to the septic tank, and eventually decided to try to deliver the trailer with Ruby because it would save scarce time, avoid re-hitching, and the last time I messed with this particular slope and a trailer, I’d rolled my lightweight Bolens tractor down it.

A narrow relic of a driveway makes its way around the house in classic Georgian style.  Below it is quite a steep slope which has challenged all vehicles, including the lamented Bolens.  The trick was to drive up the slope onto the narrow driveway, avoid an encroaching dogwood, gain the lip of the road with the trailer, and then, before the driveway ended in another landscaped slope, stop and prepare to back the trailer fifty feet to the septic tank in need of the fill.  The final approach ran around a corner with the dogwood on one side and a walnut on the other,  warning me not to venture too far over the edge onto the slope.

Ruby’s low range and differential lock work beautifully when one really needs them.  By my standards this was a difficult trailer-positioning job, and the Cayenne did its part with ease, even when one wheel and then another were forced to venture over the brink onto the slope below.  The differential lock simply engaged and the car continued backing the recalcitrant trailer up to the mark.

I shovelled vigorously and the dry topsoil had little frost in it, so the job was completed in the extremely restricted time frame allowed (snowstorm tonight).

Ruby did well.  I should have taken photos, but I was too busy.  Sorry.

My third-hand 2004 Cayenne S was built in 2003, so I guess it qualifies as an example for your question. Ruby came to me by railroad from Vancouver where it had led a sheltered life, I believe. With 125,000 km and evidence of a few minor fender-benders, I expected little from the $10,000 CDN car purchased off Craigslist.

The Ontario mechanics who inspected it were amazed at how new the car looked. “We don’t get 2004’s in that condition in here.”

To be fair, before its owner let it go, he had his mechanic pull the valve covers and repair a small oil leak, an “O” ring. This indy mechanic had done oil changes at 5,000 km throughout the car’s life, and he gave it another one on the way out the door.

So Ruby had a pretty good chance at its new life in Ontario.

The first thing to set right was the rear hatch. I replaced the struts. Things went back together well. The air conditioning was next. It was a mess of non-functioning actuators which clicked. I expended quite a bit of time and health switching out seven a/c actuators for a set off a 2010 I found on eBay. This was a very hard job when conducted from the foot wells by reaching up into the dash.

My constant worry with the car was the coolant pipes. I was convinced they’d fail at any moment. In fact they had already been replaced, but I had bought the parts and lifted the intake manifold before I figured that out. Bathos. Even with a good scope I couldn’t definitely say if a Cayenne has had the coolant replacement process or not.

Earlier I tracked a coolant leak to the reservoir and replaced one in perfect condition. The seal between the rubber hose and the reservoir had gotten a little crusty. All it took was a good rub with a finger, when disassembled.

The other worry has to do with cold-weather starts. #5 piston apparently doesn’t get enough lubrication for the first second of a sub-zero start on the S model, and this can produce a cumulative scrubbing of the cylinder liner, which produces a clicking sound and the eventual extinction of the engine.

So I keep Ruby in an insulated garage all winter and worry if I have to start it outside in the cold.

There’s been a deep rumble in the drive train since I bought the car. We couldn’t find it. Diffs and axles are fine, and it has not changed in 50,000 km.

The factory-installed trailer hitch opened up and plugged in nicely when I added the parts from Amazon.ca. But it won’t provide running lights to my trailers, and the unmodified hookup only fires the right signal light. I took it to an expert indy who suggested supplying the headlight/running light feed with a separate power supply because VW/Porsche trailer lights are so confounding to install. That works, sorta.

These gripes obscure my growing awareness that the 2003 Cayenne S, extra battery in the hatch and all, is by a wide margin the finest car I have ever owned. It was intended as a shop project and has become our main vehicle.

I do all maintenance in our hoist-equipped hobby shop. First came lower control arms for the safety check, then a front half axle removal and re-lube with fresh boots. Ignition coils were a perennial problem until I bought a set from Porsche. Then things settled right down. An O2 sensor failed and things settled down again as soon as I installed a new one, again from the increasingly-friendly Porsche parts guy.

Oil changes are quite a job. It takes about twenty minutes to remove the bottom plate which bars access to the two drain plugs. The plugs are torqued to 35 ft lb, which is just under the torque at which the 8mm Allen fittings destroy themselves. I keep extras. Don’t skimp on the compression washers which Porsche insists that I use to cushion the drain plugs. Every time I have recycled one, it has dripped a measurable amount of oil through until the next service.

My verbosity on the subject (sorry) shows my enthusiasm for this car. I love to work on and drive Ruby, and often make excuses to myself to take it out on long, solitary expeditions. In return, Ruby has proven reliable and not a major pain in the wallet, with the exception of fuel cost.

Is the 2003 Cayenne a good car? No. Fuel costs are too damned high. If that is your main criterion for a vehicular selection, buy a Prius. If you look at a car as an interesting Rubik’s cube, an early Cayenne which has had loving attention will provide a lot in return, especially if you have a hoist in your shop.

Ruby has been running like a dream since the OEM ignition coils went in.  Then this week she popped a Check Engine Light.  P0050.  Bank 2, Upstream Oxygen Sensor, Heater.

I read all I could find about the four faults which eventually showed up:  P0050, P0155, P2254, P2247.  The thing all descriptions have in common is that a likely cause is a failed O2 sensor in that location.

I checked the wires as well as I could without removing the sensor.  Everything seems fine, though the previous tech wound the wires up a few turns when he or she twisted the sensor in.  The sensor was also quite loose when I investigated with a 22 mm wrench.

Because I had the car on the hoist with the bottom plate off, I went ahead and did an oil change.  I also erased the codes in the faint hope that tightening the sensor would do the trick, but by the time I had completed the run-in of the new oil, P0050 had popped again.

I called around for an O2 sensor.  Porsche matched NAPA’s price for a BOSCH unit at $230 CDN* plus tax or $260, and offered the OEM model at a one-time price of $250 CDN plus HST.  The catch was that the BOSCH would be available next morning.  The Porsche item might take some time.

My son picked up the BOSCH sensor in Ottawa this morning.

More to come, no doubt.

*Before readers react in horror to this price, the U.S. dollar is trading at $1.34 CDN.  Pelican parts wants $134.50 USD for this part.  That would work out to $210 CDN with exchange and HST, so it’s hardly worth the delay,  1 1/2 hours of driving, bridge toll of $3.00, and a Kinek fee of $6.00 for the online product.  The Porsche price is also a few dollars cheaper than the NAPA price listed on the NAPA Canada website.  On the other hand, a Cayenne S has four of these sensors, all different, but all expensive.

This expense marks the first time I have given any serious thought to the high cost of maintaining this car.

UPDATE:  9 December, 2018

Charlie delivered the new O2 sensor from Ottawa and helped me remove the old one and thread in the new one.  An extra set of young, experienced hands was a big help.  Before the new sensor came, after I had changed Ruby’s oil I erased the codes and drove it briefly, then raised it, running, on the hoist to check for leaks.  By the time I had the car back on the floor it had popped P0050.

This time, so far at least, there are no codes.

While changing this sensor is no picnic, we both agreed that it was considerably easier than replacing the alternator on the family Lexus.

UPDATE:  10 December, 2018

The first hour of driving produced no codes.  Fuel mileage is marginally improved, back to the level it was before the sensor began to misbehave.

UPDATE:  14 December, 2018*

The OBDII meter moved back to my truck today.  Ruby seems fine, now.

*I actually made the switch yesterday, but such is the state of my triskaidekaphobia that I falsified the date <weak grin>.

UPDATE:  2 February, 2018

Ruby has been very well-behaved since the O2 sensor replacement.  With the OEM coils the engine is marvellously elastic, though fuel mileage has taken a beating with the switch to winter gas at the local stations.  On the other hand, gas prices have dropped sharply, and as long as premium is priced at under $1.25 per litre, Ruby’s replacement with a Prius AWD recedes into the future.