944 Buyers Guide
So you have been thinking about buying a Porsche 944? They can be very reliable sport cars and a pleasure to own as long as the previous owner has taken care of them. Unfortunately those well maintained porsche 944's are starting to become few and far between. Many of the choices available today are offerings from well intentioned owners who were not aware of what they were getting into when they purchased their Porsche 944. While the cars may be getting older, it is still a Porsche and carries certain maintenance costs to keep them running at peak performance. How can you tell the difference between a Porsche 944 worth restoring and a car that should be avoided? Hopefully this guide will give you some helpful information for selecting the right car for you.
The Porsche 944 was first built in 1982 and released to the United States in 1983. That makes some early models over 30 years old. The Porsche 944, being a german designed performance car it requires many service items to be completed on a schedule. If required services on the car are missed too often or not completed at all this could lead to big problems with the car down the road. When considering purchasing a Porsche 944 it is an absolute must to check for service records and dates. Knowing what services have been completed on the car and when these repairs were completed will provide you with peace of mind that the car was well cared for. A well cared for Porsche 944 will shorten the list of maintenance items to complete in order to bring the car back to peak performance.
Here is a listing of the main Porsche 944 items to check for as well as other common known problem areas with the 944.
Interval: 30,000 mile or 3 yr inspection/replacement
The Porsche 944 engine is a 2.5L 4 cylinder engine. In order to keep the engine stable and vibration free the Porsche 944 Engine was design in included dual harmonic balancers. In this design the Porsche 944 has a central timing belt that also helps drive 2 internal harmonic balancers and the water pump.
When the timing belt on the car fails it will bend the valves and require a very pricey top end rebuild of the engine. When evaluating your car, if the seller can not prove that this service has been completed within 3 years or 30,000 miles then this should go on your immediate list.
This job requires very specific tools to complete and is not recommended for the average shade tree mechanic. The most critical tool to the repair is the Porsche belt tension gauge. A belt replaced at incorrect tension is very likely to fail. The best thing is to find a local porsche mechanic with the correct tools and have this job done correctly.
The replacement of the water pump is typically completed at the same time.
Cost: $1,500 - $2,000 (including water pump)
Brake Fluid Flush
Interval: 6,000 miles
The brakes on these things have large reservoirs and frequent flush and refill to maintain top performance and avoid failure. Worn and stagnant brake fluid could lead to Brake Failure.
The 944 has a unique transmission set-up. The gearbox is in the rear of the car by the differential. Fluid wears out and weakened viscosity leads to parts failure. On this car parts failure in the transmission = $$$. If this has not been done recently move this high on your list of things to do.
Known Problems with the Porsche 944
There are problems that every buyer should be aware of when shopping for a 944.
- Water: Check the front passenger and driver wells for wet carpet. Water is known to leak in from a rusty battery tray and front window seals.
- Water: Rear passenger areas or Hatch: There are many drain hoses in these cars. They often clog and cause water to pool in strange areas.
- Electrical: The ground wires often start to corrode and cause strange symptom. If you purchase a car plan to spend time cleaning grounds.
- Electrical: DME relays - These cars have tons of old relays that over time start to lose their internal soldering connections. The main one is called the DME relay. It can cause rough running or not starting issues. I keep a few spares in my car at all times.
- Headlight Motor: This can either be a relay or grounding issue. Often the headlights will continue to move up and down after being turned off or Not open at all.
- Power Steering: If you purchase one with power steering, be sure to inspect the rack for small leaks.
- Hatch Separation: Drive it and listen for creaking and rattling in the rear hatch. Overtime the trim on the hatch glass starts separating.
- Hatch Latch: Over time the Hatch Pins and Latch Catch start wearing leading to annoying rattles to the hatch just popping open over bumps.
- Odometer: These have a well known issue where the odometer gear start to wear out causing it not to register miles.
- Clutch Play: Should be about 1/8 inches before it starts to engage. There should not be excessive play or free travel in the pedals.
- Torque Tube bearing - The 944 uses a torque tube instead of a drive shaft. These bearing can wear out. Listen for vibration or horrible noise in the rear of the car.
- Wiper Motors: Quick to slow or wear out if left sitting. Sometimes a shot of light grease can get them working again.
- Hesitation or Missing under acceleration: This could indicate a few things. Most likely on higher mileage cars it is a AMF sensor problem.
944 Sport Seats
Interiors Option on the Porsche 944
The 944 has two main interiors styles.
The original style is very similar to the 924 and many parts are completely interchangeable. This style is easily identified by it's three independent circular gauges on the instrument panel. The leftmost is Engine Temperature, Fuel and lighting. The Center Gauge is Speedometer and Odometer. The Left most gauge is the tachometer and optional fuel consumption gauge.
There were two main seating options for the early Porsche 944 interior. The standard seat and the Sport Seating option. The sport seating option on the car featured larger side bolsters and deeper leg support. The larger seat side bolster helped keep drivers of the Porsche 944 in position while taking hard corners. Porsche 944's with the sport seating option is highly desired and sought after today.
Power controls in the early models included Widows and Mirrors.
The newer style was introduced mid year in 1985 and featured a more fluid sweeping dash with a multi cluster display for the driver. The center console was also updated for better ergonomics. Power seats were introduced as were air bags and 3 point restraints in the rear seating are.
Power Controls in the later models included Windows, Seats, Mirrors, Sunroof, heated seats. rear hatch release.
Porsche 944 Years and Models
944 Turbo (951)
944 Turbo S
Which model is your favorite Porsche body style
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Normal Aspiration vs. Turbo
The main engine for most of the Porsche 944 production life was a 2.5 litre inline 4 cylinder engine. This engine was available in a normally aspirated version and with a Turbo option.
The addition of the turbo added a performance boost to the 944 that rivaled and out performed the Porsche 911 carrera of its day.
When shopping for a turbo you will find that there are some minor body style changes apart from the rear badging. The most notable style change is to the aerodynamics on the front end of the car. The front has a wider profile and more air ducts to feed the engine. In the read of the car and additional spoiler was added to the underside of the car.
For the interior the only noticeable change in is the addition of the boost gauge.
When considering a turbo model you again will need to look for service records on the turbo and when, if ever there was a rebuild of the turbo. There are a number of problems with Vacuum line leaks and wastegate issues that can cause these cars to not boost correctly.
In addition to the DME control unit on 944's the turbo has a KLR turbo control unit. If either of these units go faulty it will cause problems. Due to the mounting location under the drivers seat, you will want to be wary of any visible signs of water damage.
What is normal?
There is a boost lag with tubo but it should not be excessive. You should see a Max boost of around 1.6-1.7 bar on the dash gauge. with smooth acceleration the whole way.
When turned off you will hear the cooling pump for the turbo hum. It should run for a few minutes and then cut off.
Problems, know that if you buy a turbo you will one day have issues. This is just a fact of ownership. Please don't take it as a negative as they a pure blast to drive. I just want you to be aware that the more moving pieces you add to a performance car the more that can go wrong.