July 27

2001 Porsche Boxster Blue Smoke



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC Canada. Vancouver's favourite auto service experience. We're talking cars. How you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2001 Porsche Boxster that had a smoking issue. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Yeah, so this vehicle, I don't know if it was towed or drove to the shop, but it had a pretty severe smoking issue. Blowing a lot of blue smoke. Pretty severe. So that's why it came to our shop. 

Mark: So the colours of smoke can actually tell you quite a bit about what's going on?

Bernie: Definitely. Blue smoke. Diesel is a little more complicated, but gasoline engines, blue smoke is very clear indication that it's oil. White smoke is coolant and black smoke would be too much fuel. So it's pretty apparent. But blue smoke is very apparent what it is.

There are a number of reasons you could have blue smoke on an internal combustion engine. I mean, bad piston rings, blown valve seals, like a valve seal or valve guide that's blown out. But what's most common on these vehicles and on many European cars this vintage, is a crank case, breather valve blows.

And what this does, you know, the crank case is sealed, but it has to breathe, otherwise the pressure would just blow all the gaskets out. So it has a breathing mechanism, which basically sucks air into the intake manifold and it'll just keep the pressure normalized.

But there are valves, it's a crank case vent valve. If the valve blows it, it can force oil into the intake system and that'll cause the engine to blow smoke. We determine pretty quickly that this valve had failed. But the interesting thing is we weren't actually able to run the engine because when we went to crank the engine over, it had actually hydraulically locked up.

There's so much oil that had gone from the crank case breather through the intake system that it actually locked the engine. So as a piston moves up in an internal combustion engine, it compresses air, but it won't compress fluids. So if you have a coolant leak, or you got water somehow, or coolant gets into the cylinder or oil, excessive oil, it's the first time I've ever seen a hydraulic lockup from too much oil. But the piston won't move beyond a certain point. So very bad thing. You know, if you engine's running and it happens, or you crank it over, you could bend a connecting rod or something like that. So it was pretty severe.

Mark: So any ideas about how that amount of oil got into the engine? 

Bernie: Well, basically the crank case breather had probably been bad for an exceptionally long time and the oil had just slowly accumulated and worked its way up in through the intake system. And it just pumped a massive amount of oil into the intake system and that the intake system is where the air gets sucked into the engine. So that's basically what happened. It just basically filled the actual engine cylinders full of oil, not the crank case where it's supposed to be. 

Mark: Even more than one cylinder was full? 

Bernie: Yeah. So it turned out there was four of them actually. When it was being worked on, Ed who was working on it, first thing pulled the six spark plugs out and manually rotated the engine. And he said four of them sprayed oil out. So, it was pretty bad. 

Mark: Not good. Not good at all. 

Bernie: No, not good at all. Not good at all. 

Mark: So what kind of repairs did you proceed with from there? 

Bernie: Well, first thing we did was we removed the crank case breather, verified it was bad. Removed the spark plugs. And then we needed to do is a major cleaning on the vehicle. Clean out the oil where we could. So we removed as much of the intake as we could. Didn't remove the entire intake manifold, but there's rubber boots and sections of the intake we were able to remove to get in there and clean out the oil.

We removed the exhaust system completely cuz it was full of oil. So this problem had not, you know, started just the day it came in, it had been going on for quite some time. The exhaust system was just loaded full of oil, the catalytic converters. So we cleaned all of them.

We basically sprayed cleaners in them. We ran it through our parts washing machine, cleaned it out, blew it out. The same with the mufflers. Cleaned everything out as much as we could. Pretty time consuming. Let's have a look at some pictures here. At the end of the day, we end up replacing the crank case, vent valve, the spark plugs, and all the oxygen sensors. That's kind of the full repair. So there's our Boxster still looking good after, well more than 20 years now. 

2001 Porsche Boxster Blue Smoke

That's the crank case vent valve right there. So this is the piece. It's very common failure in these vehicles and usually the time to replace is when you start the engine up and there's a puff of blue smoke comes out in the morning. That's usually an indication this part's bad. There can be other reasons, but this is the first thing to replace and it's not incredibly expensive as far as engine replacement parts.

2001 Porsche Boxster Blue Smoke

Another view of the valve here. So some of this attaches into the engine and some of it attaches to the intake system. There are various little ports and pieces and there's usually a rubber diaphragm valve in this area where I'm sort of rotating my mouse pointer. 

2001 Porsche Boxster Blue Smoke

Some of the other items we changed, spark plugs, oxygen sensors. 

2001 Porsche Boxster Blue Smoke

And I got a nice closeup view of the spark plug here. It's a little bit of a fuzzy picture, but you can see this spark plug's just absolutely coated in oil. So we replaced those parts. I mean, could we have cleaned them? And they may have worked, but while you have it out, why not just change it? 

2001 Porsche Boxster Blue Smoke

And there's, I think this is one of the rear catalytic converters. You can see a lot of oil just in this exhaust pipe area here. So these are parts of the intake system that we removed and cleaned.

2001 Porsche Boxster Blue Smoke

Now I got a video. So this is the smoking that happened after.

Mark: So this is after repair and now you're getting it ready to run.

Bernie: So that's still residual oil left in the exhaust system. Even after cleaning it.

Mark: And eventually that will just go away as that oil burns off. 

Bernie: It does. And we ran it for a long time, did a couple of road tests to make sure the car was good. Then I took it out for a very, very long drive. Went for, I dunno, probably 30 kilometre drive. And it's interesting. So you know, after a while you drive it, you don't see any smoke, and you pull over at a stoplight and then you can smell smoke and a little bit's burning. It's the kind of thing, you know, whenever you have a problem like this, the good thing about the the Boxster and any Porsche for that matter, is it's got a very short exhaust system.

You know, it's pretty much right there, everything's like compact, so there's not much to burn out. But if you have a sort of more conventional vehicle with an engine in the front, and then you know, the 10 or 12 feet of exhaust pipes going to the back of the vehicle. It can take a long time to burn that oil out because a lot of it, especially in the muffler is still cold for a long time. 

And you may actually have a vehicle repaired and fixed and then notice you go for drive up a long highway grade. And there's smoke coming out, and that's because the engine's getting hot in a way that it hasn't for a long time.

So if you ever had anything like that happen, like a massive coolant leak, like a cylinder head gasket blown, or anything that's got a lot of oil or coolant into the exhaust, it can cause that kind of issue down the road. 

Mark: So this car would've been smoking probably similar as that video we saw for quite a while.

Bernie: Absolutely. Yeah, I'd say it was probably driven a little too long. You know, normally when these crank case vent valves blow, they start going and you start the engine up and there's a big, huge cloud of smoke. And at that point people are going, well, I think I need to fix this.

And so I don't know, it's possible that it may have failed catastrophically really quickly, but that seems kind of unusual. I think it's something that would've accumulated over a little while. It probably would've been some earlier signs. But then sometimes you think, Hey, it's only does a little puff when I'd start it, it's cold. It's no big deal. But I would suspect it was probably bad for a while. 

Mark: So if the owner wanted to save himself some money, he would've done that repair the first time or very quickly after he saw that pop of smoke upon starting. 

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. That would've prevented all the you know, removing the exhaust system and the intake system and cleaning everything out and spark plugs and oxygen sensors and things like that. So yeah, it would've saved a lot of money. It's a good thing to do right off the bat. It's not an uncommon repair on these engines. It's a pretty common failure piece.

Mark: This is an older vehicle, for sure. So how are these 2001 Boxsters or Boxsters in general, for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, they're good. Pretty good cars. I mean, these have an IMS bearing which we know about the failure. If you know anything about Porsche's, the failure of the IMS bearing can be extremely catastrophic. And it generally gives you no warning. Usually by the time it's making noise and warning you or develops a big oil leak, it's too late. So it needs to be replaced as a maintenance item. It's not a cheap job, but it's way cheaper than waiting till it fails, when your whole engine is completely damaged.

So that's probably the biggest thing on these engines. Other than that, you know, it's a pretty reliable car. And the nice thing about Boxsters, especially these older ones, you can buy 'em for a pretty low price. So you can have a nice little, fun little Porsche sports car. This one's a convertible, you can bomb around in it and it's not an insanely expensive car. So pretty good.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Porsche in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website, pawlikautomotive.com, or you can call to book an appointment, (604) 327-7112. You can book either place, calling or on the website, but you have to book ahead. They're always busy. Thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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