Porsche 944 turbo Bruces Anderson's buying guide

944 Turbo (originally by Bruce Anderson)

The 944 Turbo was introduced at the end of 1985 and 432 were built for US and Canada. The turbo has 220 horsepower, and torque was increased from the 144 lb. ft. of the normally aspirated 944 up to 243 lb. ft. at 3500 rpm. The aerodynamics were improved with a new Poly Urethane front bumper/spoiler with additional air inlets for cooling the charge air intercooler and the brakes. New under panels were added to clean up the under body aerodynamics. Plastic side pieces protrude down between the wheel openings and act as side spoilers cleaning up the air flow. The rear also has a cowling mounted under the rear body to clean up and direct the air flow under the rear of the car. The turbo also had the four piston Brembo brake calipers that were also used on the 1986 928 and are referred to as "928 brakes". The standard wheels on the turbo were the "Telephone Dial" style wheels from the 928, 7 x 16 (205/55 VR 16 tires) front and 8 x 16 rear (225/50 VR 16 tires).

The 1987 944 Turbo had ABS brakes and air bags. The Porsche Turbo was the first car to offer airbags for both the driver and passenger. For 1987 the 944 Turbo was offered with the cast "Telephone Dial" wheels as standard equipment 7 x 16 (205/55 VR 16 tires) front and 8 x 16 rear (225/50 VR 16 tires), but with forged wheels with a slot in the same sizes as an option. Also optionally available were 8 x 16 (225/50 VR 16 tires) front and 9 x16 rear (245/45 VR 16 tires) in both the forged slotted design and cast magnesium "Telephone Dial" style wheels.

The standard 944 Turbos are a very desirable car that is available in this price category. The price range for these 944 Turbos is from a low of $11,200 to a high of about $20,000 so you can find really nice cars at our price of $18,000. On the down side the 944 Turbos have the same weaknesses as the standard 944 Turbo. However, the good news is that I have a friend who has a 1986 944 Turbo who had 182,000 miles on his a couple of weeks ago when I saw him. He has replaced a couple of water pumps, one head gasket and a couple of rear axles plus the regular belt maintenance every 30-45,000 miles.

944 TURBO S In the August issue we talked about the 944 turbos as Porsches that you could buy for $18,000 and I told you that they were fun reliable cars to own. In 1988 Porsche introduced an even more fun S version of their 944 Turbo. If you have liked any of the 924/944s models at all, in any of their various forms you will absolutely love the 944 Turbo S. Built as the S model mid year in 1988 this car became the standard 944 Turbo in 1989 and thereafter, unfortunately 1989 was our last year to receive the Turbo version of the 944. Here is a four cylinder Porsche that will blow the doors off the 911s and with grace and decorum besides. You're probably saying, oh yea, how about acceleration and top speed? Actually that was what I meant when I said it would blow the doors off the 911, I haven't gotten to the grace and decorum part yet. The zero-to-sixty time for the 944 Turbo S was 5.5 seconds an the top speed is 162 mph. These figures are well ahead of the venerable 1988 911 Carrera's 6.1 sec. zero-to-sixty time and top speed of 149 mph for the US version. Actually the Rest of World version of the Carrera had a top speed of 152 mph, only ten miles per hour slower than the 944 Turbo S

The performance of the 944 Turbo S should actually more fairly be compared with the 911 Turbo which accelerated zero-to-sixty in 5.5 sec. if it was a US car and 5.4 sec. zero-to-sixty for the Rest of World 911 Turbos. The Rest of World 911 Turbo had the same 162 mph top speed as the 944 Turbo S while the US car was five mph slower at 157 mph. The 944 Turbo S turned the quarter mile in 13.5 compared to 14.4 for the standard 944 Turbo and 14.2 for the same car with the sport package.

And the 944 Turbo S was no boy-racer Club Sport version either, but a fully loaded road version of the Porsche Turbo Cup cars that have been raced in Europe for the past couple of seasons. The power was up from 217 hp @ 5800 rpm and 243 pounds-feet torque @ 3500 rpm for the standard US 944 Turbo to 247 hp @ 6000 rpm and 250 pounds-feet torque @4000 rpm The power was increased by changing the turbine and housing in the K26 turbocharger used for the standard 944 Turbo. This change cannot be recognized from the out side of the turbocharger other than by the data plate, they look the same from the outside. In addition to changing the turbocharger a different DME (Digital Motor Electronics) control unit is used with different fuel and ignition curve families. A different knock and charge pressure control unit is also used to increase the boost to 1.82 bar absolute (11.89 psi boost) an increase of 0.07 bar from the 1.75 bar absolute (10.88 psi boost) of the standard 944 Turbo..

In addition to the increased power the 944 Turbo S also receives improved brakes with the larger 928 S 4 type brakes and the ABS braking system, firmer springs and torsion bars, stiffer low pressure gas adjustable shock absorbers by Koni and a thicker front sway bar and more rigid suspension bushings to provide more precise responsive handling (grace and decorum). The 944 Turbo S came equipped with a new version of the flat forged alloy wheels which initially were unique to the 944 Turbo S. The wheels are seven inches wide in the front and nine inches wide in the rear fitted with 225/50 VR 16 tires in front and 245/45 VR 16 in the rear.

The list of standard equipment was formidable including AM/FM Blaupunkt stereo with either Cassette or CD player/radio, dual airbags, a sunroof, cruise control, headlight washers and rear window wiper. Also part of the standard equipment package was power adjusted seats, split fold down rear seats, power steering, electric windows, heated electric mirrors and central locking. The limited slip and transmission oil cooler were all also part of the standard package offered with this car. In fact probably the only thing missing from the standard equipment list might be the leather seats which were optional. The 944 Turbo S came with multicolor burgundy cloth seats to match the silver rose metallic paint.

The 944 Turbo S can be driven extremely aggressively and it helps you to stay out of trouble. When you drive this car on the limit, or the ragged edge, the car is working with you. Whereas, as nice as they are under most conditions, I feel that when you drive on the ragged edge with the 911 Carrera or 911 Turbo they may actually be working against you.

The later 944 Turbo Ss could be ordered in a variety of colors and with more conventional seats. These were forerunner to the 1989 model which was essentially the same car as the 1988 944 S, but available in all of the standard colors.

The 944 Turbo S and 1989 944 Turbo is probably the "best buy" of our $24,000 cars because they range in price from a low of about $16,375 to a high of about $22,175. It would be hard to buy more bang for the buck for less money. These cars are also relatively easily modified to produce considerably more power.

Porsche 944 Tech Tips (24): 1. Watch out for weak hood supports. You'll raise the hood and start to work. The hood will stay put until you decide to raise the lift. The vibration of the moving lift can cause the hood to drop suddenly. Any bulky objects you left behind will leave a lasting impression in the sheetmetal.

*This also applies to lifting on a floor jack, be careful.

2. There have been a number of bulletins about water pumps. Many pumps were replaced when a small discoloration appeared around the pump housing weep hole (arrow). This dampness does not necessarily mean the pump is bad. Our photo shows a disassembled pump replaced for a more serious leak.

3. Cam, crank, and balance shaft seals may need service as often as every 30,000 miles. Neglected leaks will ruin the cam and balance shaft belts. This is also a good time to replace that suspect water pump, since leaks from a bad pump will run down behind the timing cover and go unnoticed until it's too late.

*Remember to use the updated belt part-number, especially on 'S' models.

4. This 944 is in for its 15,000 mile cam and balance shaft belt adjustments. The cam belt is adjusted by loosening and then retightening the mounting bolts on the spring tensioner (arrow). Loosening the bolts allows the spring to pull the tensioner toward the belt, removing slack from the belt.

[photo shows the automatic belt tensioner mechanism on '87 and later models with arrow pointing at tensioner.]

*Do not be mislead. This procedure only applies to '87 and later with the automatic tensioner. Earlier models must be set manually with a special tool.

5. Adjust balance shaft tension at this eccentric (left arrow). The idler pulley (right arrow) just barely contacts the center section of a freshly adjusted belt. As the belt stretches, the pulley dampens any "wow and flutter" which will develop in the long belt section between the sprockets.

[photo shows the tiny plastic "floating" pully.]

*This refers to the balance shaft belt *only*.

6. Some early engines (up to '86) experienced heavy seepage and overheating caused by leaking head gaskets. There are two other common oil leaks to keep in mind. Rear seals on cam cases should always be checked. Oil pan gaskets on cars without this heat shield (arrow) will crack when over-cooked.

[view from underneath.]

7. Low oil pressure in early engines was sometimes caused by sticking pressure relief valves (left). The steel relief piston/spring in the oil cooler would gall and stick. Porsche later introduced a one piece relief valve into production. It is available as a retofit for the earlier style valve.

*Easier said then done. It's a bit hard to get to.

8. Engine oil passes through an oil cooler in the oil filter flange assembly. Engine coolant and oil circulate through the cooler. Seals in the cooler which separate the water and oil can deteriorate, allowing oil and coolant to mix. Improved seals were introduced to correct this problem.

*This is a chronic problem. Check your coolant mixture for signs of oil. First manifestation is a frothy oily residue in the reservoir.

9. Oil cooler leaks were common on '851/2 to '88 cars. Failing to correct the problem results in engine bearing damage (commonly number two rod bearing). Increased cooling system pressure, starting with the 1985 1/2 car, only made matters worse. Some 944s with low mileage still have the old seals.

10. The cooler is like a small radiator. It sits inside the housing shown in photo 8. Replacement seals are green in color (top arrow). The bosses at the other end (bottom arrow) locate and center the cooler between the engine block and housing. Keep track of any shims on the bosses and reinstall them.

[photo shows the oil cooler removed from housing]

*It is also possible that the cooler itself is cracked and may need replacement. If in doubt have it pressure tested.

11. Even if the engine hasn't been damaged by the effeets of an oil/coolant mix, odds are good that the rubber coolant hoses have been ruined. Hoses will crack on the inside first, even though they may look okay from the outside. Bad hoses will often feel soft and spongy when squeezed.

12. The 944 has an upstream test pipe for checking and adjusting CO. Early pipes rusted away, and a retrofit stainless steel pipe was introduced. Make sure you replace a broken pipe. Exhaust pulses will turn the leak into a pulse air system. The extra oxygen sucked into the exhaust will fool the oxygen sensor.

[arrow in photo points to test pipe in engine bay.]

13. Test pipes can break in a number of places. Support brackets (arrow) can vibrate loose, and pipes can crack down low, out of sight-so look sharp. False air and an ignition miss sent some catalysts into melt down. Bang on the cat with a soft mallet to see if the old honeycomb now rattles like a large rock.

14. False air can also be drawn into a cracked exhaust manifold between cylinders one and four. Early cars had cast iron manifolds. This stamped steel manifold was used starting with the 1985 1/2 models. Expansion and contraction of the pipe leads to a crack in the "crotch" of the pipe (arrow).

[photo shows cracked exhaust manifold]

*Check your manifold for cracks. Chances are there's a hairline crack if it's an older car.

15. A number of heat shields were used to protect components from high exhaust temperatures. The shield at right is a starter shield, and it has cracked (arrow), causing a loud buzzing during downshifts at high RPM. The oil filter housing shield to the left has a missing stand-off bracket.

[nice photo of typical break points on these parts]

16. Clutch replacements should go beyond a disc and pressure plate. The release bearing is pulled by this release arm. Clutch debris ruins the needle bearings, and the pivot shaft galls like a universal joint on your old Chevy pickup. Failing to correct this will result in notchy clutch application.

[photo shows release arm (fork)]

17. Non-turbo cars use a rubber damper hub in the center of the clutch disc which can crack. Then, when you let off the clutch pedal, there's a loud clunk as the center section bangs against its stops. This is the turbo clutch. Its damper springs are so worn, they're spinning (shiny spots, arrows).

[photo shows the spring centered disc.]

* Upgrade the rubber centered on non-turbo cars to avoid this problem of center blowout.

18. This snout centers the release bearing. Note the wear pattem highlighted by our arrow. If you don't replace the snout as part of a complete clutch job, the release bearing can cut all the way through before the next clutch job. Our host shop has found the severed ends inside clutch assemblies.

*This is a great tip! Commonly overlooked.

19. Another fairly common clutch related problem has to do with the rubber hose between the clutch master and slave cylinder. The hoses will warn you that they're going bad by leaving a trace of moist brake fluid in the part of the hose right next to the crimped metal ends.

20. Engine mounts are fluid filled to absorb engine vibration. Fatigued or leaking mounts can transmit a nasty vibration through the chassis to the cabin. This vibration may be mistaken for a rough idle, even though the engine may be running just fine. The right side mount seems to be the first to go bad.

*A well addressed chronic problem of this series. Update to the turbo-style with heat shield.

21. Worn constant velocity joints can cause a driveline vibration similar to the shudder caused by a weak center support bearing on car with a two-piece driveshaft. Lead-footed-owners of turbo models may "accelerate" this wear and need replacement joints as soon as 50,000 miles. Play and pay.

[photo shows worn inner race of CV joint]

22. Distributor caps and plug wires seem to last, but distributor rotors can cause problems. Some rotors have been known to disintegrate. Surprisingly, they may keep working, but cold driveability problems result. When replacing a rotor, make sure you're using the upgraded part number to avoid problems.

*Another great tip!

23. If the high pressure A/C hose between the condenser and compressor splits open (or just plain bursts) check the high side pressure when the compressor cycles OFF. A replacement switch with a lower high side pressure is available. It shuts off the compressor before high side pressures get too high.

[photo shows switch location]

24. Discharged batteries are sometimes caused by an overdose of aftermarket add-on accessories. Bolt in a cellular phone, burglar alarm, 800 giga watt stereo, and a Mr. Coffee, and the battery gets a little stressed out. Parasitic draw should be checked, and ideally stay in the 90 milliamp range.