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911 Engine Oil Cooler Replacement
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Pelican Technical Article:

911 Engine Oil Cooler Replacement

Steven M. Stomski


2-3 hours






Floor jack, jack stands, wheel chocks, lug wrench, safety glasses, metric socket and metric wrench set, flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers, shop rags, oil catch pan

Applicable Models:

Porsche 911 (1965-89)
Porsche 930 Turbo (1976-89)

Parts Required:

Oil cooler, oil cooler seals

Performance Gain:

No more oil leaks from your oil cooler or your oil cooler seals

Complementary Modification:

Perform an oil and filter change
Occasionally it may be necessary to remove an internal 911 oil cooler while the motor is still in the car. Whether to replace the seals, or to replace a damaged cooler, removing and replacing the cooler does not require the removal of the motor from the car. Before deciding to replace the cooler or replace the motor to cooler seals, determine that this in fact the source of your leak.
First make sure that the sender unit on top (top rear when looking into the engine compartment) is not leaking. Second, get a good light and get under the car (with car on jack stands). Shine the light around the oil cooler. If the cooler leaks when the car runs, it will continue to leak for a while after you shut the car off. Look into the center of the cooler. If oil is coming from there, chances are it is a bad cooler. If oil is coming from where the cooler and the motor mate, you MAY have bad seals, a bad cooler, or another source of oil (remember, oil creeps and wanders around, often times ending up quite a distance from the original source). If the oil is seeping from where the cooler and the motor mate, you may consider checking the torque of the nuts before removing the cooler.
It has been a while since I have changed an oil cooler on a motor still in a 911, so the following are the steps as I remember them:

1) Jack up rear of car and secure properly (chocks, jack stands)

2) Drain oil

3) Remove right (passenger) rear wheel (it is not necessary to remove the 1/2 shaft)

4) Depending upon your setup, you may want to remove your heat exchanger or header (right side, 4-6 only)

5) Remove sheet metal separating upper and lower rockers and remove the bolts connecting the rear sheet metal to the oil cooler

6) Disconnect the tank to cooler oil line (be prepared for more oil to run from the line and/or cooler)

7) Although it is not necessary, you may want to remove the motor to tank line at this point because it will give more room to pull the cooler off and to re-install one later

8) Depending on what year motor you have, and whether there have been any updates to the shroud, this step could be easy or a pain. Part of the fan/cooling shroud on the top of the motor wraps over the oil cooler. This of course forces air through the cooler, cooling the oil. On early cars (up to SCs I think), the shroud included a separate "plastic" tunnels that was riveted to the fiberglass shroud. The tunnel included a wrap around end cap for the oil cooler. On later cars, while the shroud still included the tunnel, the end cap that fit over the cooler was not an integral part of the tunnel. If you have a later car or one that has been updated, simply remove the end cap with a 10mm socket (there will be at least a couple holding the cap to the cooler and at least a couple bolts holding the cap to the shroud and/or motor. Once you have removed the cap, simply use a 13mm socket and extension to remove the two upper nuts holding the oil cooler in place.

On earlier motors that do not have an updated shroud, infinite patience or a little ingenuity is required. Remove all the bolts holding the shroud in place in the area on the motor around the cooler. While the integral end cap is fairly rigid, you still may be able to use an extension with universal joints to reach under the cap/shroud with a 13mm socket to remove the two upper nuts holding the cooler in place. If you are finding it too difficult to snake the socket under the shroud (there is also a baffle under there too), you may consider buying a new motor with the updated cooler cap. Failing the new motor option try drilling out the rivets that are holding the tunnel in place on the shroud around the cooler (these can be re-riveted later, or screwed in place). Once you have the tunnel more flexible, it should allow plenty of room to get up under the cap and remove the two upper nuts holding the oil cooler in place While it is not absolutely necessary to remove the rivets from the shroud, it will assist in removal of the cooler, it will assist in re-installation of the cooler, and will certainly save the neighbor's ears from what undoubtedly will be an education in vulgarity.

9) Once the two top nuts are removed, remove the bottom nuts from the cooler. If all the sheet metal screws and shroud bolts are removed, at this point the cooler should essentially fall into your hands (along with a 1/2 of quart or so of oil all over your lap!). If the shroud end cap is in place still, you may have to fidget with the beast to get it clear of the studs and shroud (and possibly header);

10) To quote a phrase used too often in the factory manual, "installation is the reverse of removal!" Actually, with this project, reversing the removal process might finish it for you, with a few additional points noted. When re- installing the cooler, use either a new or tested one that has been cleaned. I would recommend at least testing the one removed unless it is OBVIOUS that the cooler is trash (hopefully in the not too distant future I will be fabricating an affordable oil cooler tester, but that is another story). Use a generous amount of Dow 111 (or grease) on the new seals to keep them in place (as well as provide proper sealing) as you re-seat the cooler. Make sure you use new spring washers and torque the nuts to the proper specification. Re-connect all sheet metal and shroud bolts (the shroud and sheet metal are critical in providing proper cooling). If you have drilled out any rivets, re-rivet or screw the tunnel back in place. Obviously, after putting everything back together and filling up the oil, check for leaks.
Hope this helps. If anyone has any questions or comments, let me know.
Steven M. Stomski 
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Comments and Suggestions:
byourk Comments: Purchased a 2000 911, I don't believe the owner was honest with me. I drove an hour home and noticed the coolant light flashing. Checked coolant when I got home and it was low, added coolant 3 qts of oil and ran for 10 minutes and found excessive oil in coolant but no coolant in oil. could this be oil cooler or head gasket? It never overheated in 100 miles.
October 17, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Could be either. if the engine isn't smoking, it is more likely the cooler. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dick D. Comments: Hi guy's, I have a 77 911S with a '85 3.2 engine. Seems the oil temp increases dramatically in slow moving traffic and takes forever to cool back down once moving again. There is no external thermostat in the rear wheel well; the front cooler is aftermarket with a working fan. The cooler and lines rubber hose's do not heat up. Sounds like the engine thermostat to me, but what do you think? How difficult is this to pull and can it be repaired? TIA.
August 11, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You should be able to see if on the engine, two bolts hold it in. It is located right below the oil temp sensor. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Freddo Comments: Hey,,
Can anyone helps me of how replacing an oil cooler in Porsche Cayenne s 2008 because oil comes out with coolant water
Thanks for help
March 13, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You may have a head gasket issue. Are you sure the cooler is at fault?

All articles for your vehicle are here:

Anything you need that is not there, I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799.- Nick at Pelican Parts
M.Bill Comments: hi im stuck, how do i remove or what steps to take in removing the oil cooler?
it's a 911 3.0l 1983.
any help thanks.
November 18, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Follow the tech article. it is mounted in the wheel well.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
diesel Comments: how i got a question aboutt my 99 boxster i have oil in my coolant but i do not have water in my oil.... could a head or gasket or oil cooler!!! i doesnt get really hot until 40 mins or more???? after driving and i hear no metal grining sounds.... any body got any good info
January 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: if it isn't getting hot it could still be a headgasket. I would pressure test the cooling system. If you cannot pinpoint the leak, remove and inspect the oil cooler. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Robert Comments: Trying to locate source of small oil leak and read about the common oil cooler seals leak in my 101 Projects book. I noticed that when looking at my oil cooler from underneath the car, there is oil on the fins. If the seals were leaking, would oil likely get on the fins or would this condition more likely indicate the cooler itself leaking? I felt the top of the engine where the breather and the pressure switch are and it seems to be dry up there so I don't think oil is leaking from there and dripping onto the exterior of the cooler. Thanks for your help
December 7, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Any leaks inside the air flow stream will atomize and coat multiple surfaces. A Porsche shop may be able to pressure test your oil cooler. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
smw33porsche Comments: I am trying to find out where I can purchase an oil cooler for my 1979 Porsche 911 SC... Can anyone provide a link
September 25, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.

Or try this link:
https://www.pelicanparts.com/catalog/shopcart/911M/POR_911M_ENGoil_pg5.htm#item18 - Nick at Pelican Parts
Sir Reginald Comments: Hi Wayne, Your answer to Cal re oil thermostat.I have the thermostat in my hand and I'm looking at it closely which does not help me at all! What is a good way to actually check it and at what temps etc', I hope you can help, regards Reg. 1981 3ltr sc row
September 18, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Honestly, other than heating it up and monitoring what temp it works at, the only other option is to install a new one. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Steve B Comments: Oil in coolant.1999 3.4 Porsche 996 How do I know if oil cooler is bad or head/block cracked? Any idea of cost to replace cooler?
January 30, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You're going to have pressure test the cooling system. I have seen more heat exchangers leak externally. You can remove the heat exchanger and test it off the vehicle. If you are unsure, i would have a pro Porsche mechanic do this. You don't want to take any chances with an issue like this. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
RAJU Comments: My wrench wants to replace original oil cooler on my 83 SC W/180k miles while doing other work. OEM is aprox $1,500 US. PELICAN also lists for $585 TASKER METAL PRODUCTS reproduction cooler. Can you comment if one is getting what you pay for or what?
November 4, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The TMP kit is a good kit for the money. I will have Glenn in Sales contact you so that you can discuss it further with him. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Kdog Comments: I was wondering what this oil gauge is a picture is provided. While the car is running the needle stays low to the red mark. When I slow down or come to a stop it rises to the center of the gauge. I'm not running the car in case it will cause damage to the engine. What may be the problem, the gauge or something worse? and what exactly is the gauge measuring? I have a 1983 911sc.
October 21, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: As I wrote in my 101 Projects book, this gauge is the most dangerous gauge in the 911, and should basically be ignored. It's never accurate and can give you a false sense of your oil level. Instead, check the oil at the tank when the car is warm and idling on level ground. All other times, I would simply ignore the gauge. The only exception is really with the 1972 cars with the funky oil tank on the driver's side (I have one of these). It's very difficult to use the dipstick on these cars, so the gauge can be relied on a bit more (again, warm, running, and on level ground) - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
s.miller Comments: 81 911sc. I am replacing the gasket on the oil cooler and cant seem to get the thing off or even locate the cooler bolts. there is a plastic/fiberglass cover over it and cant remove that either due to vacuum line over it. any ideas? thank you sean.
April 3, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There are some photos of the oil cooler installation on this page that should assist you: http://www.101projects.com/911-rebuild/rebuild_CD/Photos/Chapter5-9/Page1.htm - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
r-cattapan Comments: hello steve
i am in process of re assembling my 1989 911 motor, we noticed that my previuos mechanic used aviation permatex and RTV silicone sealer on my oil cooler and lower oil return pipes, what are your thoughts on this? seems some mechanics are reluctant to use either of these two products. thank you
January 18, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm not a huge fan of RTV in the engine, but there are a few places where I recommend it (on the through-bolt o-rings, for example). I'm not sure why they would need to use it on the oil cooler. Just make sure all previous residue is cleaned off and you should be fine. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Cal Comments: Good Morning Steven,
I read your article on replacing the oil cooler... Thanks for the info. A few years ago I purchased a 1971 911. It has always had an issue with running hot. At first it would occasionally get up to 230-240. Later as high as 250. Now it can hit 260-270. Of course I shut it down & let it cool when this happens. Does this sound like a bad oil cooler to you or should I look somewhere else? Thanks, Cal
July 10, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would look closely at the thermostat. 260-270 is way too hot. I have a front mounted cooler in my 1972 RS clone, and it never gets above 180 degrees, even on a hot day in the desert at Willow Springs. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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