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Pelican Technical Article:
Replacing Spark Plugs and Coils
 

 
Time: 2 hour
Tab: $20
Talent:  
Tools:
Spark plug wrench
Applicable Models:
986 Boxster (1997-04)
987 Boxster (2005-08)
Parts Required:
Spark Plugs, spark plug tubes
Hot Tip:
Don't use anti-seize on the plugs when installing
Performance Gain:
Cleaner, better running engine
Complementary Modification:
Replace spark plug tubes
 
   

  This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your Porsche Boxster.  The book contains 312 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads.   With more than 950+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Boxster owner's collection. The book is currently available and in stock now. See The Official Book Website for more details.
 

Check out some other sample projects from the book: 

Need to buy parts for this project? Click here to order!
   
     One basic tune-up procedure for just about any car on the road is the replacement of your spark plugs and spark plug wires (where applicable). I recommend replacing your spark plugs every 10,000 miles, or about once a year. In reality, you can probably go longer than that, however, you never really quite know how long the plugs are going to last, or you may forget to replace them if you don't setup a yearly schedule.

     With the introduction of the Boxster engine, Porsche eliminated the use of spark plug wires by integrating six small spark plug coils that sit on top of each spark plug. While this configuration may be a bit more expensive than the typical single coil, single capacitive discharge box configuration, it makes the car's ignition system more reliable by removing a component that constantly wears out and fails (spark plug wires). It's a pretty cool setup, not commonly found on older cars. As manufacturing components have become increasingly inexpensive, ignition setups like these have become more common.

     Begin by prepping the car. The only thing that you really need to do is to make sure that the car is cold. If you try to remove or install spark plugs in a hot car, then you may encounter problems with the spark plugs gumming up or damaging the relatively delicate threads in the aluminum cylinder head. Make sure that the car is cold, or at the bare minimum, only slightly warm to the touch.

     Jack up the car (Pelican Technical Article: Jacking Up and Lifting the Boxster on Jack Stands). Access to the plugs may be easier if you remove the fender liners in front of each wheel well, particularly on the passenger side. For each coil, remove the two bolts that attach it to the engine. Unplug the coil wire harness. Then simply remove the coil/plug assembly and place it off to the side. All of the coils are the same, so it doesn't matter which cylinder bank it came off of - unless you are specifically trying to troubleshoot a bad coil fault code that was displayed by the main computer.

     With the coil assembly removed, you should be able to look down the hole and see the spark plug hiding in there. If the tube has oil in it, it may have cracked or become contaminated: replace it with a new one (see Photo 3 and also Photo 6 of Pelican Technical Article: Camshaft Upgrade / Chain Tensioner Replacement).

     Spark plug removal is easy - you just need the right spark plug wrench. I have one that I love - it's a spark plug socket with a rubber insert that catches the plug and also has a built-in swivel on the attachment end. These wrenches are readily available from the tools section of PelicanParts.com. This tool is especially useful when trying to remove plugs in hard-to-reach places.

     Using a breaker bar, grip the plug and turn it counter-clockwise until it is loose. Then pull out your tool and grab the plug. When the plug comes out, you may want to take a close look at it. The spark plug is really the best way to visually ‘see' what is going on inside your combustion chamber.

     Install your new plugs using a torque wrench to measure the amount of torque applied to the plug. This is very important, as it is easy to over or under-tighten spark plugs. Make sure that the plug is firmly seated in your spark plug socket as it is very easy to insert the plug into the head and have it cross-thread. This means that the threads of the spark plug don't mesh properly with the ones in the head, instead choosing to "cut their own path." This damages the threads on the head, and in extreme cases, may destroy the threads in the cylinder head entirely. Trust me - you do not want this to happen. Proceed carefully and cautiously here.

     Install each spark plug into the cylinder heads without using any anti-seize compound. Torque the spark plugs to 30 Nm (22 ft-lbs). I recently learned that Porsche, published a bulletin indicating that it doesn't recommend using anti-seize compound on spark plugs for any of their engines (Porsche Technical Bulletin 9102, Group 2 identifier 2870). The bulletin applies retroactively to all models and the theory is that the anti-seize tends to act as an electrical insulator between the plug and the cylinder head. This could have detrimental effect on the firing of the spark due to the loss of a good, consistent ground connection.

     With the new plugs installed and tightened to the correct torque, you can replace the coils and reattach the coil connectors. When you're done, your engine should look back to normal and run perfectly.
Each spark plug has its own individual coil.
Figure 1
Each spark plug has its own individual coil. These are attached to the engine with two bolts (purple arrows). Remove each bolt and then disconnect the coil plug harness (green arrow). The coil should be able to be pulled from the engine once loose.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
This particular photo shows an individual spark plug coil (inset).
Figure 2
This particular photo shows an individual spark plug coil (inset). The blue arrow shows the plug that powers the coil, and the orange arrow shows the mini-bellows that is part of the coil that seals the chamber and keeps dirt and debris out. Be sure that you inspect the coil packs for cracks, particularly if the car has been driven on roads covered with salt. These coil packs can corrode, crank and then cause misfires.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
I like to use a swivel-socket spark plug removal tool from Craftsman.
Figure 3
I like to use a swivel-socket spark plug removal tool from Craftsman. This tool is great for getting around bends and into hard-to-reach places. If you have a leaky seal on your valve cover, there is the opportunity for the spark plug holes to fill up with oil. When you pull out the spark plug connector / coil combo, you may find that it is contaminated with engine oil. If this is the case, then you should replace the spark plug tubes (yellow arrow, Boxster 1997-2004). These are plastic liners that seal the internals of the engine from the spark plug chamber. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers and simply grab the tube and pull it out of the hole. Later Boxsters and Caymans don't have tubes, but o-rings in the camshafts housings that should be inspected at this time.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
In the photo inset, you can see an unusual spark plug with all four of its electrodes eaten away (red arrow).
Figure 4
In the photo inset, you can see an unusual spark plug with all four of its electrodes eaten away (red arrow). I would hazard a guess that this plug was improperly plated from the factory, and as it progressed through its life, the repeated sparking slowly ate away at the electrodes until they were gone. A plug in this condition would misfire often (if at all), and would generate poor performance for this particular cylinder. Surprisingly enough, none of the rest of the spark plugs in this set exhibited this type of damage. This is what leads me to believe it was defective from the manufacturer. On the right is shown a brand new Bosch Platinum spark plug. Spark plugs have varied over the years as engines have been changed slightly due to smog regulations. The important thing to remember is to get the proper ones for your car, otherwise you may encounter odd ignition problems (they are scaled by both electrode type and also by heat range). Spark plugs are cheap - I would go with a brand name like Bosch or NGK, and avoid the no-name brands.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
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Comments and Suggestions:
Mike986 Comments: Boxster 1998 CEL came on ... codes P1128, P1130, P0452, P0341, P1397 and P0122 all came up. I can hear a sucking sound when I rev engine at the beginning of rev. I've done some research and I plan on cleaning AMF sensor and replacing AOS and adjacent hoses. Am I on the right track? Suggestions?
September 11, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would say you are. I would avoid cleaning MAF sensors, especially hot film models.

Check you fuel trim numbers and crankcase vacuum. These items will help you determine if the AOS is faulty. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
dardas Comments: No questions for you. I just wanted to say a big "Thank You!" for all the information you provide and the money I save. Cheers, lads.
July 9, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Karl Comments: I have a 2001 996 with 30K, I have noticed the idle seems to "hunt" a bit, maybe 50-75 RPM.
There are no fault codes present and I am wondering if it may be plugs or coil packs more due to age than mileage.
Considering the age of the vehicle is this a valid thought?

Thanks,
Karl
June 24, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Plugs generally will not cause an idle issue. I would check the engine for vacuum leaks. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Adrian Comments: Hi. Great site! I'm new to the boxster but am ready to have a play. My air conditioning condensers are leaking and in need of replacement . I removed the front bumper on my 2000 986 boxster S and cleared away all the wet leaves and there are obvious patches of discolouration indicating coolant leakage which has been confirmed by Porsche on recent service. The condensers look very easy to change over which Is my grand plan. I am going to fit significantly cheaper after market parts then have it regarded professionally. Is there anything I should be aware of prior to doing so?? Many thanks
June 12, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If replacing the A/C condensors, you will have to discharge the refrigerant from the system. This requires an A/C service machine. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dan Comments: I replacing my plugs. No oil in tubes but when taking the coil out the end the bellows was brittle and broke off. Is my coil ok to use? No crack on the outside. I attached a pic.
May 16, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would replace it. If it fails or allows a voltage leak when installed, you could have an engine misfire. Leading to possible catalyst damage. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Rich Comments: How often should the coils be replaced?
March 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: When they fail. No need to replace them if they are functioning normally. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Edlip Comments: 2000 996 plugs which are the best in your opinion?
March 4, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I prefer Bosch. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Edlip Comments: I have a 2000 996 that I purchased in 2007 with 75k miles. At that time I was told that the spark plug tubes seals were leaking when I had a dealer perform an inspection. The car now has 100k miles and I am having the plugs, tubes , and seals replaced, would it be wise to have the coil packs done due to the leaking tubes and the rubber boots on the coil packs. Thanks.
March 3, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes. If there is oil on the coil boots, replace them. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Porscheman Comments: I have a 2002 boxster s and i am thinking of replacing the plugs with NGk bkregp platinum plugs from Pelican would that work.
February 17, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: See this page here:

http://www.pelicanparts.com/catalog/shopcart/101P/POR_101P_BOX007_pg1.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
bobatious Comments: Would be helpful to include information on detecting and resolving issues with broken seals/tubes and related symptom, unwanted oil in plug area. E.g. tools to assist remove and replacing tubes e.g. 1" T transom plug &/or 3/4" short gas pipe threaded segment with T, or a "real tool". Lastly, description process of how to safely purge the plug tubes of oil when present would be welcome as that will have happened often when tube seals have failed.

PS: I did visit the referenced pages and none had this information. It can be found elsewhere, but neither here nor in Bentley manual.
December 2, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. if we get the chance to perform the procedures, we will be sure to share the information. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
JJ Comments: I have ordered from you new spark plug tubes for my 2.7 liter boxster. Wondering how I should lubricate the rings on the new ones before installing them? I have read some say use motor oil, but won't that make them fail sooner? I don't want to make them harder to get out though. Please let me know. Thanks.
October 23, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Using new motor oil is fine, (that is what I use) to lubricate the O-ring. They are designed to work in an environment with oil. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ep3_lol Comments: I've got a tube that had o-ring failure and had a decent amount of oil in when I removed the coil pack. I've replaced the tube and o-rings. When I went to put the coil pack back in the cylinder today, I noticed that not only was it covered with oil on the outside, but had a decent amount on the inside in the area of the actual coil as well. Is there an effective way to clean this part, or is my best bet to get a new coil pack for that cylinder?
August 25, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Once oil gets on the rubber of the boot, it is not going to last much longer. The rubber will swell and create a poor connection. I would suggest replacing it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dennis Comments: Thanks Nick. That was my thinking and I already have them. I love this car and how easy it is to perform maintenance and several repairs.
August 21, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm glad to help. Have fun! - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dennis Comments: I recently bought a 00 Boxster S with 32K miles that has never had new plugs. While changing them should I go ahead and replace the tubes/gaskets due to the age of the car?
August 20, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It's not a bad idea. If they aren't leaking, you could leave them alone. But sometimes it is best to perform preventive maintenance instead of repairs later.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dennis Comments: I recently bought a 00 Boxster S with 32K miles and I am ready to replace the plugs first time for this car. I feel like I should go ahead and replace the tubes/gaskets at the same time. Thoughts?
August 20, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It's not a bad idea. If they aren't leaking, you could leave them alone. But sometimes it is best to perform preventive maintenance instead of repairs later.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
bcarlstad Comments: younseung3-29-12 on your spark plug comments, says after 2003 plug tubes are metal and seals are changed with engine disassembly. Is he mistaking?
February 10, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: That's correct. On later cars Porsche change the location and design of the seals. As a result they are not easy to change on these later cars. However I have seen that they don't seem to leak as much on later cars as well. So it might be a moot point in the end. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Bob Comments: Wayne ... I am working on Project #7 ... I purchased your book and new spark plugs, but I can't figure out how you can reach the old ones without taking the car a part. Could you please tell me what's the best way to reach the plugs?
Thank you in advance,
Bob 2004 Boxter
November 25, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Have you removed the fender liners? Please reread the article. If working on jackstands removing the wheels and liners makes access a lot eaiser. Also the right spark plug socket and a assortment of extensions help.

denny@pelicanparts
 
SimonT Comments: Just switched plugs on my Volvo S60. I am here looking for coil pack life info.

Anyway, I used a can of compressed air from an office supply store to blast loose material from the spark plug hole. This was after the coil pack had been removed, but before taking out the plug.

Good for getting broken bits of your plastic tube liner out, too, I imagine.
November 20, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You are right it is a good idea to blow clean the tubes before and not after removing the spark plugs. You do not want to blow anything into the combustion chambers after the plugs are removed. Failure of the coil packs is not a mileage issue so replacing based on mileage is not a recommendation.

Denny at Pelican Parts
 
I2otar329 Comments: Given your wealth of experience, which brand and model of spark plug is best used on the 2001 Boxster?? I feel like the Dealership Beru spark plugs are overpriced for what they are
November 14, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: We have three different brands listed on our web site. All are good, I perfer the Bosch.

Denny at Pelican Parts
 
Airtodd Comments: I tried the 3/4" Pipe trick and it worked great. The first one was a little scary trying not to screw it in too tight, but the rest were a breeze. Thanks for the tip!!!
October 16, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thank You and glad we were able to help.

Denny at Pelican Parts
 
986 Comments: I JUST REPLACED THE SPARK PLUGS ON MY 2001 PORSCHE BOXSTER DID NOT USED A TORK WRENCH AND WHEN I STARTED THE ENGINE IT STARTED TO TREMBLE AND CHECK ENGINE LIGHT CAME ON WHAT DID I DO WRONG PLEASE TELL ME THANK YOU JUAN
October 7, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you you used reasonable torque when reploacing the plugs that should not cause a check engine light. Loose spark plugs can set the light. In your case I suspect you left a coil pack wire loose or not connected. Another possiblilty is a shorted plug cause by dropping on a hard surface and closing the spark gap.

denny@pelicanparts
 
grimesb Comments: Thank you for the wealth of information!

Quick question: Any tips or tricks on this project while the engine is in the car? If I'm reading everything correctly it's possible.
August 20, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes you can do the complete project with the engine in the car. Use the article for reference and check the comments below the article for additional tips.

Denny at Pelican Parts
 
hsumer Comments: I am thinking to buy bosch 4503 spark plug for my boxster which is 98k miles.Do i have change spark plug wires too like mercedes on 100k miles.Also I bought your book like 8 months ago and i have problem with it.Pages are sticking and tearing.I tried steam to realesed it but didnt worked.What can i do?
August 4, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The 4503 Bosch is no longer available. I would recommend using one of the other Bosch plugs listed on our site. The Boxster uses coil packs on each spark plug so you have no spark plug wires on your Boxster.

Denny at Pelican Parts
 
roj Comments: I have a porsche boxter 2003. check engine light came. was recomeneded to replace plugs, coils, cam, solenoid. could someone tell me what these are. I know plugs are spark plugs. what are colis, cam and solenoid
June 15, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Was your engine diagnosed with a proper scanner. I doubt all those components failed at once. The spark plugs should be replaced when a major service is performed. There is one coil pack on top of each spark plug. These engines do not have spark plug wires. The cam sensors send a signal of position to the computer and the solinoid control the camshaft timing.

Denny at Pelican Parts
 
younseung Comments: Is that correct what under note stand?

Note: For model year 2003 and newer, the plastic spark plug tubes were replaced with the metal tubes that only get serviced during engine disassembly.
From the 2003 Boxster Service Information Book - under engine changes:
"The oil protection tubes are now a component part of the valve lifter housing and sealed to the cylinder head cover with formed oil seal rings."
March 29, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't understand what you are asking. If you read that note in Porsche literature, I would assume it is correct. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jska Comments: How in the heck did you get a torque wrench in those type spaces? I could only manage it on the middle plugs on both sides. I ended up just tightening the plugs good and tight. Hope I didn't torque to much or too little.
February 28, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I use a 3/8" torque wrench. Having the right combination of extension lenghts helps. Be carefully not to over tighten the plugs as that can cause cylinder head damage. With new plugs you can fell the spark plug gasket compress and then bottom. Just a bit past that point is proper torque. Using a torque wrench is always recommended.

Denny at Pelican Parts
 
boxdogg Comments: Is there a recommended replacement timeframe for the sparkplug coil packs? My coil packs appear to be fine still at 50K miles. . .thanks.
February 3, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There is no recommended mileage for peroidic replacementof the coil packs. If two or more fail I would recommend replacing the set of six.

Denny at Pelican Parts

 
SGHokie Comments: I couldn't get the needle nose pliers to pull out the tubes. I found at home depot a piece of 3/4 threaded pipe fit perfectly in the hole and I was able to get the tubes out very easily. At the home depot they have small pieces that are threaded on both sides. I used a 2" piece, 1.5", and a tee. Depending on the clearance around the tube, you might want to screw the tube in first and then put the tee on. Or you can get a cap to put on the end of the tube and then use a screw driver to pry it out.
January 21, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Excellent tip and very useful. Thank You.

Denny at Pelican Parts
 
bdub Comments: I followed the proceedure and when I started the engine after completing the work, the motor sounded a bit rough and the check engine light came on. What did I screw up or need to check?
January 3, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It sounds like you may have an intake leak or let something loose during your repair. Was the engine was running good before replacement?. Please recheck for any intake leaks or other wiring or hoses you may have let loose during the replacement.

denny@pelicanparts
 
Hurdigurdiman Comments: Wayne..Is this the same procedure for the C2 996 3.4ltr engine? Is the 996 engine referred to as the Boxster engine? If its the same procedure I will be changing my plugs very soon as I have no idea when they were last done.
November 28, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes. With the exception of a few slightly different exhaust components in the way, the procedure is almost identical for the 996 Carrera engine. We will be having a 996-dedicated article on this, coming out soon. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
kimberboy Comments: One of the coils on my '02 Boxster S has some oil seepage. Is the "tube" you mention in this artcle the problem? If so, what's the part and is it replaced while doing the plugs. My mechanic thought it was something with the coil and quoted a price of $6-700 to replace, but it seemed strange that there would be oil there.
November 16, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Hmm, I suggest you get another mechanic. Or at least get him a copy of my book! :) This is a common problem on these engines, the plastic inner tube cracks and then breaks, leaking oil near the coils. The parts you need are a new spark plug tube and o-ring (some brands come with the o-rings, some do not). The part number is 996-105-325-52 and you can order it from the Pelican catalog here: http://www.pelicanparts.com/cgi-bin/ksearch/PEL_search.cgi?command=show_part_page&please_wait=N&make=POR&model=986M§ion=BAStun&page=1&bookmark=3&part_number=996-105-325-52-M127 - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
bar10dah Comments: Trying to pull out the tube with a set of needle nose inserted and opened up, I cracked/broke the tube. Does the broken pieces of plastic in there pose any danger?

Follow-up: The broken piece seems to be a perfect fit into the tube. So *if* any bits of plastic made it's way into the camshaft area, they're very very small.

Thanks Pelican for supplying all the parts I used this weekend to do my 60K service! Your technical articles and 101 Projects book really made it fairly easy to accomplish.
August 28, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would indeed try to get all of the plastic bits out of there, as they can clog oil passages if they get stuck in the wrong places. But, generally, I would say that the likelihood of that would be pretty low. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Canongate Comments: I purchased new plugs for my 2005 boxster from you. They have 4 prongs electrodes?. Do I gap these or are they pre set. If I gap them what is it?...thanks
July 14, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: In the old days, it wasn't uncommon to find plugs that were new with the wrong gap. However, in the past decade, I have yet to find a plug that is not correctly set from the factory. So, I've gotten a bit lazy, and I don't typically check, unless it's for a race motor or something like that. As for the plug gap, I don't have this information handy, I think it might be in the Bentley manual, although I can't remember seeing it there. In general, the four-pronged plugs can't really easily have their gap reset either. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Roger Lenkin Comments: What is the torque used to tighten the coil pack bolts on a 06 Boxster? Your book, 101 projects is great! Thanks ,
April 23, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Hi Roger, the factory documentation shows that these bolts are sized M6, and should be tightened to a value of 10 Nm (7.5 ft-lbs), which is not a heck of a whole lot. Be careful not to overtighten them, or the bolt / screw might snap off. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
leapin Comments: question on plug gapping.Is the gap measured on each electrode
May 28, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, the gaps are measured on each electrode. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

Check out some other sample projects from the book: 

 

Got more questions?  Join us in our Boxster / Cayman Technical Forum Message Board or our Carrera 996 / 997 Technical Forum Message Board and ask a question to one of our many automotive experts.

Or, see what other questions readers have asked about this article...
  Applies to: 1997 Boxster, 1998 Boxster, 1999 Boxster, 2000 Boxster, 2001 Boxster, 2002 Boxster, 2003 Boxster, 2004 Boxster, 2005 Boxster, 2006 Boxster, 2007 Boxster, 2008 Boxster, 1999 Carrera, 1999 996, 2000 Carrera, 2000 996, 2001 Carrera, 2001 996, 2002 Carrera, 2002 996, 2003 Carrera, 2003 996, 2004 Carrera, 2004 996, 2005 Carrera, 2005 997, 2006 Carrera, 2006 997, 2007 Carrera, 2007 996, 2008 Carrera, 2008 997
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