Ever have a situation go so far sideways that you can’t even be mad anymore? One of those moments where you just kinda let it go to see how deep of a hole the other party will dig, as you sit back with a cocktail bemused by the whole experience? One hundred and nine days, two dealerships, and three engine removals later, my 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel’s oil leak has been properly repaired.
Pour yourself some tea because mine is piping.
Before we dig in, I oughta introduce myself. I run a growing community for LGBTQ car enthusiasts and went to college a few hours from your esteemed Editor-in-Chief. I taught him how to work on his first XJ Cherokee when we replaced the valve cover gasket in my college townhouse’s parking lot, next to my spray-painted BMW E30 leaking a concerning amount of everything. So, in a way, technically, all of this is my fault.
Cue Taylor. “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” You’re all welcome and I’m sorry, maybe.
Anyway. Leaks. Porsche.
The 2011 to 2016 Porsche Cayenne Diesel fell victim to the Volkswagen Group’s “Dieselgate” scandal; its Audi-sourced 3.0-liter TDI V6 was not emissions-compliant. The United States got Volkswagen ID.4s with touch-everything and Electrify America stations that may or may not work, and Cayenne Diesel owners got reflashed ECUs and the Mother Of All Warranties.
I bought one of these magical law-flouting diesel machines in June of 2021, having sold my Ram 1500 for more than I paid in an insane market. The small dealership in Philadelphia didn’t know why everyone was frantically calling about their Porsche that sounded like a school bus, but I called first and put down a deposit over the phone. A quick Amtrak ride and the 67,000 mile, one-owner Cayenne was mine.
This Dieselgate warranty is hilarious because it covers everything that matters – the fuel system, the emissions gear, and the entire long block. It is common knowledge that when the lower timing cover of the 3.0 TDI starts leaking oil, your VW, Audi or Porsche dealer will remove the front subframe and completely re-seal the block. And it’s free. Better yet, if they try to give you trouble, you just point to the warranty booklet. “All disputes are to be settled in favor of the consumer.”
My 2013 Cayenne had about 18 months of warranty remaining when I brought it home; the coverage is good for 10 years or 100,000 miles from the date of the first sale. In my case, that meant everything had to go wrong by December 21, 2022, and I was never going to hit the mileage cap. Game on, let’s break this thing. Nicely.
It’s worth mentioning that I absolutely adore this Cayenne, and have from day one. I’ve had it lightly airborne around Summit Point’s Shenandoah Circuit, I tow a 20’ racecar trailer with it, and it’s equally competent in both scenarios. And it’ll do 33 miles per gallon on the highway otherwise.
I’m privileged that part of this Out Motorsports endeavor led to my reviewing new cars on a mostly weekly basis, so I can get around in something new when I need to. I also live in Washington, D.C., which offers many convenient and exciting ways to get around sans car, like walking, or taking the Metro if the Metro is not actively on fire. I also realize many car owners do not have those three things going for them when their vehicle is in the shop. Keep that in mind. Here we go.
I first noticed oil on the ground in late February of 2022. I called Porsche Arlington, the closest dealer to my apartment, and brought the car to them because I got a rockstar of a service advisor who knew about the Dieselgate warranty before I mentioned it. She saw me and the Cayenne through about a month of downtime as the engine was removed, over $7,500 of new parts were installed—they do not want to see this thing a second time—and I took the car back “fixed.”
While the Cayenne was being repaired the first time, I declined their loaner car but eventually needed a tow vehicle to go racing for one weekend. Porsche Arlington didn’t have any Cayennes properly equipped, so they offered to set me up with an Infiniti QX80 from Enterprise.
Months later, I noticed an exhaust smell that lead to a flashing glow plug light, check engine light and limp mode. I called Porsche Arlington for an appointment and was surprised to hear that my Superwoman advisor was no longer employed there. Neither was the other advisor I’d found helpful. It was a whole new team. Odd. I made an appointment for two days later, was told a loaner car would be ready for me, and thought nothing of it.
This is where this all gets… fun.
I limp-moded to Porsche Arlington and met my new service advisor, who was nice enough but knew precisely nothing about automobiles. She promised the shop foreman would call to get more details as all she could write down was “Check Engine Light” and was immediately lost when I mentioned glow plugs. Ooookay. What about that loaner? “Oh, uh, we don’t have any today.” There was no Enterprise offer, just a Lyft ride home in a smelly Camry.
A few days went by and no shop foreman—or anyone—called me. I called several times on my own and always got the “I’ll call you back” line. I had travel plans, I was driving other cars, and I was working my day job. Time passed quicker than I realized until I finally counted the days and figured 16 of them had passed with no updates or returned calls. I hopped in the Ford F-150 Lightning I was reviewing and drove to the dealership. Things get done when you show up in person. Sort of.
The update? My EGR cooler had gone bad and was replaced. When the foreman moved the Cayenne for its test drive, he noticed oil on the ground and realized the prior engine-out reseal hadn’t fully sealed. The engine needed to come out again. Okay, let’s do it.
Another week went by and I still had no loaner (not a huge deal) and no updates beyond “we’re pulling the engine probably” (more of a huge deal). No timeline for repairs and nobody would answer my calls when I tried to find out where my car was. Finally, I called and told the receptionist to have the car out front at 5 p.m. in whatever state of repair and I was coming to take it back. Things get done when you stand your ground. Sort of.
The shop foreman finally called me, basically begging me to give them a second chance to seal this engine. I acquiesced, for some reason, and he promised that he would be doing the work. There were no white, base-model Macan loaners available, but he fished a 2021 Honda CR-V out of somewhere and I drove that home.
Thirty-seven days later, having been promised the diesel-expert-foreman did the work and “a 100-mile extended test drive” had been completed, I got the Cayenne back from the second re-seal attempt. “Got back” was a journey all its own, as nobody could produce paperwork and the foreman texted me 90 minutes after I got the car home saying “it’s almost ready, just needs a wash first.”
I immediately took the Cayenne to visit my parents for Thanksgiving and parked on the fresh concrete driveway attached to their brand-new home a few hundred miles from D.C.
The following morning, I woke up and noticed a spot under the Cayenne when I looked out the window. Maybe it’s a shadow. It can’t be… oh fuck, it can be and it is.
It was still leaking.
I moved the Cayenne to the street, where my mom worried about it being hit by an errant dump truck in their new-construction neighborhood (my response: “If they don’t total it they better hit it harder a second time”) and my dad helped me scrub 10W-30 out of their new driveway using Dawn and a stiff brush.
Fairly upset, I texted the foreman, who confirmed leadership made the original technician re-repair his bad repair. I then called another Porsche dealer that was on the way home from my parents’ house. I figured the stars might align and I could drop the car off on the way home, throw my stuff in a white base-model Macan and keep driving. There were, of course, no appointments available. When I mentioned Porsche Arlington, the service advisor stumbled and said, “well uh, we’re so busy because we have our normal clients and we’ve been dealing with a lot of re-work from Arlington, I’m really sorry.”
My next call was to 1-800-PORSCHE, the publicly-facing customer care line. They opened a case, though ultimately I was told there wasn’t much they could do if Porsche Arlington wouldn’t return their calls, as they hadn’t returned mine. At the same time, I took the Cayenne to Porsche Chantilly, where this service advisor understood my issue, the warranty program, and knew he could have the car as long as he needed if he’d just communicate with me about the process.
Chantilly called after a day or two and confirmed the TDI V6 was leaking from the rear main seal after a visual inspection. They needed to drop the engine to totally make sure, but either way, this leaking seal would not be covered by any warranty because it was a “workmanship defect” from the other dealer’s shoddy work.
I get it, dealers are franchises and one can’t pay for the other’s bad job. But I just do not care. When one dealer service department can’t be trusted and can’t communicate, the last thing they deserve is a third attempt to fix the same problem. I hung up with Chantilly and made another call, a call that again relies on a privilege most owners will not have. I called one of my contacts at Porsche and asked what my options were when every publicly-facing option was looking to me to pay for a dealer’s severe mistake.
She put me in touch with a different team, who’s more of a “customer retention” department. My new best friend is Linda, who set the example for how every service-related communication should be handled. She was prompt, she listened, she made good on promises to call back… easy stuff, that somehow got ignored by an entire dealership team.
Linda handled the logistics of who-pays-for-what between Arlington and Chantilly. My Chantilly service advisor was told by his general manager to “just get it done” and not invoice me for a thing.
One hundred and nine days after I first saw oil on the ground from a common, warranty-covered leak, I took a Lyft ride to Porsche Chantilly to retrieve my repaired Cayenne. Despite all of this debauchery, I still somehow adore this happy-frog-looking crossover. It is a phenomenal vehicle, and I put up with this whole disaster of an experience because a working Cayenne is really that good. And, I understand the relationship between an automaker and their dealers.
Most owners, though? The owners who bought a $150,000 Cayenne brand-new? They’d have gone to a Mercedes-Benz or BMW dealership after the second botched repair, thrown their keys at a salesperson, and left in a new GLE or X5. They’d swear off Porsche-the-brand for life and be detractors to everyone who’d listen. They don’t know or care that the dealerships aren’t owned by Porsche corporate. It says Porsche on the building, so they must all be the same.
I asked Porsche for comment on where customers should turn when their 1-800 helpline also hits a dead end, and if Porsche North America will step in to help remediate a poorly-performing service department. Responses had not been provided at the time of publication.
Ultimately, this a problem that any automaker can face. Aside from a house, your car is one of the most expensive things you’ll purchase in your lifetime. And the owner of any brand, from Mitsubishi to McLaren, deserves the same basic communication when it comes to repairs. Me pulling the journalist card is not how this should’ve ended—again, very few people will have that in their deck at all.
Hindsight is always perfect. But in hindsight, I should’ve never left the Cayenne at Porsche Arlington the second time. The entire team of service advisors being new all at once was a sign that I ignored, despite having that gut feeling of “this isn’t normal.” I pushed through it because of the dealership’s close proximity to my home. Giving up for the day, limp-moding home, and calling other dealers would have likely resulted in a proper second repair and far less frustration.