Home » Two Shops, Three Engine Removals, And Too Much Oil On The Ground: How My Porsche Cayenne Became A Diesel Nightmare

Two Shops, Three Engine Removals, And Too Much Oil On The Ground: How My Porsche Cayenne Became A Diesel Nightmare

New Project

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. 

Hopefully. 

Pour yourself some tea because mine is piping.

3 Summit Point Air Time
Photo: via Author

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.

2 Blagdenalley
Photo: via Author

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.

4 First Leak
Photo: via Author

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.

7 Dash Lights
Photo: via Author

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.

8 Arlington Service Lane
Photo: via Author

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.

9 Shop Foreman Lol Carwash
Photo: via Author

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. 

11 Thanksgiving Oil Driveway
Photo: via Author

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. 

10 Thanksgiving Oil Leak
Photo: via Author

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.”

 

12 Thanksgiving Shop ForemanNoted.

 

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.

13 Fixed Finally Home
Photo: via Author

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. 

5 Towing

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.

Relatedbar

 

What It Was Like Driving My Worn-Out 1966 Ford Mustang 2500 Miles From Detroit To Los Angeles

I Took On A Bad GM Design In A Hail Mary Attempt To Fix My Friend’s Suburban, But It Was Too Little Too Late

My Jeep Cherokee’s Battle Against Rust, Time, and Quarantine: Member Rides

How An Australian Town Came Together To Help An American Fix The Most Hopeless Car On Earth

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit

80 Responses

  1. Hello and welcome! Great article, but I have a couple of important questions
    1. How the heck is your surname pronounced?
    2. If I ever need to give somebody shit, can I hire you to do it for me?

    1. Thank you!
      1. Thee-vis (it’s Germanish we think, when I visited everyone there could pronounce it on the first try)
      2. Of course! Keep your receipts, they make a point much easier to prove. 😉

  2. I recently had a similar experience with one of my vehicles. I took it to a dealer for a once-over before I sell it to my new-driver nephew. I also wanted them to fix some exhaust hangers and a hole in the exhaust because working on 14 year old exhaust does not fit my definition of fun. It took 5 and a half months to get the car back, and I initiated every single communication. The service guy never called me first, despite having “a sticky note with your name and number on my monitor so you’re my top priority every day.”

    I really don’t understand where the lack of communication comes from. If you call me proactively to say there’s supply issues or whatever, and keep me up to date on what’s going on, I will give you as much time as you need. I just want the people who are troubleshooting my vehicles to be problem solvers….”We tried source A, it’s not working out, I’m trying B and C in parallel.”

    1. I’m dealing with a similar issue with some furniture I bought on december 31.

      At time of purchase, “it’ll be here nad ready for deliver in a week”. Silence for two weeks. So I called and “this week for sure!”. OK.

      A week of silence later, I sent an email and the terse response was “it will be in next week”.

      It’s now Monday of next week, and I’m not going to bet on it being here. if I don’t hear from them by Friday (or better, get what I paid for already) then I will cancel the order and give them 3 days to refund my credit card. After that, chargeback.

      Ha they been proactive about communicating the delays (or told me up front it’ll be a month or more), they could probably string me along for 6 weeks without issue. Silence is a deadly way to treat most customers and I have no idea why businesses do that.

  3. Had a bit of a similar experience getting the clutch in my S4 replaced at a local Audi dealer. The clutch needed done (actually, it was the throw out bearing, but at 120k, everything was getting replaced. They sucked me in with a lot of discounts – this was the beginning of the pandemic and their business had basically screeched to a halt.

    The service writer was communicative, but holy cow, I couldn’t trust a word he said. If I had a dollar for every time he said “yup it’ll be ready by ____”, I could have had enough to pay for that flywheel.

  4. “leadership made the original technician re-repair his bad repair.”

    I’ve never had that scenario, but I had my truck in for some sort of service and they promised to get it back to me by EOD. Usually at this dealer that means 2 or 3 in the afternoon, but this time I didn’t get a call until 5:45. Problem being, the shuttle service ends at 5:30 so I had no way to get back to the shop. He transferred me to the service desk anyway and the receptionist said they would drop it off at my house.

    Turns out they made the guy who failed to call me in time drive it out and walk back. It’s probably around 3 miles one way, which I’ve actually done when the weather is nice and I feel like taking a walk instead of a shuttle, but it takes a while. I would have given him a ride back, but I was already running extremely late for something so I guess he just had to hoof it.

  5. Curious you tout inclusivity but reduce a woman working at a dealership for not knowing every aspect of the model line up from 10 years ago?

    Be the change you wish to see, not further disseminate the hate… you’re not representing your organization well.

    1. Nice try.

      First repair attempt: “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…”

      Second repair attempt: “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”

      That’s two women in the same role, one of which was fantastic and the other was uh, the exact opposite. The second advisor may not have known everything about every Porsche product sold ten years ago, but she could have written down all of my “customer states” information, passed it along to the techs who (rightfully) know more anyway, and returned perhaps one phone call.

      Gender has precisely nothing to do with this story, nor was it EVER implied that it did.

  6. Google put the Autopian in my news feed. I was intrigued. I Luke the “holy grail” articles. I love the authors enthusiasm for vehicles. The Smart Car and the buses. I get to this article and you start talking about sexual orientation. Was that necessary? I don’t care if you’re as straight as a 1 dollar bill or feel like a 2 dollar bill. What relevance is there for that when talking about cars? It’s far different to say “I’m Kelli and I climb mountains”, compared to, “I’m Kelli and I have sex with the clouds”. I just don’t understand the train of thought for society. Mention your wife/husband. Fine. Start talking about letters, and it just got political…

    1. Hey Timmy! I’m the author so let’s clear something up since you seem to not-care very loudly.

      I run a driving/motorsport community for an under-represented and oft un-welcomed group of enthusiasts who could use a little bit of visible representation in the automotive media and motorsport worlds. We all want to see someone like us doing the things we aspire to do, right? It’s validating if you want to also achieve similar goals. Very, very few others have historically been “that person” for the LGBTQ community and I am proud to be the person I needed when I was younger.

      It’s not about you, it’s about those who realize who they are and can’t fathom this kind of intersectionality.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you stick around. There’s a lot of great writers here.

      1. There’s not much that I can say beyond what Jake has put in his thoughtful and patient replies above, other than that The Autopian is an inclusive and accepting automotive car community. We have no tolerance for any sort of bigotry, and we will take action if anyone infringes upon what we’re trying to build here, which is a Car Website For The People.

    2. This is such a silly overreaction. You’ve made a much bigger deal of it than the author does.

      It’s one sentence where the author mentions another site he works for. He doesn’t even mention his orientation.

      There’s nothing “political” about LGBTQ, we’re just people who exist. If you’re offended by the mere thought of people existing who aren’t exactly like you, that warrants some self reflection.

      1. Well… I’d agree if it was just in this article. But it’s been in almost every one. They position themselves as an automatic victim or something. Should I emphasize that I’m a gay author of a publication and that I think it’s important that I point that out? I feel empowered to be a gay author. I don’t know why it’s important for me to say that… Let’s say my publication is about coding and I still think it’s important that you know I’m gay. It just seems that bring up my sexual orientation instantly takes away the g or PG rating. I’m essentially talking about being between the sheets when nobody was talking about it. It’s just my opinion. Otherwise, I enjoy this site more than Road and Track…

        1. Timmy, I’ve only written one article for The Autopian. So yes, that introduction has been “in every one” so far but will not in future pieces because now y’all know me.

          Also, the fact that your first thought when seeing the introduction and half a sentence about “a community for LGBT car enthusiasts” is about sex (noted by your “takes away the G or PG rating” comment) is awfully sad. I’d encourage you to view queer people as whole humans who simply want some community, as I’m sure you do everyone else. Or maybe you do think of what goes on “between the sheets” when you meet anyone new. Dunno.

  7. Kinda wondering if the problem with German cars in US is actually poor dealerships & mechanics.

    I mean I’ve had 4 german cars (+ one italian) in last 20 years and all have been diesels. All have been driven to about 200tkm with no leakage issues. Nor I know anyone with any sort of leakage issue, and on this side of the pond, most of the cars are a) german b) diesel and c) high mileage.

    Not to say that they haven’t been unproblematic, insane service program that fe BMW has, has taken it’s toll fe in front differentials.

    1. It’s very hard to find people to do basic things. Because it’s so hard to find anyone, anyone with basic competence (like someone who knows how to tile) is quickly promoted to manage projects, which means the one skilled set of hands is removed. Meanwhile, tile guy might actually be a terrible manager, as managing requires different skills and abilities. If we could just pay them more without having them in a more “prestigious” position, everyone would be happier. Why shouldn’t the worker be paid more than their immediate supervisor?

Leave a Reply