This is not a paid review. I did not receive any compensation for telling this story.
Like most automotive journalists, I drive a press vehicle as my daily driver. It is awesome driving the latest and greatest, including vehicles ranging from family wagons to super cars. But being a car guy and a track day enthusiast, I have to own at least one car.
A little over 5 years ago I purchased an out of state 2001 Porsche Boxster S with 20,000 miles on the odometer and detailed service records from the previous owner’s local Porsche dealer. Having drank the manufacturer cool-aid, I thought the dealer was the best way to go. So for five years, my baby went to the dealer for regular oil changes, brake flushes, and minor wear and tear item repairs. I knew that I was likely paying more, but I was also getting the free lattes and cookies, a Porsche loaner vehicle, and the piece of mind that the mechanic working on my car should be a Porsche expert… but the later is not always the case.
A month before the annual Porsche Parade (The Porsche Club of America’s National Convention), I noticed a consistent harsh noise every time I made a high speed tight left turn while applying the throttle. This noise was especially troublesome because I was planning to enter my Boxster into the club’s autocross race during Porsche Parade. So I dropped my baby off at the local Porsche dealer in South Florida to be diagnosed and they gave me a shiny new Macan to drive. A week later the dealership’s Service Advisor called me up and said that my issue was related to suspension components. $2,000 later my vehicle was fixed and ready to be picked up. Assuming that my Porsche was in tip top shape, I drove leisurely on the way home and my car sat in the garage for a couple weeks.
Fast forward to Porsche Parade week… it was finally time to test my skills in the autocross competition at Palm Beach International Raceway. Every left turn, my stomach twisted as my car screeched a harsh noise. I instantly knew the problem was NOT fixed. Luckily the Porsche community is an amazing group of individuals, and one of my friends at Parade recommended a local independent mechanic who is experienced with working on first generation Boxsters. I was hesitant to make the jump, but I was disappointed that my local dealer, who should know everything about my car, didn’t fix the problem the first time – especially after having my car for over a week.
The following Monday I visited Foreign Affairs Motorsport and met with Bobby, the owner’s son. You could immediately tell that they are true gear heads, with automotive memorabilia and motorsports trophies on nearly every wall of the front office. Their passion is Porsche, but other European brands were also in their shop: a Lamborghini, a Bentley, and several BMWs. I told Bobby what my Porsche’s symptoms were and the history of the problem. To my pleasant surprise, he asked me to take him for a ride in order to reproduce the noise – the dealer never offered this. We drove the vehicle around the block and Bobby almost immediately had an idea of what was causing the problem – it wasn’t a suspension noise. He then put my car on the rack and conferred with his head mechanic. Two years ago, a Porsche 911 Turbo was experiencing the same problem on the race track. The culprit was that the transmission mounts went bad on one side. How could the dealer have missed that? Bobby brought me into the shop and showed me how with his hands he could giggle the section back and forth. The root of my problem was a $1,000 transmission mount issue versus a $2,000 suspension problem.
During his team’s inspection of my vehicle, the mechanic also noticed that my water pump was leaking and that I had a small oil leak. Without asking, Bobby personally showed me the leaks. My local Porsche dealer never let me into the active shop. While both problems were minor, both could lead to catastrophic engine problems in the future. How could my local dealer have missed this too??? I guess they were too focused on selling me a new Porsche.
After this experience, Foreign Affair Motorsport has my business for life. With that being said, there are two instances where I wouldn’t use them: 1) If I am driving a new car where the parts and labor are covered under a manufacturer’s warranty. 2) If I am driving a vehicle that they don’t service. I.E. American and Japanese cars.
Tips for picking an independent mechanic:
- Check the shop’s references. Do you have a family member or a friend who has had good experiences with the shop? If not, check the shop’s Yelp reviews.
- Go to a shop that specializes in your type of vehicle. Do they have similar vehicles on the racks or parked outside? Don’t just look at their website, a mechanic who is use to working on your vehicle will be able to troubleshoot the root of the problem quicker.
- Pick a shop that wants to educate you. Does the mechanic show you the bad part? Does the mechanic offer preventive maintenance advice in order to prevent major problems in the future.