German car manufacturers love creating works of engineering wonder, even if they aren’t the most economical solutions. Unfortunately, that can lead to some complications for owners 20+ years down the road. Case in point, the Porsche 911 Turbo built between 2001 and 2012 (covering both the “996” and “997” models) utilizes a complicated system of hydraulic actuators and rams to swiftly, quietly, and smoothly lift and lower the rear spoiler. While definitely slick, this system is now a known failure point. I do not have hard statistics on hand, but anecdotally it seems like most cars are affected at some point (if you do have the actual numbers, let us know if the comments!). Fortunately, industrious minds equal to those at Porsche have been hard at work crafting economical and long lasting aftermarket solutions, and teaching owners how to increase the longevity of the Porsche system. Below I discuss the pros and cons of the Rennkit eRam Kit, as well as a few alternatives.
But before reading on, I want to take a moment to spotlight, and thank the many aftermarket suppliers and experts (Rennkit and others) that help many of us keep our cars on the road and fully functional. Support them and their products as a way of saying thanks.
Fool Me Once:
My 2001 996 Turbo was already on (at least) its second Porsche hydraulic ram system when I bought it, and that one recently exhibited a telltale sign of failure: lopsided retraction. There are many known failure points, most deriving from the hydraulic fluid and failure at one seal or another. Mine failed at the actuator in the middle, as evidenced by the fluid that leaked under the fan shroud and rubber seal on my engine lid. The original system in my car was replaced by a prior owner at a dealer in 2011 at a cost of nearly $3,000. I have heard current estimates between $3,000 to $4,000 for a new dealer installed Porsche system. Keep in mind, it will almost certainly fail again. And as a former President once said, “Fool me once... shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.” Wait, what?
You Can’t Get Fooled Again:
I chose to replace my Porsche hydraulic spoiler system with an aftermarket solution. The Rennkit eRam replaces the entire system with electric rams, and includes a small electronic circuit that provides full original system functionality without triggering faults (stock functionality includes auto deployment/retraction at set speeds, and manual operation via a dash mounted button). The eRam system is a very popular replacement choice among 996 and 997 Turbo owners. As with every mod, I kept the entire original system intact in case a downstream owner wants to return to stock configuration.
Pros of the eRam:
- Cheaper than original system;
- DIY friendly;
- Reported increased longevity;
- Full functionality;
- No messing with hydraulic fluid; and
Cons of the eRam:
- Purchase/installation was not seamless;
- Slower (or pay more for upgraded speed);
- Ram shafts are not as visually pleasing;
- Not original equipment; and
- Customer service issues.
More on the Pros:
The basic Rennkit eRam system is reported by many to provide greater longevity, is cheaper, and provides options to customize. For instance, you can choose from one of multiple different deployment heights, and one of two speeds of operation. While my kit is too new to discuss longevity, from what I can tell many customers remain satisfied several years on. I chose the 3 inch kit, which is just ever so slightly higher than the stock setting, but still looks very original with my stock spoiler/wing. I chose not to pay more for the “fast” speed setting. With protective dust boots this setup cost just south of $1,600 after a small Rennlist discount.
More on the Cons:
I chose this system because I was willing to give up originality for a system that is cheaper, cleaner, and DIY friendly. The product is working well, and I think those goals were accomplished. However, all was not seamless with my purchase and installation. My system shipped with the wrong “micro-module,” the chip that enables the system to communicate with the ECU to offer dash-light free full operation. The manufacturer was not quick to respond, shipped a system via USPS which would have taken several days to reach me under the best circumstances, and then unfortunately and through no fault of the manufacturer, the replacement was lost in the mail (although I must question the choice of carrier). This meant further cumbersome back and forth until, at my request, Rennkit was willing to send me another unit which I then installed. Rennkit was insistent I return the old unit (my guess is to protect intellectual property) but did not include a return shipping envelope or postage despite the fact this was Rennkit’s error. Finally after going through the trouble of shipping two modules back to Rennkit, I got an email accusing me a sending it the wrong address, but with no further request. Weird. Communications from Rennkit were not that clear, slow in coming, and there was no apology about the failed module. All in all my interactions with Rennkit were not particularly pleasant or helpful. A minor annoyance really, but so went my experience.
Including the 2 weeks it took me to find time to execute the initial install, it was 8 weeks from order date to a fully functional installation. Total work time (w/o micro module replacement) was about 4.5 hours. I am a hack wrench at best. I could halve that on a second try, and others will undoubtedly be quicker. I highly recommend the optional specialized wrench.
- Aftermarket improvements to the OE system;
- Create a maintenance interval to extend longevity of OE system; or
- Is there another aftermarket system? Let me know in the comments!
At left (above on mobile), you can see where my system was leaking. This is the hydraulic actuator in the middle of the system, which lives under the fan shroud. This leaking fluid was not evident until the shroud was removed! You can also see a slight drip of fluid on the right side ram, in the pics in the gallery. My system was probably experiencing simultaneous leaks.
Rennkit eRams are not the only option. Other aftermarket suppliers offer rebuilds of the OE system that replace some of the known failure points. One such service is offered by Ultimate Motorwerks, one of the most trusted and highly regarded suppliers of 996/7 Turbo aftermarket support. Alternatively, there are threads online such as this one that describe a maintenance program including periodic replacement of the hydraulic fluid (pentosin) to increase longevity. Sounds messy to me, maybe you’re into that kind of thing?
I now have a fully functional wing that should have increased longevity over the original, for about $1,600 plus my own install time. I recommend the Rennkit eRam for anyone who needs to replace their original Porsche hydraulic spoiler rams. See video below for operation after install, and gallery at the bottom for more pics.