1421 Francisco Blvd E, Suite 2 San Rafael, CA 94901 Call Now: 415-259-5488

Company Blog for San Rafael European

Evoque key fob not working

Recently we had a client bring us their Range Rover Evoque because the keyless remote would not function. They disassembled the remote side panel to gain access the the emergency key blade so the door could be unlocked. Since the car's alarm system was not disabled, the alarm went off but they were at least another step closer to us. The key was not recognized when they tried to start the car. This required the customer to place the key fob in a special cut out just under the steering column so the car could then be started. They drove the car into our shop with the alarm going. So unfortunate! We were easily able to confirm our customer's concern and dug right into diagnosis. First, we tested the remote output with an RF tester. We then read fault codes and none were present that were relevant to our issue. With a lot of electrical gremlins in the English cars, we have found that resetting the battery can cure a lot. We located the vehicle battery under the hood beneath a trim panel and disconnected the negative battery terminal for several minutes. Once reconnected, the car's remote functions were restored as well as a proper keyless start! All that was left was to reset the date and time and reprogram the windows. This turned out to be an easy and inexpensive repair for our client's Evoque. We look forward to seeing them for their scheduled maintenance in the future.

San Rafael European is a Land Rover repair shop located in San Rafael. We serve all of Marin, Sonoma, and Napa counties offering loaner cars and expert factory trained mechanics. We are the Land Rover dealership alternative. See our other services for Jaguar, McLaren, and Maserati.

McLaren maintenance

San Rafael European is pleased to announce that we are servicing McLarens of all models!

We put our decades of exotic car repair knowledge to work to better serve our clients. With the purchase of the Leonardo McLaren repair software we can now diagnose all McLaren electrical systems and reset the dash maintenance reminder for your MP4-12C, 540S, 650S, 720S and other Legacy and Super models

Check back regularly. We will be updating our McLaren blog with exciting information and pictures and how-tos.

Maserati Service

Blog will be updated with fun details and picture soon!

We are Italian car fanatics! We work on all late model Maserati cars year round. All models have a unique character that require our decades of Maserati expertise. We have full knowledge and factory repair manuals to diagnose and repair your Quattroporte or Gran Turismo. We change oil and filter and reset the maintenance reminder light. We also check your Duo Select clutch wear during your scheduled maintenance.

Get Off Your Ash!


San Francisco Motorsports understands how nasty the air we are breathing in the Bay Area is lately and would like to extend some services to our valued clients. From now through the end of the month Sept 30th 2020 we are offering free installation of cabin air filter with purchase and a hand wash of your vehicle.
By appointment only. Please call 415-259-5488 Monday – Friday 8-5
 Familiar faces
 Getting the band back together better than ever! As many of you know we pride ourselves on being one big team here at SFMS and we are proud to announce the RE-arrival of a couple of team members you may have heard of or met before.
Rick Rosa is back in the shop, he is a Ferrari and Porsche factory trained and seasoned veteran of the exotic world. Rick’s extensive knowledge of all different models/makes of european vehicles makes him the perfect fit for our ever so diverse shop. We are all very excited to have him back on the team.
Daniel Gentry is back and ready to schedule your appointment! Some of you may remember Daniel. He started in the shop as a young technician and had the desire to get more hands on with day to day operations to make sure customers got the full experience when visiting SFMSS. After a year hiatus he is back as our Shop Manager and eager to help you and your car get to the next level!
 In addition, San Francisco Motorsports has another piece of exciting news: We are now fully equipped and stocked with all necessary equipment to perform tire mount and balances as well as full 4 wheel vehicle alignments in house! Watch our monthly news letters for future special offers!

OBD II Smog Monitors on Ferrari Maserati Cars

Article Published by Forza Magazine - Written by Jesse Westlake

I have heard about three separate Superamericas that had difficulty passing the California smog test. Is there something unique about the 2005 Superamerica’s exhaust system that is causing this? Fortunately, I have had no issues (yet) getting my 2004 575M smogged, and hope that I won’t run into the same problem! There’s nothing unique about the Superamerica versus a 575M?that would make it difficult for the car to pass a smog test. If I had to guess at a cause, it would be that a typical Superamerica is driven less than a typical 575M. Why does that matter??The answer calls for a brief history of automotive emissions-control devices. Before the current European vehicle-emissions standards arrived, just about every emissions device and test came into being through the efforts of an organization called the California Air Resources Board. Formed in the late 1960s to battle the smog that was then hiding Los Angeles’ skyline, CARB set emissions standards for all new cars sold in California. Many other states adopted these standards, which are stricter than the Federal ones, and given the size of this combined market vehicle manufacturers ultimately built almost every U.S.-model car to meet CARB’s standards. Over the years, these standards led to a variety of emissions-control devices, including air injection, oxygen sensors, feedback carburetors, EGR valves, and catalytic converters. In the early 1990s, CARB introduced a new mandate that cars had to have a universal, standardized On Board Diagnostic system, which would allow for more accurate and comprehensive smog testing. OBD-II would come into effect in 1996. OBD-II introduced a standardized diagnostic connector, trouble codes, and readiness monitors. These monitors check to see if the vehicle has performed all of its emissions-related diagnostic self-checks, which extend far beyond the tailpipe. If you’ve ever left the gas cap loose on a post-1996 vehicle and had the Check Engine light come on, that was because the evaporative-system monitor discovered the leak. (The EVAP monitor also checks for vapor leaks from the fuel tank and lines.) However, while the vehicle manufacturers were responsible for monitoring emissions and communicate the results, there were no requirements about how they did so—more on that later. Here in California, the state has a three-part smog-testing program: a visual inspection to make sure all of the emissions components are installed, a functional inspection to make sure (some of) those components are working, and a tailpipe emissions test for some model years. (Many other states have similar smog-check standards.) For a post-1999 model like the 575M to pass the test, all of the OBD-II monitors except the EVAP monitor must be tested and passed, and no tailpipe test is required. This is done with a state-mandated machine that sends the results directly to the DMV; if the car fails the test, it cannot be registered. Outside the confines of a state emissions test, the monitors’ status can be checked with any generic scan tool that’s plugged into the OBD-II Data Link Connector, or DLC. On the scan tool, the passed and not-passed (this does not mean failed) monitors are usually displayed as red or green, or sometimes flashing circles with the corresponding acronym inside. You won’t always see the same results from vehicle to vehicle, however, because different cars can have different monitors. For example, the F430 has a monitors to check the evaporative system but not the EGR valve or the secondary-air system, because it was not built with those systems. But the later 430 Scuderia and Scuderia Spider 16M were equipped with a secondary air system (to compensate for their lack of pre-cats) so therefore have the accompanying monitor. Most OBD-II Ferraris have monitors for the oxygen sensor (O2S), oxygen sensor heater (HTR), catalytic converter (CAT), secondary air injection (AIR or SAIR), and evaporative system monitor (EVA or EVAP), along with a standard key-on electrical monitor called Comprehensive Component Monitor (CCM)—usually seven to nine monitors in total. Still with me??If so, here’s where “driven less” comes in. One common side effect of letting a car sit for long periods of time is that its battery will drain. (A battery maintainer will prevent this, but I can’t tell you how often I get calls after the power cord has been accidentally unplugged.) The OBD-II monitors reset to “not passed” when the battery dies or gets disconnected, and the car won’t pass a smog test until the monitors are “set” and then “passed.” This isn’t always easy, since there are several checks that need to take place. Sometimes, they need to take place over and over again before the monitors will set. Ferrari’s programmers wrote code into the engine-control software that defines exactly how and when the monitors function; this is called the enabling criteria. Enabling criteria happens during what is generically called a drive cycle, a set of parameters and circumstances that allow an individual system to be tested while the car is being driven in a baseline manner. For example: An oxygen-sensor heater can only be tested after a car is started when cold. In order for this monitor to pass, the car’s computer must see an initial oxygen-sensor voltage (usually 5-9 volts) with the ignition key turned to the On position. Then, after the car is started and is being driven, the oxygen sensor heats up and the voltage decreases to 0.2-0.8 volt. When all of this happens as expected, the HTR monitor is set and passed. But if the vehicle is too warm when started, or driven too aggressively immediately after being started from cold, the enabling criteria is not met and the monitor is not set—and therefore cannot be passed—on this particular drive cycle. It’s important to note that a monitor that is not set does not mean there is a problem with the car. It just means that the steps necessary for the car to test itself have not been completed. As I mentioned earlier, the OBD-II standards state that each car must meet the emissions results but don’t dictate how to do so. As a result, each manufacturer does things a little differently, and Ferrari is certainly not the only small-production European automaker that struggled to correlate its engine programming with passing the California smog test. That challenge falls to the technician working on the car, and there’s no universal set of guidelines available from Ferrari on how to do it. Another example: I frequently get calls throughout the summer about 360s, 456s, and 550/575Ms that will not pass the secondary air monitor. This doesn’t indicate a problem with the secondary air system, which blows fresh air into the hot exhaust to ignite any unburned gases remaining after combustion. Instead, it reflects this monitor’s very specific enabling criteria. Specifically, the car must have been sitting for two to four hours, minimum. Next, the ambient temperature must be below 70 degrees, and the car should be allowed to warm up for five to ten minutes after starting. Then comes a few miles of driving between 50 mph and 60 mph on a flat or nearly flat road, followed by a stop and some more idle time. While this enabling criteria will be met eventually during normal use, how often do all of these exact steps happen in this exact order? Not often, which is why I have sometimes had to resort to driving customers’ cars with scan tool in hand, monitoring the oxygen sensors and OBD-II monitors, after wiring a light into the secondary air pump relay so I?can see when the pump is turning on. Why? Because the pump occasionally cycles on for just a second at a time during steady cruise, and it’s at this moment that the car checks, via the oxygen sensors, that there really is fresh air flowing into the exhaust system. Sometimes it really does take a professional mechanic just to pass a smog test!

Ferrari Limited Slip noises

Published by Forza Magazine

A “rubbing” noise has just started at the rear of my 599 GTB?Fiorano. My family has owned the car since new. It has 14,000 miles and receives the factory-recommended service/oil change/inspection every year. The noise occurs at low to medium speeds when the steering wheel is turned away from center, but it doesn’t sound like a worn bearing or CV joint, a tire rubbing, or anything I’ve heard before. Performance seems unaffected, although I’m not going to attempt any burnouts or try to hit top speed until the issue is figured out. 

I?applaud your decision to drive cautiously and investigate this noise!?It truly is better safe than sorry with these cars, as undiagnosed issues that get ignored can quickly turn into very expensive, potentially dangerous problems. 

I suspect I know what’s causing the noise, which is a fairly common issue, but rather than jump the gun let’s start with the basics. First, is anything about the noise related to traction??For example, does the noise occur when you turn the wheel and stand on the throttle, and the worn rear tires scrabble for grip??I’m guessing not, because you’re likely very familiar with the car’s behavior after 14,000 miles, but it’s important to address the most obvious possibilities. Second, during its yearly visits to your dealer or mechanic, has the car received its most recent biannual gearbox fluid change??Ferrari calls for changing the fluid every two years with Shell/Pennzoil TF1055, a special blend that’s much different from a generic, Brand X gear oil. Assuming the noise isn’t related to traction and the gearbox is current on fluid changes, the issue likely relates to the internal workings of your car’s transaxle. It’s probably not a serious problem, at all, and it provides the perfect opportunity to do a little digging into a piece of performance hardware most people have heard of but few understand. 

Most readers of a certain age will have heard of Posi-Traction, an American brand name of the humble limited-slip differential. Many readers may also have learned how these devices work thanks to the courtroom scene in My Cousin Vinny, starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei, but for those who haven’t seen one of my favorite films, here’s the basic theory. The right wheels of a car making a right turn are covering far less ground than the wheels on the left side. At the same time, the engine and transmission continue to drive the car forward at a constant speed. In order for the car to turn smoothly, without jerking or skidding, the driven wheel on the left needs to be able to turn at a different speed from the one on the right—and the device that allows this differential in speed is called, suitably enough, the differential. In a front-transmission, rear-drive car, the differential is housed in the rear end. In cars with transaxles, like your 599, the differential is integrated into the transmission casing. However it’s packaged, a differential contains a small gear set that allows the constant flow of power from the pinion to the ring gear to be split through two axles spinning at different speeds, and then to the wheels. This “open” differential design works perfectly well in many situations, but there’s a catch:?It only supplies torque to the wheel with the least amount of traction. This means that if one wheel has no traction, the car may not be able to move at all, as one wheel spins endlessly and the other just sits there. The solution to this problem was to add internal clutches to the differential assembly that allow power to be transferred to both wheels, which can keep a car from getting stuck in place and deliver more torque to the tires for improved performance. 

Over time, those internal clutches have been augmented and enhanced with springs, pumps, and/or electronic forks (as found in Ferrari’s later E-diff electronic differentials), although the basic function remains unchanged. That brings up one final piece of the puzzle:?If these clutches were only able to be fully open or fully closed, the car couldn’t turn smoothly without the jerking and skidding the differential was invented to prevent. As a result, they have to be allowed to slip—a limited bit—to allow for smooth cornering. To do this slipping, the clutches require a special type of lubrication or friction modifier. On cars with a separate differential, this friction modifier just gets poured into the differential housing along with the differential oil. On a car with a transaxle, the same fluid lubricates both the gearbox and the differential, so changing that fluid is key to maintaining the limited-slip clutches. That’s why Ferrari specifies the TF1055 fluid, which already has the proper friction modifiers. This brings us all the way back to your issue. When limited-slip clutches get “dry,” they will let you know by a groaning or rubbing noise on turns. In severe cases, you will feel a chatter around tight turns. Sound familiar? This issue usually occurs on cars with low transaxle fluid levels, but every once in a while a correctly filled 599 (or, much more often, F430)?transaxle will create the rubbing noise. In these relatively rare cases, a bottle of limited-slip friction modifier—we use BG Products’ MGC 328CC here at San Francisco Motorsports—should take care of those around-town groans. 

Ferrari 348 Gearbox Shifting

Published in Forza Magazine - Written By Jesse Westlake

I just bought my high-school dream car: a red/tan 348 tb. I still have all the magazines that reviewed the 348 when it was new, and never cared about all the complaints -- the 348 just looked so perfect. I drove several cars before buying mine, and mine was definitely the best of the bunch. There's only one problem: In every single case, the shift lever was really stiff. It's something "built" into the car, and that's okay, but is there any way to make the shifting lighter, easier, something? Shifting improves very slightly when the car is fully warm, but remains very stiff.
Growing up, the my Testarossa print sat alongside posters of two supercars. An elite German car of the 80’s as well as a timeless, over-hyped, English rocket ship. I should have had the F40 because it was the rightful part of that awesome trio. But the Testarossa just had these irresistible lines that I just had to have. Now, all grown up and having the chance to work on and drive all the horses in the stable, when I want that 80’s look and feel, I gravitate towards the 348 that I dub The Mini-Testarossa. All those great lines put in a small sports car package that’s much easier to handle. It may be the door scallops that do it for me, or the square taillights. Or, maybe it’s just because they represented a whole new language of love. Either way, I think Ferrari got it right with the 348 in that era.
While ushering in new design for your senses, Ferrari also made mainstream the concept of the modular powertrain and subframe unit found on the 288 GTO. The GTO had an interior access cover to perform timing belt maintenance but still had the powertrain set on a removable subframe. On the Testarossa, Mondial T, and 348, timing belts meant major surgery in removal of the powertrain due to the cooling system moving to the midship and the fuel tank sitting directly below the rear window. During the course of this service most people will replace all fluids including the gearbox and will at least have to uncouple and recouple the shift linkages. Since this service is so time consuming, it also means quite costly. Therefore, most 348s commonly suffer what we call “deferred maintenance”. The prescribed three-year timing belt maintenance makes a lot of sense to many owners in the first ownership or decade. Resale value is still high and pride of ownership trumps all. As time ticks by the conversation shifts more to the five-year timing belt interval and “but I hardly ever drive it…” objection. Beyond just timing belts, these intervals inspect and address most items like bulbs, air conditioning, door/window function, and shift linkage adjustment and lubing. The longer in-between these major services, more opportunity lubrication has to get hard or go away completely. The more a poorly adjusted pivot has to grind a permanent groove on itself, the less likely it can be nursed back to perfection. These facts don’t change the valid conversation of cost of maintenance, but they still remain the same. At San Francisco Motorsports, we strive to make a car feel different after any service – better than when it came in. You bet the engine runs its best. But the park brake is adjusted a perfect 3-5 clicks, the doors don’t creak, hopefully the windows may roll up just a little faster, and yes, the gear shift feels as good as possible. This is accomplished through adjustments and lubrication at the shifter itself and at the gearbox during the course of these large services.
The 348 especially suffers from a stubborn cold shift. There is no doubt that temperature is a major factor with the 80’s Ferrari car shift feel. It’s such a non-secret in 348 that Ferrari made continuous changes to the gear shift and clutch throughout the vehicle build. In the field there are many things that can help, including some parts that can be replaced that are “more 355”. There are also aftermarket remedies in fluids and hard parts that can help.
There are three big effective players in the gearbox fluid conversation. I say conversation because all three have been claimed to help, and all three (in my experience and what I hear) have been claimed to be the best. First is The recommended factory fluid which was known for a long time as Shell Donax TF1055. This is a specialty fluid packed with Ferrari co-developed additives and modifiers that they believe works best in the gearbox they engineered and built. SWEPCO makes a very good gearbox fluid that can come in several viscosities and seems to hold up to the miles. The most popular alternative is Redline Shockproof gear oil which also comes in a variety of viscosities. This is a slick fluid that has good initial results. The only downside is that it seems to lose those properties relatively soon and requires frequent changes. I carry all three on the shelf and will fill any request. Without a request, we fill with the TF1055 (which has recently been replaced with Spirax oil as the recommended fill that covers DCT gearboxes as well). Fluid fill is a hot topic for all that have an opinion. When it comes these gearbox oils, or other high quality synthetic oils, you really can’t go wrong. But in the end a well revved and timed shift on a warmed-up car is the best recipe for a great gear change in car and gearbox that has no other peripheral issues.
The shift control on 348/Mondial T is different from all other Ferraris in that they use two cables to translate fore/aft and side-to-side movement. Previous cars used a single rod that twisted and push/pulled. 355 and later cars all went back to the rod setup until 360/F430 where selection cables made a comeback. These cables came together under the left of the engine to a box that re-translated movement into a twist and push/pull movement for the gearbox input. This box, while being redundant, is nearly the lowest hanging equipment on the powertrain. It is common to see this box damaged from a road hazard and needing attention. With this box put out of place and impacted, the fussy cold shifts are even more impacted. This is a first step inspection for a shift concern and must be inspected, repaired, and adjusted before moving onto other candidates. With a screwdriver in the cockpit a handy person can take on a few inspections and repairs. The shift gate is easy removed by removing two screws. Found under the gate should be a pleated rubber cover. The early cars had foam instead, and some cars have nothing by now. This cover keeps dust, coins, and liquids out of the gearshift mechanism. Some cotton swabs put to work here and underneath this boot followed by a good sticky lube is a great way tackle the low hanging fruit. There is also a “slick shift” gate available on the aftermarket that can assist those who’d rather pay attention to driving than how imperfect their shifting is. These feature more rounded entry and exit points for the gear positions. With a stock gate or aftermarket one, the two screws are tapered and determine 90% of the final position. The remaining 10% can allow an extra bit of adjustment for smoother shifts.
Finally, either from refinement issues needing field fixes or for 355 future development, Ferrari made significant updates to the clutch and clutch release mechanisms. The 355 shifting was a huge improvement over previous models’ feel. Early 348s and Mondials used a twin clutch disc that was later replaced with a single disc. The throw out bearing was also updated to a far more solid design. A clutch that continues to spin the input shaft will not allow a shift to take place. Given that so many issues with 348 were worse on the twin disc cars, it is possible to suspect the dual disc system was not able to disengage fully or carried too much mass to slow the input shaft when released. If shifting is truly miserable, and you know you have a twin disc equipped car, it can be upgraded to the single system by replacing multiple components like the flywheel and throw out bearing pedestal along with the clutch and release bearing. I would caution that this is expensive and will not change the stripes on this zebra. There will be a greatly improved shift feel but a resistance into 2nd and 3rd will always be present when cold regardless.
Like all Ferraris, the 348 comes with its own personality. And not surprisingly, those characteristics can be better or worse from one car to the next. As always, a qualified mechanic with a caring ear can help investigate and counsel you on what exactly your 348 needs.

Ferrari interiors

Featured in Forza Magazine 

I have been a subscriber since I bought my 612 Scaglietti in 2013. Jesse [Westlake] is quite knowledgeable, so I am writing today to get his help. The button for the electric mirrors does not work. Is there any specialist that you know who can fix the part? The Ferrari dealer asks $2,000 for it! Any other options would be good to know. This reader brings up a very common issue on both the 612 Scaglietti and the 599 GTB?Fiorano. The mirror switch is commonly found broken, barely hanging on, and/or needing replacement. Normally, an interior plastic piece breaking isn’t a huge issue, but, as stated, Ferrari asks a mint for these switches. The reason is that Ferrari took the standard mirror switch used by former in-house stablemate Maserati and added a gorgeous, knurled-aluminum knob in place of the original black plastic one. The problem is that, while Maserati’s plastic knob weighs next to nothing, Ferrari’s machined billet version weighs too much for the tiny plastic joystick that supports it. The switch is nearly hidden behind the steering wheel, and the forces applied when the driver twists the knob to select the left or right mirror then pushes the joystick in the desired directions means they simply don’t last long in the real world. While it’s a common problem, there are few options to resolve it. The first is simply to buy a pricey replacement from Ferrari. The second is to head to your local Maserati dealer and purchase a mirror switch for one of its 2005-12 models. This switch is a direct replacement, but comes with that black plastic knob instead of the machined metal one. The third option involves a bit of extra work. After purchasing the Maserati switch, you will have to gently break/cut the knob away from the joystick, making sure to keep the latter intact. Next, transfer your car’s original metal knob over to the new switch and secure with glue. This is a very delicate process that is not guaranteed to work the first time, and it will eventually fail just like the original did—but in the meantime, you’ll have the correct factory look at a much lower price. Generally speaking, the 612 and 599 are getting to the age where their cockpits may need some freshening up. The infamous “sticky”?issue is common but straightforward, while other problems are more difficult to resolve.
Leather shrinkage/delamination is another very common issue. This happens most often at the front of the dashboard and around the third brake light trim on the rear parcel shelf, thanks to a combination of heat and sunlight through the glass and the difficulty of applying leather conditioner to the last four inches of the dash below the windshield. Watching the dashboard’s leather slowly peel away is a sad sight, and it’s important to know that the process can damage other items, including the solar sensor, alarm LED, and defroster vents. (I have seen defroster grilles break and become so far dislodged that they leave gooey marks on the windshield, which are nearly impossible to clean away.) These repairs get expensive, as we at San Francisco Motorsports have to remove the entire dash and send it out for leather restretching or replacement, send out all the sticky interior pieces for reconditioning, and replace any damaged upper-dash components. On the 599, if the rear area is peeling, parcel-shelf strips are sticky, or if the headliner is sagging, now is the time to take care of it all. In either car, I think the completed project is well worth the cost—it’s such a beautiful reward!
There are two other items of regular concern:?the steering wheel’s RPM lights and the 599’s radio cover. The RPM lights, an option on most modern Ferraris, are an embedded LED strip in the 12 o’clock position on a carbon-fiber steering-wheel rim. The LEDs start illuminating near the redline, right in the driver’s line of sight, so he or she can keep their eyes on the road and not have to look down at the tachometer to avoid over-revving. The lens that covers the LEDs tends to crack, and sometimes fall out, over time. Replacement LEDs are available, but it wasn’t too long ago that the only repair was to replace the steering wheel, which was as expensive as you’d expect. The 599 radio cover is neat, carbon-fiber piece with the Scuderia’s flags that presses closed over the radio. The cover itself is sturdy enough for the job, but one of its plastic gears, called a dumper, isn’t. While the dumper costs only around $15, replacing it requires multiple hours of labor, as you have to remove the center console, locate hidden bolts, and so on. While these problems sound potentially significant, I’m actually a huge fan of 599 and 612 interiors. While it can take a bit of a budget and some time, once refreshed they are truly stunning and timeless.

By Jesse Westlake
Owner, San Francisco Motorsports

Ferrari oil leak inspection and diagnosis near San

We were asked the following question by Forza magazine:

"I think the valve cover gaskets are leaking on my F430. The car is stored for the winter, so I’ve got some time to tinker. Is this a straightforward job?"

They wanted to know our thoughts based on past experience specializing in Ferrari repairs.  Here's what we had to say:


The introduction of the F430 brought sweeping changes to everything Ferrari owners knew about Maranello’s V8 powertrains. The gearbox hardware and software had been upgraded, an electrical differential was added, and the engine was all-new. Compared to the 360’s V8, the new engine boasted more displacement, more power, computer adjustment for all four camshafts, and no timing belts. While the additional 90 horsepower was nice, that last item was a game changer for Ferrari owners who had long agonized over the high cost of timing-belt services.


Over the last 13 years, the F430 has proven to be very inexpensive (by earlier Ferrari standards) to own. Aside from problematic headers and some convertible-top issues on the Spiders, these cars are worry-free. Routine maintenance and away they go!


We’re just now starting to see some small issues with the lovely 4.3-liter V8, one of which has been oil leakage from up high. The cam-cover gaskets are as updated and beautiful as the rest of this powerplant—they’re one-piece, molded rubber as opposed to the fiddly, four-piece, cut-it-out-and-glue-it-yourself green paper gaskets Ferrari used to use—but, as with anything that is heated and cooled, oiled, expanded and contracted, they do eventually lose their structure and start to leak.


When they do leak, it most often shows up at the rear of the cylinder heads, where the gasket is shaped like a pair of half-moons. Spotting oil here is not where the diagnosis stops, though, as there have been many mistaken “cam cover” leaks that were actually caused by leaking variator control solenoids.

Ferrari’s fantastic adjustable camshafts are adjusted via oil pressure, and not the regular engine-oil pressure. Instead, there’s a high-pressure oil pump, driven by an intake cam to an accumulator, that operates the system. The variator control solenoids regulate this high-pressure oil to phase the cam angle. Due to the high internal pressure running through these solenoids, over time oil tends to push through the wiring and out of the connectors located on top of the cam covers.


All four connectors come from the factory wrapped in a foil cover and closed with blue zip ties. My recommendation when diagnosing an oil leak up-high is to open up all these foil wraps and slide them back. Even if you find one or more leaks, don’t stop there. Next, using two small picks (I use two paper clips slightly filed at the end), lightly pry the solenoid connector tabs open, slide the connectors apart, and check inside for any signs of oil. If pressurized oil has forced its way inside the connector, that solenoid must be replaced.


If a shop is doing this work, given the cost of parts and labor it makes sense to replace all four solenoids while everything is apart. Unfortunately, this can run the repair cost up quickly. If you’re doing this job yourself, however, you have option to repair just one bank or just one solenoid; all the parts are available separately.


To answer your specific DIY question, this is not an extremely difficult job. Owning a coupe will make the job tougher, as you will have to do some deep reaching to the front of the engine. I have never removed the interior access panel for this job, but that may be a worthwhile step if time is not a factor for you.


A few tips for the DIYer. There was a service campaign (#225/#274) that fitted breather vent covers, which look like odd-shaped rectangles, to the tops of the ignition coils. At first glance, they may seem like they’re part of the coil, but when you remove a coil bolt these will fall straight off—so take care when you’re removing the coils (which you need to do in order to remove the cam cover) and be sure to collect all the parts. When reassembling the cam covers, don’t stress over the position of the solenoid pass-throughs. They’re not fussy even though they look like they’re keyed in place.


Finally, it’s important to apply a dab of silicone at the points where the timing cover on the front of the engine meets the cylinder head (there are two points for each bank), as this is a potential leak point. Also apply silicone at the corners of the gasket’s half-moons at the rear of the heads.