'03 A4 Quattro Clutch Wear battle with dealership "Possible Abuse" - please help

I currently have 38,000 miles on my 03 A4 Quattro and noticed that my clutch is slipping when I change gears. Basically my RPMs are way too high for my acceleration and speed when I shift into gear. I've also
noticed that it seems to stick a little when I shift into 2nd gear. The realease point is extremely high as well. If the mechanic noticed that the release point seemed different.
The dealership says that if the wear is due to abuse then I will have to pay a minimum of $500 just for them to look at the clutch and $2300!!! to replace it. My car is under warranty and I think this is bullsh$t. I do not drop my clutch at rpms, constantly keep it in engaged, nor do I race it all the time. I live in Atlanta with terrible traffic and have to shift a lot in bumper to bumper traffic and I shift slowly for smooth shifts but am wondering if that is actually worse for the clutch than quick jerky shifts since the clutch is engaged longer. They also tried to tell me that because I have 19" RS6 wheels that the circumfrence and weight of the new wheel is similar to "towing a boat" which is more stressful on the clutch. Am i wrong or is the diameter the same since the profile of the tire is smaller to compensate for the bigger wheel. Also, what added weight? I know he can't possibly mean actual lbs added to the car.
Finally they said abuse can be identified by rippped rivets, excessive hot spots, and uneven wear on the clutch. Can anyone verify that this can identify abuse?? Is there a difference in how the clutch looks based on whether I'm racing the car or shifting much more than normal due to traffic conditions? Can anyone give me any information to form a solid argument with them? I am not a mechanic but I refuse to be taken advantage of by these dealerships any longer
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BR, The dealership will always try to find a reason for not running a warranty repair, especially a clutch replacement. I'm sure that you don't track your car, but there are people that do, and they certainly should not be given a free clutch for trying to outpace a Corvette on the local strip. That said, the diameter of your rims has little to do with the wear on your clutch. If you were running monster truck tires then it certainly would (~72" rims?), but the rolling diameter of any given tire and rim combination should be close to stock, otherwise your speedometer/odometer would be wrong. This comment smacks of "grasping at straws", and suggests that they are really trying to weasel out of the repair. I would try taking the car to a different dealer, and take your business to the new shop in the future. Ask around on Audiworld for shop recommendations, and make sure you post which shop fed you the line of "rim diameter related clutch damage" bunk. I'd also ask for the parts they take out of the car to be put in a box in the trunk, so that you.....and your lawyer's experts.....can look at the damaged parts (wink wink). They've sold you a car with a warranty - now they have to show what the warranty is for. Cheers! Steve Sears 1987 Audi 5kTQ 1980 Audi 5k 1962 and '64 Auto Union DKW Junior deLuxes (SPAM Blocker NOTE: Remove SHOES to reply)

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Here's what I think you ought to consider in terms of variables and taking control of this particular situation...
Assuming you bought the car new and the warranty is a new car warranty, it will be unlikely that a worn out clutch will be covered under warranty, because (read your fine print to check on this) "wear items" like tires, clutch and brake linings are not usually covered by car manufacturer warranties.
If your clutch has simply worn out after 38K that's surely odd...but hey, maybe you're riding the clutch and you sent it to an early grave...obviously nobody here can say one way or the other. My 87 5ktq has 250K on the original clutch and it's solid...my BMW 3 series took 220K of whipping, and I mean a daily thrashing, by me before it toasted not the lining, but the throw bearing.....German cars have very good clutches, so you're either riding the clutch, abusing it, or it's defective. Common sense says it's 1 of those 3 possibilities.
The 2 usual exceptions to the general rule in new car Warranty coverage that will get your clutch fixed for free are:
1. manufacturers defects; and
2. the existence of "service memos", those semi-secret manufacturer-to-dealer advisories which identify known premature or oddball problems. (for example, my mom's '99 Caddy STS had a free valve job done on its Northstar 32 Valve V8 at 120,000km...big cash!...because of a Service Memo I tracked down online).
As for the stealer, er, I mean dealer...factory-authorized warranty jobs pay Top Dollar my friend...I haven't met a dealer yet that doesn't want to find a way to get the factory to pay full pop for a nice payday like an Audi clutch. That's my way of saying there's nothing in it for the dealer to try and get you to pay for it if they can get the factory cash in their hands....unless they plan on double-dipping and getting money from you and the factory, but that's risky business, as a dealer can lose its franchise if it gets caught doing fraudulent warranty claims....
So unless your dealer is exceptionally well-known as a weaselarium or you've heard rumours they're about to go under, I'd tend to steer towards getting the dealer to involve your Zone/Regional Audi office in the teardown...or call them yourself....manufacturers such as Audi have people on the road that inspect unusual or pricey potential warranty claims and make fair rulings in my experience. Plus, having the Zone rep involved will keep the dealer honest.
My wierdest clutch experience:
In the early 1980's I went through a Renault Phase and after owning an R5 GTL and an Encore, I bought a 2 year old Fuego Turbo from a Ford dealer....and paid extra to get the Ford Red Carpet Used Car Warranty...because I knew Fuegos were cool, but extremely nasty cars to repair.
The clutch started slipping within a week....no problem, they changed it no charge.
A month later, it went again. They changed it, no problem, no charge.
A few months later, I picked it up with Clutch #5 in it and got 10 minutes away from the dealership, hit the highway, put it in fourth at about 4500 RPM and jumped on the gas to get the big Garrett T3 to blast off.....wheeeeeeeeee.....clutch gone again.
The dealer then told me I obviously was "racing" and "abusing" the car....in ten minutes!
Long story cut short....the Ford Zone Rep gave me a bag of cash to make me go away.
Turned out it was a cracked bell housing leaking fluid on the clutch material.
Maybe your transmission case has a hairline crack...if so, your clutch material will be wet.
Good luck!
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My guess is that the clutch is being abused. The original post talked about changing gear slowly - now I guess that this doesn't mean moving the gear stick slowly. More likely, the driver is keeping the engine revs high and letting the clutch engage slowly, with lots of slip - whilst being kind to the rest of the transmission, this will result in excessive wear of the clutch plate, particularly in the town traffic he describes.
--
Peter Bell (Note Spamtrap - To reply, replace 'invalid' with 'bellfamily')

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Peter Bell wrote:

If we're just counting up votes, I gotta go with Bell. I've never had a clutch in a car *I* drive regularly go out with under 100K on it. Audis have gone well over 200K for me. That said, I do not 'baby' them, either. I am a BMW & Audi club driving instructor, so my cars do get 'tracked' regularly, but that's not abusing the clutch (unless you mistakenly think, as someone here obviously does, that this consists solely of drag racing). I've also autocrossed for some 18 years using 4000-rpm 'drop clutch' starts in Audis and this hasn't noticeably affected my clutch wear. I drive 'briskly' on the street, but my shifts don't wear the clutch quickly.
It's the regular day-to-day shifting pattern you use that will wear out your clutch prematurely (barring a very rare defect of some kind, which you'll only be able to find after you take it apart). The best shifts are apparently (I'm not bragging, but depending on the results I have.) the way I drive: quick engagement of first to get rolling, rev-matching both up- and downshifting, and spending as little time as possible in the midpoint of pedal travel when shifting. I don't generally 'speed shift'; I take my time moving the shift lever, but during that time, the clutch pedal is *on the floor* (none of this ridiculous clutch spacer nonsense to make my shifts infinitesimally 'faster') and then quickly released.
It's when you're depressing or releasing the clutch that it slips and wears. It's also when your shifts aren't smooth (in terms of rev matching) that it wears. I hope you find some anomalous clutch malady like a leaking seal or badly made materials; but I doubt you will. If you end up having to pay for this job, it should be more than reason to go on a campaign against shoddy Audi service. It should be your wake-up call to change your driving habits somehow. -- C.R. Krieger (Been there; done that)
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Peter Bell wrote:

If we're just counting up votes, I gotta go with Bell. I've never had a clutch in a car *I* drive regularly go out with under 100K on it. Audis have gone well over 200K for me. That said, I do not 'baby' them, either. I am a BMW & Audi club driving instructor, so my cars do get 'tracked' regularly, but that's not abusing the clutch (unless you mistakenly think, as someone here obviously does, that this consists solely of drag racing). I've also autocrossed for some 18 years using 4000-rpm 'drop clutch' starts in Audis and this hasn't noticeably affected my clutch wear. I drive 'briskly' on the street, but my shifts don't wear the clutch quickly.
It's the regular day-to-day shifting pattern you use that will wear out your clutch prematurely (barring a very rare defect of some kind, which you'll only be able to find after you take it apart). The best shifts are apparently (I'm not bragging, but depending on the results I have.) the way I drive: quick engagement of first to get rolling, rev-matching both up- and downshifting, and spending as little time as possible in the midpoint of pedal travel when shifting. I don't generally 'speed shift'; I take my time moving the shift lever, but during that time, the clutch pedal is *on the floor* (none of this ridiculous clutch spacer nonsense to make my shifts infinitesimally 'faster') and then quickly released.
It's when you're depressing or releasing the clutch that it slips and wears. It's also when your shifts aren't smooth (in terms of rev matching) that it wears. I hope you find some anomalous clutch malady like a leaking seal or badly made materials; but I doubt you will. If you end up having to pay for this job, it should be more than reason to go on a campaign against shoddy Audi service. It should be your wake-up call to change your driving habits somehow. -- C.R. Krieger (Been there; done that)
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winston wrote:

I have. Over here in Austria a factory warranty repair pays less to the shop as if the customer would pay. As for all repairs (also towards the customer), there is a fixed amount of time /money they would get from the customer and the money they get from the factory is significantly less (because Audi does not want the dealer to make profit on THEIR account, which makes this information pretty credible for me).
So, yes, they would try to dodge the claim, because it's barely covering their expenses over here.
A good workshop, however, would still do the job because it covers the expenses AND makes sure the customer comes back with repairs he might have to pay. Because he was treated well before.
Regards
Wolfgang
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Its a catch 22 for the dealer - if they get in there and find something obvious like fluid in the clutch well then that's fine , your warranty will cover it & everyone is happy. If they find a knackered clutch then its their word against yours - they say the clutch is knackered, you say you don't abuse it. The problem is that even inspecting you clutch is not a short job - in fact its an absolute bitch of a job.
Statistically the liklihood of getting a bad clutch plate that just happens to wear out faster than thousands of similar parts is extremely low, so regardless of how you say you've driven the car you must also understand when the dealer takes the position that, frankly, they don't believe what you say.
You also say you spend a lot of time in traffic - and with that statement you probably hang yourself. Based on what you've said & the general reliability of Audi clutches (they are NOT a known weak point) its more than likely you have knackered the thing. Besides, the fact that you have to shift more than normal due to "traffic conditions" (as you say you do) is your problem, not the dealers (or Audi's)!
The dealer is right in as much as you should be able to see from the clutch whether or not the thing has been over heated - but just because it hasn't been over heated doesn't mean you havn't just plain worn it out anyway. With regard to the wheels, I don't know the numbers but its surprising just how much heavier "big rims" can be over standard & so that will have an impact on your clutch in stop-start traffic.
My advice would be to get your car fixed, expect to have to pay for it & then trade it in for an Automatic - if you spend as much time in traffic as you say you do then you 'll probably find it a lot less stressful to drive anyway!
I.
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I was falsely accused of abusing my 2001 S4 when the transmission broke. A few years later a different dealer tried to turn a $1000 out-of-warranty clutch problem into $3,000 of repair work. My experience is common. I will not be buying another Audi.
Having my car fixed or maintained at the independent shop down the street costs half as much as going to a dealer. The labor rate and parts cost are slightly cheaper, they bill half as many hours, and they don't add unnecessary work to the job.
It might be worth risking the $500 for a look. If they say "abuse" have it towed somewhere else for $1500 of repair work. Then you decide if it's worth your time to sue Audi.
--
John Carr ( snipped-for-privacy@mit.edu)

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John F. Carr wrote:

Actually, it isn't. Both the tranny and the clutch in those cars are pretty robust. I'll grant that maybe the broken tranny was a manufacturing problem, and that the clutch problem was the result of a half-assed repair.
But I think you'll find *most* manual-TX Audi owners to be very satisfied with the length of service of their tranny/clutch.
Where is the data on faulty manual trannies in Audis?

It's probably better than way. The stealership network does suck. But the parts supply and independent shops do a better job, faster and cheaper, for those of us who can stay away from the stealerships.
IIRC, BMW balked at some engine replacements (for M3s) that died from oil problems. Audi isn't the only maker who weasels on warranty work. They all do it, if they can.
But if you can get out of your Audi, and get into a nice Honda, I'm sure you won't have to worry about any sorts of issues like that. Right?
E.P.
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Unfortunately, if the clutch has been slipping enough to be noticable, there may already have been overheating that could produce "evidence" they will likely find sufficient to deny a warranty claim. Still, in order to have a non-defective clutch wear out at 38,000 miles, you have to be pretty abusive. One of the main culprits is "riding" the clutch. It's really impossible for anyone here to judge your driving habits and determine that they would cause a clutch to wear out at 38,000 miles. Your mention of other symptoms ("also noticed that it seems to stick a little when I shift into 2nd gear") suggests the possibility of a failed component not letting the clutch engage properly. That would be very useful to demonstrate to the service manager even if you have to go for a drive with him. I had a clutch release bearing on my A4 fail at 22,000 miles (squealing sound) and it was replaced under warranty so I certainly wouldn't rule out a defective part being involved. The dealer comment about your wheels is just total BS and suggests to me that they are sleazy enough that I'd take it to another dealer if possible. In any event, drive gently until you take it in to avoid more heat damage to the clutch components.
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This sort of thing explains why European car manufacturers continue to have a hard time gaining market share in North America.
When I was an auto journalist, there was an expression used by more experienced writers pointed at German manufacturers:
"American manufacturers want to you to tell them what you like about their cars;
Japanese manufacturers want you to tell them how to improve their cars;
German manufacturers want to tell you why their cars are the best."
This thinking extends into the dealer networks, where you are often suposed to behave like you are lucky they have chosen to talk to you at all.
Consequently, their superior attitude and superior pricing policies results in fewer cars sold, often at prices beyond what you see in the ads.
Fewer cars sold means parts and service become more expensive to pay for running the low-volume dealership.
The expensive parts and service leads to fewer cars being sold.
The exception: larger cities with large European immigrant populations and/or cultures.
Example:
In Toronto and Montreal Canada, you can get the oil changed in the BMW 3 series anywhere for $35 because the cars are common due to a large multi-cultural population. You can buy a new 3 series for about the same price as an optioned up Accord or Camry.
In smaller Canadian cities like Halifax, only the dealer will change your oil (nobody carries the filter cartridges) and it costs over $100.
All of which is a shame...because I rather like German cars.
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