Audi questions from a perspective buyer

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I've owned Audis for nearly 20 years so I feel somewhat qualified to comment. Others have extolled the Audi virtues and I won't bother repeating them except to say if you're set on the 3.0 you ought to get quattro - it's
a nice feature and one of the most reliable parts of an Audi. Now for the downside. First, as you realize, maintenance and repairs are fairly expensive. Most parts - either OEM or aftermarket - come from Europe where the euro is soaring against the dollar and there are relatively few independent mechanics who work on Audis although that has improved in the last decade or so. Brake pads wear out fairly quickly and when you replace them you usually wind up replacing the rotors since the design does not allow for much machining. When you replace the pads, consider an aftermarket pad which will offer equivalent or better performance and reduced dust. My A4 owners manual recommends a timing belt change at 90,000 miles but that interval is now reduced to between 60,000 and 70,000 miles by most accounts. TB failure is a VERY expensive disaster but replacing it and the other components that are recommended at the same time (water pump, thermostat, tensioners, serpentine belt) will cost you typically between $800 and $1000. The 2.8 and I suspect the 3.0 are prone to oil leaks from the cam seals and the valve cover gaskets after about 50,000 miles. This repair runs around $400. I also had to replace a radiator for close to $600 at 65,000 miles and a temperature sensor ($200) around 55,000 miles. Earlier, warranty repairs included a clutch throwout bearing and the ventilation fan motor at 22,000 miles. Fortunately, I have so far - knck on wood - escaped the widespread control arm problem and my A4 was too early a model to have suffered from the coil failure problem that has now been rectified.
To sum up, my A4 is enjoyable to drive, a pleasure to look at but a bit too prone to costly maintenance and out of the ordinary failures. For now, I'm keeping it but I expect it will be my last Audi for awhile.
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Hi Ian!
Wow.. I'm sorry to hear that you had such problems with them. I probably forgot to mention it earlier, but I was looking into the A4 3.0 quattro model, not the non-quattro.
Were any of your repairs under warranty? As I'd be looking at a certified model, it should be warranteed for up to 100k miles.
Some non-Audi dealerships offer an aftermarket warranty, which I will probably go for. From what I understand (and what you mention), I'd rather have it warranteed for as long as possible. I'm not sure how reliable the aftermarket warrantees are though. I think some places use Pinnacle which apparently is accepted at any Audi Dealership (with a $100 deductible).
Thanks again!
Marty
Ian S wrote:

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Quattro is the only way to go with an A4. ;-)

The clutch throw-out bearing and heater fan motor were warranty items. Also, front pads and rotors at around 35,000 miles. I did the rears - both pads and rotors - myself at around 55,000 miles. I was able to get quite reasonably priced rotors and pads via an aftermarket supplier and the job is quite easy as long as you have your own piston tool or borrow one from Autozone. You want to look very closely at whatever warranty you get because the Audi new owner plan spoils you badly since even maintenance items are covered. In a used car warranty, brake pads and rotors are unlikely to be covered and I'm not sure about the TB - certainly you don't want it to fail and then not have the damage covered under the warranty. The radiator replacement due to a serious leak at the six year point may have been my fault since I let the antifreeze go for longer than the recommended 2 year interval.

I only mentioned the major problems - there were minor problems repaired under warranty such as an electrical switch and burned out heated mirrors. The latter were a design flaw that may have been rectified in newer models. I'm reasonably certain mine have burned out again but living in Phoenix, it's not a big deal to me. I also had a problem with the rotary switch that operates the sunroof - this common problem manifests itself in the sunroof seeming to develop a mind of its own and opening or closing part way with no driver input. That was post warranty but I fixed it myself. You might want to visit Audiworld.com and search their forum archives for info on troublespots and many useful how-to's. One issue you may want to look into is related to control arm deterioration. This was a problem on models at least through 2000 I believe and maybe beyond. I would expect it to be covered under any warranty you're contemplating but you may wish to check for sure. My car BTW, has about 75,000 miles to date.
Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed my Audis and I still think the 1998 A4 with sports package is still one of the best looking sedans on the road (the sports package wheels especially complement the car's "muscular" look). It also has nicely balanced performance and comfort. But Consumer Reports IMHO accurately pegs it as less than a pinnacle of reliability.
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