new purchase 97 1.8t quattro - a few questions

Hi,
I just purchased a 97 A4 1.8T quattro a couple of months ago. What a beautiful car. Carfax says it's clean, it came with most of its records, it has low miles (69K now) and is really almost perfect but
there are of course a few small issues and I am looking for advice.
I'm not sure if the first issue really is an issue. I think the steering might be a tad floaty and I'm wondering if there's an incipient problem, or if it's just the way the car is. The steering is consistent, the steering wheel doesn't vibrate and it drives perfectly straight. There's an inch or two of travel in the wheel on the freeway. My mechanic doesn't see any problem. It's just that I used to drive a 92 Jetta GL and I feel the steering was tighter on that car. So I figured that the bar would be set the same or higher for the Audi.
Also I feel that the car might tilt a little too much going around corners. Again, I'm comparing it to my Jetta. I've heard that if I go for stiffer shocks or struts, I might get into a whole mess of compensatory changes like different sway bars. Thoughts?
The third issue is that the car is originally from Canada and the speedometer reads in KM/H without any MPH markings. I'm considering replacing the gauge face plate with a US model. It's legal to drive right now, it has a certificate to that effect. For aesthetic reasons I want an OEM plate not an aftermarket plate. I have been told that the way to get an OEM plate is to buy the whole cluster and take the plate from it. Is that possible? I definitely don't want to replace the whole cluster. Also I'm still not sure I *want* to open the dash because I don't think that's been done before and I'm concerned about the integrity of the interior afterwards.
thanks all, Beccak
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Wow! Truly low miles for a car of that vintage. My 98.5 car has 98k miles between my sister (the original owner until 32k miles) and me.

Others will respond, but I suspect this might be a feature of the car. "Floaty" is an interesting adjective, though. I perceive the steering of these cars to be smooth and responsive. Floaty to me would be more like a Cadillac, with some play in the steering, and you do say you've got a little play, so I am wondering whether the low usage of that car allowed for a little "rot" in the tie rod ends or something.

That might be simply a wheel/tire issue. If you're using 16" wheels, this could happen. You might like 17" wheels on that car with a lower profile tire sidewall, but again, others will comment. Also, tires make a difference. Some are more squirmy than others (lower profile being less so). I just drive on the stock 16" wheels on my 2.8 A4, and I'm fine with the performance.

I can sympathize, but if you have a good Audi independent, this should be a perfectly fine job. I've had good results buying used OEM stuff from Shokan All Audi (http://www.shokan.com /), and others here have their favorite vendors.
Also, you might want to join the A4 mailing list: http://www.audifans.com/ I get good insights and info from this digest as well as from this Usenet group. Good luck; you have a nice car, and I hope you enjoy it for many years.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The fourth and possibly most important issue is that if it hasn't had its cambelt and tensioner replaced already I would strongly recommend that you get it done as soon as you can. The manufacturer specified service interval on these is 80K but plenty have failed well before then - the early design of tensioner was "spawn of the devil" ! If it fails it cost several thousand $$ to rebuild the head.
Also take note that you should now be using a larger oil filter and Synthetic oil only in 1.8T engines. VAG have issued a tech note on this. If you see any signs of irregular oil changes in the service history then you might want to think about running an Auto-rx treatment as a preventative measure (www.auto-rx.com) . 1.8Ts are prone to sludging if oil changes have not been carried out regularly & its very expensive to fix.
On your steering issues - "floaty" doesn't sound good. It could be something as simple as poor quality or mismatched tyres on the front of the car - or even over inflated tyres.
On the other hand the front suspension on A4s is quite complex and is prone to wear. Its a very clever system that almost eliminates torque steer but it is prone to wear. Each side has 4 control arms, two upper & two lower & the ball joints on these wear out. There was a recall on front lower control arms a couple of years ago. If it turns out to be these that have failed then you should be able to get it fixed under the recall. Alternatively it could be something like a track rod end that needs replacing.
Suggest you explore www.audiworld.com for lots more information on all of the above.
I.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"beccak" wrote

There shouldn't be any play in the steering wheel. Something is definitely not right. Try to get a second opinion on this (another mechanic or Audi dealer service).

I'm guessing this car has a factory non-sport suspension? You can replace it with the OEM sport suspension, which in my opinion gives good balance between comfort and handling. There are plenty aftermarket options as well. I think the OEM non-sport and sport suspensions use the same anti-sway bars. Some people just choose to get more beefed-up anti-sway bars on top of that to reduce body roll.
Oh yeah, and I agree with the other poster - replace the timing belt and tensioner ASAP, if you haven't already! It's a ticking time-bomb with no visible countdown timer.
Cheers,
Pete
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.