Audi is one of my favorite brands, some cars just speak to you and some don’t. I’ve always like Audi and have owned one for years.
Overall the Audi A4 is a good car. It’s comfortable, safe, and reliable. Some models however exhibit consistent major flaws, which can be expensive to repair.
In this post, you’ll learn which Audi A4 model and years I recommend and which ones you should avoid. Not all A4’s are equal, and you’ll learn why.
Are Audi A4 Reliable
The Audi A4 is a compact family 4 door that’s available in Sedan, Cabriolet, and Avant (station wagon) body styles. It’s also offered within a variety of gas, diesel engines front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Audi pioneered the AWD (All Wheel Drive) systems back in the 1980s with the Ur-Quattro. The Quattro system was a huge success in motor racing and left competitors scrambling to produce an AWD system to compete. Of course, all that Audi AWD knowledge filtered into the passenger road-going cars and is a large part of what makes Audi special.
Audi’s are traditionally very well built cars with sporty handling and modern designs. Audi’s I’ve owned have always been really well put together using great materials, particularly the interiors. Pre-owned Audi’s will still look great inside and out.
Little telltales on the interior such as a scuffed stop/start button (if equipped) and wear on the MMI (Multi-Media Interface) button, all minor issues. Higher-end models with bucketed seats may exhibit slightly deformed or worn driver’s seat bolster. Other than that, the pre-owned interior plays a great game of poker.
Exterior paintwork is excellent and generally doesn’t suffer from corrosion. Usual wear and tear issues common to all cars included faded paint and cloudy headlamps. Alloy wheels are strong but peeling lacquer and curb rash are common. In colder states where roads may be salted, rust around the fenders is common but only cosmetic.
When it comes to reliability the Audi A4 has a mixed scorecard, although regularly beating out its peers at Mercedes and BMW, it does struggle against marks such as Lexus and Porsche who seem to defy gravity when it comes to reliability.
Make sure to check out an article I wrote about titled “Are Audi Good Cars”.
Audi issues range from the major to the minor and depend on which engine your Audi has. See below.
What year Audi A4 is most reliable?
I like Audi a lot, I’ve owned one for years but they have some serious flaws. A couple of major issues surround a used Audi A4 – Dieselgate and faulty gas-powered engines. The Dieselgate doesn’t affect reliability directly but the faulty gas-powered engine does.
Volkswagen owns Audi among other brands and major components such as engines, transmissions, and platforms are shared right across the group. This is great for efficiencies and the successful roll-out of stabile technologies but there’s a negative side too, get it wrong and the whole group is infected.
A recent 2015 scandal surrounding VW and their diesel engines have caused embarrassment for Audi who obviously use the same technologies. The scandal broke when it was found that VAG (Volkswagen Audi Group) employed a piece of software embedded in a diesel engine management system (PCM -Power-train Control Module) to cheat the EPA and Federal legal requirements on emissions.
The cheat software was used in many of the TDI diesel engines from 2009-2016 and that of course included Audi Tdi models.
If you’re considering buying a diesel Audi definitely check out this post “Are VW reliable?”.
The 2009 to 2016 Audi A4 Tdi’s are affected, Audi stopped offering A4 Tdi’s after this date. For the latest info on the subject check Audiusa.com.
Faulty Audi Gas powered engines
Some of their gas-powered engines are prone to a couple of major faults, and consequently should be checked before the purchase or eliminated from the list of possible purchase candidates.
The engines include:
- 1.8 lt TFSI
- 2.0 lt TFSI
- 3.0 lt TFSI
- 3.2 lt FSI
Common issues include the following:
- Timing chain faults – Chain and components prematurely wear and fail.
- Excessive oil consumption – Engine consumes more tan 1 quart of oil per 1000 miles.
Timing Chain faults
The main issues are prematurely wearing timing chains, faulty timing chain tensioners, and a faulty camshaft bridge. The affected cars run from 2011 to 2013.
Car engines are complex mechanical units and their operation is a carefully timed sequence of events. To keep all the internal engine components in time, a chain not unlike a bicycle chain is employed. Some engines use a timing belt instead.
Most Audi gas-powered engines however use a timing chain, a chain has advantages over a belt in that they’re designed to last for the life of the engine or at least for very high mileages. Belts on the other hand are designed to be replaced at intervals of say 75-100 thousand miles or 5 years, whichever comes first.
The Audi chains are wearing out prematurely at about 100,000 miles, way too soon for a chain. And because Audi engineers didn’t expect the chains to be replaced, the larger V6 engines must be removed and that’s a ton of labor.
A wearing chain stretches out and may cause a check engine light with codes cam/crank codes and possible misfiring. A rattling chain on cold starts is another sign of trouble ahead. If ignored, the chain will break and destroy the engine. Replacing a chain can cost a couple of thousand dollars to several thousand depending on the engine.
In addition on the 2009 to 2013 models, the timing chain tensioner prematurely fails to cause at best a misfiring engine but may cause the engine internal components to collide destroying the motor. The tensioner was revised and needs to be replaced with the chain.
And not forgetting the faulty camshaft bridge with the disappearing check valve. The faulty bridge check-valve may cause oil starvation which is terminal to the motor also. Replacing the cam bridge is advised also.
Excessive oil consumption
Excessive oil consumption on the four-cylinder engines. Customers were complaining of burning in excess of 2 quarts to 1000 miles. Audi claimed that a quart to 1000 was not unusual for their engines but later released a campaign to repair the issue.
The faulty design resulted in smaller pistons and rings allowing excessive blow-by and oil consumption. Initially, Audi replaced the pistons and rings, however, downgraded the repair to a revised PCV valve and software update.
Replacing the pistons and rings is in the $7000 – $8,000 region, uneconomical for most year A4’s.
Other less serious but still common engine problems include:
- Faulty intake manifolds
- Faulty coil
- Carbon build-up
- Intake issues
- Fuel pump issues
- Water pump issues
- Fuel injector faults
- Oil leaks
- Turbo charger faults
- PCV faults
What year engine to buy?
The latest generation (2014 on) 1.8 and 2.0 lt TFSI gas engines are good. V6 gas engines are good. Diesel TDI’s from any year are all good engines despite the diesel gate scandal. Obviously, if you’re buying a used Audi check the maintenance record and check those recalls at the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Administration).
Is Buying A Used Audi A4 A Good Idea?
The Audi A4 range comes as you know in different body styles, engine sizes, and types. Buying a used Audi A4 is a good idea, but you’ll need to do your homework.
You already know about gas-powered engines up to 2013 are prone to serious faults. The diesel TDI’s have their issues with recalls and some states may ban the use of the TDI’s without the reification work being carried out.
Here’s a list of things you’ll need to be mindful of when considering a used Audi A4.
- Audi are more expensive to maintain than regular cars
- Audi require regular maintenance
- Turbocharged engines need regular maintenance
- Your mechanic may require specialized Audi technical knowledge
- CVT (Constant Variable Transmissions) aren’t good and should be avoided
- V6 engines are good units
- Larger V6 engines may require engine removal to complete relatively simple repairs such as an oil leak for example
- A4 gas engines are better after 2013
- All diesel TDI’s are good
Before buying any vehicle, it’s always worth investing a few dollars to check the VIN number against a database. An audit with a company like VinAudit (links to VinAudit) will guard against Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuilds, Title washing, and Vin cloning.
Is The Audi A4 Avant A Good Family Car?
The Avant A4 is a fantastic family car, especially the Quattro (All wheel drive) version. The German maker has a ton of experience making fast, capable yet safe family auto-wagons.
The station wagon may not be to everyone’s taste but an Audi Avant Quattro is a special car. It’s a real sleeper except to those in the know. It’s rare and it’s cool and it makes a great family car.
The Avant isn’t without its issues, the increased maintenance costs associated with Quattro it’s AWD system are bulletproof but will require maintenance. The car is heavier and so is harder on tires, brakes, and suspension. The gas mileage won’t be as good as regular front-wheel-drive Avant but again come snow time you’ll be glad you went, Quattro.
Minor issues associated with the Avant:
- Rear wiper motor failure
- Leaking rear wiper wash hose
- Blocked broken sunroof drain hoses
- Blocked scuttle panel drains
- Rust at the rear tail lights cluster
Is Audi A Bad Car?
I like Audi, I think they are generally good cars. However, I understand some owners may feel dissatisfied with the brand. In recent years their engines have been troublesome and the diesel emissions debacle hasn’t enhanced the brand’s appeal.
Audi is not a bad car, with all the bad news surrounding VW, you’d think buying one is a terrible idea. Not at all, it’s a lot like a stock market sell-off – it’s actually a great time to buy, once you know what you’re buying.
So in an effort to reveal all the Audi faults, I’m aware of I’ll list them here in no particular order. It must also be said that most of these faults have been rectified in revised models from about 2013 onward.
- Carbon build-up
- Injector faults
- Coil failure
- Oil leaks
- Timing chain faults
- Cam bridge fault
- Oil consumption issues
- Faulty fuel pumps, high and low pressure
- Water pump leaks
- Faulty intake manifolds
- Turbo charger faults
- PCV valve faults
- Door lock failure
- Electrical issues
- MMI faults
How Many Miles Is Too Much For An Audi?
Audi is made from good materials and when fitted with a durable engine will have no trouble driving 250,000 miles. However, the right engine is important. The diesel or V6 gas-powered engines are the best of the bunch and will go the distance.
Four-cylinder gas power engines will exhibit timing chain issues at about 100,000 miles. Suspension and steering will require work around 70,000 miles. Brakes depending on driving style may require rotors at 50,000 miles.
Tiptronic transmissions and DSG are pretty durable but will need regular timely maintenance. The CVT transmission should be avoided, manual transmissions are trouble-free.
Diesel TDI’s will require a DPF filter at about 90,000 and short driving cycles increases the failure rate of both the DPF and the EGR valve. Change dual mass-flywheel, clutch, and pressure plate in manual transmissions at about 120,000 miles dependent on driving style. Injectors and diesel high-pressure pumps with good quality fuel should run in excess of 200,000 miles.
Car’s fitted with turbochargers need regular oil changes using synthetic oil, a well-maintained turbo should run to 180,000 miles.
Audi cars are heavy and so will require, brake, suspension, and tire inspection regularly.
Should I Buy A Lexus Or Audi?
Based on statistics the Lexus makes a more reliable purchase than the Audi. Lexus ranked number one in the last five years for dependability in the JD Power survey. It surveys owners with 3-year-old cars and measures the volume of complaints per 100 customers.
While Audi cars ranked consistently above the industry average, it doesn’t come close to the Lexus for dependability. The Lexus dependability performance is impressive. The next closest German maker is Porsche.
But of course, dependability isn’t the only factor driver’s value. For most, the car they drive is an expression of their personality. The car you drive does matter if it makes you feel more alive, confident, happy, satisfied, etc.
How Often Does An Audi A4 Need Servicing? Audi recommends servicing every 18,000 miles for long-distance highway type driving and 9,000 miles for shorter city-type driving.
- About the Author
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.