Are Audi’s Good Cars (Mechanic tells all)


My father owned an Audi 100 when I was a kid and one of my earliest memories is helping him wash and wax it on a Sunday morning. The two tone yellow over brown Audi was his pride and joy and truthfully I’ve always had a soft spot for them.

Are Audi’s good cars? Audi’s are good cars, they are a sporty luxury brand with a full model lineup. They score highly for innovation, design and build quality. However, Audi’s image has suffered from the VW diesel gate scandal and some of their gas powered engines suffer from serious design flaws.

In this post you’ll learn why I think Audi’s are good cars despite some lemons in the line up. You’ll learn which models are lemons, years to avoid, and which ones I would buy.

Is Audi A Reliable Car?

Audi Q5

Ask two Audi customers with different models if their cars are reliable and they may give very different answers. While both may agree the cars are wonderful to drive and the interiors are a very special place to be, their admiration might diverge there.

According to JD Power (automotive reliability study) Audi’s dependability rating has for the first time in five years failed to beat the industry average. It should be noted JD results are based on three year old Audi’s, not new cars. Consumer reports give Audi a kicking too, they say avoid older Audi A4 and Q7, siting worse than average reliability.

If you’re considering buying a pre-loved Audi A4, definitely check this post out “Are Audi A4 Good Cars”.

Personal experience

I’ve owned a Audi A8 Quattro for several years, I bought it at four years old. Audi’s are special, I always look forward to driving the A8. It’s effortless, confident in corners and its business like approach is addictive. I love it and will likely buy another.

However, you should know, servicing and repairs are expensive. These cars are heavy and built to perform, under the hood it’s function over form.

The Audi will require a ton more labor to access maintenance components, especially the larger bullet proof V6, V8 and V10 power plants. These cars can’t be maintained for the cost of an Asian car.

Common Audi repairs over and above the usual service items include:

  • Front suspension components
  • Brake pads and rotors
  • Tires
  • Regular intake system cleaning
  • Coolant flush
  • Tranny flush

Best Audi Engines

Audi engine

Criticism of some models is without doubt justified, but writing off the whole brand isn’t. Audi is as you know owned by parent group VW. Engines, transmissions and many other components are used across the group. A fault at VW is therefore a fault at Audi and the recent Diesel-gate scandal is a prime example. See below.

The very best engines despite diesel gate are the Tdi units, these engines are frugal, powerful and will easily hit 200,000 miles without major work.

Common Tdi complaints include:

  • Blocked Dpf filter
  • Faulty EGR valve
  • Clogged EGR cooler
  • Noisy dual mass flywheel (manual transmissions)
  • Turbo faults
  • 3.0 Tdi will require timing chain replacement at 200k

The very best gas engines are the V6, V8 and V10s. However they aren’t without complaint. The most common complaints include:

  • Carbon choked intake system
  • Faulty intake system
  • Faulty engine coils
  • Faulty injectors
  • Faulty fuel pumps
  • Oil leaks

What’s Diseselgate?

vw badge

In a nutshell, dieselgate is a VW group wide scandal that broke in 2015. VW engineers had developed special software to cheat diesel EPA and Federal legal requirements on emissions. The cheat software was used in many of the TDI diesel engines from 2009-2016.

Engineers concealed the true emissions figures because they struggled to make the TDI range of engines efficient and at the same time clean. Some Audi models are fitted with the TDI engine’s and so were caught up in the scandal. If you’re considering a diesel model Audi, definitely check out this post I wrote on the diesel gate scandal.

The Audi models effected included:

  • 2010–2015 Audi A3 2.0L TDI
  • 2014–2016 Audi A6 3.0L V-6 TDI
  • 2014–2016 Audi A7 3.0L V-6 TDI
  • 2014–2016 Audi A8/A8L 3.0L V-6 TDI
  • 2014–2016 Audi Q5 3.0L V-6 TDI
  • 2009–2015 Audi Q7 3.0L V-6 TDI

Before rushing out to buy a Tdi, do some home work on the current legal status of the cars. Some states talked about banning them from their roads. Check out Audi USA for the latest news on the subject.

Faulty Audi Engines

Timing chains

VAG (Volkswagen Audi Group) have had some problems with their small gas powered engines, fitted to the VW, Audi brands worldwide including the Skoda and Seat brands in Europe.

Audi’s fitted with the 2lt 4 cylinder direct fuel injected Fsi, Tsi and Tfsi engines come with a whole host of issues, these included…..deep breath:

  • Intake manifold failure
  • Carbon build up
  • Timing chain tensioner failure
  • Oil leaks
  • Water pump leaks
  • Coil failure
  • Turbo faults
  • Fuel pump faults
  • PCV valve failure
  • Excessive oil consumption
  • Faulty injectors

The two most serious being engine failure caused by timing chain tensioner failure and excessive oil consumption.

Faulty Tensioner

The timing chain tensioners job is to keep the chain taught, when it fails it allows the timing jump teeth which in turn allows the pistons collide with the valves. repairing this type failure requires major rectification work and in some cases requires a replacement engine.

Excessive Oil Consumption

Oil consumption is an issue for some Audi’s fitted with the 20 lt gas engine from 09 to 2013. Audi claim oil consumption of 1 quart per 1,000 miles is acceptable, many owners disagreed. Audi have a process of measuring your oil consumption and if it finds it in excessive it initially offered replacing the pistons and rings.

However, latterly that recall was down graded to a revised PCV valve and software update. As these cars are getting older they’ll obviously become less of an issue for both Audi and owners.

Audi Recalls

Audi interior

When a manufacturer admits to a flaw in their product, they launch a campaign to repair all effected models. Many campaigns are safety related and are given priority. As of writing there are 83 pages of Audi recalls logged NHTSA web site.

This shouldn’t alarm you, campaigns are common because the truth is, all cars are flawed. Don’t believe me? Check the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Administration), use whichever manufacturer you like, you’ll find a ton of recalls.

I’ve worked in main dealerships on luxury brands like Cadillac, Jaguar, Range-Rover, Volvo, Audi and some of the recalls can only be described as disappointing. The majority of recalls are caused by design flaws, rarely a manufacturing issue. I say disappointing because these companies are making cars for many decades, they have a ton of experience. Some of the faults I believe are simply sloppy oversights.

Here’s just a flavor of the type faults and the approved repairs

  • Faulty wheel nuts – Remove wheel nuts and replace with revised nuts
  • Airbag light on – Eliminate airbag block connector and solder connections
  • Door water leak – Duct tape off surplus stamped door frame hole
  • Grinding & tramping drive-line – Replace rear differential control module
  • EVAP fault – Reroute vent valve intake
  • Interior creaking noise – Bend B pillar sheet metal to prevent vibrating
  • Interior cracking noise – Remove dash board and fit insulation
  • Interior center consul scuffing – Fit felt tape to seat belt anchor
  • Tow bar fault – Replace with revised tow bar

Infotainment software re-flashing, engine software updates are common unofficial running bug repairs. Software is typically uploaded to vehicles free of charge during scheduled maintenance.

Are Audi’s Good After 100k Miles?

Some Audi engines are capable of covering 200,000 miles before requiring some semi-major maintenance. However, some of the engines in the line up are simply not up to the job without some major rectification work.

If you want longevity in your engine and you intend clocking some big numbers aim for a diesel Tdi. If an oil burner isn’t your thing aim for the 3.0l Tfsi V6 engine.

If you’re are buying a used car, definitely check out this post to drive a better bargain “How to buy a used car from a dealer”.

Engines

The Audi 2.0lt Tdi diesel engine will cover this type mileage with just routine maintenance. But it will need a timing belt and water pump kit every 85,000 miles. The 3.0l Tdi is timing chain and will need it replaced at about 200,000 and be warned, it’s an engine out procedure.

The larger gas engines are plenty capable of surpassing the 200,000 mile mark but require more maintenance than a diesel. The gas powered are all direct injection and this unfortunately causes carbon build up inside the intake and combustion chamber.

If left untreated it causes misfires and rough running. Using top quality gas, regular oil changes with Audi approved oil and regular intake system cleaning will help keep carbon to a minimum. If it builds inside the engine, the intake system will need to be removed and physically cleaned. Remember the V engines are large and often require engine out for some repairs.

Transmissions

Audi shifter

Common transmissions include DSG (Direct shift gearbox), it’s a semi-auto box, it’s durable but requires timely maintenance.

Tiptronic is a fully auto box that’s clever enough to adapt to your particular driving style. Audi list some Tiptronic tranny’s as oil for life, don’t believe them. Oil is relatively cheap compared to a tranny, go ahead and have the oil and filter changed.

Prior to 2014 CVT (Constant Variable Transmission) was common and has since been discontinued, avoid the CVT system.

Manual transmissions are close to bullet proof and a worn dual-mass flywheel is however common.

Why Don’t Audi Hold Their Value?

I’m a mechanic for over twenty years and cars are without doubt getting a ton more complex. Higher end luxury cars will obviously have more technology packed in, after all, that’s how they sell cars. And you won’t be surprised to learn, more gadgets means greater chance of faults as a the car ages.

Most luxury brands suffer from the same problem, massive depreciation. The average family car loses about 40-50% of it value over 5 five years. A luxury brand may be more like 50-60% and more.

Depreciation 

About 45% of vehicle price disappears over the first 5 years

  • 15-20% depreciates by the end of year 1
  • About another 10% off the residual by the end of year 2
  • Another 10% off the residual by the end of year 3
  • Same for year 4 and 5

The reasons Audi among other luxury brands lose so much on depreciation is quite simple. Older luxury cars are packed with sophisticated systems that cost ever increasing amounts of money to maintain as they age. Add to that a layer of complexity and the fact a mechanics hourly labor rates are the same (or more) for older cars as for new ones.

Very quickly a workshop bill can run into thousands. Consider the following an Audi S4, S6, A7, A8, S8 Q7 fitted with a V6, V8 or V10 engine will require timing chain kit at about 200,000 miles or sooner. That means engine out, because the chains are fitted to the rear of the motor. Depending on the model, 20 – 40 hrs plus is the norm, that’s a labor bill of 2-$4,000 plus parts.

This isn’t particular to Audi, most luxury brands will require engine out maintenance for a lot less than timing chains. As a technician I’ve removed engines for seemingly simple tasks such as replacing starter motor, air conditioning pump, O2 sensors, turbochargers.

Luxury Audi’s don’t hold their value because owners don’t want to be stuck with bills larger than the value of the car.

Are VW Parts Cheaper Than Audi?

Volkswagen or VAG (Volkswagen Audi Group) is a vast enterprise, as you know it owns various other auto brands, some in the value niches and some at the luxury end of the spectrum. VW auto brands include:

  • VW
  • Skoda
  • Seat
  • Audi
  • Porsche
  • Bentley
  • Bugatti
  • Lamborghini

VAG cleverly leverages it’s resources by deploying VW parts, components and technology right across the group. It is possible therefore to find many VW parts on say a Lamborghini or Bentley. And yes the parts may be identical, same part number, different branded packaging and of course a very different price. You bet they’ll charge you more for VW parts in Audi packaging.

I know what you are thinking, could you buy VW parts, fit them to your Audi and beat them at their own game? The answer, in many cases, is yes.

Many brands share, chassis, engine, transmission, sensors, control modules, switch gear etc. Suspension, body panels, interior trim etc will be different, but you’ll find many of the components you can’t see are identical.

Buy your Audi parts from VW

Take for example a very common failure across the group – Misfiring gas powered engine caused by a faulty coil. The coil, also known as COP (Coil On Plug) fitted to the iconic VW bug is the very same coil fitted to the Audi. It pays to do your homework when it comes to VAG parts, the lesson is search for your replacement parts by part number not by brand.

Check out the site links below for VW/Audi parts comparison. The sites may be affiliated to each other as they look similar. Comparing identical part numbers in the search box, shows identical parts at VW is clearly cheaper.

I checked the prices of a fuel injector, ignition coil and toothed timing belt, buying identical parts from VW would save $30.

VW Parts Denver

Audi USA Parts

What Does An Audi Major Service Include?

engine

A major Audi service will vary by engine type, model and fuel. The larger engines will understandably require more maintenance. A major service on a standard Audi includes the following:

  • Fluid levels check and top-up
  • Exterior and under-body visual check
  • Tire, brake, suspension and steering inspection
  • Oil filter replacement
  • Engine oil replacement
  • Air filter replacement
  • Fuel filter replacement (diesel engines)
  • Spark plug replacement (petrol engines)
  • Cabin filter replacement
  • Tire pressure check and adjust
  • On-board computer DTC (Diagnostic Trouble Code) scan
  • Reset service reminder message
  • Update control module software if applicable
  • Check battery
  • Door lock & hinge lube
  • Vehicle road test
  • Written condition report
  • Audi Service history stamp/record
  • Wash and vacuum

Can You Take An Audi To A Regular Mechanic?

Workshop

Some smaller engine Audi models may be serviced by a regular mechanic, the technology and tools needed are conventional. Larger engines will require a ton more knowledge, tools and time to complete seemingly simple tasks.

Mechanics are can do kind of people we have to be, we meet immovable objects all day every day. Most mechanics are capable of working on your Audi, but there’s plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t.

You are correct to ask the question, should you take your Audi to your local mechanic? I would say no, it’s much better to take your Audi to a independent Audi specialist, and here’s why.

A specialist will have:

  • Audi knowledge
  • Audi experience
  • Audi specialized tools
  • Audi specialized equipment
  • Audi quality parts

Product knowledge is really important, your local mechanic as said is capable I’ll bet of doing the work. But it’s always preferable to have a product experienced mechanic on the job.

Very often the specialist mechanic can diagnose your particular Audi issues from how you describe the problem and his wealth of product knowledge. In my experience this translates into smaller bills.

Contact your local Audi owners club, they’ll be only too happy to recommend an Audi specialist in your area. Cultivating a good relationship with a specialist mechanic will pay off in the longer game.

Related Question

Why are German cars unreliable? While German car brands don’t sit right at the top of the JD Power dependability tests, they do usually beat the industry average. In fact German car maker Porsche ranks second and third in the last number of years, trailing the outright winner, Lexus.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of classic car ownership, from tires to roof aerials and everything in between.

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