Am I getting scammed?

I bought a used 2005 Audi A4 quattro v6 3.0L with 75k miles about 3 months ago from a private seller. It drove great for about 2 months, but a nagging problem arose. Suddenly I would have a condition where my engine would crank but fail to start until my second or third try (typically happening about once a week). However I always managed to get the car moving, so I considered it a minor problem.

Thinking of preventative maintenance, I took it into my local mechanic, who was glad charged me a few bills to replace the starter, claiming it should solve the problem. But sure enough, the next morning, I had the same condition of cranking but no starting.

Frustrated, I decided to look into it myself. After a little bit of research I decided to switch out the spark plugs and the engine coils to see if that helped. Being a complete amateur to cars, I managed to watch a few youtube videos and managed to pop out the coils. Out with the coils came a little bit of oil. I didn’t remember that happening in the videos, so a little more research told me I have leaky valve cover gaskets. I was intimidated by the job so we got the car back to the mechanic, again where they gladly took in my car.

However this time they called me down to the shop, inferring there was a snowballing problem with the car. When I got there, they explained to me that when they went to test to new gasket and spark plugs, the timing belt or one of the pulleys slipped (I am not positive as to the exact cause). The mechanic said whoever did the previous timing belt replacement did a poor job, and something was loose the whole time (which he said would explain the occasional non start condition). He said I might now be facing internal engine damage, being that the v6 is an interference engine.

I understand if that is the case then that would take my repair costs well over a thousand. They said the only way to find out is to reassemble the belt and see if she runs.

I am writing this thread to protect myself. Is this a plausible story, or am I being scammed. Either way I am a young guy who doesn’t have unlimited money to dump into a 15 year old car. My father swears by these mechanics, but I am hesitant.

I would also mention that the engine valves are not confirmed to be bent yet. They said it is probably a 50/50 shot.

Any advice would be appreciated.

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Is mechanic a foreign car specialist? Or a general garage?
I think your starter was ok.

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This sounds to me like a bunch of bullplop, as a loose/improperly installed timing belt tensioner would cause way more problems than just difficulty starting. Improper mechanical timing of the engine, if only slightly off, could result in difficulty starting and rough idle. I also am not aware of any engine which uses a rubber timing belt, which requires the timing belt to be disturbed in order to replace the valve cover gasket(s).

Also, if the engine has indeed suffered internal damage such as bent valves, I would bail on this car. There comes a point where you are just throwing good money after bad.

Cavell is being sardonic. A starter that turns over the engine does not need to be replaced. The mechanic does not deserve the name.


If the valves were bent, the engine would not run.
The oil in the spark plug tubes is from failed spark plug tube seals, and in some cars the valve cover gasket and the spark plug tube seals are connected together. In order to further diagnose the real problem, you need to check any codes. If there were timing belt issues causing a no start issue on an interference engine, the engine would be toast. Unable to run again 'til an rebuild.

Check all grounds, alternator connections, battery connections. Look for cracks in the ingition coils. Check compression. Look for vacuum leaks. These are all things you can do yourself.

This so-called mechanic is making guesses and throwing parts at it to make some money off of you, If you want to continue going the mechanic route, take your car somewhere else.

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If you explained to them clearly that the engine would crank but not start and they replaced the starter anyway then that would be a badly misguided step. All depending upon how things were said.

As for the timing belt situation it’s entirely possible there could be engine damage if a belt jumped for whatever reason. However, you can forget the well over a thousand repair. It will be MUCH higher than a grand.

One does not need to replace a timing belt to discover if there is engine damage. That is bogus and the sign of incompetence; at least in my opinion. Rotate a few pistons up to top dead center on the compression stroke and apply compressed air into the spark plug holes. Bent intake valves will hiss air back out through the intake manifold. In most cases exhaust valves are undamaged due to smaller size.

Maybe these guys are not as sharp as you dad thinks. A local guy who passed away about 9 years ago had a huge list of people who swore by him when it came to car repairs. I know him well (45 years) and he was the biggest mickey mouser, outright thief, and backyard hack that has ever walked the earth.
But 98% of the people who used him swore by him; even those who caught him pulling things. People… :astonished:


So let me clarify. I believe the previous owner before me had the timing belt replaced at some point. Lets say after that he drove the car another X amount of miles. Personally I have put around 4000 miles on it. So I am just suspicious that I have had no problem with the new timing belt (that now has 4000+X miles). It just seems far fetched to me that the belt decided to fail once I got the car to the mechanic. Remember I only asked the guys to redo the valve cover gaskets and install my new plugs and coils. One of the pulley gears on the driver side was literally dislodged from the engine. I dunno maybe I am being paranoid.

Maybe not paranoid but you are making a series of mistakes here. The first mistake was your choice of mechanic. You couldn’t know that going in, but diagnosing a starter for the problem you were having is a clear indicator to me that your mechanic does not know what they are doing.

Your second mistake was researching the problem over the internet and thinking that made you qualified to diagnose the problem.

The 3rd mistake was buying parts and telling the same “mechanic” to replace what are likely perfectly good parts (you don’t really know whether they are good or not…) to fix a problem. That is a recipe for an expensive failure to fix the actual problem

Don’t commit the 4th mistake of letting this “mechanic” do any more work on your car. The previous owner’s mechanic may have been as bad as yours and if so, it could get very expensive. Have it towed to an Audi specialist or the dealer that actually understands how these cars work. It may seem expensive now, but it can save you loads of money down the road.

I should mention an additional mistake… call it mistake zero…this one.

Buying a 15 year old Audi is pretty much the definition of buying a car that NEEDS unlimited money. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I’m trying to save you from potentially scrapping the car.


I repeat. Replace mechanic not starter.


More on the timing belt. Gates says the replacement interval is 80,000 miles. There is typically a time associated with timing belt change too, probably about 6 years. It should have been replaced twice by now. It also seems to me that if the timing belt was installed incorrectly, it should not have run well for 4000 miles plus whatever the previous owner put on it after the last change, then gone bad. Maybe the pro mechanics can set me straight if this is incorrect.

Edited to add “not” (bold), which is what I meant. Thanks to @jdmere for pointing that out.

Do you mean to say it should not have run well before going bad?

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You said:
“One of the pulley gears on the driver side was literally dislodged from the engine”
That is very bothersome. If it were loose, tighten it and then see what needs to be done. If it were “literally dislodged” you could not have driven the car to the mechanic. I would get the car out of there.

I believe he meant the “mechanic” took the pulley off during the valve seal replacement, which shouldn’t have been done for that service. If I’m wrong op please correct me.

Maybe not scammed. It’s also possible the mechanic is simply a moron.

I agree with the others. Any mechanic should know that if the engine cranks, the starter is working. The whole job of the starter is to crank the engine. It’s the job of other things to actually fire the engine when it’s cranking.

That’s enough right there for me to say you don’t want this guy touching your car. I’d tow it to another shop - preferably one that has good reviews.

BTW I also agree with the comments about money - if you don’t have a lot of money to throw at repairing your car, you should get this one running decently and then dump it for something more reliable and cheaper to fix. Out-of-warranty German luxury cars are basically a black hole in your bank account. Nothing can escape them, not even cash. :wink:


Or in other words-
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.


Typically a proper description of the problem occurs on the third visit. I’m not going to jump to conclusions based on a customers incomplete description of the problem.

The mechanic should not have replaced the starter based on speculation but would have faced criticism for doing nothing even though the car starts without fault while at the shop.

Then questions need to be asked rather than throwing parts at it.

From me, anyway, he’ll face more criticism for taking the customer’s money and replacing a starter that shows no signs of failure based on it starting without fault at the shop.

I guess I’m not sure I would lump all customers into the same dumbo category. Like everything else, customers can range from the little old lady that only drive on Sunday to the mechanical engineer retired plant manager. That’s where an adult conversation is important discussing symptoms and maybe a little testing. Not dissimilar from what a doctor would do with a patient but would hope they wouldn’t just open the guy up to make him feel better.

With vehicles which if the timing belt slips or failes that can causes valves to hit the pistons causing noise vibrations trying to start the car will only cause more damage usually the starter will get damaged trying to turn over a out of time engine, what usually happens is they replace the starter sometimes can get the engine started idling rough sounding like a bags of bolts changing the timing belt & gears will not repair bent valves, pistons, rods even bearing damage. This is where diagnosis is more important then getting a new starter!