Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Audi nightmare


Our AUDI (A-6 QUATTRO ’01 116K mi.) is a beautifully designed car and a pleasure to drive when it is running. I am an architect (MIT ’60) and aesthetics mean a lot, but there is a limit.

This blog started out as a complaint, then a shout and now outrage.

Here are some of the issues.

  1. Timing belt: why in the world do we have a belt that drives the overhead cams that also drives a chain? An outside belt means a seal that can leak (and does) and involves removal of the radiator for access as well as part of the front end. This is supposed to occur at every 100K, so plan ahead. Dealer mech. $1800
    My mech. $1200

  2. Front axles: right replaced 1 year ago after boot fell off. $360

  3. left replaced a week ago having broken with no warning whatsoever, luckily it occurred near home and not on a trip.(thank you AAA!) $360

  4. ABS sensor on left axle damaged when axle broke: replaced. $320

  5. LEAKS: EVERY SEAL IN THIS CAR LEAKS: here are some of them:
    a. timing belt seal $800
    b. valve cover incl. with timing replacement)
    c. chain drive casing $700
    d. transmission ?
    e. power steering $1200

Why the left axle broke is still a mystery, since the boots were intact. I can only surmise that it was inadequately lubricated, but there was no way to tell. Note when you replace the axle in the Audi, you have to replace the entire assembly and throw away most of the parts that show no ware for the few parts that do.

The other surprise was the sensor: all we knew was that in depressing the brakes before coming to a stop the pedal kicked back with a sort of grating sound.

As for the seals, their dribbling of oil is now a management issue. We keep a constant check on levels. Oil from the chain drive casing leaks on the right manifold, so there is always a teasing smell of something close to fried bacon. I can tolerate it more than the price to correct it which is about $800. I top off the power steering with the very pricey elixir that is particular to Audi steering fluid. This so far, is not too bad, every 5000 mi or so. Same with the transmission. As for the timing belt drive seal, I nixed it when I heard that it would add an other $800 to my timing belt bill. So far it has behaved.

My main gripe is that German engineering, while obsessed with many trivial details, has glaring faults with some principal flaws that shorten the working life of its products and make them a maintenance nightmare. I understand from mechanics that this is true for Mercedes, as well.

My question: is there anyway that we can encourage AUDI to improve the product?

The Audi think they make the worlds best car. How can you improve on that?

Lots of cars have timing belts, and they all need to be replaced once in a while. Some are more difficult than others to get at, which makes them more expensive.

You are correct, the Audi is a beautiful car. Knowing how much it costs to maintain one, however, keeps me from owning one.

If you want to play you have to pay.

When the problems are so predictable why do people buy them in the first place?

To be honest, most of what you list there are normal wear and tear items and some may have failed because of road debris. This is NOT the sign of a faulty car.

Timing belt? I don’t like them either but countless other cars use them. (Honda, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, and so on and so on.

Front axles? You got a year of use on that axle after a boot was torn and fell off which means a year of water and dirt entering the joint and a year of grease exiting the joint.
The boot was likely torn because of some road hazard striking it. Not the car’s fault.

ABS sensor damaged by a broken axle. See above.

Multiple oil leaks? The car is 12 years old and leaks can occur with any aged car. There’s also the possibility these leaks can be caused by a faulty crankcase ventilation system and servicing this should be part of a regular maintenance regimen. If so, not the car’s fault.

Transmission? What’s the matter what that? Automatic? How often do you change the fluid?

Power steering? This may or may not be an abnormal problem. What’s the deal with that?

Point being here is that most, or maybe even all of the above, is not an indicator of a defective car.
Everything you list can easily apply to any car on the road.

A lot of manufacturers no longer use timing belts because customers complained about costly replacement. If Audi has not switched to timing chains yet, they mayin the near future.

“Our AUDI (A-6 QUATTRO ’01 116K mi.) is a beautifully designed car and a pleasure to drive when it is running. I am an architect (MIT ’60) and aesthetics mean a lot, but there is a limit.”

Do you buy cars to satisfy your need for pleasing aesthetics or do you purchase them to provide reliable, low-cost transportation?? Audi’s have NEVER provided reliable, low-cost transportation…

If AWD is something you simply MUST have, when that odometer rolls over 100K miles, it’s time to start thinking new car or get ready for MAJOR repairs. That’s just how the system works…

I am not an architect, but to me an aesthetically pleasing building is a building that is easy to maintain, has low utility costs per square foot, and yet attractive. In an automobile, I expect the car to be economical to operate, comfortable to ride in, and have acceptable handling and performance. From what I keep reading on this board, the Audi fails in being economical to operate. With the maintenance and repair problems you describe, is the car really well engineered?
When I was a graduate student the second time around from 1969-71, we lived in married student housing. New faculty at the university were allowed to live there for a year while they searched for a more permanent residence. One new professor that lived in the building had a late model BMW. In rainy weather, he was always having to dry out the electrical system to make the car run. One rainy morning, he was under the hood frantically trying to dry out the electrical system while his wife was in the car screaming at him about her being late for work. My wife and I came out and got into our 1965 Rambler which fired right up. I offered the new professor and his wife a ride which they accepted. I took his wife to her place of employment, took my wife to her job, and then headed toward the professor’s building. On the way, he explained to me how well engineered the BMW was and how poorly engineered my Rambler was. I finally said to him, “No matter how hot it gets, my Rambler never overheats. No matter how cold or damp it is, my Rambler always starts. For me, that is the important thing”. He replied, “You wouldn’t appreciate a fine automobile”. I responded, “No, I probably wouldn’t. However, I sure hate to walk in the rain”. He didn’t say another word the rest of the way and when he got out, he slammed the door so hard that I thought the glass might break. The next time it rained and he was having to dry out the ignition system, my wife and I got into our od Rambler and I honked and waved as we went past him and his well engineered BMW.

A 10-year-old Audi, or any German car, will not be reliable. The OP is confusing beautiful design and high purchase price with reliability. Not the same thing. I’d prefer an equivalent BMW.

Audi is great but should be traded at 50K before troubles start.


That guys arrogance was remarkable, but not surprising after working at a University for 20 years surrounded by PhDs.

I’ve been part of a University faculty for 44 years. I just retired a month ago. I understand what you are saying. I have a copy of an article from a 1947 issue of either Life Magazine or Colliers describing the first generation college students who were attending the University of Iowa on the GI bill right after WW II. These men and their families lived under pretty rough conditions. The population of the University of Iowa had more than doubled and these students and their families were living in little trailers without running water. There was a common bath house which provided the bathroom facilities and running water that they carried back to the trailers. Yet these people were thrilled to have the opportunity to go to college. One professor remarked that a paper that would have been given an ‘A’ before WW II would be lucky to get a ‘C’ with the competition from the veterans.
When I started my teaching career in 1965, I had many WW II veterans as senior colleagues. It was a joy to work with these fellow faculty members. Unfortunately, things seemed to have changed over time. Many of my younger colleagues seem so self-centered and impressed with their self-importance. Fortunately for me, I have had great classes this past year and retired on a high note.


That guys arrogance was remarkable, but not surprising after working at a University for 20 years surrounded by PhDs"

All I gotta say is university people should know the difference between “breaks” and “brakes”. You take a lunch break but press on the brakes to stop the car. Just a thing of mine but a whole communication can be ruined by misusing the common ones like their, there, they’re, no, know, to, two, too etc.

Suppose the brakes on your car fail and you coast to the shoulder and call for a tow. Did your vehicle suffer from “breakdown” or “brakedown”? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist this comment).


Just what kind of repair experiences would you expect and be OK with? This is an 11 year old car with 120K miles; so you expect no leaks, no parts to fail, and question a design incorporating a timing belt. I hope you are getting ready for the cost of a new transmission, that could be a new nightmare.

Audi will improve the product when people stop buying it. Perhaps you’d be happier with a 10 year old Lexus.

As an architect your should understand that buildings and homes you design are rarely free of defects. Also more complicated systems tend to have more problems and breakdowns and need more maintenance than simple ones.

Most of the items that you complain about can be taken care of by any reasonably intelligent person at home on a Saturday or a few Saturdays if you own a spare car or even a motorcycle if the weather permits. I was about 19 when I fully realized this, could use alternate transportation (the city bus) at age 22 and now you are ready also to DIY.

$800 to replace a $5 timing belt (camshaft) seal is too costly to tolerate.

I have never heard of a CV joint boot falling off. Torn or split, yes.

A timing belt is around $20 for my VW plus a new tensioner pulley for another $20. Audi should not be much more costly.

Valve cover gaskets are typically simple to replace.

The bottom line here is to do the simpler tasks yourself and farm out the difficult ones to ease the financial pain until you build your skills to also do the more difficult tasks.

I smell a troll. Art Vandelay (Queens College '84) is trying to tweak you guys.

There are two award winning architects living in my area. One designed the law courts for a major city located in a wet area. It leaked everywhere the first 5 years and resulted in major lawsuits. The alltime architectural boondoggle was the Olympic Stadium built for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Designed by Roger Tallibert of France it ran 300% over budget and is still dropping large concrete chunks off its daring structure.

The other architect here designed an “organic” modern church building that had no room for large windowns and had no clothes closets and storage closets, as well as aleaking roof. His other design was a museum, also “organic” that ran way over cost and had a multiple number of problems.

I’m an engineer and fully appreciate fine “design”, but we call it STYLING. Design is what Toyota and Honda do well, the engineering of competent and reliable machines that are easy and inexpensive to maintain.

You will be pleased to know that Korean Hyundai have hired away some of those German designers and they are now “designing” their beautiful cars, but the Koreans are making sure they do the engineering and the testing.

I highly respect German industrial and commercial machines; Mercedes trucks and Siemens turbines are tops. In consumer goods, however, Germans are falling behind; in a Consumer Reports dish washing equipment tests, the German machine had a one hour + cycle time and still did not get the dishes clean, in spite of its $2000 price tag!!

The only German consumer product I would still; buy are Braun appliances. They live up to their reputation.

If this forum can offer you some advice, buy stuff that at least is listed in Consumer Reports as having an above average reliablity record; that would exclude all Audis and Mercedes models, and nearly all other European vehicles.

Then I would pick the best looking “design” from the reliable leftovers. That will likely mean Japanese or Korean.

Not all Audi’s are that bad. I think the A6 is troublesome while the A4 does better over the long term.

You got a dud model from Audi,

I am not a fan of Consumer Reports but think the used cars to avoid list is a good one to follow given all the choice available out there.

I’m not condemning this car as a Lemon just yet. Many, or maybe even all, of the problems could be attributed to road hazards, lack of maintenance, or maybe even “aggressive” driving habits.

Transmission? If a road hazard took out a CV boot then it’s also possible that same road hazard damaged a transmission seal.

Knowing the details would help in sorting this out but so far none have been forthcoming.