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Audi A4 (1995 - 2000)

Last updated 12 June 2019

 
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Buying Guide

Good

In 2013, one reader reported 232k "terrifically reliable" miles from a 1996 A4 Avant 1.9TDI, but added it was now needing expensive suspension repairs.

Bad

Takes a few days to get used to the steering, seats and over-servoed brakes. Weight of TDI V6 takes edge off handling.

Limited market for 1.6s without sunroofs or aircon.

Only average performance in NCAP crash tests.

Heavy salted road spray may make brakes feel spongey.

Last of the line, ultra quick RS4s suffered from 'soft' alloy wheels easily damaged by potholes.

Joint third bottom in 2002 Which reliability survey of cars up to 2 years old; 53 cars surveyed. Average warranty repair costs in 2003 Warranty Direct Reliability index (index 101.16 v/s lowest 31.93). Link:- www.reliabilityindex.co.uk 95-97 diesels average for breakdowns and problems but poor for faults in 2003 Which survey.

Watch

Similar expensive front wishbone bush problems as A6 and Passat - eliminated late 1999. Check the front lower suspension ball joints very carefully (see Recalls below). Creaks from front suspension indicate wishbone problem: budget for £500 - £700 to replace unless carried out under recall programme.

Rear discs rust first. Mixed metal corrosion at unions of flexible brake pipes to rear wheel. Corrosion of alloy washers on rear brake caliper pipe unions can result in sudden and rapid loss of brake fluid.

Rattling catalytic converters (especially on 2.6, which has two costing £650 apiece). Cats also fail on 1.9 TDIs built before August 1998.

Look out for signs of clocking and inadequate maintenance.

Look for accident damage repaired with non-galvanised panels or with bad welds.

Lock of front passenger door can fail. According to J.A., the fix is to remove 3 screws that hold the door trim on, then remove or stick back the sound insulation inside the door to the outer door skin, making sure that none is jammed in the lock mechanism. In 95% of cases the door lock will now lock and un lock on demand. Total cost 15 minutes time.

Timing belt of 1.8 20v needs changing before 4 years or 60k miles (whichever comes first) and tensioner. 1.8 20v engines are snapping their timing belts at 70,000 - 80,000 miles and the extensive damage this causes is not repairable. The car will need a replacement engine.

Plastic water pump impellers on early 1.8 20v engines fail. Newer water pumps have metal impellers.

Bosch 'hot film' Mass Airflow Sensors seem to be failing regularly.

Protective rubber strips at bottoms of doors held on by mild steel clips which rust badly and disintegrate.

Power loss on TDI 90s and 110s over 3,000rpm can be cured by replacing a thin hose that runs from the exhaust, near the turbo, to the ECU.

Possible oil consumption problem with 30v V6s, so have emissions checked for excessive HCs before buying.

Some A4s develop a fault with the immobiliser ignition switch transmission reader coil. Some develop faults with both the reader coil and the key transponder. If the car comes with two different keys, this is why.

If the drains for the ventilation plenum chamber get blocked with leaves water will have nowhere to go except into the car where it can cause electrical and electronic problems. Best to remove the plug in the drain under the battery.

Plenum chamber drains block (especially the hard to clear one one under the battery) and seals fail allowing water ingress which can lead to electrical and electronic failures and eventually collects in rear footwell. Check very carefully for signs of water leaks (feel footwell carpets for damp). May be a structural leak, may be a blocked ventilation plenum chamber drain, or may be because the a/c condenser drain pipe is blocked leading to water being dumped into the footwell. Very important to clear plenum chamber drains of leaves as water damage to the ECU can wreck the engine. Apparently this water can be drawn into the brake servo and causes corrosion to the servo housing and brake master cylinder that can result in reduced brake force or failure altogether.

VAG diesels will run to starship mileages if you buy the right one and maintain it properly. Doing both of these things is not as easy as it might seem.

The pre-PD diesels were reliable but are all getting too old now. The economy was excellent but they lack the power of the PD units.

The best PD units are mid-period 1.9s with solenoid injectors. Avoid the later piezo injector engines and avoid the 2.0 PD at all costs because of the likelihood of oil pump drive failure - especially in N-S installations. The earliest PD engines had a rather complex and flaky fuel cooling system which is also better avoided.

The best vintage PD is probably an '04 1.9 130 (AWX) - the 150 HP units are not as reliable and don't actually go much better.

All PD engines require oil to VAG spec. 505.01 (fixed servicing) or 507.00 (variable). Camshaft wear will be the result of variations from this spec. - although the fully-synth 507.00 is fine for both, but a little more expensive. There is a general consensus, which I share, that variable servicing is not good for engine wear unless operated under the most favourable conditions - which few are.

The latest CR engines run very nicely and are smoother than the PDs (but without the "shove") but we are beginning to hear of far too many (piezo again) injector failures and HP pump failures.

Best avoided for now unless under warranty. The beauty of the PD system is that the highly stressed pump plunger followers are oil rather than fuel lubricated. It makes a considerable difference.

Recalls

1997 (built Feb-March 1997): check front seatbelt top mounting height adjusters. (Built '95-'96): airbag may inflate while stationary.

1998: 4,574 2.4 litre V6 cars built Aug '97-Feb '98: possibility of throttle jamming.

1999: 'S' reg 2.5 V6 TDIs recalled for brake modification; 2.5 V6 TDIs recalled for major engine modifications.

2000: A4 manuals built July '94-August '95: brake pedal may become loose; A4s built March '98 to August '98: steering ball joints could fail. Also Recall 13A9 vibration damper, Recall 17B4 oil pump and Recall 46C7 brake pads.

March 2001: Worldwide recall of 560,000 1999 model year A4s, A6s, A8s and VW Passats to replace steering ball joints (track rod ends). Announced Auto Bild 11/3/2001:

Wordwide recall of all VW passats from 1996 to July 2001, Audi A4s from 1994, Audi A6s from 1997 to replace faulty front lower wishbones (this recall is not acknowledged or applied by Audi UK).

Recall announced in Auto Bild 26/8/2001: The ball joint can fail and the the two other flex connections can fail. (These are the long arms that go from the bottom of the front hubs to the body.)

16-10-02: On cars with 3 spoke steering wheels airbags may not work. Airbag to be replaced, but affects only 79 of 4,400 cars.

April 2004: Worldwide recall of 870,000 1996-1999 Passat, 1994-1999 A4, 1997-1999 A6 and 1994-1999 A8s for "free check for possible damage of the rubber bellows of the front axle. The problem could lead to premature wear and, in isolated cases, to the failure of the bearing arm."

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