How Reliable Are Audi Vehicles
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and video series. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 20 time winners, Best AutoRepair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and of course today we're talking cars. How you doing Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well this morning.
Mark: So, Audi. We're going to talk about the Audi, how a reliable are Audi vehicles?
Bernie: Well generally I'd say they're quite reliable, but they do need a fair number of repairs and service over time. There's a couple of models that are probably a little more problematic than others, but generally I mean, they're a very nicely built car and I tend to think of reliability as can I go out and start my car and will it drive me to where I want to go and generally Audi's are really good in that department, but they do have a number of problems and issues that come up from time to time, some more common than others.
Mark: So what are some of those problems that you see with them?
Bernie: Well why don't we start and sort of break the car down into different areas and sort of look at the reliability of each piece because there's a number of factors. We can start with the brakes and under the car, so I mean brakes generally are quite reliable on these vehicles but some of the larger SVU's like the Q7's, the breaks tend to wear quite quickly. It's a heavy vehicle, even though they have enormous brakes they do tend to wear quite fast. On the cars the life span is pretty normal, I think in 50 to 80,000 kilometre range and if you have one with a standard, you're going to get a lot more life out of the brakes then you would with an automatic. So brakes are good. Brake fluid flush is certainly a service that needs to be done on a regular basis, usually about every two years, but that's not really a reliability factor, so we've got the brakes there.
Mark: Steering and suspension?
Bernie: Yeah, steering and suspension. So for the steering and suspension, generally again, steering components are pretty reliable, the odd tie rod end will wear out here and there, again as the car gets older. Some control arm bushing issues, again these have some fairly complex suspensions in some of them and ball joint wear is also common in some of them. Again, this is over time, we're talking over five years, in the five to ten year old range of the car and older. So that's kind of steering and suspension, shocks and struts are generally pretty good but given you keep the vehicle long enough those kind of components will wear out over time.
Mark: What about the drive train?
Bernie: Drive trains are pretty reliable, but there are some transmission issues. Audi's use a variety of transmissions, they've got standards in a lot of vehicles, they've got that direct DSG, the direct gear shift box automatics, which apparently there's a lawsuit out around. We haven't seen any problems ourselves in our shop but there's certainly some issues going on with some of those. Clutch replacement we seem to do maybe a little more often than needed. I think things in the clutch, it's not so much wear but something will actually break or malfunction in the clutch and a lot of them use dual mass flywheel clutches, so they can be pretty expensive to fix.
Some standard transmission baring wear happens from time to time and the automatics generally are pretty reliable but the two wheel drive models use a CVT transmission and they can be very expensive to fix as well. But the all wheel drive systems are really quite reliable and I can't really think of anything we've ever done to fix an all wheel drive problem on an Audi, so they are also very good in terms of the way they distribute their all wheel drive in terms of driving, the way the distribution works to each wheel and providing the traction you need. But overall, that part of the drive train's pretty good, and I'm not saying transmissions are bad but there are probably more issues with them then a lot of cars.
Mark: What about the engine and cooling system?
Bernie: Engine and cooling system, that's kind of the big part and this is where Audi is probably, more issues happen than other things. I mean there are oil leaks that happen on a lot of different models, some of them can be pretty difficult to fix, there's an S4 model with a V8. Now the S4 it's like an A4 but they've actually crammed the V8 into this and it's a pretty spectacular vehicle to drive but when there's an oil leak in that, it's basically pull the engine out time to fix, so that can be very expensive to fix and all the engines do tend to develop oil leaks over time. The cooling systems, a lot of plastic parts, so they will develop leaks over time as well. Engines, generally the actual guts of the engine are pretty good with the exception of a couple models, like the Q5 comes to mind, there's a lot of oil consumption issues with those engines and to me, that's kind of a show stopper sort of problem.
Although, if you have to add a litre of oil every couple thousand kilometres it's kind of annoying but it's really not the end of the earth. Compared to the way cars used to be built a long time ago, that was not a huge amount of extra work but nowadays we kind of expect our cars to go a long ways without having to add any oil. But that to me is probably maybe of their more problematic engines, but generally the engines are pretty reliable, there are censors, things like oxygen censors that wear and of course the biggest thing that seems to go on in Audi's and Volkswagen's are ignition coils. But the good news about that is they're cheap. Audi's, sort of in the last decade or two, they've used the same ignition coil on their four cylinders, their V8's and their quite inexpensive, and generally easy to replace, they sort of pop out and they don't require a lot of labor to replace, so that's one edge that they've got, although they do tend to fail a little more frequently.
I mean, overall the engine's are good but there are some expensive things to do and timing belts are another area. So some engines have timing belts, some don't. A lot of them are chain driven, and it's important as an owner that you know which one it has because of course if it has a timing belt, you do need to replace that at the recommended interval. This just reminds in the early A4's when they came out, when they were really good, to me when they switched to an A4 that's really where Audi became a sort of decent vehicle, before that they were kind of a bit oddball and quirky but they kind of became a little more mainstream, and we had a client with one, the timing belt started making this clattering noise and they used more bizarre tensioning mechanism.
I can't really describe it here, but I looked at it and go, "This is supposed to be a highly engineered car, and it uses little ball socket joints on the tensioner," of course the replacement part was it was a regular style hydraulic oil filled tensioner and I don't know why they used that in the first place but every once in a while you find a strange thing like that but that was for the very early '97, '98 sort of model, so you'll never see that on anything newer, but as I say, if you got a timing belt, you need to know that it needs to be done. Timing belt is definitely a maintenance thing if the engine has one, and a lot of them don't.
Mark: Interior body and electrical system issues.
Bernie: Pretty good overall. I mean these are obviously nice, it's the luxury brand of Volkswagen, so there's a lot of fancier stuff but generally things seem to operate pretty well, we don't repair a lot of electrical issues with these cars. The power windows are pretty reliable, door locks, those kinds of things they're all pretty durable. With any car if you keep it long enough and it gets old enough something will happen, but it's not a problematic area for sure. Bulbs, on the models that have replaceable bulbs because this is starting to become a thing of the past with LED lights but those vehicles, bulbs tend to burn out. I had a client with a Q7, I remember every time he'd come in for service, it was at least a few times a year because he drove a lot, there would be five bulbs burnt out in the vehicle and of course the dash would be lit up like a Christmas tree morning, warning you that your lights are out. It's good having those warnings but it's kind of annoying because it always seems like there's something wrong with your car but electrically they're pretty good. Problems people might have would be more unusual than normal.
Mark: So, on all of these things, would you say that you see the S models, sort of the RS models a little more often just because they're more very high end, high performance range in the Audi series?
Bernie: We don't see a lot of RS models, I mean the RS's are even rarer. We do work on a few of them, the S's a little more, but I mean, more of the cars we work on are the regular. The lower end, the A line kind of models, but the S's are kind of the same thing that they just cram something a little more high performance in it and along with that comes more expensive repairs, so just so you know if you're going to buy that you're going to get a much fancier car, much faster, more fun to drive and more expensive to repair car, if that answers the question.
Mark: Absolutely. So, what maintenance service is required to keep all these Audi's running well?
Bernie: Well certainly regular service, so changing the oil as recommended and actually I'd suggest, not just as recommended by the manufacturer but more frequently because a lot of these, they're all synthetic oil changes. A lot of them they stretch the interval out along ways and it's better to do it probably ... We can discuss that kind of thing or you can discuss that with your service provider but more frequently than the manufacturer recommends I think is a good practice. Some other services, of course there's break fluid that should be flushed and engine coolant once in a while, there's other drivetrain fluids that need to be changed.
These aren't frequent services that need to be done they're in the 50 to 100,000 kilometre or 30 to 60,000 mile kind of range services. But fuel services are a really important thing, especially with a lot of newer generation Audi products, I say newer generation like last ten years even a little longer now use a direct fuel injection system and carbon deposits on valves can be a really big issue, so there's a cleaning service, it's like direct injection cleaning fuel injection cleaning service is highly recommended probably every 30,000 kilometres, 20,000 miles. It's really important to do that because if you get too much carbon build up on the valves, the engine can sometimes require disassembly to fix that, so this is a place you don't want to go and the services are not that difficult to do and not that expensive.
For the older models, before the GDI systems, the direct injection systems and Audi often calls them FSI or TFSI systems, a motor vac fuel injection type cleaning works really well to keep combustion deposits under control and keep the engine running well and of course, a part of good maintenance is using good quality gas and that doesn't mean necessarily premium gas as opposed to regular, it's good to use what's recommended, and a lot of Audi's will use premium because they're turbo charged performance engines, but using a top tier rated gas is good because they put the right additives in to keep the engine clean.
Mark: And how do you compare Audi with Mercedes, BMW and Porsche?
Bernie: Well, they're all kind of different. They all have their problems, they all have their issues. I'd say Audi's are a little more reliable and less problematic than BMW's. Maybe a little worse than Mercedes, it's kind of hard to say and it really depends from model to model, I mean they all have their goods, they all have their bads but they're all up there and I'd like to kind of call finicky German cars. They're in some ways, just a little bit overly complicated in many areas and a little more problematic but I mean, I'd say they're all kind of in the same realm.
Mark: And you're saying this as a Mercedes owner?
Mark: And BMW owner.
Bernie: And a BMW owner, and I have to say I like the Mercedes better, I find it's a little more reliable, but it depends from model to model.
Mark: So there you go. Audi vehicles. If you need any service or repair on your Audi in Vancouver, B.C. Canada, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead, they're busy or check the website, pawlikautomotive.com, hundreds of blog posts and video posts on there about makes and models and types of repairs for many years and as well our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair where we have hundreds of videos and of course we'd really appreciate you listening and watching the podcast and thank you Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you Mark and thanks for watching and listening.