By on April 28, 2014

Wiley writes:

Sajeev:

I own a 2006 Audi A3 2.0T with the DSG dual clutch gearbox. I really like the car, and my plan had been to keep it for a long time. As the original owner I’ve racked up nearly 125,000 miles. I’ve scrupulously kept up with the maintenance, and service on the car, though those 125,000 miles haven’t been exactly trouble-free.

While the car has generally been running well, there are storm clouds looming: The transmission is starting to misbehave a bit, and has slipped a couple of times in the past thousand miles. I’ve read that this could be symptomatic of issues with the mechatronic unit on the early Audi DSG transmissions, and that I should expect to pay anywhere from $3K-$5K to address this.

Given that the car is probably only worth $5K or so, should I ditch the car now before I have to do the transmission work? I’d rather not buy another car at the moment, as I don’t see any really interesting replacement for the A3 today (including the new A3).

Thanks,
Wiley

Sajeev answers:

Unlike last week’s Hybrid Lexus battery pack issue, there’s a good case to dump an 8-year-old DSG Audi for newer metal.  And while this ride is one of the most well-rounded, thoughtfully designed vehicles on the market…it’ll need copious amounts of cash infused into the ownership experience. Relative to other sub-10 grand machines, that is!

Considering your fourth sentence, you already know this is coming. So here’s the rest of your justification, son.

Your ride is fodder for someone able to dedicate hours/days to fix Audis on the cheap, either for personal use or for resale.  Think of a Steve Lang type with more interest in self torture. He/she can repair or replace DSG units for less than $3-5 large. Odds are they have a VAG-COM, too.

My advice?  Get something (anything) else from Japan or the USA, as their parts/labor/quality is far more cost effective for a long term owner such as yourself. Or perhaps South Korea, as Mr. Schreyer has done quite the fantastic job adding teutonic flair to practical and fun(ish) Korean iron.

Quite frankly, I see you test driving a new KIA Soul and kinda totally loving it.  And it’s gonna love you back for the next 10+ years.

Or start leasing Audis for short term pleasure. That’ll work too.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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126 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Straw that Broke the Audi’s Back?...”


  • avatar
    AKM

    I still can’t believe that German brand enjoy such a reputation for quality (well, that could be deserved) and reliability in Europe. It is so ridiculously entrenched compared to ANY other brand, despite solid evidence to the contrary.

    • 0 avatar
      Charlie84

      I think it’s important to consider the different context of the European market. From what I understand, European car buyers tend to drive less and are more involved in the maintenance of their cars, while buying fewer cars over the long-haul. If this is all correct, then Toyota Hilux-like reliability might be less attractive to the market than slick tech like (expensive) dual-clutch automated gearboxes.

      For the North American market, however, I’m actually becoming a fan of leasing when it comes to newer German cars…mainly out of fear of what happens when all those complex electronic systems begin to fail 8 years down the road.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Europeans are more into maintenance? I frequent UK car websites, and the laugh is most people don’t follow maintenance schedules (which include oil changes at double the recommended intervals here) at all. And that’s on privately bought cars.

        It’s not like people don’t know German cars are nowhere near as reliable as Asian designs, they just find Asian cars mind-numbingly boring both in design and roadability, with the possible exception of Hyundai group.

        Since anyone with a half-decent job gets a company car in the UK, it’s similar to leasing here. Three or four years, turn it in. Then the banger crowd buys up the results. Depreciation is far greater over there and there is no sales tax on second hand cars, so people take a chance on some rubbish FGC. (Fking German Car).

        Visit Pistonheads.com for a taste. General Gassing the forum. Residuals are so poor, you can pick up some high end German “motor” for a song, cross yer fingers, pick up a set of screwdrivers and spanners and have an adventure in hope!

        • 0 avatar
          ExPatBrit

          Frequently they are not privately owned.

          The UK has a huge amount of company cars, or employees with car allowances (since they changed the tax law).

          One of the reasons for the huge depreciation is the number of these cars dumped on the market after 3 years. There are just not enough punters for these R/H drive vehicles.

          And when lived in the UK I had about 5 company cars over 10 years, apart from warranty we only fixed them when they broke. That was the directive from management..

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          It’s not that different in Norway. German cars are for people who can afford the devaluation the first few years, or for people who need cheap used cars, and know how to work on them. (weehee, I just bought a cheap 300K Km’s Audi 100 2.6)
          Somewhere in between that we have the poor second owners who can neither afford it or fix it…
          And most people here find Japanese cars boring, but they manage to sell some Toyotas and CUV’s here. (I think Norwegians like japanese cars a tiny bit more than other europeans, but I guess it’s because there are no Norwegian cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Charlie84

            Can anyone from mainland, Western Europe chime in? I’d be interested in some perspectives from France, Germany, Italy, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        DrGastro997

        Very well put. From many past experiences I no longer purchase German cars. Absolutely great cars but they will need a lot of unscheduled maintenance. I only lease, including my current 911. I can decide at the end of contract to buy or get a newer model. I did this with a 911 in the past and decided to buy it at the end with no regrets. Another merit in leasing is dealers are sometimes willing to put you in a new model much earlier than the expiration on a current lease.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “Or start leasing Audis for short term pleasure.”

    http://pressroom.consumerreports.org/pressroom/2013/10/my-entry-5.html

    Or not – Audis are now more reliable than Hondas.

    • 0 avatar

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but this appears to be an award for MY 2013 vehicles, models that are still deep in their factory warranties.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        IIRC the numbers tend to correlate highly with long term reliability.

        “Consumers looking for solid finger-pointing advice will find a good deal of agreement between the surveys by Power and Consumer Reports. In addition, there is a strong correlation between the Initial Quality Study and what happens three years later in the Vehicle Dependability Study, said Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis for J. D. Power.”

        • 0 avatar
          darkwing

          Three-year reliability is still pretty short-term — and as Sangeev (sorry, couldn’t resist) points out, still within the warranty period.

          I’d argue five years is the bare minimum we should be talking about, and realistically more like 7-10.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            As far as I know the IQS, 3 year +5 year etc are highly correlated.

            That said, there is no perfect data out there. For example take the Accord – Consumer Reports didnt’ recommend the 2013 Accord V-6 as it had too many problems. Now, you can say the data we have says the 2003 Accord was very reliable so….?

            Well, all we can tell from the 10 year data is how the car was built 10 years ago. What’s the parts commonality between a 7th generation Accord and the current 9th generation Accord?

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            Whoa now — I’m not proposing that. All I’m interested in is how well five- and 10-year-old IQS results correspond with observed five- and 10-year quality.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “All I’m interested in is how well five- and 10-year-old IQS results correspond with observed five- and 10-year quality.”

            Everything I’ve read seems to say they line up pretty well.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            There are no 5- or 10-year IQS results. IQS stands for **Initial** Quality Study, which is at the 90 day mark.

            JD Power claims that IQS results correlate with the Vehicle Dependability Study, which is conducted at the three year mark.

            JD Power’s clients are the automakers. They’re interested in the results during the warranty period.

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            All that pedantry, and yet you fail to distinguish between “five-year” and “five-year-old”.

      • 0 avatar
        NeinNeinNein

        The OP’s car is worth close to $8k in the SoCal area. I dont knwo where he’s getting a $5k figure–trade in perhaps?
        Drive it till it till the trans is giving ya more grief then replace it with a low miles used unit –about $2000-2500–then drive it another 125K.
        Why give up on it now?

    • 0 avatar
      salguod

      Hmm, I’m suspicious of that CR press release because of this statement:

      “Moreover, every model from Audi, GMC, and Volvo, for which CR has data, earned an average or better reliability score.”

      Elsewhere [1] CR says, regarding the GMC Acadia (among others):

      “These models, listed alphabetically, are the worst of the worst. They have multiple years of much-worse-than-average overall reliability, based on 2004 through 2013 models, according to our Annual Auto Survey. Each one has at least three model years of reliability data.”

      http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/04/best-worst-used-cars/index.htm

    • 0 avatar
      yesthatsteve

      As a former owner of an ’01 Odyssey-of-the-glass-transmission, “more reliable than Hondas” seems like damning with faint praise.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Yes, but lots of transmission shops have lots of experience rebuilding the Honda Odyssey automatic transmission so it’s easy to price the risk. WHEN the transmission needs rebuilding, you lose use of the van for about a week and pay roughly $2000. Adding a transmission cooler and changing the fluid every 2 years extends the life a little, but eventually the rebuilt transmission will fail due to inherent design flaws.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    It’s just a DSG. Get it serviced and be on your way. These things aren’t a mystery anymore, and they’re not dealer-only.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      But, all VW’s have sludging issues, and Mercedes have biodegradable wiring insulation, and BMW Nikasil blocks are terrible, and… I’ve got nothing else, I’ve only been wrenching on my own cars in the face of “common knowledge” since the 90′s.

      Nothing scares shade-trees like a maintenance item that requires any kind of computer interface. I know some guys who’ve done a DSG service in the parking lot of their condo complex, with half a dozen real tools. Most of the cost seems to be dealer mark-up; you can get fluid and a filter for ~$125.

      Not only that, but if you get it serviced, odds are you’re increasing the resale by an appreciable amount of the service cost, since its such a boogeyman.

      • 0 avatar
        NeinNeinNein

        Sludging…All of them. Errr, NO. If you use the oil that Audi suggests 501.00 and above–high quality Synthetic 5-40 or 0-40–you will be fine and have ZERO sludge probs. BTW–this oil can be had at WAL-MART for about $5-6a qt (Mobil 1 or Shell Rotella 5-40 SYN) or you can buy a huge jug for like $26. Ohhhhhhhhh man, sooooooo expensive. Not.
        As for relability–check true delta’s #’s–you’ll see the VAG products are not to terribly worse than many other manu’s. Plus you get the added style and comfort of a nice German car–instead of a souless econo box represented by the ToyoHondHundai.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          “As for relability–check true delta’s #’s–you’ll see the VAG products are not to terribly worse than many other manu’s. ”

          Um…yes, they are. They’re quite bad, actually. But when you know that going in, you shouldn’t have any surprises.

        • 0 avatar
          ellomdian

          My point was that if you learn the particulars of your car, you typically don’t have to worry about catastrophic issues as much as the enthusiast zeitgeist thinks you should…

          The sludging issue is typical of not using the correct oil (no different than using the wrong fluids in your BMW or Mercedes hydraulic system.) If you know how to prevent it, it shouldn’t prevent you from buying VAG.

          What should prevent you is that they are terrible, hateful little cars that have systemically represented the WORST of cost-cutting for the NA market in the last decade, with a reputation largely buoyed only by their top-end enthusiast models. :)

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Though I have owned and loved a number of VWs and Audis, I’ve never kept even one much beyond the warranty period. It wouldn’t be particularly wise, I don’t think. These cars are a kind of guilty pleasure that requires the luxury of not needing to run for the long haul. That’s what a Honda or Toyota is for. Maybe even a Soul (with a very long warranty).

  • avatar
    sproc

    In our ’08 A3 2.0T, we had the mechatronic unit completely replaced a couple years ago at no charge under service bulletin SC-35B-1 REV (customer service campaign 10036487-5585). I think it only applies to model years 07-09, but you might want to confirm with a service writer to see if you can get a replacement unit and transmission service on Audi’s tab.

    We’re nowhere close to your mileage, but completely agree that it’s a really nice car without a direct competitor in the US. I think the Kia Soul is a very nice car, but brand aside, the image is totally different and even the Kia 2.0 falls well short of the older 2.0T. If I were looking for another small, quick, practical city car, I think I’d rather try a new Fit.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Yeah, you need to replace that Audi, with turbo power, refined styling and handling that never puts a foot wrong on a curvy road, with a weird-looking Kia that has the same ride/handling teething problems all Hyundias and Kias have, and its powertrain that couldn’t pull the skin off of a bowl of pudding.

    I’m sure that will be a seamless transition.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Thank you, this was my exact thought. You’re losing all your prestige and 80% of your chances of anyone taking you seriously.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Better drive a Soul before slagging the ride and handling. For a toaster, it’s pretty impressive. And nobody will perceive you as a wannabe or pompous ass for owning one.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Totally.

        (I am baffled by the idea that one gets “prestige” from a 8 year old A3.

        Almost as baffled as the idea that one gets “prestige” from *any vehicle at all*.

        And who’s supposed to take someone seriously “because old A3″ but not “because Soul”?

        Some jerk I don’t care about, is what I’m thinking.)

        • 0 avatar
          El duce

          Great comment. I’m with you. I don’t get prestige from driving any car. Dont get me wrong, I like cars but in the end they are disposable appliances just like my dishwasher.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        The Soul is fun for whipping around city roads – if you can get by the abysmal interior (it screams “Hertz”) and pretty poor visibility for an upright car. I’ve always been entertained by Souls when renting them, but I’d choose a Honda Fit over the Soul 12x out of 10.

        If the OP is a highway cruiser, however, the Soul is a serious penalty box. No horsies available for passing power, and I can’t imagine how much louder the interior is vs. an A3.

        Late model Accord, maybe even a 2008-2009 VW CC if you want to keep the teutonic heritage. Or Golf TDI if you have the room in your budget – such a high mileage driver will save plenty on fuel over the long run, and these seem to depreciate very slowly after they reach $10-12k.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          The new Soul in the upper trims actually has a nice interior for the price-point and despite being a box-ute, even has a better ride than the Corolla.

          • 0 avatar
            vbofw

            I hear ya. Although saying the ride is “even better than the Corolla” is a long way from home for an A3 driver.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Touche – but still shows the disconnect in how many perceive the Soul compared to the Corolla.

            But yeah, not like the A3 (much less the new one), but I daresay the new Soul might be a better overall package than the CLA (not that the Soul, a box-ute really compares to hatches or even small CUVs).

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          The Soul I rented (2010, mid-level equipment) was a pleasant surprise to me. I didn’t know much about them before that rental, and guessed the car was more expensive than it was (I think I guessed $20k, where $16k seems more likely).

          I am a highway cruiser, and noise was nowhere near as bad as I expected. Comparable to any modern compact car.

          Passing power was a problem. You have to predict where you will need the power and use the manual mode on the automatic to knock it down a gear or two.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      The Soul is a good car for its price point, but I agree it is probably a steep drop from an A3. The Soul definitely belongs in the cheap and cheerful camp. I think a Focus SE would be an easier transition.

    • 0 avatar
      Sky_Render

      This video is all I need to know about why I shouldn’t ever consider a Kia Soul:

      EDIT: Links don’t show up? Search “Kia Soul Crash Test” on YouTube.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    The new Kia Soul is one of my favorite rental cars, but I would suggest avoiding the base engine should you follow Mr Mehta’s recommendation.

    If it were me, my concern would be whether the repaired DSG lasts another 100K miles. What are people’s experiences with the longevity of repaired transmissions?

  • avatar
    Swedish

    If you want a reliable Euro wagon I suggest buying a Volvo V60. Volvo uses Aisin-Warner transmissions the same transmission supplier to Lexus and Toyota.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    I had a 2007 A3 2.0T manual, and I’ll say it was the most fun, reliable car I have ever had. At 90,000 miles, I was using about 1 quart of oil per 15,000 miles, I could just hear the throwout bearing on cold mornings, the expenisve timing belt change was coming up. So it seemed the next 50,000 miles would be telling and even my Chevy trucks only last 150,000 miles, that and I wanted to buy a new car before I retired to California. So before they were all gone I traded for a Acura TSX Sport Wagon. I just hope this Honda is as good as everyone says. Otherwise my next car is going to be a used Jaguar!

  • avatar
    alsorl

    Probably a good idea to sell the Audi. VW has great deals right now on GTI’s due to the new GTI coming out this fall. Or try the new Kia Forte 5. You can get a turbo and has options ventilated front seats. Has that great warranty even though will probably never use the warranty with the kia.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      Speaking of Kia, you’d be surprised how much you can spend on the new Soul. Mid to high 20s. That price will get you a loaded Buick Encore, Subaru XV Crosstrek or the upcoming Jeep Renegade.

      I may be anti-Kia biased due to my unpleasant ownership of a lemon 2010 Kia Forte EX, but I hope (and am nearly convinced) that Kia’s quality has improved since then.

      • 0 avatar
        N8iveVA

        A loaded Soul is pushing $27K, a loaded XV Crosstrek is $29K, and a loaded Encore is just over $30K. So it depends on how much you wanna spend.

        • 0 avatar
          tuffjuff

          I’ve seen half a dozen 2013 Encores loaded for $26-27k in the Green Bay area, and an XV on Subaru’s website in non-Hybrid guise will do $26k.

          I wouldn’t pit a hybrid versus a non-hybrid, that isn’t really an apples-apples type scenario.

          • 0 avatar
            N8iveVA

            I’ve built them online and test driven them, the prices i listed are the MSRP, not some deals you’ve “seen”. I’m sure a deal can just as easily be found on the Soul.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I was going to say GTI as well. Probably the closest new car you’ll get to an older A3. Try to last until the MKVII comes out, or save big right now on a MKVI that’s had all the bugs worked out.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    That’s the problem isn’t it. They’re such well rounded cars. I had a 2008 GTI with DSG (didn’t keep it past the warranty due to work relocation), and I loved that powertrain. I have a 3 series now and I actually think I liked the GTI better. 3 is a better car no doubt, but just feels a little too serious sometimes.

    Anyway, friend with 07 A4 he bought brand new in 2006, same motor but not DSG, just normal automatic…. And the thousands and thousands and thousands he’s spent on maintenance and injector cleanings and timing belts and oil (burns a ton) is absurd. His car has 170k on it and he admits it’s done.

    But like you, he doesn’t know what to replace it with. He’s been looking at everything, and it either is Japanese or American and lacking soul, feel/character or its another Audi…. And while he has the money for these cars, he’s a guy who hates flushing any money down the toilet. And he used to drive cheap Mitsubishi and Ranger and Explorers when younger. He isn’t what I consider a brand snob… Just a guy who really can feel a difference driving and riding in an Audi vs almost anything else. He also likes to Ski so Quattro is also a plus.

    Wish I could give you advice, but I know exactly where you’re coming from and I’m not sure what I’d do myself, and my good friend doesn’t know what to do either.

    • 0 avatar
      NeinNeinNein

      Thousands and thousands eh? He probably went to the dealer for all these services and of course, repairs there are easily going to be 50% more than normal.
      Smart Audi / VW owners buy parts online and take them to an independent mechanic to install them. Or DIY.
      There’s a price for style and comfort—some people have no business owning those cars.
      Look around though, you see a lot of these VW / Audi cars on the road dont ya–either all these people have a TON of $$ to burn, are DIY’ing their cars or simply arent having a ton of trouble with their cars! Its as simple as that.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        So these vehicles are acceptably reliable, simple to DIY, easy to find parts for, and have a great independent service network?

        Yet you still say they aren’t for everyone? Why would that be ?

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        Speaking of all-you’re-paying-for-is-style, I sat inside a Q5 a few weeks back and man, that interior was gross. The Allroad on the other hand… marvelous vehicle, inside and out.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Yeah, the Q5 isn’t much of an improvement over the Tiguan until you really option it up. The Allrosd, however, is a newer product that uses Audi’s newest generation of electronics and design. It’s sort of like looking at the X1 (which is really a carryover E90 derivative) versus the current 3-Series Touring.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “But like you, he doesn’t know what to replace it with. He’s been looking at everything, and it either is Japanese or American and lacking soul, feel/character or its another Audi….”

      Has he driven a 2014 IS350 F-Sport?

      I drove one recently with AWD and was pleasantly surprised at how responsive and “German” that car felt. I daily drive a 3 series BMW – an E46; back when “BMW” still stood for “Ultimate Driving Machine” so I have a good basis for comparison.

  • avatar
    noxioux

    125,000 miles, and the car already needs a repair that exceeds its value.

    I really don’t know why you europhiles put up with it. Anymore, when I see an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, I don’t see a fairly cool halo car that totally rocks over what I’m driving. I see a rolling series of 4-figure repair bills.

    No thanks. I’d park that Audi in a creek somewhere and get an IS350 F-sport.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Sounds pretty typical to what I have observed at my uncle’s Audi/VW/Porsche repair shop of over 30 years. many of his former customers have gone over to Asian/American and even Korean makes and most have never looked back. he plans on retiring next year and for good reason.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Retire? Why? What bigger cash cow is there than exploiting people that consistently fight a futile battle to keep old German vehicles on the road? BMWs, Audi’s, Benzes…they’re all great, soulful products *when they work.* And I would be fine with their maintenance requirements and pricey repairs if they lent themselves to preservability, but they just disintegrate from the inside out these days.

        Unfortunately, that won’t stop me from getting a new one this summer…but I won’t have anyone but myself to blame if (when) something eats itself…

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        A bit odd considering that the Germans are selling better than ever.

    • 0 avatar
      NeinNeinNein

      Exceeds the value—nah. Get a used mechatronic unit from http://www.car-part.com or have the unit fixed by an idependent specalist and installed for like $2k. Meanwhile after your $2k repair bill you can motor for another 100K. People who drive those cars are lucky because they are great cars. Lexus , eh, not a fan of Japanese styling.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    I dumped my ’98 A4 at 127K, so dumping this car sounds like the right time to do it. These cars just seem to be more fragile than their reputation used to suggest.

    Looming timing belt, water pump, and clutch replacements meant about $3K in unsecured credit purchases in the upcoming year, so 1.9% financing on a reliable, more fuel efficient car was definitely in order. This was after 2 ignition cylinder repairs (and a *fire* caused by those repairs), new rear bearings, and new front suspension. It couldn’t handle being driven 650 miles per week.

    2.5 years and counting without any repairs on the new car (Cruze Eco), I cut my gas bill in half and nearly covered the payment on the new car (25 to 43 MPG plus difference between premium and regular comes to about $420+ per month versus about $200).

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      try a couple of tanks of premium in your Cruze, and unhook the plumbing under the airbox (its about 3′ of intake plumbing that makes a long trip to behind the grill. The airbox will become a bottom breather). You may be surprised at the better throttle response and higher mpg you’ll get out of doing this all without voiding the warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Weimer

        I like the cheaper gas, and haven’t really experienced a valuable enough increase in MPG when running premium. Gapping the plugs to .034 made a huge difference in MPG and driveability. I’ve considered the airbox mod but decided against it due to the amount of rain and poor road drainage in my part of the country – I’m moderately afraid of hydrolocking the motor after going through a puddle.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          2.5 years and 70K miles of new England driving without the air box plumbing attached…zero problems. You’d have to drive it through over a foot of water to get any into the air box without the plumbing, at which point you’d be SOL with or without the plumbing. It is only there for noise reasons.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    The rule of thumb is don’t make repairs if they exceed the present value of the vehicle. If the car is worth $5K, don’t put more than $5K into it. $5K can be a lot cheaper than $30K for a new vehicle, if there are no other major repairs. It’s worth taking it in and getting a quote.

    The factory says to change out the DSG fluid and filter every 40K. Or has the fluid never been changed out by your mechanic?

    • 0 avatar
      aensc_driver

      (Wiley here) That I can answer. The DSG (and everything else on the car) has had all of the factory-recommended service performed at the recommended intervals.

      In fact, we’ve been paying more attention to the DSG lately due to the slippage issues, with an additional fluid change just done at 124K (after having done it at around 110K with a prior major service) along with an analysis of the fluid. Sadly nothing turned up, so the behavior of the transmission remains a mystery. No codes, fluid is in great shape and nothing floating around in it.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “The rule of thumb is don’t make repairs if they exceed the present value of the vehicle.”

      Screw that. If the cost of repairs reaches 50 percent of the car’s value, it’s gone.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The problem with rules like “if repairs cost more than xx% of the value, dump it” is what about multiple costs? Rather, you need to define how much it costs and *how frequently* it’s needed.

      It could be how much does it cost per year (as opposed to per event), or how much does it cost per mile. You could also factor in downtime and/or probability that it will work when you need it.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    The only way I can keep a German in my garage for 10 years or so is if I drive it sparingly. VERY sparingly.

    I love it when people drive German cars daily and think it’ll still be dependable like their neighbor Timmy’s Accord.

    If cars were dog breeds, we could call all Germans “Great Danes”.

    They’re beautiful and a lot of fun. But they’ll die on you and age quickly, unfortunately.

    Now the older Germans are a different story. But they sure don’t make ‘em like they used to.

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      This is definitely true for the entry-level models (including every VW). But the question is, I think, whether or not it’s true for the more expensive (say, $60K+ and up) stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        Hmmm… agreed.

        Heard good things about the S-Class.

        But the thought of $1,200 just for a headlight repair scares the BeJesus out of me.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          An S-Class light repair should cost $1,200. It’s the price you pay for having a car better than everyone else. More power, more class, more elegance, more engine, more fuel used. The best.

          -venomv12

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            True enough. The problem with some pricey European cars is that they truly are full of prototype-grade technology and are therefore crap-on-wheels, like the E65 7-Series. The rest of them sacrifice longevity and durability for improved driving feel, so repairs are expensive from jump. But those repair prices generally don’t decrease in relation to the price of the car. A $1,200 headlamp repair on a new or late-model S-Class is fair, but it’s ridiculous on a decade-old S-Class. Usually by then, someone will have come up with a replacement retrofit or a mod for the issue…but not for something as convoluted as a transmission.

          • 0 avatar
            koshchei

            A fool and his money are soon parted.

            A fool with no money and his S-Klasse are soon parted.

            A fool’s improperly maintained ex-S-Klasse is soon parted.

        • 0 avatar
          hgrunt

          $1200 isn’t that that crazy for an HID headlamp assembly. The ones on my E46 are $900-$1100 per side (though that’s without the bulbs and lens covers) and ones for my former 08 350Z cost $800 per assembly.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Just because it’s par for the course doesn’t make it right. The component parts should be available for repair so that you don’t have to shell out $1k just because a plastic adjuster broke or the reflector bowl burned out.

            HID lights on earlier E39s were semi-rebuildable. At least the lense and adjusters could be replaced, and if you needed additional spares you could find a junked pair with the part you need still intact. Sometime around 2000 BMW switched adhesives and you had to bake the lights open. Not content with inflicting this inconvenience on their customers, for 2002 they changed adhesives again, this time to something that as one forum poster memorably put it, “binds continents together.”

            I’m not sure what problem BMW solved with these revisions, other than not selling enough whole assemblies when they were serviceable.

    • 0 avatar
      NeinNeinNein

      Tell that to all the drivers of late 90′s / early 2000′s Mark IV Jettas I see crusing the freeways of SoCAL daily. These people driving around in them dont look like they have a ton of $$…..maybe just maybe their cars are running fine? Plus —what is the definition of a relaible car? One that doesnt leave you stranded? One that occasionally craps out an ignition coil thats $20? One whose rubber bushings that go out by 100k–well why do you think your Greman car feels sooooo smooth and takes turns great and handles well?
      Those that want a quality machine, they fix their car and keep it up. If you want to get from point A to point B and dont care about handling and style–then get a Corolla!!!!!
      Quit hatin on the rest of us because you cant fix your car or dont have the money to fix it!

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “Quit hatin on the rest of us because you cant fix your car or dont have the money to fix it!”

        VW and Audi owners are the best.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        @Nein:

        I owned a 94 Jetta 5-speed- GL (base model) that I simply could not kill. It developed a hesitation from about 150k on, but the little bastard just ran… and ran…

        Had to get rid of it because the fuel tank started leaking so badly, I began to find massive puddles of fuel underneath the fuel tank daily.

        It had to go. Right away.

        It was a runner, indeed. But I also believe my 94 was an exception, maybe…

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I have a ’97 Jetta VR6 GLX. And it’s going bye- bye…soon. Unfortunately, I’m stupid enough to buy another VW. It’s either going to be a 2010-current Jetta TDI SportWagen or a pre-owned CC (I like them each for entirely-different reasons).

          • 0 avatar
            raresleeper

            Standard transmission, I presume?

            My 2nd gear syncro was just about shot to sh*t, so if you didn’t get it in 2nd gear just right, you’d hear an ever so pleasant crunching sound.

            Never bothered me. You get used to your gearbox and you get it just right every time.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Nope. It’s the automatic. I would have preferred a manual just because they’re less trouble, but that didn’t happen. However, the transmission isn’t the issue. Everything else is. And the VR6 engine gets the kind of fuel economy that’s achievable by a full-sized V8 pickup truck these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        My Corolla actually handles great (seriously, no complaints at all; in gun terms “it shoots better than I do”) and looks just fine. But it’s also a previous-generation one, not one of the current bug-eyed monstrosities.

        (I think Audis are some of the handsomest cars on the road, mind you … but I know enough about VAG issues to not even consider buying one.)

        Also, damn near any car’s bushings wear out – that’s why you *replace* them if you care about ride.

        My ancient w115 rode like A New Car after a suspension rebuild, for that very reason. But *realistically* that was a stupid waste of money, because it cost as much as the car was worth, for an underpowered gas-guzzling loud-as-hell brick.)

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Nein,

        Hear hear!

        It’s really not that hard to keep a German car on the road. There’s typically nothing wrong with their engines, bodies and interiors. You do have to keep up with basic maintenance, but that’s not rocket science.

        I find that people who claim they haven’t put a dime into their Toyotas are usually driving the automotive equivalent of a worn-out pair of Levis. The interior is shredded, the seat foam is collapsed, the suspension is all over the place, the brakes are shot, the tires are mismatched, and the fuel lines are about to burst, but they’re happy as clams. It’s just a different way to relate to your car.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Well, even in Germany, according to AutoBild, Audis and VWs have lagged behind in reliability – tho Audi has improved a bit recently (not so much for VW).

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Mk4 Jettas? Sure. But I got my Mk3 quite a while ago, and I can count on one hand how many other Mk3 Jettas I’ve seen since then. Once I saw two of them within an hour (a green GLX VR6 that was identical to mine, and a beat-up white GL). I was shocked.

    • 0 avatar
      bkmurph

      “I love it when people drive German cars daily and think it’ll still be dependable like their neighbor Timmy’s Accord.”

      Well, a German near-luxury car vs. a Honda Accord isn’t exactly a fair comparison, unless they’re at the same price point (which is actually possible). But why do German cars get a pass? There’s no reason a $30k German car should be less reliable/durable than a similar $30k Japanese or American car. A high-end car that requires extraordinary maintenance and care (not to mention down time at a repair facility) just to keep it drivable isn’t special. It’s the opposite.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “The only way I can keep a German in my garage for 10 years or so is if I drive it sparingly. VERY sparingly.”

      I don’t know about that. Of course this is anecdotal but I took a Jetta GLX to over 250,000 miles. I can’t say it was trouble free as I needed a new heater core at around 170,000, radiator and cat at around 210,000, all four window regulators (which I replaced myself), and needed to replace the rubber bits for the suspension-which I consider a wear item on that car especially with high miles. The powertrain was robust and the car was a delight to drive. In fact, it felt much better than many much newer cars.

      I was not gentle with this car as one of my personal mantras is ‘cars are made to be driven’. That car took me to and fro many Naval Air Stations and a multitude of points in between.

      Maybe I have a wild hair up my a$$ but I wouldn’t hesitate if a new german car is something I desired. In fact, I’m kinda, sorta looking at 2009-2011 E90 M3s.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The low point in Mercedes reliability was during the 1990s – since then, MB has been making a gradual increase up the rankings.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “Now the older Germans are a different story. But they sure don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

      The W124 E-Class and the E46 3-series were probably Mercedes & BMW’s high points.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Author states that his A3 is worth $5,000. Is that figure taking into consideration the suspect transmission?

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Loved the last line about the Kia Soul. I just bought one and I’m quite happy with it. Of course, I replaced a badly aging Toyota Matrix, not quite the same cross-shopping demographic

  • avatar
    seth1065

    As a VW sports wagon driver with the same DSg tarnny I hope they improved them, no issues with mine at 85K, I would suggest staying far away from the dealer and finding a TDI indie, they are out there. I have my fluid done every 40K as per VW but it is much cheaper at a indie. So far my 11 JSW has one major issue that VW covered 100% no question asked and one minor issue , not bad for a car everyone says never drive out of warranty, Since your audi uses the same DSG tarnny as my VW I would think you could replace it if needed much cheaper than 3-5 K. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      NeinNeinNein

      A used DGS tranny can be had all day from http://www.car-part.com or other dismantlers for $2k or less.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        With a used DSG transmission you are simply trading a current problem for a future problem (in direct proportion to the miles on the used transmission). At least buy a reman or new transmission and lock in some reliability.

        Much of the cost of replacing a transmission is in the labor; it does not make sense for most people to spend that much money to install questionable parts.

  • avatar
    daver277

    For carguys that do their own wrenching, the beauty of 10 year old Audis, Jags, Saabs and several other ‘luxury’ brands is that you can buy them for almost free.
    The concept of spending 40 hours repairing a DSG box so I don’t have to be inconvenienced with a third pedal is usually hard to get my head around though.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I had always thought there were three options on Audis: manual, auto, DSG. Is it only manual or DSG now?

    • 0 avatar
      NeinNeinNein

      40 hrs–what are you talking about? There’s a DIY on the net someplace where a guy replaces his Zf HP19A(2) mechatronic unit (used in a lot of Porsche and Audi) in his garage–less than a $1000 in parts and a heck of a lot less than 40 hrs.

    • 0 avatar
      NeinNeinNein

      Exactly–you can pick up used A4′s and A6′s from the early to mid 2000′s with 100K or so for $3/$4k all day. Same with a lot of BMW’s. DIY most anything that comes up (Trans work is the exception.)Do yourself a favor people–go to the youtube, watch something like a timing belt replacement. With some basic tools and reading comprehension….you can DIY.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The early to mid 2000′s A6 is on nearly every used car buying list. Under the AVOID section.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          If you have the right skills and tools, sometimes the AVOID cars are good hobby cars at the right price. Better if you don’t have to depend on the hobby car to get to work.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I’ve always been solidly in the “avoid cheap Euro cars, no matter how tempting” camp, but lately I find myself lured by late model Land Rover LR3s. They fit my lifestyle perfectly, and they are incredibly handsome beasts in my mind, inside and out. I’m very much a DIY guy who actually enjoys hunting the web for the best deal on parts, as sick of a hobby as that may seem to be. Problem is, I’m used to dirt cheap prices for my 4Runner… Land Rover bits are quite a bit pricier. Replacement air springs cost about $350 per corner, and that’s considered cheap. Comprehensive scan tool is about $500, and is seen as a must for any serious DIY-er.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            @gt – I really like the LR3 as well, I even like the Discovery. I did a lot of research into the LR3 and from what I hear it really isn’t that bad as far as reliability. I read TONS of horror stories about the Discovery problems, but almost everything I could find on the LR3 was positive. Except the gas mileage, supposedly atrocious.

            Yes parts are going to be way more expensive than your Toyota, but the LR3 is really a much nicer vehicle to spend time in. Problem is, they are not really all that cheap. The $10-12k ones are always beat up pretty bad, it seems like you have to spend $15-18k to get a good one.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            mnm,

            Yeah I’m looking at 07-08 trucks in the 50-80k mile range, these can be found for around $18,000. Opinions on reliability seem to vary wildly online. The only consistent issues seem to be control arm bushings wearing out under the tremendous 5800lb curb weight, and air compressors failing for various reasons. However there are some stories of differentials failing prematurely, transfer case issues, electronic glitches, endless fault codes, you name it.

            My 18 year old 4runner that has needed some mechanical tinkering since I bought it(1 fuel injector, steering rack bushings, axle seals, fan clutch, shocks/struts, brakes) seems quite tame and manageable by comparison, not to mention cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        From the first writeup on that process I found: “I took my time and it took about 12 hours total. If I did it again, it would likely take about 8 to 10.”

        8 hours? Yeah, no thanks.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I would think that the Juke or a TSX wagon would be a good replacement depending how you swing.

  • avatar
    nitroxide

    I’d like to know about the reliability of Ford’s EcoBoost engine family. The 3.5L SE was the first model to come to market but I’m also interested in knowing how well the smaller ones have held up.

  • avatar
    salguod

    A Mazda3 hatch is the dimensional equivalent of your A3. I’ve not driven an A3, so I can’t directly compare, but the Mazda3 is above average in handling and design, at least in “regular” small cars. What you loose in prestige and refinement you more than make up for in reliability.

    The only caveat is Mazda’s well known rust problems.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Excellent point and good recommendation. The last gen 5-door 3 was a close runner up when we bought our A3 in ’08. As good as the Mazda was, it just couldn’t match the road feel of the Audi, nor was the transmission anywhere as sharp as the DSG (and no, manual was not an option). But we could have easily enjoyed the Mazda, and I’m sure we’d have no regrets had we bought one. It seems the new 3 is just as good or better. It certainly looks terrific, especially as a 5-door.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I have to second this. We were actually in the market for a hatch for my wife in 2010 and looked at the A3 as well as the Mazda 3.

      We ultimately decided the extra $10k for a used A3 was not worth it over a brand new Mazda 3, so that’s what we ended up in. The smiley face turns off some people and it doesn’t have the power level or status of the Audi, but it is a very competent, fun, reliable, and efficient package.

      If I were in the same position right now, I would jump on a 2014 without a second thought.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Just another example of how it doesn’t pay to be an early adopter of a new technology — in this case the DSG.

  • avatar
    drewhopps

    Some of these are repeats of former suggestions to consider, and some are new suggestions. Perhaps there’s something here the OP hasn’t considered that will trip his trigger more than a Kia Soul ;)

    2010-2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart
    2014 Kia Forte5
    2014 Fiat 500L Trekking
    2014 Ford Focus ST
    2015 VW Golf 1.8T

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I’m a big fan of the Soul (especially the new one), but I recognize that its not in any way a driver’s car. The Focus hatchback (not even the ST, necessarily) could probably fill that Audi-shaped void.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ll kindly say this – you should have known better when you bought the car. The word was already out on VW/Audi unreliability.

    Another anecdote for piling on: My 2001 Hyundai Elantra has its original 4-spd AT with 201k miles on it, with its only service being regular fluid changes since I got it at 138k miles. This car’s end is nearing, but mostly because of rust.

    Is your A3 a transportation device? Alternately, does it impart some other value to you like status, driving fun, etc? If it’s just a transporter, dump it.

    But if you really love the car, then fix it and enjoy it. (I once fixed a car that I totaled in a crash, just because I couldn’t afford to replace it.) Also, an aftermarket repair technician might be able to install upgraded parts developed as an answer to weak factory parts.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Wiley: A little word of advice. Do not take everything that you read on the internet to heart. We have some on this site that have put million of miles on their Japanese cars without a fan belt breaking. Every car after time will breakdown. The Audi A3 is good car and you did say you were happy with it. As long as you changed the fluid on a regular basis you should be OK. It is possible the transmission might have a had a update issued. You could check that out with an Audi dealer of local Audi/VW shop. All cars as they age will require repairs as the mileage adds up. I have had just about every brand of car in my lifetime and I still go back to the VW’s Have owned about 12 since about 1984 and enjoyed the hell out of them. I also have a DSG transmission in my GTI and think it is better and faster then all of the manual’s I drove for 60 years. I have to service my wife’s GTI this summer and the transmission kit is about $135.00 with all the pieces & oil you need. Should not take me more then an hour. If you are worried ask around your area for a good local Audi/VW garage and if something happens you know who to go to.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I’d keep it if I were you, especially if it’s already paid for. You are past the point where the resale value is really good on these cars, its tough to sell a 2006 Audi with 125k, so you won’t get much for it… even less if they feel the transmission slip. You have missed that boat.

    You say you love the car, you have kept up with maintenance, etc. I assume its in good cosmetic shape. Just keep it, drive it, enjoy it. If the trans fails, why not do a manual swap? I hear it isn’t too difficult and cost-wise about the same as the cost to replace a mech-unit, less than replacing an entire DSG.

    I have a GTI with the DSG and I haven’t really had a lot of problems with it. But I worry about having some big failure on it someday, so I am going to sell it now while it still has some decent resale value. Its a 2008 with 73k, still a bit of a tough sell but its mint. If I were to keep it I was going to essentially drive it forever, and when (not if) the DSG failed I was planning to swap in a manual.


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