Piston Slap: Rejuvenate or Deep Six the A6?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Vincent asks:

Hi Sajeev,

I own a 2000 Audi A6 2.7T that I bought 3 years ago. It has been a surprisingly good vehicle to me – comfortable and fast. I even track it on occasion with no complaints. It’s been fairly reliable; the most major issues were having the ABS controller rebuilt and replacing the valve cover gaskets myself, which were not a big deal. As long as nothing catastrophic happens, I plan to keep the car for many more years.

Of course compared to a newer car, I expect this aged A6 to be a bit loose, a little less accurate, a bit more noise, etc. However I recently rode in someone’s 1999 A6 and it feels much, much tighter than my car. My understanding is that there haven’t been any non-stock mods on that car, just lots of dealer service (yikes).

That got me thinking:

1) What maintenance/parts are needed to make a used car feel as much ”like new” as possible, in terms of ride and performance? And what are the best bang for the buck projects? (e.g. I don’t care about having the new car shine and smell)

2) When does it make sense to throw in the towel, and buy a newer (used) car?



Sajeev Answers:

I complain that many newer cars aren’t as tight as my Fox Body Cougar (fresh suspension with KONIs, new steering rack and shaft with needle bearings, weld in sub-frame connectors that also bolt to the seat bottoms, strut tower brace, boxed rear control arms, Dynamat, etc). Which might be why I haven’t done a new car review in a loooooong time: but then again, Imuch like Mitt Romneyhave binders full of service/parts receipts proving this Cougar knows that Performance is an Eight Cylinder Word. RAWR!!!

When someone says their car feels old/loose, knowing the mileage and recent service history is important. Especially since an Audi from this generation is the epitome of a modern hooptie. Well, a beautiful hooptie at least.

So let’s assume yours isn’t a garage queen with low miles. Perhaps you drive it on less than perfectly smooth roads. And that you’ve never shown your car to a dealer, or any mechanic super concerned with fully reconditioning an older ride. So you probably have a steering system with too much play, perished shocks, slightly saggy springs, loose ball joints, toasted control arms, bashed up bushings, etc.

Basically you need a rebuild of all worn bits in your suspension…and probably new steering bits too. New tires too? Only a mechanic who cares enough to do the right thing knows the real deal. Which means you gotta fork over lotsa $$$, honey!

Which leads me to question run the hell away from this car. You will regret the moment you put a wrench on the underside, things will start setting your wallet on fire, so to speak. The once-tight A6s are somewhat fragile (compared to a boring, numb, loose mainstream sedan made to handle years of abuse) because of their complex design. And every part is too expensive considering the current (and forseeable future) value.

Unless, of course, this A6 is to you what the Cougar is to me. And then, by all means, do the right thing and empty out your wallet.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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2 of 38 comments
  • Paddan Paddan on Dec 26, 2012

    Let's face it: Audis - modern ones at least - have pretty nice interiors but they otherwise suck. Next.

  • Dude500 Dude500 on Dec 30, 2012

    Thanks guys - I took a one-week TTAC holiday break and come back surprised to see my question and plenty of comments! I'm the OP and wanted to provide additional details: the A6 has ~140,000 miles and is beaten regularly on NYC metro area roads. Tires are Sumitomo HTR A/S P01. The A6 is also the 6MT. I've got to admit that I do have an attachment to this car, as it was the car that taught me about about how to do car maintenance. When I bought the car, I kind of knew that it was a maintenance hog but I told myself to try to do the labor myself. Since I sent my question to Piston Slap, I've done the timing belt (JHS kit + accessory tensioner), fuel filter, cam caps and oxygen sensors. I think the calls to change the suspension are probably the right bet. Some of the bushings looked "collapsed" for lack of a better word. Getting new shocks are probably also a good call, though in some ways I do like the floatiness given the roads! Also, new motor mounts make sense as I get a bit of a "thump" when I shift (not from dropping the clutch!). I think the above poster on PCV breather hoses is correct, as every time I fix a leak I get another one in a different place a few weeks later. Also, I must have done something wrong with the oxygen sensors as my mileage has dropped since changing (I used the ones that require splicing). Quite a list but actually I expected much worse from an old Audi - the forums really lowered my expectations! I think I will try doing the suspension when I get the time + money but the condition of the car now is fine (I wouldn't hesitate to bring the car to the track). I also expect that eventually the car will have to go, but we'll see how long it takes to get there. Thanks again Sajeev and the TTAC community!

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