By on April 25, 2018

Audi is recalling some 1.16 million vehicles worldwide, 342,867 of them in the United States, to prevent the risk of fire in several 2.0-liter models.

The issue stems from a component Audi’s had trouble with before: the coolant pump. According to the automaker’s engineers, the pump can either become blocked with debris from the cooling system or short-circuit from moisture within the pump. Regardless of the cause, an increasing number of reports of overheating pumps tipped Audi off that its earlier recall wasn’t enough.

The recall covers the 2013-2016 Audi A4, 2013-2017 A5 and A5 Cabriolet, 2012-2015 A6, and 2013-2017 Q5. All of these vehicles carry a turbocharged 2.0-liter TSI four-cylinder.

A couple of days before Christmas 2016, Audi initiated a recall of these same models to update the vehicles’ engine control units (ECU) software. The update saw the coolant pumps shut off if the vehicle detected a blockage, notifying the driver via an indicator light. recalls started at the end of January 2017.

However, even as the recall was underway, complaints about overheating pumps kept cropping up. Audi ordered the inspection of parts gathered from owners. Complaints really ramped up after the completion of the recall, leading Audi’s product safety committee to double down on their analysis. “Testing showed that not just debris but also moisture was a factor,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote in its report.

Audi eventually decided to replace the pumps in all affected vehicles, free of charge, with one that prevents moisture accumulation. The only problem is, the automaker doesn’t have the new pumps right now.

Notices will be sent to owners starting June 11th, with a second notice arriving once the pumps become available.

[Image: Audi]

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31 Comments on “Water and Fire: Audi Recalling 1.16 Million Vehicles...”


  • avatar
    pmirp1

    I highly recommend staying away from German turbo engines, and turbo engines in general. The technology is not made for durability.

    • 0 avatar
      Yankee

      I wouldn’t condemn all turbo engines, although the higher temperatures and pressures do present an engineering challenge for any automaker, and the Germans don’t need any more handicaps to their already wretched reliability. I’m not surprised about the water pumps, as sealing technology has always been a problem area. Having spent a few years working in a Honda service department, many years managing a Toyota dealer service department, and several at a VW service department and then two Audi dealers (a.k.a., overpriced VWs), I can tell you first hand the difference was dramatic in terms of the kinds of failures we saw between the German and Japanese brands. VWs and Audis burn oil from the factory, leak it by 30K, and by 50 to 60K you’re replacing suspension bushings that have given out. They just can’t seem to make anything decent out of rubber. I would bet the most frequently-heard name for guys using a German condom is “Dad.” I loved driving my GTIs, my A4, and even my original Scirocco, but the reliability was abysmal. The Germans are innovators (they gave us everything from ignition/brake interlocks to fuel injection and ABS brakes). But then they rush it to market and let the customers be beta testers. The Japanese sit back and say, “That looks interesting. How can we make it simpler, more reliable, and more cost effective?”

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Still driving an ’04 A4 1.8T at ~160k miles. Sold the ’99 at 180K miles to a guy who drove it away. Never a problem with the water pumps because they were replaced along with the timing belt at 60-70k mile intervals. While you’re in there, why not? The replacements always had the metal, not plastic, impeller. Upgrade from OEM.
      I do agree with Yankee’s observation about the Japanese approach. And I will be an unlikely candidate to buy a new Audi due to all the extras they now put in. Would consider another one if it were heavily de-contented and I could still get a true manual. Both my A4s were.

      • 0 avatar
        Yankee

        Didn’t get to drive my new 03 A4 1.8T manual much in two months before it blew the gears out of the side of the transmission cruising down the highway at steady speed. Drove a Chevy Cavalier Enterprise Rental car with crank windows for two months after that while they waited for a transmission from Germany. Being a mechanic for 30 years taught me when to say no, and other than brakes and little stuff, I ship most of the German car work out, as do most of my friends. You just can’t charge for all the time you need to put in for what would be simple repairs on any other car. Did a valve cover gasket recently on a 328xi and was reminded not to break my rule again. Little plastic towers that have to be glued so they don’t fall out when the cover is inverted along with the gasket itself, which doesn’t stay seated. Could have had an engine out of another car in the time it took me playing around with that poorly designed setup with nearly inaccessible bolts. Friend of mine has 180K on a Passat with the original engine and transmission – but then again he’s replaced everything else on it.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        > Still driving an ’04 A4 1.8T at ~160k miles

        Still driving an ’04 Jetta 1.8T at 385k miles. Still on the original turbo.

    • 0 avatar
      ThomasSchiffer

      My 2007 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 Turbodiesel made it to 650,000 km+ before I got rid of it. It was a reliable car and it never gave me any major issues. It was flogged and driven hard on the Autobahn (I drive at very fast speeds) and it was always a comfortable and dependable vehicle.

      All of the German and Italian cars I have owned were generally very reliable. I tend to drive over 40,000 km a year so the mileage quickly accumulates.

      • 0 avatar
        ernest

        I’ve often wondered about this. VW and Audi have excellent reputations in Europe for durability and reliability. In the US, frankly, this isn’t the case at all.

        • 0 avatar
          ThomasSchiffer

          Ernest,

          I do not have an answer of why they have poor reputations in North America, but as a long-time Audi owner I have never had major issues with the cars. I adhere to their maintenance schedules and I trust my dealership to replace the worn parts with fresh, new and improved components.

          Perhaps it is also the maintenance philosophy which produces this difference of perception in Europe and North America. Most Europeans are ‘on the ball’ as you Americans say about maintenance. We keep our cars in perfect running order at all times, the TÜV is a great motivator for that. The smallest issue is immediately dealt with.

          For example, my Mercedes GL320 CDI 4Matic will need to have its front windshield replaced this weekend because of a small crack on the lower left side. This crack was caused by a stone chip while I was speeding on the Autobahn. My TÜV inspection is in May this year. This small crack in the windshield will be considered a major safety risk not only to me but other traffic participants. Why? Because eventually that small crack can widen due to wind resistance and general vibrations. The windshield may shatter injuring myself and my occupants and as a result of this I may lose control of the vehicle and injure others. That’s the reasoning behind getting crack windshields replaced immediately in my country, and by the TÜV. My car won’t fail the inspection because of this windshield crack, but I will get warning to have this fixed as soon as possible. In a worst case scenario, the TÜV will prohibit me from driving the car until the issue has been repaired. While this is not a reliability issue, it points to the European mindset of properly maintaining your vehicle at all times.

          • 0 avatar
            dantes_inferno

            A vehicle is about as reliable as it’s owner – regardless of make.

          • 0 avatar
            ernest

            ThomasSchiffer- OK, I understand the maintenance part. But past experience here (Golf Cabrio, T4 Camper, and Jetta tdi Wagon) tells me my local VW dealer network is more likely part of the problem than the solution. (Three dealers in the area, in varying degrees of annoying to outright terrible). My closest Audi dealer is an hour’s drive away. Inconvenient, especially considering the car’s no Camry when it comes to the likelihood of needing more than routine servicing.

        • 0 avatar
          dima

          Ernest. From what I can tell you. Here in Europe, we tend to follow with maintenance recommendations religiously and using dealers to do it. I am not talking just oil changes, but entire recommendations. Besides this, at least in Switzerland, warranty for new car is different, and mechanic can replace part as he see fit. No need to argue with him. He just tells you that in his opinion this and that part will need to be replaced. Also, cars are used differently in Europe then in US.

      • 0 avatar
        pmirp1

        ThomasSchiffer, your personal mileago may differ. I mean there are always exceptions, but as this article proves (please read it) turbo 2.0s, and in particular Gemran 2.0s are problematic. They are good for leasing, but never good for owning, unless you are willing to spend tons of money on these lethargic and problematic engines.

        • 0 avatar
          ThomasSchiffer

          Pmirp1,

          This article only states that there was a design flaw with one or more components aiding the cooling system of these particular 2.0 turbo engines. When the cooling system clogged and failed the engine naturally overheated.

          That is the issue.

          Nowhere in the article was there any mention of the turbocharger or the engine itself being the culprit for these issues.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            I mentioned this elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating since not many people understand this particular issue. The coolant pump in question is an electric auxiliary coolant circulation pump designed to continue cooling the turbocharged after engine shutdown. It has absolutely nothing to do with the engine overheating, as it’s not the main water pump that cools the engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Null Set

      I had a SAAB turbo for 13 years. That engine was bulletproof.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Thanks for the ignorant statement. I’ve been driving turbocharged cars since the 90s and have never had a durability problem. Hell, I haven’t even had any reliability problems. I simply maintain my vehicle properly and it runs just fine, even the turbocharged ones.

    • 0 avatar
      northeaster

      I’d suggest that isn’t the whole story. Having just sold my 2004 Passat 1.8T at 130k miles, I think it’s possible to comment in a fairly positive way.

      If the new owner manages to change the coolant and engine oil with the proper fluids, as well as the timing belt/water pump at somewhat better than specified intervals (key point here!), there is no reason it won’t go much, much farther.

      The bottom end of the engine is just ferociously strong (chip tunes for >50% more hp were common without big failure rates) and they actually fixed the PCV system late in the production run, too.

      However, the plastic bits and pieces (thermostat housing, cooling flanges, etc) bolted on were regularly disposable…

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “A couple of days before Christmas 2016, Audi initiated a recall of these same models to update the vehicles’ engine control units (ECU) software. The update saw the coolant pumps shut off if the vehicle detected a blockage, notifying the driver via an indicator light.”

    So before the ECU update, the pump wouldn’t shut off if it detected a blockage? I assume it either has an RPM sensor, and an RPM drop is detected as a blockage? Or how does it determine there’s a blockage? It must be something big, to cause the pump to stop.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    So glad they got rid of simple engine driven cooling pumps; they were so 20th century. If it’s not electrically driven and computer controlled you can’t have progress.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The new Audis have a 12-volt (for I4 engines) or 48-volt (for V6 and V8 engines) electrical system that allows the engineers to decouple all of the traditional accessories from the engine and have them be electrically-driven. The car can then coast with the engine completely off at certain speeds, and kick the engine back on when the driver accelerates, or if the battery depletes. It’s sort of the next thing up from start/stop.

      Whether or not this yields fuel-economy savings and how reliable it’ll be…remains to be seen. But, you can see why they’re moving away from mechanically-driven water pumps.

      Mercedes-Benz also has a 48-volt electrical system in its new I6-powered AMG -53 models, only it has a bigger battery and an electric motor that gives the car a nice torque boost.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    As pretty well everyone makes turbos in order to provide an acceptable level of power, and this problem as described is obviously a design issue with a component, I’ll add my advice. Its different.

    I highly recommend staying away from base engines in all cars, as they are anemic and therefore represent a personal danger to driving safely.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      The 2.0T is the base engine in many Audi vehicles and it’s far from anemic. In fact, it’s actually got much more power than anyone needs on the street.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I saw a car fire yesterday, but it wasn’t an Audi it was a newer Kia. I was cruising down the freeway and up ahead I saw flames between the passing cars. I don’t see anyone standing outside of the car anywhere near and due to heavy tinting on the windows I can’t see anyone in the car. Get to the point of passing her and I see that there is indeed a woman behind the wheel, with her phone to her ear, completely oblivious to the fact that the stuff she was seeing come out from under the car was smoke from a pool of liquid on fire under the engine. Unfortunately she as on the left and I was over in the middle with no way of getting to the left shoulder any time soon. I did see someone who had pulled over a ways ahead that was on her phone presumably calling in the fire. It wasn’t too much longer until the traffic report came on the radio warning of the slow down caused by a car fire on the right shoulder. The next report noted the big back up caused by the 2 left lanes being closed due to a car fire.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    An electrically-driven water pump. I am without words.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Electric water pumps are nothing new and have been around for a while for various after run cooling needs. Pretty much every new turbo has one for turbo cooling after the engine is shut off.

    • 0 avatar
      ernest

      A U D I

      Ever seen the cam chain assembly on a 4.2 V8? Explains a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      It’s important to understand that the coolant pump in question isn’t in fact the water pump that cools the engine. It’s a small auxiliary water pump that is used to keep the turbocharger cool mostly when the engine is shut off immediately after running high boost. Back in the old days, people would install “turbo timers” that kept the engine running for a few minutes if the driver parked the car and took the key out of the ignition. Today, that potential issue has been address by these small auxiliary pumps that serve the same purpose.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      >>”Audi eventually decided to replace the pumps in all affected vehicles, free of charge, with one that prevents moisture accumulation.”>>

      Now, who’d have thought “moisture accumulation” might occur on a water pump ?

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    My Mom’s A4 was already fixed. This was in Canada, though – a relatively small market.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      No, it wasn’t fixed. What could have been done was the software update, but that has been proven ineffective. So now they’re replacing the actual pumps instead of flashing the software. Problem is that the new pumps aren’t even available yet and they’re saying that it will be November before the updated pumps will be ready to go. So in the meantime, they are willing to replace the pumps with a new pump of the current version, which is just a Band-Aid for now until the newly designed pumps are available.

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