By on July 2, 2018

2004 Audi A4 Wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Here in Denver 15 or so years ago, the Subaru Legacy Outback wagon was king among car shoppers looking for a vehicle suited for their dog-owning, ski-slope-visiting, REI-shopping lifestyles (that is, most of the population). But what about those who wanted an all-wheel-drive wagon that was a bit less… stolid?

While you could get the Outback with a manual transmission or a six-cylinder engine (sorry, one or the other) back then, only the most rabid Subaru fanatics would describe the driving experience of the Outback as fun. That’s where the second-generation Audi A4 wagon came in, and they sold very well here. Here’s one that looked to be in pretty good condition when it got rear-ended, spotted in a yard just south of town.

2004 Audi A4 Wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, gearshift - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI see plenty of these cars in the local auto graveyards, but most of them have automatics and so I walk right by. This one has the proper five-speed manual.

2004 Audi A4 Wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI own a 2004 Outback with a five-speed, and the driving experience (not to mention the industrial-grade interior) is about as exciting as that of the Mitsubishi Fuso I once drove for a tropical-fish distributor. This car, with the 170-horsepower turbocharged 1.8 engine, had just five horses over the naturally-aspirated H4 Outback and weighed about the same, but the extra five or so grand on the price tag got you a less truck-ish experience and more high-zoot interior stuff.

2004 Audi A4 Wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, Quattro badge - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe annual cost of ownership of a second-gen A4 increased by several thousand bucks each year after about age five, what with the devilishly complex electronics and leading-edge engineering, so you had to be deeply in love with your car to keep one running into its 16th year.

2004 Audi A4 Wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, rear view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThat’s why the damage from an obvious rear-ender is so depressing here. I blame the smartphone for this.

2004 Audi A4 Wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, front seats - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome local Audi devotees will score some of the good mechanical and interior bits out of this car, and then it will return to the scrap ecosystem.

The wind howls… because it can’t keep up.

If you want to see every junkyard Audi I have documented prior to today’s Junkyard Find, go here.

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2002 Audi A4 1.8T Wagon...”

  • avatar

    Why does Denver have so many junkyards? Pick-n-pull must be big business there.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      How many junkyards should a metro of 3 million people have?

    • 0 avatar

      I would not say that the Colorado Front Range has any more Junkyards than PXH, LAX, SFO. I would gues that stuff sticks around due to lack of the tin worm. Stuff can sit in a field for 70 years and be perfectly rust free. (See mind melting junkyard article). Interior and rubber parts, now that is a different story.

      Could not attest to the amount of Junk Yards back east, I bet turn over is quick due to body rot and just not worth keeping around.

      BTW, death of most VW and Audi all wheel drives here in CO are transmission failures, too expensive to fix and most all non wrecked in the yards have the same issue.

  • avatar

    Hit from behind and pushed into the car in front of it.

  • avatar

    For all the little electronic problems these had, the mechanicals were pretty solid if you remembered to replace timing belts. I have over 210k on my A6 wagon, and it runs just fine. Not bad cars if you know how to do a little wrenching. Shame this one was rear-ended

    • 0 avatar

      That’s my general impression of older Audis. It’s no older Camry where every little gadget keeps working (granted, there are not as many gadgets to begin with), but the overall bones are pretty solid*

      *stay away from 2.7T motors and 1.8T for that matter, Allroads.

      The 30V variants started to get more oil leaks as the valve cover gaskets were changed to warp-prone plastic instead of metal on the old 12V rigs. But even that is not exactly a expensive or difficult repair. Audis have fancy alloy suspensions with way too many balljoints, but even that is not too scary to a commited DIY wrencher, parts are available and not horribly expensive. To go back to the Camry comparison it certainly isn’t a dumb-simple mac-strut setup where the balljoints and bushings last to 200k+ miles (and you can easily just replace a single stamped lower control arm) and where the rear multi-link seems impervious to wear.

      • 0 avatar

        The Germans have always made the decision for softer/more complicated bushings in suspension, because in Germany, they are considered replacement parts, are checked in TUV inspections, and failed if loose-so its part of car ownership, but only in well inspected Europe.. No one in the States expects to replace these bits. My 200k MDX has the OE bushings and no slack-but it’s a harder bushing, so that’s the trade off. Folks go nuts here about it, especially at Stealer Prices, but the euro car geek knows that there are a lot of aftermarket kits with “those bushings”.

        Your euro car chatter in your front suspension is because the bushings have lost the oil inside, and what you think are bad rotors are Front Control Arm Bushings. The replacement is actually easy and can be done for under $400 DIY, but for the second or third owner who goes to the dealer and gets a $1200 bill its a shock for a part that “should not have broken”.

        Japanese companies know the market they are selling in, and we get harder bushings……

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        If by “bones” you mean the body – I agree. These things are not rust prone. But the “gadgets” (if you can call essential things like a heater core or the ABS module “gadgets” – we’re not talking about the cupholders, though those broke too) do break a lot more than Toyota gadgets (my MIL has a Lexus ES of the same vintage and NOTHING has broken on it ) and when they break they are a lot more expensive to fix than Toyota gadgets, both because the parts are more expensive and because the Audi appears to have been designed with zero consideration given to how things would be accessed for repair later on.

        Accordingly, I don’t see a huge number of older Audis on the road – at some point they are too expensive to keep going. They need a new transmission and get scrapped even though the “bones” are still good because the tranny costs more than the car is worth.

        • 0 avatar

          Haha Jack I’ll definitely defer to your ownership experience. I’ve only observed some of my brother’s customer cars over the last few years, and was fairly impressed with a particular high mile ’96 A4 (12 valve 2.8L, quattro, stick) that would come in for some maintenance and repairs. Considering how it had been neglected, it seemed to be holding up well. Climate control screen was basically in-op, it needed some suspension bushings replaced, and a timing belt. Was pretty dented and scratched up but no rust, even where there were deep scratches. It was a really mechanically satisfying car to ride along in. My understanding is that the old 12V 2.8L is a really sturdy and overbuilt motor. I also watch some Russian youtube channels of guys that do a lot of wrenching on decrepit/depreciated old German iron who hold them in high regard (while obviously constantly having to wrench on them, their channels’ content depends on that).

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Denver

            There are (AFAIK) no comparable YouTube channels for Lexus because you don’t have to wrench on them (nearly as much). All the stuff that breaks in the Audi and for which clever shade tree mechanics devise cheap(ish) fixes that don’t require you to use the special factory tools and take half the car apart just to get to a sensor rarely breaks in the Lexus. Whereas in the Audi they ALL break. You ARE going to need suspension bushings. The cam seals ARE going to leak. Etc. So you can count on a good stream of page views from all your fellow Audi owners who are in the same boat.

            That being said, when the car is running, it’s a very nice and solid car (thought the 2.8s were no rockets by modern standards) – you just have to accept that it is not going to stay running without frequent repairs. If you own one of these cars you accept it as a fact of life but then when you own say a Lexus you realize that life doesn’t have to be that way.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe Finis

      Nope. Had an ’02 A6 Quattro 3.0; loved the way it rode and drove, it was the biggest POS I ever owned in over 40 years. The build quality was $hit and the upkeep and repair was ridiculous once out of warranty. Car was SO heavy it went through a $1000 set of Pirelli tires in less than a year. Radio worked sometimes. Air bag sensor failed. ONE catalytic converter, almost $2000 and the other one going soon…on and on and on…

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      I did the timing belt changes on my ’99 A6 but what killed it was the timing CHAIN tensioner, which is not listed as a maintenance part. Once the tensioner broke the valves hit the pistons, same as a broken timing belt.

      The Audi/VW 2.8 V-6 had a Rube Goldbergish arrangement for variable valve timing – after the timing belt brings the timing to the top of the engine, there is a chain that take the timing off to the left and right banks of cylinders. The chain is made with slack in it and to retard or advance the valve timing there was a hydraulic tensioner that pressed on the chain to take up the slack (or not). The tensioners pressed on the chain with plastic shoes that looked like they were taken from a Happy Meal toy and there were no rollers – the chain just slid over the tensioner shoe with sliding friction (mitigated by the engine oil). After it broke, I was surprised that it lasted as long as it did – to me it looked like it the metal chain should have eaten thru the plastic shoe in a week.

      • 0 avatar

        Ha! Just reading this post and the comments gave me a flashback.

        Last year I finally unloaded my B5.5 Passat with 90,000 miles and I am all the happier for it. (I also had a ’99 A4) There was always something going wrong with the Passat or the Audi.
        ABS module, tensioner, Timing belts, Multiple alternators (and they’re a bastard to replace), fuel sender, etc.

        And I got off easy. No $1000 suspension jobs or the rear main seal going. No heater core replacements.

        So yeah, they feel well put together, but it ain’t worth it.

  • avatar

    Pity. That’s one of the best colors for that car (SO many were silver) and it’s a high-water mark for the marque, IMO. I drove a 2001 2.8 sedan (Tiptronic) from 2004-2014 and loved it; it was much more solid feeling than my ’09 A4 Avant. I would actually have preferred this car shown here…tunable turbo four, Avant cargo space, and manual. Every time I see one of these still on the road, I smile.

  • avatar
    Joe Finis

    No reason to blame smartphones automatically; drivers are inattentive before the dawn of smartphones it could have been anything.

  • avatar

    I think the good thing to Colorado is that they don’t rust out. You could not do this series in the Northeast-you would not get the old cars with “patina”.

    I admire Audi design, but have owned too many VW products (and I liked most of them) to pay twice the money for basically the same parts bin. I’d buy a GTi again, but would I spend twice that on an S4 ?

    Lease one ? All Day !!!

  • avatar

    As someone who once owned a few old Volvos, I will happily take electrical gremlins over Subaru rust and dare I say the HG word? Both older Audis and Subbys need a bit of “care” to live on.

    The A4 was a nice car during that time, an upscales Golf which was already upscale in looks. Before Audi looked to Hyundai for styling.

    The Outback will always be more of a Japanese AMC Eagle to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      People make a big deal of the Subaru head gaskets but replacing the head gasket is not hugely expensive (at least if you are used to maintaining an Audi) and if you replace it with a multi-layer steel gasket it should last the remaining life of the car. I had an A6 and still have a Subie of about this vintage and the Audi was much more costly to keep on the road – every year there was some stupid thing – the leaking heater core which required the dash to be removed, the ABS module, the cam seals, the connections to the headlights that corroded, on and on and each thing was expensive. By the time the timing chain tensioner killed it I had a thick folder from all the repairs that had been done on it. And then there was stuff that broke that I didn’t even bother fixing after a while – the broken cup holders, the manual shifting capability of the automatic, etc.

      Aside from the head gasket, the Subaru has required very little – the parts are cheap and the car is easy to work on. It’s not Toyota level reliable but it’s not bad.

    • 0 avatar

      Ryoku be careful what you wish for. If you’re not a serious DIYer who can hunt down good deals on parts and install them yourself or don’t have a decent chunk of cash on hand for things that crop up, an older Audi can indeed eat you alive and make a once-in-120k-miles headgasket swap on a Subaru seem like nothing. It goes very much beyond minor “electrical gremlins” with Audis, as Jack described above.

  • avatar

    Wow, this one got hit *really hard*. I expect the occupants were sore and stiff for awhile, and probably needed chiropractic care or physical therapy.

  • avatar

    Ah, the beginning of the emergence out of the MK4 era. I still wouldn’t trust a 16 year old Audi as far as I could throw it.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Funny to see this vehicle in Denver jy,as my brother in Denver just bought an 02 ultrasport wagon MT(I think the Ultrasports got a 6mt, not sure) with just under 190k. He sold his daily driven Ur- S6 to someone who flew up from Dallas .He was too afraid of it getting hit with current traffic in metro and replacement body parts are scarce .
    At that level his vw/audi mechanic said it needed a clutch,diverter valve.
    His reasoning for the purchase was that it was more solidly built than available hot hatches , and more tossable than current A3, just not a lot of low end torque, even with reflash(previous owner had it done). Not bad for 3k purchase price.

    I think that these wagons long term may have some value to DTM guys, I always smile when I see e46 wagons,etc., and people keep them in pretty good shape as compared to e46 325 sedans.

  • avatar

    I’m still driving my ’02 A4. Same color as this one, but a sedan with an automatic. The A/C still works great!

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