Piston Slap: The Unfortunate, Teachable Moment

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

NW writes:

Hello there Sajeev, hope all is well with you. I have an issue with a 2010 Audi A4; my boyfriend bought this car from a dealership (used). However, he didn’t even have the car six months before realizing there was a piston ring problem — he would have to top up the oil when driving the car. We informed the dealership about it, but they gave us the run-around and did not fix the problem.

The car is financed so he’s still paying for it and has about $9,000 left. The car is completely dead at this point; we know about the cost to fix the car but we’re stuck on what to do with the car. Working to pay to fix the car is a lot within itself and we can’t sell it because we’re still paying for it.

We also contacted Audi but they didn’t help us, really. Any solution to this problem?

Sajeev answers:

I hate writing responses with no sign of a happy ending. The only silver lining: lessons can be learned. (Thanks to a TTAC reader for the link!- SM)


Your boyfriend (or you, we’ve all been there!) will do one of the following:

  1. Pay for an engine swap, with or without a warranty: ask multiple shops for repair quotes with used motors and the longest warranty possible. Keep the Audi for a while if you get the warrantied repair, pay the loan down as much as possible and sell/trade it for a more reliable vehicle. (See #5 below)
  2. Do the cheapest repair, trade it in now and eat the negative equity. It’s definitely “kicking the can down the road,” but that’s what the last owner did!
  3. Do nothing and let it get repossessed…a credit black mark for a long, long time.

Let’s lay out the reasons why I came to this conclusion:

  1. This Audi was traded in after the previous owner(s) abuse/neglect made the oil consumption problem very obvious. And perhaps they saw other common issues creeping up.
  2. Most (all?) dealerships do not keep a vehicle long enough to notice oil consumption. They simply clean it up, change the oil/brakes/tires, etc., and it sits on the lot waiting for a new owner.
  3. Used vehicles are sold As-Is, and federal law ensures there’s a big sticker on the glass making this point as clear as possible. This is when a dealer normally offers an extended warranty.
  4. Your boyfriend presumably didn’t buy an extended warranty, but I suspect everyone here agrees you need one for a nine-year-old Audi.
  5. Cars from the Eurozone are notoriously more expensive to repair (more expensive parts, specialized training/tools, etc.) and older VW/Audi vehicles are no exception.
  6. Manufacturer Goodwill repairs are normally limited to vehicles in a factory warranty, shortly after the warranty expires, or if still owned by the original owner with a service history from the (Audi) dealership.

Where’s silver lining? Here are discussion points to keep from being in this situation again:

  • At this age/price, do not buy a used car from European carmakers. It’s too damn risky for some folks.
  • Pay for a Pre-Purchase Inspection, or make friends with legit mechanics (i.e. not schmucks that write for a car blog).
  • At this price point, an extended warranty is peace of mind, even if you buy something with a great reputation for durability (like a Camry). You can’t trust the last owner, so get a warranty AFTER ensuring it’s a legit deal.
  • Do your homework: the FTC’s website is brilliant and every vehicle has an online forum. Don’t buy anything until you learn more about it.

And now it’s time to see just how constructive we can be in the comments, to see if we truly are the Best and the Brightest: how we handle situations like these is truly The Truth About Cars.

[Image: Audi AG]

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.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Sep 15, 2019

    There is a chance that all of us are "fighting the last war" here, and that the correct answer is.... Uber.

  • S_a_p S_a_p on Sep 20, 2019

    after owning a 2001 GTI and 2014 A4 I came to the conclusion that VAG vehicles are not for me. I generally like the look of them, but they arent worth the spend. You can get 36-50k miles out of them pretty well but then be prepared for 4 figure repairs 2 times per year. Its funny that I bought an FCA product to replace my Audi (Jeep GC SRT) thinking I was jumping out of the frying pan into the fire only to find that my Jeep is damn reliable compared to the A4

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.
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