1999 Logbook IV: September 13, 1999 to March 13, 2000

September 13, 1999

Just a couple of quick notes today.  I'm finally starting to get used to the switchblade key.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten into the car and started looking for a separate key only to remember that its integrated with the remote.  :-)

The fuel gauge problem is getting worse.  I've seen the gauge go from over half a tank down to 1/8 in a matter of minutes.  It looks like I'll finally have time to get it into the shop next week.  It is more annoying than anything else since I know roughly how much fuel is left by the odometer.

If you haven't had a chance, be sure to check out my new gallery of photos I added this weekend.  They turned out exceptionally well IMO.  I just love my Nikon Coolpix 950.  It makes taking photos and publishing them so much easier and the quality is outstanding as you can see.

Before taking the new set of photos I spent the morning thoroughly cleaning and fixing up the car.  I had some samples of Mothers Preserves Protectant so I gave them a try on the interior.  Wow!  Very nice indeed.  This product definitely spiffs up the car.  Our next club event is a demonstration by Meguiar's of their car care products so it will be interesting to note the differences.  I'm game to try anything as long as it works well and is of high quality.

Another product that I'm now a believer in is the Eagle One 20/20 glass cleaner.  Bob Brandle had a bottle at the Monterey Historics that I borrowed and the stuff worked great.  Talk about cleaning the windows.  I was impressed.

I was looking at my paperwork from my lease of the new A4 and discovered that things were actually better than I thought, price-wise.  When comparing the purchase price to invoice I actually had added in some documentation and other fees incorrectly.  It turns out that my price on the car was really $436 below dealer invoice!  Boy, the stars must have been in alignment for me for this purchase.

You should be able to notice that the web site is responding much faster and without as many (if any) errors as in the past.  It seems that when I upgraded my web host account my hosting service failed to remove all the bandwidth restrictions that I previously was subject to.  This had the net effect of limiting the number of concurrent users and would often cause site graphics to fail.  The problem has been corrected so things should go much smoother now.

October 12, 1999

Well, take a look at this!  The sites been redesigned with a whole new look.  What do you think?  I like it if I do say so myself...  I figured that since I just passed my three year anniversary for the existence of this site that it was time for a new look.  October 7th was the three year date and we're now starting year four.  Here's to a long future ahead of us.

I've been out of town a lot lately so I've haven't been driving the car nearly as much as I would like.  During one of my trips I had the car in for service to investigate the fuel gauge problem.  The dealer removed the instrument cluster and swabbed on some "contact enhancer" on the electrical terminals to the fuel gauge.  They also replaced the fuel sending unit (which I think was the real problem).  The gauge is now as accurate as ever.  Problem solved.

Another note on the switchblade key.  The battery is accessed by actually pulling the key apart in the middle.  The latching mechanism is rather flimsy and more than once I've pulled the key apart on accident.  I've also had the key separate when I've dropped it.  Not good but it is OK overall.

I received my new full size spare tie down bolt.  It works perfectly as expected.  I'll have some photos and other info when I do a complete page on my aftermarket wheels and tires.

When I still had my 1997 A4 I often considered purchasing and installing the center armrest that used to only come standard on the 2.8L model.  Since 1998 the armrest is standard in all A4's but I can say that I'm glad I didn't spring for the part on my 1997 car.  I've found that the majority of the time I drive with the armrest in the upright and out of the way position.  With the armrest down it seems to get in my way.  This is not so much during shifting as it is just driving.  The armrest sits too high for my comfort.  I normally have my seat set on a lower setting so it serves to exaggerate the height of the armrest.  Oh, well.  Even when I lower the armrest it is really only tilting the front portion down which doesn't quite cut it.

I'll be back in Monterey again this weekend for the NorCal A4 Owners Club autocross.  I hope to see a lot of you there.

November 04, 1999

OK.  I've finally put almost 5000 miles on the new A4 and took it in for my first service appointment.  The 5K service really isn't anything more than checking fluids, changing the oil/filter and rotating the tires.

There were only two other items I included on the service order this time around.  I requested that they lubricate the fuel door locking pin as it was chirping/squeaking whenever I disarmed the alarm and unlocked the doors.  My service advisor confirmed that this was a common problem that he was quite familiar with (as are many other late model A4 owners judging from posts on A4.Org).

The second item was that my check engine light had illuminated a couple of weeks ago.  I was not really concerned about this because I know exactly what caused it.  About two weeks ago I washed the car and did the old "back out of the garage, wash car, drive back into the garage" procedure.  It is well known that this can sometimes lead to rough running if the car sits overnight before being restarted.  I only experienced this one time with my '97 A4.  Anyway, the following morning the car really ran rough for a few minutes before smoothing out.  When I first turned the car on the Check Engine light flashed briefly (the BAD indicator) then went on solid.  It stayed on for several days through five restarts even though the car was running perfectly except for those first few minutes the first day.  It appears that the light will stay on while the car diagnoses itself and if the problem does not recur after five clean restarts it goes out.  The dealer checked for codes during the service and found a misfire code for one of the cylinders.  They checked the spark plug and everything was fine.  As for why short duration starts cause this problem my recollection is that there is an amount of unburnt fuel still in the cylinder because of rich starting conditions and this causes a rough idle.

I can't remember if I discussed this in a previous log entry and since I'm too lazy to go back and look right now I'll go ahead an bring it up.  One of the most annoying characteristics of the old climate control system was that you could not have the recirculate button on without the compressor running.  This causes problems when the temperature outside is low enough to cause the system to turn the compressor off automatically yet you still are in an area that you don't care to inhale diesel fumes or other noxious odors.  I've found that this problem is eliminated with the new system.  Basically, if you are running the system with the recirculate button activated you can hit the economy button and turn the compressor off.  This forces the recirculate button off but if you hit recirculate again it will come back on yet the system will stay in the economy mode.  Pretty slick and no more fumes regardless of the outside temperature.

Well, I've finally done it.  I've ordered my chip and exhaust.  Which one you say?  You really want to know?  The winner this time around is the APR 1.0 Bar chip with the Borla exhaust.  I really thought about this for a while and had the time to ponder it as I had decided to go until the first service before modding the car.  Basically, I wanted to give the car a "shakedown cruise" so that any inherent defects or problems would have a chance to crop up before I started making changes.  No sense in muddying the waters with mods if problems were to occur.

The big question is why did I choose APR?  Well, its as much personal opinion and comfort level as anything else.  I had a Wett chip before and was very happy with the product.  It turns out that I was really a beta-tester for Wett back when they first started selling chips in the U.S. but that is OK.  It turned out well and I was happy with the power gains.  With my Wett chip I utilized a socket installed in my stock ECU.  I wanted to get a complete ECU this time around so that I truly could go back to stock if necessary.  APR was one of the first companies to offer this option at a reasonable price.  $599 for a complete ECU with chip is a great deal in my opinion.  They are also offering the Borla exhaust with their chips and I really wanted to buy both items from the same vendor.  I know other companies are now offering similar deals and products but I have been impressed with APR's responsiveness to questions, involvement in the A4 & Audi community and their apparent dedication to customer service.  I'm not putting down any other vendor but rather just saying I'm quite comfortable with APR.

I ordered the chip and exhaust last week and expect them to arrive shortly.  Unfortunately, I will be out of town for a short while so I won't have time to put the exhaust on right away.  I will, however, put that chip in ASAP!  It actually might be beneficial since I'll have a chance to drive the car with just a chip and then install the exhaust and make a reasonable comparison of before and after.  More details will follow regarding my impressions and experience with these mods as I have a chance to drive with them.

I know I've been sitting on my Nokia hands-free kit install for a while but time just hasn't been on my side (in contrast to the Rolling Stones).  I've finally picked up an antenna and will be installing the kit this Saturday (I hope!).  I'll be using the general FAQ for the Nokia install found at A4.Org but I'm adding my own twists to some of the procedure.  It will be pretty cool and I can't wait to try it out.  Stay tuned.

November 27, 1999

I'm back!  There has been just too much business travel lately and not enough time at home.  Unfortunately, there is no end in sight but I will make log entries when I can.

I put my APR chipped ECU in a couple of weeks ago but was unable to really drive it until this past weekend.  One thing that is interesting and pretty nice is that for regular every day driving the car runs just as it did before.  It is just as smooth and easy to drive as stock.  You can tell that there is more torque on tap when you pull away in first and second gears but you don't really awaken the beast until you get past 1/2 throttle.  Casual driving doesn't normally require greater than 1/2 throttle but once you get there all I can say is "wow!"  I have rediscovered that pleasing turbo whistle that I used to have with my Wett chipped '97.  It's music to my ears.

Comparing my memories of the Wett chip and the APR chip I would have to say that the APR is smoother in the application of power.  The Wett chip tended to be an abrupt appearance of power whereas the APR is the exact opposite.  The APR chip is a pleasure to drive.  As with my Wett chip the car absolutely loves third gear.  Get into the mid range of revs in this gear and you can have a lot of fun!

You can definitely tell there is a change in the car's acceleration and I am glad to have it back.  I've run three  autocrosses in the '99.5.  Two were stock and the third was with my APR chip.  In stock configuration I found myself about three to four seconds behind all my buddies (Sharon, Corey, Steve, etc.).  During the last autocross I was definitely back in the action and right up there with all my friends.  In autocross you go wide open throttle in first, second and sometimes third and the car just leaps forward.  Its quite a rush.  I'm having fun again.

The Borla exhaust is still sitting in the box on my garage floor.  I want to be present when it is installed in order to take pictures and I just haven't been home long enough lately to get it done.  I did have APR remove the inner tips from the exhaust pipes for a cleaner look.  I really didn't like the "tip within a tip" look at all.  I can't wait to see how the car performs after the exhaust is installed.  At least I'll have established a baseline for stock, chip only and finally chip plus exhaust.

It's finally getting cold around here (at least for California, anyway) and I've discovered another difference with the '99.5 climate control versus the '97.  In the past when the temperatures dropped below a certain level the compressor automatically shut off and when this happened you also lost the ability to use recirculation.  Now, the snowflake comes on and the temps continue dropping but the recirculate stays on.  I'm not sure if the compressor is still being turned off but its nice that it leaves the recirculate feature alone.

Speaking of cold temperatures, I have been using my heated seats a lot lately.  I regretted not getting them on the '97 and made sure I did not make the same mistake a second time.  They are wonderful.  The first time I turned them I it was a real joy.  There's nothing quite like a warm butt to put a smile on your face when its cold outside! :-)

In addition to the autocross I attended last weekend I also drove down with some other club members to Laguna Seca for a NASA driving event.  All I can say is that Laguna Seca is one fast track.  This track will eat up brakes in a hurry.  There are lots of straights and lots of hard braking before some very technical turns.  It was a blast.  It is pretty fun to be able to go out to a track that professional drivers compete on and learn how your car handles in various conditions in order to make you a better driver on the street.

I was looking forward to finding out how well my Sumitomo HTRZ II tires handled on the track but unfortunately I was unable to do so.  Monday morning I discovered a nail in my left front tire that was causing a slow leak.  I have a full size spare but it is a 16" wheel with a stock Dunlop tire.  There was no way I would take the car out with mismatched wheels and tires.  Since we had about 14 club members attending this event and several were putting dedicated track tires on their cars I was lucky enough to be able to borrow some other wheels and tires to drive on during the day.  Eugene (Audiboy) came to my rescue and let me use his 18" OZ wheels shod with Dunlop SP 8000 (not 8000e) tires.  They were OK for the track but got pretty slippery at times.  I guess I'll just have to wait till January at the Q-club event at Thunderhill to see how the Sumitomos perform when pushed.

The nail had gone straight through the bottom of the tread and I was able to salvage the tire.  I stopped by America's Tire and they fixed it for free.  I was somewhat worried as I watched the techs change some tires for another customer.  They weren't exactly treating the wheels with care and were banging them with various metal tools.  Much to my relief that handled my alloy wheels much more carefully.  They used various padded tools to remove and remount the tire.  They did an excellent job and it was all for free!  I hadn't purchased the tires from them but they were mounted and balanced by one of their shops in Oregon.

January 20, 2000

Welcome to the year 2000 everyone!  Yes, its been a while since the last logbook entry but as usual, I've just been too damn busy.  I've made a few minor updates over the past month and a half but no logbook entries.

I've finally got my page on the Borla exhaust install up with both notes and pictures.  It was an interesting mod.  The jury is still out on this one.  I like the performance and when I am by myself I think the sound is just fine.  A rather loud resonance with the exhaust does embarrass me slightly when I am carrying passengers, however.  Read about it on the install page.

I shipped my APR chipped ECU back to APR for an upgrade to version 3.0 of their 1.0 bar chip.  I have to say that 3.0 is a big improvement over the 2.0 version.  The 2.0 version was strong but was not exactly what I would call smooth.  This was readily apparent when I put the stock ECU back in while the chipped ECU was being sent back.  The stock programming is very smooth (as it should be).  The 2.0 chip was not exactly rough but it was noticably different from the stock programming (extra power not being considered).  The 3.0 version of the APR chip is wonderful!  It is just as smooth as the stock chip but with all the extra power.  This is a vast improvement from where we started.  APR was very firm that this version was a big improvement over 2.0 and they were right.  If you have an APR chip and it is a version older than 3.0 I would highly recommend you get the upgrade.  It is definitely worth it.

Last weekend was the third annual Quattro Club Safety School at Thunderhill.  I had a blast.  I finally got to try out my Sumitomo HTRZ II tires on the track.  They were an excellent ride.  They stuck very, very nicely and even in wet weather were quite usable on the track.  Other drivers who rode shotgun in my car were impressed with their performance as well.  They definitely get my vote after last weekend.  Bridgestone Pole Position's are an excellent tire but they do cost about $90 more per corner.

For Christmas I received a couple of new car related items.  One was a nice Schroth Rallye 4 harness for the car and the other was a black Bell Sport II helmet. The harness was about a two hour install doing the work by myself (holding up the seat while getting at the inboard bolt was not much fun!).  The harness is a four point design and was really nice at the track.  the improved lap belt and two shoulder belts really hold you in place in the seat.  It contributed to a decreased amount of muscle soreness even after three full days at the track. Without the harness you have to exert effort to stay planted in the seats during sharp turns (even with the sport seats).

The second item was the Bell Sport II helmet.  It is really nice.  It's a full face design in black and carries a SA95 rating.  Because I have a fat head(!) I needed a large size.  It was really comfortable and replaces my cheaper HJC M95 open face helmet I have been using.

Speaking of the Quattro Club event, It was a blast!  I attended another Q-Club instructor clinic and actually got to instruct this time.  Instructing is a lot of fun and it is really enjoyable to share your knowledge of a track you are very familiar with.  It is very satisfying to make suggestions to a student driver about a change in their line, braking or shifting and when they follow your suggestion you see the look of satisfaction on their face when they realize that they are driving better and more comfortably through parts of the course that they were having trouble with.  I can say with conviction that I hope to instruct more in the future.

After this weekend, I've now got the S4 bug.  I rode shotgun on the track in a couple of S4's and was blown away with the power these cars have in stock form.  It is just incredible.  The potential with brake, suspension and ECU upgrades is just amazing.  Don't be surprised if you read future logbook entries about my having an S4 on order.  The big question at this point is how to pay for it...

While riding at night in an S4 I got my first look at the new instrument cluster illumination.  I was afraid that Audi had completely eliminated the red lighting.  This is not the case.  They have simply made the gauge needles a luminescent blue/white color but everything else is still red.  I definitely like the new look.  When the gauge lights are up higher the needles look really, really cool.  Score one for the new design.

I need to briefly revisit the issue of the climate control.  In a previous entry I noted that the compressor was not turning off at lower temperatures.  Well, this was wrong.  Apparently, it just wasn't getting cold enough this winter (it has been pretty mild here in Cali).  A few weeks ago the temps did dip down and the compressor turned off just as in the past.  While on the subject of cold weather, I just have one thing to say: "Heated seats, heated seats, heated seats!"  I love them.

February 13, 2000

I've got more Borla exhaust news.  During recent heavy rains in California I had the opportunity to drive through small (and not so small) amounts of standing water on the roadways.  I've now experienced the load "roar" and vibration that other Borla owners have reported.  It is ridiculous.  The whole car feels like it is shaking and the noise is incredible.  I contacted APR and they advised that Borla has been working on the system and is revising the exhaust to eliminate all the reported problems.  I contacted Borla and this is indeed the case.  Borla should be finishing the revised system at any time and will be shipping out a new system to me free of charge.  They will also pay to install the new system and return the old back to them.  Changes to the system include reducing the pipe diameter from 2.5" to 2.25" (stock is a little less than 2"), rerouting the piping to better clear car components and adding another peg to the muffler to match up with the factory rubber hangers (the first Borla system only had one peg instead of two).  Once the new system arrives and I have it installed I'll make another report.

Back in December I had the misfortune to discover three door dings in my driver's front door.  I can't tell you how annoyed I was.  One was barely noticeable but two stood out like sore thumbs.  I have read about the various "paintless" dent removal companies and have heard good reviews.  I stopped by a local Dent Magic shop and had the dents removed.  I can report that I am very pleased with the results.  The charge was $70 to remove all three dents and you cannot find where they were located unless you know where to look and the light is just right.

One thing to note about the process is that the shop will tell you they use tools that slide down beside the glass to access the panel and remove the dent.  In reality, they actually drill a hole in the end of the door to get their tools inside.  The holes are then sealed with a rubber "button" to keep the elements out.  I'm not really worried about corrosion on the door and am satisfied with the repair but I think the dent removal places need to be a little more candid regarding their techniques.

I have a confession to make.  I just now learned something new about my car.  With all the rain lately I have been annoyed at the time delay on the intermittent wipers.  The delay was too long for conditions and I couldn't figure out how to change the time.  On my '97 A4 I had installed the intermittent wiper relay which was controlled by the driver by turning the wipers on and off to set different times.  For whatever reason I thought that the '99.5 was supposed to work the same way.  Every time I tried it I couldn't get it to work and since I was driving I couldn't really get out the manual to check.  I finally checked the manual last night and discovered a switch on top of the control stalk that I had never noticed before!  Doh!  the switch has four settings to vary the delay time of the intermittent function.  I also discovered by reading the manual the the wipers are speed sensitive and vary the delay depending on the speed of the car.  Very cool.

Well, I'm at about 9400 miles now and the car needs another 1/2 quart of oil or so.  That amounts to a little over one quart so far.  Not bad.  I plan to change to synthetic (Mobil 1 15W-50) at my 10K service and will keep monitoring consumption.  My '97 stopped burning oil at about this point and I expect the '99.5 to be the same.  The rings should be properly seated considering that I've run three days of track time and a few autocrosses.

March 13, 2000

It's about time that I give an update on my impressions of my Sumitomo HTRZ II tires.  While these tires are not perfect, I still find them to be an excellent deal.  First of all, they are lasting very well as far as treadwear is concerned.  I've got just over 10K miles on the them and these miles include several autocrosses as well as the equivalent of five track days.  There is still a LOT of tread left on these tires.  The dry weather performance of these is very good and they perform very well on the track.  I can't be any happier considering the price of the tires versus that of other popular options.

The one fly in the ointment appears to be wet weather performance.  All-season tires these are not.  In wet conditions I don't have the same level of security that I have otherwise and I am very careful to drive accordingly.  I have no desire to kiss a curb!  Another disconcerting behavior is that on wet pavement the tires seem to want to wander considerably.  I feel that I have to reign the tires in to keep them straight more so than on dry pavement.  I think that the tread pattern, though aggressive, is not very adept at evacuating water from under the tire.  It may also be that the water exaggerates the normal tendencies of a wider tire to follow imperfections in the road surfaces such as grooves or uneven pavement.  Whatever the case may be, in my opinion, these tires are still a good choice given the price and performance under most conditions.

I still haven't received the revised Borla exhaust as of yet.  Apparently, Borla found it far more difficult to correct the fitment problems than originally anticipated.  The fact is that the A4 does not have a great deal of clearance in the first place so by increasing the pipe diameter without paying careful attention to how it is routed is asking for problems.  I spoke with Borla late last week and the revised systems should be shipping out sometime this week.  Stay tuned.

When driving a chipped A4 for a while the increased power and acceleration tends to become "expected" and "normal" to the point that you don't always realize how much power is really there.  I'm currently driving a Mazda 626 as a rental while I am on a business trip and let me say that I wish I was in my A4!  Trying to pass traffic by jumping on the gas only serves to make the Mazda's engine extremely noisy without much positive effect.  Traveling at 50-55 MPH and trying to pass another car on a two lane highway just wasn't going to happen without a LOT of open space between me and oncoming traffic.  Needless to say, after the response I received when giving it gas at the aforementioned speeds I elected to abandon the maneuver.  With the A4 it would have been quite easy to give it a quick squirt of acceleration and be around slower traffic.  I miss my A4.  :-)

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