1999 Logbook V: April 22, 2000 to July 17, 2000

April 22, 2000

Well, I made it back from the Quattro Club driving school in Las Vegas in one piece this year.  The drive was long but it was definitely a fun track to visit.  The Spring Mountain Motorsports Park is very twisty with lots of turns.  It definitely keeps you on your toes at all times! 

I saw a thread over on Audiworld about the Sumitomo HTRZ II tires.  Other owners were complaining about increased noise levels as the tires wear down.  I have about 13K on my tires and have yet to experience any increased noise.  They are still pretty quiet.  Either they are still quiet or the sound increase is so subtle that I haven't noticed.  In any event, I haven't noticed any difference.  The edges of the tires are definitely showing the effects of multiple track days and autocross events.  The leading edge of the tread is lifting up from the hard driving.  I even have a couple of small pieces that have chunked off as they caught the road in a hard turn. 

While I was in Vegas for the Q-club event I found that the Sumitomos had quite a bit of grip on the track.  I was pleased with their performance for the price (approx $130/corner).  I did find that in long sweeping turns at high speed that they make a fairly constant noise.  It isn't so much a howl as a constant tone as they are pushed hard.  Another thing I experienced was the loss of my plastic centercaps on the front two wheels.  These caps are simply plastic with four tabs that lock the cap into place on the wheel.  They both came off while driving and I recovered one in the paddock at the track.  When I left for home I put the recovered cap back on the car but it was gone once again after the nine-hour drive home.  The only thing I can think is that as the wheel heated up on the track it softened the plastic of the cap so that it wouldn't stay securely in place even during normal street driving.  It was no big deal as I had two caps at home so all is well. 

Speaking of wheels and tires I now have another set of wheels sitting in my garage at home.  Thanks to the generosity of Cameron on the Audiworld forums I picked up a brand new set of Ronal R-25 wheels.  They are 18" x 8.5" wheels and are very sweet when seen in person.  I have to say that the photos at the Ronal site do not do these wheels justice.  They are very, very nice.  The offset is 30mm and each weighs in at about 27 Lbs.  Not exactly the lightest wheel around that's for sure.

The big question at this point is what tire to put on the new wheels.  Before I tell you what tire I will be buying let me first share my overall views on the subject.  I now have three sets of wheels.  The stock set, my current 17" Mille Miglia wheels and the new Ronal wheels.  What I plan to do is to put a set of tires on the 18" wheels and use them solely as my street wheels/tires.  I will then use my 17" wheels as track/autocross wheels and after wearing out the current Sumitomos will replace them with G-Force R-1's or Kumho racing slicks.  Since the 18" wheels will be for the street only my personal view is that I don't need the most extremely high performance tire that is available on the market.  Tires for an 18" wheel can easily run upwards of $300/corner once you figure in mounting, balancing, etc.  Since easily 90% of my daily driving is not what I would call anything approaching "ultra high performance" I am opting to go with an entry-level UHP tire for the 18" wheels.  My selection?  The new Kumho ECSTA Supra 712.  These tires are available through the Tire Rack for about $130/corner.  They have an aggressive look, good treadwear rating and are still Z-rated tires.  No one has any experience with these tires but given that they will be for street use only I am more than willing to give them a try and be a guinea pig for everyone else. :-) 

The final question I am struggling with is which width of tire to purchase.  Because the new wheels are 8.5" wide a 235/40 tire would be more suitable for the wheel but the 30mm wheel offset tends to indicate 225/40 would be the way to go.  The price difference is only about $5 so that is not a factor.  I'll be talking with the Tire Rack shortly to come to a decision on the best way to go.  Stay tuned.

The longer I own this car the more I find little differences in the two.  I definitely got better gas mileage on my '97 A4 than on my '99.5 model.  This may be more attributable to a more aggressive timing and leaner fuel mixture put in place by my Wett chip in the '97 as opposed to the more conservative tuning of my APR chip in my '99.5.  I don't really know for sure but I got about 1.5 to 2 MPG better mileage on the older A4.  If you are interested, I finally put together a page with data for all of my fuel stops in the '99.5 A4.  There are also a couple of interesting charts which compare the trip computer calculations to actual fuel economy data as well as comparisons to average speed.  Take a look if you'd like.  

Another difference is that I discovered the oil temps in the 99.5 go higher than they did in the '97.  At the Las Vegas event I experienced oil temps of about 255' on the oil gauge after hard track driving.  The '97 never went that high.  The ambient temps were in the '80's but I had driven in similar temperatures in the older car as well.  The '97 only went up to about 235' or so.  I am running Mobil 1 15W-50 oil but I ran that in the '97 as well.  Hmmm.  The temperatures are far from being too high so I am not concerned.  It was just another difference I had noticed.

I'm still running the original Borla exhaust as the revised system has not yet arrived.  There are some people who are receiving the revised system as part of a new purchase.  Apparently Borla wanted to get the new system out to dealers before sending them out to the warranty replacement customers.  At the track people continue to be surprised at the unusual sound that the Borla makes as I drive by under full throttle.  During a few laps I kept getting stares from people as I drove by and was not sure why.  I was told later that the sound as I passed was not what they were expecting and it quickly drew their attention.  We'll have to see if the sound is any different with the revised system once it arrives.  It seems to me that the sound levels of the exhaust have dropped just a little as time has passed with the system on the car.  It is more likely that I have just grown accustomed to the volume but you never know.  I wonder if exhaust systems age like wine? :-) 

I have a new minor squeak in the car.  Inside the back of the driver's seat there is something that squeaks on occasion as I adjust my body position in the seat itself.  It is not related to the seat mounts or bushings but is actually inside the seat back.  It only happens on occasion but is there.

After making a few trips where I have had to load a lot of stuff in the trunk I can say without reservation that the factory cargo net is a useless piece of crap.  The problem is not the net itself but rather the hooks used to attach it to the mounting points on the floor.  The hooks are designed such that they have only a tenuous connection to the connecting rings.  Because of this they very easily and often come loose and fail to do their job.  I still have my Mercedes cargo net I bought for the '97 and will likely start using it.  Another option is to replace the stock hooks with small carabiners that will lock into the rings securely.  I have seen a post where someone else had used carabiners and it sounds like an excellent idea.

After having three dents removed from the driver's door via a paintless dent repair vendor I now have a need to use the service again.  Unfortunately, I now have a small dent in each of the two rear passenger doors.  Argh!  Oh, well.  PDR is far better than repainting the entire panel.  We plan on having a PDR vendor at our next NorCal Audi Club event in May so I will definitely be using his services.

I'm now in the market for a new toy for the car.  What might that be?  After driving down and back to the Las Vegas Q-Club event I now want another radar detector and my brand of choice will be Valentine One.  On the way home we had two V-1's in our group of four cars and it was just great to have lots of warning as we approached patrol cars.  We had plenty of time to slow down if we were above the posted limit.  The range of these detectors is incredible.  I used to own one of the original V-1's after they first came out in the early '90's.  I sold it a few years ago and will now be picking up one of the latest versions.  I'll also be getting the remote display unit and will be working on a creative way to mount it.  I'll keep everyone posted as to what I do.

May 15, 2000

Not much to report this time around.  I finally purchased and installed my Valentine One radar detector in the car.  It's a pretty sweet install.

The Kumho tires that I plan to put on my new Ronal R-25 wheels are still not available.  They should be in stock near the end of this month and I will have pictures of the car as soon as they are mounted.  One thing to note is that if you have the choice of buying local or buying mail order that it is usually nice to have the local support of a reputable shop.  I've found that America's Tire stores are usually within a few dollars in price of the mail order companies and that they provide good service.  In the case of the Kumho tires the price at America's Tire is only $1 more than from the Tire Rack.  I'll be buying local.

I pulled one of my wheels recently to test fit the R-25 and discovered that the center of my Sumitomo tire has been wearing quite a bit more than the outside.  This is usually an indication of running too high a pressure in the tire but I normally only run them at about 38 PSI.  This wear seems rather unusual.  Pressures can go up when driving on the track but the amount of time on the track at higher temps and pressures is fairly minimal relative to the overall time on the road.  I'll be keeping an eye on this issue for the future.

July 17, 2000

Let's see...it's been two months without an update.  There is a lot to share.

A couple of weeks ago I was helping instruct at the TracQuest event at Thunderhill and unfortunately for me I experienced a distressing loss of power in the car.  Acceleration seemed to disappear.  I only completed one full session before the problem cropped up.  Back in the paddock we couldn't see or hear anything wrong with the car but something was definitely going on.  On the main straight of the track the car normally will reach 100-105 MPH but I was barely making it to 75 MPH!

I stopped driving the car for the day and when we left the track it was perfectly clear that I had a split hose somewhere in the turbo system.  Whenever I tried to accelerate a loud "whooshing" sound emanated from underneath the engine.  On the track my helmet masked this sound but on the highway it was easy to discern.  The car drove fine with the exception of not being able to accelerate very quickly.

I returned home and put the car up on jack stands.  After a little poking around I discovered a hose with a 1.5 to 2 inch split which was allowing boost to escape under throttle.  This hose connects the turbo to the intercooler and the wastegate recirculation valve.  The split occurred in the elbow of the connection to the recirculation valve.  Only three clamps hold the hose in place so I pulled them off and called the dealer to order the part.  It turns out the cost of the part is about $90 and it had to be shipped up from LA.  I ordered the part and waited till the next morning to pick it up.

Taking the defective hose with me, I stopped by service to show the hose failure to the service staff.  They all agreed that it was an unusual place for a hose to fail (I've never heard of this hose failing in any A4, chipped or unchipped).  I inquired as to warranty coverage and they deferred the decision to the regional Audi service rep.  We left a message for him and I left to run some errands (driving a Ford Explorer, BTW :-P).  Upon returning, we still hadn't heard from the Audi rep so there was some discussion as to whether or not they would cover the part under warranty.  It seems that for warranty items (no matter how small or easy to install) the dealer is normally required to complete the work themselves.  Being on vacation, for me to get the car down to the dealer and having someone pick me up was a little inconvenient so I opted to just pull the hose myself.  It took only about 20 minutes to identify the problem and pull the hose (one of the clamps was a little awkward to reach but I figured out the best way to do it).  At one point the discussion turned to my having the car towed down to the dealer so that they could install the new part.  I vetoed that idea as I had the new part in hand and could be home and completing the work myself with a lot less hassle!   I'd rather pay for the hose myself than deal with the inconvenience of that bureaucratic circus.  Thankfully, common-sense prevailed and the dealer just wrote the part up under warranty, kept the defective part, and sent me on my way.  A happy ending as far as I'm concerned.

After returning home I quickly replaced the hose and went for a test drive.  The boost was back baby!  I am sort of wondering if there wasn't a smaller tear in that hose for some time before the track event.  I had been thinking that the car was not quite as powerful as it used to be but had not really thought much of it.  I rather figured I was imaging things.  After replacing the hose the power was tremendous.  Perhaps a small leak became a large leak with the consistently high boost pressures of track driving.  I dunno.  All I do know is that the car is back to normal and I'm a happy camper.

Some might question why I didn't just take the car to the dealer in the first place.  Basically, I was on vacation, I had the time to look at the car myself and there is something fulfilling about figuring out how your car works and understanding how it is put together.  The hose turned out to be easy to find and pull and besides, I wanted to get a little grease underneath my fingers. :-)

I purchased a VAG-COM cable from Ross-Tech and have had a chance to use the software to recode my central locking system.  The cable and the software are very nice.  You can view and clear fault codes for the vehicles control modules and the owner of Ross-Tech is working on implementing many additional features for the home mechanic.  System adaptation features are still being worked on and, I, for one, can't wait for them to be complete.  It might be silly, but one of the things I want to change is the default language of the trip computer.  I want to switch it from English to German! :-P  The software interface is very slick and the adapter is well made.  At $199 during the beta period this is a steal.  The only other software available to do this is the old VWTool (also known as VDS-Pro from Baum Tools) runs about $800.  VWTool is older, out of date and there is no support as the developer is now deceased.

As far as the central locking system is concerned, I added the feature to open and close my windows/sunroof with the remote and the safety lock feature which auto-locks all the doors when the vehicle passes 15 MPH and unlocks them when the key is removed from the ignition.  One thing that is nice about the safety lock feature is that it knows what doors were originally locked and unlocked to begin with.  If you unlock the driver's door only and drive away, the driver's door locks and when you stop, only the driver's door unlocks.  If all doors were unlocked, all doors will unlock again when the key is removed.  Pretty slick engineering in my opinion.

Some months ago, Christian Long in Florida had some decals made that can be applied to your third brake light that illuminates the Audi rings when the brakes are applied.  He sold them for only $3.50 so I bought a couple.  I think they look pretty cool and consider it a cheap mod:  Brake Light Rings.

My quest for tires continues. :-(  The Kumho tires that I really want for street use only are still unavailable.  The availability date keeps moving back.  Supposedly, they are in U.S. customs waiting to be released.  I'm beginning to think that I may have to go to a different tire even though it will be more expensive.  How long can one wait, anyway?  It may be back to the drawing board shortly.

My Sumitomo tires are about toast.  I'm pretty sure that I killed them on the track.  I have plenty of tread left on the outside edges of the tires but the center is worn way down after 16200 miles on the odo.  The problem is that there does not appear to be enough sidewall stiffness in these tires.  To keep the tire from rolling over onto the edge while track driving you have to bump the pressure way up.  This serves to increase wear on the center.  Several track events and autocrosses appear to have taken their toll.  I may buy these tires again for my 18" wheels but they would only be used on the street.  They are a nice quiet and grippy street tire.

Speaking of track tires, I had the chance to drive a fellow A4 owner's Avant (Rich L.) at the TracQuest event.  It had true racing rubber on the car (Yokohama A032R's, I think).  I was amazed at what I could do with his car.  It STUCK!  It made me feel totally inadequate in my A4.  I've been cheating myself by using regular high performance tires on track days.  It was truly incredible.  I can't wait to get real track tires on the car.  As a side note, Rich had put a new set of Pagid brake pads on the car and they quickly disintegrated on the track.  He told me they were getting a little soft during the few laps I drove the car and that was definitely the case!  He pulled the pads and found that there was the barest sliver of brake material left before the metal backing material was exposed!  Pretty wild.

People are finally receiving the European Audi-Eibach sport springs for their cars.  These springs are factory authorized replacements that are even lower than the stock sport suspension.  The springs run about $280 plus installation.  I'm seriously considering going this route since the factory warranty will still apply.  I want to get my 18" wheels mounted first, however, and once I know who much clearance I have I'll considering lower the car with the springs.

The revised Borla exhaust still sits in my garage. Doh!  I've just been too busy lately and with all the dry weather getting it swapped out has not been a high priority.  Other things just always seem to get in the way of getting everything done.

Running with my new Valentine One radar detector has been very nice.  Having a heads up to approaching patrol cars is very helpful.  One thing that I have noticed is that the days of patrol cars running with their radar units always on appears to be a thing of the past.  I have passed countless cars that are running silent and the V1 has not uttered a peep as we pass.  Mostly they are on the other side of the freeway from my direction of travel but it is still interesting nonetheless.  Another thing for V1 owners to remember is that motorcycle cops won't be running with radar and can sneak up on you very easily.  Driver beware!

That's it this time around.  Other than the torn turbo hose, the car has been running great and I look forward to more happy miles ahead.

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