Answers To Questions I Frequently Receive (Updated January 22, 2001)
Over the last few years in which I've maintained my web site I have fielded many, many questions from A4 owners and potential owners. Whenever possible I've tried to answer them as best I could but I've found that many folks are looking for the same information. For this reason I put together my own personal frequently asked questions page.  Hopefully this will answer some of everyone's more common questions.   As always, feel free to contact me if you need to as I always enjoy reading mail from and corresponding with other enthusiasts.

How reliable will my A4 be in the long run?
Many people have heard about nightmares related to owning Audis in the past.  Stories about the new technologies in Audis going bad and costing a fortune to fix.  All manner of mechanical problems are another theme frequently heard.  These stories lead to anxiety and concern about whether or not the A4 will follow in its predecessor's footsteps.  I can't comment on older models since I have never owned one so I'm as much in the dark as anyone else on those issues.

How long will an A4 last?  Will it be trouble free?  In my nearly four years of owning my A4's I am very satisfied with the quality and low-maintenance nature of the car.  The problems I have experienced have been relatively minor:  malfunctioning mirror heaters, oil leak, warped door trim, a bad engine sensor and a bad seat bushing are about it.

Another factor that is in Audi's favor is the Audi Advantage program where virtually everything including scheduled maintenance is covered under warranty for 4 years or 50,000 miles.  Not bad in my opinion.

Rumor has it that Audi is working hard on bringing their parts prices down to a more reasonable level.  If you are out of warranty and start having a lot of problems this can become a very large issue.

Is quattro reliable?  I have had no problems and I have yet to hear of anyone reporting a problem with the quattro drive-train.  If you read the Quattro List then you will find that the general consensus there is that quattro is bomb-proof.

Finally, the last thing I can say is that only time will tell how reliable the car is.  My experiences have been fine.  Yours may differ.  Just remember that when you surf the Web and read about problems with the car that you are usually finding a concentrated number of complaints.  People with no problems rarely make posts in the various forums saying how their car is running fine but you always hear about every little problem anyone experiences.  I'm not saying that the car is perfect (brake dust, brake squeal and other minor annoyances come to mind) but it has been a very good buy in my experience.

Which engine should I purchase?  The 1.8T or 2.8L V6?
The true answer to this question is: "It depends."  What are you looking for in a car and what are you willing to do to the car after you get it?  The 1.8T is clearly about $4000 cheaper (roughly) than the 2.8L.  It has less HP, however.  The primary differences other than the engine are few:  availability of leather, power seats, wood trim, and stock 16" wheels.  Is the extra cost for these items worth it to you?  Do you care?

If you want more performance but don't want to modify the car then the 2.8L may be your best choice as long as it is within your budget.  The 1.8T is a very capable engine but simply throwing a chip into it definitely changes things tremendously for the better!  Are you planning on buying aftermarket wheels right away?  If so, then the fact that the 1.8T comes stock with 15" wheels might not matter.

If modifying your brand new expensive car doesn't cause you any concern  (or you're content with 150 HP) and you aren't set on getting leather and wood trim then a 1.8T is probably your best bet.  If, however, you are flush with cash and find the car acceptable as delivered (and you've just gotta have leather!) then the 2.8L may be the way to go.

With the 2002 A4 redesign on the horizon there will be a greater selection of engines to choose from making it even more difficult to decide!

What oil should I use?
This question really boils down to personal preference and belief. There are many different viewpoints on this issue with some people advocating synthetic and others taking the position that as long as you follow the recommended oil change interval or change the oil more often than indicated that natural oil will be fine. How hard you drive the car and work the engine is also an issue. The harder an engine is worked the more synthetics hold an appeal.

Is there a break-in oil that should be left in the crankcase and/or should you change the oil after the 1000 mile break-in? I have never heard a definitive answer to these questions so I rely on the owner's manual for guidance.

The issue of the weight to use largely rests on where you live and the temperatures you expect to see. I would, once again, follow the recommendations in the owners manual on this issue.

How often you change the oil is once again a personal decision. The harder you drive a car the more often you should change the oil. Some people feel that you should change the oil more than the factory recommended schedule and especially so if you have the turbo. If you chip your engine this puts more emphasis on frequent oil changes as some people view it.

For my '97 A4 I changed my oil at the 7500 mile mark as indicated in the owner's manual. The dealer used 20W-50 Valvoline which was acceptable to me.  At my 15K oil change I switched to Mobil 1 15W-50.  This is because with chipped engine and the number of track events and autocross events I have attended I felt the extra measure of protection (real or imagined) was worth the extra cost.  With my '99.5 A4 I once again switched to 15W-50 synthetic but did so at the 10k oil change.  I ran this 15W-50 for about 10k miles but then there were reports (primarily with newer S4's) that this was too thick for the turbos.  Apparently, the newer owners manuals recommend 0W-30 or 5W-30.  At my 20k oil change I switched to 5W-30 Mobil 1 synthetic.

In a nutshell, you must consider your own driving style and local environmental conditions to help come to a decision.  For more information on oil check this Oil FAQ.

Will chipping my engine void my warranty or hurt my car?
Since I'm not am expert in the legal aspects of this issue I can't really give advice. You really need to make this decision for yourself since if you run into problems it will be you dealing with the situation. For guidance on your rights as a consumer with respect to warranty issues I would direct you to the excellent information at the Total Audi Performance web site: Warranty FAQ.

Which chip should I purchase?  There are so many choices.
This is truly a personal decision.  Each chip vendor seems to go in spurts.  First there was TAP.   Then Hoppen.  Then Wetterauer.  Finally, there is Neuspeed , APR and Garrett.  There are others such as Abt, Autothority, MTM and a couple more but up to now the others seem to have garnered most of the market.  Chips were originally quite expensive but with more players in the market prices have dropped considerably.   Whenever a new chip was introduced it seemed that that chip was the "hot" one to buy.  For my '97 A4 I went with Wetterauer.  I paid more than you have to pay today.   At the time I felt it was the best choice for my personal needs.  For my '99.5 A4 I chose to use APR with a complete ECU.  I felt that APR offered the best deal for me in today's market.  I've heard of people having problems with each of the vendors' products so none of them have a bullet-proof offering.  Usually, the problems simply require minor code tweaking to adjust for particular circumstances with a particular car.  Many people have run chips with no problems, whatsoever.  Bottom line is for you to consider how much you want to pay, each company's reputation, your comfort level with chipping, and the amount of power your are seeking.  I'm was very happy with my Wett chip and I'm equally happy with my APR.  That's about all I can say.  As always, your mileage may vary.

What aftermarket CD changer will work with my factory stereo?
The 96 and 97 model A4s use an Alpine based changer. This changer integrates with the factory head unit. There is NO known aftermarket changer (including the alpine unit that the Audi changer is based on) that works with the factory stereo. There was talk for over a year about companies designing an adapter that will allow the use of aftermarket changers but none has ever been produced or sold contrary to any rumors you may have heard.

Since Audi switched to a Panasonic based system in the 98+ model years the option of adding an aftermarket changer is now a reality.  The Panasonic changer model CX-DP610 will work with the Audi Concert head unit.  An adapter must be used to connect the two but unlike the adapter for the original Alpine unit this adapter does exists.  Crutchfield has the changer for $259.95 (stock #133CXDP88).  An interface adapter (stock #541AUPAN98) which costs $19.95 is necessary for this changer to work.

If you are intent on using a different changer than the factory unit your 96 or 97 A4 the only option at this time is to use an FM modulated unit that has its own controls or completely replace the factory head unit.

What aftermarket suspension and body kits are there available for my A4?
To be honest, I have not done much research into the issue of body kits but I did swap out my shocks and springs for aftermarket equipment on my '97.   I originally installed Bilstein adjustable shocks and Neuspeed springs but found that the springs made strange and annoying noises in turns.  I swapped out the springs for H&R sport springs and was very happy with their performance and the net lowering of the car.  Check my A4 Logbooks for more information on my spring experiences.  Another great source of information on this topic is AudiWorld.

For my '99.5 A4 I elected to buy the factory sport suspension which lowers the car a little bit from the standard height.  I like the fact that it is lowered but it could go down some more.  The big benefit is that I'm under warranty for the suspension (for now, anyway. Heh, heh!).  Who knows, I may jump for some coilovers soon.  We shall see.

Which dealers are good and can offer me great prices and service?
Unfortunately, I can only relate my experience with the dealer I use here in the Sacramento area which is Niello Audi.  I did not buy my A4 from them but have my car serviced there.  Their service advisors are first rate and a pleasure to work with.  The lead Audi tech is also excellent.   I have spoken with the tech and the advisor on many occasions and have always been happy with my service.  They are also performance enthusiasts and have always expressed interest in mods to the cars.  In fact, my main service advisor purchased his own A4.

I purchased my '99.5 A4 from through Rector Motor Cars in Burlingame, CA.  I had a wonderful experience with the dealer and the Internet buying service CarOrder.Com.  Check my logbooks for details about this purchase.  Unfortunately, CarOrder.Com did not survive as a retail car seller and has since stopped making consumer sales. :-(

With respect to dealers in other areas, since I don't have first hand experience I would be reluctant to recommend any.   I would suggest (as always) that you check the Forum at AudiWorld.   There is a wealth of experience and knowledge that people are willing to share.

Can you send me pictures and other A4 literature?
I'm sorry, but I have nothing of this nature to send out.  Everything I have is on my web site.  My experiences and all the pictures I have collected from across the Web are here.  Any picture can be saved to your own hard drive by right clicking on the large image and selecting the "save" option.

Can you tell me more about the garage door remote modification?
This is one area where I have to admit I fell down on the job.  I failed to take detailed photos of the parts as they were being modified and I had someone else do the actual changes to the electronics.   As such, I can't share much more than the following:  I purchased a new switch and all the innards were removed with the exception of the parts for the nighttime illumination.  Several diodes were wired in line in order to reduce the vehicle voltage from 12v down to 9.6v for the remote.  The remote's normal activation switch was bypassed by two wires that were then run to the new switch in the dash.  There are 12v remotes available now (I discovered this after all the work was done) so it is not really necessary to mess with decreasing the voltage.

Edward Palisoc, another A4 owner, has completed a similar modification but kept detailed info on how it was done.  Check out his Garage Door Opener FAQ for details and pictures. 

What are the differences between the '99 and '99.5 model years?
For a full listing of the myriad small changes be sure to follow this link: '99.5 Model Year Changes.

How do I reprogram my Valentine One radar detector?
Check out this technical article at the Valentine Research web site.  It gives full details regarding how to limit those pesky X-band alerts as well as how to change other settings: Programming FAQ.

Where can I get the four rings brake light decal?
I purchased these at cost from Christian Long down in Florida.  He is a member of the Florida chapter of the Quattro Club.

Where did you get part XYZ for your car?
Pretty much everything significant that I've added to my cars I've addressed either in my logbook entries or on a specific installation page.  As far as specific vendors and prices my recommendation is to shop around.  Oftentimes what I paid is no longer the going rate (sometimes things are cheaper and sometimes more expensive).  A good starting point is the vendor list on my Internet Links page.

Other sources of information
Two very good resources for information are the previously mentioned Audi World and the Quattro List . By posting your questions (and sharing your own experience and information) you can reach hundreds if not thousands of other Audi and A4 enthusiasts. Someone is bound to have the answers you seek.


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