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Thanks for the *many* replies about my binding handbrake cable.  The 
overwhelming consensus was that this is a common problem with cables 10+ 
years old and that the only sure fix is to replace them or move to a warm 
climate :-). The cables aren't too high - ~$32 by mail, and the job 
doesn't look too hard.  In fact, the rear half disassembles in a minute.  
The front half looks more problematic (i.e., rusty!).

Fortunately, I can unstick mine with a screwdriver and I guess I should 
take to carrying a set of wire cutters with me just in case.  In the mean 
time, I've taken to carrying a brick - an effective if low tech 
solution.  Gee, for an audi, it should probably be an ingot of some 
esoteric light weight alloy, not lowly ceramic, eh? Maybe there is even 
VW/Audi part number for a hi-tech chock.  Whaddaya think? 

I can see it now: "435-079-216 Immobilizer device, aluminum honeycomb." ;-)

Thanks again to all.

Jason Douglas
Lead Engineer, Networking and Communications Systems
MITRE Corporation