[A4] Repair or walk away - advice for an Oil Sludge victim?

Sean Reifschneider jafo-audifans at tummy.com
Wed Jun 21 02:17:57 EDT 2006

On Tue, Jun 20, 2006 at 10:46:45PM -0400, CoasterJames at aol.com wrote:
>I have a '97 A4 1.8T (Not Quattro) needing repairs and I need to decide if  I 
>should fix it or walk away. 

About 2 years ago we were having similar problems.  Actually, I think it
started around 6 months earlier...  Our '97 2.8 A4Q I went to start one
morning and heard some unusually loud valve-train ticking.  I took it in
and one of the lifters was worn almost all the way through.  We had around
120k miles on it.

We had the car since it was new, and it's in good shape, and we figured we
couldn't get a new car for anything like the $2k it would cost to replace
the cams and lifters.

Around 6 months later, we were on a trip of around 500 miles each way.  The
car died on the highway on the way back.  The timing-belt had broken.  We
had it shipped back to our home, and had it looked at.  5 weeks, several
trips to the mechanic, another broken belt, and $4k later, we had the car
back and it's been happy since.

So, over a year we spent around $6k on a car that had a book value of less
than $10k.  Of course, a new AWD car would be well more than that, more
depreciation in the first year, etc...

Sadly, the trick I used with my previous Subaru isn't really available.
Many of the Asian imports: cheap-arse low-mileage engine from Japan.
Low-mileage replacement engines are hard to come by.

In our case, the Audi has been great since we put that work into it.  It
was just luck that we didn't have other issues, but the whole top-end was
replaced...  We did also run Mobile 1 from the first change, but obviously
that didn't help with respect to the lifter wear issue...

The reason the mechanics would like to buy it is that they can do a full
rebuild for cost and sweat equity.  If the rest of the Audi is in good
shape, a good rebuild of the engine and other parts that have problems, you
have a real solid car.  When I replaced the engine in my '86 Subaru, I had
a real solid car after that.

The Vanagon engine swap I did, where I bought a fully rebuild engine from
Boston Engine, and the engine was solid after that, but I kept running into
a problem with the oil warning light coming on after that.  It was solid
after that, but I kept worrying about the oil light.  I was running
Mobile-1 in that as well, and that seems to have been the problem.  The guy
I sold it to replaced the oil with Delo-400 at the suggestion of a Vanagon
expert, and reported that it solved the oil light problem.

In retrospect, I should have looked at a full rebuild when the lifter
problem occurred.  Now, we're worried about when the next time it's going
to leave us stranded is, but it's still a good car in good shape with AWD
that we love.  We'd rather not spend a lot of money on a new car, and it's
depreciation, rather be investing right now...  So, I think putting money
into the car was not a bad deal for 2 more years of great driving.

 Every solution breeds new problems.
Sean Reifschneider, Member of Technical Staff <jafo at tummy.com>
tummy.com, ltd. - Linux Consulting since 1995: Ask me about High Availability
      Back off man. I'm a scientist.   http://HackingSociety.org/

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