[A4] no compression

Kent McLean kentmclean at comcast.net
Mon Jan 5 17:44:14 PST 2009

My '99 A4 wouldn't start. I shut the car down like normal on
Monday, and on Tuesday it wouldn't start. The starter would
spin fast, but I didn't think the engine was turning over.

I had it towed to the mechanic, who said it wasn't the starter,
that the engine was turning over. It was turning over fast
because of low compression -- 45psi on the first cylinder they
checked. They checked the oil; there was none on the dipstick.
Doh! The timing belt was done 12K miles (6 months) ago and
seemed to be spot on; no slipped cogs.

I've been driving 1400 miles/week. I check the oil on the weekend.
Usually. But one of my sons was visiting NH from DC, and I filled
his oil and gave him my spare quart. I think my lizard brain
remembered it was my A4 and I didn't check it after that.

As to the low compression, my first thought was valves, but the
mechanic thinks that no oil could cause the upper end to starve,
and possibly cause the rings to wear/fail. He's going to do a
better test (wet/dry, all cylinders, etc).

I got no warning from from the instrument cluster. I'd think a
low oil level would flash a light, at least.

I got no funky noises coming from the engine due to the low oil.
My experience has been [1] when there's no oil, the engine complains.

Any guesses at to what the problem may be?


[1] Bad Puppy blew it's oil cooler hose twice, draining the oil
quickly. It was the noise that first warned me.

Kent McLean
'99 A4 Avant, V6 Tiptronic
'91 200 TQA #3, gray, UFOs, chipped, Euro headlights
'91 200 TQA #2 blue, up in smoke 2
'91 200 TQA #1 black, recycled
'94 100 S Avant, "Moody", sold
'89 200 TQ, "Bad Puppy", up in smoke

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