Rants & Raves

My Midlife Crisis, or Adventures in Audi Maintenance

Posted in Beater Cars, Car Buying, European, European Review by Dustin Driver | January 15th, 2015 | Leave a Reply |

a4-desert

Sure, it’s not really that bad as midlife crises go. I mean, yes, when I hit midlife I did switch jobs three times and got divorced, but that’s more the result of a constant and chronic whole-life crisis, not one of the midlife variety. No, my midlife crisis was automotive. My vehicular partners have all been Japanese and reliable and, literally, colorless (silver, beige, white, black, gray). I had owned my 2003 Mazda Protégé 5 for 10 long years. It was a fun, zippy, practical, economical car that could really do anything. But at 37 something snapped and I decided I needed more elegance, more power, more refinement. Enter the A4.

About a year ago I became obsessed with Audis. Their clean, understated Bauhaus lines, their elegant interiors, their smooth power delivery, their formidable Quattro drivetrains. But I was afraid. Terrified of famously and disastrously complicated German engineering, of bank-breaking repairs and the inevitable ulcer they would induce. You see, I lacked the one prerequisite for blissful Audi ownership: Mountains of cash. A new Audi, blessed with a bumper-to-bumper warranty, was beyond my grasp (see job changes and divorce). If I got an Audi, it’d be old and I’d be on my own. I’d be playing a very dangerous game.

Still, I couldn’t stop scouring Craigslist for a deal. One day I found a local mechanic/Audi/VW dealership selling a minor unicorn (at least in my remote part of the world): A 2002 A4 Quattro with a 3.0 V6 and a six-speed manual. In shining Garnet Red with soothing taupe interior. A Teutonic masterpiece, an Autobahn bomber with dual climate zones and sport suspension. Mileage: 120,000. New clutch, timing belts, accessory belts, and tires. It simultaneously aroused me and set off blinding warning lights and deafening klaxons in the fight-or-flight center of my brain.

It was mid December and icy on the test drive. The 3.0 V6 hummed to life with German precision, all 30 valves working flawlessly to deliver a remarkably flat power band from idle to its 6,500 RPM redline. The gearshift was heavy and mechanical. The steering light, yet precise. One stab of the throttle and an easily controlled four-wheel drift across the icy Central Oregon roads and I was sold. The price was fair, a near even trade for the Mazda. Major work had been done. What could possibly go wrong? I drop-kicked caution into a canyon and took up the Challenge of the Four Rings—without an extended warranty or a live-in certified Audi mechanic.

Thus began my masterclass in Audi A4 maintenance and restoration.

a4

I’d love to say that the past year of geriatric Audi ownership has been trouble free, a delightful autumn drive through a wooded Bavarian valley. It has certainly been reminiscent of a Bavarian valley, just one under constant artillery bombardment by German forces, a smoking mire of charred trees and blood. Well, okay, it hasn’t been that bad. But it has been an enlightening and sometimes painful journey deep into the convoluted minds of German engineers.

Almost immediately the PCV valve went out, causing an erratic idle. My mechanic replaced it free of charge. Then both horns went out. An easy fix with a pair of aftermarket replacements. Then I noticed, to my dismay, that the foremost engine mount (snub mount) was completely missing—its rubber long since crumbled to dust. The other two engine mounts were also badly cracked and bleeding hydraulic fluid. Not to be dismayed, I recruited the help of a fellow wrench monkey and the two of us painstakingly replaced all three with upgraded aftermarket jobs from 034 Motorsports. Then it started mysteriously reeking of gasoline, but only when the tank was full. I sniffed around for the culprit, but could find no obvious leak. I shamefully admitted defeat and drove to my mechanic, who attributed the leak to a cracked rubber seal on top of the gas tank. Luckily it was an easy fix, but an expensive part.

Then there was an unfortunate off-road incident involving the oil cooler and a large rock that taught me a lot about the limitations imposed by ride height, or lack thereof. I don’t want to get into details, but that led to an almost total DIY overhaul of the cooling system, including a new radiator and coolant overflow tank. Oh, and two window regulators went out. Which I replaced. Twice. Long story.

But here’s the thing: I love the car. Maybe even more now than if it had been showroom perfect. Because I know it. I’ve scrabbled around under its grimy undercarriage more times than I can count, loosened and tightened countless fasteners, bathed and swallowed its lifeblood of coolant and oil, inadvertently bled into those same fluid system. I even learned a few words of German. This old, rickety A4 has, in Top Gear speak, become my mate. We are connected by a shared experience, by hours of companionship. It’s also something that I’m quite proud of. In this throw-away consumerist culture, fixing and restoring something old gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I get to take things apart, admire (or scoff at) the engineering genius that went into them, then put them all back together again. Successfully. The process itself is meditative, temporarily occupying a raucous mind. It requires strategic planning, concentration, finesse, and contorted body poses that would tax the most experienced Yogi.

And I suppose in some ways that’s why I bought the A4. I knew, deep down, that it would need restoration and attention. It was something I could pour my energy into and get direct results. Replace engine mounts, get better throttle response. Fix radiator, stop leak. Polish paint, shiny. The A4 is therapy. It’s a soul-soother, a means of fighting off the sense of futility and worthlessness that comes with middle age. And it certainly costs as much as a good therapist.

I was going to compose a list of repair/restoration costs for the A4, but I quickly realized that such a list would unravel my psyche, plunge me into a fog of regret and self loathing. Instead, I’ll end on a positive note. The A4 has been a great car. It starts every time. It’s smooth and fast and shiny and capable. It’s packed with thoughtful features and it’s well designed. I think I’ll hold on to it. For a little while, at least.

Volkswagen Baja Bugs!

Posted in General, Off-Roading, Videos, Volkswagen by MrAngry | December 30th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Baja Bugs

Out here in California we have all manner of off-road buggies and trucks. From modified Ford Raptors to full-on rock climbers, this state truly has it all. One of the more common vehicles we run across are Baja Bugs. These are modified VW Beetles that have the ability to go just about anywhere. They’re light, fun and a piece of cake to work on. The guys from Motor Trends “Dirt Every Day” recently grabbed two of these little buggers and decided to have a little fun.

Source: MotorTrend.com

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RoboCop is Here – Drive Sober Video

Posted in General, Movies by MrAngry | December 26th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Robo Cop

Is using RoboCop to frighten mature drivers really the best way that the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can think of to educate people this holiday season?

Source: USDOTNHTSA

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The way Christmas should sound!

Posted in Ford, General, muscle cars, Music, Mustang, Videos by MrAngry | December 25th, 2013 | 2 Responses |

Christmas Stang

There are a few of us out there who think that Santa’s sleigh should be powered by a blown nitro-burning big-block, and that Rudolph’s nose should be replaced with a pair of angel-eyes from a BMW. Not only do I understand this mentality, but I totally agree with it. You see for us car guys Christmas is not so much a time of giving gifts, as it is a time too build, modify and create. Hot rods, imports and euro-sleds from around the world are enclosed in their garages for the winter just waiting for their owners to lay their hands upon them and upgrade, upgrade, upgrade. Some of us live in the land of snow and ice, which mean that our winters are long and harsh. Those in the sunshine belt however are blessed, as they truly can enjoy this holiday season. For those of us who are part of the chosen-frozen, I would like to present you with this Mustang fastback, as nothing says Merry Christmas like a well tuned V8.

Source: Youtube.com

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Clampy the Rock Crawling 1986 Toyota Pickup!

Posted in General, Off-Roading, Toyota, Videos by MrAngry | December 20th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Clampy

Shitbox, P.O.S., beater, road-turd. Whatever you call them, having an extra car, truck or van that you can modify and flog is one of the greatest joys in all of motoring. This week on Motor Trend’s “Dirt Everyday” we get the inside track on “Clampy”, a 1986 Toyota SR5 pickup that’s been converted into one helluva rock crawler.

Source: MotorTrend.com

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10 Supercars in Film of the 1980s

Posted in Movies by Gerri | December 16th, 2013 | 1 Response |

The 1980’s was a time when car phones were a sign of wealth and Thomas Brothers guides were essential.  Car manufacturers built in boxy and unappealing design elements that emphasized safety and practicality. Fortunately, the movies are a place where imagination intersects with disbelief.  During this era, Hollywood resisted practicality and reasonability to produce some of film and televisions most iconic cars. These cars spawned imaginations everywhere. Here is a list of ten top movie cars of the 1980’s.

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eBay Deal of the Week: 1983 Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvole

Posted in eBay Motors, Ferrari, General, Promoted by MrAngry | December 9th, 2013 | 1 Response |

FerrariMondial_2

Italian cars and reliability are two things that generally do not go hand-in-hand. Sometimes however there are exceptions to that rule and according to this owner, the following 1983 Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvole is one of them. The owner states that aside from a few small body blemishes that this car was “Kept in mechanically perfect condition” and that “paint chips are your only headache.” Now I’m not sure if that’s 100% accurate, but if it is, you’re looking at getting into a Ferrari for the same price as a new Honda Accord. Pretty good stuff if you ask me.

Source: eBayMotors.com

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SKINNY PEDAL MADNESS!

Posted in Funny, Funny Videos, General, Off-Roading, Videos by MrAngry | December 7th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Skinny Pedal

I’m not really sure that you could ever classify mud-bogging as a true motorsport, however you’ve got to admit that it sure is fun to watch. These tube chassis brutes pack 900 horsepower engines and tires the size of Fiats and have, over the years, morphed into some of the most insane machines to ever roll around on four wheels. Click through and check it out!

Source: Youtube.com

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eBay Deal of the Week: 1968 Cadillac Eldorado

Posted in Cadillac, eBay Motors, General, Promoted by MrAngry | December 2nd, 2013 | 1 Response |

$T2eC16NHJGwFFZ!HSY9fBSRNLEdG)w~~60_57

Now here is a car that you truly don’t see everyday. This is a 1968 Cadillac Eldorado and I’ve got to say that it is a stunning piece. Most people overlook the ’68 Eldo because it was a departure from the long-finned style that made Cadillac famous. This example packs a 472 cu-in V8 that’s rated at 375 hp. It’s front-wheel drive and puts the power down through a 3-speed automatic transmission (can you say torque steer). The current owner has added a rebuilt carburetor from Autoline, electronic ignition and a new distributor, otherwise the car is said to be in perfect working order. Click through and check out more pics after the jump or go directly to the eBay ad below.

Source: EbayMotors.com

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1946 Willys Jeep vs John Deere Gator: Dirt Every Day

Posted in General, Jeep, Off-Roading, Videos by MrAngry | November 27th, 2013 | 1 Response |

1946 Willys Jeep

If you’ve driven any of the new side-by-side off-road machines, then you know that they’re an absolute blast. They provide us with decent power, reliability and great off-road manners. The same can be said for the old Jeep’s of yesteryear. Be it an old Wrangler or Willy’s, these machines have not only stood the test of time, but have one thing up on the side-by-sides – they’re street legal. Dirt Every Day recently got hold of a 1946 Willys Jeep and a new John Deere Gator to see just which was more fun when the tarmac ends.

Source: MotorTrend.com

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