Car Buying

My Midlife Crisis, or Adventures in Audi Maintenance

Posted in Beater Cars, Car Buying, European, European Review by Dustin Driver | January 15th, 2015 | 1 Response |


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.


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.

Used Car Pre-Purchase Inspection – /DRIVE CLEAN

Posted in auto industry, Best of, Car Branding, Car Buying, Car Tech, DRIVE, General, News, People, Rants & Raves, Videos by MrAngry | July 5th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |


For some people the thought of buying a used car can be a harrowing ordeal. There are dishonest owners, unscrupulous dealers and cars that have been trashed or abused their entire lives. Larry Kosilla’s DRIVE CLEAN recently debuted its second season on Youtube’s /DRIVE Network, and the first episode deals with exactly this. Kosilla goes through a step-by-step process in regards to not only what you should look for, but how you should get a used car checked out (pre-purchase inspection – PPI) before you actually purchase it.

This is going to be one of the most helpful videos ever posted and something I know you guys will enjoy.


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Bring A Trailer: Petrolicious

Posted in Best of, Car Branding, Car Buying, Car Care, Car Deals, Educational, General, Rants & Raves, Videos by MrAngry | January 6th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |


If you’re an avid surfer of automotive content on the internet and you haven’t yet heard of, well then, this is your lucky day. Since 2007 these guys have been showcasing some of the best vintage cars for sale on the web. The key is that they do so in a manner that combines well written descriptions, style and photography so that in a sense you’re reading an article, not just looking at a “For Sale” ad. Click through and check them out!


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Welcome to Walnut Creek Ford: Dealer Done Right!

Posted in Best of, Car Buying, Domestic Rides, Ford, General, muscle cars, Mustang, Promoted, Rants & Raves, Rides by MrAngry | September 13th, 2012 | 5 Responses |

Walnut Creek Ford

Let me preface this article by stating that Ford is not paying me to write this. The dealer I talk about in the following words is not paying me to write this, nor is anyone else for that matter. I am writing this article to let everyone know that there are still some automotive dealerships out there that still no how to treat the consumer. In this day and age all we hear about is the BS that goes on during the car buying process and after awhile it gets tiresome. Therefore I figured I post a story about a good, no, make that a GREAT experience that I recently had when I purchased the newest member of my fleet, a 2013 Ford Mustang GT.

For most people the idea of purchasing a new car can be one of the most daunting tasks in all of motoring. We spend months and months researching, test driving and then researching some more to make certain we’re getting the exact make and model we want. We read reviews, look at things like engine and color choices, option packages, and of course the bottom-line price all in the hopes of being fully educated before we make that dreaded trip to the dealership.

Over the years I’ve owned around twenty or so automobiles. Some new, and some well, not so new. Each time I made a purchase though I made sure that my facts were correct and that I was able to beat up the seller in such a way that I’d always ended up getting the deal I wanted. Fast forward to June 29th of this year. I had finally made the decision to get rid of my dearly beloved 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT8, a machine that never once did me wrong and one that I will miss forever. However, as with most things in life there comes a time for a change and unfortunately for the Maggie, its time had come.

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Jerry Jockeys for the new Acura NSX

Posted in Best of, Car Branding, Car Buying, Funny, Funny Videos, General, Rants & Raves, Videos by MrAngry | February 4th, 2012 | 3 Responses |

Jerry Seinfeld Acura NSX

It feels as though it’s been far too long since we’ve seen Jerry Seinfeld being funny. In fact, ever since “Seinfeld” ended back in 1998, it seems as though America’s favorite comedian has seemingly vanished. Now however it seems Mr. Jerry is back shilling for Acura and their upcoming NSX super car, which is actually quite amazing since he’s so closely associated with Porsche (he owns like 50 of them). Regardless though it’s just nice to see Jerry back in action doing what he does best – making people laugh.


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Can One Car Do it All?

Posted in Best of, Car Buying, General, Rants & Raves by MrAngry | January 30th, 2012 | 11 Responses |

Do it All Car

If you’re into motor sports, you’re on a budget, and you can only afford one car, then the odds of you wanting something that can do it all are probably pretty high. This is exactly where I fall and I’ll be honest, it’s a total bitch trying to find the right ride. For instance, say you have a budget of $30K and you’re looking for something with 4 seats, great track manners and overall usability. The choices are unfortunately somewhat limited. Cars like Subaru’s WRX and the Mazda Speed3 kinda’ fit the bill, but at days end they’ll always leave you wanting more and are cramped inside. Then there’s the Ford Mustang GT. A car with gobs of power and a decent suspension, but back seats that will only fit those with no legs. I thought I’d found a solution in my Dodge Magnum SRT8, but while fast and totally usable, it handles like a tugboat on the racetrack. So the question remains, is there truly a do it all automobile?

7 Coolest Concept Car Features

Posted in Car Buying, Car Tech, Concept Cars by Frank | November 22nd, 2011 | Leave a Reply |

Concept cars don’t make it to the streets very often; their rarity is their allure. Their charming idiosyncrasy is likened to that beautiful someone you never get a chance to go out with — the possibilities seem endless with an aura of mystery attached. The idea of driving most of these awesome cars will always remain an idea, and nothing can tarnish that.

For now, fasten your seatbelts and drift through the following list of some extremely awesome feature ideas that will probably never see a real road, but they can chase you in your sepia-toned daydreams.

1. Fuel Cell Operation

Our world has seen hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles; but as of this moment, our cars still have a gasoline addiction. Sometimes, an auto show goes above and beyond by showing us what a hydrogen cell car can look like and teasing us with its insanely low operation cost.  Imagine no more pain at the pump.

2. Popemobile-style Convertible Rear

Wouldn’t you love to be chauffeured around in a rear section that opens up, so you can catch some rays while you’re driving to the country club or to that important board meeting?  Well, maybe (for now) you won’t be able to own it with your current paycheck, but imagination and fantasy is sure free and fun.

3. Wings

The Saab PhoeniX is the latest example in a long line of cars showing everyone what happens when you combine cars and airplanes without trying to be James Bond. Cars with wings, even if they’re small, draw attention as they show off in the best possible way.

4. Flight

The Chase 2053 concept car speaks for everyone’s unspoken desire to own a flying car. Packing jet engines, this is the kind of vehicle you would be happy to have in your driveway, or on your next transatlantic car trip.

5. Indestructibility

The Chase 2053 also happens to be practically indestructible, thanks to its carbon fiber construction and living skin-based exterior.  Apparently, KITT was about 70 years ahead of its time. One of the big auto insurance tips for 2053: Get the car that can only be damaged by a direct hit from a cruise missile.

6. Shape-shifting

What if you could change the wheel base and the profile of your car to adjust to the changing conditions?  Every so often, a concept car plants that awesome dream in our minds. Go-go-Gadget sports car!

7. Drool-worthy Good Looks

The Mazda Furai is based on a Le Mans entry by the company in years past.  Why exactly do most people drive around in uninterestingly designed cars and then go to auto shows where every design is a work of mobile art?  If you’re not going to drive something awesome, you might as well ride a bicycle or something.

Driving Home the Point

Concept cars are fantasies we taunt ourselves with in the safety of an auto show;  but you don’t drive to work or to the grocery store in a Furai, and only KITT was indestructible — KITT was just make-believe.  While 2053 is a good ways off, many of the features we love in our concept cars will probably never be real — and that’s okay.

2011 Lexus LS460: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Buying, Car Reviews, Featured, Import Review, Lexus, RideLust Review by Kurt Ernst | November 21st, 2011 | 3 Responses |

2011 Lexus LS460

Thumbs Up: German car luxury, Japanese car price

Thumbs Down: Option packages quickly add up

Buy This Car If: You want luxury and reliability at a reasonable price point

There are things in life that require a bit of experience, or maturity, to appreciate. Caviar is a good example, as is a fine single malt scotch. It isn’t that you can’t develop a liking for either at a younger age, it’s just that you don’t necessarily appreciate them as much as someone who’s been around the block a time or two. Read More…

The Greatest Car Commercial In The History Of The World

Posted in Car Buying, Cool Stuff, Educational, Fiat, Funny, Videos by Kurt Ernst | November 19th, 2011 | 3 Responses |

The best commercials, regardless of the product, fill you with passion and make you want to run, not walk, to buy whatever it is the company is selling. I think this commercial is for the Fiat 500 Abarth, and I think there may even be a car in it somewhere, but I’ve watched it a few dozen times and I’m still not sure. Regardless, I’d still call it the greatest car commercial ever filmed. Read More…

Costco Now Selling… Pickup Trucks?

Posted in Car Buying, Chevrolet, GMC, News by Kurt Ernst | November 4th, 2011 | Leave a Reply |

2012 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ Crew Cab Pickup. Image: © GM Corp.

Costco is a great place to shop for stuff like food and wine, and the warehouse club occasionally has good deals on stuff of interest to gear heads. You can’t beat their prices for bulk shop towels and microfiber cloths, and they generally have decent pricing on Mobil 1 motor oil. I bought a “disposable” hydraulic jack there about 20 years ago, and it’s still going strong (even if it does weigh more than the center of the earth). Read More…