Project Car SOTU: 1995 Audi S6 Sedan

Rowdy 1
Rowdy the Audi has been living a rough life, and it’s catching up to him. After nearly 200,000 miles of dutiful service, he’s starting to get tired and require some upkeep. I’m sure that will come as no surprise to a lot of you. German cars aren’t known for their reliability, but this one has been great to me for the last couple of years. I guess it deserves some much needed rest and relaxation, no?

So a couple of weeks ago, this car started acting up. It was making a weird chirping noise at speed that I wanted to investigate. I looked at it myself and couldn’t find a problem. Wheel bearings were all good. Nothing was dragging or squealing. The noise would only show up after 20 minutes of driving or so, so I figured it had to be brakes related and heat induced. When it was cold, everything was fine, but warm it made the noise. It bothered me enough that I took it to a shop to see if they could diagnose the problem. They came to a similar conclusion as I had. Probably in the brakes. Not exactly sure what’s making the noise. As near as I can tell, it’s got to be a front caliper seal that isn’t pulling the piston back, so the pad is just riding up against the rotor for the whole trip. So, that’ll be a caliper rebuild then, right?
While looking at all of this, I noticed that my rotors had seen better days and should probably be replaced. And while doing that, I should probably replace pads. And since the front calipers need to be rebuilt, I should probably do something about the rear calipers. The front rotors were the immediate worry, and I can deal with a chirping front caliper for a little while, I guess. I ordered up new rotor rings for the car’s StopTech front big brake kit. That really hurt, because each ring was $300. OOF, my pocketbook felt pretty bad after that one. Anyway, I got the rotors installed after a bit of consternation with some rusted rotor hardware. The rotors had been on the car for 80,000 miles or so, so I guess it was time for them to be replaced, too.
The Big Brake Kit is nice, but it puts a lot of the car’s braking emphasis on the front axle, which I’ve never really liked. It’s far from a track car, but I’d feel more comfortable if this car had a little more rear brake. Besides, a larger rotor is always a good idea given that it provides a larger heat-sink, and more braking force with the same caliper. Of to the internet for some research, and I found this lovely little kit. A guy that goes by “Thuppu” on the Audi S2 forums lives in Finland, and came up with this lovely well-engineered solution. By spacing the stock caliper out a little bit, you can fit a Volkswagen Phaeton/Audi A8 rotor on the back of a C4 S4/S6 using the stock caliper. Being that this chassis uses the rear caliper as an integrated parking brake, you don’t lose that functionality, either (other rear big brake options for this car include Porsche Boxster calipers, which removes the parking brake functionality). There was another option out there that was using Mazdaspeed 6 rear rotors, but it wasn’t quite as slick and straight-forward as Thuppu’s solution, so that’s what I went with. For 50 bucks, I’ll take it. It took 6 weeks for them to arrive from Finland via mail, but it was worth the wait, and I wasn’t in a super hurry anyway.
Okay, so what still needs to be done on the brakes to get it back into tip-top? Well, everything. The front rotors are installed, but the calipers need to be rebuilt. Pads will need to be put on all four corners (the StopTech BBK uses Porsche 944 brake pads, by the way), and I’m really happy with my new Hawk HPS pads on the Boxster, so I’ll probably get those for the Audi as well. At the rear I need to source those Phaeton/A8 rotors. The rear calipers should also be replaced while I’m at it, because the parking brake functionality I mentioned is a bit lacking on my car. Luckily rebuilt rear calipers for this car are relatively cheap.
So, the car needs a comprehensive brake job? Why is that enough to warrant a mid-summer garage hibernation? Well, let’s get started.
A dead battery was the first thing to go. It wasn’t holding a charge, and according to the thing at the parts store, was only operating on about half of its cells. Oh well, it was stamped with a 2004 build date, so I guess 11 years service from a battery is pretty good. $140 bucks to get it back right? Yeah, I’ll take that hit.
Just a few days ago, I noticed that it was starting to take a little while to get the engine to fire, like 5 or 6 cranks some times. Over last weekend, I didn’t go anywhere so the Audi sat waiting. On Monday morning, heading in to work, the engine just cranked and cranked without firing. Enough cranking to drain that brand new battery. On a hunch, I tried jumping the battery and seeing if enough cranks would get it to fire. It fired right up and ran flawlessly. Okay, so I’ve got a fuel drainback issue if the car sits too long. Probably a one-way valve in the fuel pump or something, right? I can fix that. It’ll still start fine for the time being, so long as I don’t let it sit for two days again.

Tuesday morning

The very next day, last Tuesday, I was driving in to work and I noticed that the volt meter was reading only about 11.5 volts. GREAT, the Alternator has crapped out on me, too. What a week! Unfortunately, my Project Porsche Boxster was also in the shop for a few days, so I needed to rely on the ailing Audi to get back and forth to work. Just to be safe, I stopped and picked up a battery jump box, and drove the car without using the headlights or the radio to keep the strain on the battery to a minimum. And I hooked it up to a trickle charge every night, just in case. Last week, until I got the Porsche back from the shop, I would occasionally see the volts reading 12.5 or 13. That tells me that the regulator is probably toast. Being that it’s an internal regulator, I guess I’ll be needing to replace that alternator.
Tuesday afternoon. No parts were changed.

Aside from that, the car is in need of a timing belt and water pump job. The pump is slowly seeping water out when it gets hot. Timing belts need to be swapped out every 90-100K on these cars, and I’d rather have that taken care of than have a cylinder head full of bent valves (or potentially an entire explodey engine).
Oh, and it needs a full treatment of brand new suspension bushings, and probably drivetrain mounts wouldn’t be the worst idea ever.
Being that I’m getting married in a few weeks back home in Michigan, funds are, shall we say limited? As such, the Audi has been parked in the garage until all of these issues can be remedied together. It’ll be an expensive bill, but I look forward to having my car back up to snuff.
No progress has been made on Project Hoonda, my 1983 Honda MB5 motorbike. It will make a comeback, but the Audi and Porsche need a lot of work before that happens. Maybe I’ll just go buy a Ruckus or a Grom…

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  1. JayP Avatar

    Old Audis are a cruel mistress.
    I found out who bought my pal’s old Canadian S6 import. It landed with a local Audi clubber in 2006, then I lost track. Popped up on facebook last week. His pearl looked more pearly than yours for some reason.

  2. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    These are the cars that I point to in refutation when people comment to me how complex, and potentially unreliable, my Citroen CX is. An advantage in having less electronics than 90s German cars.

  3. Darjan Avatar

    I’m sorry, but… German cars aren’t known for their reliability? I stopped reading there and then.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      No, it’s true. At one point I had a ’77 Beetle that broke down once.

    2. Bradley Brownell Avatar
      Bradley Brownell

      Driven a BMW that was built in the last decade?
      This particular car is reliable to a fault, all of these items are wear items that should be replaced eventually, it just so happened that they all decided they needed it at the same time.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Personally I’ve never driven a BMW at all, nor ridden in one. I’ve helped push an Isetta on a couple of occasions but that’s it. Those efforts didn’t speak to its reliability, however, as it simply was out of fuel.

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