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Tech Article

Audi C5 A6 Quattro 4.2 V8 Case Study -- Fall from Grace

Last Updated: 09/24/2017
Parts Group: Transmission
This is a case study of a silver 2000 Audi A6 Quattro with the 4.2 V8 engine and (most importantly) with the ZF 5HP-24A transmission, which had failed on this particular car.

I bought the car with a clean title, in Las Vegas, for $300. When I first saw it, I assumed that it would only be good for parts and analysis. It was sitting in the dirt alongside a humble industrial driveway with the front wheels off the car. One wheel was in the back seat; the other was lying somewhere in the dirt behind the car. The bodywork appeared to have been trashed. Inside everything was in shambles. Things had been torn apart. The car smelled funny inside, too. It was a real mess, but I figured there are probably a few good parts in there.

After I bought the car, a friend of mine went and picked it up, which included getting it slightly more respectable. He trailered it to my shop and dropped it off. When I went to my shop to see the car. I was looking for it but I couldn't find it.

Instead, there was a relatively nice-looking Audi A6 in my parking lot. I took a closer look. With the wheels back on the car and it parked on flat ground, it looked quite decent.

I looked more closely. There was major damage to one fender, and then some minor other body damage. I looked inside more precisely. I saw there was a pattern to the madness. Somebody had torn things apart, apparently in a troubleshooting frenzy to diagnose the transmission. Much of the damage had been focused on the transmission shifter area, and on the fuse box.

I’m guessing that whoever had done this had been messing with the fuses thinking that perhaps a blown fuse was the cause of the transmission failure. I see they never made it as far as the transmission control computer, which is probably a good thing. Their diagnostic efforts had left a wake of destruction.

I started realizing something odd about this car. Certain things looked like someone had until very recently deeply cared for it, right before it fell from grace.

Some of these Audi A6 Quattro cars look like they were cared for originally but then they gradually fell from grace and they were more and more neglected as time went by, by successive owners. At the point where I get to them, then they are on the third, fourth or fifth owner, and by then whoever owns it cannot afford (or doesn’t want to spend money on) major repairs nor even more-than-minimal maintenance. Proper Audi mechanic work is expensive, I realize, so people rule that out as an option.

I’ve seen some really bad things, like major bolts missing that should have been attaching the engine to the car, or a collapsed tie rod end, or an engine speed sensor wired wrong with makeshift wiring, or an engine speed sensor being installed without the spacer, so that it hit the flex plate as the engine turned. I could go on and on. In one case, I wrote an article about how an alleged mechanic had trashed an Audi’s transmission even while trying to fix it. I found thirteen obvious points of concern. Later, I found two more yet, for a total of fifteen problems.

The decline and fall of an Audi A6 Quattro is not a happy sight. It happens in the hands of a broke and desperate owner, and a clueless alleged mechanic. This particular car didn't appear to have gone through that gradual decline. Instead, it seemed be valued highly and then there was a sudden, horrible fall from grace. That made me decide that I'd like to clean and fix this car up and make it really nice again. The bad fender can be replaced. The dirt can be cleaned, and the destroyed internals replaced. Then, once I have the transmission fixed, I'll have a nice car.

What this does show me is the mindset of an owner when the transmission fails, that desperation of “how do I fix this complicated piece of machinery?”

I wish the owner had found me sooner. I offer used, partially-renewed transmissions for sale. The potential transmission buyer can actually drive my own Audi and see that the transmission works. Then my Audi goes to the buyer’s mechanic, who removes its transmission and puts it in the buyer's car. That way, the buyer is not buying something of unknown quality. By driving my Audi, the buyer knows the transmission is likely to work in the buyer's car, because it’s already working in the car being test-driven by the buyer. This way, the buyer has a high level of confidence and peace of mind, and hopefully the car and buyer then live happy ever, with my three-year limited warranty to underwrite things.
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