Volkswagen products often get a bad rap among our commenters for being unreliable. An example from “Dixie Kiel” in reference to our VW Golf GTI arrival: “LOL. You will see the dealer often. Newbie VW owner, I can tell.” However, in my experience, VW’s reliability reputation is largely unfounded for its latest crop of products — or, rather, it was until my long-term Audi A3 1.8T started acting up.
It all started with a tire pressure warning light a few weeks into our A3 1.8T’s time with us. A quick check of all four tires showed they were right on spec. A reset of the tire pressure sensors via MMI had me on my way. Except I wasn’t. The tire pressure warning light would continue to turn itself on with its tires perfectly in spec over the next few weeks. An annoying issue to be sure but not enough of one to make me want to make an unscheduled stop at the Audi dealer.
And then the check engine light came on. Given that the car was driving just fine when the light first came on and I had recently filled up, my first thought was loose gas cap. No dice. Soon thereafter, the light disappeared. The check engine light would come and go as it pleased, never staying on long enough for me to bring it to the dealer for a diagnosis.
Around this time another issue reared its head: a clicking sound from the right-rear passenger window. The window would go down just fine, but while rising back up, it’d make a loud and annoying CLICK as its travel completed. It sounded like the glass was getting caught on the aluminum window trim, but it was hard to be sure. With the A3’s 15,000-mile service fast approaching and a fellow staffer taking the A3 on a long journey, I made a mental note to address the issues the following week.
And it’s a good thing I did. A couple days after it returned from its road trip, I was greeted during my morning commute by a low oil warning. I pulled into a nearby gas station and added a quart of oil. The light went off. I wasn’t more than 4 or 5 miles down the road when my Audi’s dashboard lit up with another light and a message: “Low Coolant: Service Immediately!” Don’t have to tell me twice. I pulled into yet another gas station and let the A3 cool down for a spell before checking the coolant level. Indeed, it was low. I topped that off, called my local dealer, and made an appointment to have our issues looked at and the car’s 15,000-mile service done the same day.
After a day out of service (but with a free loaner provided) here are the results:
1) Tire pressure warning light: The Audi dealer had no idea why it kept popping on, as the sensor was reportedly still good. The service tech reset the TPMS sensors, and the issue hasn’t popped back up since. Cost: $0
2) Check engine light: Turns out my A3 had a malfunctioning emissions evaporation valve. The valve was removed and replaced. That seemed to fix the check engine light issue, as that light has stayed dim since. Cost: $0
3) Window clicking: My iffy theory on the glass catching the window trim was wrong. The door’s window regulator was on the fritz. A replacement solved the clicking issue. Cost: $0
4) Low oil warning: “It happens,” said my service tech.
5) Low coolant warning: My service adviser was noticeably surprised when I mentioned the low coolant light, as the A3 has a closed system that should never need to be topped off by the driver. (That’s not to say it doesn’t need routine maintenance, but that’s supposed to happen at specified intervals). The dealer found a pinhole-size leak in a fitting in the coolant system, so he flushed the system and replaced the leaking fitting. Cost: $0
6) 15,000-mile service: The A3’s 15,000-mile service is a simple one, involving an oil and cabin air filter change. I suspect it would have been cheaper for me to get the service done elsewhere, as it cost us $384.68. Ouch.
Although my first three months spent with our A3 1.8T long-termer were filled with issues, the Audi has been running like a champ ever since. With our time with the 1.8T drawing to a close and our new A3 TDI expected to arrive soon, I’m curious to see if those issues were an anomaly.
More on our long-term Audi A3 and S3 here:
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