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The Sour Kraut And The Swede - A Euro Tale


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I have been a member of this site for quite a while (2005, sweet Jesus), some cars ago I abused a 230rwkw (Racepace tuned) AUTO R33 S1.5 GTS-T - good times.

The Sour Kraut

About 13 months ago I hunted down and purchased what I thought was a good example of an AUDI A8 D3 4.2 Quattro with only 103000km. In my defense I was under time pressure after my previous car was written off. I had looked at some others, D2s were all thrashed out and other D3s had S8 badges and dodgy fixes or were very over priced. I had done quite a bit of research, knew the common faults, picked up a VAG-COM and was confident that should some of these common issues arise I could handle them. Instead I learnt a lessen in German over-engineering. You see, most Euro cars seem to be like onions in that each system and subsystem is layered on top of each other and other unrelated systems. The more layers you have to peel back to even inspect something the more you cry and or cry about paying labour for.

I had had the car inspected in QLD (never buy interstate if you can't inspect personally - first lesson) and it came back with a near clean bill of health bar the A/C heater valves, a common VAG issue.

The whole heater valve box was changed out prior to the car being shipped down. A/C didn't work properly after I picked up the car - which was entirely due to the retarded monkey that replaced the heater valves. Pinched wires had damaged the loom, all the tabs were broken off the unit and it was glued in, ECU covers were broken or missing (layers). Jeremy Clarkson with a hammer could have done a better job. Ended up just bridging the passenger valve to the driver controls as after the dash was out and half the engine bay still couldn't find every break.

Car came with a single key - never buy a car with a single key (no shit guy), especially a euro. $700 later I had a spare.

MMI screen struggled to move from closed to open - extremely common issue due to the weak as piss plastic gears. Picked up replacement metal gears and never got around to installing them. Taking more of the dash out for something that mostly worked did not appeal.

The auto boot could not auto itself without some help, another common fault which was resolved with an uprated motor in later years.

Water would pool inside the boot lid. Actually a common fault due to inexplicably poor workmanship on the boot lid construction where gaps could be left in seams behind the tail lights in the boot lid. Solved with any all purpose sealant.

Starter motor would almost randomly say f**k you and the car would not start. Not really a "common" fault but the more you look into it the more common you realize it is. The car would start every time - as long as the battery was near 100% so it had the juice to kick the starter in the guts.

Battery was not being charged enough. I would have to charge the battery every one-two weeks so the car would start consistently. The alternator in these is water cooled because f**k you that's why. The battery was also enormous, the same unit that goes into a Porsche Cayenne which I lucked out and picked one up at cost price from Battery World, naturally the battery had partially collapsed en route to Melbourne, required two truck batteries to get started when it arrived off the train.

Front suspension collapsed. This is a common fault for all cars that use air struts which is a list of very expensive and never kept past warranty cars. Replaced the lot with DGR coilovers from Otaku Garage - surprisingly good. Put the fronts in myself because when they go the front is very very low, not Tesla on the ground low but close enough that driving or getting a tow were pretty much out of the question.

Engine was misfiring, never got around to fully investigating, suspected it needed a new valve cover gasket, happens to the V10s a fair bit and can on the V8s. Oil gets into the spark plug tube and fouls the plug.

ZF 6 speed would "hoot" and sometimes hunt a bit when in slow but not quite stop start traffic. There is actually a service bulletin for this not that Penfold AUDI had any idea. Picked up the filter and gasket from the US because Australia still believes the lifetime fluid lie, never got to changing over the filter and fluid.

Firmware was all original versions and should have been updated by AUDI when it was serviced. Couldn't find the interim version I needed to then update to the latest firmware. Penfold AUDI told me not to get them to do it and to download the discs myself instead.

The thing that really killed it was the leaks. After a weekend away I came back to a drivers footwell full of water. The sunroof drains had blocked and some water had got in that way but if the volume that was in the footwell had come in through the roof the car would have been a write-off, there are tales of this on VAG related forums because again an inexplicably shit design for something has managed to exist for 20+ years and water pours all over the MMI controls and gets into the loom which you'll be quoted near $20,000 to replace. Near impossible to clean out and requiring many layers to come off to do anything about. The rest of the water must have come in the AC vents. Two causes for this, weather guard at the top if the bonnet missing or the plenum drains are blocked. Easy check right? Just jump under the car and inspect? NOPE. The correct procedure to check the inexplicably crimped plenum drains is to remove the engine and gearbox. FU AUDI, FU.

Even with all that and I have likely forgot many more issues, the A8 was a brilliant car to drive, even better with the coilovers.

So it was with equal measure frustration and regret that I began the search for a different car and different I found.

The Swede

For some reason I was drawn to something opposite, much smaller (A8 is ~5.2m long and that's the SWB) with less stuff but still comfortable and with...something. It had to have something about it and not just be a snoozefest A-B all the time. Some people don't get that at all. "Why don't you buy something common?" indeed, why buy clothes when I could wear a hessian sack? Why live in a house when I could gut a horse and crawl inside?

My search criteria kept turning up a lot of cheap shit which was of no interest to me but interspersed in all the crap I kept seeing Saab and Volvo. The 9-3, 9-5, S40 and S60 grew on me as I hunted around. A turbo-X would have been nice but they are extremely rare in Australia and about $30k which was a bit more than I wanted to spend. My first child is about to arrive too so part of the criteria was fairly cheap and cheaper to run. My biggest issue ended up being I needed to trade in the A8 which limited my options quite drastically, mostly because there was no way I would sell a car I knew was about to implode to a person instead of an entity of the same type that screwed me in the first place.

If I could have bought private I would likely be in a 9-3. Instead I found a nice little S40 D5 the "performance" diesel. It's not optioned up apart from being a D5 but it's clean and comfortable and based on a pretty great platform that it shares with the Focus and Mazda 3. Some idiot put OptiLife tyres on it which is great if you hate grip because they are totally inadequate in a FWD car with over 400nm of torque. But still the car has been great fun so far.

The BMW attached to the dealer I bought the S40 at was supposed to perform a minor service - but being a dealer instead they topped off the oil and probably did nothing else. Being the ignorant twats they are they did not realize this would cause a DTC due to the oil level being too high as most dealers will put 6L into a D5 engine when it should have at most 5.8L (5.5 recommended). It says so on a sticker under the bonnet... How hard can it be. I extracted the extra oil.

So now after much oil specification research and finding the right stock I'll be changing the oil and the ATF this long weekend. Recently managed an easy 680KM for under $50 which is fine by me. The S40 goes really well but would go even better if it wasn't strangled by Euro IV emissions gear which it could have been sold here legally without but now that it's on I definitely won't be tampering with the DPF...

There is not a whole lot that I want to change with the S40 which is probably a good thing. The adventure continues.


Common problems are common.

Used car salesman are dicks.

If you can't run a diagnostic scan on a euro yourself and it's out of warranty you probably shouldn't buy it.

I drive a Swedish tractor.

That was cathartic.

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I always wondered who bought second hand euro's......I think you should try a Peugeot or Fiat next!!!

Actually, no, don't.........be cheaper to find a brick wall and start hitting your head against it :woot:

Alfa or Lada.

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  • 2 weeks later...

S40 sorted itself out with the DTC after a bit with clean oil at the right level.

Almost identical driving and achieved a touch over 700km to the next tank.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

That's the older model. Being that low would be a pretty big hazard to the sump with a i5 diesel

Seems to be decent quality inside and out. A bit bland but not quite at the old turbo brick levels.


Front bushes are completely shot, another fail item for Valley BMW mechanics. Now to pick a kit and if I replace them all anyway with something from SuperPro or Whiteline

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I was seriously considering a Volvo wagon less than $10,000. Ended up getting a Pooparu as the Volvos were too expensive for me. At least they have some decent resale value.

I too considered a Volvo wagon but somehow ended up with an m35 stagea. Almost a Volvo[emoji3]

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  • 2 weeks later...

When our vrx Outlander was written off near 18months ago, we bought a (well) used XC90. 1 owner, always serviced at the dealer who sold it. Nearly 230,000kms on it now and it has been awesome. So much so I think we will have Volvo's as the family cars for years to come.

Haven't had to fix anything on it yet however.

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  • 6 months later...

I did end up getting new bushes for the front end. Whiteline kit including their P1 platform "anti-lift" kit.

Much better drive now, even better that I managed to get the Whiteline bushes for wholesale direct from Whiteline.

I do miss the driving feel of the A8 though, more leathery goodness and effortless power.


The undertray had enough and detached itself from it's front mount points while driving - exciting times. Completely due to the shitty nylon stoppers and deep thread (what's the right word for that?) screws they use in conjunction with dirt roads. Just got chunkier screws for now, a temp fix and then I'll get a more robust aluminium or steel plate made up.

Edited by DivHunter
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  • 11 months later...

How did I miss this thread?

Some of your A8 problems made their way into my mkiv Bora and our old B6 Passat. Most notably the stupid sunroof drains. Within weeks of owning the Passat we had a new airbag controller en route from Germany. I found all the drains and snipped off the pinched ends.

I love Swedish also. You need to post pics of both cars. I'm a sucka for a big German.

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