Warranty Failure

This is how the 3-year unlimited mileage warranty of my Audi has let me down. I bought the car new, from the main dealer, spending a lot of money, in the expectation that for 3 years I wouldn't have to worry about the car going wrong, because I could get it fixed if it did. I was wrong.

The latest episode was the wheel bearing. In about October 2002 the front left wheel bearing started to fail. It made a slight rumbling noise, especially on right-hand curves. It was not loud, and at low speed it became too quiet to hear and at high speeds wind noise drowned it out, but it was there, and it gradually got worse.

The front tyres were getting towards the end of their life and the car was coming up to needing servicing, so I put up with the noise for a month or two. I wanted to have new tyres on the car, so that they could not be blamed for the noise when I took it in for servicing.

On a Tuesday 12th December I telephoned Hartwell Audi in Birmingham to book it in for a service. I accepted their price of 320 for servicing, and went through the faults on the car.

On the Thursday 14th December I took the car in at 8.45 am and they had no record of the faults, so I went through them again, and gave them the printed list Click here for list. I didn't mention the service, as that is what I had booked it in for. Also the display on the dashboard showed 500 miles until service was needed.

I returned at about 5.30 pm, as they closed at 6.00 pm. It wasn't until nearly 7.00 pm that they went though the faults. All they had done was to oil one door hinge. OK, they agreed that the battery needed changing, but they couldn't tell me if it was under warranty. They said that the wheel bearing was OK. I said then that, of all the faults, the wheel bearing was the most serious. I suppose that I should have stressed that point in the morning.

Hartwell Audi had not serviced the car. They had not realised or remembered the main reason I had taken the car there. It was just before Christmas, it had 500 miles to go before a service was needed, and I was driving a newish Audi and taking it to a main dealer because I didn't want to have to worry about things like that. However they never even thought about this and they didn't phone me to ask if I wanted my car serviced.

I had the car serviced by Orton's garage. I found out what oil met Audi's specification for variable service intervals, and spent 70 on that. However, Audi won't let me reset the variable service indicator on my car, so it only reset to 9300 miles to next service, rather than the 20,000 miles that I have been used to when the Audi dealer has reset it. I could have used cheaper oil. At least Orton's did the job, and was less than half the price. I had the car available over the Christmas holiday.

I also wanted a car that I could drive without listening for the wheel bearing on every right-hand corner. I bought a new wheel bearing, and a 17mm allen key (1/2" square drive) to remove the front hub bolt. On Sunday 12th January I took the suspension apart. Here is the car in my gararge, once I had the bearing housing removed.

(I should just point out that the rectangular can under the car is only supporting the brake caliper, so that it doesn't dangle from its hose. There is an axle stand supporting the car!)

As I had expected, I couldn't get the bearing out of the bearing housing because it is pressed in. So I took the bearing housing to DS Motors in Nuneaton who pressed the bearing out and pressed the new one it. I reassembled the suspension on the Monday evening.

I took the old beaing apart and cleaned it up. Here are a couple of photos of the inner race, of the inboard part of the bearing. They are not easy to photograph, as the undamaged areas are like mirrors.

The damage is quite clearly visible. This notch is what was causing the noise. I realise that this bearing would have probably run for thousands of miles before failing, but I didn't buy a new car to put up with beaing noise and the worry that the bearing could fail somewhere inconvenient. It is understandable that the occasional thing will go wrong with any car, but the dealers should be able to diagnose and fix it.

Now that the bearing has been changed the rumbling noise from the front left of the car has, of course, gone.

I know that doing work like this on a car can be a bit of a pain. However, I find it a lot less stressfull than taking the car to the main dealer. I just wish that I had changed the bearing when it started to fail, rather than putting up with it for a couple of months.

Footnote 9th February 2003

It is now 3 weeks since I told Audi about this, and 2 weeks since I told Hartwells Audi. I haven't heard anything from either, other than an automated response from Audi's web page.

Unfortunately the airbag warning light is now on. It came on after the car had been parked for a couple of hours. Therefore I may have to take it back to an Audi dealer. The airbag warning light does not indicate if the airbag is faulty. It merely indicates that there has been a fault since the Audi dealer last reset it. This means that I have no idea if there is a permanent or an intermittent fault.

On Monday 10th February I got Orton's to reset the airbag fault light. The fault had been front head airbag. The light came on again the next time I started the car. As I was going to be in Birmingham for Tuesday and Wednesday, I phoned Hartwell to book it in. They were too busy to look at it until Wednesday, and they might need it for longer than one day, so I didn't take it there.

I took it to Listers of Coventry, which is closer. I told them to keep it until it was fixed. It was ready on Friday 14th, and the light is out, and has stayed out. They say it was a faulty connector under the driver's seat. If so, I would have fixed it myself if the warning system had been any help.

I must admit they were more helpfull than Hartwells. They changed the battery under warranty and replaced the catch on the warning triangle cover, but I have to live with the squeaks. I'm looking forward to having a car that is out of warranty so that I can get minor problems fixed or do it myself.