Dealership repair shops… trust them if you like to donate money to the rich! (Re: solution to Passet/A6 2.8 cylinder misfire)

Written by  on January 10, 2009

This may sound like a rant, but there’s a silver lining to my tale:

A year ago I experienced a persistent cylinder misfire on my poor 1998 A6 2.8, and so I go to my trusted mechanic friend at a VW dealership and got the advice to buy new spark wires and ignition coils.  In I went, and all the stuff were putted in, the car ran just fine for 8 months.

October came, and car decided to misfire again (the dreaded P300-series error code from the OBD2 readout), but my mechanic friend is no were to be found.  As my luck ran out (ie. the dealership closed down), I resorted to the evil act of bringing my beast to the Audi dealership for an official diagnostic.  November came, and I dropped my car off at the Agincourt Autohaus dealership – the reset the error codes from the computer and declared the car worthy of driving.  This was in fact the biggest mistake I have ever made!

December came, and as I return from the company Christmas party, the car finally smoked and gave out at the intersection of 16th Avenue and Woodbine Avenue on a cold Friday evening, I desperately called everyone from my family to the Audi dealership to figure out what I needed to do.  First thing in my to-do list is to call a towing company to get this car OFF the busy intersection.  Audi is nice to include a hazard sign in the trunk so that the oncoming traffic can safely ignore the sign and honk at a car that is smoking…  6 towing companies later, and Cardinal Towing came to my rescue promptly and professionally.  At least my towing experience has been extremely pleasant.

Now, you must think by towing your car to an Audi dealership (this time, Uptown Audi) with a real problem, they would know what to do right?  Wrong!  Once again, they misdiagnose the car and said I had burnt spark plug wire, and that my problem with the misfiring cylinders were to replace the spark plug wires, plugs, and clean the injectors and throttle body.  $1300 later, I said to myself, they know what they are doing – I dropped the car when it was completely dead so they MUST be able to find the problem.  Sadly, within 12 hours of getting the car back (and with only 15 km added to the odometer), the misfire returned.  Brought the car back, and this time I got a quote for $4800 to replace two catalytic convertors, 4 oxygen sensors and 6 exhaust nuts.

Any reasonable person would rationalize – why would you want to throw in so much money to a used and old car?  On the other hand, if I don’t repair the car, I can’t extract the other 50% of the value of the car (no one would buy the car in the current condition).  Out of desperation, we found our old mechanic friend who suggested another person who may be able to save us – but only in January , which brings us to our interesting conclusion to this post.

January 3rd came, and car went into the shop for the catalytic converter replacement – we were told (and have seen) the old part would have burnt up the car if we didn’t repair it.  What we didn’t do was to tell the mechanic about the history of the car and why we are doing these repairs, and so another 200km later, the symtons returned.  I call the mechanic to ask him to conduct a thorough diagnostic on the car, and turns out the ignition coils were defective again.  What made me more mad was that if Agincourt Autohaus properly diagnosed the car intially, we would spend $550 on the repair ($327.30 for the ignition coils at VW/Audi dealer, 1 hour install and standard $95 diagnostic fee) rather than the $2800 catalytic convertor replacement.

The moral of the story:

  1. Don’t trust Audi dealers, they are crooks.  In general, don’t trust the dealers unless you know the mechanic personally.
  2. Don’t allow dealers to tell you want you need to repair until you see the damage.  Our desperation in getting a working car caused us a lot of money.  Dealers are evil.  (Unfortunately, most repair shops are evil too, so I you just better do a lot of research on the net)
  3. Trust your instinct – if the car reports a cylinder misfire – triple-check all of the ignition electronics (ignition coils, spark plug and wires) and replace the part if suspect.  Our lack of trust (and assumption that 1-year old part cannot be defective) caused a much bigger repair bill than needed. Audi A6 2.8 / VW Passat 2.8 ignition coils tend to get destroyed quickly for some reason.
  4. Genuine VW/Audi parts are actually better and more reliable.
  5. Lastly, don’t trust the dealers.  They are evil, very evil.  I know, I said it before.