I had a financial epiphany a few months ago.
Perusing the local craigslist with a martini in hand, I came across
an 04 Audi S4 for sale locally. Red. Single owner, professional, female,
all maintained. New tires. Reasonable price. Pull-me-over-red. I
mentioned it to Mrs. Toadroller and she was game. Excited, even. It's
red. We had the cash, so...
A week later it was ours and it is what a 350 hp, 6 speed manual, all
wheel drive sport sedan should be. Wicked-pissah fast and fun. The
financial epiphany was recognizing it for what it is: a toy. The kind that gets
taken out on Sundays, is maintained well, and is just a neat thing to
have. It's not core transportation. It's nice to have a toy car, and
it's a financial luxury to be able to look on it that way.
Nature, however, doesn't like a man to own five road-going vehicles*
and therefore punishes him by making sure something is wrong with at
least one of them at all times. I call it carma.
Cue the A8, she of oil cooler and ignition control module fame, to
have a sporadic stumble in her engine. It's been there since January,
letting me know that something-will-be-wrong and
I'll-reveal-myself-when-the-time-is-right. In the mean time, I've
continued my long drives around northern New England for business and
pleasure. In last week's heat and heavy traffic,** she got a little
more insistent that bad-news-is-coming and I turned my thoughts to what
it could be.
Friday night into Saturday morning, I woke up at 4:00 AM and it was
clear that my brain wanted me to work on things. I wasn't going to get back to sleep. Ah, well, the British Open was on, so I went downstairs to watch. Howling winds meant no golfing coverage, so I
researched fuel delivery problems on the various Audi fan clubs on
the interwebs and saw a few posts referring to replacing the fuel filter
every 30k miles or so. Shit, I've had this car for 170k of its 245k
and I know I've never replaced the fuel filter. Worth a shot.
Youtube videos of the procedure? Check! Available to buy on line, pick
up in store from Autozone in the morning? Check! Half an hour job? Check!
Four days later...
The fuel filter was simple. Simply remove a protective cover near the rear
passenger wheel, unbolt supply and egress lines, slip in new filter,
re-bolt supply and egress lines with new crush washers and... nuthin.
Crankety-crank-crank-crank, no start. This car has had its problems,
but starting has always been crankety-crank, vroooOOOOOoooommmmmm. No
fuel at engine. Diagnose the fuel line as good to the engine (yum, the
taste of gasoline; won't be the last time for me). Direct wire the fuel
pump, which is located in the gas tank and accessed from the trunk to
discover that it spins and gurgles, but doesn't spit. It might be
sucking some air in the tank instead of fuel given the angle I had the
car jacked to, but I jacked it back up on the other side to "drain the sinuses" back to the pump and still no go-juice
flowing through the fuel lines.
So a fuel pump problem?
I had the fuel pump on this car replaced by a local garage about two
years ago. Expensive Audis have expensive parts, and the whole fuel
pump assembly can be had new for just over a thousand
dollars. Being frugal at the time,*** I found a used fuel pump assembly from a
scrapper for something like $600 and paid the local garage labor to put
it in... $1000 job. It's a weird, unique assembly, and apparently it's
tricky to do.
Guess who gets to do it again?
Fortunately, it turns out that it's a fuel pump assembly, which means
parts are assembled together, which means it can be disassembled and
these parts can be individually replaced. $171 for the fuel pump motor, which is the
source of all this trouble, and *gasp* $184 for the gasket kit comprised
of two o-rings, a few crush washers, and one uniquely shaped gasket. Ouch, but
not $1000-for-the-assembly ouch.
Well, if you put a thousand dollars into a thousand dollar car and
all you have when you're done is a thousand dollar car, you might be
stupid. Or you might have a new hobby. If you put $400 at a time into a
$1000 car, you're probably just trying to get the most out of a pretty
decent set of tires with a lot of tread left. I'm all three. I also
happen to love the car.
Stay tuned as I document the R&R. Half of the parts have arrived already, and I've been spending an hour or two at a time in the garage during the evening, methodically extracting the assembly from the trunk. No rush. We have a toy car to get around in.
*The S4, an A4 that the eldest
Toadroller kind of took over as his primary transportation, an aging
Chevy Venture for hauling all the Toadrollers to church on Sundays, my
Suzuki 2-wheeled fun, and of course, my thousand dollar car, the A8, who
has been documented in these pages before. And will be again.
** I495 north around Boston, 95
degrees, 1:30pm, an hour and a half to go twenty miles. I don't know how
people live in urban, populous ares. I really don't.
*** Mrs. Toadroller insists that the proper term is cheap