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The Audi A4 B5 was the first of five generations built on the Volkswagen Group’s B Platform. The B5 A4 was first introduced in October of 1994 and began production in November 1994 – 2001. Throughout its production cycle, the A4 B5 saw many minor changes, but in 1999, it had a full facelift, also referred to as Type 8D2. With this facelift came new engines and minor aesthetic changes with the bumpers, lights, door handles, and interior.
The Audi A4 B5 came with many different engines, too many to list honestly, so we will focus on the few that are the most popular. The three most common engines we believe would be the 1.8T, 2.8 V6, and 1.9 TDI. The 1.8T featured a K03 turbocharger and put down anywhere from 148-178hp & 155-173lb-ft of torque. The 2.8L NA V6 put down anywhere from 172-190hp and 181-207lb-ft of torque, depending on the 12v or 30v. The 1.9TDI was a popular engine for the Volkswagen Group back in the day put down 89-113hp and 149-210lb-ft of torque.
Common Audi A4 B5 Engine Problems
Before jumping into the common problems of the B5 A4, since there are three main engines, we will try to differentiate the problems specific to the engines. With that said, the parts listed below will be for the 1.8T engine, so if you happen to have the 2.8 or 1.9TDI and need assistance looking for parts, let us know in the comments!
- Ignition coil pack failure
- Timing belt and tensioner failure
- Engine sludge
- Diverter valve failure
- ABS control module failure
- Ignition control module failure
- Wheel bearing failure
1. Ignition Coil Pack Failure
Premature ignition coil pack failure is very common in many modern engines today, especially those that are modded. Igntion coil packs, or just simply ignition coils, transform the battery’s lower voltage and turns it into a higher voltage that the spark plugs need to create a spark in the combustion chamber. With a single functioning coil pack, there will be a cylinder misfire in the specific cylinder where the failing coil pack is. However, if there is more than one failing coil pack, there is a chance the engine won’t start at all.
There are a few main reasons ignition coil packs fail and those reasons are: premature wear and tear, engine modifications increasing power, and faulty coil packs out of the factory. A good rule of thumb is to check, and possibly replace, coil packs every 60,000 miles, while checking, and possibly replacing, spark plugs every 30,000 miles. If you do happen to have an engine that is modified for more power, look into colder spark plugs and aftermarket ignition coils.
Symptoms of Ignition Coil Pack Failure:
- CEL or MIL illuminating
- Engine misfires with VW P0300 – P0306 fault codes
- Rough engine performance
- Difficulty getting the engine to turn over
- Engine surges or stalls
Ignition Coil Pack Replacement Options:
When a coil pack goes out, whether it be one or multiple, we highly recommend changing them all out. If you have a 1.8T, that will be a set of 4 for the four cylinders, and if you have a 2.8 V6, that will be a set of 6 for the six cylinders. It isn’t too hard to change these out on your own as long as you know where the coil packs are located. If you happen to take it to a shop to replace the ignition coils, you’d likely be looking at a cost of $300.
2. Timing Belt and Tensioner Failure
Timing belt failure is not too common in Volkswagen’s or Audi’s as they are often supposed to last your vehicle’s lifecycle. However, the timing belt tensioners on the other hand happen to fail quite often, which leads to serious engine issues. This problem is specific to the 1.8T and the 2.8 V6 engine. A timing belt tensioner maintains the timing belts tension to function optimally.
The main reason tensioners happen to fail is because of what they are made of. If a tensioner happens to fail, the engine’s timing will be off, and if the timing belt fails, the engine will shut off and not turn on. This will also lead to the pistons and valves colliding causing expensive engine damage. Generally, you’ll want to change the timing belt and associated tensioners at 100,000 miles.
Symptoms of Timing Belt or Tensioner Failure:
- Ticking noise coming from the engine bay
- Low oil pressure
- Sluggish engine performance
- Engine not starting
- Engine misfires
- Broken valves and pistons (If timing belt snaps)
Timing Belt or Tensioner Replacement Options:
When a timing belt or tensioner fails, we highly advise replacing all the associated parts. This includes the timing belt, tensioners, water pump, thermostat and more. The reason we suggest this is because things associated with the timing belt need to be replaced around the same time. If you plan on going with the full kit, it isn’t an easy DIY, but will save a lot of money in labor costs.
3. Engine Oil Sludge
Engine oil sludge is specific to the 1.8T and is common enough that Audi has addressed it with a TSB. Audi extended the warranty on some cars to 8 years and unlimited mileage. However, since the A4 B5’s are two decades old, this may not apply anymore because Audi issued these extensions in 2004.
Engine oil sludge is, as it sounds, the thickening of engine oil due to heat, moisture, that breaks the oil down and makes it thick. The problem with the 1.8t’s, is that the oil capacity is so tiny with a 3.7-quart capacity. Since the turbochargers get so hot, 3.7-quarts of oil is simply not enough to properly distribute heat.
Symptoms of Engine Oil Sludge:
- Low oil pressure indicator illuminating or flashing
- Thick oil substance found
- Plugged oil pick-up tube
- Sludge under the oil filler cap
- Evident engine sludge on the engine block
Ways to Prevent Engine Oil Sludge:
- Get regular oil changes at the recommended intervals
- Use the correct engine oil or higher quality engine oil
- Replace old oil pick-up tubes
- Avoid regular short commutes if possible
- Inspect engine every 10,000 miles
- Performing frequent oil screenings
Buy Here: B5 A4 Oil Sludge Repair Kit
4. Diverter Valve Failure
Diverter valve, often referred to as just “dv”, failure is not too common on many Volkswagen and Audi engines, but the 1.8T is susceptible to such failure. A diverter valve is a boost pressure release valve that “diverts” unused boost pressure back into the engine to avoid compressor surge. Put simply, it is a valve that opens and closes to release or obtain boost pressure.
The main reasons these tend to fail are because of the diaphragm ripping or being stuck in the open or closed position. If the diaphragm rips, boost pressure will not be held in and engine performance will be severely dampened. A failing dv is not a common occurrence unless an engine has been modified. The more power an engine puts down, the more important it is for a dv to hold boost pressure. If you haven’t modified your engine to create more power, it is less likely for a dv to fail.
Symptoms of Diverter Valve Failure:
- Rough engine performance
- Noticeable boost loss or boost leaks
- P0299 fault code
- Poor fuel economy
- CEL or MIL illuminating
Diverter Valve Replacement Options:
When a dv fails, whether the diaphragm rips or is stuck, there are only two real options: replace it with an OE DV or replace it with an aftermarket DV. If you plan on modifying your engine, go with an aftermarket DV because they will hold more boost. Given that is located on the side of the turbo, this isn’t a terribly difficult DIY. However, if you aren’t comfortable replacing this on your own, a mechanic will likely charge around $250.
5. ABS Control Module Failure
The ABS control module is common to fail on many A4 B5’s, and this isn’t specific to one engine. In short, an ABS control module uses sensors to determine when to release brake pressure at a wheel that’s about to lock up and start skidding. More than likely when the module starts to fail, you will hear three beeps on startup. A solid yellow ABS light accompanied with a flashing red brake light will more than likely appear on your dash. Take this warning seriously!
The main reason these fail is due to the modules being faulty out of the factory. When it does fail, a vehicle will be experiencing issues with the braking system, whether it be brakes locking up or, the opposite, having to put much more pressure onto the brakes to activate. In any case, this is dangerous and should be addressed immediately as it could be life-threatening. Typically, the ABS module shouldn’t fail in a vehicle’s lifecycle. However, as stated above, this is common on Audi A4 B5’s.
Symptoms of ABS Control Module Failure:
- ABS warning light illuminating
- ABS brakes lock up
- Unresponsive brake pedal
- More force needed to apply brakes
- Speedometer failure
- CEL or MIL illuminating with fault code 01130
ABS Control Module Replacement Options:
When the module fails, the only option is to replace it to avoid any future brake complications. It is a little difficult to get to replace, but shouldn’t take more than 2 hours and will save you a lot of money in labor costs. The part itself makes up a majority of the cost. Generally, a mechanic or local shop will charge around $1,000 to replace it.
Buy Here: B5 A4 ABS Control Module Replacement
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
6. Ignition Control Module Failure
Just like the ABS control module, the ignition control module on the Audi A4 B5’s happen to be a common pain point. Many older vehicles are equipped with a standalone ignition control module that gathers info from the crankshaft or camshaft position sensor to determine the engine’s base ignition timing.
The main reason these failed is just that they were faulty from the factory, so if you haven’t had to replace this yet, you may want to as it could severely dampen the engine’s timing and performance. This will cause a rough idle 9 times out of 10. An ignition control module is not known to fail very often, however, the A4 B5’s say differently.
Symptoms of Ignition Control Module Failure:
- CEL or MIL illuminating
- Rough engine performance
- Engine misfires or stalls
- Difficulty starting the engine
Ignition Control Module Replacement Options:
When these do go out, unfortunately, the only thing to do is replace it. This is a rather easy DIY if you happen to know the location of said module. A mechanic will likely charge around $350 to replace this component.
Buy Here: B5 A4 Ignition Control Module Replacement
DIY Difficulty: Easy
7. Wheel Bearing Failure
Although not an engine problem, wheel bearings are common to fail in the A4 B5. We won’t spend too much time on these, but this is probably one of the more common issues with these vehicles. Some customers have had these replaced months after purchasing the car. A wheel bearing allows the wheel hub, tire, and wheel to work jointly. In short, it allows a frictionless rotation of the hub assembly, which ensures smooth tire rotation.
The two main reasons these fail are bad roads or road impact. If you are someone who doesn’t take speed bumps slow or avoid potholes, you wheel bearings will deteriorate faster. When bearings do happen to go out, you’ll be able to tell because the steering and turning of your vehicle will be off.
Symptoms of Wheel Bearing Failure:
- Humming or rumbling noise while turning or accelerating
- Loose or veering steering
- Uneven tire wear
- Steering wheel vibration while turning
Audi A4 B5 Reliability
The reliability of the A4 B5 has mixed reviews. Generally, if the car is modded, the reliability will go down, as with any other car that is modded. But if you stay on top of maintenance, these A4’s can be reliable. With that said, we’ve seen some last up to 275,000 miles with no real engine issues, but we’ve also seen some that have had many issues. As far as engines go, the 2.8 V6 generally has fewer problems than the 1.8T and 1.9TDI.
Generally, these are fairly cheap nowadays since they are over two decades old, but this is a nice go-to if you are looking for a cheap tunable Audi. Also, they are relatively cheap to maintain, but it would be pretty hard to find one under 100,000 miles. So if you happen to be in the market for an Audi A4 B5, look out for the water pump, timing belt and tensioners, PCV valve, catalytic converters, and engine sludge. If you are interested in reading up on more Audi content, here is our write-up on “The 7 Most Common B7 Audi A4 Engine Problems”.