With a budget under 10 000 € / $11 760 you can easily get this Audi A8 which still has many interesting features and qualities like the: quattro 4WD system, full aluminum body, a very well built interior and plenty of luxury features (if the car is equipped with them). This A8 shares the suspension and some of the electronics with the VW Phaeton and Bentley Continental Flying Spur from that time so these cars are more or less related. However, because of the aluminum body the A8 is lighter, it’s not rusting + it handles and feels like a smaller car than it actually is. On the other side the heavier Phaeton and Bentley have a bit better sound insulation, and they are a bit more stable at very high speeds because of the bigger weight.
But back to this A8.
This was the very first Audi which was equipped with things like:
- MMI multimedia system
- electronic parking brake
- keyless entry
- soft close doors
- electronic trunk opening
- 4 zone AC
- adaptive air suspension (yes the Allroad had the air suspension earlier, but remember that on that car you can’t change the stiffness of the shocks)
So plenty of new stuff was featured in this A8 for the first time (of the brand), which means only one thing: you can expect some issues with some of this interesting stuff.
And lets not forget that this car was featured in the two Transporter movies, which are not particularly great movies, but they really are great as an ad for this A8. Either way, the first part of the movie series really is the best and not only because of the iconic BMW 7 series E38… But this is not a movie review…
The interior of this A8 doesn’t have much issues. I mean the build quality is really good, all the switches are where they should be and the MMI multimedia system still works kind of OK without big lags or freezing, even though it’s obviously outdated at this day and age (the facelifted cars at the end of production made from late 2008 got a bit faster updated MMI system with improved graphics). The optional equipment list is huge so let me mention a couple of more interesting stuff like the:
- fingerprint sensor for drivers profiles which is a very interesting feature – but it isn’t there to prevent someone else to start the car, so anybody can start the car if he has the key, this sensor is there to only store the drivers profile (so the adjustment of the seat, AC or radio settings)
- solar sunroof (powers the blower motor during hot days during parking)
- double glazed windows
- really impressive Bang & Olufsen sound system with those little pop up speakers in the dash
- electrically adjustable everything including the height of the front seat belts and massage seats (don’t expect massage miracles this is just an early primitive system)
- fridge, and all the other stuff…
Most of the used materials are durable which is great, but:
–the buttons on the driver’s side door panel are often worn
–the MMI center button surface is often worn too
–the small storage door on the driver’s side lower dash can deform over time
–the small plastic trim on the optional front seats can fall out
+pay attention to those small speakers in the dash of the b&o sound system, since the speakers themselves can break (cracking noises) or the electronic opening mechanism can break too and then they won’t come up + check the dash center speaker since that can break and make various noises as well
replacing dash center speaker + accessing b&o dash speakers
Body, rust protection
The body of this A8 is made entirely from aluminum which is great since it’s not gonna rust like the regular steel. However the aluminum can corrode as well – even though not that easily and absolutely not that fast as the steel + there are a couple of weak spots on the body, so mainly on cars used on winter salty roads:
- the tailgate trim corrosion is a pretty common optical flaw (not US cars)
- the lower door trim inner steel part is going to rust from the inside and thus deforming the trim itself
- cases of chipping and bubbling paint on the black triangular trim on the rear doors are not uncommon
- and lastly check for corrosion bubbles mainly around the windscreen
This A8 has numerous more common possible issues:
1. MMI screen mechanism
-the MMI screen opening mechanism will fail at some point because of the broken plastic gears. To fix this you can buy aftermarket metallic gears.
2. Tail lights
-mainly the inner tail lights are more prone to cracks, fading and water leaks. The water will obviously ruin the electronics in them, so if your lights are still ok then you should at least preventively remove them and put silicone on the edges. The outer tail lights can have issues with water leaks too but not that often.
Next, the LEDs in these tail lights can fail. A new tail light is fucking expensive, but luckily it is possible to replace the individual LEDs only. However keep in mind that if you replace the individual LEDs and keep some old LED bulbs, then you will see a difference in brightness of the old and new LEDs. This would not be a huge issue, but the other old individual LEDs are gonna fail sooner or later too. So in this case the best solution is to replace ALL of the individual LEDs with the new ones.
3. Hood release cables
-the bonnet/hood release cables are known to snap. In this case you won’t be able to open the hood very easily so it’s good to preventively replace all of them. (there are 3 hood cables in total)
4. Electric tailgate
-the electric tailgate can have issues with opening or with closing / or it won’t work at all. Interestingly there are 2 types of motors, a weaker in before facelift cars and a stronger mounted in cars from 2008. The stronger motor can be retrofitted but it’s not very cheap.
5. Rear window
-the optional double glazed rear window on these cars can delaminate – I guess this is the right word for this. Now this is interesting since this A8 can be equipped with either a regular rear window which is usually fine, or it can have the optional double glazed solar window which has very thin barely visible heating lines. This special window can start to fog up or delaminate in other words and this will cause that the rear window defroster won’t work.
6. ABS, ESP
-problems with not working ABS and ESP systems are not uncommon either. This can be caused by: a faulty ABS module, a faulty brake light switch or by a faulty ABS speed sensor
- the ABS electronic module can simply break (on petrol engines mostly because of heat, on diesel engines mostly because of vibrations) The module can be usually repaired which is cheaper than a new part.
- brake light switch can break causing: ESP/ABS lights on = not working + not working cruise control, stored brake switch fault code + sometimes it can also cause that the gearbox is not gonna change gears properly or the brake lights will be illuminated without pressing the brake pedal
- ABS speed sensors can just simply break (new sensors are cheap)
- + sometimes the wiring can be damaged too – damaged wiring video
7. AC system
-as usual check the AC properly before buying since:
- the blower motor is gonna fail sooner or later
- there are cases of failed heater valves causing the AC to get stuck on cold or hot (same issue as in the Audi A6 C6)
- on older cars the little servo motors for the air flaps under the dash can break
8. Steering lock
-the electronic steering lock can fail and you won’t be able to start the car, but for more information about this check out this video about this specific issue
9. Windscreen wipers + washer
-on cars used on winter salty roads the windscreen wiper mechanism can seize up because of rust + the windscreen washer motor can fail more often + the hoses to the front bumper/headlight nozzles can split and leak
- the keyless entry door handles can fail, mostly the lock button wiring can be corroded or the microswitch can fail (if your lock button on the exterior door handle is not working then the wiring which goes to this button can be corroded)
- occasionally the keyless entry module can fail + it can drain the battery (some transistors and some resistors in it fail, but it can be repaired if you find someone) the module is under the driver’s seat
Electric parking brake:
- the parking brake can get stuck/jammed or it can stop working
- the wiring can be faulty
- the motors can fail
- or sometimes the module itself will fail
Last but not least before buying check for fault codes with an OBD scanner and check all the electronics properly since all that usual shit can break more often too, like the: parking sensors, window regulators, heated seats, adjustment of the exterior mirrors, rear electronic sunshade, the soft close door feature can fail more often, and it’s worth to check the electric front headrest adjustment too.
“owners often spill drinks onto the MMI panel and thus ruin it (so before buying check the buttons on it if they are not sticky)“
Listen I’m not saying that all of this shit will inevitably break, but keep in mind that this is a complex car and shit breaks. The next thing to keep in mind is that issues with battery draining are not uncommon either. But to minimize the electronic issues keep the battery and the alternator in good condition and keep the interior bone dry so pay attention to water leaks into the interior!!
Water leaks into the interior
There are basically 3 sources of water leaks:
1. SCUTTLE DRAINS
-the scuttle drains are buried deep down under the windscreen plastic scuttle panel. Long story short: they can be clogged → which will cause water accumulating in this area → which will destroy the blower motor and the blower regulator + it will obviously leak into the interior and into the expensive electronic modules !! So occasionally remove the plastic scuttle panel and clean this area as much as you can, and also clean the rubber drains themselves located in the middle under the blower motor housing – you can access them from under the car.
2. SUNROOF DRAINS
-then there are the front and rear sunroof water drains which can be clogged and let the water in the interior as well. The front sunroof drains end behind the front wheel well liners, so first remove the wheel well liners and clean the endings (+you should make bigger hole in the endings to let the water drain faster). To properly clean the rear drains you will have to remove the side parts of the headliner – and in this case you can clean them with compressed air. However most of the time it’s enough to only clean the endings of these rear drains which are located near the rear shocks + here you should also make bigger hole in the endings to let the water drain faster.
cleaning front and rear sunroof drains video (not in english)
3. AC DRAINS
-lastly there are 2 AC drains under the dash. One is on the driver side and the other is on the passenger side. They can also get clogged and leak water on the front footwell area, but luckily you don’t need tools to reach them so check out this video how to clean them.
This A8 is standardly equipped with the adaptive air suspension which is all great and awesome, but:
- the air compressor is gonna fail
- the air struts can start to leak anytime
- the link rod ball joints of the height sensors will seize up over time (check/clean and eventually lubricate them)
The air struts have a weak point which is the air valve inlet piece. Long story short, if you are using the car on winter salty roads, then this place will sooner or later start to corrode and later even crack – and you will have an air leak. So it’s good to preventively put wax or something on this place.
If the car lowers overnight then your air struts are leaking and you should replace them as soon as possible. And if the car has more than 10 years then you are basically on borrowed time when it comes to air struts, so they can fail at any time. If they fail and the air leaks out of them, then you will end up with a barely drivable low rider which is not good. But you have a couple of choices how to fix this:
- you can buy a new genuine air strut which is fucking expensive
- a good quality aftermarket strut which is cheaper
- a refurbished strut which is even more cheaper
- or you can buy just the air bag itself and replace it yourself which is the cheapest
Just keep in mind that a refurbished strut can fail pretty early (this depends on what company refurbished it), + if you are gonna buy a Chinese air strut or a Chinese air bag itself then in this case the lifetime of the part is also questionable!
Last but not least, the residual pressure valve can get stuck – mostly on the rear air struts. In this case the rear of the car will be stuck usually in the highest position – more info about this in this video
!!!!! REPLACE THE AIR COMPRESSOR RELAY !!!!!
As these cars are getting older there is a higher chance that the air compressor relay gets stuck and in that case the air compressor is gonna work until it burns out (or until you disconnect the battery)! So it’s good to replace the cheap relay preventively to save the compressor/eventually to prevent fire from the overheated compressor. (By the way, if you are replacing the compressor then it’s advised to replace also the compressor relay at the same time because of the already mentioned risk.)
Other suspension components
The upper control arms and drop links can be easily worn even before 150 000 km, so check them visually for damage and check for clunking, knocking or rattling sounds from the front suspension. But you should check all the other control arms at least visually too, since after 200 000 km – 250 000 km the lower control arms can be worn as well.
Lastly, listen for strange humming / rumbling noise which will increase with speed. This indicates worn wheel bearings which can be more often worn sometimes even after 80 000 km-but mainly on cars made to 2006.
This car was available with:
- standard steel brakes
- optional ceramic brakes
The carbon-ceramic brakes are awesome, powerful, they don’t rust, don’t warp and they can withstand a lot-even more than 200 000 km. BUT they are not gonna last forever and a complete set of brand new genuine ceramic brakes costs more than $20 000. The good thing is that it is possible to convert these ceramic brakes to conventional steel brakes + if you buy a car with less than 150 000 km then you should still have a good amount of life left on the brakes.
on the next page: ENGINES, TRANSMISSIONS