View Full Version : B5 Avant Advice. Buy? Run?

02-21-2013, 11:47 AM
fellow ziners,

i currently own a b7 s4, but i'm looking to a more practical day to day vehicle.
the maintanence on the S4 has been heavy, but the car is amazing! i love the power and growl. but being lowered, on 19s, with full exhaust, i want something more comfortable for everyday.

I found a red B5 avant has come up in my area and he is asking $3500.
Details on the car (from Craigslist Ad):
"1999 Audi A4 Avant -- Salvage title (salvage title, due to water damage from original owner. He said "water damaged the computer and needed to be replaced, but no structural damage")
All wheel drive (Quattro)
4 cylinder engine, 1.8 liter, turbo charged.
Vehicle mileage: 127K
Automatic trans: 5 speed, Porsche Tiptronic
Have SMOG CERT, ready for DMV
Currently registered until DEC 2013

Power windows, heated seats (real leather), heater and AC.
No rips or tears on the seats - they're very nice.
Just had the carpets shampooed.
Hatchback wagon with luggage rack - loads of hauling capacity.
The 5-speed trans and quattro drive makes it able to go almost anywhere.

This is a nice, dependable car; I wouldn't hesitate to drive from California to Florida, right now.
Good brakes, replaced the front CV shafts, replaced drive shaft.
Replaced Timing Belt at 90K miles along with water pump.
Shocks are good."

Need Advice:

We spoke on the phone and he made the fallowing comments on the vehicle:
3rd owner was his son, his wife now holds he title (so 4th owner??)
car was originally form Philadelphia, his son bought in college and brought it back when he graduated a couple years ago
oil regularly changed
one turn signal goes out after being on for too long (roughly 30 seconds), will work again after being off for 10 seconds
the ABS light comes on every once in a while, due to an "pea" size air bubble in the lines when he attempted to bleed himself. he said a brake shop can fix it the ABS light for about an hr of labor to remove the air bubble. however, brakes work well without and issues
the tiptronic was "slow" in manual mode, so he switched the computer which solved the problem

he literally talked about the car for about an hr.

On the phone the gentlemen came across as an honest guy, he is a mechanical engineer and has done most of the work himself in the past years.

I would love some advice from people who actually own avant, and other B5 audis. Anything i should be aware of? common problems? go for it? run?
I not what to think of the salvaged title. Water damage is serious, but if it fixed properly then i feel it should be good. right?
he was pretty firm on the price over the phone, i would feel good spending 3000.
KBB put the value of the car at 3600, but they didn't have a salvage option, so i'm not sure how to factor that into the price.
thanks in advance

02-21-2013, 12:12 PM
If you have a VAGCOM I would ask to scan it for codes on all the control modules. I think he would have said something if the airbag light was on, but it wouldn't hurt to check. B5 Audis are notorious for having the ABS computer fail due to broken electrical connections inside. Also, a friend of mine with a B5 had the airbag control module go bad. But his was a 2000 so I'm not sure if the control modules are the same in a 1999 versus a 2000. Other than that I can't think of anything to check.

02-21-2013, 12:33 PM
With a salvage title and having the computer "switched", I would walk away from it. You can definitely find a better example.

02-21-2013, 02:02 PM
I would not buy that car for 3500... no way. You can find a better car for nearly the same price.

02-21-2013, 02:57 PM
The water damage is worrisome, yes, but I don't think it is necessarily a huge deal. Most likely the damaged module was the Transmission Computer (TCU) as it sits low in the cabin (beneath front passengers feet). Even minor water leakage into the cabin seems to go right to that thing, often killing it. Before buying, I would demand a look under the carpet to make sure it's dry on both sides. Nothing major, just pop up the sill covers on each side. There are wire harnesses to inspect. If there is corrosion or rust under the carpet, I'd probably walk away. But it is most likely that it was all taken care of along with the TCU and it is water under the bridge, as they say.

4th owner? Doesn't sound like it to me. Sounds more like 2 owners (I'm assuming the son bought it used). They kept it in the family, not a bad thing at all. If the mother and father drove it for a while after the son was done with it (instead of just dumping it immediately), it must have been a good car. Seems like they kept up with everything. Doing the t-belt at 90k is a good sign. Means they are on top of things and proactive about the maintenance.

The price sounds reasonable, but I'd offer lower. I'd do a full VCDS scan (I'm not buying the air bubble ABS theory - probably just needs a module repair which can be had for $50).