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Audi's clutch just gave up

By unknown | Mar 17, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I DRIVE an Audi A3 purchased new in July 2006. The car has now clocked 77000km. On February 25 I was on my way home after picking up a child from school when a warning light came on, indicating a problem with the brake fluid.

Fortunately I was next to an Engen garage, so I pulled over and asked them to check it. The petrol attendant reported that the brake fluid was low and I asked him to fill it up. The warning light then went out.

That same evening I had to go to church. The car started normally, but at the second set of traffic lights, as I was trying to change gears, the gearbox jammed.

Fortunately I was again next to a garage so I drove there in first gear and asked the petrol attendants to check if they see anything amiss. They told me the brake fluid was leaking. I saw it myself; it was indeed leaking.

Without knowing the extent of the damage, I drove the car home in first gear at very low speed, with hazard lights flashing. When I got home, I called Audi roadside assistance, and the next morning they came and towed the car away.

Someone from the workshop called me to say the clutch was damaged, and since I had claimed for a clutch at about 30000km they were not going to cover it this time.

I told him this was as a result of leaking brake fluid, but he denied that there were any leaks. On March 1 Audi customer complaints called to tell me they were not covering the repairs on the car as "the electronic detectors showed the clutch had been damaged by abuse".

Please advise on what avenues of redress are available to me.


I can imagine that nightmarish day in your life, Chwayita. We can only speculate about what really happened to your Audi, but I suspect the hydraulic fluid was not from the brake lines, but rather from the line through which fluid moves when you depress the clutch pedal to disengage the clutch.

On the 2006 Audi A3 the brake hydraulic lines and the clutch hydraulic line share the same reservoir on the right-hand side (driver's side) of the engine compartment. If the level in this reservoir drops, there could be a leak in either the brake or clutch systems.

If there is a leak in your clutch line, the clutch will eventually not disengage, making it impossible to change gear. I think this is what happened here.

When a clutch doesn't disengage fully, it might lead to excessive slipping and abnormal wear on the clutch plate if the condition persists for long enough. I suppose this can be construed as abusing the clutch, but in your case, if the problem was only present for one day, I take the story of "abuse" with a pinch of salt.

And the story of the "electronic detectors" that can tell them when the clutch has been abused is a mystery to me. If there are such things I can only surmise that they somehow keep track of incidents when the clutch overheats, but I will be in touch with Audi's technical department about these miracle detectors.

Watch this space.

As for avenues of redress, I think all you can do is ask the workshop to put all the parts they claim to have replaced in the car for examination by you at home.

Incidentally, it is worth keeping in mind that the majority of gear change problems are caused by a clutch that doesn't disengage fully. Crunchy, sticky, jerky, noisy gear changes? ... don't despair, it's more likely only a matter of clutch adjustment.

I am a 22-year-old male, and I want to buy my first car. It will be a used car. What are reasonable kilometres for a used car? Is it, for instance, advisable to buy a car that has done 120000km, and what are the potential pitfalls when buying such a car? How much am I going to pay for insurance?

DGT in Polokwane

I regard 20000km a year as a reasonable average for a car in private use. But equally important are the questions of how and by whom the car was used, and whether a complete, authentic service history is available.

A clock reading of 120000km is not, in itself, reason to avoid a car. There are manufacturers whose engines will routinely last for 250000km, given normal usage and regular servicing, especially oil changes.

But if the car was used for short trips, say to school or a shopping centre, I would put a question mark over it. Likewise if it was used for daily commuting in heavy traffic where the clutch takes a hammering, no matter how sympathetic the driver might be.

On the other hand, a car that has covered 120000km in three years in the hands of one careful driver might have very little engine wear. I would advise you to stick to cars with petrol engines in your search.

The insurance premium will depend on many factors - how long you have had your licence, the type of car, where it is kept overnight, whether it has a gear lock or other anti-theft device snd so on. Shop around, there's healthy competition in the insurance industry.


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