Audi owns up to mistake, fixes clutch

A MONTH ago, on March 17, we published a letter from a reader in which she described a clutch problem she had with a 2006 model Audi A3.

She had been told by Audi customer complaints that they would not cover the repairs to the clutch, since "the electronic detectors showed that the clutch had been damaged by abuse".

I was baffled to hear of such detectors and promised in my comments to take up the matter with Audi's technical department. In answer to my request for more information about these detectors, we received the following response (slightly shortened here) from Audi in Uitenhage:

To answer your question, we herewith confirm that there are no electronic sensors that measure or detect clutch wear and, or damage on any Audi equipped with a manual transmission.

All clutch assessments are done through manual, visual inspections to determine the extent and nature of the damage and, or wear.

We sincerely regret any misperception created.

In this particular case, on February 25 2010, the vehicle was towed to one of our independent dealers, due to the fact that the customer could not select any gears.

The dealer removed the vehicle's gearbox in order to assess the clutch, and, based on their visual inspection, advised that the damage to the clutch was of such a nature that it would not be covered by the Audi Freeway Plan, as Audi Freeway Plan only makes provision for normal wear and tear on a clutch.

The customer then raised a concern that she had noticed a brake fluid leak and posed the question as to whether this could be associated with the clutch damage.

With their new-found information the dealership initiated further assessments and found no brake fluid leak. During this evaluation, however, it was found that the clutch master cylinder needed replacement. Due to this added variable in the overall assessment of clutch failure causes, it could not be determined with absolute certainty what the prime reason for this specific clutch failure was.

In the light of the above, Audi of South Africa has authorised the required repairs at no cost.

Sandré Schnetler

Specialist: Office of the MD

As we suspected the story of electronic detectors that can tell whether a clutch has been abused is complete poppycock. It is incomprehensible how a company like VW-Audi can allow such trash to be dished up to customers.

But the full and frank admission of their mistake, and the swift and decisive way in which they have made amends to the customer, affirms VW-Audi's reputation. Hats off to Audi for this. In the end they did not duck and dive.

Incidentally, while resear-ching this story I learnt about the amazing sensors that are found on modern cars.

Thus, Audi have sensors on their automatic gearboxes that inform the car's electronic control unit when the temperature of the transmission fluid goes dangerously high.

The ECU will then put the transmission in "limp mode" to prevent damage to the autobox. At the same time the gearbox dash warning light will inform the driver why his car is suddenly limping instead of leaping.

On Audi's latest automatic gearboxes another set of sensors monitor the wear on the clutch plates inside the box. When the plates reach their wear limit, a message appears on the workshop's computer read-out at the next service.

If the workshop overlooks this fact, remind them of it before authorising major expenses.