Common Audi A3 problems

  • Audi's classy small family car
  • 2013 What Car? Car of the Year
  • Problems to look for when buying used
Words ByRory White

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The Audi A3 has proved to be a huge success for the manufacturer its latest Sportback model won our 2013 Car of the Year Award.

On the used market, youll find two previous-generation models. The first was introduced in 1996, with the second from 2003. The earlier car came with a choice of 1.6- or 1.8-litre engines, or a 1.9-litre diesel. It came as either a three- or five-door hatchback, with an automatic gearbox available across the range.

From 2003, the A3 got bigger and classier. The engine range was revised to include 1.2-, 1.4-, 1.6, 2.0- and 3.2-litre petrols and 1.6- or 2.0-litre diesel units.

The five-door version became known as the Sportback and offered a slightly longer body, more rear legroom and increased boot space. Once again, an auto 'box was available with all engines.

Despite the up-market plastics and strong engines, there are things to look out for when buying on the used market.

These are the main problems to watch out for when buying a used Audi A3.

Audi A3 seat belt problem ('96-'03 cars)
Some A3s built between February and March 1997 had issues with their seatbelts. The front seatbelt height adjuster might not have been manufactured to the correct specification and could engage the belt wearer in an accident.

Audi A3 accelerator problem ('96-'03 cars)
A number of cars built between December 1997 and June 1998 had problems with their accelerators. It is possible that part of the throttle actuator mechanism can rub against the bonnet insulation and become jammed.

Audi A3 seatbelt tensioner problem ('96-'03 cars)
Some cars built between January and December 1998 experienced issues with their seatbelt tensioners. In the event of an accident, hot particles from the triggering of the tensioners could ignite their covers.

Audi A3 axle problem ('96-'03 cars)
Its possible that cars built between February 1997 and February 2000 could have axle problems. Theres a risk of moisture entering the rear axle ball joints causing corrosion and possible seizure.

Audi A3 ABS problem ('96-'03 cars)
The ABS control unit on some cars built between March and September 2001 has been known to be faulty. There is a risk that an electrical problem can cause overheating of related electrical components. This could lead to fire or a failure of ABS function.

Audi A3 airbag problem ('96-'03 cars)
A small number of first-generation A3s with three-spoke sports steering wheels may have issues with their driver's airbag. Its possible that this problem might cause the airbag to fail in the event of a collision

Audi A3 brake vacuum pipe problem ('96-'03 cars)
Some A3s built between August 1996 and June 1999 experienced brake problems. Cracks may occur on the vacuum pipe to the brake servo near the connections. If a vacuum pipe leaks, the driver will need to apply a lot more force than usual to operate the brake pedal.

Audi A3 fuel pump problem ('03-'12 diesel cars)
A number of second-generation cars built between March and August 2004 have fuel pump problems. Cars fitted with three- or four-cylinder diesel engines might have faulty bolts on the tandem fuel pump cover. A diesel leak could occur if the bolts break.

Audi A3 flywheel problem ('03-'12 cars)
Some A3s built between December 2003 and June 2005 had clutch problems. The dual mass flywheel can become damaged because of a non-optimally deigned through-flow restrictor in the clutch pressure pipe. This can lead to a clutch failure or even a fire.

Audi A3 curtain airbag problem ('03-'12 cars)
The curtain airbags on some cars built between June and July 2005 could be faulty. The gas required to inflate the airbag could escape due to defective welding seams on the gas generator. This could lead to the airbag not inflating in a collision.

Audi A3 clutch problem ('03-'12 6-speed manual cars)
Some A3s built between September 2008 and August 2009 had clutch problems. Its possible that an incorrect interpretation of the clutch temperature could occur, which might result in the clutch operating unexpectedly and causing a loss of drive.

Audi A3 fuel leak problem ('03-'12 diesel cars)
Some 2.0-litre common rail diesel cars are at risk of a fuel leak. Faulty materials used in the production of the fuel pipes are to blame.

Audi A3 windscreen wiper problem ('03-'12 cars)
A number of owners have reported issues with the windscreen wipers on second-generation Audi A3s. The motors can fail unexpectedly.

These issues should have been fixed by Audi, so make sure the work has been done before you buy.

Read the full Audi A3 ('03-) used review >>

See What Car? Approved Used Audi A3s for sale >>

By Rory White