20 Feb 2013

Speedmonkey Fleet - a £2,000 bill and a smashed headlamp

Matt Hubbard writes about his vehicles - an Audi S4, Land Rover Discovery 2 V8, Golf V6 4Motion and a Triumph Street Triple.  It's been a frustrating and expensive few weeks and the weather too poor to use the bike.

The last Speedmonkey fleet update was written whilst snow lay on the ground, and we were pretty much exclusively using the Discovery.  I'd have loved to take the S4 out for a play but it wasn't very well.

I had taken it to Devon in early January.  Whilst on the A303, during a long period at the speed limit, a vibration kicked in.  The S4 has a manual gearbox so I dipped the clutch to see if it was engine revs or road speed related.  The vibration, and a harsh hum, disappeared with dipped clutch and increased with engine revs.  A slight panic set in.  I'd only had the car a few weeks and it hadn't shown any kind of problem.

I continued to Devon, with the vibration.  On the way home I stopped at a petrol station.  At this point it's worthwhile pointing out that the S4 returns 20-22mpg on a long run, and even less on short runs.  And it has a 65 litre fuel tank so the range is around 200 miles.  Let's just say I'm a frequent visitor at petrol stations for a dose of super unleaded.

After pulling away from the petrol station the vibration had disappeared.  I listened out for it the whole way back but it didn't make another appearance.  Once home I googled it.  The most likely candidate seemed to be that the dual mass flywheel was on it's way out.  Not a cheap job.  A dual mass flywheel is effectively a circular weight attached to the crankshaft end of the engine to smooth out vibrations.  It sits alongside the clutch.  It can come and go depending on how it sits with the rest of the clutch.

The vibration didn't rear it's head again until the next week and another trip to Devon.  As soon as I hit 70(ish) mph on the A303 it started.  It could be felt through the steering, the pedals, the gearstick, the everything.  Uh oh.

I knew it was the DMF.  I knew it would cost a lot.  I took the car straight to my local garage and they rejected the job outright.  It's a two day job, they said, and beyond our ken.  I phoned Storm Developments in Aldermaston, my local VAG specialist, and booked the S4 in for that Friday.

The car was with Storm for two entire working days.  When I picked it up, Alex, who'd worked on it, told me what an awful job it had been.  The engine only just fits in the engine bay.  It's four wheel drive and the prop-shaft travels through the gearbox.  He'd was glad when the job was done.  Alex didn't say this lightly.  As well as working on all manner of VWs, Audis and Porsches, Storm modifies cars.  They had a 700bhp, twin turbo 997 in the shop that they'd built.

The bill was eye-watering.  £2,061.19.  Most of that was for parts.  The DMF itself was over £700, the clutch was over £300.  Interestingly I spoke to a few people about DMFs and it's not only the S4 for which it's massively expensive.  For example, a friend paid £1500 for a clutch and DMF change on a 2002 Mini Cooper S.  An example of technology being installed on modern cars that we don't need, that costs a fortune to rectify when it goes wrong, and that only specialists can work on.

Alex photographed the entire job and promised to send me the photos, but they've yet to appear.  I need to badger him to send them to me as it would be interesting to see the job being done.

It was fantastic to get the S4 back.  I'd driven the Golf when the snows receded and, despite the fact I like the Golf a lot, the S4 just cannot be beaten as a package for power, handling, load lugging, comfort, refinement and it's awesome Bose sound system.

I took the S4 to the launch of the new Mitsubishi Outlander at Badminton House, Gloucestershire.  Yet again I drove brand new machinery and yet again I got in the S4 after the test drive and, despite being 8 years old, it felt modern and comparable.  The interior of the S4 is bang up to date.  The only thing it's missing is a DAB radio.  The Outlander's integral satnav screen is where a radio would be in older cars so in order to look at it one has to look down, which is counterproductive to safe driving.  A TomTom, plugged into the cigar lighter and stuck to the windscreen, is in a better position and has superior software.

I did have one interesting incident whilst using the Golf.  I pulled into the drive one day and noticed the driver side headlamp was smashed to pieces.  In amongst the shattered glass of the headlamp unit was a huge stone, it must have been kicked up by another vehicle.  Within 2 hours I had been to our local scrap yard, paid £20 cash for a headlamp which I removed myself from another Mk4 Golf, and replaced the smashed headlamp for the foraged unit.  A garage would have charged at least £100 for the job as it involves removal of the grilled and bumper.

Sometimes it's worthwhile doing a job yourself, as long as it doesn't involve something so complex as a DMF.

One final thing.  My wife currently hops between the Golf and the Discovery, depending on which has fuel in it.  We had a chat about this and are going to sell both, and replace them both with either a Discovery 3 or an L322 Range Rover.  This means that when funds allow there's space in the drive for something else.  Maybe I'll get that Boxster or 996 I've talked about for so long.

My brother, Colin, who also writes for Speedmonkey, promises to start a fleet update for his vehicles - a Mk4 Golf GTi Anniversary, BMW 320d MSport Touring and a Honda VFR800.  Judging by the number of hits each gets Speedmonkey readers seem to like the Living with articles, as well as my Fleet updates, so Colin's articles should provide for some interesting reading as well.

Photos of the Golf headlamp saga are below.