Three years ago I signed on the dotted line for Gretel, my Audi A4. I admittedly had some hesitations. My father was a loyal Audi driver for decades. That there was always one window that was stuck either in the up or down position didn’t bother him. Heck, he even saw them through that sudden acceleration debacle. But the elegant lines of the new A4, the quick pep of the turbo engine, were enough for me to overlook the issues that have plagued the brand.
“If I drive faster than 40mph with the sunroof open, the noise is deafening,” I told the service person when I stopped in for Gretel’s first check-up.
“Oh, that’s normal.”
“No, no it isn’t.”
“You see, the window seals are super tight, which is a really good thing, but it creates an air suction issue. All you need to do is lower the rear windows.”
“Right, that’s not normal,” I said as I took my keys and scowled.
A few months later, I was informed there was a recall on the wind-deflector. It seemed the original version had accidentally been designed in a way that caused blood to spurt from the driver’s ears.
“My oil light came on,” I told the service rep when I dropped Gretel off to have the sunroof fixed.
“The car has less than 2000 miles on it.”
“Right, you see, it’s a high performance engine. It will burn through some oil during the the first few thousand miles.”
“Uh huh. But the car doesn’t have a dipstick.”
“Do you have someone who can help you? All you need to do is add a little oil, then turn the car on and see if the warning light goes off. If it doesn’t just add a little more oil. Eventually it will be topped off.” He spoke as if this was a reasonable solution.
“This is so not normal.”
“Well, you can also just stop by here. No appointment needed. We’ll top it off for you.”
And that’s what I’ve done. Every 1500 miles, I’ve stopped at my Audi dealership to have them top off the oil. No one grumbles. They even offer coffee. It’s as if they are happy to see me, when I know they really aren’t.
A few weeks ago I took Gretel in for her state inspection. Out of curiosity, I asked if the oil consumption issue had ever been resolved. With her lease ending in three months, now was the time to evaluate buying her.
“And please do not tell me it’s normal, because it isn’t.”
“No, you’re right. And they have a new test. Drain the current oil, add new oil, run the new oil for 650 miles, drain new oil and then test it to see how it reads. It might just be a computer hiccup.”
“Let’s do it.”
I took Gretel home, ran 650 miles on her and brought her back to the dealership for the test.
“She needs new pistons,” the service rep said when he rang me at the office. “It’ll take a week. Because we have to remove the engine.”
My heart sank. That last sentence was the final nail in Gretel’s coffin. She has just been too much of a headache and the poor pup only has 24,000 on her. “So I’ll see you in a week?” I asked with a sigh.
“Yeah, unfortunately, no. I’m doing four piston changes a week. The earliest I can get you in is November 28th.”
“Four a week?”
“Yup.” You could hear the exhaustion in his voice. In my head I imagined tussled hair and large bags under his eyes, somewhat how I appeared during finals at Smith. Except finals ended after ten days.
After work I went up to the dealership to fetch Gretel. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I rang my parents to deliver the news.
“But you’re still going to buy her out, right?” my dad asked.
“They have to remove her engine.”
“I cannot believe I’m going to say this but put mom on the phone. For once she just might be the reasonable one.”