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VW / Audi Oil Change
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

VW / Audi Oil Change

Peter Bodensteiner

Time:

30 mins.

Tab:

$35

Talent:

**

Tools:

flat head screwdriver, 19mm box end wrench, oil filter wrench

Applicable Models:

 
Audi A4 (1997-01)
Audi A4 Quattro (1997-01)
Audi TT (2000-04)
Audi TT Quattro (2000-04)
VW Beetle (1999-02)
VW Golf (2000-02)
VW Jetta (2000-02)
VW Passat (1996-00)

Parts Required:

Oil filter, oil

Hot Tip:

warm up the car prior to draining oil

Performance Gain:

smoother running engine

Complementary Modification:

change air filter

In these days of the $19.99 quickie oil change, why would anyone do the job themselves? Well, there are plenty of reasons to change your own oil, aside from simple pride. First, if you're new to doing automotive maintenance, the oil change is a great way to get comfortable with wrenching on your own car. Because changing the engine oil it is one of the most frequent and important maintenance tasks, it will get you under the hood frequently enough to notice any changes or conditions requiring attention and will help you "bond" with your car.

Second, by doing the job yourself you'll be assured that the job gets done right. Perhaps you've heard horror stories of stripped threads on drain plugs, incorrectly tightened filters (even on this A4 I had to deal with an over tightened filter--I've never had that problem on filters I installed myself), and overfilled crankcases. Or maybe you're just tired of being the target of the inevitable "up sell," as the quick-lube folks try to rope you into additional services.

You'll need four quarts of your preferred motor oil, a replacement oil filter a 19mm box-end wrench or socket, a flat head screwdriver, and an oil drain pan. You may also need a Phillips screwdriver and an oil filter wrench if that filter is on tight.

Many sources recommend changing your oil when the engine is up to temperature, in order to let the oil warm up and drain more freely and completely. Personally I'm fine with this, but I would recommend starting with a cold engine and only letting it idle for a couple minutes (outside your garage to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning). You don't want truly hot oil getting on you, and working around a fully warmed-up engine isn't so great either; both hold the potential of inflicting burns.

If you're changing your oil frequently, feel free to do it with a cold engine. Even hot oil won't drain completely from your engine, so no matter what you do, some of your old oil will remain. Don't forget to dispose of your oil and filter properly when you're done. It's illegal and extremely harmful to the environment to do anything other than take your used oil and filter to an auto parts store or another source that accepts used oil for recycling. An old milk jug or empty oil containers will hold your used oil until you can take it in.

The first thing you'll need to do is get your car up in the air.
Figure 1

The first thing you'll need to do is get your car up in the air. You can do this with ramps or with a jack and jack stands; you'll find a complete explanation of how to do this in our Jacking Up article. In reality, you could probably do this job without raising the car, at least in the case of the A4. The oil drain plug would be easy to reach from the front of the car, and the filter can be reached from above. The tray is the primary obstacle that obscures access to the drain plug. One could create an access panel in the undertray beneath the drain plug, or perhaps the undertray could be lowered enough to reach the drain plug and put a drain pan beneath it by releasing all but the rear 3 fasteners securing the tray to the car. In any case, do the job the first time with the car in the air before experimenting with these alternative techniques. Pop open the hood by pulling on the hood latch release lever under the left side of the dash.

The hood latch release lever causes this small tongue to pop out of the center of the grille.
Figure 2

The hood latch release lever causes this small tongue to pop out of the center of the grille. Lift it up and raise the hood, which should remain open with the assistance of the hydraulic support.

Open the oil fill cap by turning it counter-clockwise.
Figure 3

Open the oil fill cap by turning it counter-clockwise.

Leave the oil fill cap cocked open slightly while you're draining the oil.
Figure 4

Leave the oil fill cap cocked open slightly while you're draining the oil. This will allow air to enter the engine and help the oil drain more easily. Leaving the cap above the fill hole will keep anything big from falling into the engine.

Here is a photo showing the complete front undertray, which covers everything from the axles forward underneath the car.
Figure 5

Here is a photo showing the complete front undertray, which covers everything from the axles forward underneath the car. This shield is held on with 10 fasteners. Two plastic flathead fasteners are in each wheel well. If your tires are still in place you may need to use a use a short screwdriver or a coin to turn these, or turn the wheels as needed to gain access. Simply rotate each fastener 1/2 turn and pull it out. Also note the old oil collected on the tray. This is from the oil filter area and is the result of previous oil changes.

That leaves six more fasteners, all metal flathead screws.
Figure 6

That leaves six more fasteners, all metal flathead screws. Three of these are located in the front of the car, with three more at the rear of the undertray, where they attach to a thin metal strip that in turn is attached to the car's front subframe. Here's what one of the front screws looks like in place.

This photo compares the plastic and metal fasteners used to secure the undertray.
Figure 7

This photo compares the plastic and metal fasteners used to secure the undertray. As you can see from the earlier photo of the undertray, it is prone to being damaged. In my case, only 2 of 4 plastic fasteners remained, and only 4 of 6 metal fasteners were still to be found.

Once the undertray is out of the way, you can reach the oil drain plug from the front of the car.
Figure 8

Once the undertray is out of the way, you can reach the oil drain plug from the front of the car. It is actually quite far forward in the car; you don't really have to get under the car to reach it. The plug is on the passenger side of the oil pan. Place a drain pan under the plug; and make sure it holds at least 4 quarts (for the 1.8L engine). Use a 19mm wrench to loosen the drain plug. Replace the drain plug gasket every time you remove the drain bolt from the oil pan. Alloy oil pans use a alloy washer. The metal oil pans use a copper washer. The black bar to the left of the drain plug is the front anti-roll bar. The bolt and flange located just above and to the left of the plug is where oil drains down from the turbocharger to the oil pan.

Loosen the drain plug by hand on its last few threads and be careful not to drop the plug into the drain pan.
Figure 9

Loosen the drain plug by hand on its last few threads and be careful not to drop the plug into the drain pan. Take note of the arc of the oil as it drains out of the oil pan--you'll need to position your drain pan accordingly. The oil will drain straight down as the volume of oil coming out decreases. Also note the oil on my fingers holding the drain plug in the foreground--you wouldn't want that oil to be 200 degrees, would you? When the oil is done draining, tighten the drain plug to 37 ft/lbs.

Here's a close-up of the oil filter.
Figure 10

Here's a close-up of the oil filter. The filter is attached to an oil cooler rather than directly to the block itself. It is located just below the intake manifold on the driver's side of the engine. The angle of the filter as shown in this picture is fairly representative of how the filter sits in the car. The angled position means that when removed, oil will drip onto the components directly underneath. In the case of the A4, this is mostly the side of the engine block and the front subframe. Before removing the filter, therefore, it's a good idea to put lots of rags, paper towels, or even a diaper or two underneath the filter to minimize the mess. It also helps to have your replacement filter ready to go on and seal up the leak created by removing the old filter.

You can access the oil filter from underneath the car without too much trouble, but it's a bit of a reach because the filter is mounted relatively high.
Figure 11

You can access the oil filter from underneath the car without too much trouble, but it's a bit of a reach because the filter is mounted relatively high. It's also hard to get much leverage on the filter from below, and you're also more likely to get oil dripped onto you when you're lying under the car.

Necessity is the mother of invention; in my case, the oil filter must have been installed by a very strong oil-filter-installing cyborg, as I had no hope of loosening it either by hand or even with a variety of filter wrenches.
Figure 12

Necessity is the mother of invention; in my case, the oil filter must have been installed by a very strong oil-filter-installing cyborg, as I had no hope of loosening it either by hand or even with a variety of filter wrenches. I could reach the filter either from above or below, but from below I couldn't apply much torque to the filter, and from above access was obscured and I could only get one hand on the filter wrench. My solution was to move the large engine coolant reservoir out of the way, as it sits directly above the filter. I was afraid that I would have to drain the cooling system in order to do this, but that was not the case. The coolant reservoir is secured with three Phillips-head screws. A screwdriver indicates where one is; the remaining screws are next to the firewall.

Remove the three screws and place them aside.
Figure 13

Remove the three screws and place them aside.

An electrical connector at the bottom of the reservoir is the only remaining obstacle.
Figure 14

An electrical connector at the bottom of the reservoir is the only remaining obstacle. Once you unplug this, you can tilt the reservoir out of the way.

Use a small flathead screwdriver as shown to release the electrical connector and detach it from the bottom of the reservoir.
Figure 15

Use a small flathead screwdriver as shown to release the electrical connector and detach it from the bottom of the reservoir.

Here's the topside view with the reservoir tilted out of the way but still attached to its coolant hoses.
Figure 16

Here's the topside view with the reservoir tilted out of the way but still attached to its coolant hoses. It's obvious to see that the oil filter access is now much-improved. It's also obvious that the filter was mangled pretty well by my earlier attempts to remove it! Fortunately, with this newfound access, I was able to get enough leverage to remove the filter.

Here's a good look at the oil filter mount from below.
Figure 17

Here's a good look at the oil filter mount from below. Before you attach the new filter it's a good idea to check the filter mating surface to make sure none of the rubber gasket from the old filter remains. This would prevent the new filter from sealing properly and cause a leak.

Coat the rubber seal of the new filter with a light film of oil.
Figure 18

Coat the rubber seal of the new filter with a light film of oil.

Mount the new filter by centering it on the threaded post of the oil cooler.
Figure 19

Mount the new filter by centering it on the threaded post of the oil cooler. It should spin on quite easily - if it doesn't, you're likely cross-threading the filter, and you should back it off and try again. Once you have the new filter in place, plug the coolant reservoir back in and fasten it back into place with its three screws.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Marc G Comments: Nice write-ups.. just reading through to pick up any tips. I have a 2.8 V6 FWD and the oil filter was also very tight. No oil wrench so I used a large plumbing pipe wrench. Worked perfect, only issue was very little room to rotate this big a wrench.
July 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 

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