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I have a diesel powered Audi A4 B7 (2006) 2.0TDi (the 170BHP variety) with a manual gearbox, which I've owned for around 18 months. The car has just short of 100k miles and has a full dealer service history.

The car was given a service just under 12 months ago, and it was a major service. It's next service is due shortly, but due to the age of the car, I'm considering doing this myself. I'm by no means an expert, but have done numerous DIY jobs on cars over the past 20 years.

The car isn't reporting any problems (and my OBD2 scanner reports no faults logged on the ECU)

The car is starting to become difficult to start when the engine is cold. My first thought was that it could be the glow plugs, however after some reading, I believe that glow plugs are only required when temperatures are approaching freezing, which isn't the case here in the UK at the moment. This morning, the ambient temperature was in excess of 10 degrees Celsius, and the car took around 5 seconds of starter motor activity before the engine fired up. Once the engine was running for a few seconds, the engine ran as normal.

Later in the afternoon, when leaving work (the car had been stood for over 8 hours), the ambient temperature was around 20 degrees Celsius, and the car took several minutes to fire up, with around 5 attempts with the starter motor for between 5 and 10 seconds per attempt. Again, once the engine fired up, it ran as normal. Given that the engine/ambient temperature was higher in the afternoon and it took longer to start, I'm increasingly thinking it isn't glow plugs.

The normal engine running condition is fine, but whilst the engine is cold, it does smoke quite badly (not enough to fail an emissions test), and the idle speed can be erratic when cold. I reported this to our Audi dealer when they serviced the car last year, and they assured me that there was nothing wrong with the car (I didn't buy the car from the dealer, so they have no reason to lie).

There is a known problem with the injectors on this engine model, but my Audi dealer was able to check back on their computer and confirmed that all the injectors had been replaced under a recall due to the fault (by a previous owner). I asked them to double check, and they told me they checked one of the injectors, and it was indeed an updated one that didn't have the known fault. - again why would they lie, they'd be losing a sale.

The car is used daily and probably does around 1,000 miles a month, and despite my concerns about the erratic idle speed and smoking when cold, it's been very reliable until this recent problem starting with a cold engine.

Could the car simply need a service (oil change, oil filter change, new air filter, new diesel filter, etc) or could there be a more sinister problem looming?


Update

This morning the car started perfectly first time. Last night I filled the car up with Diesel, and the car did around 20-30 miles before being parked up for the night. Could this be related in any way?


Further update

The car has been working pretty much fine since the last update, up until today. I've now got a P0684 code from OBD2 which I believe means glow plug ecu non plausible signal, and the car still runs fine, however the odd thing is, when ever I take the key out of the ignition, the engine radiator cooling fans switch on after about 30 seconds, and they don't appear to be switching off. After about 30+ minutes, this is still happening.

I'm kind of happy I've got an error code pointing to the glow plugs, but confused as to why the cooling fans are starting up and showing no sign of letting up. It looks like I'm going to have to disconnect the battery to prevent the fans from flattening it.

My wife reported a trickling water sound from close to the drivers side wheel arch.


Another code has appeared on the OBD P0671, which is Cylinder 1 Glow plug circuit open

I've also found evidence of water within the ECU housing when looking for the relay for the radiator cooling fan.

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2 Answers

Couple things you might want to check.

Coolant temperature sensor. With a cold engine the ecu should try to dump more fuel in for starting. If the sensor isn't working it might send the wrong amount of fuel and inhibit starting.

Idle Air Control valve. This going bad could cause similar issues.

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+1; Thanks Mike, I've been reading up on this, but need to research it a little more. I'm going to start by checking the ohms readings for the coolant temperature sensor and see what I find, although the readings on the dash for this look normal. –  Bryan Jun 8 '13 at 11:18
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There are three relays located under the ECU, within what should be a water tight ECU housing. Apparently this is a common fault, and the relay contacts will often corrode.

One of the relays is for the glow plugs, another relay is for the radiator cooling fan.

So it's quite likely that this is the problem.

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