How Difficult is it to Repair a Broken Audi Timing Belt?

This is a story how some bad luck killed my faith and trust in a perceived quality brand. It's about a car that quite unexpectedly broke down. The main character is an Audi A3 from 2005, properly maintained and with only 70.000 km on the clock.

On the night of Saturday August 15th it all started, after a nice night at the theatre I was driving home when suddenly at the highway the engine stopped. In the past this happened a few times before, but it would usually get going again after a few seconds. The electronics had been replaced and for year and a half it had been alright. This time however, the engine stayed dead and I came to a stop. I called road side assistance and they arrived in about 30 minutes, they arranged towing, a replacement car and we arrived home safely, just a few hours later. The road side service was excellent and sort of felt good, because except for the delay there were no real hassles.

The following monday some phone calls gave the impression that everything would be fixed in few days. Due to some insurance issues I would get an other replacement car and the sun was still shining. In the following weeks I sometimes checked on the progress, but apparently the replacement parts needed to get ordered and this took some time. On September the 17th I finally received a phone call from the workshop that the car was drivable again, but they discovered issues with the motor management system and it wasn't sure yet when I would get the car back. After the weekend and five weeks after the failure I got my Audi back.

I don't know what it was, but the car didn't sound right. At very low speeds there was some vibration, it didn't feel good. Two days after the car returned I was giving warnings on the cooling liquid temperature. I checked the cooling liquid levels and they looked fine. The car went to the workshop, but of course the warning light dimmed and the response back was: It was probably just some air in the pipes. They also concluded that the noise was a bit strange and they would check it later, for now I could drive the car The following weekend I drove quite a distance and it was really noisy, to the point you needed earplugs. The cooling liquid temperature warnings returned and warnings on issues with motor management system started too. The car went again back to the workshop and I was given another replacement car, of course older and worse than my own. To make the misery complete, also the replacement car broke down. Checking with the workshop learned that the motor management and temperature lights were fixed, but the noise was something serious, it was something deep in the engine.

I was getting more and more pissed at this stage. It was now about 7 weeks after the failure and no indication when the issue would be solved. The workshop gave me a nice replacement car, for the first time better than my own, probably because they also realized they are messing up. A week later I returned the replacement car, because I was going on 2 week vacation and didn't need the car in between. All I was hoping for was to get my own car back after my vacation.

During the vacation my Audi returned from the workshop and my companies car fleet manager took it for a test drive. Unfortunately again motor management warnings were given. He returned the car to the workshop again and after investigation they concluded that the catalytic convertor had broken down. Ordering a now one would take some time, but I could without problem drive the car. Well at this stage I was more than happy to do so, but I did warn them that in case I would stop along the road, they would for sure get in the press. After this I was given again a replacement car, instead of my own.

Tomorrow it's 11 weeks after the initial failure, there is no indication when and if ever the car gets fixed and returned to me.

I hope Audi reads this post and realized that bad service and repairs can do serious damage to their brand. Like Guy Kawasaki, Audi could give me a R8 to drive for a while, may be that would restore some of my faith in Audi again.

I love Windows 7, but I won't upgrade!

I've written several times (first impressions and after a month use) about Windows 7, I really love the product and even made an endorsement video. It's the best Windows version ever. As a business user I've adopted Windows 7 as my primary operating system since the early beta in January. However as a private person I will NOT upgrade my home equipment, due to practical consumer considerations.

My house is a mixed Apple and Microsoft environment consisting of MacBooks, a desktop and a Media Center. Both the desktop and the media center are running Vista Ultimate, because I was one of the fools that 3 years ago believed the Microsoft promise for Ultimate Extras. I prefer in place upgrades over clean installs, but that is now making an upgrade a too expensive exercise.

The Media Center is a critical component in this house hold and the only 'maintenance' window available is in the night. This is also the reason why no automatic updates can't be installed, because this might interfere with lets say an episode of 'Desperate House Wives' or even worse reboot the machine. Microsoft already made severe enemies in this household by resetting all play counts after a security update and I don't want to go thru that again. If I want to upgrade this machine within one night and maintain all settings my only option is to do an in place upgrade and will cost me 299 Euro. It's just no worth the money, because the added value is minimal and Vista works fine. I could consider alternatives and do a clean install of a downgraded Windows 7 version, but still it's relatively expensive. A more viable option is to buy an Apple TV starting at 269 Euro and start using this side by side to avoid the nightly maintenance Window.

The desktop is an other story. Windows Vista is giving a lot of problems and was actually the primary reason to install the first beta of Windows 7. The hardware is great, because I made it completely silent, it's only time for a 300 Euro investment for a larger screen. While considering my options with the required investments, I can't help also looking at the new 21.5-inch iMac starting at only 1099 Euro that gives me a silent, great looking piece of design in my office.

Apple does an upgrade form Leopard to Snow Leopard for 29 Euro. The Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade of 299 Euro is 10 times as expensive. The buying considerations are very different, the first is hardly worth thinking about, the second really needs to deliver value. Unfortunately I haven't found 10 times as much value in Windows 7 as in Mac OS-X Snow Leopard. As a practical consumer I don't want to spend this amount of money without being able to justify the investment.

I'm not Dead

I haven't written anything recently because I'm on a vacation, you can follow my whereabouts on this traveling blog. The trip is nice and especially interesting because 23 years ago I did visit some of the same places... The world has changed a lot, but the experiences and memories stay the same.

23 years ago I was a young student, I was top fit, running up and down the different canyons. I was with a friend  on a 'do the south-west of the US on a budget in 10 days' trip. We rented a cheap wreck camped in the bush or national parks and probably lived on junk food. The year before I was an international exchange student and used contacts from that time to gather information and if possible even organized meetings. This was 1986 and we actually wrote handwritten letters to establish contact and organize meeting points. We couldn't afford international phone calls. During the trip we also made new friends and often agreed to meet again in a few days several hundred miles away.

Today we travel in a decent car, use motels and hotels to stay overnight and can afford to eat proper meals. We carry around cellphones, navigation equipment and have WiFi in every single place we stayed so far. We extensively use the internet to gather information, book rooms while we are on the road. We constantly stay in touch with everybody who is interested and even keep up with business email. It all became so easy.

Looking back the past looked so primitive and it surprises me that with all the limited communication means we managed to stay in contact while being on the road. However the memories lasted for more than 23 years and the experiences were the same as they are today. Did we really make progress over the years, cos I really wonder how long today's experiences last?

On the road to....

A few weeks ago I ran into a nice new travel blogging service Before I wrote something about it I had to test it a bit. Last weekend I spend some time at the October Festen in Munich and it was a good opportunity to test.

Often when you go in a trip it's nice for the people staying at home to keep them up to date of your adventures. This is exactly what the specialized blogging services does. You create a trip page that combines a map with your whereabouts including stories, images and other multi media. There are many ways to create content, of course you can use the web site, but it's also possible to email, text message or use on of the mobile applications. I personally love the iPhone application, because you can create 'offline' content and publish when you have a data connection. This is very convinient when you want to control your data roaming expenses when traveling,

Tomorrow I start a bit of traveling again and you are more than welcome to follow my whereabouts.

Information Technology Challenges

Working in the Information Technology brings every day interesting challenges. We value feedback from prospects and customers, what brings very interesting and a very wide range of requests for change.

Many customers like the solutions the way they are, while others request more powerful features and capabilities. Recently the ease of use and easy to learn is recurring feedback too. It's up to us to find the right mix in often conflicting requests so the largest group of people can benefit. It's almost an impossible task to make everybody happy, be we keep on trying.

Doing nothing, although the easiest thing to do is not an option. We need to guide our customers into the next wave of technology to make sure their businesses can stay competitive.

It's like Steve Ballmer says in the video from a recent keynote. Sales and Service, online - realtime, Information technology is more critical then ever. The next technology wave allows us to innovate and do some great things.