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2013 Audi A3 TDI
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Everyone,

I just picked up a relatively low mile 2013 A3 TDI (premium plus package) as a highway flier commuter a few days ago, and it is doing very well at that. When the extended warranty is out in a couple years, i'll be tuning it, as well. However, in the mean time, i'm torn on what subtle handling mods to do. The stock suspension is surprisingly competent for what i'm using it for, although i'm receiving a 24mm H&R rear roll to help with some of the pushing front end. I really can't complain about anything, but i'm also finding it doesn't feel as "nippy" as i thought. I think it is mostly that the steering wheel feels kind of disconnected from the road. Is this a stock soft bushing issue, or something else? I genuinely had upgrade-itis before i even got it in the driveway, but when i put on a several hundred miles in the first week, everything seemed pretty good except the steering thing (and even that isn't too bad).

Any thoughts and advice on this would be appreciated.

Thanks!
 

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Welcome. For the steering, there's not really anything you can do. There's no bushing in the rack, it's got a solid aluminum bracket mounting it to the subframe, and it's electrically assisted instead of hydraulic. If you decide to get all crazy with the suspension and go with aluminum control arms and knuckles, it lightens the steering a little which makes it feel more lively. And as you posted, adjusting the steering assist in VCDS will also help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks npace! I have a VCDS cable coming so i should be able to start tweaking with things, which will be fun. I took it out for a relatively spirited drive last night and was pleased with the relative increase over my previous car in grip and road holding ability. I did feel like there was a a fair bit of "squish" in the system comparatively, though. I know this is going to sound rediculous, but my other car is a Honda Element with BC Racing struts and 19s, and the steering feels a bit sharper on it. It is obviously a bigger and heavier vehicle, but the front end feels more direct. The tires on the Element are a higher section sidewall, too, so i wouldn't think the larger wheels would make a huge difference. My main guess is that the BC Struts have pillow blocks vs rubber bushings and the damping is just simply firmer. I definitely don't want to go crashy coil over (the roads on the commute can be pretty crappy in the SF bay area), so the suspension travel i'm generally OK with - just improving the directness of steering. I can do new struts and springs in the future (currently thinking Koni FSD and Eibach Pro springs), but am more just interested in increasing the "connection" feel without giving up too much in the NVH department.
 

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Well, I'm not entirely sure, but I think the Honda element has the engine closer to the center between the front struts, and since the element sits higher than the A3, the engine can also sit lower in the Honda's center of gravity. This could explain why it feels like it has sharper handling. FWIW, I will say, though, that I daily a 1st gen Subaru Forester, and the handling between that and the A3 is really different. The subaru steering feels tighter and more direct at low speeds (below 20 mph), while the A3 feels like it's kinda all over the place, but I attribute that to how light the A3 steering really is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
... The subaru steering feels tighter and more direct at low speeds (below 20 mph), while the A3 feels like it's kinda all over the place, but I attribute that to how light the A3 steering really is.
Thanks for your thoughts. I'll tweak the steering settings to test that theory when the VCDS cable arrives. Interesting we both have similar experiences with larger, less "sporty" vehicles, when compared to the A3.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Cable arrived today, and I learned something. The ability to adjust how much “power” the steering rack provides was locked out, meaning it wasn’t adjustable. This happened, I believe, with the “facelift” models of the A3 (which mine is). I’m obviously a newbie at VCDS, but it looks like I don’t have that option on my car. Ok have to see if there are more mechanical solutions to tighten up the steering input.
Tools to install the (possibly oversized) new rear sway bar should be here by the weekend and I can give that guy a try.
 

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I have a ‘12 TDI w Sline and steering feels loose. Car has 95k miles and checked all steering components and mounts. My BMW is same year and mileage with original suspension and it feels tight. Could it be because the A3 is not hydraulic assist?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
This is my first car with an electric steering rack, but I’m not convinced it is the issue. I’m leaning towards it being softer bushings to give more of a cushy “Audi luxury” ride, especially given the base A3 was not intended to be a sporty variant.
I’ll be looking into other bushings (I think ones from a TT generally fit?) to tighten things up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
So my 12 point bits arrived today and I threw on the 24mm H&R rear sway bar (on the soft setting) and took it for a ride. I was worried that I made a mistake getting the 24 instead of 22mm rsb, but it turned out ok! While not yet laser sharp, it is at least 60% of the way there and definitely put things in the right direction. I can’t really feel any downside of the bigger RSB, but it is dry now and I’m not sure if it will be too much in the wet. However, I am way more cautious in the rain, so probably not an issue (not anywhere near the limit). At the end of the day, this is still a commuter car, so I don’t want to get too “tracky” with it, and it is still comfortable over bumps and rough pavement.

I’m happy with the change and will keep it like this for a while, but am still considering the whiteline bushing kit sometime in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I got to experience what “snap oversteer” feels like last night. It was a little damp and there is a windy road that dumps out into a small roundabout that I go straight through (quick right/left). It was later and no one was about so I wanted to go a bit faster, and sure enough, the back end stepped out. Fortunately, only a very little bit and the car collected itself, but surely not something that would have happened with the stock RSB.
Judgements reserved, though, because when I bought the car, it had 2 brand new UHP tires in the front, and 2 much more worn down (OE?) in back. So now the plan is to replace the rear tires with one that match the front (Conti Extreme Contact DWS +), and then wait for delivery of the RS3 solid rear bushing for the front lower control arms to get a bit of the arm flex out of the system while not dramatically affecting the highway cruiser ride quality.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I received the RS3/TTRS solid rear control arm bushings the other day and dove in to see if i could replace it. TLDR: Yes, but not perfect. This is what the stock A3 bushing looks like. Lots of big cuts and holes making it very compliant. Turns out my driver side one (shown here) was starting to delaminate a little and was maybe a source of a very subtle occasional front suspension creaking sound.
Gas Circle Auto part Font Metal


I just went for it, and got my jigsaw and cut through the bushing:
Hand Fluid Finger Fruit Automotive tire


making sure to aim for the thick part of the housing for minimal impact with the inevitable overcut:
Hand Wood Finger Thumb Gas


I pre-marked where the sort of "thick section" of the bushing sat to help give an alignment reference for the new bushing.

On to the home brew, borderline ******* press:
Automotive tire Nickel Bicycle part Cylinder Rim

I have no idea why i didn't lube this up. Do not press this bushing in dry if doing it by hand... holy crap was that a lot of work. Got my upper body workout with that one.

Aaaaand the results.... not awesome:
Automotive tire Wood Gas Door Circle


The spec is for the bushing to be aligned with the points of the hexagon vertical +/-1.5 degrees. I am clearly outside of that. I'm pretty sure what happened is that the twisting of the nut just put enough torque on the bushing while pressing it in that it simply twisted slightly. It was a bit discouraging when i pulled the tool. I made some calls and found out that it was going to be $90 for a local shop to use the proper tool to do it right, which was more than the cost of buying a set of almost, but not quite solid S3 bushings. So I figured i'd just throw them in and see what happens.

Installing the new bushings is not easy! The old ones slid right off. There was much grunting and prying to get the new ones on. Finally managed to force it, and i hope they settle in/slide on the rest of the way after a few miles.

I was only able to take it out for a couple miles and the difference is... subtle? But noticable? I think it has done what it is supposed to do: Make the front end feel a little sharper. It is highlighting the sidewalls on the 17" tires and otherwise stock suspension. I don't notice really any more NVH (maybe like 5-10%?), so no real downsides, other than the time and effort.

I'll see how things go after a few more miles, and keep an eye to see if my admittedly imperfect install is going to dramatically shorten the life of these bushings. If i were to do it again, i think i would have just bought the S3 bushings pre-installed. It would have been WAY faster and easier (and more "right") at the end of the day. But i now have a bit of RS is my TDi now, which is kind of cool...
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Eibach pro kit springs arrived today. That was an interesting process as they have been discontinued in the US for about 3 years. However the Eibach rep was helpful in giving me enough of the tech specs of the discontinued springs that I was able to find and purchase a new set on eBay from Poland for a surprisingly normal price. I’m at least 90% sure I got the right ones. (There is basically a stiff spring and a soft spring for each the front and back. The TDI is stiff front, soft back. The gasser 2wd is soft/soft, but if you have a Quattro, you get the stiff rear springs)

I’ve been happy with the minor tweaks I’ve done so far, and now one of the main things I’m feeling is that the rear of the car flexes side to side more than the front. Not horrible, but something I want to look into.

Next week, a set of Koni FSD shocks should be arriving. A little nervous about this purchase because the FSD line was superseded by the “special active” line (essentially the same shock), but these were $200 less, so… we’ll see if I need to return them, or if I got a deal. My hope is that they are either just old stock or mislabeled special actives and correct.

I’m hoping that this combo, which seems pretty tried and true, will sportify the suspension just a bit more while still maintaining the quite comfortable Highway thing the A3 TDI has going on right now - doing a very good job of being the long distance commuter I bought it for. Before I install, though, I think I’m going to get an adjustable rear camber upper control arm, and TT front strut top mounts. Contemplating the whole front TT lower control arm and ball joint swap for a bit of camber adjustability and slightly improved suspension geometry for being lowered slit the with the new springs. But undecided as of yet. Probably if I run across a good affordable used set.

And while not suspension related, the integrated Bluetooth audio dongle I added has also been a very nice addition for podcasts on said long commutes.
 

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With the TT arms and ball joints, you will have to get longer tie rods / tie rod ends. If you want aluminum control arms and adjustable ball joints, the aluminum passat control arms are the same size as the A3 ones. For the ball joints, superpro makes adjustable ones that fit the geometry of our cars with the shorter control arms. The TT ones will only fit in one location even though they're slotted, so they aren't really adjustable on this application.
 

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Just a fanmail post: Mine is a '12 A3 FWD, gassy PremPlus-Sport pkg. Bone stock except for better tires and I didn't know about the steering assist and suspension differences, but all clicks into place after test-driving a bunch of 'next cars.' Been finding newer models much softer and less pleasant, across many different makers and starting to understand the why. . .Thanks for your homework.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
@npace - do the longer tie rods only apply if you get the TT steering knuckle, too? That’s where I was getting a little confused. It seems like the knuckle is where a lot of the geometry changes happen (increased track width, etc). I figure if I’m going to upgrade the shocks and struts, I’d like to get a bit more adjustability in the system so I can dial things in mo-bettah if I want.

@Specktater - I know what you mean. Cars are getting bigger and squishier. My wife really likes it, and it has a certain appeal. However, for my ~150mi round trip commute (not often, fortunately), I wanted something smaller, lighter, and more fun feeling, but still comfortable on the Highway. So far things are heading in the right direction. We’ll see if the shocks and struts help, too. I have a pretty good idea of how to do that job now.
 

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@npace - do the longer tie rods only apply if you get the TT steering knuckle, too? That’s where I was getting a little confused. It seems like the knuckle is where a lot of the geometry changes happen (increased track width, etc). I figure if I’m going to upgrade the shocks and struts, I’d like to get a bit more adjustability in the system so I can dial things in mo-bettah if I want.

The TT spindles keep the axle in the correct position for caster and how the TT sits lower. The control arms and ball joints will push the spindles on the A3 out farther and you will have toe issues if you keep the A3 tie rods. If you get just the TT ball joints and try to use them on the A3 arms, they won't fit correctly and still won't be adjustable because of the control arm length. If you want adjustability, your best bet are either the superpro ball joints with stock A3 control arms or passat aluminum ones, or you can get aftermarket tubular control arms with elongated slots for adjustability and use those with stock ball joints.
 
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