1996 Audi A4 (B5) 1.8

Today I sold my car. It was a 1996 Audi A4 1.8 (the naturally aspirated one). It was a great car that I am going to miss tremendously. Even though I’ve only driven it very rarely in the last year, every time I did I would remember why I loved it. It was voted SA Car of the year in 1996 and for good reason. Even though it’s 19 years old, the car still goes well, has many features, and in my opinion is still a good car by current day standards.

beach_audiThe car used to belong to my grandfather who looked after it with impeccable care. When he passed away my parents bought the car for me, and I’ve had it for the past 7 years. I received it at around 140,000km, and have put an extra 70,000km onto it since then. During this time it has only failed me once, and that was when the fuel pump packed in late at night on the way home from a show in Cape Town. Besides that I’ve only had to perform standard wear and tear replacements.

party_audiThe 1.8l engine put out 96kw when it was new, and has retained majority of that grunt. Although not over the top, it allows for comfortable cruising, and dropping a gear gives you all you need for overtaking or maintaining speed up a hill. The front-wheel drive, 5 speed manual car under-steered predictably, and minor tyre squeal from the 15″ tyres on stock mags would always let you know how close to the limit you were. Lean on hard-cornering was quite noticeable, but understandable. The car was absent of any ESP or traction control, but did have all-round disc brakes with ABS.

road_trip_audiThe radio was a standard cassette/radio, a CD shuttle in the boot was a later option which my car lacked. The radio only gave me hassles when the battery died and I didn’t know what the code was. I later also installed an RF transmitter into the dashboard to allow for some more modern audio input. The car originally unlocked with an IR remote. This had stopped working by the time I got the car, but the central working still functioned. I thus installed a garage remote receiver in the boot and hooked it up to the central locking system, thus returning remote locking to the car.

scenic_audiThe car is spacious with a large boot and even a full-sized spare wheel. The car had one airbag in the steering wheel for the driver, and other models came with a second for the passenger. 3 point seat belts for 2 of the 3 seats in the back, with a waist belt for the 3rd. The climate control still worked perfectly along with the rest of the electronics I haven’t already specified. In its latter years the catalytic converter was removed which gave the Audi a bit of a raspy warble.

nowhere_audiIt’s a great car, and can be picked up relatively cheap at current rates. Condition of the vehicle will vary a fair amount, and if proper maintenance hasn’t been seen to, you could be in for costly repairs. At 200,000km the clutch and gearbox still worked perfectly, and the engine wasn’t burning or leaking any oil.

Audi – Built in FM Transmitter

Instead of replacing the head unit of my car I decided to rather just get an FM Transmitter. I ended up with a cheap one from ebay, one that looks like this. It has a USB port to charge things from and a 3.5mm male audio jack to plug into MP3 players, cellphones etc. The only problem, is that the cigarette lighter in my car is located just infront of the gear lever, this gets in the way and the wires there annoy me.

This got me itnerested in building it into the car. I eventually decided to make use of one of the “button” covers in the row of buttons. I have two blanks, so went about mutilating it to achieve my goal. It wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, the blank has a hole lot of junk on the back, but I sawed and ground it off to be left with just the right amount of space to mount a button, a female 3.5mm audio jack and an indicator LED.

Original Blank on the right, and my modified one on the left, hot glue and all

I trimmed the power lines going to my radio just behind it, and added two connectors so I could easily plug in and remove the fm transmitter if need be. It’s more convenient and also a bit safer/neater than soldered wires all over the place.

I added two wires with clips from the radio’s wiring harness for power.

One unfortunate thing, is the way I put everything together, it required me to push the FM transmitter through the hole of cover. This was problematic as it was too large. In the end I discarded majority of the case, and wound some insulation tape around the circuitry just to protect it. Not what I had wanted, and not particularly neat, but it works.

Neatly in place above the radio. USB, LED (off), 3.5mm audio plug and power button visible

Hooked it all up and it’s up and running. The FM transmitter is a cheap one, not that great quality and only transmits on 2 set frequencies, but it does the job. I have found however that the 5V it supplies for USB isn’t that great. My GPS doesn’t seem to like charging from it, although my cellphone is fine. I think the current may be rather limited, so may look into repacing that part of circuitry at some stage.

With a GPS plugged in to charge and the 3.5mm audio plug in as well. LED On

Audi Remote Control

So, when I got my car (’96 Audi A4 B5) the remote control for the central locking didn’t work. We replaced the batteries and did a series of tests to try sort it out but nothing worked.

We took it in to the local Audi dealership who after a morning of having it returned it to us with a quote for R8000 (excl). We said thank you and I have used the key ever since.

It seems that something went wrong with the Infra-Red system my Audi used (I know from 1997 they switched to RF remotes) and the previous owner never bothered to fix it.

If your Audi came out before the IR remotes, this approach should still work, if it came out after the RF remotes, check here.

Now the Audi’s whole security system, the alarm, the pump for the central locking etc are all contained in one neat little box located in the boot under some panels. So although 90% of my box still worked (everything except the infrared circuitry) they would have to replace hte entire unit. Thus the huge cost. I’ve seen 2nd hand units advertised for about R3000, so it is just an expensive component.

So recently I got thinking, couldn’t we just try and install a conventional wireless system around the current system.

Because the infrared system was stuffed, we decided to go at it a different way, and use the signal that gets sent to the alarm system when you manually unlock the driver’s door.

This invloved taking the panelling off and finding the wires that go from the lock to the alarm system. 3 wires were found, a brown one (we think it’s some form of check to see if the door is open or closed) and the two important ones, a red & brown cable witch is shorted with the car’s earth when the key is used to lock the car, and a grey & white cable for unlocking.

To get at the security box in the car open the boot and remove the mats covering the side wall and bottom area off to the right of the boot. I had to remove a little storage box by just lifting it up and unclipping it. There are also two plastic caps which keep the mat in place, remove those, then you just need to use a bit of force to work the carpet out from behind the plastic fascia. You shouldn’t have to unscrew anything.img_0853-large img_0849-large img_0852-large

Once removed you should see a foam box to the right, lift the cover and a plastic box should be lying there. There are 3 wiring harnesses, the two outer ones can be pulled straight out, but the middle (power) one needs a screwdriver or something to unclip. There is also the air pipe which can just be pulled off. You can then quite easily remove the security box. This is just to make soldering easier.img_0848-large

Of the two outer plugs, one is smaller than the other. This is the one that takes signals from the lock in the driver’s door. You will find two wires that correspond to the two we found in the driver’s door. The grey & white and red & brown ones.img_0846-large

And voilĂ !

Connect these onto a remote control receiver and you’ve got yourself a new remote control.

Power for your receiver can be taken from the middle wiring harness. Check your polarity with a multimeter, but for me the brown cable was earth (which I used as the earth for the lock and unlock signal as well) and the red one next to it was positive. This gives you the necessary 12V.img_0847-large

I haven’t connected my remote control yet, as I’ve had to shop around for a decent one at a cheap price. I eventually found this on ebay for R240. At a local security shop they sold a 3 channel receiver (for garage doors) for R310 and a remote with two buttons is R150 rand. Those are code hopping ones, which are more secure than the ones I bought, and will work fine in a car.

note: When you use the key, turning it once turns off the alarm, and physically unlocks your door. That means that if you push your remote control once, it will turn off the alarm and NOT unlcok your front door. If you turn the key twice in succession it unlocks all the doors. Likewise, pushing the remote’s button twice will unlock all the doors.

If someone manages to hack the infrared section of the circuitry, you would not have this problem. I may get round to looking through it one day, but at the moment this works :)

When I get my remotes I will see if I can build a small circuit to send two signals instead of one, so I don’t have to push twice each time.

I have already soldered all the wires in place that I need to install my receiver, and have checked that they work by shorting them. I will repost once I have received my package and installed it.