Case Studies

Audi AllRoad – Heated Steering Wheel Problem

After no less than 5 trips to a local Audi dealer, and over $1,100 in repair bills, this car landed on our doorstep. Now, as a former AllRoad owner, I have soft spot in my heart for these wonderful cars, complex as they may be, so I viewed this as an enjoyable challenge! The problem, the heated steering wheel did not work. Yes, you read that right, some of the Audis do have a heated steering wheel, and as a Audi owner I can testify that its might nice to have on those cold Maine winter mornings.

On the Audi AllRoad, the steering wheel heater operates off the driver’s seat heater switch. Its actually a little more complex than that, as Audi also places the horn, Audio and Telephone control buttons on the steering wheel, as well as a locating a handy safety device, called an Airbag, there. Many of these signals run off a CAN (Controller Area Network) Bus system, to eliminate the number of wires needed. Think of the CAN Bus system much like a USB system on your home computer, a variety of different peripherals plug into a common set of wires, each addressable from the computer. Perhaps this sounds complex, but it is not easy to run a dozen or so wires to an object, the steering wheel, which is constantly rotating.

The long and short of the problem was this. Prior to the car arriving at our facility, the steering wheel had been replaced in a misguided attempt to correct a fault. After the 5 trips the dealer gave up and told the customer they did not know what was wrong with the car. Now we get stumped from time to time here, but you can be certain we never give up after charging you $1,100, we will work to a solution.

It took some time to properly diagnose, and in the case of most electronic parts, diagnostic time is always less expensive than just throwing a part at it. After removal of the radio and center console, to access the climate control unit and test the seat heater switches, our tech found the electronic “cassette” located in the steering column, to be defective. In fact, upon removal of the Airbag and steering wheel, we found a wire clearly broken away from the cassette contact, you can see this one of the photos. This is not considered a repairable fault as the Airbag safety system runs through the cassette, and the proper solution was replacement. Bottom line, its always less expensive to pay for diagnostic time than parts. Now the car is happy, and so is the customer!