Saturday, December 17, 2016

Adblue Refill Experience Audi A6 Estate Car Diesel 2016 Model Rental Car

Audi A6 Estate Car Diesel - Rental Car for 10 Days - Virgin Adblue Refill Experience

Did a driving tour around UK in the winter of 2016. Even though it was winter (shorter hours for light), we decided to do a leisurely driving holiday around the UK, all the way to Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh) and back to London.  We landed, picked up the rental car at London Heathrow Airport from SIXT, and we were on our way.  The objective of this post is to show you the car, as well as the most challenging Adblue re-fill experience.

The Audi A6 car in a parking lot.  A6 car was long.

Rear view of the A6.

The car was almost brand new, with just over 3,000 miles on the odometer.  Plenty of gadgets to play with, including a very useful Satellite Navigation system that brought us to our destinations efficiently.  The car was roomy and the boot (or trunk) space was very good.  We had plenty of luggage.  Here is a video of the car, including the Sat-Nav system.

What is Adblue? This is a Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). DEF is used as a consumable in selective catalytic reduction (SCR) in order to lower NOx concentration in the diesel exhaust emissions from diesel engines.  How did this Adblue situation come about?  Well, shortly after I got the car and I was driving out from London towards Stonehenge, an Adblue warning indicator came out, telling me to refill the Adblue tank.  It said Adblue range 1,500 miles or was it 1,200 miles.  At first I ignored it, but something was nagging at me.  So in the evening, I went to read about Adblue and Audi online, and I soon learnt that if the Adblue tank dried up, the engine wouldn't start.  Well, 1,500 miles sounded like a far enough distance to cover my planned route. (Distance from London to Edinburgh was about 400 miles), but still I didn't like to live on the edge.

Then things got worse.  The Adblue warning kept showing up and the range dropped faster than the distance I had travelled.  At first, I thought I remembered wrongly since I wasn't paying too much attention to the Adblue indicator. Then I decided to pay more attention.  So I started the day, with the Adblue Range saying 1,200 miles.  By the end of that day, the warning indicator said 900 miles and I was very sure I had not done 300 miles that day.  The maximum I drove was 200 miles.  Now, this was worrying.  I wasn't confident I had 900 miles more to go, and I was in Scotland, and we were barely at the half way mark of our driving holiday.

Calling SIXT hotline
So, I called the SIXT hotline.  Had to wait to get through to an agent.  Thankfully I had free minutes on my UK SIM card which I didn't plan to use, so I didn't mind the wait.  (10 minutes or so?) I got through and was told that I might have to fill up the Adblue tank on my own. And to assist me, they would get an Audi technician to call me.  Oh, ok.  True enough, the Audi technician called me within the hour, and true enough, I was told to refill the Adblue myself and to claim the Adblue cost from the car rental company when I returned the car.

Alright, didn't sound too difficult.  But here came the twists.  This is the video that shows me refilling the Adblue after dark, while in Scotland.  Be warned, the video is kind of suggestive, especially the blue filler pipe.  Anyway, this shows you in great detail, how I managed to fill up the Adblue tank.

First Twist - Adblue Cap Couldn't Open
The Adblue cap (which was adjacent to the Diesel cap) couldn't be opened using my bare hands.  Audi technician told me to retrieve the wrench from the boot.  I couldn't find the wrench and was told to check the spare tyre . I still couldn't find it and I was told to REMOVE the spare tyre to look underneath.  I finally found it.  Removing the spare tyre in winter, wasn't too fun, but I did it.

Second Twist - 15L of Adblue Required! 
Audi technician told me to fill the Adblue tank with at least 15L of Adblue, otherwise the warning indicator may not go away. Ouch.  I thought maybe filling it up with 3L or 5L would suffice, but 15L?  Ok, that sounds like a challenge.  I went to a nearby gas station and I could only find 10L Adblue bottles.  So I bought 2 such 10L bottles.  They were heavy.

Third Twist - Hard to Fill  Adblue Tank
I thought re-filling the Adblue would be easy, since filling the car up with Diesel was so easy.  Boy, I was wrong.  I had to physically pour the Adblue solution into the Adblue tank using this blue filler device, and the flow of the Adblue was very slow.  You have to watch the video to understand why. The filler device was long and very tight-fitting.  Due to the design, very little air could escape as I filled the tank, making the progress very slow.  A lot of wiggling and jiggling! I managed to sort it out, finally.

Fortunately, everything worked.  I filled the tank up with about 15L of Adblue and the warning indicator went away.  When I returned the car, I claimed back the cost of the Adblue (each bottle cost 11 pounds). I had sent an email earlier to SIXT to register my feedback but I was never given an explanation why the Adblue tank was not filled up prior to SIXT handing over the car to me for my 10 day rental.  Of course, I could have made a big deal out of this, but since I managed to get the Adblue sorted, I figured no point raising a ruckus and ruining my holiday.

Audi at fault? - Adlue Range too Low? 
Furthermore, when I was reading through all the Internet documentation on Audi and Adblue, I learnt that an Audi A6 on a full Adblue tank was supposed to last up to 10,000 miles. When I got the car, the odometer only showed slighly more than 3,000 miles.  I could not reasonably fault the SIXT people for not re-filling the Adblue tank.

All that said, SIXT and other car rental companies should really pay more attention to this Adblue issue.  Hirers like myself rent the car for extended periods, and want to drive many miles.  If the Adblue indicator comes up, the car hirer needs to know what to do, otherwise he or she would face inconvenience or worse, the car may stall completely because the Adblue warning light was ignored.

Car hirers, take note. If you rent a car with an Adblue tank, you should be aware of what needs to be done.

Audi Car Adblue Design Flaws
Since I have gone through this Adblue experience, here are the design issues that Audi should seriously think of how to improve.

First, there needs to be a better Adblue indicator on just how much Adblue there is left in the 17L Adblue tank.  I read that the first warning only comes up when the Adblue falls to the reserve level, and the car has just 1,500 miles more to go.  Since Adblue is as important as Diesel (because without Adblue the car will not start), why did Audit not have a running indicator (like the Diesel tank) to show how much Adblue is left?  Why wait till only 1,500 miles range to show Adblue?

Second, please design the Adblue cap for easier opening.  Even if the cap requires a special tool, can this tool not be hidden under the car tyre?  Getting the tool was no easy task.  I had to remove all my luggage (which was a lot) and then open up the base of the boot and remove the spare tyre to get the tool.  This wasn't fun at all in winter.

Third, filling up a large quantity of Adblue, like 15L at one go, was no joke.  The bottles were heavy and the flow of Adblue into the tank was slow.  Worse, I was told by the Audi technician to fill at least 15L otherwise it may be futile.  Why was the Adblue system designed like this?

Anyway, the above are my bugbears.  I don't own an Audi car and I have no plans to buy one.

Thanks for reading.


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  2. I really like your blog. The Audi A6 is literally my favourite car model of all time and it is amazing that it is rentable. I'm sure whoever rents it, will be very satisfied.

  3. My experience , rented a Citroen c4 from Goldstar with a little over 10,000 km . Car was diesel even though I had booked a petrol. After 350 km adblue ran dry and car wouldn’t start. I had to call roadside assistance from Goldstar. Paid the technician €10 for 5 lit adblue. To add insult to injury my Visa card was charged €110 for roadside assistance. Surely it should be a condition of the rental that adblue level should be checked and topped up if necessary. Goldstar maintains that it is my responsibility as I did not take out insurance.