Ultimate Audi TT Mk1 (8N) Buyer’s Guide & History

While some motoring enthusiasts and journalists saw the Mk1 Audi TT as more of a fashion statement than a true sports car, the reality was and still is quite different. The first gen Audi TT quickly surprised the motoring world with its engaging driving characteristics and handling performance that made it seem more alive than much of the competition (and certainly more than the rest of the Audi line up at the time).

Today the first version of the Audi TT has become somewhat of a modern classic and in this buyer’s guide we are going to give you all the information you need to know to find yourself a good one. From its history and specifications to common problems and more, this guide has it all!

How to use this Mk1 (8N) Audi TT Buyer’s Guide

This is a big guide, so we have broken it up into a number of different sections. The first two sections cover the history and specifications of the first gen Audi TT. Following this we will get into the buyer’s guide section of the article which will cover subjects like common problems with the TT, setting up an inspection and more. We will then finish up with more general car purchasing advice.

The History of the Mk1 Audi TT

Credit: Audi

The Audi TT was first brought to life on paper by German/American designer, Freeman Thomas, at the Volkswagen Audi Design Centre in California in May 1994. He drew a series of sketches that would quickly gain the approval of the head of Audi Design at the time, J. Mays.

With the support of the Volkswagen’s A4 platform project manager, Dr. Ulrich Hackenburg, and the company’s R&D chief, Josef Paefgen, the TT project would quickly progress. Further design work soon moved to Germany and the project would become known as the TTS Roadster.

The initial concept (as the name suggests), revolved around creating a full on open-top roadster. However, a few months into the project VW Audi’s chairman, Ferdinand Piech, realised that the just producing a roadster wasn’t good enough. A number of other companies were already working on open-top cars, and he believed that it would be best to steer the project in the direction that allowed for two types of cars, a coupé and an open-top roadster.

Credit: Audi

With the change in design direction, Volkswagen Audi’s team behind the project had to quickly create a concept that would be ready for the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show just over six months later.

The coupé would be the concept attending the show and it was an instant hit. The sleek, simplistic design was reminiscent of the rounded shapes of pre-war racing cars and post-war sedans of the Auto union. On the inside, the design was created around the idea of “as much as necessary and as little as possible.” This design would be carried over to the roadster version of the concept that would make its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show later the same year.

Despite the massive amount of praise for the two concepts, Audi and Volkswagen remained tight-lipped on production versions of the car. However, this would all change three years later.

Audi Launches the First Generation Audi TT

Credit: Audi

The production version of the Audi TT coupé would finally launch in 1998, with the Roadster coming the next year. Final assembly was carried out at Volkswagen Group’s Gyor factory in Hungary, while the bodyshell was manufactured and painted at Audi’s Ingolstadt plant.

Interestingly, unlike many other concepts the final production version of the TT looked almost exactly the same as the concept car that was displayed three years earlier. The smooth, rounded lines were kept the same and like the concept, the new TT instantly received praise from both the motoring press and enthusiasts alike.

Audi and Volkswagen’s engineers based the car around VW Group’s A4 platform, which underpinned the likes of the Audi A3, VW Golf Mk4 and the new Bettle.

At launch, power came from a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder 20-valve turbocharged engine that was transversely mounted. Buyers had the option of selecting two power outputs for the car. The standard base power output was around 180 PS (178 bhp or 132 kW), while the more powerful option was rated at 225 PS (222 bhp/165 kW). Both engine options share the same fundamental design, however, the more powerful option was given a larger K04 turbocharger (the lower power model came with a smaller K03 turbo).

Other changes to the more powerful car included an additional intercooler on the left side, larger 20 mm wrist-pins, a different intake manifold, a dual tailpipe exhaust, and a number of other changes that helped the engine cope with the increased amounts of boost from the larger turbo.

Power was sent to either just the front-wheels or to all four depending on the options selected. The lower power model came standard with front-wheel drive, with the ‘Quattro’ four-wheel drive system being available as an optional extra. TT 225s on the other hand came standard with the Quattro system.

Audi mated the TT 180’s engine to a 5-speed manual transmission, while the 225 would get an extra gear. This would stay the same for the entirety of the car’s production, but more transmission options were added in the early 2000s.

The Turn of the Millenium

Credit: Audi

The first year of production was a massive success for Audi. They had produced over 50,000 cars with the coupé model making up the majority of sales. Production would grow further in 2000 and sales of the TT 180 would officially start in the United States. The 2001 model year also saw the introduction of an optional hardtop for European buyers of the roadster. However, only a limited number of customers opted for the hardtop, making them incredibly difficult to find today.

2002 & 2003 Model Year

2002 saw a few minor changes such as the standard audio system switching from a cassette player to a CD player. However, there was one big piece of news in the form of the special edition 225 ALMS TT. This car was created to commemorate Audi’s victory in the ALMS series and Le Mans. It was given 18-inch Audi 9-spoke RS wheels and special paint and trim options that included the following:

  • Option 1 – Misano Red exterior and Silver Nappa interior
  • Option 2 – Avus Silver Pearl exterior and Brilliant Red Nappa interior

The interior also consisted of marching leather door cards, seats, shift knob leather and more. There were no changes to the mechanicals or the performance.

Audi kept the TT lineup much the same for the 2003 model year, but the 180 could only be optioned with an automatic transmission in some markets and the 225 switched to wideband 02 and VVT. There was also the addition of a new base model in some markets. This new, cheaper TT featured a 150 PS (148 bhp/110 kW) 1.8-litre engine and was only available in front-wheel drive.

Bigger Engine for the 2004 Model Year

Credit: Audi

The big news for the 2004 model year (sales began in 2003) was the introduction of a new, larger power unit, the 3.2-litre VR6. This new engine was rated at 250 PS (247 bhp or 184 kW) and 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque. Like the 225, the VR6 equipped car came standard with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system.

The new engine option was mated to a six-speed Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG), which dramatically improved acceleration through lower shift times. Unfortunately, this new transmission was not made available on other models. A six-speed manual version of the TT 3.2 Quattro was also available in some markets, but not in North America/ The last major upgrade to the TT 3.2 was the addition of stiffer suspension to better compliment the increased performance.

2005 and the End of the TT Mk1

Credit: Audi

2005 would see the end of production of the Mk1 TT in Europe, but it would also see the launch of arguably the best first generation TT, the Quatro Sport. Limited to only 1,165 units, the coupé-only Quattro Sport boasted a 240 PS (237 bhp/177 kW) version of the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine. This was combined with a fairly significant reduction in weight of 75 (165 lbs), which helped the special edition TT go from 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) in as little as 5.9 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph).

The reduction in weight was largely achieved by removing the rear seats, parcel self, spare wheel, the standard fitment air conditioning and a few other things. Light weight Recaro bucket seats were also fitted in the name of weight saving and the battery was moved to the rear of the car to improve weight distribution.

On the outside the special edition TT was distinguishable via its two-tone paint job that was available in several different colours with a black roof. Unique 18-inch 15-spoke aluminium alloy wheels were also fitted as was the body kit from the larger engined 3.2-litre V6 model. The bigger brakes from the V6 model were also meant to be carried over to the Quattro Sport, however, UK bound models (where the majority were sold) only received the 225 spec calipers and discs. The last main changes included improved suspension and black exhaust tailpipes.

Credit: Audi

While production would end in 2005, Audi would introduce one final model year before they would start selling the Mk2 TT. Over 23,000 of these final year TTs were sold and Audi would release a 3.2 TT SE (special edition) for the US market. In total 99 coupé SEs and 99 roadster SEs would be created to mark the 99th anniversary of the first Tourist Trophy race on the Isle of Man in 1907. These special edition cars are distinguishable by their two-tone paint job.

Additionally, in the latter part of 2005, Audi would introduce the 190 TT and the 163 TT. These were created to comply with new emissions regulations and Audi did not want to put the FSI engine into their outgoing model, so they tweaked the 180 and 150 into these two new models.

Audi TT Mk1 Specifications

ModelAudi TT
Years1998 – 2006
PlatformVolkswagen Group A4 platform
LayoutFront-engine, front-wheel drive

Front- engine, Four-wheel drive (Quattro)

Brakes (front)312 x 25 mm ventilated disc (all models)
Brakes (rear)256 x 22 mm vented (225 Quattro)

239 x 9 mm non-vented (180 Quattro)

232 x 9 mm non-vented (180 front-wheel drive)

Tyres205/55R16

205/50R17

225/45 R17

205/45ZR18

Weight (Kerb)180 TT =  1,485 kg (3,274 lbs)

225 TT = 1,540 kg (3,395 lbs)

3.2 V6 DSG TT = 1,595 kg (3,516 lbs)

Wheelbase2,430 mm (95.7 in)
Length4,040 mm (159 in)
Width 1,760 mm (69.3 in)
Height1,340 mm (52.8 in)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)8.6 seconds – TT 150

8.0 seconds – TT 163

7.8 seconds – TT 180

7.7 seconds – TT 180 Quattro

7.5 seconds – TT 190

7.4 seconds – TT 190 Quattro

6.6 seconds – TT 225

6.3 seconds – TT 3.2 Quattro

Top speed220 km/h (137 mph) – TT 150

224 km/h (139 mph) – TT 163

228 km/h (142 mph) – TT 180

226 km/h (140 mph) – TT 180 Quattro

234 km/h (145 mph) – TT 190

232 km/h (144 mph) – TT 190 Quattro

243 km/h (151 mph) – TT 225

250 km/h (155 mph) – TT 3.2 Quattro

 Engine & Transmission Specifications

ModelEnginePower TorqueTransmission Options
TT 150

 

1.8-litre Turbo Inline 4150 PS (148 bhp/110 kW) @ 5,700 rpm210 Nm (154 lb-ft) @ 1,750 rpm5-speed manual
TT 163 1.8-litre Turbo Inline 4163 PS (161 bhp/120 kW) @ 5,700 rpm225 Nm (165 lb-ft) @ 1,950 rpm5-speed manual
TT 180 & TT 180 Quattro1.8-litre Turbo Inline 4180 PS (178 bhp/132 kW) @ 5,500 rpm235 Nm (173 lb-ft) @ 1,950 rpm5-speed manual

6-speed Tiptronic (2004 model onward)

TT 190 & TT 190 Quattro1.8-litre Turbo Inline 4190 PS (187 bhp/140 kW) @ 5,700 rpm240 Nm (177 lb-ft) @ 1,980 rpm5-speed manual

6-speed Tiptronic

TT 190 & TT 190 Quattro1.8-litre Turbo Inline 4190 PS (187 bhp/140 kW) @ 5,700 rpm240 Nm (177 lb-ft) @ 1,980 rpm5-speed manual

6-speed Tiptronic

TT 225 Quattro1.8-litre Turbo Inline 4225 PS (222 bhp/165 kW) @ 5,900 rpm280 Nm (206 lb-ft) @ 2,200 rpm6-speed manual
TT 3.2 Quattro3.2-litre V6250 PS (247 bhp/184 kW) @ 6,300 rpm2320 Nm (236 lb-ft) @ 2,800 rpm6-speed DSG

6-speed manual (only in select markets)

Audi TT Mk1 Buyer’s Guide

Credit: Audi

The first generation Audi TT is generally a reliable car if maintained properly. Unfortunately, many Mk1 TT owners have not looked after their cars properly, which can lead to a whole load of problems down the track. This compounds with the fact that while parts are readily available for these cars, they can be quite expensive to fix.

Arranging an Inspection of an Audi TT Mk1

We have listed some things to keep in mind when setting up an inspection of a first gen Audi TT:

  • If you can, view the Mk1 Audi TT in person or get a reliable friend or third party to inspect the car for you – Buying a car sight unseen can be okay, but it is generally a lot riskier than physically inspecting one first. Some specialist auction/classifieds websites do vet the cars they list prior to purchase, which reduces the risk a bit.
  • Bring a friend or helper with you to an inspection of a first gen Audi TT – This is usually a good idea as a second person may be able to spot something you missed and can give you their thoughts on the vehicle.
  • If possible, Inspect the Audi TT at the seller’s house or place of business – By viewing a Mk1 TT at the seller’s house or place of business it allows you to get a better idea of how the car is stored and where it is driven. If the TT is always parked on the road there is probably going to be a higher chance of bodywork issues such as paint fade, rust, and perished rubber parts than if it has always been garaged. Additionally, if the roads where the TT Mk1 is regularly driven are really bad and full of potholes, the suspension components, wheels and tyres may have taken a bit of a beating.
  • View the Audi TT in the morning rather than later in the day – By doing this it will give the seller less time to clean up any potential issues such as a big oil leak.
  • Tell the seller not to pre-heat or drive the car prior to your arrival if possible – A warm engine can hide a number of things, so be cautious.
  • Turn up unannounced if the car is being sold at a dealer (if possible) – If a dealer knows you are coming to look at their first generation Audi TT, it gives them time to clean up any potential issues and prepare the vehicle.
  • Try not to inspect a used car in the rain –Water can cover up a number of different issues with the bodywork and paint. If it does happen to be raining when you inspect a Mk1 Audi TT, try to go back for a second viewing before making a purchase.
  • Be cautious if the seller has just washed the car– This is largely for the same reason as above, but some sellers will also wash the engine bay and underside of a vehicle to hide an issue (or anywhere a leak/issue may occur).
  • Get the seller to move their first generation Audi TT outside if it is in a garage or showroom– Lighting in places such as garages and showrooms can cover up issues that direct sunlight may have revealed.

Purchasing an Audi TT Mk1 with Issues

A lot of the information in this guide relates to avoiding a first gen Audi TT with problems. However, there is nothing wrong with buying a TT with issues as long as you know what you are getting yourself into and are happy with the expected cost to fix said issues. We do recommend that you try to work out a rough estimate to get the car in a condition you are happy with to avoid any nasty surprises after you hand over the cash.

Where to Find an Audi TT Mk1 for Sale

Your local auction/classifieds’ websites and dealers are going to be the best place to start your hunt for a first generation Audi TT. You are probably going to get the biggest range of TTs from these sorts of places from ones in really good condition to ones that should be sold for parts.

Following this, we do recommend that you check for any Audi or TT owners clubs in your area. Facebook groups is a good place to start but we also recommend that you do a Google search as well. Facebook marketplace is another place to look as well. Here are a few good examples of some Audi TT groups:

TT Forum UKOne of the biggest forums for the Audi TT. Based in the United Kingdom with a lot of knowledgeable members.

Audi WorldWebsite dedicated to all Audi cars with a used car section and active forum.

AudizineThe TT Mk1 section of this website/forum is starting to become a bit less active, but still plenty of members and lots of great advice.

Audi TT Owners Club (Facebook)Group dedicated to all generations of the Audi TT. Has around 10,000 members and allows private sale posts.

How Much Should I Spend on a Mk1 Audi TT?

Credit: Audi

This is a bit of a difficult question to answer as it depends on a number of factors from the condition of the specific TT you are looking at, to its mileage, where it is being sold and more. For example, a Quattro Sport in excellent condition and with low miles is going to be worth a lot more than a ragged TT 150 that has been to the moon and back.

According to data on bringatrailer.com, prices for first gen Audi TTs in America tend to range from around US$5,000 to around $15,000 (some do go quite a bit higher such as this 2004 example). Standard auction sites such as Craigslist tend to have lower priced cars as Bring a Trailer usually lists better example models.

As prices can vary dramatically, we recommend that you jump on your local classifieds and dealer websites to check the prices of ones that are currently for sale. You can then use these prices to work out roughly what you need to spend to get a first generation Audi TT that you are happy with. Remember to add around 5 to 10% of the purchase price to your budget for any unexpected expenses.

TT 225 vs TT 180 or TT 150

While it is unlikely, you may come across somebody who is trying to advertise their TT 180 or TT 150 (or the later 190/163) as the more powerful TT 225 model. It should be fairly easy to tell if the TT you are looking at is a 225 by looking for the following:

  • 6-speed manual gearbox – Only 225 models and above received a 6-speed manual (3.2 Quattro received it in select markets)
  • Intake manifold faces the driver’s side (Left-hand drive cars)
  • Vented rear brakes
  • Car features a second intercooler – intercoolers are located on the front left and right corners behind the grills on the corners of the front bumper
  • Fifth letter of the VIN is “T” (180 models should have a “C”, “X” or “S” depending on the year of production) – This is true for models sold new in the United States from 2001 to the end of production. We are not sure about other markets and years.
  • Dual tailpipe exhaust – not really a good indicator as lots of owners swap out the original exhaust for an aftermarket one

Vin Number

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a series of characters and numbers that manufacturers such as Audi assign to a vehicle at production. It can be used to find out information about a particular car, such as where it was manufactured, the model, year of manufacturer and more. Audi’s VIN was laid out like this for new American cars at the time:

Digit 1: Country of manufacture

  • W = Germany
  • T = Hungary

Digit 2: Manufacturer

  • A = Audi Germany
  • R = Audi

Digit 3: Vehicle Type

  • U = passenger car

Digit 4: Series/Version

  • S = TT Coupe fwd
  • T = TT Roadster fwd
  • U = TT Roadster quattro
  • W = TT Coupe quattro

Digit 5: Engine

  • S = 4-cyl. 1.8T (early TT)
  • T = 4-cyl. 225hp TT
  • X or C = 4-cyl 1.8T 180hp
  • F = 3.2 V6

Digit 6: Restrain System (2000/2001)

Digit 7 and 8: Model

  • 8N = TT

Digit 9: check digit

Digit 10: Year of Manufacture

Digit 11: Factory which was built

Digits 12-17: Sequence number of production

Note: The characters and numbers for other market and other year TTs may differ slightly. For example, a 2004 TT 3.2 that was sold new in the United Kingdom will probably have a VIN that looks something like this – TRUZZZ8N54XXXXXX

The VIN can also be entered into a VIN checkup/decoder website that may contain information such as whether or not the Audi you are inspecting has any money owing on it or if it has been written off at any point. Most of these VIN checkup websites/services are region limited, so keep that in mind.

Where Can I Find the VIN on an Audi TT Mk1?

Here are some of the places that you should be able to find the VIN on a Mk1 Audi TT:

  • On the offside top of the inner wing – located on a silver sticker/plate
  • Stamped into the offside centre of the bulkhead which can be viewed through a plastic covering.
  • Base of the windscreen – may depend on whether not the windscreen has been replaced

Engine

To begin your inspection of an Audi TT Mk1’s engine, move to the front of the vehicle and lift the bonnet/hood. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the engine bay of a Mk1 TT before going to an inspection. We recommend that you check out the video from BWS TT above (this is based on the 1.8-litre engine).

When you first open the bonnet, make sure that it opens smoothly and check the condition of the catch, struts, and hinges. If the hinges and catch have been replaced it could be a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident. Following this, do a general check for the following:

  • Cleanliness – Is the engine bay clean or dirty? While a spotless engine bay can be a sign of a good owner, it could also be a sign of somebody who is trying to cover something up. Additionally, if the engine bay has been pressure washed, water could have made its way into some of the critical components (electrical parts, etc.) if they were not covered properly. Problems resulting from this water ingress may take a while to become apparent.
  • Obvious issues – This could be anything from an oil leak to broken or missing components (for example a damaged coolant expansion tank)
  • Modifications – The first gen Audi TT has been quite a popular car with tuners, especially in places like the UK. There is nothing wrong with a modified TT Mk1, however, the tuning needs to have been done by somebody who knows what they are doing. Additionally, we would be cautious of TTs running excessive amounts of power as that will put more stress on other components.

Check the Fluids

This is something that is always a good idea when checking any used car as the fluids (engine oil, coolant, etc.) are essentially the lifeblood of the vehicle. Check to make sure that the engine oil level is correct as if it is too low or too high it can lead to heightened wear, premature component failure and possibly even total engine failure.

Another thing to check is the condition of the engine oil. Have a look at the dipstick and check the oil itself for any metallic particles or grit. If it is quite noticeable and/or you see bits of grit, there could be a major problem. If you are looking for a really good example to keep as a bit of a classic, it may be best to get the oil analysed before purchase.

Make sure you check for any foam or froth in the oil or on the dipstick as well. This problem could indicate a range of different issues from an engine that has been overfilled with oil to condensation issues, and more seriously, a blown head gasket (especially if it is very thick and white).

Talk to the seller about the their TT Mk1’s service history and how often the car has been serviced. If the seller can’t or won’t let you see their Audi’s service history it should be a major red flag.

Audi recommends replacing the engine oil and filter every 16,000 km (10,000 miles). Some owners like to do it a bit earlier, which we see as only a good thing. If the car is not driven much it is usually recommended that the oil and oil filter be replaced every 12 months.

Oil Leaks from an Audi TT 8N

Here are some spots to watch out for when it comes to oil leaks from a first generation Audi TT:

  • Valve/timing/rocker cover gasket – Always a thing to check on pretty much any used internal combustion engined car. Both the 1.8-litre turbo and 3.2-litre V6 engines can suffer from a leaking valve cover gasket, but the problem seems to be slightly more of an issue on the smaller engine (especially at the rear). If the leak is bad enough it can trickle down the engine and onto the exhaust manifold, leading to a smell of burning oil. A leaking valve cover gasket isn’t a major problem as it is a relatively simple fix and the part is cheap.
  • Turbo pipes – The oil pipes/c for the turbo at the back of the engine can leak, however, it is fairly unlikely.
  • Rear main seal – Another relatively uncommon leak on both 1.8 and 3.2-litre TTs, but it can happen. If the rear main seal is leaking it can lead to clutch slippage and/or a leak around the rear of the engine. Replacing a rear seal is expensive due to the labour involved, so if you do notice a leak make sure it is not from this area.
  • Oil pressure sensor – The oil pressure sensor can leak on 1.8-litre models. Usually if this occurs the oil will collect in the undertray. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a pain to replace the oil pressure sensor due to its location.
  • Oil filter – This is something that can occur on a lot of cars, especially if the wrong or a poor quality filter has been used.
  • Dipstick tube – The tube for the dipstick can go brittle with age and snap off, leading at an all mighty oil leak. Not a massive problem to fix as long as the TT was not run when it was significantly down on oil.

When it comes to buying a Mk1 TT that is leaking oil it is best to avoid any car where you can’t find the source of the leak. Buying a TT with a small leak around the timing cover is usually fine, but it may be worth asking the seller to get it fixed as part of the purchasing agreement. If the leak is still there after the timing cover gasket has been replaced, it could be a much more serious issue.

Remember to check for leaks both before and after a test drive. Inspect the ground for any puddles of oil before you go for a drive and when you come back park in a different spot and recheck for any leaks.

Does the First Gen Audi TT (8N) Have a Timing Belt or Chain?

The 1.8-litre turbocharged engine uses a timing belt (cambelt), while the 3.2-litre V6 uses a timing chain. According to some older Audi service manuals, the service interval is every 160,000 km (100,000 miles) for the timing belt on 1.8 TTs. However, it is now generally recommended that you replace it much earlier at around 100,000 km (62,000 miles). It is very important to check that the belt and other timing components have been replaced at this earlier service interval as they are a known weak point of the engine (especially the hydraulic tensioner).

The 1.8-litre power unit in the Mk1 Audi TT is an interference engine, so if the belt or tensioner fails it can lead to the cylinder head valves hitting the top side of the pistons. This will result in catastrophic engine damage and an incredibly expensive repair or replacement bill (if the TT you are looking at has had its engine replaced at some point it may have been due to a failed timing system).

If the belt and other timing components are well past their due date for a replacement, it is a sign that the Mk1 TT hasn’t been looked after properly. Additionally, if the seller claims that the timing belt has been replaced but can’t produce any documentation to say that it has, we would err on the side of caution and assume it hasn’t. If the timing components need to be replaced or need to be replaced soon, make sure you get a discount on the TT if you still want to purchase the car.

What Else Should be Replaced with the Timing Belt on a Mk1 TT 1.8?

  • Tensioners and idler bearings – these are just as likely to fail and if they do they can lead to belt failure/misalignment.
  • Water pump – timing belt dis-assembly is required for water pump replacement, so it is a good idea to get it done. Additionally, the pump has a similar lifespan to the timing belt, tensioner and idler bearings.
  • Thermostat
  • Timing cover gasket and cam chain tensioner gaskets – Both of these are known to start leaking around the 120,000 km (75,000 mile) mark and above. The timing cover gasket is the most likely to leak, but it is a good idea to replace the chain tensioner gaskets as well.

What About the TT 3.2 Quattro’s Timing Chain?

The timing chain on 3.2-litre models has no service interval, however, this does not necessarily mean that it won’t need to be replaced at some point during the car’s life. In rare circumstances the chain and/or chain tensioner can fail, with some owners of VR6 equipped cars (not necessarily the TT) finding that problems start to occur around the 160,000 km (100,000 mile) mark and above.

If the chain or tensioner is starting to fail, listen out for any strange rattling from the right side of the engine. A loose timing chain may also lead to misfires as well, so watch out for that issue as well (could be the sign of a number of problems).

The most likely cause of timing issues on a Audi TT 3.2 is not actually the timing chain, but is in-fact the plastic tensioner that can wear. Replacing the tensioner by itself is usually not too expensive, but many owners recommend getting the whole timing set (chain, tensioner, guides and all) replaced at the same time. Depending on where you live in the world, getting this work done could cost a significant percentage of the asking price of the car, so make sure there are no issues. Check out the video below for more on replacing the timing chain on an Audi TT 3.2 Quattro.

Squealing Serpentine Belt (3.2 V6)

A squealing sound from the serpentine belt area (left side of the engine) could be a sign that the belt and or tensioner needs replacing. Failures can occur at any time, but most of the time tend to happen at the 96,000 – 130,000 km (60,000 – 80,000 mile) mark. The noise is usually more of an issue when the car is first started and is cold (so make sure the seller hasn’t pre-warmed the TT 3.2 prior to your arrival). If the belt/tensioner is making a squealing noise, they should both be replaced as soon as possible.

Failing Alternator

If you notice that the battery warning light is illuminated red and that some of the other warning lights are on or are starting to come on (ABS, etc,), it could be a sign that the alternator is failing/has failed. Luckily, the failure is usually caused by a bad voltage regulator, which is much cheaper and simpler to fix. Other signs of this problem include erratic speedo and rev counter behaviour, and electronics that switch on and off intermittently (radio for example).

If the problem is not being caused by the alternator, it could be something like a bad battery or an issue with the fuse box that is located on top of the battery. The wiring in the fuse box can fry and eventually fail, which can cause the symptoms above along with a nasty burning smell.

The instrument cluster issue can also be caused by another problem that we will talk more about later in this guide.

Cooling System on a Mk1 Audi TT

The cooling system is integral to any internal combustion engined car and if any one of the parts fail it can lead to catastrophic damage. Here are some things to check:

Water Pump

As we mentioned before, the water pump should have been replaced with the timing belt and other timing components, so make sure this has been done. If there are problems with the water pump you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Chuffing noises
  • Overheating
  • Coolant leaks
  • Whining noises (usually high-pitched)

If the water pump does need to be replaced, it may be a good idea to get the timing belt replaced as well (depending on how long ago it was last replaced). Make sure you get a nice discount if the pump does need to be replaced.

Another thing to check is what water pump is actually fitted. The original plastic ones are known to be quite weak, so lots of owners replaced them with more durable metal ones.

Thermostat Failure

Thermostat failure is a very common issue on first generation Audi TTs. Its not a massive problem to replace it, but it can be quite a finicky task to complete. If the thermostat has failed, you will probably notice that the temperature gauge is a bit erratic and often sits on the cooler side. If it sits on the hotter side it is more likely to be an issue with the water pump or another cooling system component (but not always).

Look for Coolant Leaks

Have a good look for any coolant leaks and watch out for a sweet smell that could indicate a leak somewhere in the system. The coolant expansion tank is located on the left side of the engine. The lid and part of the tank is visible, but the rest including the hoses is hidden under a plastic cover. To get a proper look at the coolant lines and rest of the tank this cover will need to be removed.

If you can get a feel of the coolant hoses make sure they are still soft. They can become hard and brittle with age, which will make them more likely to leak. Additionally, look for any cracks in the expansion tank and watch out for any crusted coolant which may indicate a past or present leak.

We recommend that you check for coolant leaks both before and after a test drive, along with the coolant level (check for any big changes). Following a test drive of an Audi TT Mk1, turn the car off and wait for around 10 to 15 minutes. Once you have done this, recheck for any fresh puddle of coolant underneath the vehicle.

One last thing is to make sure that the coolant has been replaced at some point. According to the service manual there is not a specified mileage where it needs to be replaced. Instead, it needs to be inspected using a refractometer to check whether or not it needs to be replaced. However, some owners do like to replace it at a specified mileage (80,000 km/50,000 miles for example).

Look for Air Bubbles in the Coolant

It is a good idea to check for bubbles in the coolant. There may be a few when the engine is getting up to temperature, but there should be none once the car is warm. Bubbles indicate that air has entered the system at some point, which can lead to overheating.

Air can get into the cooling system through several different ways from something like a bad radiator cap to air pockets in the radiator and possibly even a blown head gasket.

Signs of Cooling System Failure

Here is a bit of a checklist to go through when making sure the cooling system is working properly. If you notice any or multiple of these it could be a sign of big trouble (and some expensive repair bills):

  • Temperature gauge on that is on the high side
  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant expansion tank
  • White and milky oil
  • Spark plugs that are fouled (if you or probably a mechanic can get a look at them)
  • Low cooling system integrity
  • Smell of coolant from the oil
  • Sweet smelling exhaust
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it) – usually a sign of head gasket failure
  • Steam from the front of the Audi TT Mk1

If you notice the problems above it could be a sign that the head gasket has failed (especially if you notice multiple of them). Head gasket failure doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue on both the 1.8T and the 3.2 V6 engines fitted to the first generation Audi TT, but it can happen.

Inspecting the Exhaust on an Audi TT Mk1

It is a good idea to check as much of the exhaust system as possible on any Audi TT 8N you go and inspect. Exhaust problems can be expensive to fix and they can leave you down on power, putting a damper on the excitement of driving one of these cars.

Rust on the exhaust shouldn’t really be an issue with the stock system and good quality stainless steel ones shouldn’t have any issues. There was a problem with a particular batch of Milltek exhaust systems that suffered from rust, so if you are looking at a TT with this brand of exhaust make sure that you double check it is okay. If you notice rust on the outside, it is probably much more significant on the inside as exhausts tend to rust from the inside out.

Check for any damage as well (cracks, dents, etc.) and watch out for any dodgy repairs that have been done on the cheap. Make sure the exhaust is securely fastened and does not move significantly when the car is running.

If you hear any low rumbling, scraping or rattling noises it could be a sign of exhaust issues. Additionally, watch out for any ticking noises as these sorts of sounds are a sign of a leak.

Signs of Catalytic Converter Failure:

  • Smell of sulphur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
  • Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance
  • Excessive heat under the TT Mk1
  • Dark smoke from the car’s exhaust
  • CEL (Check Engine Light)

Sourcing and fitting a new catalytic converter for both 1.8 and 3.2-litre cars can be eye wateringly expensive if you source the parts from Audi, so make sure Cat failure has not occurred. Some owners fit a Decat exhaust, however, this can lead to the car failing emissions tests in some locations around the world.

Aftermarket Exhausts

We have already touched on aftermarket exhausts briefly, but here is a bit more advice on them. If you are looking at a first gen Audi TT with an aftermarket exhaust, try to find out the brand/manufacturer and check any reviews. A good quality stainless or even titanium exhaust is only a benefit in our eyes, unless you are going for absolute originality. Alternatively, poor quality mild steel ones can be a nightmare as they rust and leak, leading to all sorts of issues and expense.

Rough Running and Failing Coil Packs

Quite a few TT Mk1 owners (both engine sizes) have experienced issues with failing coil packs, so keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Rough idle and misfires
  • An unexplainably louder-than-usual engine
  • Lack of power
  • A significant drop in RPMs while accelerating for no apparent reason
  • Stuttering above around 3,000 rpm
  • A blinking or intermittently activating check engine light
  • An active fuel/gas warning light when the vehicle has plenty of fuel/gasoline
  • Smoke from the exhaust emitting intermittently, instead of in a steady stream

Replacing the coil packs yourself isn’t a major issue and isn’t too expensive, however, Audi likes to charge handsomely for the job. Some owners even keep a spare set of coil packs in their car for an emergency. Check out the video for more on diagnosing coil pack issues on the first generation Audi TT.

Engine Mount Failure

The rear ‘dog-bone’ engine mount is known to come loose or fail, so watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Excessive vibrations
  • Engine movement – rev the car and see if the engine moves excessively
  • Clunking, banging, or other impact sounds that are a result of engine movement

The other two mounts can fail as well, but they are much less likely to do so than the rear one (although given time and mileage they will eventually fail). If one or more of the mounts do fail (particularly the rear one) it can even lead to a really nasty situation where the engine itself is damaged. For example, this user on ttforum.co.uk found that the bolts on one of the mounts came free. The engine mount then fractured, which in turn caused the engine to tilt. Following this the tensioner wheel then cut into another engine mount, resulting in a rather large repair bill.

If you do wind up buying an Audi TT Mk1, it is a good idea to periodically check the engine mounts and engine mount bolts to make sure they are in good condition and a securely fastened. Some owners like to replace the OEM engine mounts with aftermarket ones from the likes of 034 Motorsport. The 034 Motorsport rear mount does seem to be quite a bit more durable than the original one, so there is a lower chance of problems occurring.

Smoke from an Audi TT 8N

Lots of smoke or steam is never a good sign. A small amount of vapour on engine start is fine, especially on a cold day, and is usually caused by condensation in the exhaust system.

It is a good idea to get the seller to start the TT Mk1 for you for the first time, while you position yourself at the rear. This way you can easily see what comes out the back on initial engine start. Here are what the different colours of smoke indicate:

White smoke – As we mentioned above, a few white puffs is usually caused by condensation in the exhaust. Lots of thick white/grey smoke from an Audi TT Mk1’s tailpipes indicates that water/coolant has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown/leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant. If the smoke is very thick and doesn’t dissipate quickly it could be sign that the block or cylinder head is cracked/broken.

Blue/Grey smoke – This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things including warn pistons rings, valve seals, and more. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are driving the TT Mk1. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back (good chance to see how they drive as well).

Black smoke – This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing, problems with the injectors, and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.

What Should the Idle Speed Be on an Audi TT 8N?

TTs fitted with the 1.8T engine should idle around the 750 – 850 rpm mark, while V6 equipped cars tend to sit a bit lower at around 650 rpm (+ or – 50 rpm). It is perfectly normal for the idle speed to be higher when the engine is first started, however, it should soon drop to the range we just listed.

If you do notice any particular issues with the car’s idle (hunting, low engine speed, etc.), you are probably not going to be able to work out the exact cause of the issue during a short inspection. If the idle issue was a simple fix, the owner of the Audi TT probably would have got it sorted before putting the car on the market. Alternatively, they may have simply not have noticed or believed that the low idle was correct for their Audi TT Mk1.

MAF & Intake Issues

Expanding on the above, one of the most common reasons for bad idle on these cars is a failing/failed mass airflow sensor (MAF). If the MAF has failed you may notice the other symptoms we have listed below:

  • Illuminated Check Engine Light (CEL)
  • Illuminated Traction Control Light – this is a big one that indicates the MAF has failed
  • Car enters limp mode and bogs down
  • Lack of boost or and/or erratic boost behaviour

These symptoms could also be a sign of a boost leak in one of the hoses for the turbocharger. Additionally, any other leak in the intake components can cause these sorts of issues, so be mindful of that.

Failing Turbo on a 1.8-litre Audi TT Mk1

Both the K04 and K03 turbochargers fitted to the 1.8-litre version of the first generation Audi TT are known to be fairly robust and reliable. However, nothing lasts forever and many of these cars are starting to get up there in terms of mileage, so watch out for the following:

  • Strange rumbling, whistling or high-pitched metallic sounds – when the turbocharger is at full boost (drive at a slow speed and then accelerate moderately up to high rpms).
  • Distinctive blue or grey/whitish smoke – This happens when turbocharger’s housing cracks or if the internal seals become worn. The smoke will become more apparent when the turbocharger is in use, so get somebody to follow you and check while you are test driving a TT Mk1. If there is a problem the smoke should appear around the 3,000 rpm mark or above. White/greyish smoke could be a sign that the turbo has failed catastrophically. Either way, it is probably best to avoid any first gen Audi TT with serious smoking issues.
  • Burning lots of oil – It will be hard to get an accurate picture of this during a test drive, but try to glean some information from the owner. Some oil consumption is to be expected, especially as these cars are getting on a bit, but excessive amounts indicates a problem.
  • Slow acceleration – Does the TT Mk1 you are test driving feel particularly slow? If it does it could be a sign that the turbochargers are failing or have failed. It is important to note that modified and unmodified cars and different first gen TT models (225, 180, etc.) can feel vastly different in terms of speed, but it should be pretty obvious if there is something wrong.
  • If the boost pressure comes on late – Boost should come on from around 3,000 rpm or a bit before if the engine is under a hard load. If boost starts coming on much later than late or if it doesn’t come on at all there is a problem.
  • Check Engine Warning Light – Could be caused by turbo issues or something else.

Buying an Audi TT Mk1 with a Rebuilt or Replaced Engine

While some people get a bit funny about buying a used car with a rebuilt or replaced engine, we don’t think there is a problem as long as the work was done well and was carried out by competent Audi specialist or mechanic. It can be a good idea to check the reviews of the place that carried out the work to make sure they have good feedback.

If the rebuild or replacement was a home job, we would probably be a bit more cautious. While there are plenty of very competent home mechanics out there, there are also a load with more ambition than skill. You don’t want to purchase somebody else’s unfinished project (unless you want to) or an Audi TT Mk1 that has been poorly rebuilt for a quick sale.

It is usually best to avoid fresh rebuilds or engine swaps with only a few hundred miles on them. For example, a first gen TT with 10,000 km (6,200 miles) on a rebuild or replacement is going to be a much safer bet than one with only a tenth of the mileage.

Another thing to keep in mind is the history of the new power unit if the car had an engine swap. While it probably won’t be possible to find out the history of the new engine, we do recommend that you try to do so.

Should I Get a Compression Test Done Before Purchase?

While not completely necessary when purchasing a used Audi TT Mk1, a compression test or leak down test is often a good thing to get done to help determine the health of the car’s engine.  If you are taking the Audi TT to a mechanic or specialist prior to purchase, we recommend that you get them to do a test.

Some owners will get a compression test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. The most important thing with the results is to make sure that they are all roughly the same (within around 10% of each other).

Engine Modifications

More than a few first gen Audi TTs have been modified. There isn’t really anything wrong with this, but be mindful that increased amounts of power can lead to increased amounts of wear and as a result more reliability issues. For this reason we recommend that you stick to TTs that have only received a modest boost in power (or stick with a standard car).

When it comes to what modifications can be done, there are simply too many to go over in this already long article. We suggest that you find out exactly what mods/tuning has been done to the TT you are looking at. You can then check online to see if these mods are okay or contact somebody who specialises in tuning TTs.

Tuning that has been done by a reputable Audi/Volkswagen specialist or tuner is usually fine. If the owner has done the modifications themselves, try to get a gauge on how competent they are.

Upgrading a TT 180’s turbo to the larger K04 turbo from the 225 is possible, however, there is a lot of work involved for rather lacklustre power gains. If you do want to do this you will not only need to source a K04 turbocharger, but also a new manifold, injectors, MAF housing and software.

Transmission

Credit: Audi

Audi fitted a number of different transmission options to the Audi TT Mk1. As we have already mentioned in the specifications section, the 180/190 TT and below were given 5-speed manual transmission. From the 2004 model year (introduced in 2003) a six-speed Tiptronic gearbox was also available, however, there is a very limited number of these cars available.

225 Models were equipped with a 6-speed manual, while the 3.2-litre V6 car was given a DSG gearbox. In some select markets a 6-speed manual version of the TT 3.2 Quattro was available, however, not many of these cars were sold. In the section below we are going to be looking at all of the transmission options, starting with the manual gearboxes.

Manual Transmissions

Both the five and six-speed manual transmissions are fairly robust and reliable, however, with repeated spirited driving they can suffer. The selector fork rivets for the transmission can break on both gearboxes, so if the car won’t go into first or second it could be this problem. If it is, a new transmission may be needed, so it is probably best to walk away if you suspect it is this problem.

When shifting, make sure that the gearbox is not overly loose or sloppy. If any one of the gears pops out during acceleration it could be a sign of some of a range of different issues. The fix may be simple or it may be very expensive, either way be cautious.

Don’t be too concerned if the transmission feels stiff when the TT Mk1 is first started. As the car warms it should start to loosen up but still remain relatively firm.

Synchro wear is another thing to watch out for, especially if the car has been thrashed, so check for any graunching or grinding on both upshift and downshifts. While the synchros themselves aren’t too expensive, the labour to rebuild the transmission is. The synchros on both transmissions are known to be a bit slow, especially on 225 models, so they can grind a bit naturally (pay particular attention to second and third). Some owners have had luck fixing this by swapping out the original transmission fluid with Redline 75W-90.

Another thing you can do is to try and find yourself a bit of an incline and see how the transmission and clutch performs with a hill start.

Clutch

Clutches should last anywhere from around 100,000 to 160,000 km (62,000 to 100,000 miles), however, this does largely depend on how the TT Mk1 has been treated and driven. If the first gen Audi TT you are looking at has been repeatedly thrashed with lots of hard starts, the clutch will probably not last as long as it could otherwise.

Here are some tests to conduct to make sure that the clutch is working as intended:

Clutch Engagement – The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the TT Mk1 you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is early or too late indicates a problem.

Clutch Slippage – The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.

Clutch Drag – Get the Audi TT Mk1 on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the car hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.

Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated.

DSG

The six-speed DSG transmission fitted to the 3.2-litre V6 is a fantastic piece of kit. However, if it does go wrong it can be eye wateringly expensive to fix, so keep that in mind if you are thinking about buying a 3.2 TT.

One of the most important things to check is that the transmission has been serviced correctly. The DSG’s fluid and filter should have been replaced religiously at 65,000 km (40,000 miles) or every 4 years. Even earlier is only good in our eyes, but if you notice that servicing for the DSG transmission has extended well beyond the recommended interval, we would be very cautious of the car.

The main sign of problems with a DSG transmission are usually lurching, jumping or any kind of hesitations when accelerating. Some owners have found that their Mk1 TTs lose drive when the DSG system goes wrong or starts to fail as well. These sorts of problems are usually a sign that the Mechatronic ECU has failed, which will result in a very expensive repair bill.

Below we have put together a bit of a guide that may be able to help you determine whether or not there are any issues with the DSG transmission on the TT you are looking at:

  1. Put the car in reverse and turn the steering wheel lock to lock – listen out for any clunks, thuds, etc.
  2. Take your foot off the brake and see if the car starts rolling back on its own (like with an automatic transmission – if it jerks, shudders or lurches there is an issue
  3. With the TT Mk1 rolling back, tap the brakes and change from reverse to drive – once again check for any clunks, shudders, etc.
  4. Do the same as the first step but with the car in drive
  5. When the car is warm, roll to a stop and see how the transmission acts – if it bucks or jerks trying to stop there is an issue
  6. Check how the transmission shifts under high rpms – watch out for any strange noises or whines, especially from the passenger side

Tiptronic

There isn’t too much information about problems with the Tiptronic transmission in the later Audi TT Mk1s, so just do a general check over. Make sure the transmission shifts smooth under both light and hard accelerating conditions. Watch out for any jolting or lurching and keep an ear out for clunking or whining sounds. If you do notice any of these problems it could be a sign of some serious expense.

The Tiptronic transmission has three modes: Drive, Sport and Manual. There should be a slight improvement in shift speed and quality in the Sport setting. Make sure that all of the modes work as intended and that you can up and down shift in manual model. The Sport setting does have a tendency to make the car short-shift, but this was a problem from new.

Haldex System

On Quattro cars it is important to make sure that the Haldex system has been serviced properly. The oil should have been replaced every 32,000 km (20,000 miles) and the filter should have been replaced every second oil change (64,000 km/40,000 miles). Quite a lot of owners like to do the filter with every change of oil, which we see as only a good thing. You can find a good guide on how to do a service of the Haldex system in this thread here.

The main things that can fail here are the pre charge pump and the Haldex controller. You are not really going to be able to tell if there is a problem unless you take the car to Audi or a specialist. However, if you do notice lots of wheelspin it indicates that there could be a problem.

Some owners like to upgrade the Haldex controller to a performance one. This sends more power to the rear wheels proactively upon hard acceleration. The standard unit sends around 90 percent of the power to the front wheels until they start to lose grip, at which point power is transferred to the rear.

Check for Leaks from the Transmission

Have a look for any leaks from the transmission or Haldex system (Haldex uses a yellow coloured fluid). Most of the time a leak will be caused a failing gasket, but it could also be a sign of a more serious problem as well.

Steering and Suspension

Credit: Audi

There are a few things to watch out for here. If you are looking at an earlier example (built until early 2000), make sure that the safety recall was done. The TT had a problem with instability and loss of directional control at higher speeds, so Audi had to make a number of changes. They stiffened up the rear springs, updated the ESP, and even retrofitted a small boot spoiler. We are pretty sure all first gen TTs produced in this period should have had this work done to them, but it is always worth double checking.

Another problem to watch out for on all years of the Audi TT are squeaking sway bar bushings. This seems to be a very common issue that many owners complain about. To test for this issue drive over a few bumps to see if the car produces a squeaking sound.

The anti-roll bar bushes and drop links have a tendency to fail, but luckily these aren’t too expensive or difficult to fix. Installing a thicker anti-roll bar is a popular modification, so watch out for that as well.

Overall, the stock handling and feel of a first gen Audi TT is pretty good, but quite a lot of owners complain about a lack of feedback. Additionally, another complaint is that the TT loves to understeer at the first sign of any enthusiastic driving. If the TT Mk1 you are driving feels floaty or nervous it could be suffering from some sort of suspension issues. Below we have put together a bit of checklist when checking out the suspension and steering components:

  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration
  • Tipping/looseness when cornering – probably the strut rod bushings
  • High speed instability
  • Excessive vibration coming through the steering wheel – could be the strut rod bushings, bad alignment or maybe even bad ball joints
  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
  • Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
  • Sagging or uneven suspension
  • Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive
  • Clicking sounds (especially at full lock) – CV joint, bad wheel bearing, etc.

Remember to visually inspect as much of the suspension and steering componentry as possible. Use a torch/flashlight and a mirror to get a good view of hard to see areas. Watch out for any rust or damage as well (could indicate that the Audi TT has been in an accident).

Suspension Modifications

There are a range of different modifications that owners make to the suspension of these cars, with a very common one being thicker anti-roll bars from the likes of the R32 (as we mentioned above). This modification greatly changes the feel of the car and is often used in conjunction with an upgraded Haldex controller.

There are a range of other suspension modifications that can be done as well. If the TT Mk1 you are looking at is fitted with aftermarket suspension, make sure it is from a reputable brand. Additionally, make sure you are happy with the condition of the ride as suspension that is set up for performance can be quite uncomfortable for regular road driving. Aftermarket coilovers make quite a big difference, but they can make the car ride lower.

Remember to Check the Wheel Alignment

Find yourself a nice flat and straight section of tarmac to check the wheel alignment. Make sure the Audi TT Mk1 runs straight with minimal wheel corrections.  If the wheel alignment is bad it can lead to excessive/uneven tyre wear (costing you more money) and can even lead to a less safe and enjoyable driving experience. Additionally, really bad wheel alignment could be a sign of a careless owner as they should have got it sorted before putting their Audi on the market.

Most of the time a simple realignment is all that is needed, however, in some cases bad wheel alignment can be a sign of serious suspension/steering issues or even accident damage.

Wheels and Tyres

Take a good look at the wheels and tyres as they can give you a bit of an idea on how the first gen Audi TT has been driven. Given the age of these cars, expect to find the odd bit of curb damage, however, if there looks to be lots of damage it indicates that the owner or a previous owner has been a bit careless when driving the car.

Fitting aftermarket wheels is a popular modification. While there is nothing wrong with this, it can be a good idea to ask the owner if they have the originals. Owning the stock wheels will only add value to the TT Mk1 if you decide to sell it in the future. If they don’t have the wheels, you can try to use that to get a bit of a discount.

When it comes to the tyres check for the following:

  • Amount of tread – If there is minimal tread left try to get a discount as you will need to get the tyres replaced in the near future.
  • Uneven wear – Wear should be even between the right and left tyres on the Audi TT Mk1. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself.
  • Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
  • Same tyre – in terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance and may even be dangerous.

Brakes

Credit: Audi

The standard brakes are more than adequate for road use, but some owners find that they don’t give the best feel. If the brakes do feel weak or spongy there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

During a test drive, make sure you try the brakes under both light and hard braking conditions. Do some repeated high to low-speed runs, and listen out for any rumbling, squealing or clunking sounds when the brakes are in use.

A shuddering or shaking feeling through the steering wheel when you step on the brake pedal is probably a sign that one or more of the discs are warped. This usually becomes first apparent under high-speed braking.

Make sure the handbrake works as intended and see how it performs on a steep incline (if you can find one). Additionally, make sure the ABS light illuminates with ignition and that it goes off once the engine is running.

Seized calipers can occur, so watch out for the following:

  • Audi TT Mk1 pulls to one side (may even happen when the brakes are not in use)
  • Car feels low on power as if the parking/handbrake is on (could also be a sign of diff issues)
  • Brakes get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell and in some cases smoke
  • You find that the first gen Audi TT doesn’t want to move at all
  • Loud thud-like noise when pulling away for the first time

Remember to do a general visually inspection of the brakes, looking out for disc damage, pad life, corrosion, modifications, etc. A small amount of surface corrosion on the discs is perfectly normal and should go away with a bit of use.  If the pads and/or discs need to be replaced make sure you get a discount (especially if the discs need replacing). Don’t forget to check that the brake fluid has been replaced every two years.

Brake Modifications

There are quite a few brake upgrades that can be done to these cars from installing 3.2 TT brakes on 1.8T models, to aftermarket options and even installing the front brake from a Porsche Boxster. If the TT Mk1 you are looking at is running aftermarket brakes make sure they are from a well-reviewed company.

Bodywork and Exterior

Credit: Audi

Body issues can often make or break a used car, so make sure you are happy with the overall condition of the exterior. If something does need to be repaired, it could wind up costing you a significant percentage of the purchase price of the car.

Crash Damage

Accident damage should be one of your greatest concerns when looking for a used first generation Audi TT. These cars promote enthusiastic driving, so many of them have been involved in accidents both large and small. Here are some things to watch out for which may indicate the car you are looking at has been in an accident at some point:

  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Inspect around the bonnet/hood and make sure everything lines up correctly. Check the door, bumper and boot/trunk panel gaps. If the panel gaps on one side look quite different to the other side, it could be a sign that the Mk1 TT has been in an accident. Audi’s quality control was pretty good when the first gen TT was manufactured, so any issues here are more likely to be down to issues after the car was built.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Audi you are looking at may have been in an accident or there may be some other sort of other issue with the door hinges.
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust. Again, Audi’s paintwork was very good at the time, so a problem here is almost certainly due to a respray.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the TT 8N you are inspecting at has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).
  • Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights or surrounds of the taillights – This can be very difficult to fix on any car and is a good place to check for any accident damage.
  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – While inspecting the underside, check to make sure everything is straight. Look at the suspension and steering components as well. If the parts are different on one side compared to the other or much newer, it may be a sign that the Audi TT you are looking at has been in an accident.
  • Rust in strange locations – Can be a sign of accident damage
  • Paint runs or overspray – Very unlikely to be a factory issue, so likely a result of a respray job.
  • Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).

A lot of sellers will try and cover up the fact that their car has been in an accident or try to downplay the severity of the incident. In some cases, you may come across somebody who claims their car hasn’t been in an accident when it clearly has.

While crash damage and repairs are a very serious issue, we wouldn’t necessary walk away from an Audi TT Mk1 that has been in an accident. Light to moderate damage that was repaired by a skilled panel beater/body shop is usually fine and you may be able to use it to get a discount.

If the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owned the vehicle.

Rust

While Audi seemed to have a handle on rust issues by the time the TT Mk1 came around and much of the car’s body is made from aluminium, the problem has become more of an issue as these cars have aged. Rust is almost always worse than it first appears on the surface, so if you see any be cautious. Here are some of the main places that rust can occur on a first gen Audi TT, however, remember that the problem can happen anywhere:

  • Sills – make sure you look under them and check with the doors open. This is becoming quite a big problem area on many Mk1 TTs as the sills collect quite a bit of mud and take a battering from stone chips, etc.
  • Wheel wells – if you remove the plastic wheel arch liners you will often find a substantial amount of dirt and dampness that accelerates rust formation. If possible, try to get a look behind these wheel arch liners or get a mechanic to do so for you. Periodically cleaning and rust proofing this area will go a long way to prevent rust formation.
  • Roof rails on coupe models – this was a factory issue and is not a major problem to fix
  • Boot/trunk lid where the numberplate lights are – this often goes unnoticed for a long time, so rust can progress significantly.
  • Where the hood meets the rear panel (just behind the doors) on convertible models

Factors That Can Make Rust More Likely on an Audi TT Mk1

  • Vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads (UK, Parts of North America, etc.)
  • Car has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters
  • Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
  • Always kept outside (never garaged)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
  • Old or no underseal – check to see if underseal was put on if the car was an import and that is has been reapplied on a regular basis

Looking for Rust Repairs on a First Gen TT

It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).

Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork and keep in mind that some parts are aluminium) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.

Hood on Convertible Cars

If you are looking at a convertible first generation Audi TT, make sure that the hood operates correctly. A failed hydraulic pump for the roof can be very expensive and difficult to replace. If you are lucky the issues will simply be caused by an incorrect fluid level, but we personally wouldn’t risk it if you find that the hood doesn’t work as intended (unless you can get a hefty discount).

Remember to watch out for any leaks. These are usually caused by blocked drain tubes or a drip channel that has become detached from the rear of the body.

Another leak to watch out for is one in the top corner of the A Pillar on the driver’s and passengers side windows. With time the sealing material degrades and lets water through. Not a major issue to fix, but something to keep in mind.

Don’t forget to check the hood material itself. While it can be given a new lease of life with a clean and waterproofing products, if it is in really bad condition it will need to be replaced. Check around the rear window as well as the bonding often fails with age, causing the rear window to pop out. If the hood does need to be replaced it can be very expensive to do so as the labour is usually around 10 to 15 hours. We have embedded a video below of the removal and refitment of the hood on a Mk1 TT.

Cloudy Headlights

The plastic headlights/headlamps can cloud over and fade with age, so check their condition. Restoration is possible, but it really depends on the overall condition of the lights.

Interior

Credit: Audi

Despite Audi using relatively hardwearing materials for the interior, these cars are getting on a bit so expect to find some wear in the cabin. The bolsters of the seats take a particular beating, especially on the driver’s side. Most TTs came with leather seats which can crack overtime. While shallow cracks can be somewhat fixed, deeper cracks in the leather will require a complete replacement of the material. Getting replacement leather material for some of the colours is becoming more difficult, so keep that in mind.

Make sure that they are nice and firm and that all of the adjustments work as intended. If the seats move during acceleration or braking it is incredibly dangerous and will be an MOT/WOF failure.

Have a look at the speaker grills and bottom of the door cards for damage due to people climbing in and out. See if the complete toolkit and spare tyre parts are present as many TT Mk1s are now missing them.

The glovebox latch is another thing to check as it is known to fail. It is usually the pins that hold the latch in place that fail. Replacement parts can be found, but this is a very common issue, so expect to find it on quite a few TT Mk1s you go to look at.

Make sure you check the cabin and boot/trunk for any leaks or dampness, especially on convertible TT Mk1s. Water can play havoc with the electronics if it gets in the wrong place and can lead to a nasty smell as well. Feel around the carpets and turn over the floor mats. If you see water residue on the bottom of the floor mats it could be a sign of a past of present leak.

Make sure you have a look at the headlining above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the Audi TT Mk1 you are inspecting has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.

Electronics, Gauges, Locks and Other Things

Credit: Audi

The big one to watch out for here is the instrument cluster/pod. These are notorious for going wrong and a class action lawsuit was even filed against Audi for defective instrument clusters for TT’s produced prior to 2005. Here are some examples of what can happen when the instrument cluster malfunctions:

  • Tachometer bounces around or sits idle regardless of engine speed
  • Fuel gauge will show incorrect amount – car might show that there is a quarter of a tank left when it is really empty
  • Temperature gauge sits in one spot and doesn’t move with the heating and cooling of the engine
  • Dashboard stops working altogether – car may not restart once it is turned on
  • Missing pixels from the centre display between the tachometer and speedometer

While Audi initially claimed that the malfunctioning instrument cluster was due to failed sensors or some other sort of isolated issue, it was found that the real cause of the problem was usually a failed microprocessor. Getting the instrument cluster fixed by Audi can be very expensive, but there are third party repairers/specialists who can do it much cheaper. Still, if you notice there is a problem do not purchase the car until you can get a quote on how much it will cost to repair and get a discount.

Another thing to watch out for is the door windows. Make sure they work correctly as the door-lock mechanism features a microswitch that makes the glass drop a tiny bit when opened and go back up when closed. Sometimes the microswitch can fail, leaving the window slightly open and breaking the weather seal. Additionally, the car won’t know when the door has been opened, so it can automatically lock itself.

Apart from that, check that all of the other electronics work as intended (radio, lights, etc.). Make sure the alarm system works correctly and check to see if the seller has the original keys. Sourcing a replacement/spare key from Audi can be quite expensive, but there are other alternatives (see the video below).

If no warning lights appear during start-up it may be a sign of an issue or that they have been disconnected. Alternatively, if they stay on you need to investigate the issue further and possibly take the car to an Audi specialist to find out what is causing the warning light before purchase. Purchasing an OBD2 scanner so you can read the codes can also be a good idea.

Lastly, don’t forget to check that the air conditioning/climate control works as intended and that plenty of cold air comes out of the system. If it doesn’t, don’t let the seller convince you it just needs a re-gas as it may be something like the compressor (expensive fix).

General Car Buying Advice for an Audi TT Mk1

How to Get the Best Deal on a TT 8N

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.

  1. Research heavily – Prior to starting your search for a first gen Audi TT, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage late model 3.2 V6 TT or do you not mind an earlier TT 180 that has travelled a bit further.
  2. Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. Audi sold a lot of these cars, so there are plenty out there in different levels of condition and mileage, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
  3. Go look at and test drive multiple TT Mk1s if possible – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad first gen Audi TT.
  4. Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a TT for sale and only go for promising looking cars (unless you are looking for a project vehicle).
  5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
  6. Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
  7. Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple 8N TTs, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
  8. Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.

Mileage vs Condition 

Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.

Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.

Service History and Other Documentation

Credit: Audi

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Audi specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work). Home mechanic work is okay, but it is much harder to gauge the competence of a home mechanic than checking reviews for established businesses.

The service history will give you a good idea of how the Mk1 TT you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner 

  • How often do you drive the car?
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
  • How much oil does it use?
  • What oil do you use in the car?
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • When was the timing belt (1.8T models) and water pump last replaced?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed?
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
  • Is there any money owing on the car?
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
  • How are the speakers
  • Is there any rust?
  • Has rust been removed at any point?
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
  • Where do you store/park the car usually?

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from an Audi TT Mk1

Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.

  • Overheating problems or blown head gasket
  • Significant Crash Damage or poorly repaired roof
  • Money owing on the car
  • Stanced
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad compression
  • Bad resprays
  • Significant rust problems
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines
  • Significant track use (probably not likely on these cars)
  • Major engine or transmission issues
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)

Notes on the Owner 

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their first gen Audi TT (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
  • Do they know anything about the Audi TT Mk1 and the model they are selling?
  • What can they tell you about previous owners?
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another Audi TT 8N.

Author

    by
  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Audi TT Mk1 (8N) Buyer’s Guide & History”

    • I’m glad you like the buyer’s guide for the MK1 TT – thanks for commenting! You can help us out by sharing this website with anyone you know who is looking to purchase a car.

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