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Audi ur-Quattro Gearbox and Differential Oil Change

Audi state there is no need to change the oil in the 016 gearbox and associated differentials at any time - they are lubricated 'for life'.

Some of us, however, have a different idea of 'life' than Audi had when these cars were built (with many vehicles now past 500,000km) and gearbox/differential oil change is now recommended whenever major work on these components is undertaken.

For the record, Audi of America thought differently:


After 1975, the only maintenance required for manual transmissions is to check the oil level and add if necessary at the PDI and every 15,000 miles thereafter."

Technical Reference Guide, Audi of America, WSP 521 130 00, page 36, 1985

For the gearbox, front and centre differentials this will be when clutch work is done (usually initiated by release bearing failure) roughly every 200,000 kms or 130k miles. For the rear differential, whenever the driveshaft oil seals are changed at roughly the same interval.


The drain plugs are located either underneath the gearbox or on the side at the lower edge. In this position, they are normally covered by a film of oil. The filler plugs are located on the side of the gearbox and rear differential and tend to be dry - therefore more heavily corroded.

The plugs (if original) will be 17mm Allen. Clearance is not good and removal torque can be considerable. If in doubt clean out the plugs thoroughly and hammer the driver home before turning. An appropriate driver is FACOM D.107-17. If you insist, you can pay twice as much for the exact same driver from Snap-off - CPT110A. Hazet make a combined gearbox and sump drain spanner, catalogue number 2567-1. Two ground-off wheel bolts can be welded together in an emergency, although clearance might be a problem. Allen drivers are easy to make - obtain a 17mm Allen key from a good tool factor, chop the end off and mount it in a 17mm socket using epoxy.

If the drain plugs have been replaced, Audi may have filled the order for part number 111 301 127F (front gearbox and differential fill plug, rear differential fill and drain plug) or part number 113 301 141B (gearbox drain plug with magnet) with replacement parts that are 16mm triple-square anti-tamper - the 3/8" drive FACOM driver catalogue number is D.120-16 and the Hazet catalogue number is 2567-16. Draper make an equivalent - both the Hazet and Draper versions are much longer than the FACOM version - clearance can be a problem and the FACOM version is highly recommended. If a suitable driver is available, this replacement is very worthwhile. The new plugs are high strength ABS plastic and will not rust in place.

The plugs secure no other components - the original type have a tendency to corrode in place, and are very infrequently accessed - a thin smear of copper-based anti-seize is justified, especially on the fill plugs.

Do not overfill - foaming gearbox oil can press out the axle seals. The front differential is filled through the gearbox - the car must be level. Both front and rear can be slow to fill, especially if the oil is cold - have an assistant turn the driveshaft to help.

While under the car, check that the grease nipple (zerk) in the middle of the propellor shaft universal joint has been greased.

A spare propshaft grease nipple and the tip of gun required

A spare propshaft grease nipple and the tip of gun required - note the slimness.

If the gearbox and differential have been removed from the car, this is also a good opportunity to replace both differential driveshaft seals - a trivial job while access is so good.

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