If your car has developed a fault, turn to Honest John by emailing email@example.com
In December, a car wash at a BP fuel station malfunctioned and pulled off part of my six-month-old convertible’s roof, causing damage to the tune of £670. After reviewing the CCTV, BP admitted liability and agreed to pay. Where do I stand in terms of claiming for time off work to get my car repaired? MB
You need a solicitor for that, but the cost of employing one might well exceed whatever you can get back from BP.
Fixing a whole
My Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI quattro is nearing the end of its three-year warranty and has done 35,000 miles. I need to make up my mind about a warranty extension that includes AA breakdown cover. They are quoting me an annual cost of £450.75 for all component cover with an excess of £100 (up to 15,000 miles annually). This seems rather high. JH
This is probably an EA189 engine that has not yet had its NOx emissions fix and it might be a condition of the Audi warranty that the car has this done. If the fix is not immediately successful, the car could be in and out of the dealer for weeks and you could be asked to pay for expensive new parts - ie between a rock and a hard place.
Round of Golf
I took my VW Golf 2.0 TDi 140 DSG for its 75,000-mile service at a main dealer. It had been averaging 58mpg, but this fell to 50mpg after the service and I feel that the engine is running more noisily than before. The dealer said it ran a computer diagnosis and did not find anything amiss, but that it had upgraded the software relating to emissions. CG
I think we can confirm with some degree of certainty that they performed the EA189 NOx emissions software fix and that the result is typical. After the fix, the engines actively regenerate their DPFs more frequently, using extra diesel fuel and that accounts for the increased consumption.
Mind the gap
I have ordered a new car and am being pushed to think about gap insurance. Any thoughts? MH
Dealers make big commissions out of this, which is why you are being pushed. Search online to find alternative suppliers, which can usually provide this cover for half the dealer price.
Last summer I had replacement cam cover gaskets fitted to my Mitsubishi Shogun, due to oil loss. A local garage did the work, but within a couple of months clean engine oil began to build up around the gaskets. Clearly one or both have failed. The garage told me Mitsubishi is responsible because it supplied a faulty part. Shouldn’t the garage fix the problem? CK
The garage is responsible and is trying to wriggle out of it.
Juke of Sunderland
My daughter-in-law has set her heart on a Nissan Juke. She drives about 5,000 miles a year and has seen one she likes - a 2015 24,000-miler for £11,000, from a non-main dealer. I’ve found her a similar car from a Nissan agent (66-plate, £14,000). She could afford monthly payments on either, so which is the better buy? MB
It depends on the engine. The 1.2 DIG-T or 1.6 DIG-T are best. Avoid the ordinary 1.6, ditto the 1.5 diesel unless she does big mileage.
My wife and I have a VW Golf SV petrol auto and a Honda CR-V diesel auto, both 18 months old. We are thinking of replacing them with one new petrol auto. Any replacement would need a high driving position and decent headroom. JH
I would keep one of your existing cars, rather than lose a fortune in early depreciation. I’d stick with the Golf SV and take out an additional warranty against future trouble with its seven-speed DSG transmission.
Getting cold feet
My Rover 75 2.0 CDI Tourer has done 222,200 miles and still drives like a dream. However, my wife’s feet get cold when the heater is on but mine are fine. Any suggestions? JT
It has a broken ducting flap - the one that should supply warm air to the passenger footwell is not opening.
Bricks and motor
I bought a Land Rover Discovery 2.5 TDI for £2,000 to transport rubbish and building materials. I now need a similarly cheap workhorse, budget up to £5,000. CF
Try something simple like a Nissan Terrano II 2.7 or 3.0 diesel, or an original Kia Sorento 2.5 diesel. All are too old to have potentially troublesome diesel particulate filters (DPFs).
Claim, set & match
I’ve had a notification from Renault that our 2011 Grand Modus is due a cambelt change at 42,000 miles. I recall you claiming it is always advisable to change other bits and pieces at the same time. Is this true of my car? DS
Change the timing belt, tensioner, water pump and auxiliary belt. If the latter comes off it can wrap itself around the unprotected lower timing belt pulley and take the timing belt off.
Our 2012 Lexus RX 450h F Sport is 1,884mm wide, which gives about 50mm each side (door mirrors extended) to negotiate our narrow drive. It seems all new cars are getting wider, so I have been looking at the previous model of the BMW X1 and Nissan Qashqai. We have a large dog so a decent boot is needed and we do not want a diesel. SG
The Suzuka Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet (1,775mm wide), Peugeot 2008 (1,829mm), Ssangyong Tivoli (1,795mm), Dacia Duster (1,822mm), Toyota C-HR (1,795mm), Nissan Qashqai (1,806mm) Kia Sportage (1,855mm), Kia Soul (1,800m) or Kia Niro (1,805mm), All measurements are with ther mirrors folded.
GM buys Skoda
I have been reading recently about expensive cam chain problems afflicting TSI petrol engines in VW Group cars, but it is hard to find definitive information.Is my 2014 Skoda Yeti 1.8 at risk? GM
It's completely unpredictable. VW cut costs again, forcing the chain manufacturer to extend the life of his link stamping tools. If you get a chain with links stamped out early in the life of the tool you will probably be fine. If you get a chain with burrs and scratches from worn tools, you might have problems (particularly if you are on VW’s unwise long-life service regime).
Life’s little luxuries
I need to replace my 2005 Toyota RAV4 sooner or later, but its successors and rivals have a host of extras I will never use. The only luxuries I want are air-con and a radio. Everything points to the Dacia Duster, but the only model with air-con is the top of the range Laureate diesel. Is diesel absolutely not an alternative negative for someone who covers barely 5,000 miles a year? BS
Yes, but there is also a 1.2 TCe 125 petrol version that's really very good indeed (front- or four-wheel drive, but to my mind the 4x4 is better).
I have a 2010 Honda CR-V and a 2004 Honda Jazz, both petrol models. I would like to sell both and buy a new car, mostly for short runs. I am looking for something a little bigger and more comfortable than the Jazz. PH
The Jazz isn't worth much, maybe £1,000. The CR-V could be worth about £7,500. This won't finance replacement with something like a used Mazda CX-3, or anything new., but you could consider a used Honda Civic 1.8i VTEC, which is proving to be very reliable. Your best policy is simply to stick with the CR-V.
It’s time to buy a new car, I have been looking at the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Toyota RAV4. I have always been a Ford man. Is it worth remaining loyal? I have about £20,000 to spend. NS
You are unlikely to get a new Kuga for £20,000 You could get a Ford EcoSport, but I wouldn't. In terms of value the best SUV is the Dacia Duster 1.2 TCe 125 4x4 at £14,895.
Things that go bump
I bought a Fiat 500L in August 2015 and the airbag warning light came on six months later. Since then my car has been a regular visitor to the dealership and the problem still hasn’t been fixed. SE
If you are anywhere served by www.airbagman.co.uk, get your Fiat dealer to agree to call them in. I think the SRS system is probably over-sensitive and is thus triggered by bumps, rather than actually being faulty. Such problems have been known in small Fiats of old.
I drive a 15-year-old Suzuki Grand Vitara, which I love and has never let me down. I now need to get a replacement as I doubt if it will get through the MoT, but my husband is not keen on another Suzuki as he finds them “clunky”. I like the high driving position and have a budget of £20,000. What would you suggest, new or used? CK
The latest Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T BoosterJet is a lot less “clunky”. Otherwise, try a Peugeot 2008 1.2 PureTech 130 GT with Grip Control. I drove one back to back with the latest Vitara S and found it rode and handled better.
My Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi was bought new in November 2008, has been regularly serviced and has done only 35,700 miles. It has never needed oil between services and has been very reliable until now. On a recent motorway journey, the engine suddenly emitted a loud metallic knock so I pulled off at the next junction. A Nissan dealer diagnosed oil pump failure, requiring a new engine at a cost of £6,000. Is this a common fault after such low mileage, and would it be reasonable to expect Nissan to make a contribution? DJ
There have been no previous reports of oil pump failure, but several of engine main bearing failures that led Nissan to extend the warranty on the engine from three years to four. It's obviously worth trying for goodwill, but your car is now approaching nine years old and there is no legal liability for a vehicle of this age. it’s worth consulting a member of www.fer.co.uk, but after a diesel engine seizes it might not be possible to rebuild it.
Speed awareness curse
My daughter has six points on her licence. She is worried about getting any more points because of her job. Is there any equipment she can buy that will at all times tell her what speed she is doing and warn her if she exceeds the limit? JP
Many sat-navs with traffic sign recognition now do this. She could also consider an advanced driver training course, to improve her powers of observation so that she becomes more aware of the posted limits.
Here comes the sum
My 2006 VW Golf 2.0 TDI needs replacing soon and I am wondering if I will be better off leasing rather than buying. I anticipate doing about 25,000 miles per year. Would you advise going for a petrol car rather than a diesel? JP
If you are leasing a car to do 25,000 miles a year, then hand it back to the leasing company after three years, all you need to be concerned about are the lease payments and the fuel economy benefits. If the fuel economy benefit of diesel is 20 per cent better than the petrol car and the lease payments are 10 per cent higher, you'll be better off with the diesel. Anything going wrong with the emissions equipment will be covered by the warranty or the lessor and is anyway unlikely to go wrong in three years. New EU6 diesels are unlikely to be banned from many city centres within the next three years.
Our 2008 Audi A3 convertible has started to develop a green roof where moss and lichen have started to accumulate after years of being parked under trees. How can we remove this without damaging the roof or its waterproofing? SF
There is a range of products specifically for this from www.renovointernational.com.
Since the 1990s we have been driving manual Audi Avant A4 2.0 TDIs to tow our caravan. But with the current anti-diesel publicity, do you think it better to change to a 2.0-litre petrol manual? ER
The problem with diesels is twofold – partly the ill feeling and threats of bans from city centres that is affecting used values, partly the unreliability of the expensive emissions equipment that now has to be fitted (and will have to be replaced after three years or so). Unless you drive huge mileages, or tow very heavy weights, petrol turbo is now the way to go.
Taking the high road
I drive a 2004 Toyota Corolla 1.6 VVT-i automatic that, while old, runs well and is very reliable. I need to find a replacement large enough to carry my elderly mother, who is not very mobile and has trouble getting into my Corolla, plus my collapsible wheelchair and 6ft 2in brother. Maximum budget is £25,000 and I have no interest in gadgets or gizmos other than parking sensors and air-con. CW
Try the latest Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech 130 EAT6 or the smaller Peugeot 2008 1.2 PureTech 110 EAT6. They have Very efficient petrol engines, torque converter automatic gearboxes and the type of accommodation you need. The VW Golf SV is the right size, but I don’t trust its seven-speed DSG transmission.
I need to sell my Land Rover Defender Station Wagon as the seats are unsuitable for my growing number of grandchildren. I need a used car with seven forward-facing seats and a high driving position. My budget is £13,500. Any ideas? JW
If you can find a post-2010 Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 R-Type diesel manual seven-seater within budget, snap it up. They are the most reliable vehicles of this type and offer the best value. Manuals are far better than autos.
In December the insurance for my 2014 VW Passat came up for renewal and I received a quote for £1,644, up from £575. The only “accident” I had during the year was my 80th birthday. I wrote to VW Insurance and received a “Dear Lyndon” reply stating “Sorry to be losing you. Here is your letter confirming that you have a 10-year No-Claim Discount, which your new insurer may request.” I then looked online and reinsured with Marks & Spencer for £536. LSS
"Insurers" are often glorified brokers (rather than actual underwriters), owned by private equity investors and, typical of such outfits, will try to take people for whatever they can. So you did the sensible thing (as you must with every renewal these days). At least they had the good grace to supply proof of NCD without any fuss.
In the wake of recent VW recall letters, my VW CC had the work done at my convenience, with the provision of a courtesy car and at no charge, and there is no detrimental effect to power or consumption. CB
I’m very please to read that the modification to your engine was successful. The VW Group has now invited me for talks to explain exactly what is being done to all of its affected cars.
Elementary, dear homes
I will be moving to a new address soon. What do I need to do to renew my licence - do I need a photo licence? Also, how often does a photo licence need to be renewed? RB
The only kind of licence you can apply for is a photo licence. It can be done on-line so long as you have a current passport because they’ll use that photo. It needs to be renewed every 10 years until you are 70, then every three years: https://www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence.
We need to replace our 2007 Volvo XC90. We no longer require a seven-seater, but still want the comfort of a 4x4 - something up to three years old. We would use it for no more that 7,000 miles per annum. What would you suggest? GS
If you like the XC90, the obvious replacement is an XC60. There will be a new version this year so prices of used cars should be even keener.
Far and wide
I run a Jazz hybrid that has been as reliable as all my other Hondas. I intend to keep it for local journeys, but want something larger and more comfortable for longer trips. I’m looking for a petrol automatic, up to two years old, and have a budget of £20,000. Alternatively, which car would do both jobs if I add the Jazz to the budget? DF
A Toyota Auris hybrid is the obvious choice, or else a Kia Niro hybrid. The Niro has a dual clutch rather than an epicyclic transmission and “locks” its ratios to give a more positive drive, especially up hills. If you get rid of the Jazz, the stylish alternative is a Toyota C-HR.
My 61-reg Audi A5 2.0 TFSI quattro has used 1.5 litres of oil in only 1,500 miles. There’s no leak, so should I be worried? JB
I’m afraid this engine has gained a reputation for heavy oil consumption.
I want to change my 48,000-mile Volvo C30 diesel for a comfortable five-door petrol hatchback with sat-nav, reasonable VED, Bluetooth and retractable wing mirrors. Any ideas? RC
I'd go for a Peugeot 308 1.2 130 PureTech six-speed or a Peugeot 2008 1.2 130 PureTech 130 six-speed with Grip Control, both of which are 110g/km so £20 VED. But you'll have to act quickly. After the first year (and a higher first-year CO2-based showroom tax), every new car bought from April 1 2017 onwards will carry an annual VED charge of £140.
The tread on my front tyres is 3mm. Although the legal limit is 1.8mm, when should I change them? MB
Sooner rather than later. Some tyres will be fine as they approach the legal minimum, but others will be compromised. Note that it’s illegal to go below 3mm of tread in countries such as Switzerland.
Green & pleasant land
I am thinking of replacing my 15-year-old Mercedes estate with a more economical and eco-friendly used Toyota. Would a 2011 Auris hybrid with 59,000 miles be worth inspecting? Two owners in six years made me wonder about its reliability. MF
My dad's got one and it has been 100 per cent reliable. I find it very pleasant to drive. A peculiarity of the Auris hybrid is that, unlike other cars, it's actually better on larger diameter wheels and lower-profile tyres.
To B or not to B
I love my 2012 Mercedes B200 CDI but am considering moving to a petrol engine to avoid the problems that seem to afflict modern diesels. What would you recommend? RD
really like the Volkswagen Golf SV six-speed manual with the 1.4 TSI 150 engine and the Citroën C4 Picasso 1.2 Puretech 130.
I want to change my 2012 Mercedes C250 for another Mercedes or BMW with four-wheel drive. I do about 25,000 miles per year and have a budget of about £20,000. Used is fine. I drive about 25,000 miles a year and like to change cars every couple of years. PH
A BMW xDrive will suit you, but would be best with cold- or all-weather tyres. MB is having problems with its latest AWD systems. Audi, VW and Skoda have AWD systems and I particularly like the current Golf Alltrack with the new EA288 engine.
I am considering a Citroën C3 Picasso, Ford B-Max or Honda Jazz SE. Most reviews only feature the base model 1.2 PureTech on 16-inch wheels whereas the Platinum I’m looking at is on 17s. Will this affect the ride and handling? DP
The C3 Picasso is amazingly spacious and the 1.2 PureTech is an excellent engine, albeit with only 108bhp and a five-speed ’box in the C3 Picasso. Do not go for the 17-inch wheels. They ruin the ride.
Pluie for help
At my house in France I keep a 16-year-old Toyota RAV-4. Over the past year, when it is parked outside and it rains I end up with a pool in the passenger footwell. BG
It might be coming in via a perforated plastic membranes inside the door. Or the drains to the bulkhead vent well might be blocked, leaving rainwater nowhere to go except via the pollen filter into the car. If this is the case you’ll have to unblock the drains either side of the vent well and will also need a new pollen filter.
Rim with a view
My 2014 Mercedes E350 BlueTec AMG estate has low-profile tyres on 18-inch rims. What are the best wheels and tyres for this car in terms of ride quality? AK
It might have 245/40 R18 tyres all round, or the less comfortable option of 265/35 R18 on the back and 245/40 R18 on the front. The rears tend to last about 15,000 miles before they start to rumble. You could switch to 245/45 R17s all round. Michelin Cross Climate tyres are not available in any of these sizes, so check www.tyrereviews.co.uk for options.
I want to buy a nearly new petrol-powered Jaguar XF or F-Pace. I’m also considering a Land Rover Discovery or BMW X5. It seems difficult to find petrol-driven vehicles of this type. What should I look at? JC
You can get a supercharged V6 petrol Jaguar F-Pace for £51,500, or the same engine in a Jaguar XF and the new Discovery. The smaller XE is offered with an excellent 2.0 Ford chain-cam turbocharged petrol engine. You can also get this engine in the Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport. The only petrol X5 is the 40e hybrid.
All mod cons?
I have an Audi A4 with the “cheat” engine and have been asked by the local dealer to bring it in for a fix. Do you know if this actually makes the car compliant in terms of NOx emissions? Does it swap one type of emission for another? And does it compromise any of the car’s performance characteristics? RB
Some owners have reported the fix to have worked on Golf 2.0 TDIs. Others with 1.2 TDIs, 1.6 TDIs, Tiguan 2.0 TDIs and CC 2.0 TDIs have reported poor running, fuel consumption increases and failed exhaust gas recirculation valves. Owners have been told that the modification is not reversible, so they have been driven to aftermarket engine management chip suppliers for a remedy.
I was born in the UK and have been driving for more than 30 years. I had nine years no-claims discount up to 1999 and then moved to France, since when I have added another 16 years of no-claims discount. In December I moved back to England and bought my dad’s old car, nothing sporty, but am struggling to get it insured. After 25 years of accident-free driving the best quote I can find is £500 on a £1,500 car. Any ideas? AB
Average car insurance premiums have, apparently, risen by more than 50 per cent over the past year, so you may be expecting too much in the current environment when starting from scratch. But there’s nothing to stop you employing a good broker to seek an insurer that will give you some credit for your history in France.
Seeing the light
I drove my 2004 BMW 530d over a speed bump and immediately the restraint systems warning light appeared. The seat belts seem to be in working order. I assume an airbag connection came loose. If not, then a reset might be the answer. Are there any specialist firms that might be cheaper than a visit to BMW? GB
This is common from the shock of driving over speed humps in a car with low-profile tyres. If you live in an area that is covered by a franchise, airbagman.co.uk can reset it for you. So can a BMW dealer, obviously.
We are looking to replace our 2014 Citroën C4 Picasso. With a very tight parking space we cannot have anything with a larger turning circle than the C4 (10.8m), nor anything longer (4,428mm). We’re not too limited by cost. Any ideas? JP
I’d go for the latest C4 Picasso 1.2 PureTech 130 six-speed manual or EAT6, or else a Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech 130 six-speed manual or EAT6.
My granddaughter is interested in buying a used Fiat 500 at auction. She would really like a Lounge Dualogic, first registered in May 2012, 875cc, with 16,500 miles and an MoT until May 2017. It has full main dealer service history. Could you give us some idea of what she should be paying for a car like this? PH
She shouldn’t. I was”’upgraded” to a 500 875cc TwinAir Dualogic at Schiphol Airport and soon found out why Fiat UK didn’t have any on the UK press fleet. It’s diabolical and doesn’t work because the engine torque is in the wrong rev range for the automated manual transmission. Dualogic works okay with a 1.3 Multijet diesel, but not with the TwinAir. Get an 875cc TwinAir manual by all means, but not a Dualogic.
Range Rover vague
My daughter is looking to lease a new Range Rover Evoque. Some of the quotes she has received are so vague that it is impossible to make true comparisons. What is the spec she should be looking at over and above five doors and 4WD? She expects to do 15k miles per year. MC
If she’s leasing, then the fuel economy advantages of the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel outweigh petrol because she will not be responsible for the potentially high repair and maintenance costs of a diesel after the three-year term. She has to decide whether or not she needs an automatic transmission and which level of spec. Check here for details: http://www.landrover.com/vehicles/range-rover-evoque/specifications.html. I think Evoques are best on 18-inch wheels with 235/60 R18 tyres.
I am in a bit of a quandary regarding the change from diesel to petrol. My current car is a 2015 Skoda Octavia SEL 4x4 estate with 9,200 miles. With all the discussion regarding the evil diesel and the damage to the atmosphere, it would seem that the time is coming when the part-exchange value of a diesel car will be seriously affected. Looking into your crystal ball, when do you think this will happen? JM
This ball started rolling about five years ago when people slowly started realising that diesels with particulate filters were unsuitable for their style of motoring. As is always the case it takes a long time before the British public collectively wakes up to a rip-off, but once it does it’s like a supertanker changing course and cannot be turned back. Diesel residuals will continue to decline, with the slope getting steeper when there is no tax advantage and when diesels start to be banned from city centres.
Feeling the inch
I have a 2009 Range Rover Sport, with 20-inch rims. The tyres are Pirelli Scorpion 275/140ZR20/106Ys. These ride well on main roads but do not seem happy with potholes. Would we radically improve the ride if we fitted, say, 18-inch wheels and a deeper tyre? JG
You can go to 19s.
We have a 2010 Skoda Fabia 1.6 TDI 105 estate, which Skoda informed us is due to have VW modifications as a result of the emissions scandal. We are still waiting. Normally we would be thinking of changing it for another vehicle at this age. Is it better to wait until the modifications are done? RG
The recall for the EA189 1.6 TDI engine has now begun and early reports suggest the upgrades are not always successful. Whether or not you have it done, your car will be blighted by uncertainty that affects its trade-in value.
My wife and I run a very economical Honda Insight hybrid and have been delighted with its reliability. However, we need to change to an automatic car with easier access. It must still be economical to run and we would prefer second-hand with low mileage. What do you suggest? PS
New, the Kia Niro, Toyota C-HR hybrid and the Toyota RAV4 hybrid are the only hybrid SUV crossovers below £30,000 so far (though the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is on the cusp). Alternatively, a Peugeot 2008 1.2 PureTech 110 EAT6 auto. I can't recommend anything second-hand that meets your criteria.
Full steam ahead
I took delivery of the latest Mercedes E-class and noticed the headlights were partially fogged over. Thus far the condensation is still there. Is this a Mercedes design fault and is it reasonable to expect Mercedes to sort it out? KB
It's reasonable to expect the supplying MB dealer to fix this. It’s caused by different expansion and contraction rates of the polycarbonate lens, the headlight reflector and the car body collectively breaking the seal.
A Ford dealer has quoted me "about £300" for a spare remote key for a 2008 Focus. I can buy a washing machine for less than £200 - think what goes into the manufacture and transport costs of that. I know there are other sources for replacement keys. Any recommendations? WP
Go to Timpsons. They can copy a key and code much more reasonably, usually under £100 and often much less.
Starting to crack
My son-in-law bought a one-owner BMW 325i. It is a 2009 model with the N53 engine and, bar the last service, was maintained by the selling dealer. Starting problems recently led the RAC man to diagnose a blown head gasket. After further investigation, an independent BMW specialist has found cracks in the engine block/head that mean it needs a new engine at £6,000. Do you think he has any redress? SD
There is a possibility that it cracked due to insufficient concentration of anti-freeze for some reason. For example, the car may have lost coolant during a summer and a previous owner filled it with plain water. If the strength of the anti-freeze was not sufficient, then that is down to the dealer who sold your son-in-law the car for not checking it and you have a strong case.
My 2013 Ford C-Max was purchased through a main dealer about three years ago, with 9,000 miles on the clock. I drive about 8,000 miles a year and it is serviced regularly through the same dealer. Just before the warranty expired I asked them to look at the climate control as the AC was not working properly. They advised it was due to stone damage to the condenser that was not covered by warranty and that this was a common problem with modern cars. Have I any chance pursuing this matter further? BH
I don't think so. Radiators, condensers and heat exchangers are much more vulnerable on modern cars than they used to be.
An opportunist knocks
It looks like the UK will follow the American lead in terms of class action lawyers pursuing the VW Group following recent scandals. My EA189 Audi 2.0 TDI was rectified after a year, so technically it has been fixed. If the lawyers are successful, will I be eligible for compensation if I have not been part of the class action process? TL
My view is that if you are not part of one of the three class actions, you are not entitled to anything. And if your car has been satisfactorily fixed with no performance or fuel economy drawbacks, I am appalled that anyone should attempt to seek something for nothing. I'll fight for people whose emissions fix has been botched or has else ruined the car, but not for the money-grubbing brigade.
Which company sells fleet cars before they come on the market? I cannot find any. TC
Reelin’ in the Yaris
I've owned my 2003 petrol Toyota Yaris since new and it has done 254,000 miles. It is still going strong and has given me very few serious issues but, planning ahead, what would be a worthy replacement: another Yaris? Are they as good? Money is tight so that needs to be taken into consideration. CO
Try to find the same thing - a Mk1 1.3 up to 2005. There are still some out there with fewer than 50,000 miles under their belts.
I drive a Volkswagen 2.0 diesel estate with all the trimmings, but it is now leaking rainwater into the front footwells and I think it's time for a change. I don't need an estate any more but like the convenience of a flat tailgate for dog, shopping etc. What do you suggest? TT
The water in the front footwells will be coming in because the drains either side of the bulkhead vent well are blocked, leaving nowhere for it to go except via the pollen filter into the car. (Once you've cleared the drains you'll also have to replace the pollen filter, and that's a real finger-grazing job.) For a flat load deck in a compact car, take a look at a new Peugeot 2008 1.2 PureTech 130 six-speed.
I have a Toyota Avensis estate that is always parked on our drive. A squirrel appears to have taken a liking to eating peanuts while warming itself on top of the engine - underneath the soundproofing and engine cover. I only discovered this when the battery failed one morning and I had to jump-start the car. How can I prevent the little devils from getting in there again? DP
You might need to use an ultrasonic device. This is a huge problem in the Black Forest area of Germany, where pine martens get into engine compartments and nibble the wiring.
Question of timing
We have a 2008 Fiat 500 1.2 with 24,000 miles. It was serviced at Halfords recently and we were advised to have the cambelt changed if it had not been done. We checked the service records and it had not been done but, later that day, a different engineer said it was not needed until 72,000 miles. Who is correct? PC
I also have a 500 1.2 and had my cambelt changed at seven years old and 17,000 miles. It needs timing belt, tensioner and water pump. It’s best to fit a new auxiliary belt, too. Since Fiat dealers charge only £300 plus VAT, it’s best to have it done there. The water pump is crucial because they are prone to developing hidden leaks.
I received a charge notice following two visits to the same car park. I have written to the enforcement company, stating the facts and explaining where I went in between my two visits, They insist they have no evidence to support my claim. They have now asked for documentary evidence to prove I entered their car park on two occasions. This is difficult to show, as I do not photograph my car entering and leaving car parks. PS
If you entered a car park twice in one day, you will have been ANPR timed from first entry to last exit. These nasty, pernicious people do not set their ANPR systems to acknowledge multiple visits, and one of their terms and conditions might even be "no return visits the same day." It's ridiculous, but the supreme court has given parking enforcers the right to inflict penalties according to their own rules. Statutory law (Protection of Freedoms Act, Clause 56) and the highest court in the land have put you in the wrong. I campaigned for years to try to prevent this happening, but was ignored.
I have a 20-litre can of unleaded petrol that I purchased as insurance during the tanker strikes in 2000. I understand that petrol deteriorates with age, so how should I best dispose of it? DG
Take it to your local recycling centre. Do not pour it down a drain. (A neighbour used to store petrol in his wooden garage, until it burned down.)
I want to change my Mercedes E220 diesel for a similar new car (Mercedes, BMW, Audi etc). Having now retired I drive only about 3,000 miles a year, mostly short urban trips. Can you help, please? RJ
A petrol hybrid makes the most sense. You could consider a VW Passat GTE, a Lexus IS300h or a Kia Optima PHEV.
On bank holidays, are we allowed to park in spaces designated “Permit holder only Mon-Sat?” NR
Generally, yes, although it depends on local authority rules. Read the terms and conditions carefully.
I purchased a new Fiat Panda Lounge for my daughter and it arrived without the protective black plastic side mouldings that were supposed to be specified. Fiat has since apologised and says they cannot be retro-fitted. I am concerned that not being to spec will affect the car’s future resale value. What can I do? JB
Reject the car and demand that it be replaced by a correct-spec 2017 Panda, or else demand a £1,000 refund because the car is not to spec. The Consumer Rights Act of November 2015 gives you a statutory right to reject it for this reason, for 28 days from the time purchase.
Open and shunt case
My wife has pampered her 55,000-mile Mercedes SLK 230 since new in 2000 and was recently shocked to learn that its roof mechanism has been damaged beyond economic repair (by a rear-end collision, of which she was unaware). What is the best way to dispose of this much-loved car that is still perfectly roadworthy and otherwise in excellent condition? CW
Without the roof working correctly it's worth buttons, perhaps £2,000 tops. It’s best to ignore your unhelpful MB dealer and find an independent specialist who can fix it.
A few days ago I saw an engine fault warning on my dashboard. I had diagnostics carried out and was told the inlet manifold was faulty. The garage told me that there were two grades of replacement part, one at £160 and a more expensive option at £220. What effect on the engine would it have if I were to ignore the problem and what is the difference between the two different parts, price apart? AD
If you don't replace the inlet manifold swirl flaps, they will eventually break off, be ingested and destroy the engine. For the same reason, go for the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts and not a cheap copy.
I have an eight-year-old Toyota Avensis 1.8 with conventional handbrake, which I wish to replace with a car with similar characteristics. These include a large boot, comfortable seating and quiet ride. The replacement, two or three years old, does not have to be a hatchback. The old-style handbrake is a must. EC
Unfortunately, conventional lever-type parking brakes are going out of style because electromechanical rear brakes are more compatible with autonomous braking. The Ford Focus still has a lever handbrake, mind, as do Skoda Octavias.
Our daughter lives in Nova Scotia and we visit twice a year. Her vehicle is a huge 6.4-litre Dodge Ram, which my wife refuses to drive, so we want to buy a second-hand VW Golf to use while we’re there. We own a manual Golf 1.4 TSI that is excellent, but Canadian Golfs seem to have much bigger engines and a lot are automatics. You advise avoiding some VW automatics, so what should we do? TS
Avoid anything with the twin dry-clutch seven-speed DSG, so that's Golf 1.2 TSI, 1.4 TSI and 1.6 TDI. The twin wet-clutch six-speed DSG is more reliable in 2.0 TDIs and 2.0 TSIs, but for the 2017 facelift VW will be fitting all Golfs with the superior twin wet-clutch seven-speed DSG.
Carry on cabby
My daughter is driving her third Toyota Prius and has always leased her cars. She feels inclined to buy when it is three years old and keep it for as long again. What pitfalls await her? AG
If she can buy it for sensible money, it could prove to be a good decision. Taxi drivers have now caught on to the fact that the Prius is ultra-reliable and cheap to maintain. Even if she keeps it for another three years there is a ready market out there, but that might make it too expensive to buy from the leasing company. If she leases again she should be aware that from April 2017 the annual tax for any new car rises to £140 (or £450 for cars costing more than £40,000).
I drive about 5,000 miles a year in my seven-year-old Skoda Yeti TDI CR110 4x4. I wish to change to a similarly compact petrol 4x4, but the Yeti TSI 4x4 is too expensive. What are the alternatives? WG
I’d suggest the Dacia Duster 1.2 TCE 125 4x4 (£14,895) or a Suzuki Vitara S 1.4 Boosterjet 4x4 (about £21,000).
I have a 2012 BMW 118d Convertible but do a relatively low mileage (18,000 from new). I have been using Shell V-Power Nitro but, despite my limited use, have suffered no diesel-related problems. What say you? DB
If you haven't had trouble you're doing something right. V-Power will have helped, although there aren’t too many DPF problems with BMW Efficient Dynamics. I'd guess that most of your journeys must be of reasonable length.
Don’t stop me now
Our 2013 Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI DSG developed a worrying fault a few months ago. Suddenly and without warning the brakes came on and we screeched to a halt. Fortunately there was no traffic near us and the car then drove normally. Our dealer said a software update was required and this seemed to solve the problem. A few months later it happened again and we were almost hit from behind. A faulty electromechanical parking brake was diagnosed and replaced. Is this common? CF
This was a problem with early Mk7 Golfs with radar Active Cruise Control, but I have had no reports of 2015-2016 Golfs suffering similarly. Fitting the car with an electromechanical parking brake allows the ACC to slow autonomously to prevent the car crashing into something ahead.
I recently replaced the front tyres of my 2014 BMW X1 X-Drive. The garage advised me that I should change the rears as well, even though they are well within the legal limit. They said that failure to do so could wreck the X-Drive, involving a £11,000 repair. Is this correct? RW
Yes. A disparity between tyre types and rolling circumference will upset the X-Drive centre diff and cause excess wear because it will think the disparity is due to slippage and will continually engage all-wheel drive. It's the same with all similar AWD systems. The way around it is to swap tyres front to back (same side) halfway through their lives. but it is a problem if the tyres are half worn and you get an irreparable puncture in one of them.
My wife's new VW Polo GTI is great, but demisting the windscreen takes ages. We run the air-conditioning all the time. DK
Using the air-con should actually keep the cabin “dry”. You might need to switch from recirculation mode to admit outside air. Make sure there isn’t any water sloshing around in the bulkhead vent well, because the drains either side are blocked. If there is water in there, the pollen filter will be sodden and needs replacing to allow fresh air to enter the car.
That petrol emotion
I have for the past 20 years driven two Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi estates, covering 300,000 almost trouble-free miles. It is now time to renew my 2005 version, but I am wary of the way diesel is receiving such bad press and might eventually be priced out of the market. I need a powerful car to tow a caravan and would like a SUV-type replacement although I don’t need 4WD. A hybrid might be a good idea. I have a budget of up to £30,000. What would you recommend? JP
The SUV petrol hybrids in this price bracket are the Toyota RAV-4 hybrid and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which is a plug-in. I don't think a Kia Niro will tug the caravan. You could also look at a new or used Lexus NX300h with the same powertrains as the RAV-4. There are more petrol hybrids on the way, but they will probably cost more than £30,000.
The big idea
You recently advised CG to replace his Audi A6 Avant diesel with “something with a petrol engine”, but that is easier said than done if you want a large estate. I am concerned about this because I would like to change my Mercedes E-class estate, but with some major cities planning bans diesels could soon be rendered unsaleable. Are manufacturers planning to re-introduce petrol or hybrid versions of their large estates? SB
The Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb are both available as turbocharged 2.0 petrol estates. The Mondeo is also available as a petrol hybrid and the VW Passat GTE is a plug-in petrol hybrid estate. Within a year, petrol plug-in hybrid estates will be available from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
I am generally happy with my VW Golf SV, but there is a distinct vibration when you drive over surface imperfections. Could different tyres improve this? HC
You don't give your wheel and tyre sizes. If it's on 15- or 16-inch wheels you could try lowering the pressures to 31psi all round. If still uncomfortable, switch to softer Michelin Cross Climate tyres. If you have 17-inch wheels, it might be worth switching to 16s. To my mind, the Michelins are best as 205/55 R16s.
You assert that modern diesels are potential money pits. Why is this? Also, my Suzuki Vitara DDiS is being recalled to reprogram the engine control unit. Is this likely to affect its performance and economy? NL
The problems with diesel engines are caused by emissions equipment that has to be fitted to control the nitrogen oxides (NOx) they emit. Potential costs include exhaust gas recirculation valves (£600-£1,600) and particulate filters (£350 to clean, £600-£1,200 to replace). Engines also need a new timing belt, tensioner, water pump and auxiliary belt every four years. Owners of cars with the VW Group EA189 2.0-litre diesel that have been recalled for an NOx fix are finding a decrease in driveability, with usable torque coming in at 300rpm higher than before. This requires more gearchanges at low revs.
We’re looking for a compact 4x4 to tow a horsebox. Our budget is £3,000. Can any of the smaller 4x4s can pull up to 2,500kg? MW
A short-wheelbase Nissan Terrano II 2.7 or 3.0 would be ideal, assuming you can find a good one. Or a 1991-1999 SWB Mitsubishi Shogun or Pajero, which is smaller than later Shoguns (but be sure to check it carefully for rust).
The heater of my 2008 Vauxhall Zafira diesel automatic was not working and I found that the cooling system header tank was empty. The oil is clean and there’s no emulsion inside the filler cap. Any thoughts? AC
If the transmission heat exchanger is situated in the radiator, this needs to be checked urgently because a fracture leading to coolant in the gearbox not only prevents proper engine cooling, it can also destroy the automatic ’box. It’s not just a matter of topping up fluids.
I have a four-year-old Mercedes C180 CGI six-speed automatic. At 27,000 miles the gearchange became rough, so my dealer did a software update that cost £240. He said if that didn’t work he would ask Mercedes to contribute towards a new torque converter. It didn’t work – but Mercedes suggested changing the gearbox oil and I paid another £270. Despite a smoother change, I feel the gears are still jumping. Have you heard of this fault before? BLM
There have been a few problems with this transmission, which Mercedes dealers should be be fully aware of – and be able to fix.
We are thinking of changing our 2010 Skoda Yeti, which my wife finds uncomfortable as a passenger. Which car of similar size and layout would have a more relaxing ride? CS
A Renault Kadjar with 215/60 R16 tyres is very comfortable. On high-spec models, adjustable driver’s lumbar support also helps. It’s best with four-wheel drive, because that includes four-wheel independent suspension. As a cheaper alternative, a Dacia Duster 1.2 TCe 124 4x4 on 65-profile 16-inch tyres is good, too. Other options include the Suzuki Vitara and the Seat Ateca on at least 55-profile tyres.
Dark side of the moan
Although my headlight beams have been corrected and I can see further ahead, the illumination of my Mercedes W210 E-class is still not great. It’s a 2.0-litre Kompressor, made in 2000, so I guess the plastic lenses might need attention. KN
You can make the headlight lenses transparent again with a careful application of metal polish.
My 10-year-old Saab 9-5 Vector 2.0 needs replacing after 110,00 miles. With no low-mileage versions on the market, what would you recommend as the nearest used equivalent? PT
The Ford Mondeo 2.0SCTI Ecoboost 240 Powershift, or a Jaguar XE 2.0i 240 (with the same Ford chain cam engine) with eight-speed torque converter auto.
My daughter wants to change her 2009 Smart ForTwo for something bigger. She has £12,000 plus the trade-in value of the Smart. What would you suggest for manily local journeys, plus the occasional 200-mile round trip? PW
She might be able to get a current Smart ForFour for that. She definitely can get a Renault Twingo, or a Dacia Sandero Stepway (though that might not have the right image). She could also consider the Suzuki Ignis, Renault Captur, SsangYong Tivoli, Suzuki Vitara or a Dacia Duster.
My 2010 BMW 318SE was hit by another car. Repairs are estimated at £3,100 plus VAT and the estimated value after repair is £7,800. I could spend £8,000 more to replace it with a used car that’s smaller. What would you suggest? PB
You could get a practical, reliable and economical Honda Jazz 1.4iVTEC CVT-7 for that money.
I’m considering fitting Michelin Cross Climate tyres to my B7-series VW Passat for year-round use. Would I have to activate the vehicle’s winter tyres setting permanently? WT
I guess that the winter tyres setting is either lower pressures or a speed warning. In my experience (10,000 miles over a year), 215/55 R17 Cross Climates work best at comparatively low pressures (31psi stone cold). But it’s worth experimenting.
We need to replace our Fiat 500 with an SUV to accommodate grandchildren (two in seats, one with a booster cushion). We have a budget of £10,000 so what would you suggest? JB
Your biggest problem will come from the size of the child seats, because many are now so large they will not fit three side by side – or even one each side with space for someone else between. Your first job is to measure the child seats you propose to use, then work from that. Your most likely contender is a Citroën C4 Picasso, which has three full-size seats across the back. SUVs of a similar size don’t provide as much width.
Little and large
I have a Vauxhall Zafira as a caravan tow car and intend to buy a small automatic for day-to-day use. It must be cheap to tax and insure. My budget is £8,000 and my shortlist includes the Toyota Yaris hybrid and Honda Jazz. What alternatives you can recommend? AC
Both are good choices. The Jazz has the most practical interior, but the Yaris has a better hybrid system and is zero rated for VED.
I drive a Honda CR-V petrol 4WD and am looking to replace it with something similar, such as a Nissan Qashqai. We want all-wheel drive, but most manufacturers only offer diesel and we’d prefer petrol. What cars should we consider? BB
As diesel declines, the situation is improving. Peugeot offers its 2008 and 3008 with the 1.2 PureTech 130 engine and Grip Control, which combines a clever differential with all weather tyres for excellent traction. Other options include the Toyota RAV4 2.5, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Suzuki Vitara S and SX4-S-Cross. The status-free bargain is the Dacia Duster 1.2 TCe 125 4WD at £14,895 and it’s actually very good.
My seven-year-old Citroën C6 runs perfectly but the dashboard lights work only intermittently. A main dealer will charge too much to look into the fault, so what could I try? RJ
You shouldn’t consider running a C6 without joining the Citroën Club (citroencarclub.org.uk), null