Car advice with Honest John – your questions answered

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Cars Jargon buster | Essential information for car buyers

Ghost in the machine

The radio in our Ford Grand C-Max seems to have the ability to switch itself on when the vehicle is left locked. Our dealer cannot find a fault. Any idea? DS

A similar problem is occasionally reported with the C-Max and other Ford models. It can be something to do with the Bluetooth searching for a paired phone. The answer is to put an additional switch into the radio power supply cable, so you can be certain of shutting off the power and thereby prevent any battery drainage.


I have a six-month-old Ford Kuga 1.5 TDCi automatic and for the first time filled up with Shell V-Power diesel. The car is noticeably smoother, doesn't seem to want to change gear quite so often and I'm quite impressed. I do a lot of short journeys but once a week do a fast 30-mile trip to help maintain the health of the diesel particulate filter (DPF). Is it wise always to use V-Power, or just occasionally? CN

Always use Shell V-Power (or another branded superfuel with advertised benefits). Don't switch back and forth between them.

Automatic lover

I own a 14-year-old Rover 75 Connoisseur with 90,000 miles on the clock, but wish to downsize to a medium petrol automatic without sacrificing ride quality or luxury. What nearly new car should I buyt for up to £20,000? And how much could I expect to get for the Rover? CG

The Rover is worth relatively little - £500-£2,000 tops at the moment. The best smaller automatics are Mazdas: Mazda2s (on 60 profile tyres), Mazda3s and Mazda CX-3s, all of which have six-speed torque converter automatic transmissions. You could also consider a Peugeot 2008 or a Citroën C3 Aircross with the 1.2 Puretech 110 engine and EAT6 gearbox, but UK supplies of the latter seem to be delayed.

Sense of direction

I have a Jaguar XE with the 2.0 Ingenium diesel engine and it has done 12,500 trouble-free miles. My brother has a new Range Rover Evoque with the same engine and I was concerned to read recent remarks about potential troubles. What are they? NM

There doesn't seem to be a problem with the Ingenium diesel in XEs and XFs, because it is located longitudinally. There is thus space for the particulate filter to be close-coupled, so it heats up quickly and passively and regenerates actively. In the Evoque and Discovery Sport the engine is located transversely and there is insufficient room between it and the bulkhead for the DPF. It has to be located under the car, where it often doesn't get hot enough.

Driving range

I drive a 2002 VW Golf 1.6 automatic. I love this car, but am finding that quite a few things are starting to go wrong and think I need to start looking for something else. I require a four-door automatic and can spend up to £7,000. JW

Try a Honda Civic 1.8i VTEC five-speed torque converter auto, if you can find one (but not an i-Shift). Otherwise look at torque converter auto versions of the Mazda2 1.5, Mazda3 1.6, Kia Cee'd 1.6 or Hyundai i30 1.6. Avoid all VW/Audi/Seat/Skoda DSGs and s-tronics. Avoid all automated manuals. Consider a Honda Jazz 1.4i VTEC CVT-7 if you can find one for the money, but avoid Jazz i-Shifts.

Raise the Teutonic

We feel it is time to replace our 10-year-old BMW 320d coupé and would like a petrol car with similar comfort but higher seats. BR

The BMW 3-series GT is a bit higher and more luxurious than standard 3-series saloons.

Rubber bullet

I have a 2006 Lexus RX300 with only 67,000 miles on the clock. It is due to be serviced and my garage has recommended that the timing chain should be changed. The Lexus advisory seems to be 100,000 miles or 10 years. Is it sensible just to bite the bullet and get it done? Also should the water pump be swapped at the same time? RC

This engine has a belt, not a chain. The general consensus is 90,000-mile changes for belt and water pump - and I’d definitely replace them after 10 years. According to a thread on an American Lexus forum, the engine is non-interference (so pistons won't hit valves if the belt fails, though the engine will obviously stop running).

They think it’s all Rover

I have owned a 2004 Rover 75 Connoisseur CDTI SR from new. It’s now up to 84,000 miles and has been the most comfortable car I’ve owned. In the last year I have had three people asking if I want to sell, because it will become collectible. The car is in very good condition and I'm reluctant to sell because it really is a dream to drive. When would be the best time to sell, or should I keep it? Is there a Rover 75 register? JB

There's a club: They are great-looking cars. Prices are steady and starting to creep up, but they won't suddenly become worth tens of thousands.

Sticking: the Pinin

My wife has a 2004 Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin with only 18,000 miles on the clock. We use it to get out in bad weather and for short trips locally. She is thinking of replacing it with a Suzuki Jimny. We have about £10,000 to spend. Are there any issues with the Jimny? PJ

If it's running well and hasn't rusted, I'd keep the Pinin. It's really good off the road (as you will know) and much better for everyday use than a Jimny (which really isn't very good at all on asphalt).

Mobile economy run

I run a 1.6 petrol Vauxhall Zafira for 120 motorway miles a day. I’m thinking of buying a small, cheap diesel to do the run instead - maybe an Astra. What do you think? LL

The best result I ever recorded was with a 1.3 Fiat Multijet-powered Corsa, which regularly returned more than 70mpg. But there can be problems with the particulate filters. It might work out cheaper overall to get an old Toyota Yaris 1.3, because these were generally very reliable and that made up for the average 40-45mpg fuel economy.

Hands stuck

Is 'sticky steering wheel syndrome' caused by your breakfasting habits?

I drive a 2011 Ford Mondeo with a leather steering wheel that quickly becomes sticky during a journey. I am not aware that I have sweaty palms and I don’t grip the wheel tightly. I don’t have a problem with plastic wheels. The problem also occurred in a previous Ford with a leather steering wheel. Is it them or is it me? PS

If you have toast and marmalade for breakfast, then it is most likely you. Anything sticky adheres to steering wheels and becomes irritating. The answer is to have a container of Wet Wipes (or similar) in the car.

Advance education

I have just bought a 1934 Austin 7. There are two levers on the steering column. Left is apparently advance/retard; right is a hand throttle. I am confused by the left one - where I should set it when starting and when running? I have been told that with today’s high-quality 95 octane petrol this A/R facility is not required. If that is so, where should I set the lever and then leave it? Should choke be used whenever the car is started? The hand throttle, I gather, is for use to assist starting with the exterior crank and much like cruise control when constant running is possible. Should this be set in its lower position for general use? TP

Retard to start the car and use some choke. Then, as the engine warms up, reduce choke and advance the ignition. What you should do is join the club, then you benefit from the combined knowledge and enthusiasm of everyone in it:

Bill lorry

As I understand it, if a car runs out of AdBlue, the engine shuts down and it will not start. Do these rules apply to all vehicles that use AdBlue? I ask, because I recently read a claim that suggests some lorries are not refilling with AdBlue, as it reduces fuel economy, or else the AdBlue system has been altered by installing a piece of electrical equipment that indicates he AdBlue system is OK when in fact it is not. JW

That is why commercial vehicles are being subjected to roadside checks. There are not sufficient resources to subject all vehicles to them - and if there were it would lead to national gridlock.

AXA… and cleaver

Do you know which insurance companies would let me fit smaller wheels for winter tyres? My Golf has 19-inch rims and winter tyres are hard to find. My current insurer (AXA) refuses to cover 18-inch wheels, even though they are offered by VW for this model. Nobody would listen to my reasoning about improved traction and greater safety. RH

Probably time to change your insurer… There will simply be some all-encompassing “no-modifications” rule that is applied by call-centre staff who aren't allowed to use common sense. You’ll need to phone around, trying direct insurers that allow staff to use their initiative.

Mountain range

I’d like to replace my old petrol VW T4 camper to travel in the Alps. France’s Crit’Air (clean air) zones in the Arve/Grenoble area mean I don’t want diesel, and for distance I don’t want electric. The only petrol hybrids I can find are 10-year-old imported Toyota Alphards or Nissan Elgrands. Will they be reliable and easy to maintain? MLN

These are the only hybrid minivan/MPVs. A problem might be that Crit’Air doesn't recognise them, because they are mostly Japanese cast-offs (and, as right-hand-drive models, tend not to be imported to France).

Family favourite

We have had a 2007 Honda CR-V 2.0i VTEC from new, 80,000 miles ago. It is used only on journeys of 30 miles or more, using Shell V Power unleaded. It is serviced regularly by Honda. We are thinking of keeping it, as it is still in good condition and running well. Is that wise and is there anything over and above regular servicing that we should do? MG

Keep it. The 2.0i VTEC is no ball of fire, but has been much more reliable than the 2.2 iCTDI and the 2.2 iDTEC. It would be a good idea to change the brake fluid and the engine coolant, and replace the alternator belt if this hasn’t ever been done.

Instant relief

I have been offered £10,300 for my vehicle by My concern is that they want the car immediately and it will take a few days for the money to arrive. I would leave them with the car, the keys, V5, service book and so on. What is your advice? Are they reputable enough? AN

It is part of British Car Auctions, a huge operation. You will get your money on the promised day.

Venting his anger

I have a 2015 VW Golf 2.0 TDI that has regularly steamed up for the last 18 months. I noticed that the left passenger footwell mat was soaking wet, so I expected the main dealer to fix it under warranty - but they say they need to do a water ingression test that takes three full days and will potentially cost more than £350 for the test alone. Is this reasonable? JT

What you can do yourself is open the bonnet and check the drains either side of the bulkhead vent well. They might be blocked with leaves, in which case rainwater has nowhere to go except via the pollen filter into the car.

Open spaces

I want to trade my 2007 Mercedes SLK Kompressor for a convertible that will accommodate two young grandchildren. I have about £15,000 to spend on top of the SLK’s trade-in value. I would prefer four doors if possible. SJ

The only four-door convertible is a Jeep Wrangler, where the hardtop can be removed and/or replaced with canvas. Otherwise, a sensible four-seater convertible is an Audi A3 1.4 TSI 150 cabrio.

Benefits advice

I have a BMW M140i with ZF eight-speed auto gearbox. Would you recommend having the gearbox oil changed? If so, at what intervals? RH

Get it done every three to four years. This is a conventional torque converter box, but will still benefit from transmission fluid changes.

Haul things considered

The VW Tiguan is now very good - but should you choose a petrol or a diesel engine?

I am considering a VW Tiguan 4x4. Is this sensible and would you suggest petrol or diesel? JG

This is now quite a nice vehicle. Autos have the DQ500 seven-speed wet clutch DSG. Go for a petrol TSI engine rather than a TDI, because of all the problems diesel engines are encountering with emissions control systems.

Gross interest

My wife and I have owned our Ford Focus for 12 years and 144,000 miles. We are due for a change and fancy a Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost. I would like an automatic but am concerned about fuel consumption. What do you recommend? BA

Do not buy a Fiesta Powershift. Happily, with the latest Fiesta, Ford has replaced the Powershift with a reliable six-speed torque converter automatic. Alternatively, look at the Mazda2 1.5 auto, or a Suzuki Swift or Baleno 1.0T Boosterjet auto.

Farther, dear father

My father is looking to replace his ageing Renault Espace. He needs seven seats and decent towing ability. Will a two-year-old Land Rover Discovery Sport diesel be OK? TK

The petrol Si4 is better. The Discovery Sport 2.0 diesel is a lovely thing to drive, but is likely to suffer emissions system problems unless it covers long distances.

Middle of the road

Can you recommend any medium-size petrol SUVs with chain cams? I’ve been looking at the Peugeot 3008, which I quite like, but the salesperson says they only come with belts. JB

That's not quite true. The 1.2 Puretech 130 is belt cam. They are long-life belts, though, and in five years I’ve heard absolutely no reports of any failures. The 1.6 diesels are belt cam. The 1.6 THP petrol has a chain cam, but this engine has a history of timing chain problems.

Negative equity

I am looking to replace my 2012 Ford Mondeo 2.2 TDCi auto, which is used for towing a caravan. With all the negativity about diesel engines and my low mileage (circa 10,000 a year), what would you recommend? JL

There are several options, including Mondeo 2.0 Ecoboost, Mazda6 2.0 Skyactiv G, VW Tiguan 2.0TSI, Skoda Karoq 2.0 TSI and Skoda Superb 2.0 TSI.

Regeneration game

I recently bought a three-year-old VW Tiguan diesel with almost 27,000 miles on the clock. It drives perfectly, but my daughter had particulate filter problems on a 2010 version through commuting short distances in her job as a nanny. I expect to cover up to 12,000 miles a year on journeys ranging from seven to 12 miles, with a few longer trips thrown in. What can I do to avoid problems? BP

Run only on superdiesel. Change the oil and filter at least every 10,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first. Make sure you balance short runs with long runs of 100 miles or more. Whenever you stop, open the door before you switch off: if you smell heat and burning you must not switch off. The particulate filter is regenerating and you’ll need to drive for a few more miles to allow completion of the process.

Highly charged

I have a VW Caddy 2.0-litre automatic that returns about 42mpg. I’m looking to change and have looked at the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. I do about 40,000 miles a year. A good idea? CW

A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) works if your use primarily benefits from its 20-mile electric range. Your 40,000 miles amounts to 160 miles per working day, so those 20 electric miles won’t be enough to improve average economy significantly (unless you can recharge). Those who do much smaller mileages benefit most from its plug-in range.

Cat basket case?

A 92-year-old friend has asked us to sell his 1983 Jaguar XJS, which has done only 40,000 miles. It has been dry-stored but was last used more than 25 years ago. What would be the current value and how much will it cost to make it roadworthy? DT

Sorry, it's impossible to estimate what might be wrong and therefore what might need replacing. At the very least it will need battery, tyres, brake discs, brake pads, brake fluid, engine oil and filter, transmission fluid, HT leads, spark plugs, possibly brake pipes and, of course, the removal of any rust. All of this could exceed the value of the car, so it might be better to simply enter it into an auction such as as a "barn find". Alternatively, speak to the top used Jaguar man in the country: In good, rust-free running order, I think it will be worth £8,000-£15,000.

Home of the Free

A friend is going to the USA for six months and will leave his Land Rover Freelander here. What should he do to preserve it? JH

Have it serviced so there is fresh oil in the engine to lessen the chance of corrosion. Overpressure the tyres to 40-45psi to help prevent them from flat-spotting. Take the car for a 30-mile run immediately before putting it away in the garage bone dry. Hook it up to a CTEK trickle charger that will maintain the battery at 13.5 volts.

Defence cuts

We have a two-year-old Citroën C4 Picasso diesel. The handbook makes no mention of cooling the turbo after high-speed runs, and the dealer says there is no need for concern with modern engines. When leaving a motorway, a stop usually occurs very soon; the Eco system then cuts the engine, which gives me concern for the turbo. Please advise. MP

The stop-start will not cut in if the turbo is too hot. This is helpful. If you stop for a break and the engine does not automatically switch off, that’s a signal to leave if running and keep oil circulating through the turbo bearing.

Antipodean adventure

Driving in Australia presents unique challenges - but should you export your UK car to the Antipodes? Credit: Bob Stefko/Getty Images 

My wife and I are selling up and retiring to Australia. It has been suggested to that we put our two-year-old Renault Captur 1.2 auto in the crate. Is it worth it, or should we sell it here and buy out there? Could the speedo be changed from miles to kilometres? PL

If you can do this tax-free, it’s probably viable. The Captur is sold in Australia, though those sold there are probably assembled in Malaysia rather than Spain. There should be no difficulty switching to kilometres - the car might even be programmed for this.

Corsa: true love?

A 2008 1.2 Vauxhall Corsa has caught my eye. Are they OK? SE

Despite its popularity, comparatively few problems are reported on Corsas. The 1.2 has a chain cam and generally very robust.

Parked correctly

My old car is on a Statutory Off-Road Notification certificate (SORN) and parked on my private driveway without an MoT. I have been told it needs to be insured. Surely this is incorrect? WN

It is incorrect. If the car is on a SORN it does not have to be continuously insured. Without a SORN, it does.

Motoring picture of the day: celebrating the internal combustion engine, in all its forms

Visiting rights

My father is visiting me for few weeks. He holds a valid Indian and international licence. I would like him to use my car. I would appreciate if you could guide me on insurance? PKM

Firstly, ask your regular insurer. Some do, some don't. Otherwise, try - and if they won't do it, try

Low and behold

Which small/medium SUVs have the lowest boot sill, which would help with the loading/unloading of a portable 19kg mobility scooter? AT

Citroën Berlingos, Peugeot Partners, Fiat Doblos, Renault Kangoos and Mercedes-Benz Citans. You could also look at the SWB Ford Tourneo Connect five-seater (not the Grand Tourneo Connect, because the folded rear seats create a higher load deck).

Diesel genes

When I bought my diesel Jaguar, should the seller have disclosed that diesel engines with particulate filters are unsuitable for drivers who do mainly short journeys? AO

If it's a private vendor, no. If it was a dealer or trader, possibly yes, because then the much-abused old phrase "fit for purpose" comes into play. If the dealer sold the purchaser a car that was fundamentally unsuited to purpose, the buyer might have a case.

Crude awakening

I have had to have an early oil change on my Ranger Rover Evoque. This was done under warranty at no cost, so the proposed long-service interval has resulted in me getting a free interim oil and filter change as a result of contamination. I believe this situation is not confined to Land Rovers. MW

Yes, many thanks. That's the bigger story - some owners have been getting a free oil change at 5,000 miles. Higher-mileage drivers have gone up to 16,000 miles before the oil service light comes on.

Bright idea

My Jaguar X-type is now eight years old, has done 75,000 miles and I feel I should change it. I love the car, but don’t want anything quite so big next time. I would like an automatic petrol engine and sat-nav. Any suggestions? SC

The Mazda2 1.5 SE-L is a lovely little car with the six-speed torque converter auto. They look much better in metallic Soul Red or Dynamic Blue than they do in the dull grey of the car I was given to test.

Pain from B sting

My 2012 Mercedes B-class is fitted with 225/45 R17 tyres. The ride is hard, so what tyres can I fit for comfort? RP

Change to 16-inch rims and 205/55 R16 Michelin Cross Climate tyres. If your car is currently on run-flats, you’ll need a space-saver spare for future emergency use because tyre repair kits rarely work.

Max sidewall?

My 2010 Renault Scénic suits the needs of two OAPs. It has been regularly serviced and has done only 17,000 miles, mainly local but with some longer motorway use. The tyres are original with a fair tread depth, but should I consider replacing them on age grounds? NW

If there is any sign of the sidewalls cracking, yes.

The bottom line

I have a 2007 petrol Ford Focus 1.8 that has done 60,000 miles. I’m interested in Ford’s scrappage scheme and can see from its website that my Focus would be worth £4,000 against a new Kuga or £4,950 against a new Focus. I’ve visited three Ford dealers to discuss this but have been surprised at their virtual lack of interest. While being polite, they’ve simply referred me back to the website, told me to “build” the car I want then return and they will complete the paperwork. Is the Ford deal so good that it cannot be improved? GC

In a word, yes. Unless a garage can get volume discounts or bonuses, there's nothing left for them to give you.

Switch craft

Might fingerprint scanning, as used at Heathrow airport, make cars less susceptible to theft? Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA

A friend recently had his BMW stolen. Are there any cars fitted with fingerprint technology for car ignition? If so, is it theft-proof? GH

It's coming, but hasn't arrived yet. However, there will always have to be a default that disengages it, for parking, servicing, etc. And as soon as the rogues find their way around the default, they'll still be able to steal the cars. BMW's new key system/smartphone app gets closest, because if a car is stolen the owner can switch off the engine from his phone.

Avant time

I am looking for a used Audi A4 Avant, 2013-2016. Is there a simple way that I can tell whether or not a 2.0 TDI is affected by the emissions recall? BB

If it has an EA189 engine, it’s affected. If it has an EA288 it isn't. The current Audi A4 B9s (from 2015 onwards) have the EA288 engines that have always put out genuinely low NOx.

Shortened odds

Are you able to shed any light on why Hyundai has reduced its service intervals to 12 months/10,000 miles for all petrol models registered since September 1, 2017? Given that information, I can't fathom how it's possible for a car registered in August 2017 to have an interval of 24 months/20,000. Shouldn't service intervals be based upon the mechanical requirements of a model rather than an arbitrary date? SG

It’s probably to cover the new turbocharged petrol engines, where oil has to cope with higher temperatures. But it’s common sense. Every car engine needs an oil and filter change at least every 10,000 miles or annually, whichever comes first. Faced with significant numbers of engine failures, BMW has also recently seen the sense of this. If you buy a Hyundai that apparently has 20,000-mile service intervals, get it serviced every 10,000 miles anyway.

Clean break

It’s time to replace my Kia Venga and I’d like to go for a hybrid. I’ve looked at the Niro, but it feels too big. Is there a Venga-sized hybrid you could recommend? WH

Presently, the one and only small hybrid is the Toyota Yaris hybrid. There might be a Kia Stonic/Hyundai Kona hybrid on the way.

Flaming lips...

I need to get a car to transport an elderly dog. It needs to have a low boot floor with no lip. Are there any hatchbacks like this? Or can you recommend a suitable used estate car? DC

The Ford EcoSport has a side-opening rear door with a low sill, but (unless they have fixed this for the facelift) it is hinged the wrong side for parking on the left. On the used market, you could look at the Toyota Yaris Verso, Mazda Demio, original Mazda2, Ford Fusion or Renault Clio Sport Tourer. Nowadays, most small cars need a substantial rear sill to add stiffness and provide impact protection.

Better part of velour

I am looking to buy a used car. I like the VW Golf (petrol) but, swayed by a lower price, the Seat Leon is an option. Which is best? PE

The Golf endows you with more status and VW corporate policy demands that the trim of Seats and Skodas is obviously lower than those of VWs or Audis, so they lack features such as rattle-proof, velour-lined gloveboxes. Otherwise, they are pretty much the same.

Deutschland unter alles

We want to replace our Jaguar with a luxurious, four-door town car, including parking assistance, automatic wipers, leather seating and good acceleration. We do not intend to drive long distances. We do not like Mercedes, BMW or Audi. What do you recommend? GC

The obvious contender would have been a BMW i3, but most electric cars will give you what you want. A VW e-Golf is the best. All offer instant acceleration, but have relatively limited ranges. Plug-in hybrid options include the VW Golf GTE and Mini Countryman PHEV, though the latter is of course built by BMW...

Advertising Logan

We are looking for a replacement for our Skoda Roomster. I would buy another Roomster if they were still made. We have looked at the Dacia range, but they have limited boot space. JB

The Dacia Logan MCV does not have limited load space and is the cheapest station wagon of decent proportions.

Figure on the Pulse

I want to sell my Smart ForTwo Pulse 71 auto coupé, petrol, first registered in December 2007. It has done 58,000miles. What’s it worth and how should I proceed? JS

It's probably worth £1,500, though I wouldn't touch it due to potential problems. You might as well check with  and, or place a photo ad in a newsagent’s window. It might have more potential closer to London.

Hissing. Fit?

My 1992 car has a Ford 2.9 V6 engine and four-speed autobox. If I press the brake pedal on start-up, I get a soft hissing noise that stops when I release the pressure. Any ideas? Is it safe? KB

It sounds like a pin-prick rust hole in the brake vacuum servo.

Cold comfort

If sports suspension is causing discomfort, which cars should you consider for a more civilised ride?

The sports suspension of my Honda Civic 1.3 S causes my wife much discomfort. We are considering a replacement, similar in size and price. Any ideas? JS

Citroën’s new ‘Advanced Comfort System’ (special seats and suspension dampers) becomes available in the C4 Cactus from spring 2018. I'd look at that. A lot of comfort is about tyre pressures and profiles, which could be affecting your Honda. Run them at no more than 30psi (cold) and choose 65-, 60- or 55-profile tyres.

Trans-Europe excess

We keep a 2006 Saab 9.5 Vector In Italy and have to bring it home every year for its MoT. While it’s nice to wander through Europe, it can cost about £2,000 per homebound trip. We are thinking of buying a newish car so that we can leave it there for almost years before an MoT is due. It would have to be reasonably comfortable, with automatic transmission and cruise control. DB

It is against EU law to keep a car in a different member state from the one in which it is registered for more than six months in any calendar year. You've only got away with it because no one has noticed. I'd buy something like a Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 110 EAT6 in Italy, register it to your Italian property and insure it over there.

Peace and Qs

I am looking to buy a new Audi Q5. Does it have the troublesome DQ200 twin dry-clutch DSG gearbox? I am also considering the Jaguar F-Pace. JI

No. Quattro 4WDs have a much more substantial DL501 longitudinal seven-speed s-tronic. There have been a few Mechatronics problems, but not enough to cause concern.

Deeper in thought

Is it possible to fit 18-inch wheels to my Nissan Qashqai, without compromising the handling? This would increase the selection of available tyres, as the only 19s available seem to be supplied by Continental or Bridgestone. BN

Better still, go to 17-inch wheels and fit 215/60 R17s. You can get Michelin Cross Climates in that size.

Funnel vision

I recently purchased a bottle of fuel system cleaner that has to be poured into the tank of my 2013 Ford Galaxy diesel. On attempting to do this I found I was unable to get past the misfuel prevention system that stops me accidentally filling up with petrol. Any ideas? GB

Ford supplies a small funnel to overcome its Easyfuel system for jobs like this. It's usually kept on one of the compartments to the side of (or under) the load compartment.

Breaker’s dozen

I have driven 13 Saabs over 42 years and my only real decision has been to choose a colour. My 10-year-old 9-5 Aero Estate is now beginning to shows signs of age and I haven’t got any clear idea for a replacement. I cover 10,000 miles a year in mixed conditions and need an estate. I like automatics, but am unsure about the reliability of VW Group products. What do you suggest? SL

The obvious alternative is a Ford Mondeo 2.0 Ecoboost 240 Powershift estate. Or you could go for a Skoda Superb with a 2.0 petrol engine and six-speed DQ250 or seven-speed DQ500 DSG. Avoid the problematic seven-speed DQ200 DSG fitted with smaller VW Group engines.

Avoiding the Q

I have looked into buying an Audi Q2 but wondered if you thought the 1.0 TSI engine was underpowered for a car of this size. I plan to buy a petrol automatic as I will be retiring and will not be using the car every day. I have been driving VW Golfs, so this is a break from tradition. I also wondered whether there are any known common faults with the Q2? AH

I've driven a Skoda Rapid Spaceback with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and seven-speed DQ200 DSG and it was fine, but that transmission has been very troublesome. You’d be better choosing something with a six-speed torque converter auto, such as a Mazda CX-3 2.0i Skyactiv auto.

Daft excluder

I own a three-year-old Audi SQ5 diesel. It is a bit daft – a 155mph four-wheel-drive SUV – but it is beautifully made and very well mannered. It is the best car I have ever owned. I also run a petrol VW Up for short journeys. With all this demonising of diesels (potential city bans, fall in second-hand values), do you think I should trade the SQ5 for a petrol model. It must be good for at least another seven years. In principle I’d be happy to keep it. DW

I'd take a test drive in a petrol-engined Porsche Macan (it shares a lot with the Q5), and also try a new model Q5, a Jaguar F-Pace and an Alfa Romeo Stelvio. If one of those blows your socks off, see what kind of deal you can do.

Winter wonder land

I have 15-inch mud and snow tyres on wheels from my Mk5 VW Golf and wish to use them on my Mk7. Last year I tried this successfully, but wondered whether you considered it acceptable. DA

If you used them without problems last year, there’s no reason not to do so again. All winter and all-weather tyres are unidirectional, so make sure you put them on the right way around.

Costa del solar

I have a Renault Clio 2010 1.6 automatic based at our holiday home in the Costa del Sol. It is parked in the open and is often not used for periods of up to three months. To prevent a flat battery, is it OK to plug in a solar charger during periods of non-use? ID

Find out if the socket is hard-wired directly to the battery. One way is to try to run something from it when the engine is switched off. If it is hard-wired directly, you can charge it via the socket.

Lemon aid

If a used car turns out to be a lemon, who can you turn to for redress? Credit:  Tuomas Lehtinen/Getty Images

I purchased a 2007 car in 2015. After six months the starter motor failed, then the first MoT cost me £800 and now, according to the mechanic, the chassis is rusty and could fall apart. I took out finance for four years. Do I have a case if I take the dealer to court? TS

In theory you have equal rights against the dealer and the finance house, but I think you are too late. The dealer remains liable for six months from date of purchase for any major fault that could have been present or developing on date of purchase. After that it's up to you to prove the car was fundamentally faulty from day one, which won't be easy. 

Backwards step

I hired a car from Avis and reversed it into a tree (major blind spot on a Fiat Punto). It made a dent about the size of my palm on one rear panel, but I received a bill for £1,000 – I feel that is outrageous (I used to run a garage with its own bodyshop). I have complained, but what else can I do? AK

Take the matter to small claims: The rental contract will render you liable for the damage. Your argument is the "reasonableness" of the cost. You can demand an invoice for the work from whoever did it for Avis, and can call them as a witness.

Stain dead vanguard

I have a 2005 Audi A6 Avant. The headlight glass is stained and normal glass cleaners will not shift the marks. My garage tried a proprietary cleaner but it has not been successful. I read that one solution was to use 2000 grit sandpaper, but I am concerned that this might damage the glass. JD

I use Brasso, which works a treat on obscured Polycarbonate headlight lenses. Try it on a corner first.

The price is right

A friend's long-term independent mechanic has quoted £282 to change the cambelt and water pump on my 50,000-mile 2010 Renault Clio 1.5 dCi. When I asked if that included the alternator belt and tensioner, he asked for an extra £66, all-inclusive. Is that extra £66 way too much? FS

No. His price of £348 is very fair. If the tensioner fails or the auxiliary belt gets wrapped up in the unprotected timing belt crankshaft pulley, the result will be just as disastrous as the belt simply snapping.

Rouen, or ruin?

My 2012 VW Polo 1.4 petrol automatic has a rattle that makes the engine sound like a diesel. It starts at 1,100rpm and ceases at about 1,250. This occurs under load. Otherwise it’s working well. It has had the VW recall for a change of transmission oil. I would be grateful for any ideas. I’m hoping to go France in the near future and am a bit worried that it might break down. MM

That’s typical of the VW Group DQ200 seven-speed dry clutch DSG. Reports of failures come in all the time. From your description, it’s more likely to be the clutch pack than the Mechatronics, which is a relief because replacing a clutch pack is much cheaper and you might get some goodwill from VW.

Pull the other one

I am considering a new Ford Kuga with the 1.5 Ecoboost engine. Would this be a better option than its diesel equivalent? WB

Yes. As long as you don't intend to tow, the 1.5 Ecoboost is a better long-term choice. Also consider a VW Tiguan with the 1.4/1.5 TSI (though there's a wait for that), a Tiguan 2.0 TSI or a Suzuki Vitara 1.4T Boosterjet.

Wrangler genes

My 2013 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4 XS has covered 42,000 miles and it’s time to replace all four tyres. The originals are Goodyear Wrangler HP M&S 235/65 R17. It may be their age, but they make a lot of road noise. Is there a better replacement tyre? RB

You can now get Michelin Cross Climate SUV tyres in 235/60 R18 107W XL. Set them at the lowest correct cold pressures and you will not believe the difference in compliancy, steering feel and quietness, in addition to the cold-weather benefits.

Short answer

Is it still the case that starting a car to take it out of the garage and then switching it off is bad for the engine and/or catalytic converter? PP

Very much so. A stop/start system will not cut the engine if it has just been started, if it is too cold, if there is insufficient charge in the battery, if the turbo is too hot or if the particulate filter is regenerating. It is smarter than we are. Also, most engine wear occurs when it is cold.

Pool harbour

My 1999 Ford Focus has a leak in the nearside load area. Removing the interior panel exposes a small box-like structure between the inner skin and outer bodywork. This fills with water when it rains. Any suggestions? VJ

I think the box-like structure is one of the two one-way rear cabin vents that emit stale air from the cabin. Yours must have broken, so water is admitted to the load area. The cure is to replace the one-way flaps.  You can't block them or the car will steam up.

Relatively speaking

The lease on my sister’s Motability car expires soon and she decided to buy it for her nephew. The rules stated that she must pay for the car by mid-September, which she did. She is now the official owner but they have told her that the road tax and contract will be in her name for a few more weeks. Her nephew has taken out fully comprehensive insurance. Can he legally drive the car straight away? KG

If it is taxed and he is insured, yes.

All mod cons

When considering a used car, I am wary of some modern features from a reliability point of view. Is my caution justified or misplaced? IP

Avoid cars with starter buttons, electromechanical parking brakes, DSG transmissions and smaller turbodiesel engines. Small petrol turbo engines are generally OK as long as previous drivers have looked after them; they must be lubricated with fully synthetic oil and that needs to be changed at least every year/10,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Chuck Wagon

We have a Suzuki Wagon R, now 16 years old. It has given great service but will obviously give out at some point. We were thinking of replacing it with a Skoda Roomster but would prefer not to pay any road tax if possible. JK

Unless you are buying used, first registered before April 1 2017, VED on everything now costs at least £130 per annum.

E numbers

I am about to order a new Mercedes-Benz E-class coupé. I currently have an old-style 2.0-litre E. with a Brabus chip that gives me best of both worlds: sports car performance and armchair comfort. I’m wanting to do it again with the new E, but the salesman is pushing me to have the 3.0-litre instead because “it’s a V6 and has four-wheel drive”. Most 4WD cars I’ve tried have felt heavier, clunkier and not as sporty. JD

We drove the 2.0 300e and 220d in the new E convertible, but couldn't get hold of the 3.0 400e. The 300e was disappointing and the new 220d drove much better. I think you'll need the 400e.

Attitude of change

I am nearing retirement and wish to swap from my PCP deal (currently financing an Audi Q3) to a high-end, almost new SUV and change it every year or so. I'm looking to allocate a pot of cash (say £30,000) then chip in additional money as required. Is there any other strategy I should consider? RM

That is a route to financial disaster. Unless you are able to buy at a discount of 30-40 per cent, any new SUV will lose that percentage of what you paid for it in the first year. Your plan makes no sense at all.

Parish counsel

I have driven my Morgan down two potholes. I couldn’t see them because they were full of water. I now know that months ago they were reported to our local parish council, but don’t know whether the parish council passed on the information. The damage looks to exceed £1,000 for parts and labour alone. I want to bill someone for this. How should I proceed? DW

You have to prove that the council responsible knew about the potholes and had not done anything about them. Check the records at and - if you can prove the potholes were reported and that nothing was done, you can attempt a small claim in the county court:

Juke ’box gory

Our six-year-old/60,000-mile Nissan Juke Dig-T (allegedly one of the last made in Japan before production was moved to the UK) is running out of extended warranty. All scheduled servicing has been done by the main dealer and it has been pretty well trouble-free. We'd like to keep it. Is this wise and, if so, what needs doing to maximise its remaining lifetime? AC

Your biggest potential worry is the CVT gearbox and a replacement bill that exceeds the value of the car.

Electric dreams

I own a Honda Jazz Hybrid and will be looking to exchange it for an all-electric car within the next year. My concern is battery efficiency. I am retired, so do only 200 miles per week and rarely drive more than 400 miles in one journey. I would like to stick with a vehicle about the same size as my Jazz. What do you recommend? ME

A Renault Zoë - it’s much better-looking than a Nissan Leaf and now has an upgraded battery pack. If you do a low mileage, some say it’s better to buy the battery. If you do a high mileage, I’m told it’s better to lease the battery.

Marques and sparks

We have come to the end of the road with our fantastic Volvo S40. We had 17 years of trouble-free driving, as we did with our previous Volvo. We are told newer Volvos are not so good. What should we buy next? JV

Try a Kia. The marque came top in the latest JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey and cars come with a seven-year warranty. We hear of very little trouble with them and what there is gets fixed quickly. VWs, Fords and BMWs are bottom of the list.

Avoiding action

I had not known of a problem with transmissions in small VW Group cars. Are they manifest in Polo/Fabia/Ibiza-sized models? PDG

Don't buy anything with the VW Group DQ200 seven-speed dry clutch DSG/s-tronic that is fitted to VW cars from 1.0 to 1.8 litres. Ups, Miis and Citigo "automatics' have an even worse automated manual. DQ250 six-speed wet clutch DSG/s-tronics fitted to 2.0-litre engines are generally OK as long as the fluid and filter are changed every three years. DQ500 seven-speed wet clutch DSG/s-tronics fitted to high-performance 2.0/2.5 cars are best of the lot.

Discovery channel

I am thinking of buying a Land Rover Discovery. The obvious engine is the torquey 3.0-litre diesel, but are the petrol engines any use? JB

Do you mean a new Discovery? The 3.0 TDV6 has bags of torque, but is belt cam and there have been a few serious failures. There are also problems with the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel. The petrol option is JLR's 2.0 V6 chain-cam Si6 with ample torque. Just don't expect 40mpg (it’s more like 25).

Height of good taste

The Fiat 500 is an excellent first car for an unfeasibly tall grandson

Our grandson is 18 and about to take his driving test. We would like to buy him his first car. He is 6ft 4in tall, so what would you advise? AJ

The Fiat 500 has lots of headroom and excellent seats. With the basic 1,242cc engine it is also relatively cheap to insure.

Gum powder plot

I own a Toyota Yaris hybrid. What improvement can I expect if I change from regular unleaded  to BP Ultimate? KM

You’ll get more torque at low revs, allowing the epicyclic gears to go to a higher ratio earlier and save a little fuel, but the main thing is that you’ll be spared fuel-system problems: no gunge to gum up valves or injectors.

Narrow vote

Due to advancing years and reduced mobility I am going to buy an MPV. I have narrowed it down to a Fiat Doblo or Qubo or the Citroën Berlingo Multispace. Which one should I choose and why? JB

The Berlingo Multispace looks best, is nicest to drive and is available with a petrol engine. There will be a smart new Berlingo in 2018.

Cheap seats

My 51-year-old daughter is coming to the end of a drink-driving ban. Previous to this she had been on the road for more than 30 years with a clean licence and unblemished insurance record. She has £4,000 to spend. Is there any chance she could get a reliable runabout and pay insurance for that kind of money? JS

Insurance will be huge, but if she restricts herself to a relatively reliable 2003-2005 Toyota Yaris 1.0 she might be able to get the car and her first year's insurance for £4,000.

Rim with a view

My wife is buying a three-year old Seat Leon but is a little concerned that the car doesn’t have a spare wheel, only a repair kit. Should she be concerned? RF

In my experience tyre repair kits are worse than useless - and readers’ experience is the same. They don't work 95 per cent of the time. Get a space-saver spare, either from Seat or online.

Cat’s pause

My 2012 Jaguar XF has two intermittent faults. The brake-pad warning light is on 90 per cent of the time, though all pads have been replaced since this warning started to have a mind of its own. My reversing camera works when it chooses, sometimes perfectly for several weeks, sometimes not for several weeks, and sometimes it fluctuates by the day. Any suggestions? AJ

Both are electrical issues - probably poor earths, which is why they are intermittent. I'd guess that moisture got into your rear camera. The back of a car is an extremely hostile place in damp conditions.

Looking for trouble

I am thinking of changing my Ford Mondeo for a 2012-2014 Focus 1.6 petrol. Are there any problems with these? MG

Lots. Ford says a clutch problem has affected only three per cent of these cars, but is now offering assistance to owners who have had trouble.

Man of the world

My 2009 Ford Mondeo TDCi 140 has done 123,000 miles, mostly on motorways. I will drive 20,000 miles a year for the next four years. It has had a new timing belt and water pump and is serviced every 12,000 miles. When (or if) I change it, I would like a one-year-old estate with similar power, preferably petrol. What would you recommend? AH

The Skoda Superb 1.4 TSI 150 ACT works well, and the new 1.5 TSI engine is even smoother.

Oil be damned

I have a 2011 Ford Focus Titanium with 45,000 miles on the clock. I am 83 years old and am considering a Skoda Fabia as a replacement. What is your view? RHF

The current Fabia arrived a couple of years ago and is OK, but - unlike the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo - is not on the VW Group’s latest MQB platform. Whatever you decide, do not buy a diesel.

Cable TV

Dashcams are increasingly popular, but is there a way of wiring them to avoid unsightly cables?

I am thinking of buying a dashcam for my wife's car. Is it possible to get wireless units that don't have unsightly dangling cables? TL

It's easy to wire them unobtrusively. Site the dash-cam behind the right-hand side of the passenger sun visor, run the cable over the visor mountings, press it into the rubber capping down the door jamb, then run it under the floor mat to the power socket in the centre console.

Euro sceptic

I hired a car in Italy. Avis later said it it had been notified of a fine imposed during my use of their vehicle and that the issuing authority would send written notification to me with the reason for the fine in due course. I was surprised to see that, apart from what the fine might cost, Avis is taking £30 from my credit card as an administration fee. Is this usual? AR

It's normal for a car rental company to charge for the administration of a penalty. It is legally bound to notify the issuing authority of the identity, licence details and address of the offender, so naturally it charges for this. The penalty notice itself might not arrive with you for as long as a year, if it arrives at all. The issuing authority might give up.

Hot and bothered

I have a 2013 Honda CR-V 2.2i DTEC. I recently made a two-mile journey with a short break after a mile. About half an hour later I drove the vehicle again, but after only a few yards I lost all power, the engine was still ticking over. I switched off and restarted several times before I could regain power. This happened on one other occasion in similar circumstances. There were no warning indicators. The car was serviced by Honda just a month ago. Is this a known problem? DC

I guess you switched it off when the particulate filter was actively regenerating. Never do that. If there's a hot smell and the fan comes on at the end of a journey, keep the engine running until regeneration is complete.

Vive la France…

As one of the “Brexit Brigade" I have not forgotten that British car manufacturing is mainly foreign owned. When l bought my Vauxhall Astra I did so partly to help secure jobs at the Ellesmere Port plant, rather than to jeopardise these jobs by buying German. WF

That might not last very long, because GM Vauxhall/Opel is now owned by the resurgent Peugeot group.

VW Up GTI tested – we tackle the French Riviera in a tiny hot hatch

Trans-Europe express

I travel every year through France and Spain. I understand there is a company you can use for automatic access through the tolls without needing a euro bank account. Can you help? TH

You need to register with different companies for France and for Spain. This covers Spain and some French autoroutes: This is for France only: In practice, you can drive from Gibraltar to the French border at Ainhoa (north of Pamplona) without venturing onto a single Spanish autopista. I've done it twice.

Three-pointed start

I took your advice and bought a Mercedes E250 auto estate, instead of a Skoda Superb DSG, to tow our caravan. The Mercedes garage has already started asking me to sign up for extras, but the tyre insurance seems interesting. With tyres on the Merc being pretty expensive, is this a good option? I have already ignored the gap insurance, having obtained it elsewhere for four years at £214. Any thoughts? MG

If it's on sensible 16-inch wheels and tyres, you won't need the insurance. If it's on big wheels with low-profile tyres and if the insurance covers damage from kerbing, you might.

Volkswagen gulf

Necessity has long consigned my driving to automatics. Each time I change cars I look longingly at VWs, but then swiftly recall all the caveats regarding their DSG transmissions. Now, I read in a review of the new Polo that the automatic gearbox can experience a "horrible delay" before it kicks in. I realise the development cost involved, but doesn't VW owe it to its reputation to launch a different system sooner rather than later? JK

Yes. The new DQ500 seven-speed wet-clutch DSG fitted to some 2.0- and 2.5-litre engines works very well, but they haven't yet replaced the troublesome DQ200 fitted to smaller (1.0- to 1.8-litre) engines.

Protection racket

My Mercedes E220 CDI Bluetec auto will soon be three years old and I intend to keep it for some time. I have had it since new and have done 27,000 miles. Mercedes is offering an extended warranty for £72 per month. Is this good value for money? BW

No. That's £864 a year for a car that is supposed to be reliable. If you feel you require reassurance, get competitive quotes from and

Long & grinding road

I've replaced my Land Rover Freelander with a new Discovery Sport diesel. The dealer tells me that it'll need servicing at two years or 21,000 miles. I have a service plan, but should I pay for an annual oil change between services? KW

Reports from owners tell me that the DPF regeneration system of this engine contaminates the oil so rapidly that it can need changing at 5,000-10,000 miles. A 21,000-mile interval is ridiculous. In my view every engine needs an oil and filter change at least annually or every 10,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Fuel filtration

I visited my VW garage to see about a scrappage deal for my 2009 Passat estate, with a view to switching to a petrol Tiguan. I was told petrol Tiguans have for the time being been withdrawn from the UK, because VW can’t make enough engines, and thus I was unable to place an order via the scrappage scheme. JG

Demand for petrol engines throughout Europe has suddenly rocketed. Although VW recently introduced a range of 1.4 TSI and 2.0 TSI engines for the Tiguan, it is also in the throes of switching production from the 1.4 TSI to the outstanding new 1.5 TSI Evo. That’s the reason for the temporary shortage.

Higher purchase

My wife and I are looking for a new car with good carrying capacity and higher seating. We are almost settled on a Citroën C4 Grand Picasso, but is the 1.2 Puretech 130 petrol engine suitable for such a large car? JM

It’s an excellent engine and even works well with the EAT6 automatic in the five-seat Picasso. There will be no problem travelling light, two-up, but a Grand Picasso might start to struggle if you have seven people and a load of luggage on board. Remember that it’s vital to idle the turbo for a minute or two whenever you stop after the engine has been working hard (motorways, long ascents etc).

Sydney, Sussex

How can you avoid re-starting problems if you leave your car at an airport for six weeks? Credit: Media Mogul

I will be going to Australia for six weeks and my VW Golf Mk7 will remain at a car park near Gatwick Airport. Should it be parked in any particular way to avoid problems on my return? OG

In gear, parking brake off. If the accessory socket is hard-wired to the battery, it might make sense to connect a small solar panel charger and leave it on the dash top. That might make the difference between a flat battery and a first time start on your return.

Bitter lemon

In September 1974 my wife purchased a new Morris Mini Clubman, finished in citron with navy trim. After 43 years the Mini is still in good condition, having done 80,000 miles. No car repair company will remove a few scratches and rust patches, however, because the citron paint cannot be matched. Have you any suggestions? And how much might it be worth? RB

If you sell it’s best to advertise at the Mini Club website, The club might also be able to help with your paint problem.

Property is thrift

We have a 2013 Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi 130 that gives 60mpg plus on a long run. What can we do to keep the diesel particulate filter soot-free as the car gets older? AG

You're doing well, because I have the same engine in a Kadjar and that's only averaging 49mpg, maybe because it's 4WD. Change the oil at least every 10,000 miles or every 12 months, whichever comes first. Dirty oil kills DPFs and engines. Use superdiesel and don't do a lot of short runs from cold starts, especially in winter.

Motoring picture of the day puff

Damper squib

I purchased a 2013 VW Golf (12,000 miles) and am told there is oil mist on both nearside shock absorbers, so they should be replaced soon. The garage says this is a common fault and that I should replace all four shock absorbers. What do you say? RS

That's outrageous. If this is the supplying dealer, tell them unequivocally you want four new dampers fitted free of charge because the fault was obviously present before your purchase and that renders them liable to fix it, or else refund your money. I am starting to get more reports of prematurely failed dampers on VW Group cars.

Big Multimac

We are looking for a car that will accommodate three child seats across the back. We have a budget of £35,000. WB

The answer to this regular problem is a Multimac triple (or quadruple) car seat that will fit across the back seat of most cars, so you can buy something you really want: visit the website.

Heavy mettle

I drive a 2009 Volvo XC60 and tow a 21-foot steam launch on a braked trailer. I am hoping to find a replacement 4WD SUV vehicle, but with a petrol engine. Any suggestions? AT

Assuming the trailer and launch weigh 3,000kg or more, there aren't many sufficiently substantial petrol cars. A Range Rover or Range Rover Sport 4.2 or 5.0 V8, perhaps? There is the Mercedes G-class with the 6.2-litre AMG 63 engine and some Jeeps have a hemi V8. A few American pick-ups might also suit.

Country life

Our annual mileage is circa 10,000, mostly rural with round trips of 10 to 30 miles. Unless circumstances change, we would expect to keep our next VW Passat for up to five years. We have driven diesel cars for many years. Is this the time to switch to petrol? MW

Yes, unless you take advantage of the plunge in value of nearly new diesels. Apart from the excellent but expensive GTE, Passats have only just become available with a range of petrol engines, so there isn’t much choice in terms of recent cars.

Inequitable life

I received my latest insurance renewal notice from Aviva for my seven-year-old Abarth 500. The premium has gone up from £268 to £293. I decided to try a market comparison and was quoted £217.75 by for exactly the same cover. So I’ve renewed via that company – which, it turns out, is part of Aviva. Is this common practice? JT

This is how private equity-funded businesses are run: AA, RAC and most insurers. They try to squeeze people for as much as they can, but relent if the customers fight back.

Firm rebuttal

I am considering a new Ford Fiesta but notice that this model has received mixed reviews. Could you could go into a bit more detail? OS

It’s extremely smooth and refined, but non-sporting versions can be spoiled by unsuitable boy racer accessories such as 17-inch wheels that harden the ride and cause the steering to lose feel when cornering. Stick to 15- or 16-inch wheels.

Adjustable damping

I left my Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI Sport on the drive overnight and awoke to find all four electric windows in the down position after a night of rain. Any ideas? AA

There are two reasons why this happens. One is that you sat on the key and activated the global window opening function. The other is that water got into the ECU inside the driver's door and activated it.

Short answer

My wife is looking to change her car. The vast majority of her journeys involve trips no more than five miles. Does this mean she should avoid diesel? RF

She should definitely avoid diesel and probably hybrids, too. She needs is a plug-in electric car such as a Renault Zoë.

Piping hot

My 2.0-litre BMW X3 diesel is now on its third replacement turbocharger. The car is eight years old and has done 133,000 miles. After the first turbo failed, I was told to let the engine idle for a minute before turning it off, which I did, but the turbos are still failing. The car has a full BMW service history. What could the problem be? MD

The turbo bearing oil feed and return pipes are partially blocked with carbon (from switching the engine off when the turbo was too hot) and that is restricting oil flow through the turbo bearing. These pipes should always be replaced at the same time as a turbo.

Diamonds not forever

In the last 12 months I have suffered cracks in two of the four 21-inch diamond-cut alloys of my Audi Q7. At £1,500 per wheel, with labour on top, replacements have been very expensive. Is this a common fault? Have I been unlucky? And should I replace them with some cheaper smaller wheels and deeper tyres to protect this from happening again? DW

Yes. Get some 18-inch alloys coated with high-temperature paint and lacquer. Talk to The tyre size is 235/60 R18, giving a much better ride, and the tyres will probably last twice as long.

Malice, a forecourt

If you've misfuelled your diesel car with petrol, what can you do to avoid expensive bills? Credit: Tobias Schwarz/Reuters

I put six litres of petrol in my Nissan Qashqai diesel to top up the tank. What can I do? AS

If it was only six litres you should be OK, as long as you quickly add a lubricity additive (such as Wynn’s), run the car on high-lubricity superdiesel fuel and do not let the tank go below half full for at least 2,000 miles. With luck, the petrol will float on top, then gradually disperse into the diesel without damaging the high-pressure diesel injection pump. If you allow the tank to get low, then petrol could find its way into the pump. The only alternative is to empty the tank and dispose responsibly of the contaminated diesel.

Looking for clues

I need to replace my Citroën Berlingo with something that’s cheaper to tax and has even easier access. Any clues? DD

Everything new since April 2017 is either £130 or £140 a year to tax (as long as it costs less than £40,000). I think your best bet is a Ford Courier Kombi 1.0 Ecoboost. That’s like a much better looking, though basic, smaller Berlingo.

See Lion

My wife wants to change her 2009 Mercedes A-class and we can spend up to £20,000. Suggestions? DL

Take a look at the Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech, either a 110 EAT6 automatic or a 130 six-speed manual.

Sting in the tale?

As replacement tyres for my 2007 Volvo XC70 AWD, would the new Michelin Cross Climate Plus have an advantage over the (original equipment) Pirelli Scorpion M+S? The latest Pirellis continue to perform well, but the Michelins seem to be getting very good reviews. GB

The matter might be decided by what is available in the right size. Michelin Cross Climates score with their compliance, quietness, good steering feel and performance in mud, as well as their cold weather virtues.

Seven, wonders

Having just acquired a Skoda Yeti with seven-speed automatic gearbox, I was dismayed to read your negative comments about its transmission. What are the problems and how will I recognise their onset? BC

It affects all VW Group cars with the DQ200 twin dry-clutch seven-speed DSG/S-tronic gearbox.

Country pursuits

I am looking to replace my Mini Cooper JCW. I am looking for something fun, but a little bigger (such as a BMW M3 or VW Golf R). I will use the car for a daily commute on A-roads and country lanes. MS

The latest Golf R has the DQ500 seven-speed wet clutch DSG and that makes an enormous difference, because the old DQ250 six-speed DSG wasn’t up to the job. You might also consider an Audi RS3 400 saloon (with the DQ500).

Soft option

What is the most comfortable SUV/MPV that combines good economy with low tax? DG

A Renault Kadjar 1.6 dCi AWD on 17-inch wheels with 215/60 R17 tyres is very comfortable, or a Honda CR-V on either 17- or 18-inch wheels. Since April 2017, annual tax on all new cars under £40,000 is the same: £140 per annum, with reductions for hybrids and EVs.

Top tips

I have a 1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. It has a factory-fitted Everflex roof. Some time ago the seams started to split. I had a temporary fix done, involving two thick plastic strips. This lets the car down. Can you give me any advice with regards to repairs? CJ

These people claim to specialise in repairing or replacing Everflex roofs (a more durable type of vinyl roof used by luxury car makers): That's information only: I have no feedback so can't vouch for them.

Expensive taste

My husband has a low-mileage Porsche Macan S diesel and wants to replace it with a hybrid. He loves Porsches, but its only hybrid of interest to him is the Panamera, at more than £100,000. What else might suit? MS

There is a new Lexus LX600h on the way and also a Lexus LC hybrid coupé, which is quite spectacular to behold. All the big players are switching to petrol hybrid SUVs. There is a BMW X5 40e and there will be an Audi Q5 hybrid (plus a Macan hybrid based on it). And, of course, there's the Cayenne hybrid.

Mined, the gap

We are about to take delivery of a new Jaguar saloon. The retailer is offering gap insurance, wheel, tyre and cosmetic or chip insurances. Should I consider any of these? BS

Gap (“return to invoice”) insurance can be worth having, but it is much cheaper bought independently from a specialist such as (there are many more providers). The other add-ons are all commission earners. At least half of what you pay goes to the salesman and/or the dealer. Up to you, but I wouldn't bother.

Chip off old block

I acquired a Mini Cooper 1.5 in March 2015. Two years later BMW recalled it for software updates. They then returned the car and said they needed to order a part. In early July they recalled it again, this time for three weeks, and replaced the entire engine. All the local dealer will tell me is that there was a fault with the crankshaft seals. Can you shed any light? RS

You have been informed correctly. The bearings are checked and, if necessary, replaced. If they or the block are deemed to be too far gone, then the engine is replaced. A technical service bulletin was first issued in 2016. It seems to affect only early 1.5-litre three-cylinder engines.

Chord progression

The Honda Jazz is more compact and practical than an HR-V, but might it be underpowered?

I have driven Honda CR-Vs for many years and now have an HR-V, which I like. I now think it’s a bit too large for my needs and was thinking of changing to the Honda Jazz. My usual dealer recommends the Jazz SE 1.3 CVT, but I feel the engine might be underpowered. ED

The Jazz 1.3i VTEC CVT7 is economical but very slow. Things will perk up when the Jazz gets the HR-V’s 1.5i VTEC.

Hard reign’s gonna fall

When my wife bought a new car last year, I acquired her 2003 Mini Cooper automatic with sports suspension. The car has always had a hard ride, but two weeks ago the comfort level softened noticeably. Do you think it could it be a suspension problem? DM

Something is wrong. Get it checked.

Cable car

We are about to purchase a second-hand Renault Zoe from a main dealer. I asked the salesman about servicing costs and he mentioned that only accredited electric car dealers could change the tyres and that we must stick with eco tyres. Is this correct? Secondly, do you think the depreciation will level off for electric cars, as the Zoe has lost more than 70 per cent of its value in just over a year. Finally, how easy will it be to trade it in after a few years with a dealer other than Renault? AK

The eco tyres are necessary to cut rolling resistance and extend the electric range. If you fit more resistant rubber, the range will decrease. The best way to have an electric car is to own the car and lease the battery. Batteries gradually lose their capacity, but if they are leased you are covered for replacements. Demand for electric cars is now increasing massively and there’s not much (apart from the battery) to wear out, so I’d have no worries over resale.

Town planning

My wife’s Land Rover Freelander 2 is 10 years old. We have owned it from new and there have been no problems, although it has done only 42,400 miles. Is it time to trade it in for something newer? She has been looking at a Renault Kadjar 1.5 diesel auto and, while it is a nice car, compared with the Freelander its suspension is a little firm. She does about 4,000 miles a year around town. Any advice? GH

The Kadjar will have felt hard because it was on 19-inch wheels with 45-profile tyres. Even the top Signature versions are available on 17-inch wheels with 60-profile tyres, which I have on mine. If she only drives in town, though, it’s better not to get a new diesel because she'll clog its particulate filter. Stick with the old Freelander or get a Kadjar with a petrol engine and the EDC transmission. Or take a future-proof option, the Kia Niro petrol hybrid SUV.

Scarce stories

I’ve had a succession of Lexus models, so I’m a serious fan and would like to buy an SC430. Do you have any particular advice when looking for a second-hand example? My present car is a 2006 IS250 and, if I don’t buy an SC430, I’ll need another premium four-door saloon, not necessarily a Lexus, but it must have more rear legroom as I have the driver’s seat all the way back. CKF

What to buy now: the 'future classics' we think will rise in value

The SC430 is a rare car and some parts are not easy to find. If you ditch the idea in favour of rear legroom (the SC430 has none), then you'll get the most of that for a sensible price in the Skoda Superb. The 1.4 TSI 150 works well as a manual. If your car has to be automatic, then you need to go to a Superb with a 2.0-litre engine to get a more robust DSG than the DQ200 that comes with the 1.4 TSI.

Catering for masses

I have a six-year-old Toyota Aygo that I love for its economy and easy parking. Since the birth of another grandson. however, I need to change it for a five-seater and would appreciate your advice. I don't have a lot of money and can only afford a maximum of £3,000 on top of the Aygo’s trade-in value. JA

Try to find a Honda Civic 1.8i VTEC manual - masses of room, very versatile and 40mpg potential. Do not buy the i-shift automated manual, though.

Surface tension

I'm house-hunting and found one I like, but I'm put off by traffic noise from an A-road more than a mile away. This seems to be because the road surface is concrete rather than Tarmac. Why did councils use this surface? Was it to save money? TL

Yes, because it’s much more durable. Sections of the M25 in Surrey are concrete and very noisy.

Deutsch marques

Of the Mercedes C220, Audi A4 or BMW 3-series, which is the best for reliability, reasonable running costs and comfort? CJ

Probably the Mercedes, but they all have problem areas. Basically you're not buying any better quality than you’d get from a Toyota. Kia or Hyundai, merely the illusion of it coupled with far higher repair costs.

C sore

I have a 2004 Mercedes C-class. A message appeared showing two malfunctions: ABS and ESP. I went to my local service station and they connected a small computer near the accelerator. It noted no malfunction and the garage said there was nothing to worry about. On the way home, the message reappeared. What do I need to do? SM

This light alone is an MoT failure because it denotes a fault with the ABS/ESC, so I'm afraid you're going to have to take it for a more detailed check. It might be a wheel sensor, a reluctor ring or the brake pressure sensor inside the ABS/ESP module.

Motoring picture of the day puff

No defence at all...

I sold my Land Rover Defender XS and bought a slightly earlier Defender County with a much lower mileage. My insurer initially claimed that this was a commercial vehicle, despite it being virtually identical to the previous one. They demanded copies of the registration document and photographs before grudgingly conceding it was a car. They then charged me £111 extra for "change of vehicle", arguing that statistically one is more likely to have an accident after such a change. It was cheaper to pay the £111 than cancel the existing policy and renew with a different insurer. Extortionate? GH

That’s not good. Private equity investors have latched on to car insurance because it’s compulsory and they have everyone over a barrel. But, of course, next time you'll look around, so their nasty little tricks will lose them your business.

Rim with a view

After four Volvo V70s in 20 years, I am thinking of changing to a Skoda Superb SEL 190 estate. My present V70 is a D5 running on Michelin Cross Climates, which are brilliant. Any thoughts, adverse or otherwise, greatly accepted. The Skoda would not be new. MG

Good move. I prefer the Superb 2.0 TDI 150 to the 190 because it is nicer to drive. Make sure you buy one with the right tyre size to take another set of Cross Climates - no ridiculously big wheels with low-profile tyres.

My perfect cushion

Can you soften the ride of a Mini 5dr by specifying adaptive suspension?

I’m thinking of downsizing from a BMW 3-series with adaptive suspension to a Mini five-door auto. Is this available on a Mini and worth considering? BH

No. You soften the ride of a Mini by getting it on smaller wheels with deeper-profile tyres.

Back to my routes

I drive a Hyundai i30 CRDi and would like to change to a smaller car. I am interested in the i20 Premium Nav, but the 1,400cc engine only comes with automatic transmission and I would prefer manual. My main criteria are that I have a rear-view camera and sat-nav. FS

I’d go for the 1.0T GDI petrol - it's a more modern engine and much better.

Loud pedal

The engine in my 36,000-mile Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDI makes a loudish noise when I accelerate hard in sixth gear, especially on an incline. My main dealer has checked it out but says no fault can be found. What could be causing this - and might it be serious? JH

If you are accelerating in sixth up an incline in a Sportage 1.7 CRDI then you will probably be loading the engine too much, especially if the revs are below 2,000. The noise could be the dual mass flywheel protesting. You need to change down a gear (or two).

What to buy now: the 'future classics' we think will rise in value

Comfort zone

I am looking to buy either a Kia Niro. a Hyundai Ioniq or possibly a Toyota RAV4 hybrid. They come with 15-inch wheels as standard, but nice-looking 17s are an option. A bad idea? JC

Whatever the wheel size, the tyres will have the same rolling circumference. The bigger the wheels, the less tyre there is between the rims and the road, hence less comfort. Sizes for the Niro are actually 16-inch rims with 205/60 R16 tyres or 18-inch with 225/45 R18s. I'd go for 16s on a Grade 1 or Grade 2 Niro, which I consider to be the best value.

Goodbye to chain

My wife would like to purchase a recent Audi A3 and I’m after a Skoda Yeti 4x4, but we’ve been put off by reading about the problems with the FSI and TSI engines fitted toVW Group cars. When was the revised EA888 engine introduced and how do I know whether a car is fitted with it? RL

EA888 models are the 1.8 TSI and 2.0 TSI. The revisions came in during 2013. The new engines have exhaust manifolds integrated within their cylinder heads. The EA211 1.2 TSI and 1.4 TSI were also revised during 2013, with belt cams instead of chains.

Moan of the cloth

My Honda Civic is almost three years old and after 25,000 miles the driver’s seat has started to wear at the edge panel. It’s still under warranty but Honda will not help. A car upholsterer told me this is a common occurrence and feels manufacturers are not using durable material. I have owned cars for more than 50 years and have never had this problem before. RK

It’s very common on sporty cars because the raised side bolsters are intended to keep drivers in the seats while cornering, but many slide over them when entering and leaving, which causes wears. We're not racing drivers. We don't need heavily bolstered seats any more than we need 19-inch wheels with 35-profile tyres, but this is a general problem across all makes, and a more serious problem for heavier drivers.

Focus group

We are considering a two-year old Ford C-Max 1.0 Ecoboost to replace our ageing Focus 1.8 TDCi. We haven't had the opportunity to test one yet, but I am a little concerned that the car may be underpowered with only a 1.0-litre engine. RC

It isn't underpowered or deficient in torque. The problem is that a number of owners have suffered failed clutches and dual mass flywheels with the 1.0 Ecoboost and six-speed manual in Focus and C-Max models. Ford denies a problem and blames the owners. You're probably better off with a Toyota Verso or a Kia Carens, both of which come with five-year warranties.

Motoring picture of the day puff

Gone west

A Gloucester garage did some work on my car and the repair failed due to a faulty sensor. The business has since closed and the owner tells me he is filing for bankruptcy, although I have since discovered that he was reimbursed for the faulty sensor. Is there any point in me using the small claims court to recover money from the garage? I assume not. GR

There’s no point making a claim against a bankrupt business or a bankrupt individual because you will be at the end of a long line of creditors that always starts with HMRC.

Tracks of my tears?

I am buying an all-wheel-drive Skoda Scout, but wonder whether its 225/50 R17 tyres will stand up to rough tracks? LL

These have a low profile, but not too low. I’d suggest 205/55 R16s or 205/60 R16s if you can switch, but wouldn’t worry too much if you can’t.

Niro fiddles?

I changed my VW Golf 1.6 TDI for a new Kia Niro hybrid. I used to pay £30 in VED for the VW, but must now pay £130 for the Kia. What is the point of trading in a fairly recent diesel for a more eco-friendly modern car? Likewise, where is the encouragement from the government when, with a hybrid, you only save £10 a year on VED? JW

Before April 2017, the Niro was tax-free. Showroom tax on your Niro from April was £25. CO2-based showroom tax actually rose to £2,000 for the highest emitters. The general change in taxation has switched from CO2 ratings to a straight £140pa from the second year plus an extra £310pa for four years on cars costing more than £40,000. The general tax of £140 is supposed to pay for the UK's roads, which the old CO2-based regime failed to do.

Parallel bars

I have decided to give up driving and my wife would benefit from an automatic small car with self-parking. What is the cheapest new car of this type and are there any used versions on the market? VE

Self-parking has been optional on the Ford C-Max and Ford Focus since 2010. Your problem will be finding a second-hand example that has this feature. Buyers don't like to pay extra for such enhancements in this class of car.

Carry on camping

Some petrol hybrids, such as the Volvo XC90 T8, are capable of towing a caravan

As it appears that petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned in the future, how on earth are we going to tow? I own a caravan. Are there any existing hybrid or electric cars that can do the job? GH

They won't be banned. Only new ones, and probably only private cars because it simply isn't possible to convert the whole of Europe's trucking fleet to electric or hybrid operation. Some petrol hybrids are already capable of towing - for instance the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Volvo XC90 T8 and BMW X5 xDrive 40e.

Minding the gap

I bought a new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and was offered gap insurance for about £400 for 12 months.  I don't really understand it and wondered if it was worth buying? WJK

It covers you for the difference between what an insurer will pay you if your car is written off and the original invoice price of the car. Some comprehensive policies cover you for this anyway for the first year, so check your policy. If not, try to see how much it costs to buy gap insurance independently for 12 months: it’s probably about £100.

Drain on resources

I have a left-hand-drive VW Golf Mk4 GTI (originally imported from Germany), which has a leak in the nearside footwell. My local garage can’t fix it. Any ideas? PS

I had the same thing with a Seat Leon 20VT Sport. The pollen filter is on the left, is very difficult to access and the cover is often refitted badly or gets cracked. As well as that, the bottom seal of the pollen filter can fail, so water can drain into the cabin even if the bulkhead vent well drains are clear.

Boxster dog?

I have £10,000 to spend on a car and was thinking about a 986-model Porsche Boxster. What would you advise? RLJ

Great care is required with a Boxster 986, due to issues such as cracked bore liners and intermediate shaft bearing failures. A Mazda MX-5 2.0 six-speed Sport will be newer and as much fun for the same sort of money, without the worry.

Vintage aviation: what's it like to fly a WWII training aircraft in the skies above Sussex?

Show your appreciation…

I have a BMW 135i, which my wife has annexed for the most part, leaving me her Mini. I plan to sell the Mini and buy something more to my taste for about £8,000. I'd like a modern classic that has a good chance of appreciating. What would you suggest? KC

It boils down to a Mazda MX-5 2.0i Sport six-speed, a Honda S2000 (they don't steer as well), a Toyota MR2/Celica GT or the Peugeot 306 GTI six-speed.

Dearly beloved

I have had my 1999T Ford Fiesta for 17 years. It looks immaculate and has done only 61,000 miles. Its annual service revealed corroded rear sub-frames, brake lines and a worn silencer. In view of its age, should I have it repaired or sell it? AW

You can't legally sell it in this condition, except to a trader or to a car restorer who is made fully aware of its state and signs something in writing to that effect. I personally don't think it's worth attempting to repair because the cost will far exceed the car’s value. But a Ford enthusiast might cherish its outwardly immaculate condition. Try and

Ignition key

My  2003 VW Golf has not been used for three months. What checks should be carried out to get it back on the road? BP

Are the brakes free? Were they left off? Will it start? (It might need a jump.) Check tyre pressures. Check all levels. Leave the engine running until the thermostat opens and see if there are any leaks.

Future armour?

My wife purchased a new Ford Fiesta Zetec in 2016. The car is a 1.0 Ecoboost 100, bought on a two-year personal contract with the final optional balloon payment of £6,030 due in October 2018. If we were to buy, is this a good price for a two-year-old Fiesta? You indicated that the Ecoboost Focus could suffer from clutch failure. Is this also true of the Fiesta? GW

Complaints about the Fiesta are mostly about clutch packs with Getrag Powershift automatic gearboxes. Yours has a five-speed manual, not the six-speed auto that has caused problems. I don't predict future values, so can't tell you which side of £6,030 your car will be worth in a year, but it doesn't seem excessive.

Climate control

I've often read your praise for Michelin Cross Climate tyres as an all-round alternative to changing from summer to winter tyres. In many European countries it is a requirement to fit winter tyres or carry snow chains in cold weather. Are Cross Climates considered a satisfactory winter tyre in Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy? APO

Yes, they have the snowflake and mountains symbols on their sidewalls - anything with those is considered acceptable.

Depth charge

I have a 2013 Subaru XV 4x4. It has new tyres on the front wheels and slightly older rubber on the rear. At a recent main dealer service I was advised to replace the rear tyres because of the lower tread. The dealer said having different tread depths could damage the transmission. A tyre company said it had not heard of this problem on XVs and advised me to ignore it. What should I do? HE

The dealer is correct. Any disparity between types of tyres and a disparity of more than 2mm in tread depth can be detected by an automatic all-wheel-drive system as slippage and might cause damage.

Needle, haystack...

How on earth do you trace an old Land Rover if you want to buy it back?

I am tryingnull