If your car has developed a fault, turn to Honest John by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Seat car named desire
My wife is on the point of giving up her Volvo S60 D4 after only 15 months because she feels so uncomfortable. She finds the driver’s seat extremely uncomfortable and the passenger side worse. What would you recommend as a replacement? She wants a petrol car of similar size. JK
We're all different, and we all have different ideas about which seats are more comfortable and how to adjust them for maximum comfort. I like a long squab, preferably adjustable for tilt, height adjustment, and adjustable lumbar support. She needs to look for all of these, which tends to mean the higher spec levels with electrically adjustable seats. The new Citroen C3 has good seats as do Peugeot 2008s and Toyota’s Auris, Prius and Avensis.
We are looking to sell our 20-year-old Mercedes-Benz estate and buy a new smaller vehicle. We are considering the five-door VW Golf 1.4 TSI DSG SE NAV automatic. Is it better to have diesel or petrol? AW
Hold on! The VW Golf Mk7 has just been updated with new 1.5-litre 120/150 petrol engines. Wait for the revamped version to come through, if it hasn't already - and don't buy diesel.
Urban space man
Before I put in my order for a new Jaguar XE, please advise me if the estate version is imminent. And is there a facelift due for the existing saloon? RP
I think we’ll see a Jaguar E-Pace SUV, for the simple reason that SUVs sell far better than estates. Prototypes have already been seen and it’s extremely good looking; better than any other SUV, including the Macan.
Rust house forte
I’m considering a January 2003 Mercedes W210 E240 estate. It has covered 60,000 miles and is described as having no rust. Did Mercedes ever cure this problem on later models, or am I a fool for considering it? AC
Not on W210s. It continued through to early W211s, too. It might be OK if it has been kept in a heated garage and never taken out in the winter. Otherwise...
Stop and search
I run a 1999 Lexus IS200, which I have owned from new and has now done 39,000 miles. How frequently should I change the brake fluid? It has been changed once, but that was some time ago. PH
Get it tested every year for moisture content and change it only if that is high. Otherwise, change it every three years to get rid of absorbed moisture and contaminants.
Keep on runnin’
I have been looking at used Seat Altea XLs with the 1.9 TDI engine, about eight years old. Is this engine the same or similar to that in the 2001-05 VW Passat? I had one of those and it was an unbelievable car (it covered the best part of 200,000 miles). SJ
Yes. The 1.9 TDI PD engine is very highly rated. Lots of them have done 200,000 miles plus.
The radio in my 17-year-old Citroën Berlingo stopped working. Any ideas? SM
Check the connections at the rear and those to the door speakers. If all is OK but the radio isn't, throw it away and buy another from Halfords (which gives you the chance to upgrade to DAB).
I am thinking of selling my two-year old Peugeot through webuyanycar.com or a similar site. It has done 15,000 miles. Are there any major things that I need to consider? PH
It's easy, genuine and you get your money quickly, but what you receive is trade auction price minus a small commission.
I wonder why Brits are so bad at vehicle salesmanship? Here is the actual wording of a current eBay advert for a 1987 Land Rover Defender 90: “NO DREAMERS OR TIME WASTERS, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.” What on earth are they thinking? I always imagined the secret of good salesmanship was to establish a friendly rapport with the potential buyer. JT
It’s a technique, trying to make out they are selling something special, which tells anyone with a brain that they aren’t.
Guilty as charged
We heart horror stories every year that a cold snap could cause all the lights to go out as we do not have enough electricity-generating capacity. So how are we going to recharge all these new electric cars? RO
The problem is the amount of electricity wasted between generation and use. A lot of it is generated during the day and used during the night. You can't get power directly from solar panels at night, so there needs to be more effective methods of storage. New, cheap, high capacity graphite batteries are being developed in Spain - that could solve this problem.
I bought a Skoda Octavia DSG in January 2011. Since then I have had it regularly serviced by a main dealer and have completed 22,500 miles. It was diagnosed a week ago as needing a new Mechatronic control unit for £1,700. JC
Presumably this is the twin dry-clutch seven-speed DSG that has been extremely troublesome, particularly if the original synthetic oil in pre-2013 units was not replaced with mineral oil and not then replaced again four years later. The VW Group has a new low-torque twin wet-clutch seven-speed DSG that is gradually being phased in.
We live in a period house with narrow parking area and cars seem to be getting wider. Please recommend a small car (bigger than a Smart) that will comfortably handle long journeys. SM
There are several options, including Citroën C1, Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto, Vauxhall Viva, Suzuki Celario, Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo.
Cee’d of doubt
I have a 2012/62 Kia Cee’d that I’m looking to change. I am considering a Seat Ateca, which is receiving good reviews, but are there other alternatives? I do about 8,000 miles a year. Five doors and good luggage space are essential. MF
You don't want a diesel. I’d look at an Ateca 1.4 TSI 150, a Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T BoosterJet or else a Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 130 six-speed.
I own a 2011 Land Rover Freelander 2 diesel and would like to change it for a petrol or hybrid 4WD with similar ground clearance and driving position, plus reasonable fuel consumption (37mpg or better). What is the best way to dispose of the Freelander, bearing in mind the adverse publicity surrounding diesel engines? CG
There's only one 4WD hybrid under £30,000. the Toyota RAV-4 4WD. The much cheaper Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T BoosterJet 4WD has been averaging 44.7mpg in the real world. Part-ex the Freelander - it’s too much grief trying to sell it by yourself.
My 10-year-old VW Golf MkV Sport 1.4 TSI burst into flames seven minutes after I had parked. My insurance paid out the book price and covered my possessions, but I was deemed at fault. The car had every service per the book, mainly by VW, apart from the last two. VW said it could not have been a manufacturer's fault, owing to the age of the car. I am at a loss to understand the cause. BB
There has been a high incidence of faults with the model, probably due to high expectations, but I can't immediately explain why it would spontaneously combust unless a fuel pipe let go and sprayed fuel over a hot exhaust manifold.
Message in a battle
The law has been strengthened with regard to the use of mobile phones in vehicles. While walking I see many drivers using their mobiles. How does the law stand for me as a responsible citizen if I were to report drivers to the police for using their phones? RM
It would be waste of time without proof. That could be obtained by mobile phone records if the police can be bothered. A photo of the offender taken on your own mobile might help to set this in motion.
Clunk-click every trip
I have had three Skoda Citigos. The first developed an audible metallic click when the clutch was brought up. This continued until it was traded in. The second Citigo developed the same noise at 30,000 miles and stopped clicking at about 45,000miles. My newest Citigo recently started doing it at around 14,000miles. Any ideas? PD
Variable quality gearboxes and clutches seem to be typical of Citigos, Seat Miis and VW Ups.
Now we’re torquing
I require a small automatic petrol car, but am wary of DSG gearbox problems with VW Group and Ford models. I would like some recommendations. CF
It’s hard to go wrong with a small Kia Picanto or Hyundai i10 four-speed torque converter auto. The bigger Suzuki Baleno 1.0T BoosterJet six-speed torque converter auto is also very good, but my choice would be a Mazda2 1.5 six-speed.
VW update update
I have a VW Golf Plus 1.6 TDI Bluemotion and am concerned after reading about all the NOx fix horrors. Presumably no figures are available to show the percentage of fixes that have not worked as against those that are OK. What course of action is best? JW
I had a meeting with VW Group engineers on March 1. The fix for the 1.6 TDI was only approved on December 13, which is why it was late. But it had to improve the NOx without affecting fuel economy to pass the tests, so as long as there isn't anything else wrong with your car (such as a clogged exhaust gas recirculation valve) it should be okay. Although there have been complaints after the fix, VW claims these are from a very small but vocal minority. After 480,000 fixes were applied, there were 3,600 complaints, 60 per cent of which were about engine noise and 35 per cent about increased fuel consumption, EGR problems and so on. On March 1 150 case files were still outstanding.
Key is the fear
I get a “remote battery low voltage” message on my Volvo dash. I have checked the manual and cannot find what or where the problem might be. AD
It must mean the battery in your remote key. These need to be changed very quickly. Have the replacement battery out of its packaging and ready before you open the remote to replace it. You get 10 seconds or you lose the code. Alternatively, get a main dealer to do it for you, or a branch of Timpsons.
I own a 2009/59 Mazda3 with alloy wheels. For some time now I have been losing a bit of pressure in each tyre on a weekly basis. Since it is unlikely that I could have a slow puncture in all four tyres, it must be something else. CG
The rim seals could be failing because these are the wheels’ most vulnerable area, particularly if they have ever been kerbed. Sometimes rims can be resealed; sometimes they can't. It’s possible the alloy might have developed cracks and become porous.
No need to worry
I am thinking of replacing my 2017 Toyota RAV4 with a Dacia Duster 1.2 petrol turbo 4x4 as diesel makes little sense for only 5,000 miles a year. Now l gather that petrol turbos need to stretch their legs, as do all diesels. Should I reconsider? I am very keen on the Dacia. Should I be put off by potential reliability problems? BS
Petrol turbos heat up much faster than petrol engines without turbos. No worries. I’ve had very few reported problems about Dacia Dusters, although it could be that Duster customers are not the complaining types.
The turbo on my 2009/59 Peugeot 308 SW HDI 110 died. After replacing it three times in rapid succession it turned out that the catalytic converter's honeycomb had collapsed and was causing an occasional blockage in the exhaust system, preventing the gases from spinning the turbo. Everything has been fine since the cat was replaced. BC
Nightmare. Another reason for replacement turbos failing one after the other is that the turbo bearing oil feed and return pipes become blocked with carbonised oil.
I need to buy a new automatic with high driving position and petrol engine. I now drive a BMW X1 and it's too wide. A smaller car would be fine. JB
Try the Kia Venga, Hyundai ix20 or, even narrower, the new Suzuki Ignis.
Long and short of it
Do you know why the seat belt stalk, fixed to the floor on the right-hand side of the front passenger seat of my Ford C-Max, is about an inch shorter than that on the driver's side? BF
It will be because the driver's seat is height adjustable and the passenger seat isn't.
One step beyond?
I drive a 2005/55 Mini One that has done 39,000 miles. I need a knee replacement soon and am thinking of a small auto. I only do 3,000 miles a year. Do I soldier on or buy/lease something newer? KW
You can probably still manage the manual.
Ash wounds day
I cycle to work and use a 2008 Volvo V70 D5 as little as possible, though it has done 110,000 miles. Does it predate the problems that seem to afflict modern diesels and if so should I keep it forever? If not, what is the quietest and most comfortable alternative that will take a complete bike in the back as easily as the V70 does? TH
I'm surprised that the particulate filter has not yet filled up with ash, but that probably will be the next thing. It might be possible to clean it out using the Ceramex service. I hope you've had the timing belt, tensioner, water pump and auxiliary belt replaced, because if not that job is overdue. If you abandon the Volvo, switch to petrol. Look at a Mazda6 2.0i Skyactive Tourer, or a more powerful Ford Mondeo 2.0i Ecoboost estate.
Weight and see
We are considering replacing our 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe CRDI, which we use mainly for towing a caravan weighing 1,650kg. What would our options be? JM
A Toyota RAV4 petrol hybrid 4WD can tow 1,650kg and a Lexus RX450h petrol hybrid 4WD can tow 2,000kg. Both have automatic gearboxes. A 2010 Santa Fe with the 2.2 R-Type chain-cam diesel could pull 2,500kg with a manual box and 2,000 as an automatic.
Quenching one’s thirst
We are looking to change our 2009 Ford C-Max 1.8 Zetec. While we are happy with the comfort, petrol consumption is poor at an average 36mpg. What would be a better next buy? DP
Assuming this is the petrol 1.8, your mpg is above the average of 33.9. But you’ll probably do better with the latest generation of small petrol turbos such as VW's 1.4TSI in the Golf SV that is returning 45.6-46.9mpg in real-world terms. In contrast, a new C-Max 1.0 Ecoboost 125 is rated at 40.2mpg.
PM’s question time
I have a 2000 Peugeot 206 LX 1.4 petrol auto. For the last couple of years my car has struggled to meet the emissions test element of the MoT and I am concerned about its chances of passing next time. I think part of the problem is that I do not use the car very much. Do you have any tips for helping it pass? PM
Use only the best quality petrol and add a fuel system cleaning additive. Take it for a few long runs of 50 miles or so and for at least 20 miles before you deliver it to the MoT station, so you deliver it warm. That’s your best chance. (Of course it usually pays to have the car serviced before the MoT.)
You frequently write that turbocharged engines should be idled for a while after a run, to allow the oil to cool so that it does not carbonise in the oilways. I have an Audi A3 cabriolet with the 1.8 TFSI engine. What temperature should I let the oil fall to before switching off safely? JW
You don't aim for a temperature. You simply hope to keep the oil and coolant circulating through the turbo while it cools from almost red hot to merely very hot. The turbo will be many times hotter than the engine oil and coolant that is circulating through it.
We're thinking of buying a small automatic and wondered if the Skoda Fabia would be suitable. Are there any reliability issues with this model (I seem to remember that your column has mentioned this in the past). We drive about 7,000 miles annually and would keep the car for three years. CB
There have been problems with the seven-speed dry-clutch DSG fitted to smaller engined VW Group models, including the Fabia, but you are unlikely to encounter any over three years and 21,000 miles. Alternatives include a Honda Jazz CVT-7 (slow, but very roomy, practical and economical), a Toyota Yaris (also available as a hybrid). a Hyundai ix20 and a Kia Venga.
Cold comfort firm
I have never had a car with low-profile tyres because they don’t seem to give such a smooth and comfortable ride. I am looking to buy a one-year-old Audi Q3 S-Line Plus, but it has low-profile tyres. Is that a problem? GH
Bang, crash, wallop. You'll feel every bump. You might damage the wheel rims on a pothole. The tyres will wear out faster and are more expensive to replace. Don't buy a car on big wheels and low-profile tyres unless you plan to race it. Don't ever go lower than 55-profile.
Raise a blade
My daughter’s 2010 Vauxhall Corsa has a problem with the offside windscreen wiper, which is very noisy and out of alignment with the other blade. What could the problem be? PD
It’s fairly simple to remove the arm and relocate it as long as the spindle is not worn. The additional problem may be the angle of the blade against the screen - it might help if you twist it so that is at a right angle to the screen.
Some leak it hot
We lease a Mini Countryman Cooper S but don’t use it often. I take it for a 100-mile drive if it has been standing for three weeks, but is there anything else I could do? NS
You're doing all that is necessary. Make sure you run it on the highest-octane petrol with the best additive package. Check the oil and coolant regularly. This engine has a pump to keep water circulating through the turbo if you switch off when it is extremely hot. That system has been known to spring leaks.
Having read many excellent articles about the Mazda MX-5, I bought an old one. Its only problem is soaked carpets from condensation. How can I prevent this? MS
A garage. Convertible soft-tops are usually slightly damp inside in wet weather. A car cover would probably help, but won’t provide a complete cure.
Sell C bill
I want to change my 2004 Ford C-Max 1.8 Zetec. My priorities are comfort, easy access, better fuel consumption over 6,500 miles a year and low operating costs. Should I buy another C-Max, a B-Max or are there better other options? BW
Look at the VW Golf SV, from just under £20,000. The 1.4 TSI 125 is adequate, but the new 1.5 TSI engine should be available within six months.
I want to replace my Daihatsu Terios with something similar, as I can't find a dealer who sells new models. Any ideas? BH
Daihatsu suspended UK imports in November 2009, because the yen was too high against sterling, but there are some solid options. You might still be able to get a new Suzuki Jimny, which is the same size. You can also get a new Suzuki Ignis with four-wheel drive, or a Fiat Panda 4x4.
The heater in my car is no longer working efficiently. Is there any way I can flush out the heater matrix without stripping the system? AC
There is a two-stage product called Radflush, designed to clear sludge from the system. Obviously you have to set the system to maximum heat to make sure the coolant with the flush circulates properly. Then, of course, you need to refill with fresh coolant. But if your problem is caused by the electric valve to the heater matrix not opening fully, then this will not cure it.
When checking the oil in my 2011 BMW 318d, I discovered that the level had risen above the maximum mark. There is no evidence of water contamination in the sump or filler cap. The last oil and filter change was at 72,000 miles and the current mileage is 80,000. What could be the cause? AC
Fuel injected into the engine to regenerate the diesel particulate filter (DPF) has instead dribbled down the bores into the sump. It’s crucial to get the level down, or the engine could start running uncontrollably on its sump oil. It’s also important to replace the contaminated sump oil. And, of course, investigate why the DPF is not actively regenerating. It could well be choked with ash.
I have a 10-year-old Toyota Prius. I am looking to downsize and buy a small, fuel-efficient car for city use and the odd longer trip. What should I consider? BL
The simplest answer is to downsize to a Toyota Yaris hybrid. But if you're thinking smaller still, consider a Suzuki Celario, Vauxhall Viva, Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto, Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1, Peugeot 108, VW Up, Skoda Citigo, Seat Mii, Renault Twingo or Smart ForFour.
I have a four-year old BMW 325d and its 18-inch run-flat tyres pick up all the road cambers. Whenever I fit brand-new tyres the problem goes away, but gradually returns. The tracking has been checked and the pressures are as recommended by BMW. Is there anything that can be done to improve the ride? PC
Go down to 16-inch wheels with 205/60 R16 tyres.
The battery on my Ford Fiesta Style has twice gone completely flat this month. The car is used a few times a month and the battery is three years old. The AA tested the battery and found it to be OK. Any idea what’s wrong? GH
The most common reason is failure of the interior light auto dimmer that remains live when it shouldn’t. Try switching off the interior light altogether.
I travel abroad several times a year in hire cars and always use the Shuttle. I prefer an automatic gearbox - but if the car broke down on the train, how would they would get it out? KR
They would have to put the locked driven wheels on frames with castors, then push it along the carriages to the exit.
What is the horsepower of a Lexus IS 300h that’s about three years old? The company's specs confuse me. Can you help? MW
The basic answer is 180bhp from the internal combustion engine plus 143bhp from the electric motor, but those figures are achieved at different rpm so you can't simply add them together.
The law’s an ass
I parked in a managed car park and the ticket machine recorded only the first two digits of my car’s registration. I received a £60 fine, so wrote to explain and sent a copy of my ticket. They rejected it and are not fining me because I didn’t pay, but because the whole of my registration didn’t come out. Is there anything I can do? PA
Unfortunately, this is a consequence of the law as it stands: Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 Clause 56 and Beavis v Parking Eye, Supreme Court, November 2015 seems to give these people a blanket right to impose penalties for this sort of thing and will continue to do so until there is a Supreme Court ruling that favours the victim.
Do you know how I might find the date I passed my UK driving test? SW
It depends when you passed, because date records did not start until March 25 1974. If you passed after that, go to https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence and input your licence number, national insurance number and postcode. Under the tab “vehicles you can drive”, it will show the day you became eligible for each category (ie passed your test).
Rising oil prices
You have often written of the increased cost of diesel cars after three years. Can you be more specific about what might need doing? I run a Mazda CX-5 AWD diesel. TC
DPF clogged with soot: £200 for a forced regeneration. Eolys system replacement: £500. DPF filled with ash: £350 for Ceramex to clean it out (+ removal, carriage and refitting) or anything from £600 - £1,500 to replace. EGR clogged: £600-£1,200 for a replacement. AdBlue heater failed: £600 for a replacement.
Less is more
We are looking for something a lot smaller than our old Citroën C5, as we no longer need the huge luggage space. We're both in our seventies and not as agile as we were, so nothing too low. We do require a reasonable boot, though, to accommodate my wife’s walking frame. JH
The best bet is a Honda Jazz, because of the spaciousness and brilliant versatility of its interior. Other small, tall options include the Kia Venga, Hyundai ix20 and Ford B-Max.
I have a 2006 Mercedes C180 with a VED rating of £270 for 12 months. The tax was due for renewal on March 1. If I take it off the road by a SORN declaration on March 31, then retax it for the new £140 rate on, say, April 3, would this be valid? SN
Absolutely not. The new rate is solely for new cars first registered from April 1 2017. Your car's tax rate will remain on the same CO2 basis as before.
I had continuous motorhome insurance through a specialist broker, with no claims since 1990. When I tried to renew after a three-year break, I was quoted £1,100 because “motorhome cover is now more expensive and difficult to find”. Is there a cheaper option? TT
Just go elsewhere. Use the internet. Your three-year break means you will have lost any no-claims discount.
I own a three-year-old Skoda Octavia Elegance 1.4 TSI and am considering a two-year warranty extension. I have considered Warranty Direct and WarrantyWise. Any advice? RJ
Warranty Direct was always very good, but we’ll have to see how things develop following an ownership change some time ago. The lack of complaints about WarrantyWise is good news. Another possibility is http://motoreasy.co.uk.
I purchased my Hyundai ix20 from a dealer on March 1 2016. It was first registered in 2013, but prior to collection the garage had an MoT done. Do I have to tax it every year from when I bought it, or every year from the date of first registration? ES
Tax cannot carry over from one owner to another, so the car must have been freshly taxed when you took possession. Go to www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax and enter the reg. That will tell you what is due and when.
Is there an organisation to whom one can complain about car dealers? CT
Yes: https://www.themotorombudsman.org. They can only handle complaints against dealers who are members of the (SMMT) and many unfranchised traders aren’t.
Shake, rattle & roll
I have an annoying rattle on my 2010 Jaguar XF (3.0 V6 petrol, 42,000 miles). It seems to come from the nearside rear corner and occurs on uneven roads at 10-30mph. Motorway driving is OK. It’s a soft, rumbling sound, doesn’t sound like metal on metal and there is no hard “clunk” if I go over a pothole. The brake line has been made secure but the noise still persists. Have you any ideas? PW
It might be something in the boot rattling around where you can't see it, under the spare wheel or in one of the side compartments.
We have a September 2009 Citroën C4 VTR with about 72,000 miles on the clock. We are looking to change it for something that will do about 9000 miles a year, a mixture of short (20-mile) trips and long runs. We are looking for a similar comfortable ride and petrol power. AW
Unless it's on 205/55 R16 tyres run at sensible pressures, the current C4 is not a particularly soft-riding car and doesn't have sophisticated independent suspension. There will be a revised C4 this year with a new type of suspension that employs some very clever dampers. On 205/55 R16 tyres that might be a suitable replacement. Otherwise, the cheapest cars with fully independent suspension are the Ford Focus, Kia Cee'd and Hyundai i30, again best on 205/55 R16 tyres.
I am looking for a used Skoda Yeti, up to six years old, two- or four-wheel drive. I live in a rural area, require plenty of space in the rear and I average only 7,000 miles annually. Which would you consider the best buy? BJ
The 1.8 TSI 4WD petrol is by far the best Yeti.
Year of the Cat
I have a 1974 Jaguar XJ6 4.2 in pretty outstanding nick after only 26,300 miles. It is totally rust-free and has been in the same family from new. How much is it likely to be worth? DK
In an effort to have reliable transport for farming, my 20-year-old nephew got a loan and purchased a 2016 Mitsubishi L200. The salesman said he would be loaned a truck when the L200 came in for service. After three months, third gear was slipping but the dealer offered a loan car and not the promised truck. Without a truck my nephew could not work, so repairs were delayed multiple times. Then his truck overheated. The dealer flushed out the radiator but told him the fault could be the head gasket and, because of the mileage (35,000), my nephew would be responsible for the cost. He cannot afford this and desperately needs reliable transport. JP
If he bought a new truck then it should be under warranty, unless he voided the cover by failing to service the truck on time (which I guess might be the case). If he did comply with the terms of the warranty then, if the dealer fails to repair both the transmission and the engine, and also fails to loan him a truck during the repair, he can take his case to small claims. Law here: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/consumer-rights.
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 antnull