If your car has developed a fault, turn to Honest John by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Pace, the final frontier?
I understand that when I reach my 70th birthday, I will have to renew my driving licence. I'm told that it is nothing more than a rubber-stamping exercise, but will the fact that I drive a fairly quick car - a 2016 Honda Civic Type R-GT - be taken into account and affect the renewal process? CM
No. Providing the DVLA has your address, you will get a reminder shortly beforehand. If you have a paper licence you will need to get a new photocard licence, which is straightforward as long as you have a current passport because they can get your photo from the Passport Office. The correct website is: https://www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence-at-70. The process is free. Beware of imposter websites that can charge you £80 or more for doing what you can easily do yourself.
PM’s question time
I have a 2012/62 VW Golf Plus 1.6 TDI with 16,000 miles. I wish to keep it, but my wife finds difficulty in accessing the front passenger seat. I have asked the supplying dealer whether it is possible to relocate the seat a couple of inches farther back, but was told ‘no’. What do you think? PM
Anything like this can be done, if not by the dealer then perhaps by a specialist who usually adapts vehicles for the disabled. Try www.jeffgosling.co.uk.
Is there a definition of SUV? For example, is the Peugeot 3008 only an SUV because they have put it in the name? It looks more like an MPV to me. PO
A Sports Utility Vehicle is primarily designed to be four-wheel drive but might also be available without. A 3008 is a crossover between a car, an MPV and an SUV, but it is available with Grip Control that is as effective in snow and off road as the average 4WD system, so qualifies it as an SUV.
Can you recommend a replacement for my well-loved manual Mazda5, which is now 11 years old. I would like the new car to be no bigger in width or height, and would need automatic transmission, with the higher seat position, five doors and a flat boot. EM
The Mazda5 was a good car and the MkII is even better, though not available as an auto. The best MPV auto the same size is a Citroën C4 Picasso 1.2 Puretech 130 with EAT6 torque converter auto. You can also get the same excellent engine and transmission in the Peugeot 3008.
You recently answered a letter from someone asking for advice about purchasing a Ford EcoSport - and told them you wouldn't buy one. Why? SS
It's simply not very good. Furthermore, the 1.5 auto has the Ford/Getrag twin dry-clutch Powershift that has been problematic.
Sweden sour source?
I'm considering buying a 2011 Volvo S80 D5 automatic diesel with fewer than 40,000 miles on the clock. Am I right to be put off by the tow bar? I don’t know what it has towed. MP
It depends what else has been done to it. For towing, the automatic transmission should have been fitted with additional heat exchangers or oil coolers. If it hasn't, then the transmission fluid could be burned and the torque converter could be on the way out. You can't easily check because auto transmissions no longer have separate dipsticks.
Give up smoking
I have a 2006 Audi A3 1.9 diesel. By mistake I put it into second gear instead of fourth, which took it up to about 4,000rpm. A cloud of black smoke came out of the exhaust. I did this a couple more times deliberately and more smoke came out but less each time. Now, it seems clear. Is this something I should do occasionally to clear the exhaust? Is it doing harm? PY
It’s a good idea to do this to clear the exhaust system before the MoT, when the smoke opacity test consists of redlining the engine three times and measuring the thickness of the smoke emitted.
Veni, vidi, Sedici
I have a 2008 Fiat Sedici with 36,000 miles on the clock. It has been valued at £1,600. I have been advised that the clutch is slipping and will need replacing by the end of the year. The cost will be £600. Apart from that apparent problem, the car suits me perfectly. Should I part-exchange it for a Fiat 500X, or pay for the new clutch? MT
Get a new clutch. This is quite a decent car.
Life begins at 40k
I can't find precise details for the new rate of VED applying to cars with a list price of more than £40,000. Is that threshold inclusive or exclusive of the taxes applicable at point of sale? Is the threshold inclusive or exclusive of options and accessories? TM
The £40,000 is the ex-factory list price of the car including all fitted extras and VAT. It does not include things like delivery, registration tax and first-year showroom tax.
The dashboard display on my 2003 Citroên Xsara Picasso has gone out completely. Everything else works. Is it likely to be a simple solution, or will the dashboard have to be removed and sent away? BD
With luck it's nothing more than the earth to the dash display. Try calling in a local car electrical specialist via www.yell.com.
I am trying to get a valuation for a 1997P Mercedes-Benz E220 auto cabrio with 46,560 miles on the clock. Can you help? It has had one owner from new and is in very good condition. KC
The E320 Sportline convertible is the most valuable. These have hovered between £8,000 and £20,000. The E220 convertible is worth less: £6,000-£12,000.
Kia, Hyundai and so on boast about not having a "dreaded" CVT gearbox on their latest hybrids, something I don't understand. I believe some Toyota CVTs have covered up to half a million miles with very few problems. Am I wrong? MW
Toyota hybrids have epicyclic CVTs, not the conventional CVT belts and rollers, and that's why they last so well. The new Kias and Hyundais have dual clutch automatics that make the drive more direct. Toyotas and Hyundais come with five-year warranties. Kias with seven.
We are about to move from southern Britain to Upper Wensleydale. My wife's Hyundai i10 is fitted with Goodyear Vector 4-Seasons tyres, but my much-loved Seat Leon FR 1.4 has conventional Bridgestones on 17-inch wheels. Although I am eventually considering a 4WD option, would the Leon with Michelin Cross Climates be a safe bet for winter? Although our new house is on a cul-de-sac leading to a farm, we would not expect to spend any time away from asphalt. SA
The Leon would be better all year round on Cross Climates or Goodyear Vector 4-Seasons, depending on which are available in the 17-inch size.
Oops, wrong number
I am amazed to learn that my 2002 Toyota Camry’s VED will increase from £295 to £650 this year. The Camry has been fault-free all its life, is reliable, comfortable and still performs very well. It’s low mileage, we do only about 4,000 miles a year and it suits my wife and I very well. In view of the high car tax, though, we wonder if it is time to sell. We have a budget of £20,000. What would you recommend? PP
I’d keep it – you have the wrong information and the annual rate for your Camry rose from £295 to £305 on April 1.
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 passnull