If your car has developed a fault, turn to Honest John by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Getting a Grip
I am looking for a car, new or used. I don't mind whether it’s a small two-seater, a hatchback or something larger, but it must have good visibility, comfortable seats and be fun and quick. Budget is up to £20,000. CW
Try a Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 130 six-speed GT with Grip Control. It has plenty of pep and will look after you in the winter.
We are about to purchase a second-hand Renault Zoê from a main dealer. During our chat 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 Zoê 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 RAV-4 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 www.ala.co.uk 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.
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.
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.
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 www.fiestaclubgb.co.uk and www.fiestaownersclub.com.
My 2003 VW Golf has not been used for the last three months. What checks should be carried out to get the car 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.
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.
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.
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.
I am trying to find my friend’s old Land Rover, registered FPY 818D. He wants to buy it back if he can find it and the evidence suggests it is still around. How can I trace the owner? JJ
I assume you’ve checked www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla to establish that the car remains active (or is else on a SORN certificate). Data Protection prevents you from finding the registered keeper, unless you have an exemption such as those used by private parking contractors. You could try one of the Land Rover clubs, but even then they would have to get the permission of the keeper before revealing his details to you. Use Google to find Land Rover clubs, but there are quite a lot of them.
Not best leased
I have an eight-year-old Honda Jazz. I am considering a new car before it needs expensive replacements. Would a short-term lease be a better option than buying? DMB
Insurance might be difficult and/or expensive for a leased car at your age. I'd buy. There is a better 1.5i 130 VTEC engine on the way for the Jazz. If you don't need Jazz versatility, consider a Suzuki Swift 1.0T Boosterjet six-speed auto. If you want something smaller, look at a new Kia Picanto.
Torque curve ball
I’ve been using BP Ultimate in my Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi and have been getting 40.2mpg. Previously I used supermarket 95 fuel and got 40.1mpg. Apart from spending 10p a litre too much, what else am I doing wrong? CW
You are not using the extra torque from the higher cetane to change up earlier and, consequently, are using just as much fuel.
Rate of inflation
In September 2015 I received a safety recall notice from Toyota regarding the passenger airbag inflator on my Avensis. I waited patiently for many months and am still waiting. I’m told that there is a shortage of spare parts from Toyota and nobody seems able to give me a date. What can I do? DC
This is part of the worldwide Takata airbag inflator recall affecting 42,600,000 airbags on 33,800,000 cars. It is physically impossible for the company to produce 42,600,000 airbag inflators in a short time period. This is taking many years and has bankrupted Takata. Cars in areas of high humidity are getting the replacements first.
Perk up a pick-up
I took your advice a few years ago and purchased an Isuzu D Max truck. It has done only 16,000 miles but has been a fantastic buy. As I am now 75, I want to keep the Isuzu to see me out. What do I need to do to keep it in good order? EA
It would be a good idea to change the coolant, because the corrosion inhibitors and anti-freeze properties will have degraded. Change the brake fluid. Carry out a full lube job on all of the 4WD gear. Inspect carefully for stone chips and rust and touch-up accordingly.
My 2009 Audi A4 2.0 TDI has a scored flywheel and repairs at my local main dealer will cost £4,000. This is probably more than the value of the car, so what action would you recommend? It has an aftermarket warranty. MG
That type of damage might not be covered by the warranty because it is likely to be classified as wear and tear. Whether it's worth repairing depends on the true state of the crankshaft thrust bearing. If there is any wear in the housing, the engine itself is scrap. See what the warranty insurer has to say.
I asked my broker whether no-claims discount protection was worth having and was told that my premium would rise as the result of a claim but the discount percentage would be protected. I continued with the protection. The key is how much this is worth to the insured in relation to the cost. BE
Fair point. Thank you.
Cash for questions
You recently wrote that, “Serious failures (in the emissions-reducing kit of modern diesel engines) are likely to be encountered before the car reaches a 100,000 miles and the cost of replacement far outweighs any saving on fuel.” Could you be more specific? BJ
Diesel particulate filters tend to fill with ash from the soot they have regenerated at between 80,000 and 120,000 miles. Sometimes they can be chemically cleaned out at a cost of £300-£400, plus removal, carriage and refitting. Replacement cost is £800-£2,000 each. Exhaust gas recirculation valve coolers routinely fail, especially on diesels used for short runs, and these can cost £600-£1,200 to replace. AdBlue heaters fail at about 50,000 miles and cost roughly £500 to replace.
I'm a 76-year-old woman with a 2003 BMW 318CI SE automatic, owned from new. It has done 65,000 miles. I use it for local travel and the occasional long trip to Europe. Although I'm very reluctant to part with the BMW, I realise it is probably coming to the end of its life. Can you suggest a suitable replacement? My budget would stretch to £30,000. The replacement would have to have four doors and be a nippy petrol automatic. JT
I'd be looking at a Mazda3 2.0 120 Skyactiv-G SE-L Nav auto (£20,895) or a Mazda CX-3 2.0 120 Skyactiv-G SE-L Nav auto or the same thing with 2.0 150 Skyactiv-G SE-L Nav auto and AWD. These all have excellent six-speed torque converter automatic transmissions and are very pleasing to drive.
East in the West
I like my seven-year-old Skoda Fabia but will have to replace it in the next 18 months. As a result of Brexit I am inclined to buy a small car manufactured in the UK. What are my options? GH
Not many. You could look at the Nissan Juke (production of the Note has ended), Toyota Auris or Auris hybrid, Vauxhall Astra, Honda Civic or a Mini (though not the Countryman). That's it. And no significant British car manufacturer is owned by the British, which is one of the many things the Brexit brigade forgot. Brits proved incapable of running their own car industry, but are quite good at running it for overseas manufacturers.
I have an MG ZT, bought as new (unregistered for six years) in 2011. It has developed an irritating drumming noise that appears to come from the rear when in motion. I replaced the rear discs and pads but it made no difference. The tyres are the original Continentals and show no uneven wear. I have been under the car and there is nothing loose. I thought it might be the wheel bearings, but I had one of those replaced a couple of years ago and so is relatively new. When the car is jacked up there is no undue movement on either of the rear wheels. I am totally perplexed. PC
It's possible that the strengthening band across the inside of the roof has come adrift from the roof itself.
Top hat and tales
I’m looking at getting a second car - a fun little convertible such as a Peugeot 207CC. What would you recommend for reliability? RB
A 207CC is your best bet, preferably an EU4 1.6 and not a diesel. Otherwise, the Mazda MX-5 is better than any small coupé-cabrio, with a simple canvas top that can be raised or lowered single-handedly in less than 10 seconds. If you go for a coupé-cabrio, check the electric roof carefully. They can and do fail.
Game, set and mutt
My daughter has a garage with rather tricky access. She needs as small a car as possible, albeit with space for a dog. Can you suggest a small, petrol manual that suits? JH
Nothing small has a low rear sill, because that compromises strength. Her best bet is probably the new Kia Picanto, with a seven-year warranty and up to £2,000 scrappage discount.
I have bought a small piece of woodland and need a cheap 4x4 to negotiate some potentially muddy/rutted tracks. I don’t really want to spend more than £1,200. CM
For £1,200 it's pretty much anything you can find that still has some life. An open-back pick-up is more practical for hauling logs; an SUV or a van is more secure. Nissan Terrano IIs were quite tough and shared engines with London taxis, so there is good parts availability.
Our daily breadth
It seems that cars continue to get a little wider, but the white lines in car parks and multi-storeys do not change. A friend got a ticket for parking over the lines on both sides. CS
You're right. Domestic garages aren't getting any wider. either.
I bought my Saab new in December 2010 and it now has 31,000 miles on the clock. It is in super condition, but I have been considering a change as I wish to ensure reliability and safety. Should I retain it and, if so, what advice would you give? NS
Presumably you are taking it to a Saab specialist for servicing? How much work it needs depends on whether it has a chain-cam Saab engine (2.0 petrol) or a belt-cam GM engine (in which case belt, tensioner, water pump and alternator belt all need to be replaced). If it hasn't had a recent change of brake fluid, then that needs to be done. A change of coolant wouldn't go amiss. And that's in addition to oil and filter changes, engine air filter change, pollen filter change and a thorough check of the brakes (with pads and discs replaced as necessary).
Kuga mellow camp
My Ford Kuga Titanium 2.0 TDCI is seven years old with and has done 56,000 miles. Normally I would be looking around for a replacement, but right now I feel hesitant to do so. My wife and I have been very pleased with the Kuga. What would you advise and what other alternatives should we consider? SW
Unless you do at least 15,000 miles a year or regularly tow a caravan/big trailer, a diesel poses more problems than it solves. Go petrol this time around. There is now a full range of petrol VW Tiguans, for example. Or a Suzuki Vitara S 1.4 Boosterjet, or a Peugeot 2008/3008 with the 1.2 Puretech 130 engine and six-speed box.
Pump my ride
I was surprised to find that cheap fuel supplied by supermarkets is of inferior quality. Does this also apply to diesel? MM
For 15 years or more I have advised readers to use only higher-grade petrol or diesel. This give more torque at low rpm so you can change up earlier, saving fuel. And it keeps the engine fuel system clean. Win-win, in my book.
Voyage of Discovery
I’m buying a new SUV (VW Tiguan, Audi Q5 or Land Rover Discovery Sport). I drive about 10,000 miles a year and have a 14-mile morning commute that doesn’t involve any motorways. Should I buy diesel or petrol? Is diesel still best for larger SUVs? SC
For smaller SUVs, petrol makes the most sense. If you're a Tiguan fan, VW now offers a range of 1.4- and 2.0-litre petrol engines. Land Rover produces 240 and 290bhp 2.0 Ingenium petrol engines for the Discovery Sport. For bigger SUVs used for towing, diesel remains best.
Standard fan guard
My Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 140p DSG estate has just been to the main dealer for its EA189 NOx emissions fix. Since then, after short journeys, the radiator fan continues to run for a few minutes after the engine has been turned off and the engine seems extremely hot. It did not do this before the emissions fix. It does not do it on long journeys. The dealer says it is the particulate filter regenerating. Is there any cause for concern? RR
The NOx fix involves an additional injection cycle. If the injectors are not at their best, the fix can create more soot that the DPF has to burn off - that explains the heat and the fan.
Stick or twist
My Hyundai Santa Fe is almost seven years old. Although it has been brilliantly reliable, I am thinking of changing it just to have a newer car. Given that I tow a 1,500kg caravan, I assume I will need a diesel (quite possibly another Santa Fe), but am concerned that the value of diesels will plummet in years to come. Are there any turbocharged petrol cars that could be effective for towing? DC
To pull this sort of weight you can get a Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 Ingenium petrol with 240 or 290bhp and ample torque. Or simply stick with an EU6-compliant diesel. A new SsangYong Rexton will arrive soon. Prices start from £27,500 and it can lug 3,500kg.
The French have instigated low emission zones in certain cities, including Lyon. In order to drive in the designated areas, motorists have to display a vignette on the windscreen, which indicates the level of pollution emitted by their vehicle. I propose to drive through Lyon on the motorway and have tried to ascertain if I will need one of these Crit-air stickers. MT
If your car qualifies for a sticker, you need one (or else avoid Lyon, Grenoble, Paris and Lille entirely): www.certificat-air.gouv.fr/en. If your car doesn't qualify, don't go near these cities.
With Brexit shortly upon us, which family saloons or hatchbacks will best fit the "buy British" tag? KT
All Jaguars and Land Rovers, Honda Civic, Toyota Auris and Avensis, Vauxhall Astra, Nissan Juke, Qashqai and Pulsar, Infiniti Q30 and all Minis except the Countryman.
I am considering a one-year-old Mercedes C350e hybrid, but am confused by the published fuel consumption figures. How can the manufacturer claim a figure of more than 130mpg, yet independent reviews state that one is lucky to get much above 40mpg? JH
That 130mpg is the NEDC 11-kilometre lab test figure that massively complements plug-in hybrids, which generally have an electric range of 20-30 miles. You will probably get 40mpg in normal day-to-day driving.
One reads of the merits of electric cars and the certainty that we will all one day be driving them. Why is it that barely any comment is made on hybrids? For instance, I drive a Toyota Yaris and was thinking of a change to the hybrid as it made sense to me to have an engine charging the battery and avoiding limits on distance and charge points. CC
It makes a lot more sense than telling everyone to get electric cars. If I were you I'd go ahead and get a Yaris hybrid.
Cents of direction
I’m looking to buy a January 2015 Renault Scénic XMOD 1.6 VVT Dynamique TomTom, which should have sat-nav as standard but doesn’t. The dash is complete, but with no space for a screen. Is it common for carmakers to put vehicles out for sale with standard equipment 'missing'? HG
If it's called a Renault XMOD 1.6 Dynamique TomTom, then it should have a TomTom. If it’s cheap, of course, it could also be a misbuild.
I have a 2013 Toyota Avensis CVT. When travelling at 20 to 35mph, just maintaining speed, the engine drops to 1,000rpm and begins to labour. A transmission shop who said it was normal, but it's really bugging me. RT
That doesn't sound normal to me and I've driven several Avensis CVTs. In the first instance, try running on Shell V-Power for a while to see whether that improves matters. Stick with V-Power and it will cleanse the fuel system.
My 2012 17,000-mile Nissan Micra 1.2 CVT is due for a major service. Do I need to change transmission fluid and coolant? YS
Yes. It’s wise to change the coolant because its corrosion inhibitors will have degraded by now.
The main chance
The Skoda Superb seems to be the best option to replace my Saab 9-5 Aero. My local main dealer tells me that with the spec I want (estate, auto and petrol), the maximum discount I can expect is "about £200”. This seems ludicrous when in theory I can achieve a saving of about 20 per cent by buying online. Should I be wary of doing that? RW
They can offer bigger discounts by channelling large numbers of orders through individual dealers, allowing that dealer to obtain volume discounts and bonuses. That's how Drivethedeal works and you pay the dealer, not Drivethedeal, so your contract is with the dealer.
A friend recently had the number plates stolen from his car. What course of action should be taken to safeguard himself if the plates are put on another car that is involved in any traffic offences? RC
Inform the police and the DVLA immediately. It’s a wise precaution to request a new registration from the DVLA, or buy a cheap non-dating reg from www.speedyreg.co.uk.
I bought a 2016 Octavia estate from a Skoda approved used dealer. I soon detected a number of faults and the garage identified a failing gearbox. I’ve since been treated very well, but should I be concerned the car might have been driven carelessly in the past? JR
Not necessarily. You don't say which gearbox, but if it's a seven-speed dry-clutch DSG automatic there have been lots of problems.
You did ask...
I’m looking to replace my six-year-old Ford Mondeo with something similar. I normally buy nearly new. Any recommendations? BJ
A Mazda6 Skyactiv G (petrol) SEL-Nav six-speed auto SW on 17-inch wheels with 55-profile tyres. It has to be the SW because otherwise the Mazda6 is a saloon.
On the road again
I have just bought a 2014 Audi A3 petrol. I will be travelling frequently for long periods and want to manage battery life. The car will be parked outside on a driveway, close to the road. My initial thought is to disconnect one terminal while away and buy a charger/starting kit (£75) in case it’s required when I get back. MM
You need a CTEK battery-conditioning trickle charger (www.smartercharger.com), from Halfords, but this obviously requires a power supply. I don't recommend disconnecting the battery. If there is no way you can run a cable to the car, then a charge pack might be the answer (but that will itself have to be charged before use).
My 2006 Toyota RAV-4 T180 has done 80,000 miles and suffered some sort of blocked engine filter a day after driving back from Scotland. There were various error messages on the dash, but the engine ran perfectly. My garage said the cure was to unblock a soot filter, but that I might need a new one (£1,600) at some stage. I tend to drive at 2,000rpm and wonder if, when the engine is warm, increasing the revs occasionally in a lower gear might prevent a repeat. RT
At that sort of mileage the particulate filter starts to fill with ash from all the soot it has been burning off. Sometimes these can be chemically cleaned by sending them away to Ceramex. It costs about £300 plus removal, carriage and refitting. Terraclean promises to perform this service at your house, but I have no independent confirmation of how well this works.
I have had new Hyundai Santa Fes for some time and really like everything about the car. I wouldn’t normally look twice before buying another, but I am told they only do diesel-engined models. Should I go ahead regardless or is there a better alternative? GP
Land Rover has started doing 240 and 290bhp 2.0 petrol engines in the Discovery Sport, but there is no need to panic about diesel just yet. As long as your new car has an EU6 rating you face no problems in the immediate future, apart from the usual ones about its unsuitability for short runs.
My wife likes her 2012 Mercedes-Benz A-class, but fancies a change. She’s looking for something about the same size, fully automatic, with good build quality and hopefully a high seating position. We don’t want to spend more than £11,000 if possible. RT
Try a Hyundai ix20 or Kia Venga 1.6 auto.
Two 75-year-old friends have an ageing Labrador and need a car the dog can access as it becomes increasingly lame. What should they consider? DH
A Honda Jazz. Its back seats fold down, the squabs lift up and that would allow the dog relatively easy access to the floor in the centre of the car.
Why do the Americans think 50-55mpg to the gallon in a fourth-generation Toyota Prius is so good? I have one and have no problem getting 60-70mpg even on a long run. Do they use a different type of petrol, or what? MW
Different size of gallon. US gallons are smaller than imperial gallons (3.79 litres rather than 4.55, so 55mpg in the US equals 66 in the UK).
Rights and wrongs
The Consumer Rights Act provides for a full refund of the purchase price if the goods do not meet the expectations of the purchaser. In the case of a second-hand car, if a fault is found, how can it be proved that the fault lies with the seller and not due to some action of the purchaser? RF
The presumption in Sale of Goods and all relevant case law is that if the fault could have been present or developing on date of sale, then the supplier is liable for six months. To remove that obligation the supplier has to prove otherwise. After six months the burden of proof shifts to the purchaser. I have yet to see any case law on the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Another fine mess
I have received a fine from CP Plus for a car I was not driving while in England. It is threatening legal action and to impact my credit file. I have ignored all letters; the most recent is from Debt Recovery Plus. Will this impact my credit file if it goes to court? And is it likely to go to court? LM
If you are the registered keeper of the car and you failed to identify the driver at the time of the transgression, then you are legally liable to pay the fine. A CCJ against you for a bad debt will seriously impact your credit record. But if this concerns a car with which you have no connection, pay the fine, then institute UK Small Claims action against CP Plus for fraud, and criminal action for intimidating and threatening behaviour. For Small Claims go to: www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview.
My perfect cushion
I have just bought a Subaru Outback. It appears to have a very hard ride. Can adjust this by fitting larger tyres to cushion the ride? JO
The only way you can fit deeper-profile rubber is to fit smaller wheels. But first check the tyre pressures. These days a lot of lazy dealers are delivering cars to customers with the tyres at storage pressures of 40psi-plus. That might be the reason.
My daughter is coming over from New Zealand and I would like to lend her my car. Is there an insurance company that offers free-standing policies for such cases? PT
The warranty on my Audi Q5 is about to expire. Audi has offered extended warranty, but can you recommend any alternatives? DL
I have read a lot of reports about the sports suspension on Audis being too harsh. Is it really that noticeable? JR
On 30-, 35- or 40-profile tyres, yes. Specify the SE suspension and 55-profile tyres.
Open to suggestions
I am purchasing a rarely used 2003 Peugeot 206CC from my elderly parents. The car has done about 11,000 miles and has had regular oil changes, but otherwise has an incomplete service history. I have booked an MoT and full service, but what else should I consider to ensure safety and longevity? SK
Change the timing belt, tensioners, water pump, alternator belt, brake fluid and coolant. Have the roof mechanism thoroughly checked and lubricated.
Logan’s tip run
My second VW Touran 1.6 TDI is due for a change. I no longer need seven seats, so will a cheap, petrol Dacia Logan MCV be a suitable tip-friendly replacement? My wife drives a Sandero Stepway and it goes well, if a little noisily. JB
That makes sense. The 900cc three-cylinder chain-cam turbo has a bit more get up and go. They make a Logan Stepway as well now, with bigger wheels and tyres, but it's a bit more expensive.
Airs and disgraces
I recently bought a new Mazda MX-5, with which I am very pleased. After a month I checked the tyre pressures to discover that they were at 54psi rather than the recommended 30psi. Why would the garage have set them so high? GB
That is storage pressure, to prevent the tyres from flat-spotting while the car is waiting to be sold. It’s unforgivable of the dealer not to have checked them as part of the pre-delivery inspection and could have had dire consequences. At least you're now finding out what an MX-5 [it]should[/it] feel like to drive.
I want to replace my five-year old Mazda CX-5, which I love, with something smaller - deally a petrol automatic. I really like the high driving position, have got used to the rear parking camera/integral sat-nav and need a boot big enough for two spaniels, though 4WD is no longer necessary. I had considered the CX-3 but the interior seems rather cheap compared with my CX-5. MC
I'd go for a CX-3 to get the same excellent six-speed torque converter automatic. A Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet and the SsangYong Tivoli also have proper six-speed torque converter autos.
I’m holidaying in France soon and I need to buy some headlight deflectors or face a fine. I asked Volvo what would suit my 2017 V40 and was told it doesn’t need deflectors because the headlights are LED. Is this right? JM
Probably. Park it facing a wall at night, turn the headlights to full beam and then switch to dip. If they dip down you don't need deflectors. If they dip to the left, you do.
Why is liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) not the obvious alternative to electricity as a replacement for petrol and diesel? It's in plentiful supply and cheap. MD
It's still a by-product of a fossil fuel that has to be burned.
Cat needs vet
I've just noticed the headlining of my 1998 Jaguar XJ8 is sagging quite badly, all at the front and some at the back. What can I do? SCBS
Look for upholsterers and trimmers at www.yell.com.
All4 one, one for All4
We are thinking about buying a new Mini Countryman. Are there any benefits of the All4 over the standard model to justify the extra cost? MW
All-wheel drive provides more security in everyday driving, as well as obvious benefits in adverse conditions such as we've encountered recently. The only downside is that you'll use slightly more fuel as a result of the weight and the internal friction of all the four-wheel-drive hardware. So I think it's worth having, despite a 5mpg fuel economy penalty - especially if you live in a part of the UK that's more prone to adverse weather.
Whining about lining
Why do car makers insist on lining car boots with fuzzy material? It is impossible to vacuum and clean. FM
It deadens sound and helps to stop things sliding about. Some load decks are reversible; fluffy one side, rubberised the other. And you can always get load liners if you carry particularly messy stuff.
What is the statutory size of parking bays in council car parks in England? JV
The "recommended" (not “statutory”) minimum dimensions for a car space are 4.8 metres by 2.4 metres. But, of course, the biggest problem is caused by bays being at right angles to the access roads and the access roads being too narrow. This could be fixed by angling the bays in herringbone fashion, making them much easier to enter and leave.
My husband struggles to get in and out of our VW Up, so I have been looking at small SUVs. I do no more than 3,000 miles per year, and I’m looking at the Vauxhall Crossland X, Peugeot 2008 and Fiat 500X. Parking cameras and enough space in the boot for golf clubs are desirable. Any ideas? ST
Best is probably a Citroën C3 Picasso, about to be dropped but available with the same 1.2 Puretech 110 engine as in the Peugeot 2008. SUVs like the 2008 and Crossland X are higher off the ground, so an MPV offers easier access.
Patter of tiny Fiat
What came before the 60-year-old Fiat 500? My mum (nearly 90) recalls her brothers taking her to school in a small blue Fiat with a roll-back roof and a reserve petrol tank. The brothers eventually had one each and the cars were small enough to bounce out of each other’s way. GBA
The 500 dates back to 1936 and there are several on display at the Lingotto factory in Turin. The car had a four-cylinder engine mounted in front of the axle with radiator behind. It was originally a two-seater, but there was a four-seater from 1937 and the model was revived after WW2 with faired in headlights, continuing up to 1955. There was then a gap of two years before Fiat launched the Nuova 500 that we all know and love.
I have read that “The police must notify you of an intended prosecution (NIP) within 14 days of an offence. Check whether the NIP has been served on time. If it hasn’t, write to the police informing them that they are out of time and asking them to confirm that they won’t be taking any further action.” Is this correct? PC
Yes, but they only have to [it]send[/it] the NIP to the registered keeper within 14 days. They cannot be held to account for delays by the Post Office.
We have an 875cc Fiat Panda TwinAir auto. What tyres would you recommend for quietness on our rubbish roads? JP
Michelin Cross Climate Plus - as well as the all-weather properties, they give a compliant, quiet ride and better steering feel.
Against the current
How long will it be before the so-called experts and politicians decide that there are issues with driverless vehicles and electric power? DC
Some electric cars, such as the Smart ForTwo Electric, are brilliant to drive in traffic. But, so far, there have been problems with all types of autonomous driver aids. For cars to be truly autonomous we will need a new road network; the idea of driverless cars for the masses is still a long way from reality.
I own a 2003 Toyota Yaris with a personalised number plate that’s worth vastly more than the car. If the car was written off, would I still be able to transfer the registration to another car? The car has been serviced regularly, but because of its age I would like to know if it's in my interest to sell the plate before the car becomes defunct. BF
You would very quickly have to switch the car to a date-related plate and put your reg on retention before the car was written off. It’s probably better to switch the plate to a retention certificate at this stage anyway. It costs about £140 (www.gov.uk/keep-registration-number).
Juke ’box jury
One year ago I purchased a 2012 Nissan Juke CVT from a main dealer. The gearbox recently began to malfunction - when I selected reverse it would judder and stop before eventually engaging. It now also happens in drive mode. Is this common and what are the likely repercussions? Do you think I have any claim against the dealer? I have only driven 6,000 miles since I've had the vehicle. JE
There are many such faults reported with CVTs in 2011-2013 Jukes, Qashqais, Notes and Micras. Get it back to the supplying dealer and request that he fixes it. Your rights are here: www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/consumer-rights.
The garage that sold my 2011/61 Skoda Yeti Greenline has suggested that it is not worth having the free EA189 NOx emissions fix done at a main dealer. Will this affect any future sale or cause problems with the DVLA? It has done 70,000 miles and runs as if new. TWF
It is not compulsory and most dealers sensibly advise you if it looks likely to cause expensive repairs. Had they done the work and your car subsequently suffered problems, they would have been legally liable to put it right. Skoda now warrants dealer fixes for two years and up to 160,000 miles.
Odour and out
We have had our 2011 Skoda Yeti from new, but in the last three months there has been a strong smell of damp. It transpires that the footwells are wet. Any idea what might have caused this? NM
On VW Group cars the first thing to check is the bulkhead vent well and pollen filter. If the drains either side of the vent well get blocked, then rainwater will collect in the vent well and eventually seep into the car via the pollen filter. Other reasons for water ingress in that area are a damaged pollen filter seal or cover, or the pollen filter cover simply not being put back correctly after replacement. I learned about all of this the hard way.
Balancing the books
My daughter has two young children and drives a Renault Clio 1.4. She wants to replace it with a slightly larger estate car, but would like it to be more economical as she uses it to drive to and from work. She has only an automatic licence. DY
Stick to petrol, maybe a Renault Captur 1.2 EDC auto or a Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech EAT6 auto. They aren't as economical as diesels, but don't share the latter’s emissions system problems so running costs even out.
Marque of distinction
I am looking for an SUV. I have a 12-year-old Mazda6 with 148,000 miles, but it’s still a dream to drive. It’s a smooth petrol automatic and I would like to find a car with similar qualities. BDS
Mazda does not offer the new CX-5 SUV with a petrol engine and automatic transmission, but does offer the very pretty CX-3 with 2.0-litre 120 Skyactiv G petrol engine and a lovely six-speed torque converter auto. Give that a try.
My wife is keen to replace her 2012 VW Tiguan 2.0 TSFi with the new model, but we are concerned by the very high oil consumption of the petrol engine in her current car. Does the new model have exactly the same engine? NB
They fixed this with an extensively revised EA888 engine that has indirect as well as direct injection, better quality timing chains and improved piston rings.
Act 2, Scénic 1
We need to replace our nine-year-old Renault Scénic with a smaller car. We’d like high seating and a chain-cam petrol turbo capable of towing 20cwt. RG
Look at the Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 130 six-speed. Just remember to idle the turbo for a few minutes before switching off after towing.
Open to suggestions
I have been a loyal Saab customer, but need to dispose of my 2004, 76,000-mile 9.3 Aero soft-top. What is its approximate value as a private sale? I need to replace it with an economical petrol automatic and don’t know what to buy. I have a budget of up to £30,000. GS
It should fetch about £2,000. The most economical petrol automatics are invariably hybrids, such as Toyota’s Yaris (less than £20,000), Auris, Prius and C-HR, plus the Kia Niro and the Hyundai Ioniq.
Where can I find information about fixing a suitable European-spec headlamp deflector to a 2017 Peugeot 3008? EJ
Read the driver's manual. You might not need them at all, because the lights probably dip down instead of to the side. You can easily check by parking the car facing a wall (or your garage doors) at night and seeing which way they dip.
Much ado about nothing
I am due to travel to Ireland and am concerned that I will not be able to pay the automatic fees levied on motorways, which normally only display a phone number/email address on the gantry. You cannot make a note of these details at the time and thus face fines. Where can I find out how and when to pay? RB
It’s not a problem. Only the M50 operates exclusively like this. The rest have toll booths where you can pay with cash or card. Here is how the system works and you can use this website to pay the fee: www.etoll.ie/driving-on-toll-roads/information-for-visitors.
I’ve just bought a VW Transporter that has had its diesel particulate filter removed. Is it a case of buying a new exhaust, or has it gone for life? JP
It was illegal to remove the DPF, so it has to be replaced. It was also illegal for someone to sell you the VW without a DPF. Give them the choice of a refund or else fitting a working DPF system (that could cost upwards of £1,000).
My wife and I drive a 1.4 Vauxhall Meriva. We like the high driving position and physical size of the car, but find it very underpowered for tackling hills and overtaking. We are looking to go more upmarket and have looked at the Audi Q2, BMW X1, Peugeot 308 and Mini Countryman. What would you advise? A good safety rating is paramount. MG
From your list, go for a Q2 with the 1.4/1.5 TSI 150 engine, an X1 with xDrive and the 2.0i 192S engine, a Mini Countryman Cooper S with the same 2.0i 192 engine, a 308 with the 1.2 Puretech 130 engine (or a 3008 with the same engine). A 1.2 might sound small, but it is both gutsy and economical.
Variable valve timing
Our 2012/62 Skoda Superb Greenline estate (with EA189 engine) has just been called in for the “emissions service action” fix carried out. We have yet to book it in but are wondering if it would be advantageous to have the exhaust gas recirculation valve replaced at the same time. What do you think? Also, when should we have the timing belt done? The car has done only 30,000 miles. PB
Main dealers can charge about £1,200 to replace an EGR valve, but at 30,000 miles it should still be in decent shape. If you don’t replace it, but go ahead with the fix and the EGR fails soon afterwards, the dealer who carried out the work is liable to replace it at no cost. I’d be thinking about getting the timing belt, tensioner, water pump and alternator belt replaced fairly soon.
I own a 2006 Skoda Octavia and feel it is time to change. As the trend in cars seems to be moving towards hybrid or electric to reduce pollution. I am considering the Toyota Auris Sports Tourer, Toyota Prius or the Hyundai Ioniq. I understand also that the Tesla Model 3 mass-market vehicle might be available in about two years. Any suggestions? BW
Elon Musk certainly got it right, but the world will need a thousand times the production level of the Tesla Model 3 by 2040 if it is to cope with the projected ban on petrol and diesel cars. Meanwhile, for the next 20 years, any car on your list make sense. The Toyotas are the most extensively proven. The Ioniq (and the Kia Niro) use a more positive dual-clutch transmission rather than Toyota's epicyclic CVT.
My wife drove our nine-year-old Lexus LS600h until the cooling system stopped the car and we face a £24,000 repair bill. It cost more than £65,000 new and we do really love it. I know if we spent £24,000 on another car it would not give us the same pleasure. What would you do in this instance? PB
It sounds as though the inverter cooling system pump failed. It is the first time I've heard of this. I don't think I could justify spending £24,000 on repairs to any car - especially as there is a fabulous new LS hybrid on the way.
We are looking at a contract-hire agreement for our 23-year-old son. We were considering a one-litre Ford Focus or Fiesta Ecoboost, or possibly the 1.2 Ka+. A Vauxhall Corsa is also a possibility. DvD
The Fiesta was sportier, though there is now a new model and it has had mixed reviews. You might be better with a discounted 2016 version. Forget the Focus EcoBoost - too many clutch failures. The new Ka+ 1.2 is smooth and rides well but is gutless. The best new little car is the Kia Picanto 1.0 three-cylinder. Vauxhall does a cheap Corsa with alloy wheels for £9,000, but it is also gutless. The Viva makes more sense to me (but probably not to your son).
In at the deep end
I detest low-profile tyres and all the problems associated with them on England’s rubbish roads. If I buy a new Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport Tourer, will I be able to have normal tyres? MF
It’s up to you to demand them. After I requested 215/60 R17s on a new Renault Kadjar Signature, Renault made them a no-cost option to the usual hard-riding, more damage-prone 225/45 R19s. For an Insignia it’s probably better to go no deeper than 55 profile.
After its annual service, MoT and tyre change, my 2003 BMW 530d Touring was returned with the steering wheel out of line. The garage insists it is not responsible, as it did no work on the steering mechanisms. Can you help? MW
I guess they jacked the car up by the suspension arms and bent one of them. It’s worth getting a complete alignment check done, then send the bill to the MoT and tyre place.
My Renault Megane 1.6 dCI is 12 months old and has done 3,400 miles. Renault says a service is due, but this does not include an oil change. Should I arrange an oil/filter change, or does Renault know best? AP
I'd get the oil and filter changed. But if you're only doing 3,400 miles in a year you bought the wrong car. You should have chosen petrol.
Shall I compare thee?
I had a 2003 VW Golf 1.9 TDI 130 estate and at 65-70mph on steady motorway run it gave us 63mpg at 2,000rpm. Monthly tax was £12.68. Now I have a 2007/57 VW Touran 1.6 petrol and at the same speed get 43mpg at 3,000rpm. Monthly tax is £23.62. What is the point in changing an older diesel for a newer petrol, when it costs more to run and tax? GM
If the petrol vehicle has an EU4 emissions rating it won't get banned from city centres in 2019, unlike non-EU6 diesels. You have also changed from a small estate to a brick-shaped MPV and are not comparing like with like.
We are taking our car to Normandy and are aware of the many requirements to be fulfilled. At present, my husband and I have only the paper version of our British driving licences as we have had no reason to change them (and no desire to pay £20 for a plastic one for the sake of it). Do you think that we should get ourselves plastic versions in case we are stopped in France. GP
Yes. Your old paper licences remain legal but the idea is so archaic that it could cause problems. You can use your passport photos to apply for the Photocards online: www.gov.uk/exchange-paper-driving-licence.
The weakest link?
Is a 1.5 petrol engine potent enough for an automatic BMW 2-Series Active Tourer? DA
Some owners think not - and the three-cylinder engine has had some crankshaft bearing problems.
Miles purr hour
The catalytic converter of my 1995 Jaguar XJ6 is making noises. The local Jag dealer in Exeter says it cannot be replaced and will fail its MoT in September. The car runs beautifully. What would you do? Is it possible to get one from a breaker? LH
Presumably it's rattling because the ceramic matrix has broken up. It's highly likely that one sourced from a breaker will have suffered shock damage and will be in the same state. If you key “Jaguar XJ catalytic converter suppliers” into Google you will find a cheaper replacement than a main dealer can supply.
I need to change my Audi A8 and would like to try a different marque. I particularly like the A8’s air suspension and understand this feature is also available on the new BMW 7-series. Can you tell me if any other makes offer this type of suspension? I am only interested in used vehicles of about four years of age or newer. PM
Air ride comes as standard on the rear of BMW F11 and G31 5-series Tourings. It’s standard or optional on a lot of Mercedes models, including the C-class. It is also standard on Range Rovers and on the rears of Discovery 4s and 5s. The slight problem is that air-ride involves compact rubber airbags and these don’t have indefinite lives.
Close to the edge
The front tyres of my Jaguar XE have done 17,000 miles. Both outer edges have worn to the point of being smooth. An alignment check suggested everything was OK, but I am not convinced. SB
If the outer edges have worn smooth, then the alignment might be out with too much toe-in. But it could also indicate too much pressure in the front tyres or that you are applying too much steering lock when cornering.
Not a bright idea
I would like to upgrade the headlights of my Mazda MX-5 Mk III. My Mazda dealer would not fit aftermarket bulbs, quoting reliability problems. I would appreciate your view. CH
I never recommend this, partly due to the potential for overloading the car's wiring or overheating the headlight reflectors and partly due to the potential for creating illegal dazzle.
Absolutely no pressure
I recently bought a six-month old BMW that has a treatment applied to the paintwork and interior trim. Is it OK to use a pressure washer to clean the car? GG
Definitely not. You will remove the treatment. Don't use local hand car washes either, not just because of the pressure washers. Some of their detergents contain acids. Use a bucket and sponge, preferably while it is raining because the rain loosens surface dirt and also rinses the car without streaks.
Is it worth paying £52 for a no-claims discount protection on my insurance policy for a 2005 Jaguar S-type? DM
I don't think so. Readers’ experience proves that premiums still rise if they are involved in a claim.
Voyage of Discovery
My Land Rover Freelander is almost three years old and has done 20,000 miles. The replacement model is the Discovery Sport, which can currently be supplied only with a diesel engine. Those are getting a very bad press at the moment and I am told Land Rover is bringing out a petrol version later this year. Should I wait? RH
I tested the new Ingenium petrol engine in the F-Pace and it works well. The problem is that Jaguar does not want to sell many vehicles with this engine because it will raise the company's corporate average CO2, leading to EC penalties. The same goes for BMW and Mercedes-Benz, both of which also have 2.0-litre petrol engines. On the other hand, VW has recently announced a range of low-CO2 1.4 petrol engines for its Tiguan SUV.
My VW Golf is now 16 years old and has just had its annual service. When I collected it, the mechanic mentioned that the brakes were fine and commented on the front pads being hardly worn. When I told him they were the originals he wouldn't believe me. MW
You live in Guernsey with a 40mph maximum speed limit, so the brakes don't have to do much work, but that is still remarkable.
I have a 2008 BMW 320d that has done just over 100,000 miles and seems to require little servicing. Is there anything that should really be done to keep it ticking over? JC
The worry with N47D20A and N47D20D engines built from March 2007-May 2009 is failure of the tensioners. The system was modified from May 2009 and five years later BMW admitted the problem, started checking and began fitting cars with revised tensioners.
Hark, the Herald?
I am trying to locate my old Triumph Herald convertible, registered SSF 799, that was sold to someone in Edinburgh. My late father spent many hours restoring this car for me and I would love to buy it back. RL
This finds basic details: https://www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla. I did the search for you. It did not tell me that the car had been scrapped, but it has been off the road since 1994 so I don't think there's much hope of finding it intact.
The new Kia Picanto could well be my next car. Research indicates that my local main dealer isn't remotely competitive compared with what’s available from other franchises on the Kia website. I think you generally advise against buying unseen, but would you consider an Approved Used Kia (warranty topped up to the full seven years) a worthwhile risk? TS
The 2017 Picanto is already here in quite large numbers. I've seen dozens. Yes, the used warranty is topped up by an insured (rather than factory) warranty to seven years. Your problem will be that any dispute, big or small, will be with a supplier many miles from where you live. It is always better to have warranty work done by the supplier, rather than another franchise that has no interest in the car except its servicing.
I am thinking about buying another car, but am confused about the diesel/petrol issue and the government's direction. Will I be penalised financially for buying a diesel car in the future through road tax, resale value or fuel cost? CH
No decisions have yet been made about increasing annual VED or the cost of diesel - and I don't think either will happen, because the only way for manufacturers to keep their ranges within EC Corporate Average CO2 limits is to sell more diesel vehicles than petrol. Where diesels are taking a hit is due to the gradual public realisation that the emissions-reducing kit does not last the life of the vehicle. Serious failures are all likely to be encountered before the car reaches 100,000 miles and the cost replacement far outweighs any saving on fuel.
I need to replace the window strip on the right-hand side of my 2000 Volvo V40. I have tried local breakers but they will only sell me a complete door. Is there anyone in the UK who deals in spares for old Volvos? JD
There is a Volvo-specific breaker at Wyboston on the A1, just a couple of miles north of the A421 roundabout: www.lakes4volvo.co.uk/page2.html.
We have a 2012 Kia Sportage that has been great, but we are now thinking about changing it for a new Sportage or a Mini. We would really like a petrol Mini with four side doors, but don't know that much about them. We don't have a large budget so what do you suggest? RSC
The new Kia Sportage GT 1.6T-GDI 4x4 is great, probably outhandles a Mini and comes with a seven-year warranty. That probably makes the most sense.
No reason to stop
Over 10 months, my 2016 Audi A4 Avant has activated its pre-sense braking system on 15 occasions, for no obvious reason. The main dealer hasn’t been able to help. Can you? VR
There has been a massive recall of VW Golfs and Audi A3s over this issue for a software fix. It sounds as though your car has the same ailment.
Are there any recurring problems with DSG gearboxes? I have read that they can judder, especially at low speeds in low gears. RG
It depends which DSG. The most troublesome is the low-torque seven-speed dry-clutch DSG, fitted with smaller engines. The high torque six-speed wet-clutch DSG is less troublesome, but requires fresh fluid and filter every four years. There is a new high-torque seven-speed wet-clutch DSG fitted to engines of 2.0 and 2.5 litres (called s-tronic in Audis), which is the best to drive. As well as that, Audis with longitudinal drivetrains had a different seven-speed wet-clutch longitudinal s-tronic that has suffered a few failures.
Walk this way
Our 2002 Honda Civic has more than 100,000 miles on the clock and is still going well, but we can't help looking around for a suitable replacement as the time to replace it will come. Our next car should be a five-door petrol hatchback, with a walk-through cab (like our present Civic), sunroof and air-con. Any ideas? GG
Marketing led Honda to abandon the walk-through cab in about 2003. Apparently people valued somewhere to put their phone rather than the ability to get out of a car either side. It’s possible that a Citroën C4 Picasso 1.2 Puretech 130 EAT6 automatic might suit your needs.
Touring car champion
My last three cars have been larger-engined BMW 3-series Tourings. The current one is a 2008 330d. I love the refined yet still sporty performance and ride. The Touring format is great for two dogs and golf clubs, but I'm about to replace it due to high mileage. I have my eye on either a 330d or 335d xDrive. Are there any alternatives that I should consider? RB
I'd stick to a 3-series and go for an xDrive, which has much better handling. Be aware that non-EU6 diesels will be prohibited from some city centres from autumn 2019, so you need to find an EU6 car. This was compulsory from September 2015, but many diesels were already EU6 in anticipation.
Nail harm strong?
My mother’s VW Golf 1.6 TDI went for its MoT and a nail was found in the sidewall of one of the rear tyres. The garage said it would require a new tyre as sidewall damage is not repairable, which I was expecting. As the tyres were more than 30 per cent worn (the other rear tyre was down to 6mm), they recommended replacing both rears on safety grounds. True or false? AB
I don't think that's necessary on a car like a Golf 1.6 TDI. Yes on a 4WD, because the tread disparity can confuse the system.
Cheap in wolf’s clothing
I took my two-year-old Auris to a Toyota dealer for a number of reasons - one being that mpg had dropped from mid-50s to mid-40s. When I told them that I’d bought fuel from two major supermarkets they added Redex additive. It is now up to 52 and climbing. Is this the norm? IM
The Redex cleaned the deposits that cheap fuel left in the system. It’s best to use branded superunleaded petrol - that way, you won’t suffer the problems that the Redex cured.
Lot of trouble
I bought a Maserati Quattroporte in a car auction, with the motif “sold as seen.” Five miles down the road the oil pump failed, resulting in a ruined engine. Do I have any recourse? RV
Unfortunately not. “Sold as seen" means there is no form of warranty.
All roads lead to Romania
I like the look of the Dacia Stepway and wonder if an automatic version is on the way. TN
It's possible, but hasn’t yet been announced.
The banned played on
I have a seven-year old Saab, which I would like to keep, but I live in London and it is a diesel. What are my options? Could it be converted to petrol? MC
Yes, but it makes no sense. Diesels older than EU6 and petrol cars older than EU4 face prohibition from London, on pain of heavy daily penalties, from autumn 2019. Older cars could be converted at colossal expense, but would still be bound by their original EU emissions rating.
My wife needs an automatic that will accommodate a mobility scooter. Any suggestions? AY
Go for an adapted vehicle with a ramp at the back, rather than a complicated hoist. Numerous companies offer adapted Citroën Berlingo Multispaces, Peugeot Partner Teepees or VW Caddy Lifes. Try: www.brotherwood.com or www.alliedmobility.com.
Tail of the unexpected
I have an occasional problem with my Seat Ibiza ST, when the boot won't open. I press the unlock button and all doors unlock except the boot, which sounds as if it's trying to unlock but the lid will not lift up. In each case, after driving along a bumpy road, the "boot open" warning light appears on the dashboard and I can stop the car and open the boot. I've tried squirting WD40, but it hasn't helped. Have you any further suggestions? TC
All you can do is replace the lock servo. These do have a hard life from salt-impregnated water being flung against the rear of the car in winter.
In the dark
I bought a 2016 Hyundai ix20 1.4 petrol, with which I'm very pleased, but it does not have daytime running lights. I thought all vehicles of a certain age had to have them fitted by law, Hyundai has said that the vehicle does not need them, but I'm not convinced? AD
Vehicle manufacturers had to fit DRLs to new types of passenger car and light goods vehicles (car-derived vans) from February 2011. Although your car was built in 2014, it's an older design that was type-approved before February 2011.
I wonder if there are companies that could convert cherished vehicles to electric. I might consider it for my 1999 VW T4 Campervan if the EU and government start banning old diesels. RO
Conversion of rear-engined VW Type 2s is common in the USA. These people have been around for a long time: http://www.batteryvehiclesociety.org.uk/forums/index.php.
What is the most reliable, used, petrol automatic I can get for less than £8,000? PT
Honda Civic 1.8i VTEC five-speed torque converter auto, Toyota Prius or a Toyota Auris hybrid.
I have a VW Golf 1.4 TSI and there is a growling noise at low speed, or when accelerating. It has been suggested this might be the air intake in the turbo. Is this a possibility and is this a known problem? JB
That is most likely to be an air intake noise because a pipe has split or come adrift; not a fault with the turbo itself. But if it’s the timing chain you’re in trouble...
We are going to Canada and driving across British Columbia and Alberta later this year. Is there anywhere we can practise driving on the right-hand side of the road? IG
Nowhere springs to mind, but I don't think you will find driving on the right a problem. Just remember that your passenger will be on the kerb side, exactly as they are in the UK.
I purchased a new Mazda in October 2008. The manual says the timing belt should be changed at 75,000 miles and I have now driven 50,000. Should I should play safe and have it changed fairly soon? DB
Play safe. Change the timing belt, water pump, timing belt tensioner and also the alternator belt (which can come off and take off the timing belt at the bottom pulley).
We need to sell my Rover 75 and buy a small car for local use. I am 6ft 2in and my wife has walking difficulties. We live on a main road and need to be able to turn the car around in an area measuring 20ft by 17ft. Any ideas? JJ
The Kia Venga and Hyundai ix20 make a lot of sense - both are short and tall.
Another insurance con
I have had to pay almost £1,200 to insure my Toyota Auris hybrid. I accept that my age (87) does not help, but I have been told that it is also because my car is a hybrid. Friends in their mid-eighties driving conventional 1.2- and 1.5-litre cars are paying only about half that amount. DG
Change insurer. My father was with Direct Line until he gave up driving at 92 due to macular deterioration. He was paying £360 a year, fully comprehensive, for a Toyota Auris Hybrid T-Spirit.
I am trying to find out who now owns my old E-type Jaguar, MKO 200F I had it from mid-1968 through to 1982. The original colour was red, but after doing a DVLA search it now shows as black. Unless I give some form of misinformation to the DVLA, I cannot find the current owner. ME
Data protection precludes such a search. You could try the Jaguar Drivers Club, but if they know the owner they would have to ask for permission before revealing their identity to you.
Where can I get reasonable European breakdown cover for a 2006 Audi A4 Cabriolet? JW
I used to recommend Britannia Rescue, but recently reader accolades have been flowing in for the RAC's continental breakdown service.
I am 72 and tend to keep a car for 10 years, so the next one might be my last. We are looking to replace a Vauxhall Corsa with something similarly sized: petrol, five-door hatchback, steel wheels and air-con. I want something economical and reliable with the ability to carry five adults and handle motorway cruising. DH
Currently, the most basic car you can buy is a new Dacia Sandero 1.0. It has a decent chain-cam three-cylinder non-turbo engine (the same as in a Smart), but no radio, no electric windows and not even a spare wheel (£100 extra). Price: £5,895. The Ambiance model with a radio, electric front windows and air-con is £6,895.
My Mazda2, purchased new in January 2016, is a good car, but the air-conditioning failed some weeks ago. The supplying dealer tells me they have a whole batch of similar faults to deal with, but can’t say when mine will be fixed. Could I reject the car as not fit for purpose and demand a refund? PC
It’s far too late to reject it. The reason for the delay is an EC Directive insisting that air-con in new cars is filled with refrigerant R1234yf rather than the old R134a. This new refrigerant leaks, is flammable and costs five times as much as R134a.
I qualify for the Motability Scheme and need to choose a new car. I have a Land Rover Freelander and prefer SUV-type cars. On offer are a Hyundai Tucson S or SE, a Kia Sportage GDI or a Suzuki Vitara SZ-T or SZ4. I have not bought a car for 20 years and am lost. I need good access to the boot for both mobility scooter (using a ramp) and a collapsible wheelchair. PK
By design, an SUV is much higher off the ground than an MPV and consequently it’s much more difficult to get a mobility scooter in or out. Ideally I think you should consider something with a low rear sill - maybe a Ford Courier Tourneo or a small van-based MPV.
Relay saying something
My 2008 Audi A4 2.0 diesel has an occasional intermittent clicking sound from inside the centre console. Being intermittent it never appears when I take it in for a check. The electronic brake switch no longer makes a sound when applied but appears to operate the braking system perfectly normally. Could it be associated with this switch? RH
The electromechanical brake is just a switch that might be faulty. The clicking might be the relay refusing to accept the current because the car is moving.
My 50,000-mile Ford Fiesta Titanium 1.6 TDCi is seven years old. It has a full service history and MoTs have been trouble-free. If I wish to keep it for another seven years, what should I check/replace? PB
First of all it needs a fresh timing belt, tensioner, water pump and alternator belt. Sooner or later it will need new injectors.
I purchased a Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi new in May 2015. Do you know if it has a Euro 5 or Euro 6 engine? When would it make sense to get rid of the car? As diesel engines are being demonised at the moment, are residual values affected? KC
The 1.5 TDCIs are EU6. Yes, the demonisation of diesels and the growing realisation of the high maintenance and repair costs are killing resale values.
I have a 2006 Ford Transit-based campervan that’s starting to rust around the wheel arches. It needed some welding to get through its last MoT. Is it worth spending any money fighting the rust or do I let it rot away gracefully? NT
The problem with campers is that the conversion is always worth more than the van. It’s probably bestr to get it welded.
Re: liability check
My son will shortly be buying a used car. Am I correct in saying that the dealer has to correct any faults the car may develop within six months of purchase? AG
The dealer remains liable for any significant fault that could have been present or developing on the date of sale for six months from that date of sale.
Bristling with rage
I have a 2010 Honda Insight and a car wash broke my one of my parking sensors. What do I do? AM
It depends what’s on the notices at the car wash. If the sensor was loose then it isn't the car wash management’s responsibility. If the brushes ripped it off, then it is not "reasonable" for the car wash to absolves itself from responsibility and you have a case for a small claim: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview.
Jag of all trades
I was thinking of buying a 2016 Jaguar XJ diesel, but friends advise against it. What are your thoughts? IG
If it is EU6, there are no potential city-centre penalties. This engine delivers 300bhp, 515lb ft of torque and consequently the performance is astonishing. You'll probably get 40mpg, but the XJ is soon to get a completely new body and the engine is timing belt, not chain. An alternative is the new BMW G30/G32 5-series, which steers and handles exceptionally well.
I’m looking for a VW Golf-sized car with petrol engine and manual handbrake, but can’t find anything suitable. GK
The Skoda Octavia, Ford Focus estate, Kia Cee’d and Hyundai i30 SWs still have manual handbrakes, but pretty much everything else has an electromechanical parking brake.
Form of the top
Do you rate VW convertibles (not the Beetle)? A friend says soft-tops are more likely to let in water and/or be damp, plus they are noisy and cold in the winter. Do you think those comments are valid? CM
Depends which soft-top. The Golf convertible is based on the 2004-2009 Golf Mk5, not the Mk6 or Mk7. Folding hard-tops like the VW Eos can let in more water because the many parts of the complex roof are hard to seal.
Tell me when
My 2012 Ford Fusion has done 22,580 miles. When should the timing belt and water pump be changed? On my last Fusion I was told they needed replacing after 11 years. by which time it wasn’t worth spending the money on the car. CS
I say five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. A new timing belt, tensioner, water pump and auxiliary belt are all due fairly shortly.
I need a car to accommodate my wife’s mobility scooter and thought of changing our 2008 Mazda3 for something suitable. Handling is not important and mileage will be very low. I don’t want to spend more than about £5,000. AW
The best options are the Citroën Berlingo Multispace, Peugeot Partner Teepee, Renault Kangoo combi and Fiat Doblo combi.
My May 2011 Skoda Yeti 1.2 TSI had a replacement timing chain at 46,000 miles. Now, at 67,000 miles, the fault is beginning to reappear. The local dealer only replaced the first one after I made a fuss and called Skoda UK. However, they do not wish to offer any financial help with the cost of replacing the second one, as it was more than two years old. RG
The problem was manufacturer cost-cutting that forced the supplier of the chain links to extend the life of the stamping tools. Links stamped out late in the life of the machinery had rough edges and burrs and that's what led to the problem. It was hard to predict whether you’d get a good chain or a bad one. In the end, the VW Group switched to timing belts.
Friends of ours have a 1959 Aston Martin DB4 that needs to be sold. How would you advise them and who should they approach to get the best price? There seem to be several sharks around. PH
There is serious money here. Depending on whether it's a DB4, a DB4GT or, even better, a DB4 Zagato, and depending on condition, they're probably looking at a price range between £250,000 and £1,000,000 plus. Rare DB4 Zagatos have made as much as £10,000,000. A Classic Auction is the way to go. There is a sale on September 23 at www.historics.co.uk, who are very nice people. You need to alert the action house a couple of months earlier to get a good write-up in the catalogue. Auction houses typically take 10 per cent plus VAT of the hammer price from the vendor, plus an entry fee. Try historics.co.uk, brightwells.com, bonhams.com and silverstoneauctions.com.
I mistakenly poured anti-freeze into the screenwash reservoir of my BMW. What is the best way forward? PD
Drain it completely, dispose of the anti-freeze responsibly, flush it out several times and replace with the correct BMW screenwash. Antifreeze can take paint off your car. One way to get the bad stuff out is to bury a hose in the reservoir and blast out the contents, but that risks contaminating your local storm drains.
Can you advise on the consumption rate of AdBlue in mpg? I have a 2016 Ford Transit Custom 2.2-litre van with an AdBlue capacity of 4.6 gallons. The information would be useful for calculating topping-up intervals rather than waiting for low-level warning messages to appear in the information display. According to the vehicle manual the tank may either be filled at a “fuel station pump or from a portable container”. Have you ever seen such a pump? NG
AdBlue is normally consumed at between 4-8 per cent of the rate of diesel. You can buy it in 10-litre plastic containers for £12-£16, or refill directly from the AdBlue pump at the truck filling side of almost every service station. If you carry your own supply, be careful to secure it. It's nasty stuff with an unpleasant odour.
I like the traditional style of the Rover 75 Tourer and Jaguar X-type estate. Do their petrol auto versions have torque converter transmissions? IB
Yes. Details can be found in the relevant model entries at www.honestjohn.co.uk.carbycar.
I am going to sell my Mercedes SLK 350 and buy an E400 cabriolet. The trade-in price is poor: only £8,800 for my immaculate 35,000-mile 2009 car with full MBSH. So I intend to sell privately. What is the safest method of payment? JA
Take the money in a bank as a cash transaction then immediately credit it to your account. This ensures that payment cannot be revoked by the purchaser.
Talk - or you walk
There is a 2016/66 BMW 5-series for sale at a local main dealer. It has a nice spec and a decent price, but is registered as an ex-demo that was sold and almost immediately returned. The dealer is vague about the reason. Would you be bothered about this? JM
Yes. Get him to be specific. There is now a stunning new G31 5-series Touring, which could be one reason. Another might be that the buyer did not like the ride if it was fitted with 20-inch wheels and 35/30 profile front and rear tyres. Or there might have been a fault.
I am in a quandary about what to buy to replace my beloved but ancient 2003, 160,000-mile Ford Focus Ghia TDCi estate. I am keen to get a seven-seater (extra seats for occasional use) and my kids are keen on an SUV. I don't want something too big, but need it to be comfortable. Low running costs are essential and my budget is about £15,000. HH
There’s not much choice at that price point. A used Kia Sorento KX2 Nav manual would be OK, but of course it is a diesel and that means potentially expensive replacement parts at some point. If you can increase your budget, you could consider the Nissan X-Trail 1.6 DIGT seven-seater manual.
I own a 2005 Chrysler 300C saloon. The car has developed a water leak from behind the rear-view mirror. I have researched this problem and found that a recall was issued in the USA. Chrysler UK informs me that what happened in America means nothing to them. Now the dealer wants to charge me £110 plus VAT to look at this problem. The car has done only 55,000 miles from new. Do I have any redress? AS
None whatsoever, I’m afraid. All rights you may have had under Sale of Goods case law end after six years, unless there is a safety recall.
Hatch too hot?
We have a 2011 VW Golf 1.6 diesel. Before the “dieselgate” software upgrade its running temperature on the flat at 60-70 mph was about 90deg. Since the upgrade it's now running at more than 100 degrees. I phoned VW and asked if this is an expected effect. They had no answer and told me that if there was something wrong I should go back to the dealer who performed the upgrade. Any ideas? RS
It runs hotter because reducing the NOx creates more soot. The extra heat comes from the particulate filter having to regenerate more often to burn off the soot.
Sting like a B
I bought a Ford B-Max automatic in 2013 and from the beginning I have experienced a gearbox judder. We are considering changing the car for another B-Max, as we like everything else about the car, but has this problem now been rectified? RE
Getrag is supposed to have come up with a working clutch pack for the Powershift, but I will believe that only when the complaints stop coming in. Some other Ford models have reverted to a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission instead of the Powershift. I’m told Ford will end B-Max production in Romania in September, so I don’t imagine the car being re-engineered.
Spider from marred
What is your opinion of the Fiat 124 Spider. It seems cheap. I also understand it is based heavily on the Mazda MX-5. Are different engines available? I like the look of the Fiat, but I am 6ft 2in and worry about access. FO
I drove one a couple of weeks ago and found it disappointingly soft compared to the MX-5. In my view it doesn't handle nearly as well. Engines are Fiat's 1.4 belt-cam turbo 140, or a 1.4 180 in the £30,000 Abarth version that is supposed to be much better. Both are built by Mazda in Hiroshima.
Open to suggestions
I am retired and looking at a two-seater for summer driving. I have looked at an old Porsche Boxster (but been warned about a bearing problem), a BMW Z3 2.8 and - the complete opposite - an MGB GT. My mileage would be about 3,000 over the summer, then I’d put the car in the garage for the winter. LH
An MGB GT doesn't really do the job. I think the BMW Z3 is a sound choice, if not a great to drive. A nice 1.9 four-cylinder sold at Historics Ascot for £1,500. I'd have bought it if I had somewhere to keep it, but I don't. The 2.8 has a lot more grunt but prices tend to be higher. Repairs on a Boxster could come to three times its value. Strangely, the safest bet is the original 205bhp Boxster 986 2.5.
Can’t before the horse?
I passed my driving test after the 1997 cut-off date. Can I tow a horsebox trailer, or do I need to take a towing test? WP
It depends on weight. This is what you can tow without taking a B+E test. With a towing vehicle under 3,500kg you may tow a trailer with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) not exceeding 750kg (eg a small garden trailer). And you can tow a trailer with a MAM exceeding 750kg as long as the actual weight of the vehicle and trailer does not exceed 3,500kg and the actual weight of the trailer does exceed the unladen weight of the towcar. All the rules plainly explained here: www.bhs.org.uk/our-charity/working-with-the-law/driver-licensing-law. Use this to get the rules from the horse's mouth: www.gov.uk/towing-rules. Use this to book your test, if required: www.gov.uk/car-trailer-driving-test.
Time to quit smoking
I have a 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe Diesel with 97,000 miles on the clock. When I drive it from cold it smokes when the accelerator is pressed, but that clears once the engine is warm. Is there anything I can do? GG
That's probably because some of the glow plugs aren’t glowing, so the fuel is not being burned in those combustion chambers until the engine heats up and runs on compression ignition. Get the plugs checked.
Dark side of the moan
Driving extensively on the M3, M4 and A303, I am always amazed, and very concerned, at the number of cars I pass in poor weather in daylight that have only their front lights on. JR
Daytime Running Lights have been compulsory on all new cars since February 2011 (though they can still be switched off). It is not compulsory for them to light up at the back, though some manufacturers such as Peugeot/Citroën are now fitting rear DRLs. In heavy rain, drivers need to switch their lights on so the rear lights can be seen by other motorists. Quite a lot of drivers get into their cars at night, see the glow of the DRLs in front of them and forget that their rear lights are not then lit. It’s best to leave your lights on automatic, where this is fitted.
Open and shut case
We travelled from Bristol to Orpington and on the M4 there was no mention that the M3 was closed around the M25 and we didn’t realise until we got there. On the M25 I have seen messages regarding road closures down in Kent and Sussex, so why not on the M4 regarding the M3? NF
That is a bit strange because the M3 has been closed between Junctions 2 and 3 at weekends for quite a while. You have to complain to Highways England: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/highways-agency.
Hit and missing
My stationary car was bumped by another driver. I have an independent witness and the other party has admitted liability. However, despite me obtaining and supplying two quotes (VW £250, independent £140), the other party is now ignoring communication. Are my only options to stump up the cash myself or contact my insurer? I also note my Direct Line insurance renewal quote has increased from £220 to £316. I am thus reluctant to inform my insurer. LM
You could try a small claims case against the other party: www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview, but if he/she makes a claim you have to disclose it to your own insurer and your premium will probably increase again as a consequence. It might be more expedient just to pay up the £140.
Bending the rules?
I recently bought a car from a dealer. I now think it is possible that it had been in an accident. Was the dealer bound to tell me if this was so? MS
Only if the dealer could possibly have known. It’s a requirement of the 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
A friend is struggling financially, but badly needs a car, preferably a modest MPV/estate. Something like a Citroën Xsara Picasso or a Vauxhall Zafira would be perfect. His budget is only £750 and he was thinking of looking for something with a year’s MoT that would see him through until he can afford something better. Can you offer any advice? LW
A Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDI was the best (actually brilliant), but check very carefully for rust, especially in the sills.
Much ado about nothing
I bought a one-year-old, 6,000-mile, Kia Approved Cee'd 2 petrol hatchback for £12,300. I was told it came direct from Kia's importation facility at Immingham, but have since found that its previous owner was Hertz. Should I be pleased or furious? And if the latter should I seek some redress? PV
Absolutely nothing to worry about. At least 50 per cent of all cars resold after 6-18 months are ex-rental. A variety of different drivers early in a car's life is good for it rather than bad. It helps to run it in better. The days when Hertz used to hire Mustangs to weekend racers are long gone.
Sooty and sweep
I have a 2008 Honda Accord. The diesel particulate filter light has come on twice in just a month. I’m going to get my second forced regeneration tomorrow at a cost of £100. In fairness, I have done quite a few short journeys, but I never see any warning light to prompt me to do an active regenerating drive. How often do I need to do this? Does it look likely that I will need a new DPF? The car has done 80,000 miles. IM
A DPF fills up with two substances: soot and ash. The more ash it collects, the less capable it becomes of regenerating the soot and by 80,000 miles there will be a substantial amount of ash in there. It might be possible to send it away to be chemically cleansed by the Ceramex process that costs about £300. Or your Honda dealer will happily sell you a new DPF for £1,000 or so...
A handful of dust
I have a 2011/61 Toyota Avensis TR D-4D and white dust regularly blows out of the air vents when I put on the air-con. CM
This must have something to do with the heater trunking. A first guess is that someone has removed the pollen filter from the system. A second is that the pollen filter has fallen apart. A third is that someone has stashed an illegal substance behind the vents.
You state that Michelin Cross Climate Tyres “must” be fitted to all four wheels. I’ve had two fitted to the front of my Audi Q5, intending to replace the rears when they wear out. What is the problem? Nothing was said at the garage that fitted them. MK
A disparity between front and rear in adverse conditions, such as severe rainfall, frost, ice or snow, could - in extremes - put the car into a spin that its traction control systems are unable to prevent.
The Look of love
I have a 10-year-old Peugeot 206 1.4 Look that has done 47,000 miles. It has been a great car, but I am thinking of changing. Any advice on something similar? I don’t need lots of gadgets. ST
Consider the Suzuki Baleno 1.0T Boosterjet, Suzuki Swift 1.0T Boosterjet, Kia Rio 1.0 TGDI 100, Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 110, Citroën Cactus 1.2 Puretech 110, Citroën C3 1.2 Puretech 110 and Kia Rio 1.0 TGDI 100.
Not asking for much
I want to buy a small, reliable and comfortable SUV with an automatic box. Any suggestions? JF
Look at a Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 110 EAT6 or a Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet 6-speed auto.
I like my two-year-old Ford Kuga auto, but I’ve recently driven a Ford Galaxy MPV and its VW Sharan cousin and quite fancy one or the other. I like toys, would appreciate an idiot parking aid and folding mirrors are a must. A decent sound system would be good too. HM
The Galaxy has been very different from a Sharan or Seat Alhambra since 2006. The Galaxy has always been nicer to drive, but the Sharan/Alhambra is a little bit bigger.
I purchased a new Nissan Pulsar with 1.2 DIG-T engine in March 2016. In January 2017 it went back to the dealer for three days to replace the pulleys on the drive chain as they had started to disintegrate. Four months later they are failing again. Is this a common problem with this engine and what are my rights? DM
This is the first such report I've received on the 1.2 DIG-T/1.2 TCE, which is a Renault engine introduced in the Mégane in 2011. There was some trouble with piston rings in Qashqai engines built in 2014/2015. I think you have every right to demand a new engine, which is what Qashqai owners have been getting.
My friend would like to replace her Renault 5 Prima 1.4 with a similar car. She would like a petrol automatic and has short-listed the Hyundai iX20,Toyota Yaris Icon Tec and Honda Jazz. Would you recommend one of these? AW
The Hyundai ix20 now has a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. No problems so far. The Yaris and Jazz both have CVT-7s that have a very reliable pedigree. If she’s going for a Yaris, it’s best to go for the hybrid. Of the three cars the Jazz has the most versatile interior. The Kia Venga is identical to the ix20 but has a longer, seven-year warranty.
I would like to buy a classic VW camper van. I am not very good with mechanical things, however, so does it make sense to consider buying such an old model? MD
The original "split-window" Type 2s have sold for up to $300,000 in the USA and good ones, modified with up-to-date engines, suspension and brakes, are generally at least £50,000 - and often much more - over here. Second-generation models are more practical, with better engines and disc brakes, but are still best when fitted with updated engines. Avoid any of the later, squarer type with water-cooled flat-four engines. As ever with classics, it pays to do your resaearch and buy from a specialist.
X marks the spot
We have a 2004 Saab 9-5 auto, but it is a diesel and we live in London. I can foresee a moment soon when we will not be able to afford to park it anywhere, and not even be allowed to drive it to many places. Would a petrol Jaguar X-type auto be a reasonable replacement, with sufficient room for my long legs? DS
Jaguar X-types came with Ford 2.5 and 3.0 V6s and four-wheel drive, or a front-drive 2.1 V6 for which parts are scarce. If you live in London, you have to get an EU4 petrol model or you face the same penalties as non-EU6 diesels from autumn 2019. EU4 was applied from January 1 2006, though many cars for up to a year previously were EU4 in anticipation.
I've just found that the spare wheel well in my 2013 Ford Focus contains about an inch of lavender-coloured water. Although we have had some heavy rain recently, there is no sign of any wetness or damp on the boot flooring or surrounding trim. Any ideas please? KD
It’s probably coming in through the one-way cabin vent flaps between the lower sides of the load area and the bumper valence extensions. These are usually hidden behind carpet.
We tested a new Porsche Macan and it’s impressive, but I’m told we’d have to wait for up to eight months to get a 2.0-litre petrol auto (although that came down to five months when I spoke to them later). With some modest options it comes to £50,000, all strictly list price. Are we obliged to buy at list price? It’s anathema to me, a car buyer/seller for 31 years. Any advice? AG
You buy according to supply and demand. If supply exceeds demand cars are discounted. If demand exceeds supply cars aren't discounted. Just watch out for salesmen pretending that demand exceeds supply when it doesn’t.
Not my type
I was considering buying a Jaguar F-type that’s less than six months old and has supposedly done 3,000 kilometres. Looking at the brake discs there seem to be marks that indicate it has been driven hard or it has done many more miles. KB
An F-type without carbon ceramic brakes will suffer if driven hard on a circuit, as I suspect this one might have been.
I have just received my insurance renewal and it has the wording "Guaranteed no-claim discount does not protect the overall price of your insurance policy. The price of your insurance policy may increase following an accident or claim even if you were not at fault.” It seems to me that whatever happens they will increase the premium and this "guarantee" is virtually worthless. TL
The experience of other readers bears this out. “Protected NCD” doesn't seem to mean anything so isn’t worth buying.
Note to self
I have just received an "offer" from a local agent to have my 12-plate Nissan Note petrol Terraclean processed. Is this any good? MW
If the car has a direct-injected engine and the inlet valves are getting coked up with carbon, then Terraclean is appropriate. If the car is running fine, don't fix what ain't broke.
Take a soft approach
I need to replace all four tyres on my 2008 Mercedes A-class, but with what? Present size is 195/55 R16 and there’s too much choice. I drive only 6,000 miles annually, at moderate speeds, and would like affordability and comfort above all. DW
Try a soft all-weather tyre such as Michelin Cross Climate or Goodyear Vector 4 Seasons Gen II.
I part-exchanged my Toyota Auris for a six-month-old Yaris. In recent very hot weather a distinct smell of tobacco has become evident and it appears the car had been deodorised but that this has failed. What would you recommend? RM
Find a valeter who will set off a deodorising canister inside the car, or buy one from Halfords. Basically you take the car off the road somewhere, set the ventilation to recirculate with the vents open and the fan on full, start the engine, set the thing off inside the car and leave it idling for 10 minutes or so.
Pump my ride
I have a 2005 Volvo XC70 D5 with 68,000 miles and full service history. What should be replaced in preventative terms if I keep this car for another three to five years? It already has a new water pump. PJ
If the water pump was replaced then the timing belt and tensioner must have been, too. Belt, water pump, tensioner and auxiliary belt will need to be replaced again in five years or 60,000 miles. It would be sensible to change the coolant and it will need fresh Haldex clutch fluid and filter. Annually, you should test the brake fluid for moisture content and contaminants and replace as necessary. If it’s an auto, it might be worth changing the transmission fluid.
Loitering within tent
A lot of camper vans have a flexible solar panel to keep their leisure batteries charged. I know someone whose camper has a 42-inch TV, games consoles and all sorts of things and the battery is good for a week, just being topped up by a small flexible panel on the roof. So why don't manufacturers of electric vehicles build in some solar panels. Parking outside for a few hours could increase range. RO
Toyota offers a solar panel roof on the Prius Plug-in Business Edition for an extra £1,500. Based on annual sunshine statistics, Toyota says the solar panel captures enough power to drive 1,150 kilometres a year in EV mode in Rome, or 659 kilometres in London.
Taking Cat to vet
I recently took delivery of a new 3.0-litre supercharged Jaguar F-Pace. The dealer has been hopeless the whole way through my purchasing experience. The car broke down after 150 miles and, having been recovered on a breakdown lorry on Monday, by Friday I had still heard absolutely nothing. I have lost confidence in Jaguar and my car. Can I ask for my money back? JD
Within 28 days of purchase the Consumer Rights Act 2015 theoretically give you the absolute right to reject it, but this might not be upheld by a county court. I would not use the words “I have lost confidence in Jaguar and my car.” Stick to the fact that the car has not proven to be “of satisfactory quality”.
I wish to replace my 38,000-mile 2003 Mini Cooper with a similarly compact sporty model that has better performance. Could you recommend something suitable? SB
The new Suzuki Swift 1.0T Boosterjet is worth a look. It’s very sensibly priced – and even better with the six-speed torque converter auto. A new Kia Picanto 1.0T is coming soon and should be a terrific little car. Meanwhile, the VW Up 1.0T 90 and Up GTI 115 are on the way. There might soon also be a Peugeot 108 with the 1.2 Puretech 130 engine and six-speed box.
I am looking at buying a medium-size SUV and the Porsche Macan seems to stand out. Your thoughts would be appreciated. DC
It’s gorgeous to look at and great to drive, but it has to be a V6 (preferably a 3.6 V6 turbo petrol rather than the VW Golf-engined 2.0 litre TSI). The very obvious alternative is a Jaguar F-Pace.
Back to the future?
I started driving in rear-engined cars like the Fiat 600/850 and Simca 1000 and was very fond of them, apart from poor screen demisting. I am interested in the new Renault Twingo as it's rear engined, but does it suffer the same drawbacks? I also note the Twingo has different size tyres front and rear.Could I fit just two winter tyres to the rear of a Twingo? GR
The Twingo and Smart ForTwo and ForFour share the same engines and drivetrains; happily now a choice of manual or Renault's EDC auto, not the horrible Smart automated manual. It's possible that fitting the Twingo with wider tyres at the rear is what takes the fun out of the handling, because it simply isn't as enjoyable as it should have been. And you can't put modern cold-weather tyres on the rear only. Winter or all-weather tyres have to be fitted to all four wheels to avoid instability.
Faster but slower
The delivery of our new Audi A3 1.4 TFSI s-line cabriolet, has been significantly delayed by an unannounced decision by Audi to upgrade the engine to a 1.5 TFSI. Should we cancel the order or does having the new engine justify the additional three-month wait? SW
That's interesting. The new 1.5 Evo engine is coming on stream in VW Group cars and the Golf and A3 are getting it first. It is an improvement over the very good 1.4 TSI, but a three-month wait means you'll miss the best of the summer.
Keep on runnin’
I have a September 2016 BMW 320d auto on a two-year lease. It has now done about 35,000 miles and hasn’t missed a beat. It has a Euro 6-compliant engine.With all the talk of diesel tolls in cities, do you think I should hand the car back and switch to petrol, or purchase the BMW for about £15,500? AG
I don't think you'll find anything that size with better economy. I ran a 320d ED for six months and 7,125 miles, averaging 63.25mpg.
I had an unsolicited telephone call from my local Honda dealer suggesting that I change my 2008 Accord for a new Civic. I convinced her that I really didn't want a Civic and that, as you can't buy new Accords any more, my next car would probably be a Mazda6. Then she admitted that she had several people who would be interested in buying my Accord and asked me to give her first refusal. I think I'll keep it. WC
You should try the new Civic 1.5 180 Prestige CVT. It's almost the size of an Accord and steers, drives and handles a lot better. They’re not cheap, though.
I have a 1991 Ford Transit camper with a 2,000cc petrol engine that has an LPG conversion. I run it on gas all the time because it’s cheaper. Where do I stand concerning emissions in the present in Europe and in the future in the UK? Nothing seems to be mentioned regarding gas-powered vehicles. KH
Your vehicle will be classified according to its EU emissions rating when it was new, so it won't even be EU1 emissions compliant, you won't be able to get a Crit-air sticker and you will be penalised for entering an increasing number of European city centres. CO2 emissions are about 10 per cent lower from burning LPG than from burning petrol. After initial enthusiasm due to low emissions, the EC went cold on LPG about 20 years ago and I don't know why.
I understand that Vauxhall/Opel is being sold to Peugeot. Could you tell me what the likely implications may be for a purchaser of a new Vauxhall in the UK as regards guarantee, spare parts and resale values? JR
Expect to see a gradual rationalisation of the respective car ranges, but there are no immediate worries about Vauxhall warranties, servicing and parts. The first product of this merger is the Vauxhall Crossland X, based on the floorpan of the next Citroën C3 Picasso. The next new Vauxhall will be the Grandland X, based on the 3008.
My 2008 VW Golf 1.4 TSI 140 had a misfire. I had the coils spark plugs and injector seals replaced but the management light still came on. I had the inlet manifold and head replaced with new parts, but the car still has an intermittent misfire. MC
This “award winning” chain-cam turbocharged and supercharged engine has other problems, including timing chain faults and over-fuelling that can wash out the bores.
My Renault Sandero just stopped. What could the cause be? MT
Is it petrol or diesel? Will the engine turn on the starter motor, or not? If it won't turn at all, it's seized and you need a new engine. If the engine turns, can you hear tinkling noises? If so, unclip the timing belt cover and see if the timing belt has come off. If it has, the engine might be internally damaged or, if you're lucky, not. If it turns and there are no tinkling noises, the problem might he the fuel tank lifter pump or the fuel injection pump.
I need to replace an elderly Renault Clio Sport with a four-door economical petrol car that is cheaper than the Clio to tax. I would be willing to spend approximately £5,000. SG
I'd look at a Toyota Yaris Mk II 1.3 or 1.33 manual (definitely not the MMT automated manual). They are generally very reliable, low maintenance and user-friendly.
Long and short of it
I note that queries about the length and width of cars are quite common. I probably spend too much spare time pondering whether various lottery-win models will fit my driveway, but this site, makes the task easier: automobiledimension.com/car-comparison.php. DB
Many thanks. That's a useful site, particularly for comparing widths of similar cars. The problem is, it only gives body widths and there are three widths that affect decisions: body width, body width with mirrors folded and body width with mirrors out. Trying to get all of them from a manufacturer is like getting power out of a Morris Minor.
Grand day out
I bought a one-owner 2011 Ford Kuga 2.0 from a main dealer in January. It has so far been excellent but as it came without a service book I wondered what I should ask for when I have the next service. DN
If it's diesel it now needs a timing belt, water pump, tensioner and auxiliary belt on age grounds, as well as a very comprehensive service. It costs £800 to £1,000 to do all of it properly.
Long, hot simmer
I own a Skoda Octavia TDI. You often advocate leaving a turbocharged engine to simmer at idle for a short while before switching off after a long journey. How does this square with stop/start technology that will kick in if one comes to a standstill at a motorway incident? VS
The stop/start system should not stop the engine if the turbo is too hot or if there is not enough power in the battery. You can always keep the engine running simply by dipping the clutch.
For the second time within a few months, the AdBlue display on my 2016 Skoda Superb SE-L Executive 190 DSG dropped suddenly from 5,000-6,000 miles left, to warning mode (650 miles) to not starting. The first time it took the dealer nearly two days to sort out the problem, which they blamed on software. It’s happened again. What should the dealer be doing this time round? AC
This is a new one on me. I would guess that the car’s selective catalytic reduction system is using AdBlue, but the gauge that tells you how rapidly it is using AdBlue and how much is left is not working properly. Have you tried topping it up? It might even be that the gauge only warns you at all when the AdBlue is running low.
House of common
My wife won’t drive our lovely Volvo V60 D5 as she feels it’s too big. I have looked at the V40, which is ideal size, but this time we want a petrol automatic and that seems to be rare at Volvo. What else should we consider? AM
They’re not rare. While the T2 manual has Volvo’s own 2.0 petrol engine, the T2 and T3 have been available with 1.6 Ford engines and automatic transmissions, while the powerful T5 comes with a Powershift twin-shaft automatic. Or go for a Mazda3 2.0 6-speed auto.
I have a 1992 limited-edition Mazda MX-5 SE, purchased new for £17,661 (I have the original receipt). The car has been in storage for the last 12 years and is therefore in pristine condition with no accident damage and all original paintwork and has covered 58,000 miles. Is it worth anything? GS
Early MX-5s are starting to appear at classic car auctions. Yours should be worth £3,000 - although some private sellers are asking up to £5,000 which is ambitious. They can rust very badly just ahead of the rear wheels, which can write them off, which is making early MX-5s increasingly rare. This one will need a timing belt and water pump as part of the recommissioning before it is started, but it will definitely be of interest to enthusiasts. Try the club at mx5oc.co.uk
Two new arrivals
We have a baby on the way and my wife wants to trade in my BMW 4-series for a VW Touareg or Audi Q5 4x4 diesel. The problem is that I enjoy my driving, most of my 20,000 miles a year are for work and the company pays my fuel bills, so I'm trying to convince her that we should get a BMW 340i Touring. What do you think? JG
She's thinking “safety” from being higher and having more car around her, but I know where you're coming from. If a Porsche Macan V6 is out of the question, a Jaguar F-Pace 3.0 V6 might keep you both happy. Failing that, a BMW 340i GT.
A friend recently arranged a carbon clean-up for his Jaguar diesel and claims he’s noticed improvements in engine smoothness and pulling power. Are there any downsides to this procedure and do you think the £100 cost would make it worthwhile for my 2007 Mercedes E320 CDi with 160,000 miles on the clock? He used www.enginecarbonclean.com. BS
I guess you mean the Terraclean process and it should produce an improvement, though I cannot guarantee this. You'll need an engine oil and filter change, too.
Recently I was stranded at the northernmost tip of the Isle of Arran in a new Vauxhall Astra, with a tyre rendered unusable by a large nail in its wall. I must commend Vauxhall Assist. who not only co-ordinated recovery and sourcing/fitting of a replacement tyre, but also managed to get me to onto the following morning's return ferry to the mainland on time. Had I missed that booking I may well have had a major headache. I am sure I am not alone in regretting the demise of the spare wheel in modern cars. DB
Yes. The lack of a spare is driving ever more of us to rely on Assist systems or the AA, though manufacturers seem to be rethinking this and are increasingly offering space savers as a £110 option. You can order them for Vauxhalls.
Very occasionally, when I switch on to start my four-year-old Toyota Auris it will over-rev. I then switch off and restart and it is usually OK. Any ideas? TE
It might be a sticking throttle pedal switch. Toyota had some trouble with these a few years ago and instituted a worldwide recall.
The air-con of my BMW just failed again. The first time this happened, in 2006, the BMW dealer insisted that the whole unit needed replacing at a cost of £800. I had the work done. This time I went to the local branch of Formula One Autocentres. They regassed the system at a cost of £45 and everything is working again. It does make you wonder about the first solution. BP
That £800 bill would have been for a new compressor or a new condenser, but £45 is for a simple regas. Check your invoices.
I've been advised by my garage that the swirl valves in my 10-plate Volvo XC90 are failing. They've advised that the valves could be ingested into the engine and have quoted £1,600 for repairs. There is currently no noticeable impact on performance. Is this fix as critical as my garage claims? IL
Very much so, but check your area for an independent Volvo specialist who might be able to do the job more cheaply.
Our 2005 VW Passat 1.9 TDI estate had its cambelt changed at 32,000 miles in 2010. Does this need doing again after 77,000 miles? We have been quoted £395. Is this fair? MG
It needs timing belt, tensioner, water pump and auxiliary belt. That £395 may or may not cover all of this, but a new water pump is crucial because if that seizes it will throw the belt off. It's a job that should be done every five years.
I attended a driver awareness course in lieu of a fine for a minor offence. The police literature said specifically that this did not need to be declared to my insurer as no offence was recorded. My insurer thinks differently and treated it in the same way as an offence, almost doubling my premium. The object of the course is to make me a safer driver and my insurance should, arguably, decrease. Should we declare these or not? JS
If the insurer asks, you have to disclose the information. I would change your insurer if you can get cheaper cover from one with a more sensible attitude.
Look no further...
With car manufacturers making better diesel engines, JLR claiming modern ones are no more toxic than petrol and governments threatening doom and gloom for the diesel driver while the public has little concrete information; where can the poor punter get sensible advice? TL
Unless you do 20,000 miles a year or more, need a large van/motorhome or to tow something heavy, don't buy a diesel. Whatever legislation and punitive measures may be in the offing, the basic sums don't add up. You gain an economy benefit of 10 to 20 per cent, but you have to pay significantly more to get the diesel engine in the first place and its emissions equipment is expensive to maintain. The future for the next 10 years is petrol hybrids.
I had a very slight scrape in a supermarket car park but had no paperwork relating to my insurance. What should I keep in the car for such occasions? MP
Every year you will be issued with an insurance certificate along with the policy document. This is the piece of paper you need to keep with you.
Putting the boot in
Which is the safest small car for a young driver? My granddaughter was in the back of a friend’s car recently when someone crashed into them and showered her with glass from the back window. JC
Obviously a small saloon is much safer in a rear-end impact because the boot acts as a crush zone between the back of the car and the rear seat. Curiously there doesn't seem to be any Euro NCAP data for rear-end vulnerability. I can't think of any very small booted saloons on sale in the UK, but the Skoda Rapid is a reasonably priced car with a long boot. To check individual model ratings, there is an easy-to-use search facility at www.euroncap.com.
I would like to tow my 1,850kg caravan with a 2001 Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 petrol auto cabriolet. There is provision for a tow-bar and most makes can fit. However, my caravan expert pal says it is not a good idea to tow with a convertible as it can twist the chassis. Is he correct? PA
You’re asking for trouble. The Caravan Club says a car should tow no more than 85 per cent of its own weight and your car is 120kg lighter than what you are proposing to pull.
4 into 2 will go
We are in our 70s and need to change our present car, a BMW 420, to something that provides easier access, a comfortable ride and good driving dynamics. We are considering a smaller SUV. PS
The first thing to try is a BMW 2-series Active Tourer, preferably on 16-inch wheels with 55- or 60-profile tyres.
I'm thinking of replacing my 55,000-mile 2008 Volvo V50 2.0 diesel with something similar but, in view of an annual mileage of about 6,000, petrol rather than diesel. RW
Look at the Peugeot 308 SW 1.2 Puretech 130 six-speed, with potential 50mpg economy. A revised 308 is being launched very soon.
We plan to trade in both our BMW Touring 330d X-Drive and our Hyundai i10 for a comfortable petrol automatic with a raised driving position and enough space for two large suitcases. We prefer estate-type bodies and are thinking of BMW X1 or Mercedes GLA. Should we be looking at anything else? Is there a hybrid that fits the bill? RN
You could check out a Kia Niro hybrid and a Toyota C-HR.
Assault on batteries?
Should I buy a three-year-old Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, or am I going to have years of bills and battery issues? PC
I haven't heard of any serious problems and recently asked Mitsubishi that very question. I’m not hearing this generally with hybrids because there's always the petrol engine as back-up. I have noticed with my father's 2010 Auris HSD that initial battery range is now very short and mpg is not as good until it has been driven a distance.
I am writing to ask for your advice regarding driving in neutral as an economy measure. This was suggested to economise during the war and in times of shortages. AD
It made sense 60 years ago when cars had carburettors, but everything now has fuel injection that shuts off most of the fuel supply when the throttle is lifted so it's a complete waste of time and could even lead to engine damage. The most economical way to drive is at a steady 2,000rpm, especially for a diesel. Consistently drive a diesel at revs below that and the DPF will not regenerate properly
Safety still first
I have just had a Westfalia towbar and dedicated electrics fitted to my 2016 Audi A4 avant 2.0 TDI 190 s-tronic. The cruise control, speed limiter and Audi pre-sense are disabled while towing but fine when not towing. According to the maker, this is correct. My previous 2013 model was not affected. It seems strange to disable some of the safety features. AL
That's perfectly normal. Cruise, speed limiter and automated braking are all connected and designed to work with the standard weight of the vehicle, not when it could be almost twice as heavy when towing.
I am thinking of changing my Honda 1.4 Jazz automatic, first registered in August 2014. There is no urgent need, but I would like a little bit more acceleration. Should I wait for the new 1.0-litre turbocharged Jazz, or buy the current 1.3i VTEC? JF
In my experience the 1.3 feels slower than the 1.4. It would be best to wait for the new 1.0 turbo. It’s coming, but I don’t yet know when.
I have a 20-month-old Vauxhall Astra SRI CDTI that is extremely economical - up to 70mpg and zero rated for road tax at 97g/km of CO2. In respect of the latter, what happens at a future service or MoT if that level rises? Does it move into a different tax bracket? KE
No. So far the only MoT test for a diesel is smoke opacity and that the original emission reducing equipment is still fitted. But if a car is not EU6 emissions-compliant, the driver faces increasing restrictions in terms of bringing it into cities.
Interior design course
I have a 1983 Mercedes 280CE automatic that needs some restoration (notably loose dash trim and split materials). Would you recommend complete replacement or repair, as I understand it’s possible to get ‘filler’ for the splits? RLJ
Talk to Mark Cosovich, the UK’s leading Mercedes W123 restorer: email@example.com.
Briefest of all briefs
What is be the most reliable type of automatic gearbox? WA
A traditional torque converter.
The price of loyalty
My much-loved 2010/60 Mazda6 Sport D 180 hatchback has done 87,000 miles. Am I likely to hit big bills if I keep it? TS
They can have DPF regeneration problems. This dumps diesel into the sump, where it mixes with the lubricating oil to form sludge that blocks the oil strainer. I haven’t heard of this recently with the current models, however.
I have a 2012 Audi A1. I took out a service plan with Audi and have had three oil changes, the last in May 2016. The car is now due its annual MoT but not a service, as it has only done 38,000 miles. My husband suggests another oil change would be a good idea at this time. Do you agree? Also, the service plan lists an air filter change as one of the items included, but the garage has said this is not done till 50,000 miles and so will fall outside the plan. Should I push for this? FA
These plans are very basic and you have to pay extra for the air filter and oil change, but I would.
Is a vendor (a garage) legally required to inform the buyer that a car has been involved in an accident, however minor? VT
Yes. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations of May 2008 (CPRs) contain prohibitions against misleading actions, misleading omissions and aggressive commercial practices, enforceable through the civil and criminal courts. They create an offence of misleading omissions which would not previously have been an offence if the customer had not asked the right questions.
I rang Direct Line to add my 32-year-old daughter to my insurance over a long weekend. For this they charged me the outrageous sum of £1.10. It wouldn’t even have covered the cost of drawing up and posting the paper certificate. I was flabbergasted. AI
Outstanding. I’m getting some very favourable reports about Direct Line at the moment.
The only way in Essex
I am starting a new job that involves a daily round trip of 100 miles. It is mainly on country roads, with a stint on the M11. I am looking for a petrol or hybrid car. My main priorities are safety, comfort and reasonable running costs. I have about £30,000 available and am considering the Toyota Prius, Mercedes C-class, BMW 3- or 4-series or a Lexus. I aim to keep the car for up to seven years. GZ
A plain Prius hybrid (not the plug-in) makes good sense, or possibly a Lexus IS300h (though that will use more fuel). For style, ride comfort and handling, consider a Toyota C-HR hybrid. Or spend less money and go for an Auris HSD. Petrol/hybrid running costs are likely to be significantly lower than a diesel because of reduced maintenance and repairs.
I called in at Tamworth services on the M42 and was charged £1.49 a litre for superunleaded. That’s taking the proverbial. In disgust, I put in enough to get home and no more. At home in Doncaster I pay about £1.24 – £1.12 less per gallon. BN
That’s shocking, but a good reason to avoid motorways.
My wife has a one-year-old Range Rover Evoque automatic that she loves, but for two issues. She is concerned about driving a diesel, even though it’s Euro 6 compliant, and she would like something slightly bigger. She quite fancies a Lexus. What would you advise? PR
Jaguar Land Rover’s new Ingenium petrol engines are now being fitted to the F-Pace. You’ll soon be able to get them in the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, too (as well as the Jaguar XE, XF and F-Type). I wasn’t very impressed by the Lexus NX hybid. She might prefer the Toyota C-HR. Petrol hybrids are also on the way from BMW, Mercedes, VW and Audi.
Which would be the better buy, a VW Polo automatic or a Toyota Yaris hybrid? EP
Pending release of the new Polo, I’d for the Toyota.
Even in summer we have rainy days with poor visibility and so many muppets drive in dirty, hard-to-see cars with no lights. Why don’t all cars have their side (running) lights connected to the ignition system? Volvo introduced it in about 1975. PW
European Union Directive 2008/89/EC requires all passenger cars and small delivery vehicles first EU Type Approved on or after February 7 2011 to be equipped with Daytime Running Lights. Some manufacturers are now making the rear lights come on automatically as well.
Can you advise us about the options available for an electric/hybrid car that has a boot area large enough for two Labrador-sized dogs? This is to replace a Land Rover Discovery Sport. Price is not an issue, but I’m not interested in a Tesla. RB
Your best bets are a Toyota Auris Touring Sport hybrid, a Toyota RAV4 hybrid, a Toyota Prius Plus or a Kia Niro hybrid.
I will be taking my 2006 Mercedes C180 to Spain but I was having a hard time finding breakdown cover since the car is now 11 years old. You suggested www.footmanjames.co.uk/classic-motor-breakdown-cover and it proved to be an excellent tip. They gave me a policy that is not only cheaper than I was paying before, but also provided home start as well as European cover. I am delighted. PW
That’s brilliant. Thank you for the feedback.
Beyond the pail
Do you have any advice on using a pressure washer to clean the bodywork on my Toyota Auris? AF
What's wrong with a bucket and sponge? That way, there’s no chance of taking the paint off. It is always best to wash a car in the rain. The rain loosens the surface dirt and rinses the car perfectly with soft water, so you don't have to chamois it down afterwards.
Consumer rights? Wrong...
You often warn about the possible pitfalls of selling your car to a private buyer, but the Consumer Rights Act raises another issue. If your old car develops a fault within 30 days, and that fault was not clearly explained at the point of sale, you will have to take the car back and issue a refund. AC
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 does not apply to private sales.
Much ado about nothing
My 2006 Skoda has an automatic gearbox. In the ‘park’ position the road wheels are locked. If the car was hit by another vehicle in ‘park’ mode, would the gearbox be damaged? If so, it would seem safer to leave it in ‘neutral’ with the handbrake on. GE
Leave it in ‘park’. That's the safest way with any automatic. Some won’t let you remove the ignition key until you’ve selected ‘park’.
10,000 over par
I have been offered a 1992 VW Golf GTi for £500, but it is in poor condition and really needs complete restoration. How much might this cost and what would the car then be worth? HS
It depends on mechanical condition and levels of rust. A full resto could cost you anything from £5,000-£20,000 for a car that would then be worth about £10,000. Be very careful. If there’s any rust near the front screen surround, walk away because that's very difficult to repair and will be indicative of more rot elsewhere.
My 2003 Smart Roadster is nearing retirement. As they are no longer made, what would you suggest for a modern replacement that’s as much fun to drive? HP
A Mazda MX-5 is a lot bigger than it used to be, but that’s the obvious answer.
Is it possible to have a car number plate without figures? JH
Not in the UK. Plates always feature a combination of letters and numbers. If you see what appear to be only letters, they are corrupted numbers. It’s illegal to mess around with numbers to make them look like letters.
Tidings of comfort
Can you explain why or how fitting smaller diameter wheels can improve ride comfort? GF
Shocks from road surfaces are absorbed by the suspension and tyres, not by the wheels. For the same rolling circumference, a smaller wheel leaves more tyre between the rim and the road and creates a more comfortable buffer.
Mind of its own
My diesel car revs itself when the engine is warm, emitting grey smoke. What is wrong? EN
The sump level is too high, so the compression ignition engine is running on its sump oil. Siphon some out and try to find out why it is dumping diesel into the sump. It’s probably the active DPF regeneration not working properly.
With our reliance on diesel engines in goods vehicles and cargo ships, how much do private cars actually contribute to the planet's problems? TE
HGVs got particulate filters and AdBlue systems long before diesel cars did. The thing is, the only way to move stuff around efficiently is by using diesel ships and diesel trucks. We don't need diesel cars and we certainly don't need diesel cruise ships.
Wind of change
My VW Scirocco GT 2.0 TSI DSG is coming up for 50,000 miles and its fifth service. Is there anything out of the ordinary I should be replacing? RC
The six-speed wet clutch DSG needs a fluid and filter change if it hasn't already had one. Get them to make sure the chain tensioners aren't wearing. I'd run it on Shell V-Power to help keep the inlet valves cleaner. (It's a DI engine, so fuel doesn't come in through the valves, but Shell’s formulations seem to keep them cleaner.)
I want to change my 2008 Honda Jazz auto for something similar – ie automatic, retractable mirrors, not too wide, plenty of headroom. But I am getting older and want a more supportive seat. Any ideas? CS
You will sit a little more upright in a Hyundai ix20 or a Kia Venga. Another possibility is a Citroën C3 Picasso. All three of these cars are quite old, so could be due for an update in the near future.
Still very much in Vogue
For the past 10 years I have driven a Range Rover P38 Vogue with a 4.6 engine. It is starting to show its age (paintwork and rattles). I am retired and do not do many miles. I do not like the shape of newer models, so have been looking for a similar car to my 2000 model with fewer miles. How would a 4.0 engine compare with my 4.6? JW
The original Range Rover engine was an aluminium Buick V8 that GM sold to Rover because it was too expensive to make. The 4.6 in the P38 was the maximum size for this engine - it couldn’t be bored out any further. The 4.0 was a midway development and is usually more reliable.
A good friend died suddenly and his vehicle is parked on the drive outside his house. I am afraid to say there has been a spate of thefts in our area. The vehicle is still insured for several months but, since the policyholder has died, would the car be covered if it was stolen? IG
Probably not, because of the strange way insurance works in the UK. A private car is insured to a person but is not itself insured. If you are worried, fit a wheel clamp or a Disklok to the steering wheel.
Four Michelin stars
I need some new 185/55x15 tyres for my 2008 Honda and would appreciate the usual benefits, ie low road noise and a comfortable ride. CM
Happily, Michelin does Cross Climates in 185/55 R15. These are the best all-round tyres: excellent ride and steering feel, low noise, long life, brilliant in adverse conditions and with no fuel economy penalty. But you must fit them to all four wheels at the same time.
I need to replace my 17-year-old Volvo V70. I need a fast petrol manual car, big enough for five people and university luggage, for under £20,000. What would you recommend? JM
Try to find a used current model Skoda Superb or Superb Estate with the 1.4 TSI 150 engine. That makes the most sense.
Blue collar worker
Your advice to avoid diesel on the grounds of pollution and impending toll charges leaves me confused. I have a new Jaguar XE with an AdBlue cap. It seems that this feature is designed to reduce the NOx emissions. Should I be thinking about dropping this car after the three-year lease period or soldiering on? BK
It will be EU6 compliant so does not face the impending penalty for bringing a non-EU6 diesel car into cities. But emissions kit is unlikely to be wholly reliable in the long term and beyond three years you could face substantial bills for maintenance and replacements.
Two into one will go
We bought our Nissan Micra and Subaru Forester 10 and 15 years ago respectively and they have been virtually trouble-free until recently. Unfortunately they are showing signs of age and so are we. We now only need one medium-sized car, preferably automatic, that will take an electric wheelchair in the boot and give us reliability, comfort and reasonable fuel economy. We quite like the Skoda Octavia. RFS
The Octavia estate has a big load deck, but your best bets are probably a Toyota Verso 1.8i Valvematic Multidrive or a Citroën C4 Picasso 1.2 Puretech EAT6.
I am thinking of getting a Skoda Octavia 2,0-litre L&K diesel on 18-inch wheels. The sales rep said I have nothing to worry about it being diesel as it will not affect the car. Is this true? RE
Diesel emissions kit could give trouble after three years or so, but you might not keep the car that long. It would be daft to get it on 18-inch wheels with 40-profile tyres. Go for 16-inch wheels with 55s.
I am looking for a smallish three-year-old automatic that would have space for a set of golf clubs plus trolley. WG
The Honda Jazz 1.4i VTEC CVT-7 has amazing interior space.
Zut, a law...
How do I get a French emissions sticker and a European accident statement? BA
This tells you all about the emissions stickers and how to get them: www.rac.co.uk/drive/news/motoring-news/law-change-for-uk-drivers-in-french-cities. You can also get the standard European accident forms from the RAC.
Let us spray
The rear nearside passenger door of my 2004 Rover 75 1.8 Connoisseur auto will only open from the outside. Do you have any ideas? My local garage suggests a sensor. PW
It’s likely to be the lock servo. If you can open the door and find a grommet in the lock face of the door, take it out and use the extended nozzle of a can of WD40 to spray the lock servo and hopefully drive out any moisture that might be causing it to stick.
Don’t worry, be happy
I own a Euro 6-compliant 2015 Volvo XC60 diesel. When the Real Driving Emissions test is applied to all registrations in September 2019, will current Euro 6 cars no longer meet the RDE standard and therefore fail their MoT? AV
No. This is only for newly registered cars. They are not going to make 10,000,000 diesel cars in the UK illegal overnight.
My anti-skid warning light started showing intermittently and slowed my 2008 BMW on the motorway. The car has only done 51,000 miles, but I am told the metal discs on the half-shafts have rusted slightly and are brushing against the sensors. The repair will cost £700 as new shafts are required. Can it not be solved more simply or cheaply? MC
There is a chance that an independent BMW specialist can clean the corrosion off the ABS reluctor rings with some wire wool.
I like the look of the Mercedes-Benz B-class electric. It generally gets good reviews. There are low-mileage 2016 models around for circa £22,000. This suggests they have depreciated by around a third compared. Are you aware of any serious cost issues or significant problems that have caused excessive depreciation? SH
Most electric cars seem to drop like a stone in value from their extremely high initial cost. Their problem is that their batteries gradually lose capacity, decreasing their range until after about five years the battery needs to be replaced at colossal cost. Renault and Nissan get around this by selling the cars and leasing batteries to customers for about £70 a month.
Road to no air
The air-con on my 2010 Renault Clio has failed. Is this an easy job to fix and will it cost me a fortune? JC
It might need a re-gas, it might be the compressor clutch or else a holed condenser. There’s no quick, easy answer. Get it to an air-con specialist rather than a Renault garage.
Sense of perspective…
What would be the situation with Kia cars if there was a nuclear war in Korea? Does Kia have enough spare parts in Europe to guarantee the seven-year warranty? Would you suggest avoiding Korean cars? PC
Most mainstream Kias for Europe are built in Slovakia or the Czech Republic, but if there is a nuclear war we might all have rather more pressing concerns than sourcing spare parts.
What is the most economical seven-seater for school runs and family use? GRG
"Most economical" usually means diesel and that isn't suitable for short journeys like school run, because it will clog its emissions equipment and could be very expensive to maintain. So it has to be petrol. Maybe a Citroën C4 Grand Picasso 1.2 PureTech 130 or a VW Touran with the 1.4 TSI 150 engine.
Look, don’t touch
I’m considering a dealer-imported Toyota Hiace caravan, it is a 3.0-litre 4WD auto from 1999 with 80,000 miles on the clock. Is this a good idea? BE
Presumably this is a cast-off, imported from Japan where it would have been too expensive to get it through the local MoT-style tests. There are all kinds of potential problems with this because of the non-UK parts. It could leave you stranded somewhere for weeks.
My wife’s VW Polo SE 1.4 auto was bought in March 2007. The mileage is just under 43,000 and it is in good condition. It will soon be four years since the cambelt was changed and the work is due again on age grounds. We have received a quotation of £750, which seems high. PB
That is outrageous but typical of the worst kind of VW dealer. Find an independent specialist who will do the whole job for £400, including water pump, tensioner and VAT.
I have a Ford Kuga 1.5 TDCI auto on order, in shadow black metallic, I would like to maintain a showroom finish but am not sure what to apply. I have some AutoGlym Super Resin Polish and AutoGlym Aqua Wax. Is there a difference between polish and wax? What would you recommend? CN
Get Autoglym High Def wax and use that instead of polish. Polish cuts the surface of the paint to create a shine. Wax sits on top of the paint, protecting it.
I was recently loaned a Mercedes-Benz 350e for three days. During this period the fuel consumption was about 28mpg, which is a significant variation from the manufacturer figure of 134mpg. Any thoughts? JG
The current NEDC lab test gives a particularly misleading reading for plug-in hybrids, because the urban test is only four kilometres, the extra-urban test is seven kilometres and a plug-in hybrid usually has an electric range of 20-30 miles. But 28mpg is very low. I had a massive Volvo XC90 T8 last year, never plugged it in (because that's impossible where I live) and I still got 35-40mpg. I would expect at least that from the 350e.
I have a 2014 Honda Civic Tourer, and find the ride really uncomfortable. What make of tyres would you recommend? JH
This might be due to the wheel and tyre size, which you did not identify. You can get them on 16-, 17- or 18-inch rims. I'd suggest 16-inch wheels with 205/55 R16 Michelin Cross Climate tyres for the best combination of comfort, grip and low road noise all year round
Malaise, a Four thought
I plan to buy a 2015 BMW 428i. I notice that BMW no longer appears to make this engine. If this is correct, is there a problem that caused it to be withdrawn? PT
They simply upped the power and now call it the 430i.
Is it true that the Toyota Prius plug-in uses more fuel than the standard car. If so, why? MW
If it hasn’t been plugged in it uses very slightly more fuel because of the extra weight of the batteries. If it has been plugged in, then your first 20-30 miles of city use could be on the batteries, so your average mpg over the first 40 miles will be exceptional, reducing slightly for every further mile you drive.
My Citroën C3 is too big for my new garage. I am after something smaller, manual and petroI, but don't know where to start. SB
You could narrow it down to a Vauxhall Viva, Suzuki Celario, Hyundai i10 or Kia Picanto. The Picanto 1.0 three-cylinder is enormous fun to drive.
X marks the stop
It is time my 2001 2.5 Jaguar X-type. I have tried the XF and the XE, but they do not have the driver visibility that I enjoy in the X-Type. I am considering the F Pace, but am not sure whether to stay with the petrol engine version or risk the diesel. PH
So far the petrol F-Pace comes only with the 3.0 supercharged V6. The 2.0 Ingenium diesels have 163, 180 and 240bhp; the 3.0 V6 diesel has 300bhp and huge torque. Later there will be 2.0 Ingenium petrol engines with 200, 250 and 300bhp. I like it best with the 3.0 V6 petrol.
I’m thinking about buying a Daihatsu Terios 1.5 auto 4x4. What are your thoughts? GF
They are reliable enough - and quite rare with 4WD. Do you really want 4WD? The height of the car compromises its handling and, of course, Daihatsus have not been sold in the UK since 2009. I'd drive it first and see how you get on. You might not like the way it drives. Make sure you take it around a few corners.
The price is right
Andrew English’s review of the Range Rover SVA says that the VED is £450 for five years and then reduces to £140. I run a 10-year-old Renault Scénic for which I have just paid £305 in VED. How is it possible that in another five years I would be paying more than the driver of a 5,000cc V8? JW
Because that's the way the tax is structured. From April 1, VED for new vehicles changed. There would have been a CO2-based showroom tax of £2,000 on the Range Rover (up from £1,090 previously), followed by £140 a year from the second year, plus £310 a year luxury tax from the second year to the fifth year. To pay £305 for your 2007 Scénic, it must emit between 201 and 225g/km of CO2.
Are the wheel arches of the 2015 Lexus IS300h undersealed? AL
I haven't looked. Normally they would be sprayed with stone-chip and then painted in the body colour.
I need to sell a 1992 Honda NSX that has lain unused in my garage for a year. What would you recommend? HB
It will be sought-after - especially as the new version is finally coming on stream. Contact a classic car auction house such as www.historics.co.uk, www.brightwells.com, www.bonhams.com or www.silverstoneauctions.com. Alternatively, try a dealer such as www.tomhartley.com.
Kind of blue
I recently purchased an Audi Q5 that has an AdBlue tank. It will shortly need refilling. I purchased a 1.9-litre bottle from a local auto parts store for an eye popping £14.99, but have since purchased a 20-litre drum from Amazon for £24.99. Is AdBlue always to the same standard? JC
The normal service station retail price is £16 for 10 litres. It's pretty much a universal urea solution.
What price loyalty?
I have a 2012 Audi A6 avant 3.0 TDI auto with 96,000 miles and a full dealer service history. What are the likely problems and costs if I keep it for the next few years? DS
It will need a transmission fluid change. It might need a new exhaust gas recirculation valve and possibly two diesel particulate filters. It will be £300 for the fluid change, £1,000 for the EGR and £2,000 for the DPFs, but it might be possible to clean the ash out of them for £350 each using the Ceramex service.
I have a 2004 Audi A4 1.9 TDI Avant but am struggling to find a petrol equivalent with an engine of 1.6 to 1.8 litres. My budget would be my car plus £6,500. TM
Too many diesel cars are up for sale because the market was oversupplied and lots of people now want to get out of them. At the same time the market was undersupplied with petrol cars that the public now wants. Your best bet is a Honda Civic Tourer 1.8i VTEC, but demand is very strong.
While on holiday in France, my mum saw the new version of the Renault Clio Sport Tourer. She currently drives an older version. Do you know if there are any plans for this model to be released to the UK with right-hand drive? CH
It’s a definite no for the UK. The Clio station wagon never sold well here and Renault feels the market is covered by the Captur SUV and the Dacia Logan MCV station wagon.
Why are modern car petrol gauges so inaccurate? Recent cars I have owned all had a tendency to show full when the tank is topped up, then not move for 100 miles or so before dropping alarmingly as the needle heads towards empty. RO
It’s due to the shape of fuel tanks. The taller and narrower the tank, the more accurate a float gauge will be. The flatter and wider it is, the less accurate it becomes.
I have heard only negative feedback about large wheels with low-profile tyres, and yet they are very popular. Are there any positives? WMC
Some people think they look good.
Reigning Datsun cogs
What do you think of the Datsun 240Z? PR
Years ago I went mad at an auction and bid £8,000 for one with a Chevy V8 under the hood, but it wasn’t enough. I've only ever driven a 240Z once. It was a bit rusty but still a blast, like a mildly updated Austin Healey 3000 yet much more user-friendly.
I own a 1996 Ford Mondeo Ghia X with fewer than 80,000 miles on the clock. Should I try and sell it now or wrap it up in the garage as a future classic? CC
It's virtually worthless right now (I saw a runner sell for £25), but Mk1 Mondeos are becoming thin on the ground so in a few years you will have a rare car.
I have an Audi A3 with Dunlop Sport tyres that I intend to replace with Michelin Cross Climates. Will I have to buy a new space-saver as well? RS
No. Although Cross Climates are unidirectional you can use the same space saver. But treat it as an emergency spare only, to limp to the nearest tyre fitter at less than 50mph. Remember that braking and handling will both be compromised.
What type of automatic gearbox is fitted to the petrol version of the Jaguar XE, and is it reliable? DH
It has the same ZF eight-speed torque converter auto that BMW uses. They are very reliable.
Stem sell research
My 2002 Ford Transit diesel is showing typical signs of exhaust gas recirculation valve problems. Can this be cured with fuel additives? DW
It probably needs a new EGR valve because the stem eventually wears out.
Quick, quick, Slough
Average speed cameras have been installed at the eastern end of the M4 and they appear to be permanent. Do you know if they are already live? SL
Unless there is an attached sign stating "Camera not in use", they are live.
I have been told that automatic cars are not so good if they are under 2,000cc. Is that true? LH
Not any more. Suzuki’s Baleno and Swift automatics have 1.0 turbos and are brilliant.
In the recent past it has been the case that expats adopt overseas driving licences. Is this still the case? NR
Yes. You can't have a UK licence without a UK address for the very obvious reason that you couldn't be checked or penalised.
I own one of the last Vauxhall Omegas made, a 2003 3.2 Elite model with only 117,000 miles on the clock. It is still very comfortable and (so far) reliable. Is it worth keeping or should I give in to the inevitable and buy a newer, more economical vehicle? AW
Hang on to it. They are highly regarded and might start increasing in value a little bit. You won’t be able to take it into London from September 2020, but you probably wouldn't anyway.
Bridge of size
I am driving a three-year-old Mercedes B180 but find it too large. Which smaller cars have a similarly raised driving position? VR
Look at the Kia Venga, Hyundai ix20, Ford B-Max or Suzuki Ignis.
Take the high road
I am 6ft 4in tall and looking for a car that allows me to put back my seat and still accommodate two child seats in the rear. Any recommendations? IR
A Skoda Superb.
You recently mentioned that CVTs were "dreaded". Why? My Honda Jazz seems fine. RG
CVTs are “dreaded” by keen drivers, but not by others.
Marriage of Figaro
We are thinking of buying a Nissan Figaro as a little runabout. What advice would you offer? KY
They look great, but can rust very badly. Some people are very keen on them and high prices are asked, but you need to be extremely careful not to land yourself with a worn-out rotbox.
My wife has an Audi A1 Sport 1.6 TDI and recently had the emissions update carried out. Subsequently the car has not been as responsive. Any ideas? All I want is to get the vehicle back to its former performance? PB
Some owners have found that running on superdiesel, such as Shell V-Power Nitro Plus, has worked better with the revised injection sequence. It’s definitely worth trying.
Scrape of good hope
Not having claimed on my insurance policy for many years, I have a substantial no-claims discount. I have now damaged the car and it will cost about £380 to repair. My excess is £150. Would you advise claiming on the policy? CS
No. But it could be that the bodyshop reports the damage to your insurer and they will want to know why you did not register a claim. You have to say it was minor damage (which it was) on private land, involving no other driver (assuming all of that is true).
We have a new Porsche Macan S diesel that cost £63,000. It is as fantastic as everyone says, but we feel it is not for us. After six years with a BMW X5 we miss the space and comfortable seats and driving position. Can the Porsche be sold at, near or above the purchase price and where would be best? And what safeguards should we take? RD
I think if you try to sell it now you'll lose a bundle. When the model was introduced everyone wanted the diesel. Now everyone wants petrol versions. If I were you I'd bear with it.
You recently advised turbodiesel drivers to run their engine for a short while after stopping, to avoid carbonising of oil in the bearings. Does this advice also apply to petrol turbos? I have a Vauxhall Zafira petrol turbo. HF
Yes. Even though petrol turbos are water cooled, it's still a good idea to idle them before shutting off the engine after a steep ascent, towing, driving the car on a circuit or after maintaining constant speed on a motorway. It;s not necessary in everyday driving.
Hoist with the most
Which cars would be able to take an arm hoist to lift up a medium-sized mobility scooter? AF
It would be better to get something with a built-in ramp. Try www.brotherwood.com.
I use my 2008 Vauxhall Astra petrol to do a delivery round, necessitating frequent stops. Is it better for the engine to leave it idling or should I switch off? I typically leave the car for 30 to 60 seconds and have about 50 stops per round. JD
You can't legally leave it running on the street. And, of course, if someone nicked it you wouldn't be insured. Whatever the merits of leaving it idling, you can't unless you remain inside the car.
I am confused about the timing of the oil change in VW seven-speed DSG gearboxes. My Golf SE 1.4 will soon require its fourth yearly service. One of your recent replies recommended a gearbox check after four years and an oil change at 40,000 miles. I am retired and will only reach that mileage when the car is 15 years old. I would appreciate your advice. CW
Although VW does not insist on this, independent specialists recommend that the fluid in this transmission be changed every four years or every 40,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Dye another day
The air-con on my six-year-old, 80,000-mile Nissan Qashqai stopped functioning properly a couple of years ago. Regassing twice in this period solved the problem temporarily, but now it has happened again. I assume there must be a leak somewhere in the system. Is this going to be an expensive fix? GR
The good news is that a six-year-old Nissan will be filled with R123a refrigerant, not the expensive new R1234y that is more prone to leaks and has been causing problems. All you can sensibly do is get an air-conditioning specialist to apply a dye to the refrigerant next time it is regassed. That should expose the leak.
Torque of the town
My wife loves her elderly Citroën C1 but is now looking for a very small automatic. We have about £5,000 to spend. Any suggestions? IB
If you can find a Suzuki Splash or equivalent Vauxhall Agila 1.2 auto, grab it. These have proper four-speed torque converter automatic transmissions.
Toll paddle martyr
I am due to choose my new Motability car quite soon and would be grateful for your thoughts. At present I drive a Honda Jazz 1.4 CVT, which I like, but is there now a better alternative? TC
The new Jazz 1.3i VTEC CVT-7 is a bit slower than the previous 1.4i, but can be driven extremely economically using the paddles. I'd also get a test drive in a Mazda2 1.5 six-speed auto, a Suzuki Baleno 1.0T Boosterjet six-speed auto and a Toyota Yaris hybrid.
Limo without limbo
I would like to buy a used SUV. I like the Nissan Qashqai, but found access difficult. Can you recommend something suitable? I am 73 and my days of doing the limbo are over. MT
SUVs are always higher off the ground with comparatively low rooflines. It’s much easier to get in and out of an MPV such as a VW Golf SV, Citroên C4 Picasso or Ford C-Max.
Mum’s the word
My wife and I are in our 70s and contemplating a time when we might downsize from two cars to one. As insurance and no-claims discount go with a person and not a car, what should be the insurance strategy to ensure the one who ends up driving longest gets the NCD? Does anyone offer joint insurance policies for this scenario? CW
If you both have similar NCDs, then you have to make a judgment on which of you is likely to be driving for longest and have that person as the policyholder with the other as a named driver. Direct Line seems to work for a lot of older people - my 93-year-old mother is still with them.
Same as it ever was
I had my 2014 VW Passat 1.6 TDI’s emissions fix carried out at the end of January and I didn't notice any problems afterwards. As the warmer weather arrived the consumption improved and is at least as good as it was beforehand. I tend to get 40-45mpg in town driving and 50-plus on a motorway. SCW
Very good news. Others have found that a switch to “superdiesel” seems to suit the post-fix injection sequence.
I am about to replace my VW Golf SV and am wondering what to buy. I’m looking for a petrol auto but find the VW Tiguan is too big and expensive. What alternatives should I consider? As a 75-year-old with a back problem, I enjoy the higher front seat and driving view of the SV. AT
I'd consider a Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 110 EAT6. It has a torque converter automatic rather than a DSG, and the added advantage of soft, all-weather tyres with Grip Control for the winter. (I like the Golf SV, but not the seven-speed dry-clutch DSG.)
You wrote, “Petrol engines with turbochargers heat up much faster than those without.” My BMW 328i agrees with you. As I reach the main road about a mile out of our village on cold mornings, the heater fan auto setting starts to work. In 60 years of motoring I’ve never experienced such warm-up speed. Can you explain why? GJ
The water-cooled turbo is in the exhaust manifold, which heats the passing coolant more quickly than the engine combustion does. That same coolant then flows through the heater matrix to warm the cabin.
My wife has just tried a 2014 Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge. The car is in lovely condition but generated a lot of tyre noise. Is this normal? Her current car is a 2008 Renault Clio 1.2, which seems much smoother. EB
Assuming the Fiat is on standard 15-inch wheels, it's probably on Michelin Energy Saver 185/55 R15 tyres that can be quite noisy in the winter. It would be quieter on Michelin Cross Climates, which have the added benefit of giving outstanding grip in cold weather or mud.
Cheaper energy bill
My 2008 Citroën C3 needs a fresh battery. What would you recommend in the £30-£60 range? JL
A Yuasa battery, cheap but excellent. They are available from Halfords and elsewhere.
Money for nothing
I hear from the Association of British Insurers that there is to be strong action against fraudulent motoring claims, which last year amounted to £1.3 million. I have had a few phone calls from organisations in the past, encouraging me to put in a spurious claim relating to ‘whiplash’ injuries. Car owners should be aware of this problem and refuse to get involved. BE
All sensible people know this, but if greed overcomes common sense then anybody who gets themselves involved in a fraudulent claim deserves to pay the penalty. When they do, and the case receives publicity, the terminally avaricious will stop taking the risk.
Shades of grey
I have just purchased a BMW X1 with a heads-up display that does not work with Polarised glasses. Is this common? RF
The systems work with Reactolite spectacles, because I can see mine clearly. Are you sure it's your glasses and not the height at which the display is set?
I need to replace my Jaguar XF 3.0 diesel. My Jaguar dealer the new 2.0 diesel engines are cleaner and meet or exceed the current EU standard, but the new petrol engines will be available later in the year. Should I take the car they are trying to sell me, or wait until I can get a petrol version? DM
The new Ingenium 2.0-litre 200PS and 250PS four-cylinder petrol engines went into pilot production in February, so should be here soon.
I have the chance to buy a 1998 E36 BMW 1.8 (petrol) convertible for the princely sum of £500. Would you think this sensible or a possible lemon. I am 82 and love driving, having had sports cars all my life. DH
That is pocket money in car terms. If the BMW is solid with a decent roof it could be a great buy for the summer. Even if it isn't, spring has only just sprung so there is plenty of scope to resell it.
Room with a view
We want to replace our 2007 Mazda5. Space is a must, my wife likes an elevated driving position and the extra seats will come in useful. What are our options if we want a petrol automatic? DB
The nicest to drive is the Citroën C4 Picasso 1.2 PureTech 130 EAT6. It has remarkable performance for such a small engine and, so far, has been very reliable.
Very hot hatchback
My 2013 Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost broke down without warning during a gentle 60-mile round trip. The Ford dealer’s diagnostic check revealed no problem. What do you think? LR
The usual reason with the 1.0 EcoBoost is overheating. It is caused by loss of coolant from the joint on the pipe between the turbo and the expansion tank.
Tail of the unexpected
My Porsche Macan S diesel has been written off after someone drove into the back of it at 70mph. I want to buy the same again, but should I choose petrol because of the adverse press on diesel engines? NJ
I would, but try to get a test drive first.
Open and shut case
I was a bit dozy one morning and put the remote control for my garage’s up-and-over door into my hip pocket. The pressure of sitting down activated the door, so as I reversed I hit the closing door with my Land Rover Defender. It cost £2,150 to replace the whole door. The moral of this story? Don’t put your zapper in your pocket. GT
I had a reader complain of sciatica and it turned out he'd caused the problem by carrying his wallet in his back pocket. I suggest you use it only for storing receipts.
Fit for purpose
My 2012 Vauxhall Corsa S Ecoflex is a tight fit in our garage. I would like to replace it with another five-door hatchback, but a low-mileage, slimmer model. What would suit my requirements? SM
Try a Vauxhall Viva or a Suzuki Celario.
Decline and fall
I visited a franchised dealer while helping my sister choose a car. For cash purchases, the polite young saleswoman stated that her company would not haggle on the marked price of a new car. Is this really the modern world? JL
If they won't haggle on cash prices, exercise your rightful prerogative to walk away.
During a speed awareness course I was told that motorists don’t know how to approach speed humps correctly. Apparently you shouldn’t drive with your wheels either side of the hump but with one wheel on and the other off. This sounds like nonsense to me. SS
The advice is correct and has been mentioned many times in this column. If you centre the car, the tyres’ inner shoulders are forced down on the chamfered edges of the speed cushion and this abrades them so severely that they eventually become dangerous. And because the damage is to the inner shoulders, it isn’t obvious to the naked eye.
We’ve owned our 2004 VW Golf 1.9 TDI from new and it remains a super car, with only 77,000 miles on the clock. For some years it has been used only as a second car for local journeys. Do we offload now, or should we continue to run it? What big bills are waiting? JA
It won’t have a particulate filter that is likely to get choked up and go wrong, and the car isn't worth much, so it probably makes sense to keep it as a second car. If they haven’t been done, it will need a timing belt, water pump, tensioner and aux belt at about £400-£450. Just stay out of London from October onwards, because from then on the penalties of driving a pre-2005 EU3 diesel will be severe.
Deep in thought
I have a 2013 Seat Ibiza 1.2 TSI FR 105 with optional 17-inch wheels and 215/40/R17 tyres. I intend to change to 15-inch wheels. Are these recommended to improve comfort and reduce tyre noise? JB
They will improve the ride considerably. Try tyremen.co.uk or mytyres.co.uk – the best tyres for a quiet, supple ride (with added cold-weather benefits) are Michelin Cross Climates.
You advise running a diesel turbo for a while before turning off the engine. Does this also apply to petrol turbos, for example the Ford Focus 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost? JB
Yes, but only when the turbo is extremely hot, which it will be after a long ascent, towing or running at constant speed on the motorway. In normal day-to-day driving it won't get too hot.
E mission impossible
I want to buy an approved used Mercedes E-class saloon for comfort. Diesels are becoming unpopular, so how can I get a plug-in hybrid? My budget is about £20,000. JW
You won’t get a used petrol hybrid E-class because there wasn't one (in the UK, at least). The C350e and E350e petrol plug-in hybrids are new models. It’s better to think along the lines of a used Lexus IS300h on 16-inch wheels with 55-profile tyres.
I need to replace my reliable 2001 Ford Focus and am looking for a small automatic with a good seat height and low sill. I do not need a new model as my annual mileage is only 5,000. What would you suggest? BB
Try to find a Suzuki Splash 1.2 automatic or the equivalent Vauxhall Agila. Failing that, a Hyundai i10 or Kia Picanto 1.25. If you want something slightly bigger, look at the Hyundai ix20 or Kia Venga.
We have a Hyundai i40 diesel estate. It is very comfortable and full of gizmos, but diesel is getting such a bad press that we are looking to change. We do about 12,000 miles a year and would like a petrol automatic. TB
The Peugeot 308 1.2 PureTech 130, Peugeot 2008 1.2 PureTech 110, Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech 130 and Citroën C4 Picasso 1.2 PureTech 130 are all available with the EAT6 automatic gearbox.
Applications for insurance now request confirmation about whether or not a car is imported. An engineer said my Honda Jazz was manufactured in China. Another told me it was made in the UK. The selling dealer now says that the Jazz was never made in China. If I give the wrong information, my insurance will be invalid. ME
There is no need to worry about official imports. The insurer wants to know if the car was unofficially imported to the UK and, rather stupidly, has not made that clear. Later imports of the first-generation right-hand-drive UK Jazz were built in Guangzhou, China, after which UK production started in Swindon. Production of the second-generation Jazz for European markets moved from Japan to Honda's Swindon plant in October 2009.
I am thinking of buying a Mercedes C350e hybrid saloon with my retirement income, hoping it will last a long time. Do hybrids last well without incurring expensive costs? PC
A C350e petrol plug-in hybrid makes a lot of sense. Toyota Prius hybrids have been clocking up half a million miles with very little trouble, so petrol hybrids are the way to go.
Wet behind the rears
I have a 2008 Ford Focus Titanium that has developed a leaking boot. Fortunately, a big piece of carpet is taking the brunt of it. The parcel shelf is dry, so I don't think it’s coming in from the glass. All seals around the boot appear to be ok. Any idea where the water is coming from? SD
It is common for them to leak around the rear light clusters. The other entry point could be the one-way cabin vents that are hidden behind the carpeting in the sides of the load area. If the flaps break, water gets splashed in by the rear wheels.
Need for speed
I'm currently leasing a Skoda Octavia vRS (diesel) and want to replace it with a new car when the three-year term ends. What can you recommend with a decent boot, petrol or hybrid, 0-60mph in 7.5s or better and an average economy of at least 35mpg? I'm currently paying £255/month, which includes all maintenance/servicing and road fund licence. I would be prepared to pay up to £280/290 per month. PP
If you're leasing for three years, then anticipated problems with diesel emissions systems are likely to affect the car’s subsequent owner, not you. Given which, there’s no reason not to go for another Octavia vRS diesel or petrol, VW Golf GTI or a Seat Leon Cupra. You simply won't get that level of performance out of the average petrol hybrid.
My 2006 Volvo V70R has done 145,000 miles. It has been expensive to tax and run, but has never needed much attention and has a full service history. I no longer need such a big car so am going to buy something smaller (and more economical). Is the Volvo worth keeping as a potentially appreciating asset or should I just offer it in part-exchange? TG
Even if V70Rs become collectible, your 145,000 miles goes against any significant increase in value. Reluctantly, I’d part with it.
Day of the Match
My 2012 VW Polo Match 1.4 has done only 22,412 miles, but my local main dealer tells me the cambelt needs changing for almost £400. Is this really needed? WP
After five years a replacement is due on age grounds, together with water pump, tensioner and auxiliary belt.
Heart of darkness
Regarding a recent comment about the rising oil level in the engine of a 2002/52 BMW 320d, built before DPFs were fitted, I always had to get the dealer to take oil out. He never drained the sump during service oil changes, but instead sucked it out through the dipstick port. This failed to empty it completely, so as soon as I got home level was above the mark on the dipstick and the oil was already black due to contamination from the residual old oil. I went straight back to the garage... CS
That's disgraceful, especially when BMW allows oil service intervals of up to 20,000 miles. But this practice could be responsible for the oil service indicator crying out for a change after only 8,000 miles.
I read in a recent column about MS’s problem with condensation in his old Mazda MX-5. I bought a Cabrioshield for my partner's Mini Cooper convertible and it's the best £100 or so I've spent. It stops water ingress, birdlime damage, sun damage, frost and snow. Highly recommended: www.cabrioshield.com. MP
That sounds like a good idea, for which many thanks. MX-5 enthusiasts tell me that wet carpets are usually the result of the drain holes in the sills becoming blocked with water, dirt running off the hood and then filling up the sills and finding its way into the car.
Up, up and away
I will be changing my Nissan Qashqai in summer. Which petrol turbo SUV has the highest ride height for £20,000-£22,000? MB
I’d say the Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T BoosterJet. It’s a long way down from the seat to the ground.
München glad block
I have seen a few 2007 BMW 320d estates for sale. They look good, but do they have particulate filters? And are they reliable? SJ
They do have DPFs and may also be vulnerable to N47 timing chain trouble. The more efficient but more troublesome N47 diesel engine replaced the M47 in the BMW E90/E91 3-series in late 2007. A slightly earlier car would have the M47, not the N47. The N47 is distinguished by having its timing chain at the rear of the engine block.
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 arenull