Car advice with Honest John – your questions answered

Honest John
After a minor prang, does an increase in the cost of cover stay on your policy for long?

If your car has developed a fault, turn to Honest John by emailing

Cars Jargon buster | Essential information for car buyers

Crunch time

A year ago I was organising the car insurance on behalf of my wife and had agreed a renewal price. Before I’d paid the premium she had a crunch with another vehicle, and her existing insurer had to pick up the tab. Additionally, I had to inform the new company, which responded by increasing the premium by £80. Does that £80 effectively stay with the policy for the future? RD

Yes. That is partial loss of her no-claims discount (NCD) that she has to build it up again. £80 is actually quite light.

Cross Climates? Cross

I'm about to order a new Lexus CT and, during preliminary discussions, said I'd like it to be delivered with Michelin Cross Climate tyres. The dealer refused to do this, so how can I persuade them otherwise? AM

Make sure you order the car on 16-inch wheels, which are compatible with Michelin Cross Climate 205/55 R16s. Pay an extra £600 or so to have them fitted, or negotiate an extra discount to cover the cost.

Paranoid Android

I was stopped by police doing a crackdown on people using phones while driving, although I was not doing so. I had an unread text and two missed calls on my phone’s locked screen, which I showed the officer. He wasn't interested. Apparently, a colleague of his saw me from a bridge. I wasn't even on that particular area of the road where I was allegedly spotted; I'd come off at a different junction. I was given a ticket but refused to sign their copy as I hadn't done what they said. My phone records will prove this. What can I do? SN

Let it go to court and offer these facts as your defence. The police were probably filling a quota. They are unlikely to waste further time pursuing a potentially wrongful conviction.

Coffee filter

Though loathe to sell my Citroën Pluriel Latté, it has now done 96,000 miles and I want to do some big road trips in Europe. I am thinking about getting a Mini Countryman, but I’d really like a sunroof and they seem quite scarce. Which version would suit me? PP

The original Austria-built Mini Countryman is spacious, but isn’t very good to drive unless it's a Cooper S All4. Look for one of those.

Borderline case

We are flying to Geneva and then intend to hire a car to drive to France. I have heard something about Swiss car hire companies not allowing hire to EU residents if they could be taking the car out of Switzerland. Is this true? RD

I’m not aware of it, but if it were true there is an easy solution because one side of Geneva Airport is in France so you could hire from there.

Better unbattered

My daughter has a 2004 Mk1 Audi TT with 110,000 miles. It needs minor attention to the bodywork and she is torn between refurbishing it or buying a younger example. What do you suggest? DH

This is a modern classic, but it’s not worth the cost of refurbishing a battered one. Electrics are a bugbear in VW Group cars as they get older. I’d advise her to look for something newer

Dual personality

I have a VW Jetta 2.0 FSI auto with DSG gearbox. It’s now 11 years old. I've been very happy with it but, following your comments about DSG gearboxes, am l pushing my luck keeping it? The car has done 85,000 miles, looks mint and has never been any bother. WR

Your car had the more reliable original DQ250 six-speed wet clutch DSG, but it does need fresh fluid and filter every three to four  years. If swapping it for another auto, go for a Mazda3 with a torque converter.

Bright idea

I have excellent eyesight but at night I am very frequently dazzled and nearly blinded by oncoming traffic, which is very dangerous. Some headlight bulbs are brighter than others and seem to be on full beam all the time. Surely the correct light output and adjustment are legal requirements? ST

It’s because drivers modify their lights.When dazzled, by oncoming lights you need momentarily to look away or look down.

Take me I’m yours

I followed your advice and bought a Citroën C4 Picasso with the 1.2 Puretech 130 engine and a six-speed manual gearbox and I am so far very pleased. Now I see that you are advising people not to buy vehicles with starter buttons and electro-mechanical parking brakes. Since the C4 Picasso has both these devices as standard, I am somewhat confused. CW

I don’t like starter buttons because the remote signal is easy for thieves to capture. Electro-mechanical parking brakes can fail expensively. (Surrey Police has a video showing just how easy it is for a thief to use a signal relay booster from outside the owner’s house to start and drive away the car. They recommend keeping car keys at least five metres away from your external walls.)

Ghost in the machine

Ruing the airwaves: can radios in Fords really switch themselves on independently? Credit: Alamy

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

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


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

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

Automatic lover

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

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

Sense of direction

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

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

Driving range

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

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

Raise the Teutonic

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

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

Rubber bullet

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

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

They think it’s all Rover

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

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

Sticking: the Pinin

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

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

Mobile economy run

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

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

Hands stuck

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

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

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

Advance education

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

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

Bill lorry

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

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

AXA… and cleaver

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

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

Mountain range

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

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

Family favourite

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

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

Instant relief

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

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

Venting his anger

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

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

Open spaces

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

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

Benefits advice

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

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

Haul things considered

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

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

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

Gross interest

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

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

Farther, dear father

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

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

Middle of the road

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

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

Negative equity

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

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

Regeneration game

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

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

Highly charged

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

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

Cat basket case?

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

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

Home of the Free

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

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

Defence cuts

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

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

Antipodean adventure

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

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

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

Corsa: true love?

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

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

Parked correctly

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

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

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

Visiting rights

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

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

Low and behold

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

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

Diesel genes

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

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

Crude awakening

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

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

Bright idea

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

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

Pain from B sting

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

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

Max sidewall?

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

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

The bottom line

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

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

Switch craft

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

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

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

Avant time

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

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

Shortened odds

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

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

Clean break

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

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

Flaming lips...

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

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

Better part of velour

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

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

Deutschland unter alles

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

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

Advertising Logan

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

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

Figure on the Pulse

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

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

Hissing. Fit?

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

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

Cold comfort

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

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

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

Trans-Europe excess

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

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

Peace and Qs

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

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

Deeper in thought

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

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

Funnel vision

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

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

Breaker’s dozen

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

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

Avoiding the Q

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

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

Daft excluder

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

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

Winter wonder land

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

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

Costa del solar

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

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

Lemon aid

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

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

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

Backwards step

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

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

Stain dead vanguard

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

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

The price is right

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

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

Rouen, or ruin?

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

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

Pull the other one

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

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

Wrangler genes

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

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

Short answer

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

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

Pool harbour

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

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

Relatively speaking

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

If it is taxed and he is insured, yes.

All mod cons

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

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

Chuck Wagon

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

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

E numbers

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

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

Attitude of change

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

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

Parish counsel

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

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

Juke ’box gory

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

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

Electric dreams

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

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

Marques and sparks

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

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

Avoiding action

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

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

Discovery channel

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

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

Height of good taste

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

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

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

Gum powder plot

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

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

Narrow vote

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

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

Cheap seats

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

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

Rim with a view

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

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

Cat’s pause

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

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

Looking for trouble

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

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

Man of the world

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

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

Oil be damned

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

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

Cable TV

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

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

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

Euro sceptic

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

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

Hot and bothered

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

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

Vive la France…

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

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

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

Trans-Europe express

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

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

Three-pointed start

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

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

Volkswagen gulf

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

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

Protection racket

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

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

Long & grinding road

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

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

Fuel filtration

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

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

Higher purchase

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

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

Sydney, Sussex

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

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

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

Bitter lemon

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

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

Property is thrift

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

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

Motoring picture of the day puff

Damper squib

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

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

Big Multimac

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

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

Heavy mettle

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

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

Country life

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

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

Inequitable life

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

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

Firm rebuttal

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

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

Adjustable damping

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

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

Short answer

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

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

Piping hot

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

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

Diamonds not forever

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

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

Malice, a forecourt

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

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

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

Looking for clues

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

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

See Lion

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

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

Sting in the tale?

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

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

Seven, wonders

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

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

Country pursuits

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

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

Soft option

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

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

Top tips

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

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

Expensive taste

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

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

Mined, the gap

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

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

Chip off old block

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

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

Chord progression

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

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

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

Hard reign’s gonna fall

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

Something is wrong. Get it checked.

Cable car

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

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

Town planning

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

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

Scarce stories

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

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

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

Catering for masses

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

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

Surface tension

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

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

Deutsch marques

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

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

C sore

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

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

Motoring picture of the day puff

No defence at all...

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

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

Rim with a view

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

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

My perfect cushion

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

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

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

Back to my routes

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

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

Loud pedal

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

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

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

Comfort zone

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

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

Goodbye to chain

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

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

Moan of the cloth

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

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

Focus group

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

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

Motoring picture of the day puff

Gone west

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

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

Tracks of my tears?

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

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

Niro fiddles?

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

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

Parallel bars

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

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

Carry on camping

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

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

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

Minding the gap

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

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

Drain on resources

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

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

Boxster dog?

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

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

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

Show your appreciation…

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

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

Dearly beloved

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

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

Ignition key

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

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

Future armour?

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

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

Climate control

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

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

Depth charge

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

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

Needle, haystack...

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

I am 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 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.

Scored raw

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.

Cover point

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.

Mazda 3-series

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.

Noise annoys

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.

Branch line

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.

Super Swede...

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 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.  

Can-can? Can’t...

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): If your car doesn't qualify, don't go near these cities.

Buy jingo

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.

Reality check

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.

Regeneration game

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.

Labour pains

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.

Fluid dynamics

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.

Missing figures

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

Careless whispers?

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 (, 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).

Chemical reaction

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.

Korea advice

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.

Wife swap

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.

Creature comforts

What's the best car in which to transport an ageing canine? Credit: Andrew Austin/Alamy

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.

American English

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:

My perfect cushion

My Subaru Outback has a very hard ride. Can I 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.

Wellington boost

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

Look at or

Q branch

The warranty on my Audi Q5 is about to expire. Audi has offered extended warranty, but can you recommend any alternatives? DL

Options include or

Firm opinion

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.

Small torque

I want to replace my five-year old Mazda CX-5, which I love, with something smaller - ideally 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.

Glaring error?

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.

Hot topic

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

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.

Artistic licence

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.

Postal strike

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.

Animal magnetism

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.

Gold plated

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 (

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:

Left right?

The garage that sold my 2011 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

Is there an obvious reason why NM's car has water in the footwells? Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

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.

Drink problem

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.

Obvious answer...

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:

Dirty trick

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).

Uphill struggle

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 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? 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 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.

Tesla goals

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.

Dear park

My wife drove our nine-year-old Lexus LS600h until a cooling system failure stopped the car and we face a £24,000 repair bill. It cost more than £65,000 new and we 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. 

Viva pitch

We are looking at a contract-hire agreement for our 23-year-old son. We were considering a 1.0-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.

Straight talking

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.

Short answer

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.

Norman wisdom

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:

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.

Air necessities

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.

Protection racket

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.

Old-age tensioner

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: 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.

Risk assessment

The new Kia Picanto could well be my next car. Research indicates that my 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

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.

Battling average

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.

Strip search

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:

Great expectations

We have a 2012 Kia Sportage that has been great, but we are 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 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.

Initial concerns

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 and is still going well, but we are starting to look for its replacement. 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?

If a punctured tyre is beyond repair, do you have to replace the other side as well? Credit: Getty Images

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.

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