If your car has developed a fault, turn to Honest John by emailing email@example.com
I am reluctantly considering selling my 15-year old Audi TT. I want something that is a bit sporty and refined, with petrol engine and automatic transmission. It also has to carry my golf clubs. The Jaguar XE fits the bill but I can’t get out of it when I drive it into our garage. And I’m slim. Can you suggest something narrower? MA
A BMW 1-series or 2-series (not the M2) would do the job and has a wide choice of engines and drivetrains.
Heard it all before
I want to buy an Audi with a 1 .5 TFSI engine. l always have automatics, but you recently advised not to have DSG gearboxes with these smaller engines. Is the only alternative a manual? JC
It’s partly because of the history of failure of the DQ200 seven-speed dry-clutch S tronic transmission. You don’t suffer these problems with torque converter automatics, as in Mazdas some Suzukis and the latest Peugeots or Citroëns.
Open, two suggestions
I wish to replace my 2007 VW Eos TDi automatic, which I use to tow a 500kg caravan. I will probably have to relinquish the convertible aspect and I want to change to petrol, but still an automatic. Also, the replacement cannot be bigger than the Eos. What should I consider? GT
What about a BMW 2-series convertible with the 2.0-litre 192 engine and eight-speed 'Steptronic' torque converter automatic transmission? Alternatively, a DS3 1.2 Puretech 130 EAT6 with full-length sunroof.
PM’s question time
We are planning to get away next winter for up to four months. What advice can you give me to prevent too many problems starting up our SUV when we return? PM
If it’s inside, near a power point, use a conditioning float charger to keep the battery conditioned. If it’s outside, check if the SUV has an accessory socket hard-wired to the battery (an accessory socket that powers accessories with the ignition off). If it does, leave a solar panel attached to the battery and, obviously, place it somewhere it will catch the sun (do not cover the window of the SUV).
I would like to change our 2012 Ford Focus 1.6 manual for a two-year-old Focus automatic, but am put off by the reliability problems you have highlighted with Ford autos. What else can you recommend? AC
Instead of the Powershift, Ford now fits a more reliable six-speed torque converter transmission to the Focus 1.5 EcoBoost. The alternatives are a Mazda3 or CX-3 2.0i Skyactiv six-speed torque converter auto.
I have a 2017 Skoda Fabia DSG. Previously I have had an Octavia and an older Fabia, both with DSGs, and have experienced no problems whatever. You have been denigrating DSGs for years. Surely if there had been as many problems as you say, the manufacturer would have fixed them by now? JG
When readers stop complaining (on a daily basis), I'll stop reporting on the matter. This is still happening with the DQ200 seven-speed dry clutch DSG, even on the latest generation of cars.
Two Michelin stars...
My four-year-old Skoda Yeti 2.2 TSI 105 SE has 17-inch alloy wheels and Pirelli 225/50 R17 tyres that will need replacing in the next month or so. My passengers have always commented on the hard ride and road noise. Is there a better option? ND
You can get Michelin Cross Climate 225/50 R17s. They are more compliant, so improve the ride slightly, are quieter and give better steering feel, as well as advantages in snow, slush and mud. There are no downsides in terms of economy and durability. They particularly suit the Yeti.
...make that three
I recently purchased a 2013 Mk4 Ford Mondeo after owning a Mk3 for a number of years. I am disappointed with the cabin noise. The tyres are Continental 235/45 R18s. Can you recommend something quieter? MB
The problem is the tyres’ size and profile. If you don't want to change the wheels and fit deeper-profile tyres, you can get Michelin Cross Climates in 235/45 R18. I have mentioned their advantages elsewhere in this week’s column - and many times before.
Teuton car mean
When I took delivery of a new BMW X1, I was surprised to find it did not come with folding door mirrors. Apparently this is an optional extra, which I missed among the plethora of extras that you have to add on to make the car user friendly. I would like to have them retro-fitted if possible, but my local BMW dealership can’t help. Have you any suggestions? DM
It can be done independently using the correct BMW parts, but this will be at considerable expense if the wiring is not in place. Speak to independent BMW service and repair specialists. BMW can be infuriating over things like this. We drove a new X3 back from Spain a couple of months ago and, despite having extras to the tune of about £16,000, it did not even have blind-spot warning lights in the door mirrors. They are standard on many ordinary cars these days, but £160 extra on the X3.
I have narrowed down my next car to either: a BMW 520d M Sport Plus Touring or a Mercedes E220d AMG Premium Estate. Both are pre-registered on 67 plates. Which should I buy? GJ
The 520d might be the old model F10 5-series. The Mercedes should be the current W213 E-class with the new 2.0-litre 220d diesel engine rather than the pre-2016 W212 with the 2.1. If that’s the case, go for the Mercedes. If they are both old models, target a £15,000 discount.
Last line of defence
I bought one of the last Land Rover Defenders and have had it main dealer serviced for its first three years at an average yearly cost of £675. My highly competent local garage will service the vehicle for one third of this price. In switching, what might I miss in terms of good maintenance and care? PG
Most of the last Defenders were bought as investments, so any deviation from Land Rover servicing will damage their investment value. That said, the criteria for an automobile investment are that it should be rare and must be kept in perfect condition. So many Defenders are being kept in heated garages, never go out in the rain and are being trailered to events that their values will always be trimmed by the sheer number out there.
I’m still waiting
Last October you mentioned a delay in supplying the VW Tiguan SUV with the “outstanding” new 1.5 TSI engine. Is this the engine that is available in the new Skoda Karoq? Can you also advise whether the Karoq will be fitted with the DQ500 wet-clutch DSG variant gearbox. KB
Yes, the 1.5 TSI replaces the 1.4 TSI and is finding its way into new models. But, as far as I know, the DQ500 has so far only been fitted with 2.0 TDI, 2.0 TSI and 2.5 TSI engines, and engines below 2.0 litres still get the troublesome DQ200.
I bought a Jaguar F-Pace 2.0- litre diesel 240 in Portfolio spec. I am disappointed with the noisy engine, especially at low revs pulling away. Tyre noise is also a problem. I expected a Jaguar to be much more refined, having previously had the 3.0-litre diesel XF. On the plus side, the car handles very well and does not lack power. I recently drove an E-Pace with the same engine as mine and it was whisper quiet by comparison. Should I complain to Jaguar or is this to be expected? RM
That Ingenium diesel has a high output and, if the engine is not covered by a sound damper, it will be noisy. There’s no harm in getting it back to the dealer, just in case it's louder than it should be.
I am looking to buy another Hyundai i10. The garage tells me the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is as good as my 1.25 four-pot. There also is a new 1.25 model, which costs more, so I would like some advice. AH
I'd go for a Kia Picanto 1.0. It has the same engine as the i10, but suspension improvements make it huge fun to drive and you get a seven-year warranty rather than “only” five.
I have a 10-year-old Mercedes CLK 220 CDI, which I love. It still drives well, but has now completed 175,000 miles and I am looking for something with better economy as I currently get only 30mpg around town. I am thinking of a Jaguar XE, as these seem to have really low running costs and good fuel consumption, but I am a little worried that this might change with the demonisation of diesel and possible future penalty taxes in the future. Should I be worried? TV
The best XE had the 2.0 Ford EcoBoost petrol engine with eight-speed auto, now replaced by the Ingenium SI4 petrol. But Ingenium diesels in the XE and XF are more economical.
Roomster with a view
I’m a confirmed Skoda fan but understand the Roomster is no longer made. I like its reliability, value for money, height, compact size and Tardis-like interior. Mine is a 2014 model with 44,000 miles on the clock and I suppose it will need to be replaced one day, but with what? The Yeti is too big for me, but I do need a boot that will accommodate a large greyhound. KD
If you want to stick with VW Group products, take a look at the new Seat Arona. For interior space and practicality, I’d go for a Honda Jazz or HR-V.
The joy of six
I am sure I read in one of your articles that Ford was bringing out a Fiesta with a decent six-speed torque converter gearbox to replace the dreaded Powershift. However, my local Ford dealer denies any knowledge of this. I quote: “Why should Ford go back to torque converters, which are heavy on emissions, when they have Powershift that now comes with a five-year warranty. All its problems are in the past.” Am I going mad? PH
I checked, checked and checked again. It's specifically mentioned in the press pack for the new Fiesta. If it's the same as the Peugeot/Citroën Aisin Warner EAT6, it's a very efficient, compact transmission.
We bought a new Ford Transit Custom campervan conversion two and a half years ago and it has developed an intermittent tendency of going into limp-home mode, which is very frustrating. Ford can never find a problem because switching off the engine and restarting seems to cure it. We would like to get this sorted before the warranty runs out. LW
This is usually caused by a temporary blockage of the exhaust gas recirculation valve or the diesel particulate filter. A DPF can become blocked by trundling along at revs that are too low for it to heat sufficiently to regenerate passively. It’s best not to cruise at much less than 2,000rpm.
Further to recent comments regarding hesitation from the DSG gearbox of my VW Golf SV SE, my local VW mechanic advised that the reason I've had trouble is because I've been driving with both feet, one over the brake, the other on the accelerator. He tells me to drive with right foot only, yet you always advise using both. RK
The fault in VW Group DSGs is with the brake pedal switch. It doesn't matter whether you brake with your left or right foot; if the pedal switch tells the ECU the brakes are on after you have released them, you suffer the same hesitation.
It was great to find some four-lane sections during a recent trip on the M25 and M3, but while the inner and second lanes were virtually clear the third was packed with cars doing no more than 65mph. Needless to say, the outside lane was also packed with frustrated drivers. Any suggestions for sorting out this nonsense once and for all? RL
Yes. Fully legalise passing on both sides, as in the USA.
As an unashamed Alfista, I’m in difficulty. Having driven the marque for many years, through many models, my cherished Spider is probably ready for a change. But what do I choose? The current Alfa range is lacklustre. I like the Fiat 124 Spider, but research dictates I should buy the Mazda MX-5 equivalent. What next? I’d prefer diesel for my 20,000 miles a year. TJ
You think the Alfa Giulia and Stelvio are lacklustre? I don't. If you want a roadster it's really hard to beat a Mazda MX-5 2.0, which is significantly quicker than the 1.5. The latest Honda Civic 1.6i DTEC might make sense. Otherwise, look at a Mazda3 or CX-3 diesel. And if you treasure steering and handling rather than raw power, consider a Toyota C-HR.
You stated that Mercedes A-class camshafts are belt driven. I am interested in a 2016/17 A-class and was assured by my local main dealer that it has a chain cam. I’d be grateful for clarification. AD
Not quite what I wrote. Only the current A-class 1.5 diesel is belt cam (it’s actually a Renault engine). The petrol models have chains.
Profit of doom
We have had happy motoring with our Ford C-Max, but it is time to downsize and I am thinking about a B-Max. Do they all come with sliding side doors? Any drawbacks? JG
The B-Max went out of production in September 2017 because it wasn't sufficiently profitable. They all have sliding rear doors and pillarless construction. The most significant problems have been with the turbo pipes of 1.0 EcoBoosts and Powershift transmissions.
I need to downsize from my Skoda Superb 2.0 TSI auto, which has been a comfortable and reliable car but is now too large for my circumstances. My wife needs comfort, easy access and boot space for her folded wheelchair. I am considering a Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI auto on 16-inch alloys. AM
An Octavia 1.4 TSI is OK, but not with the DQ200 DSG auto - too many problems. The 2.0 TSI is OK because it comes with the much stronger DQ250. It’s also worth thinking about a Honda HR-V 1.5i VTEC CVT-7 - spacious, versatile and very reliable.
Return to slender
I drive a Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI SE but could do with a narrower car to fit my garage more easily. What can you recommend? VO
The Kia Picanto, Hyundai i10, Suzuki Celerio, Vauxhall Viva and, of course, the Skoda Citigo.
Can you help with the conversion of cars for disabled drivers? AR
The first place to try is www.jeffgosling.co.uk
Nicely in tune
I am wondering whether PL checked his insurance policy after their misfuelling incident (Honest John, January 6). A few years ago my husband put petrol instead of diesel in our Jaguar XF. We did not realise and drove six or seven miles before the car spluttered to a halt. On phoning our insurance company to be rescued, we were pleasantly surprised to discover it would take care of everything – to the tune of £6,000 plus. SB
This is not a regular feature of insurance policies. Most regard it as contributory negligence.
I have just taken delivery of a nearly-new Toyota RAV4 Excel Hybrid with AWD, or at least that’s what I specified - but having read the owner’s manual it’s not clear that I have AWD (which I know works part-time on this vehicle). How can I tell I have the right drivetrain? WH
Have a look under the back. If there is an electric motor where the rear differential would normally be, then it's all-wheel drive. If the rear wheels are not driven at all, then its 2WD.
Fun buy three
I’d like to buy a new (or recent) four-seater cabriolet for everyday use. It needs to be fun and reasonably practical, so I was thinking of an Audi A3 1.4 TSI. What else should I consider? BB
That's actually what I would have suggested. The most obvious alternative is a rear-drive BMW 2-series convertible.
I'm considering a new hybrid car, but I only make short journeys. Is there a minimum journey time to charge the battery? Also, I notice that the new generation of small crossover vehicles are often supplied with 18-inch wheels and I would prefer a maximum of 17s. AB
If you only make very short journeys, you need a plug-in hybrid or an electric car rather than a hybrid. A normal hybrid will never recharge its hybrid batteries sufficiently. You need to be doing at last 4,000 miles a year with half of it on runs of 50 miles or more. Wheel size itself does not create a ride problem - it's the depth of the tyres. As long as the tyres are 55-profile or more, ride quality will be fine, though 60-profile is better to help avoid pothole damage.
Guard of the change
I have a two-year-old Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost 125, which has done 18,000 miles. It’s fitted with Michelin 205/55 R16 tyres, but I fancy changing all four to Michelin Cross Climate. Would 205/55 R16s be OK? JB
Yes. Switch all four to Cross Climates. Generally they have a slightly higher load rating than ordinary tyres. To even out wear, swap the fronts to the rears (on the same side, as Cross Climates are directional) after 10,000 miles.
What used car should I buy to replace my old but reliable Lexus SC 430 coupé/convertible that has all the goodies and is a relaxed drive? GM
An SC430 might be one to keep as a sort of oddball, luxurious classic. You could do worse than complement it with a later Lexus IS250C. The Mercedes alternative is an SL 300 or SL 500.
Aside from potential engine wear and pointlessness, I could see a stop/start system driving me mad. Can it be disabled? RH
Normally it can be switched off every time you start the car, but the default is “on” because that is how the car is certified for emissions.
We have driven our Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.2 CRD Touring since new in 2002. It’s so comfortable we have forgiven its tendency to suffer front front suspension wear. Is it worth keeping? I know you despise diesels, so what would you suggest as a replacement? We need a flat rear loading platform, room for a medium sized dog cage, the ability to tow a caravan up to 1,000kg and to be comfortable. NS
I don’t despise diesels. I merely warn readers of unsuitability and potential cost. PT Cruisers are actually being customised quite successfully to look more like the 1940 Fords that inspired their design. I'd hang on.
Specialist tuning firms can remap the engine of my 2015 BMW 535d to give more than 400bhp and a big increase in torque. I am told that the drivetrain can handle it and there will be no detrimental effect to fuel consumption or emissions. I am not worried about potentially invalidating the warranty. Before I succumb to my inner speed freak, can you advise if there are pitfalls and, if not, why BMW does not offer such a super-hot version? MF
BMW has its own triple-turbo 3.0-litre, 381bhp engine in the X5 and X6 M50d. After you get your ECU remapped, you will have to disclose the modification to your insurer or you will be running without cover.
I am looking to replace my loved but ageing 1999 Honda CR-V. I cover about 5,000 miles a year. I value the raised driving position, don't (necessarily) want anything wider and have a budget of £10,000. What do you suggest? EB
I would be looking at Peugeot 2008s in the hope you can find one with a decent engine in your price bracket. The best is the 1.2 Puretech 130 with six-speed manual transmission and electronic Grip Control that makes it excellent in the snow, but will be hard to find within budget and you might have to go for a 1.6 VTI. If so, avoid the automated manual.
My VW Golf GTI Mk7 with bi-xenon headlights requires new xenon power packs at £300 per headlight. The car is five weeks old to me, bought from a VW dealer under the Das Welt scheme. VW is refusing to pay. Any suggestions? JO
The dealer who sold you the car is directly liable. They are responsible for any serious issue that could have been present or developing for six months from the date of sale. Warn them you’ll have the xenons fitted elsewhere and then sue via small claims for the cost. (It turned out the car had been crashed and poorly repaired, so JO rejected it.)
The high numbers
Having recently bought an Audi A3 with a 1.5 150 TSI petrol engine, I am receiving differing advice. Should I use premium grade unleaded or the standard 95 RON petrol? RV
Use only Super 97-99 RON. In the UK, standard 95 grade is often misnamed “premium unleaded”.
’Box of tricks?
I have just bought a 2017 VW Golf SV SE TSI 1.4 petrol auto. Does it have the seven-speed gearbox that has caused so many problems in recent years? Whether it does or doesn't, is there additional annual servicing you would recommend? DNF
Probably. If it is described as a “non-maintenance” transmission it definitely does and you need to avoid sitting on the brakes in D in traffic or you will wear out the dry clutch pack. If it is a seven-speed wet clutch (DQ500) ’box, it is vastly better but requires fresh fluid and filter every four years.
On replacing the central locking pump on my 1995 Mercedes SL320, my garage found that the spare ignition key did not work (faulty circuitry). The garage called the Mercedes dealer and was told that these keys have been discontinued. Short of condemning a host of these lovely cars to write-off value, there must be some way of getting replacements. What can I do? DA
I Googled “Mercedes Benz R129 keys” and within 30 seconds found: theslshop.com/mercedes-benz-129-140-ignition-barrel-and-key-1404601404.html - when a manufacturer stops making bits, the aftermarket steps in. (If that link is no good, keep Googling and you get there eventually.)
Six not the best
It is time to change my wife's 2008 Ford Focus four-speed torque converter auto. We would like a similar sized car. You recently suggested Mazda and Suzuki. I understand Vauxhall’s smaller cars still use torque converter auto gearboxes, but you don't mention them. Why? FF
Vauxhalls with engines of 1.4 litres or more now have six-speed torque converters, and are usually available at a substantial discount. Mazdas and Suzukis have the best reputation, that’s all. However, Astras are good cars, still made in the UK, at Ellesmere Port.
Would I be correct in thinking that the Morgan Motor Company is now the largest British-owned supplier of British-built cars? As far as I can tell, companies like Aston Martin seem to be financed mainly from Italy and Kuwait, Jaguar Land Rover has an Indian parent company and Caterham belongs to a Malaysian group. Even McLaren seems to be financed from Bahrain. GL
Yes. The country cannot finance and run its own car industry. It hasn't been able to since the decades after the Second World War, when Britain turned out such clunkers that the world stopped wanting our cars and turned instead to Japan.
My son learned to drive in a car I own. I made him the registered keeper for the purpose of insurance. He has now left home and will no longer need to drive my car. Can we change the status, making me the registered keeper again? I remain the owner. GR
Yes, you can re-register it following the instructions on the V5C (as if your son had sold the car to you). The annoying problem is that under the new rules, this means detaxing it in his name and retaxing it in your name. Inevitably one of you will lose a month's tax.
I recently came off the M25 and headed north on the A10. After just 100 yards I hit some enormous potholes. I thought the car was going to be damaged. Later I had to go past them again and - apart from avoiding them - I saw about eight holes in a row and one looked to be five inches deep. Who will fix the A10? If my car had been damaged who would have fixed it? PC
Go to fixmystreet.co.uk and potholes.co.uk - councils also have their own pothole-reporting systems on their websites and tend to use this for legal reporting. In other words, they don't regard the pothole as having been reported unless it is filed via their own websites. This is their defence if sued for damage caused by unrepaired potholes.