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Frequently Asked Questions  

Honest John's mailbag contains hundreds of letters and emails each week, but the vast majority of them ask the same questions. The most popular ones are reproduced below.

Have you got a question that's not answered here? Ask Honest John here.

  1. VEHICLE EXCISE DUTY (Road Tax): Please summarise the Vehicle Excise Duty (Road Tax) changes as from March 2001? Then the changes for 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2008/2008, 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012.

    On 24th November 2008 the Chancellor 'U' turned on original proposals.

    In the 2011 Budget the Chancellor removed the tax ceiling concession for higher emitting cars registered between 2001 and 2006. Latest tax rates for 2012/2013 announced on 21-3-2012 included.

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  2. CO2 TAX. Which cars emit less than 75g/km and are Congestion Chaerge exempt? Which emit less than 100g/km CO2 and are VED Exempt? Which emit less than 121g/km CO2 and thereby qualify for £30 VED a year? 

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  3. INTERNET SALES AND BROKERS: Buying a new car on-line. What questions should you ask? (Also applies to new car supersites.)

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  4. DAMAGE: Who repairs minor damage to my car, its trim and its wheels at less cost than a garage or bodyshop? Also, please list any recommended valeters.

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  5. CONSUMER RIGHTS. How do I reject a duff car or get compensation for problems with a car I have bought from a dealer?

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  6. SPEEDING DEFENCES 1. Is inadequate posting of a speed limit a valid defence to a speeding NIP?

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  7. SPEEDING DEFENCES 2: What can I do if I receive a NIP late or cannot identify the driver on the occasion of the alleged offence?

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  8. SPEEDING DEFENCES 3: Is incorrect use of a speed measuring device a valid defence against conviction for speeding?

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  9. PARKING FINES. What are my rights regarding parking fines? Also please advise about parking penalties for parking in private carparks and on private land.

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  10. HIRING A CAR: Where can I hire something special? A Ferrari, a Ford GT, a motorhome, a removal van, or a car which is completely out of the ordinary? And where can I drive sportscars on racetracks?

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  11. COMPANY CAR TAX (BIK): Please explain company car benefit in kind (BIK) tax?

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  12. MULTI CAR INSURANCE: Can I insure more than one car on the same insurance policy?

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  13. AIR-CONDITIONING: What do I need to know about servicing it and can you list some specialists?

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  14. OIL-CHANGES: Some manufacturers specify oil changes at 20,000-mile or two-year intervals or leave it to the car's service indicator computer, and give no indication of when things like timing belts should be changed. What is your advice?

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  15. RUNNING IN A DIESEL: What's the best way to run-in a diesel engine?

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  16. RUNNING-IN A PETROL ENGINE: What's the best way to run-in a petrol engine?

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  17. NEARLY-NEW CARS: Where are the cheapest places to buy nearly-new cars in the UK?

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  18. INSURANCE: When is an Insurance Damage 'Write Off' not written off? How do a get a fair payment if my car is written off? What is Credit Hire?

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  19. PARKING AIDS: Where can I get electronic car parking aids?

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  20. CHEAP NEW CARS: Where can I buy new cars in the UK at sensible prices? Also tell me about import warranties and import finance.

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  21. AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION SPECIALISTS: Could you recommend any automatic gearbox specialists prepared to service and rebuild automatic boxes rather than simply replace them?

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  22. LPG AND CNG: Where can I get my car converted to run on LPG?

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  23. BEST FUELS: Which are currently the best fuels. Where can I buy fuel cheapest? And what should I use to protect older engines against corrosion from ethanol in petrol?

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  24. ENGINE ELECTRONICS: Where can I have the Engine Control Unit (ECU) of my car re-mapped ("chipped") to give better performance? And where can I have my car's ECU tested for faults and repaired rather than replaced?

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  25. CHAIN CAM?: Which Engines Have Timing Chains or Gear Trains instead of Timing Belts?

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  26. PERSONAL IMPORTS: I want to personally import a car from Europe. What do I need to know?

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  27. CRASH SAFETY: Where can I obtain information about the crashworthiness of vehicles?

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  28. DRIVING AUTOMATICS SAFELY: Why do you repeatedly advocate left foot braking of automatic cars? 

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  29. TURBO FAILURE: Why do turbos fail early?

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  30. 3X3-POINT REAR BELTS. Which older cars have three lap/diagonal three-point belts in the back seat?

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  31. LICENCE AREA DESIGNATORS: Please summarise the car licensing system by area? 

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  32. SATNAV, SPEED LIMIT AND SPEED TRAP DETECTORS: Can you do a FAQ about Aftermarket Satnav Systems. Which of them show prevailing speed limits and speed traps?

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  33. COOLANTS: How long do they last and which type should I use? 

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  34. LICENCE AGE IDENTIFIERS: Please list vehicle registation Suffix and Prefix registration age identifiers. 

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  35. TRACKING AND ALIGNMENT: Where can I have my car’s suspension properly laser aligned? 

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  36. MAKING A CAR LAST: Can you give ten tips to extend the life of a car? 

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  37. FUEL CONSUMPTION: How do I work out my car's fuel consumption reasonably accurately? 

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  38. CAR SOFT-TOPS AND HOODS: What are the best products for reconditioning the canvas hood of a convertible and for restoring transparency to a plastic rear screen? 

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  39. US CAR MARKET: Are there any websites for buying cars and getting information about cars in the USA? 

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  40. STORING A CAR: What should I do if I will be leaving a car unused for 3 months or more?

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  41. ELECTRIC CARS: What information do you have?

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  42. MICROCAR QUADRICYCLES: Where can I buy a 500cc automatic microcar in the UK?

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  43. MANUFACTURER WEBSITES:List car manufacturers' websites and brochure lines?

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  44. EXPORTING TO AUSTRALIA: Can I ship a car back to Australia tax-free? Is it better to export from the UK or buy there?

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  45. SPEED CUSHIONS: What is the best way to drive over a two metre wide 'speed cushion'? 

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  46. LEADED PETROL: I have an older car designed to run on four-star leaded petrol. What should I be using now? 

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  47. UNEXPLAINED ENGINE MALFUNCTIONS: Why do cars suddenly shut down and/or suffer strange elctrical problems like the dashpanel lighting up or going out completely?

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  48. SWITCHABLE DIP: Which cars have switchable left to right dip or di down?

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  49. COOLING SYSTEM AIRLOCKS: How do I get rid of an engine cooling system airlock? 

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  50. CARAVAN TOWING: Can you give me some general tips about towing caravans. 

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  51. PASS PLUS ADDITIONAL DRIVER TRAINING. What is Pass Plus? 

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  52. WINTER TYRES: Should I use different tyres for the winter?

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  53. BMW SERVICE INDICATORS: How do you re-set a BMW Service Indicator? 

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  54. EURO SPEEDING PENALTIES: What are the Speeding Penalties in Germany, Spain, Sweden and France? 

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  55. TACHOGRAPH TOWING LAWS: What is the new tachograph law about towing? 

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  56. CHILD SEAT LAWS: What are the new child seat regulations, effective from 18th September 2006? 

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  57. DRIVING SOMEONE ELSE'S CAR: Can I drive someone else's car on my insurance?

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  58. BUYING MOTOR INSURANCE: Ross Hall explains. 

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  59. AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS: What are the different types? 

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  60. BRAKE DISCS AND PADS: Why do brake discs as well as pads need replacing so often? And why is it usually rear discs first?

    FAQ added 10-3-2007 

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  61. WARRANTY SERVICING: What happens to my new car warranty if I have my car services outside the franchised dealer chain?

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  62. STARRING YOUR CAR: How can I get my classic car on film company lists, so it can earn its keep appearing in commercials, etc? 

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  63. VAG BUILD COUNTRIES: How can I tell where a VAG car was built?

    (Old information, predates some border changes.)  

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  64. INSURING IN ANOTHER EU STATE. If I buy a car in another EU state, how can I insure it to get it back? 

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  65. BIODIESEL TAX BREAKS: What are the tax breaks for using green biodiesel?  

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  66. GARAGE SERVICE RIP-OFFS: What potential rip-offs are dishonest garage service departments capable of? 

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  67. CHERISHED PLATES: What is the detail of the Registration Marks Act 2007? 

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  68. INSURANCE. When does a 'non disclosure' by the policyholder affect a claim?

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  69. DAB CAR RADIOS. What will happen to present day car radios when the switch-over to digital happens? 

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  70. FOREIGN DRIVERS. Do foreign drivers driving cars with foreign plates get away with UK motoring offences, even if they are resident and working in the UK 

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  71. EXPERT WITNESSES. Can you give details of expert witnesses whose testimony regarding a mechanical or bodily defect will be valuable in court?  

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  72. MOTORWAY CLOSURES. What can be done about them? 

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  73. CONDENSATION. My car is full of it. Why? What can I do about it? 

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  74. NUMBER PLATES. What are the new rules that came into effect on 1-10-2007? 

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  75. DAYTIME RUNNING LIGHTS. Are they to become a legal requirement, or not?

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  76. MOTOR SPORTS EVENTS. How can I find out what's coming up where and when? 

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  77. LONDON LOW EMISSION ZONE. What is the schedule for the imposition of the LEZ? 

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  78. ANPR. What happens if I get pulled by a police Automatic Numberplate Recognition Check for no insurance? 

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  79. YOUNG DRIVERS. Where can youngsters aged 11 - 16 learn to drive safely?

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  80. CONVERTIBLES. Please list all four seater convertibles either available or soon to be available in the UK 

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  81. DRIVER TRAINING. Where can I get race track experience, learn to control skids, etc.

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  82. INSURANCE GROUP. How can I find the insurance group for my car, or any car I am thinking of buying?  

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  83. BRAKE DISCS AND PADS. How can I save money replacing them?

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  84. OVERLOAD ACCIDENTS: How do I stop my suspension bottoming out with a heavy load aboard?  

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  85. DIESEL v/s PETROL. What are the pros and cons?  

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  86. BUYING PETROL: How can I maximise what I get for my money from the pumps? 

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  87. DUAL MASS FLYWHEELS: What are they and why are they so much trouble? 

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  88. CAMPER TAX: How does the new CO2 based graduated VED from March 2001 apply to campers and motorhomes. 

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  89. ABU DHABI. What's the best vehicle for driving in that country? 

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  90. CAR BODYWORK. Can you define the precise meaning of the different names historically used to describe IT?  

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  91. SCRAPPING A CAR AT THE END OF ITS LIFE. What do I need to know to do this legally? 

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  92. YOUNG LEARNERS/FIRST CAR: What is the best car for youngsters to learn to drive in and who is offering the lowest insurance?

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  93. EMERGENCY VEHICLES. What should I do if one comes up behind me. 

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  94. FUEL DUTY. What are the rates for 2008/2009/2010? 

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  95. INSURANCE. Which are the cheapest new cars to insure?

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  96. SPEED CAMERA LOCATORS AND DETECTORS. Which European countries ban them? 

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  97. 'NO FAULT CRASHES'. If someone crashes into my car, completely their fault, how do I make sure I'm restored to the position I was in before they damaged my property?

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  98. WHERE CAN I BUY B30 BIODIESEL? 

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  99. SPEED HUMPS. WHAT DAMAGE DO THEY CAUSE? 

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  100. DIESEL PARTICULATE FILTERS, flashing glowplug lights, flashing 'depollution system' lights, engine oil contamination. Please explain.

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  101. What is "Intelligent Speed Adaptation"?

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  102. WINTER LAWS. Which countries insist on winter tyres? 

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  103. CAN I DOWNLOAD UPDATES FOR MY CAR'S ELECTRONICS ONLINE?

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  104. TYRE AGE. I know tyres over 5 years old can invisibly deteriorate, but how can I tell how old they actually are? 

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  105. EXPORTING TO CYPRUS. What do I need to know?  

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  106. FOREIGN DRIVERS. If my car is damaged by a foreign driver, how can I be sure he is insured?

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  107. BROKEN COIL SPRINGS: Why does this happen so much on European built cars? 

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  108. B30 Biodiesel. What are the pros and cons? 

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  109. DRIVEWAY OIL STAINS. How do I get them off? 

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  110. Cross Border Cars: What are the EC and member country laws about keeping a car from one state in another? 

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  111. How does one import a car to Portugal? 

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  112. DIY Mechanics. Where can I get help? 

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  113. Italian Traffic Fines: What are the Rules and Regulations?

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  114. IRELAND (EIRE). What are the rules and taxes for importing a car from the UK?

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  115. OIL: The importance of clean oil to an engine (explained in layman's terms).

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  116. SELLING CARS ON THE STREET. How can this nuisance and the storage of taxed and insured vehicles on the street be prevented?

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  117. Residual Value and Depreciation: Where can I get information prior to buying a car and how accurate can it be?

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  118. Buying at Auction. Please could you offer some tips?

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  119. Accepting Payments. Which ways are safe, and which are not?

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  120. What is WD40 and what can it be used for?

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  121. Please list UK Traffic Offence Codes and Penalty Points

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  122. What is the EU proposal to ban drivers over the age of 80?

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  123. Horse riders and carriage drivers. What is their liability of their horses damage a motor vehicle?

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  124. Why do Modern Batteries Explode?

     

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  125. CREDIT HIRE. What is it and how can it affect me if I am involved in a crash?

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  126. Clutch and Dual Mass Flywheel Failures. What is the legal position?

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  127. FINANCE CHECKS. How reliable are they when buying used cars?

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  128. Low Profile Tyres. Can you explain the advantages and disadvantages?

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  129. Speed Limits: How are they imposed and how are they changed?

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  130. How do I extend the life of my battery and prevent it going flat? 

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  131. Can a UK resident legally register a car to his holiday home in another EU country? 

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  132. Sitting Comfortably: How best to choose a car for comfort and to adjust the seat to ensure maximum comfort.

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  133. Defects: How to I report a vehicle safety defect to VOSA?

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  134. Continuous Insurance. What is ity and how does it affect me?

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  135. Speeding: What are the Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines for speeding penalties in the UK?

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  136. Classic Imports: What are the Import tax and VAT rules for importing a classic to the UK from outside the EU?

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  137. DVLA's 39 Regional Offices. Please provide links to them.

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  138. French Car Insurance. I have heard that the car is insured, rather then the driver. Is that true?

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  139. What types of speed camera detectors are banned from 2012 in France?

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  140. Where can I buy a car RHD or LHD tax-free for export from the UK?

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  141. Please explain BCA's new Auction Vehicle Grading System from  26-4-2012.

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  142. Driving in the USA. Can you and your readers provide a guide?

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  143.  Spanish Licences: How long can a Brit drive on a British licence in Spain?

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  144. Is it illegal to flash other drivers to forwarn them of a speed trap ahead?

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  145. Where can I get a telepass to go through the 'T' lane at French Autoroute toll stations?

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  146. Volunteer Drivers: What is the Attitude of Insurers?

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  147. How can I buy a Left Hand Drive vehicle cheaply to use in France?

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  148. Why can an ESP system sometimes fight the driver's inputs?

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  149. Why do remote keys sometimes fail?

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  150. What can I drive and what can I not drive on a standard UK car driving licence?

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  151. Flood Damage: How can I check if a car has been damaged by being submerged in water?

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  152. Ford C-Max CVTs. Do you have any information about failures and legal class actions?

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