What kind of chemistry do you have with your car? Love it? Loathe it? Let us know and you could win a £300 John Lewis voucher | No thanks

Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 21-10-2017 Part 1

Published 20 October 2017

Today’s motoring mayhem concerns weights and measures, drivetrain disasters, sight safety, disinformation, a big dripper and enough fuel for thought to see you through the weekend.

As usual, emails to Honest John should be addressed to: letters@honestjohn.co.uk  Please try to keep them as short as possible.


Pull the other one

I tow a 16ft caravan, total weight just under 1,400kg, on a weighbridge. At the moment I am pulling with an automatic Volvo V70 D5 (215HP), so no problems as it is powerful enough and has a torque converter box. I am nearly sold on a Skoda Superb TDI 190 SEL Estate with a DSG transmission. Knowing that the Superb was tow car of the year, I don't remember whether that too, was a DSG. As ever your comments, adverse, or otherwise, greatly welcomed. The Superb I'm looking at is a new one with 19-inch wheels, so no depth of sidewall to cushion potholes etc. I will endeavour to get the dealer to swop them for at least 18-inch, or better still, 17-inch. If so, may I assume that there will be no need to have the Speedo recalibrated as the S model comes on 17s as standard. I’m running on Michelin Cross Climate tyres at the moment, on your advice, which are fabulous; so quiet and comfortable. The 19-inch size does not even appear on Michelin's website, so I am scuppered. Likewise comments/advice please.

MG, via email

The 190 is a 2.0 litre diesel and that comes with VAG's 6-speed DQ250 twin wet clutch DSG, which is much more robust than the lightweight DQ200 7-speed twin dry clutch DSG. But I'm not keen on towing with this type of automatic transmission because there is not the same amount of slip that a torque converter provides for smooth getaways. You're right about the wheels and tyres. Though the Superb is an excellent car, I think you need to find something with a torque converter box for towing: Mazda, Mercedes, BMW.

Ford -c -max -clutch -at -3900-miles -4_500x 333 

Clutched from the jaws of defeat

Thank you for your sympathetic involvement in the fracas over the clutch failure on my wife’s Ford C-Max. I am certain that without your helpful response to my email on 26 August 2017, the cause for failure would never have been properly diagnosed or the prevailing situation (after your intervention) quickly resolved.  Your direction saved us from incurring even more inconvenience and expense to obtain a satisfactory outcome.  With the odometer reading 4,204, miles the repaired C-Max was returned to us at approximately 17.00 on 5 September 2017. I referred to recompense in my earlier email to you. 

BW, via email

Many thanks for the further update. Since this correspondence began, quite a few more cases have been reported in Focus and C-Max 1.0 Ecoboosts. I finally managed to have a quiet conversation with Ford about it and was told that owners are receiving levels of assistance according to the age and mileage of the car and where it was serviced. Ford says it only affects 3% of Focus and C-Max models.


Delayed refraction

7 months ago I had to surrender my driving licence to the DVLA after a failed eye test. Since then I have had 17 appointments with GPs, Neurosurgeon (CT Brain Scan), Consultants, Ophthalmologists and Opticians. The results of all of the associated tests, without exception, have proved that my eyesight meets the necessary standards and in June the neurosurgeon, who had been leading the investigation, informed me that there was no medical reason for that early decision not to be revoked. The DVLA and its medical department has prevaricated and is extremely difficult to deal with. I get the impression that the scenario is not straightforward in that the more letters they write, the more money they will make i.e. that part of the DVLA has been set up within the frame work of a privatised organisation. Would you like to comment and if so, this would be with absolute confidence.

RD, via email

I receive a report of this sort of thing every fortnight or so. Extremely distressing for the driver involved. But they seem to be operating a law unto themselves and I don't know of any way out other than, perhaps, legal action through a solicitor.

Toyota -Corolla -Verso -(4)

Vice Verso?

My daughter, 5 foot tall, has a petrol 2007 Toyota Corolla Verso and would like to change it for a newer one. However, they are apparently only available as diesels. Her driving consists of 15 mile journeys, shops and school runs, totalling about 15,000 miles a year. I have warned her of all the problems you highlight with diesels and would appreciate any advice you can give on a suitable and similar vehicle. She has to fit in 2 kids, one with a bulky child seat, and a small dog. What alternatives are there to the Verso?

AM, via email

Wrong information. The best Verso since 2009 has always been the 1.8i Valvematic Multidrive S: /carbycar/toyota/verso-2013/?section=history/ Alternatives include: KIA Carens. Citroen C4 Picasso. Peugeot 5008. VW Caddy Maxi Life, Skoda Kodiaq 7-seater. Nissan X-Trail 7-seater.


Leak prospects

I think I am loosing water from the water coolant bottle. I topped it up last night and now it is empty and my temperature warning light has come on as well.

MP, via email 

That reads like a leak and not merely an airlock in the pressurised system forcing coolant out of the pressure cap. The leak could be coming from the radiator, from a coolant pipe; from the union of a coolant pipe to the engine, radiator, heater or 'coolant bottle'; from the waterpump; from the thermostat housing; from the cylinder head, from the cylinder head gasket, or from the heater matrix. Look under the car to see if you can find a drip. Look under the bonnet to try and see where it is coming from. If you find it, then you can identify the leak to a garage and save them some time. Very important to get this fixed because if the engine runs dry of coolant it will seize and you will need a new engine.

Honda -Jazz -(1) 

Jazzed up

I hope you can help me regarding the purchase of a new car. I currently have a Honda Jazz Si, which will be four years old in January 2018. The current mileage is 22,500. My circumstances have changed (I lost my husband last year), so I need a reliable and economical car. This is our second Jazz and we have been really happy with them. My question is, should I stay with the Jazz? I'm looking at the CVT-7 automatic, or is there anything else you would recommend. The Honda dealer has always been more than helpful, which I think counts for a lot, but I am open to other suggestions. Also, what do you think the Si is worth, both private or part exchange?

AC, via email

The Jazz will very soon get the option of a bigger 130HP 1.5 engine and that will liven it up. The current Jazz 1.3 CVT-7 is very economical, but also very slow. An alternative is a Toyota Yaris hybrid, which is even more economical, but it isn't as spacious or as versatile as a Jazz: /road-tests/toyota/toyota-yaris-2017-range-road-test/ However, with just 22,500 miles under its wheels, your present Jazz has a lot of life left in it.


Follow my leader

I have been a keen follower of yours for years, but was disappointed to read your response to an inquiry about "gearbox" problems on a Skoda Octavia. Having said your correspondent did not indicate whether it was manual or auto, you went on to say "if" it was the 7-speed dry-clutch then it is a well-known bugbear. It would have been helpful had you by a quick email elicited which box it was rather than launch off into "if". I recently obtained a 7-speed auto after a leading motor magazine mentioned "the excellent" 7-speed auto in its road test.

RW, via email

More important to warn people off the 7-speed DQ200 DSG. If "a leading motor magazine mentioned "the excellent" 7-speed auto in their road test." and they were referring to the DQ200 7-speed dry clutch DSG then the magazine suffers a severe loss of credibility. I have hundreds of reports of failures of this transmission. Here are links to the Skoda Octavia entries alone:  /carbycar/skoda/octavia-2004/?section=good/ /carbycar/skoda/octavia-2013/?section=good/

Bicycles 1


I read with interest a report in The Daily Telegraph of the case of the "Road rage driver who forced a cyclist into hedge." Whilst I cannot comment on this individual case (or support such dangerous driving) I have encountered the situation of cyclists taking up the entire width of a road and refusing to yield, forcing a vehicle to pass without giving the statutory 6 feet gap between cyclist and vehicle. I have a neighbour who belongs to a cycling club and goes out regularly in a group. I discussed the matter of cyclist taking up the road and asked why cyclists often refuse to yield. He said that cycling clubs encourage their members to do this to avoid vehicles passing by too closely. I argued that this philosophy will bring about the opposite effect as vehicles will eventually pass by closely as they will become impatient at driving along at 10mph. If this advice is being given by cycling clubs perhaps someone should have a word?

ME, Market Rasen

They also seem to think it better to cycle side by side at speed of 10mph to 20mph on 60 limit roads, perhaps thinking it better to take up the width of a car to prevent cars overtaking when another vehicle is oncoming. But, however angry this may make us, better to think 'live and let live'.


Higher car

I hired a "Compact, Elite" category vehicle and the illustration was an Alfa Giulietta. Unusually the "or similar" was a button which showed Audi A3, Audi Q2 and Merc A Class. Therefore it looked reasonable. What was actually in the parking bay was a Jeep Cherokee. Horrid to manoeuvre in South of France, especially in underground carparks. The rental company said it was within its category and would offer no apology or compensation.

AD, via email

Not much can be done about that. It's extremely difficult for a car rental company to guarantee a particular car, so what it does is split cars into price categories. You never necessarily get precisely the model you want unless you pay extra to order it specifically and unless the rental company has a promotional offer that you will get a particular car, even that is rarely guaranteed. What can happen is, if they have no cars in the category you ordered, you then get bumped up to a car in the next category.

Rvr 75 Tour F34 700 

Far from over 

My 2002 Rover 75 diesel Tourer, 226,000miles, insurance due in October is not worth a lot, maybe £600 - £800. At the moment I pay about £700 year-fully comp with LV= and will be driving about 7,000 miles a year. I am 86. I have spent a lot of money on repairs (suspension, aux belt tensioner and roller, waterpump, thermostat, including housing, brake master cylinder, clutch master cylinder. Full services every 6,000miles, so you see I look after my car. I love it. drives like a dream. 35mpg round town; 45/55 on a run (sometimes).
It’s everything I need or want in a car at my age and I can't change anyway as I'm benefit. My question is: how much insurance should I pay now, since my last premium exceeds its value?

JT, Birmingham

Unfortunately at your age you're in the hands of the insurer and it can be difficult to switch insurers. LV= is one of the better ones. An anomaly is that switching to 3rd party will not necessarily save you any money because the claims record for 3rd party is worse than for comprehensive. Worth asking LV= before you commit.


I’ve started, now I’ll finish

My 2005 dark blue Toyota Landcruiser had hazy patches in quite a few places. It is washed weekly by hand, but no amount of washing would remove them. I used Autoglym Ultra Deep Shine and it removed them but I finished up having to polish the whole vehicle. It had never been polished before. It looked great for a few days and then all of a sudden I could see every scratch and stone chip highlighted in white. There are quite a few scratches all over the vehicle. Have you come across any product that will effectively remove / mask scratches or should I leave it to the professionals to sort out with their electric polishers, etc? The only concern I have is that they will remove the clear coat and the car will then have to be regularly polished to stop it appearing very dull. Or are my fears unfounded?

JM, Eglinton

You used a 'polish' rather than a wax. That's why it turned to white powder that sat in the scratches. A polish cuts into the paint surface. A wax sits on top of it. If you want to try again, clean the paint surface with Autoglym deep paint cleaner, then wax with Autoglym High Def Wax. Or simply leave the job to a good professional auto detailer.


X factors

I'm looking at a BMW X5 to replace what has been an excellent X3 3.5d. Discounts on the 5.0d mean there's no more than £3k between a 40d, 50d or the 40e hybrid. My only two requirements: towing a 1,900kg caravan (which is where I worry about the hybrid giving low mpg and torque once battery discharged), and best residuals I can hope for (which is where I worry about the diesel). The only extra running cost I can see for the 50d over the 40e is an extra tenner in annual road tax and slightly worse, but still excellent mpg. Which of the three models would you choose for five-year ownership?

MP, Ripponden 

The 40e can tow 2,700kg, so go for it. I would not "worry about the hybrid giving low mpg and torque once battery discharged.” I had a Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid on test with nowhere to plug it in and it still gave a lot better mpg than the XC90 D5 did. Another reader reports 60mpg from his BMW 300e on long runs; closer to 70mpg on shorter runs after plugging in overnight. The “extra tenner’ for the 50d makes it £450pa v/s £440pa for the 40d hybrid.

BMW X5 F15 Rear Tyre 

Wheel and tyre round-up

One last question; X5 SE or M Sport? The M Sport 20-inch wheels seem ridiculous, but I can find hardly any used SE spec cars so wonder if residuals would be poor.

MP, Ripponden

X5 wheel and tyre sizes are 18-inch with 255/44 R18s, 19-inch with 255/50 R19 all round or 255/50 R19 fronts and 285/45 R19 rears or 20-inch wheels with 275/40 R20 fronts and 315/35 R20 rears or 21-inch wheels with 285/35 R21 fronts and 325/30 R30 rears. If you can only get the car you want on 20-inch or 21-inch wheels you could buy a set of 18-inch or 19-inch for your tenure of the car, then swap back when you want to sell the car and sell the redundant set of wheels and tyres on eBay.


Dogged determination

My 2009 Mercedes Benz E class estate's rear facing child seats' safety belts have both been chewed by ‎our Labradors when travelling in this section of the car. Ahead of its next MOT I asked the Mercedes garage who service my car the likelihood of it passing the MOT due to the chewed seat belts, they said it would fail. However, the garage did say if the two seat belts were completely removed this would resolve the problem as there would be no seat belts to test under the MOT. This I thought was perhaps inaccurate information and I'm unable to find a solution other than completely replacing these two seat belts at an estimated cost of around £450. Also, i'd prefer not to remove these extra folding seats as it may affect the car's value if / when I sell it.  Is there an alternative option you are able to suggest please? Your help and advice would be much appreciated.

AM, via email

These people can make up a replacement set of belts at a sensible price: http://www.quickfitsbs.com/

Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9 White


I have a 1992 Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9, 113k miles, excellent condition (owned since new). Best way to sell please? I am offered an apparently immaculate 89k example (year presently unknown), stored in barn for 12 years. The owner swears with battery charge and air in the tyres it would run (sceptical).  What are likely problems and how much would sensibly need to be attended to please? My plan is to run both until one is beyond economic repair or parts availability, then store for spares. Any tips on obtaining spares meanwhile please? All advice greatly appreciated.

JR, Maidstone

To sell, a classic car auction or the club: http://www.205gtidrivers.com/index.html/ The 12 years stored 89k miler will obviously need a timing belt, tensioner, waterpump and alternator belt; any rubber pipes could have deteriorated, there could be problems with brake seals, etc. Quite a long list of checks and replacements. And the club is also the best place to get technical information, source rare parts, etc. You need to join it. Our take on the 205GTI here: https://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/reviews/peugeot/205gti/ I ran a 1986 GTI 1.6 for 18 months when they were new (a second baby meant it had to go).

Click to Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 21-10-2017 Part 2



Add a comment


Ask Honest John

Value my car