Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 25-11-2016 Part 1

Published 20 November 2017

This weekend’s warnings concern transmission trouble, exhaustion, lockouts, under-rightings, squealers, foot baths, power struggles, simmerer circumstances and more driving distractions than you can shake a gearstick at. 

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


Variable quality

Please warn your readers about buying a Nissan with a Continuously Variable Transmission. The CVT on my Qashqai failed earlier this year and was mended by my local garage at a cost of £3,746. It had only done 28,500 miles and I was told this is a common fault at this sort of mileage. Nissan has refused to contribute to the cost of the repair as the car was no longer under guarantee and was not repaired at a Nissan dealership. However, I see from the Internet that in America, because of these problems, the guarantee has been extended to ten years. Why not in the UK too? Have other readers had similar problems?

SP, via email

Lots of them: /carbycar/nissan/qashqai-2007/?section=good / It's just as bad a joke in the Juke. The XTronic CVT fitted to the current generation of Qashqai seems to be much better. 

Honda -CR-V-(5) 

Sooty and sweep

We have a Honda CR-V 1.6 diesel with 2,100 miles. It has already had the soot cleared once from the DPF, which seems too soon.  Does the soot have to reach a certain level before the regeneration system clicks in or is it cleared what ever the level, if the engine/exhaust/DPF reaches the optimal temperature? We bought a diesel to tow our caravan. Secondly, what is your recommendation for the best petrol tow car for our medium sized caravan?

MP, via email

You can't use a diesel with a DPF for repeated very short runs from cold without filling the DPF up with soot. If the car is regularly driven distances then it will passively burn off the soot created by cold starts. But if all it does is short runs it will try to actively regenerate the DPF by injecting extra diesel into the engine and starting a fire in the filter. Unfortunately a lot of diesel owners switch the engine off mid active regeneration and that's where the problems start. Twin turbo CRV 1.6iDTECs seem to be particularly susceptible to this. Single turbo HRV 1.6iDTECs aren't. Land Rover Ingenium diesels are also very vulnerable. For a mix of short run use and occasional towing, best to look for something with a 2.0 litre turbo petrol engine, such as a Tiguan 2.0TSI.


Catch 22

I have a 2012 Mazda 2TS which has done a total of 30,000 miles (but for the last 2 years has only done about 2,000 miles pa). The key fails to unlock the car remotely in the mornings unless operated maybe a dozen times. Once it has worked it continues to lock and unlock the car on every use. If I use the physical key to unlock the car, the alarm is initiated - until the ignition is turned on. The key operates the locks every time after work (9 plus hours standing unused) even at a considerable distance so I don't think it's the battery in the key. I have trickle-charged the car's battery over a weekend but that made no difference. Any ideas what is wrong and how I can correct the fault?

BC, Oban 

Sticking lock solenoids due to moisture ingress. Try using the access hole on the door lock face to spray them with WD40.


Lexus RX 2016 F34 Bridge 


I am considering purchasing a hybrid as my next car (I currently drive a diesel Mercedes E-Class and am looking for something with better mpg). A typical day's driving is a journey of 40/50 miles each way mainly on motorways with an average mpg of around 50. I don't do many short journeys. I have been told that a hybrid is better for short journeys than long and therefore would not benefit me. Is this correct? What would you recommend (I am happy to consider a saloon or a SUV)?

PN, via email

Depends which hybrid. A Yaris hybrid will do about 70mpg; a Prius or a C-HR about 60mpg. Big Lexus hybrids are 40 - 45mpg. Plug-in hybrids can be exceptionally economical driven short distances because the first 20 miles or so will be on the electric motor and battery. Generally, hybrids beat diesels in town because diesels are inefficient and polluting in towns. On long runs, it's neck and neck, depending on which diesel you are comparing with which hybrid. I've averaged 63mpg over 6,000 miles in a 320dED, but also the same 63mpg over several thousand miles in an Auris HSD. The BMW was more fun, though.


Action Direct

Your correspondent's comments about Direct Line (https://www.directline.com/car-cover#id=78436) are interesting. I am not resident in the UK and have surrendered my UK licence for one of the country where I live. My wife is still a UK resident but Direct Line tells me I cannot be a named driver on her motor insurance because I do not have a UK or EU licence. However, when I make a home visit I call Direct Line and explain that I would like to be insured to drive the car for five days (say) and they respond No Problem at all. Not only is there no charge for this, they actually pay money back to our UK bank account that pays the premiums. Ok, it's only £1.50 or so but, well, never look a gift horse and all that. I can do this up to six times in a calendar year. Once I asked them to explain why they do this but I couldn't understand the answer so I gave up.

RC, via email

Bit strange. But all to do with the restrictive 'rules' applied by insurers in the UK. In every other country in the world an owner insures a car and it is automatically insured for any other licensed driver to drive. 


Squeaky clean

Nearly two years ago I had the timing belt changed on my Ford Fiesta 1.25. Soon after this, I noticed a squealing/squeaking type of noise coming from the engine bay when starting up from cold, which goes as the engine warms up. It is not a loud sound, but is there all the same. I took the car back, and the garage refitted the belt for no charge. However, about two months ago, the sound returned. Could this be the timing belt making this noise (which I think it probably is), or could it be something else? When they fitted the belt, I also asked for the water pump to be changed at the same time, but they did not do this, as they said the pump is not turned by the belt. I wondered if this is the reason for the noise? Could you let me know your thoughts on this please?

RB, via email

If is probably the alternator belt slipping slightly on the alternator pulley because now the weather is colder there is more resistance from the alternator trying to put charge back into the battery. Might need a new alternator belt.


Ford C-Max 07 Front 700 

Prize leak

My 2007 Ford C-Max 1.8 petrol with 65k is leaking water into the passenger footwell, soaking into all the insulation and then the carpet. A garage spent a lot of time investigating but couldn't find the source, but didn't charge me, which I was very grateful for. Have you any ideas? Also I park it on a sloped drive facing front up- do you think facing the other way might help? Additionally, I recently got four new Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance 205/55 R16 tyres. My previous front tyres were Continental Conti. I have noticed that my car seems to subtly change direction a lot and I have noticed this especially on smaller A roads, possibly following slope or dips? It moves towards the verge slightly then can move towards the centre slightly, needing a lot of slight corrections. It is a bit unnerving at times. Previously this never happened on the Contis. Could it be a tracking problem or is it just the tyres? Finally, when I use wipers in the rain or use washers it smears a lot. It looks like it is oily, and if I have to use washers in low sunlight it is blinding and at night in the rain the wiper smears affects visibility a lot with oncoming headlights. I have added screen wash to no avail. I usually buy new wipers prior to winter but haven't done so yet. Hoping you can help,

PH, Worthing

The leak is likely to be due to blocked bulkhead vent well drains leaving rainwater nowhere to go except via the pollen filter into the car. That to could have a failed seal or a failed cover. And yes, parking the other way round might get rid of the problem. Your new tyres need to wear in. Good idea to reduce the pressures to the minimum cold pressures allowed. (Probably 30 or 31PSI). Those Goodyears lose 'feel' completely when overpressured. I had a set on a 308. At the right pressures they're fine. Get some new wiper blades. Clean your screen inside and out with a decent screen cleaner such as Autoglym Fast Glass. Has to be done in dry conditions of the cleaner won't evaporate. Change your brand of screenwash. BMW's is expensive but is the best.


Simmering discontent 

I noticed the email regarding repeat turbo failure in a BMW X3 in this weeks Saturday Telegraph HJ column. I agree with your detailed reply, but I suspect the problem could be avoided entirely if the oil was both high quality and regularly changed before 10k mile intervals. Once the solids suspended in the oil have adhered to the extremely hot turbo oil gallery feed it is too late, and the gallery pipe oil feed must be changed as well. Do you share this view?

JL, West Sussex

That was what I wrote: Never switch an engine off when the turbo is super-hot, which it will be after a long ascent, after towing or after steady speed cruising on the motorway. Always idle it for a minute or two to keep the oil flowing and to cool the turbo bearing down. Change the oil and filter at least every 10k miles or every 12 months, whichever comes first, use a 'synthetic' oil. And never replace a failed turbo without also replacing the bearing oil feed and oil return pipes.


Home from home

I have a motorhome powered by a 2.2 Peugeot diesel engine. This lives on my driveway throughout the year but is used for touring for only six months of the year. During the remaining six months I take it  about once a month for a run of about ten miles just to relieve the constant weight on the tyres and to keep it in working order. I have just received my notice for its vehicle tax renewal of £240 for twelve months. (My Jazz is £30.)  It seems to me to be somewhat extravagant to pay this amount for use during only six months of the year and I am therefore considering placing a SORN on it until the spring and then tax it for six months. I could run the vehicle up and down my driveway periodically to relieve the tyre pressure problems.   I am however unsure if just running the engine repeatedly for only short periods to do so and without getting it to a working temperature will be likely to cause problems.  I would be very grateful for your expert opinion.

JF, via email

Far better to keep it taxed and to use it as often as you can over the winter. Vans were never meant to be made into motorhomes and parked on people's driveways for half of the year. They were built to do 200,000 reasonably reliable miles in 4 years then be sold to a builder. That's why motorhome owners get more problems than owners of older cars. So the more you can use it, the better.

Volvo V40 2017 Side 

Over protective

3 years ago I bought a nearly new Volvo V40 and loved it. I have recently updated it with another under 12 months old and thought I had done well. I had the car 3 weeks when, less than 50 yards from my home, and travelling at 16mph, a pigeon came up from the grass and caught me a glancing blow on the front offside corner of my bumper. The pigeon caused no damage to the car whatsoever, although the pigeon itself was killed. My car however suffered almost £3,500 worth of damage, caused by the pedestrian airbag being triggered. As I was so close to home I was able to turn round carefully and return to my drive. I looked up pedestrian airbags on the Internet (up to that point I didn't even know I had one) and found a lovely video of their worth and action, but nothing to say what you do next.
My troubles were only just beginning. My car had to be trucked away and it was 5 weeks before I saw it again. We have contacted Volvo who say I am not covered by warranty as the airbag was performing as it should - even though it mistook a pigeon for a pedestrian. So the cost of the repairs are down to me. I have had to claim on my unblemished insurance, so have now made the only claim I am allowed in a year. I have considered having the airbag disengaged, but then I would never be able to live with myself if I did ever, heaven forbid, hit a pedestrian. My dilemma now is that the vast majority of my driving is in the countryside, where pigeons, pheasants, badgers, foxes and even sheep, are an ever present hazard. My lovely car has suddenly become the enemy and driving it is no longer the pleasure that it was. What would be your advice re this airbag, and do you think I should have been covered under warranty? Volvo have given me £300 worth of Volvo vouchers as a goodwill gesture which seems like small change compared to the £3500 worth of damage which the car inflicted upon itself.

VT, Peatling Magna, Leics

Not heard of a similar incident with a V40 before. Used to happen with Jaguar XFs on speed humps. But this is a standard feature of any car that has pedestrian airbags or cushioning bonnets that are triggered when you hit something. Obviously if you deactivate it you have to disclose that to your insurer and either your premium will increase or continued cover will be refused. Just another example of bureaucratic interference with the construction of modern cars that makes them more expensive to run and hastens their demise. 


Not reassuring

I should be grateful if you could provide me with an explanation as to why my 2008 Jaguar XF is in a much higher insurance grouping than, say, the equivalent E-Class Mercedes. I appreciate that the cost of repairs come into the equation, but considering that the Jag is a UK built car with apparent domestic benefits, why is this so? My gripe is primarily prompted by the cost of my Insurance. Here again I acknowledge my age comes as an impediment (84), but even IAM Surety wanted near enough to £1,000 on renewal, which, needless to say, I did not pay, but went with LV= for £600. The car is garaged overnight and my annual mileage is now very modest. What is additionally very annoying is that I have been driving since 1959 without any convictions; not even a parking ticket. Apart also from being a member of the IAM, I have been on countless high performance courses, which are totally ignored by Insurance Companies. Your opinion would be appreciated.

DR, via email

They are a law unto themselves and use both the law and their own sometimes dubious underwriting statistics to profit. They know that collectively they have us all over a barrel. They will use 'underwriting statistics' to determine premiums for different drivers and different cars, but these are always 'broad brush'. If you're 84 you pay more than a 74-year old, etc. Other 'underwriting statistics' I would like to see proven are that if you have been on a driver awareness course you are more likely to be involved in a claim; and if you lose your spouse, as a single person you are then more likely to be involved in a claim than when you were married. As I wrote, these people make up their own rules, are a law unto themselves, and are not held accountable.

Michelin Cross Climate Tread

Cross purposes

I want to fit Michelin CrossClimates to my 2008 Mercedes SLK 200K which is fitted with staggered wheels. The fronts are 205/55R16 which are available. The rears are currently 225/50R16 but CrossClimates are only available in 225/55R16. Is it acceptable to fit these? I'm driving to Germany soon and want a tyre to meet their winter regulations when I visit the Black Forest. I don't want the inconvenience and expense of having two sets of tyres.  

WS, Aldershot

I don’t see why you should not fit 225/55 R16s both ends. You will be amazed at the improvement in ride quality.

VW Golf SV Side (2) 

Percentage failure

I purchased a new VW Golf SV 1.4TSI DSG in January 2017 this year. I am now little concerned reading about potential gearbox issues. Can you give any statistics? I also note that you recommend letting engine run for minute+ before switching off to allow the turbo oil to cool down. Can you explain how this advice sits with the stop/start function in play? This comes on at any time when stopped at lights, junctions, etc. and when the drivers door is opened to get out to open garage? I know you can turn the stop start function off, but how does VW reconcile your advice with the recommended use of the cars eco facilities?

BW, via email

We don't have statistics of DQ200 transmission failure (impossible to compile), but I have recorded hundreds myself and I continue to record them. Because of the huge number of complaints of failure it would be disingenuous of me ever to recommend this transmission. A stop start system will not automatically switch off an engine if the turbo is too hot, which it will be after a long ascent, after towing or after constant speed running on the motorway. In traffic, the turbo will rarely get hot enough to prevent the stop start. So if you pull in off the motorway for fuel and the engine does not automatically switch off at the pumps, leave it running for a minute to keep the turbo bearing lubricated as it cools down from super-hot.

Audi -RS4-(1)

Getting RS-ted

I have owned, from new, a 3-year old Audi RS4 which is a fabulous car with an incredible engine. Given the seemingly relentless move away from the big, naturally aspirated engines and towards smaller turbo-charged units, do you think this would be a good car to hold onto and look after as an investment as a potential future classic ?

PC, via email

As long as nothing goes wrong, yes. The original RS4 V8 was similarly fantastic (well I preferred them to the M3 V8 of the day: much safer) but quite a lot could go very expensively wrong.

Click to Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 25-11-2017 Part 2


glidermania    on 26 November 2017

LOL! A pigeon hit the wing of my Volvo and set off the pedestrian airbag! Seriously? What was the pigeon wearing, a crach helmet, leathers and big boots!?

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