Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 02-12-2017 Part 1

Published 01 December 2017

Today’s car related curiosities concern indiscriminate behaviour, solar planning, lubrication, engine-erring problems, smokeless zoning, kicking up a stink and countless others to get your through a freezing weekend without having to go outdoors.

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


Carbon dated?

Are you aware of who I may contact at TFL with a full knowledge and understanding of the system that they have introduced as of Monday 23rd. October 2017? It is based on euro emissions standards and as long as ones vehicle is compliant with Euro 4 and above you will not be subjected to the charge. I have asked on two occasions this week the relatively simple question of what information has their database been compiled from? Is it just based on date of original registration, which no doubt has come from DVLA records, and compared to the approval date, whatever approval is meant, or something else but no positive answer is forthcoming. As advised I have entered my VRM into their site and have been advised that my car does not comply and will be subjected to the charge, despite a red herring being thrown into the system that as I entered a personalise VRM it could be confusing the system, despite my confirming the vehicle description given as being correct. They also advise inspection of the V5C at point 5.2 as the document MAY list the EU standard, something they could have done at the same time as retrieving the original registration date. I am then being directed to the homologation by the manufacturer with a request for a written confirmation that the VRM and the VIN  are correct and to which Euro standard the vehicle was manufactured to. I have been informed that both mine and my daughter’s 9N series Polo were manufactured to Euro 4 standard; mine in early 2003 and hers in late 2002 by Volkswagen during a recent telecom. My first registration was in March 03 and hers was in November. The big question is how do I ask or compel TFL to change its database to reflect the situation.

BB, via email

It seems that TFL has made the colossal error of simply working from pre 2006 registration plates, not the actual emissions ratings of the vehicles.

BMW Z4 Rdstr Side Street 700

Sun people do ‘ave ‘em 

We bought a 2005 BMW Z4 2.0i 18 months ago as a second car and for some top-down driving fun. Previously we had 4 Mazda MX-5s over 12 years with only service costs, road tax and insurance. Since owning the Z4, we have replaced the sensors in the catalytic converter, fitted a new electric motor and pump for the soft top, replaced windscreen washer pump and now the alarm system is playing up. Can this be repaired, and can we expect any more expensive repairs. Should we cut our losses and sell?

IA, via email

This is not what you want from what isn't even a very sporty car. The washer pumps routinely fail if the correct BMW washer fluid is not used. The alarm should be fixable. Completely the wrong time of year to sell, but not the wrong time to replace with another convertible because the replacement will also be correspondingly cheaper.


Areas of low pressure

I have a 2007 Audi 2.0 litre turbo, with around 80,000 miles on the clock. Recently, the oil pressure warning light came on during a short journey and the car then sounded awful, so I pulled over. I checked the oil and there was plenty showing on the stick. I have not driven the car since. After waiting over a month for an appointment, the Audi garage has called to say initial diagnostics are inconclusive and it will cost £729 + VAT to strip the engine and diagnose the fault. Stating that this does not include fixing, parts, or 'putting the car back together after', only the labour to diagnose the issue fully. They indicated it could be the camshaft or the timing chain and either way it is going to be expensive. Does this diagnosis cost seem reasonable to you? What options do I have? Should I get the car to another garage, or is Audi best placed to fix the issue. I can't imagine the car is worth much these days. Should I cut my losses, or pay the Audi price?

CG, via email

This is a common fault on 2.0 litre VAG diesel and petrol engines. Usually the oil pump drive fails. Since the car is 10 years old, best to get it to an independent VAG (VW/Audi Group) specialist. Which Audi is this? A3 or A4 or A6? Which engine? Petrol or Diesel? You'll find a good independent here: https://good-garage-guide.honestjohn.co.uk/directory/search/

Toy Avensis 06 Side 700 

Head case

I am own a 2007/57 Toyota Avensis 2.2 Diesel. It has the same engine found in a number of vehicles in the Toyota and Lexus range. After purchasing my car 2nd hand at a mileage of 47,000, I had it serviced and during its 60,000 mile service was informed that it needed a new engine due to a fault. Toyota agreed to replace the engine gratis. I was not informed of the nature of the fault, which I know now to have been a common one leading to cylinder head warpage or cracking. Barely 50,000 miles into the new engine the same has happened again, but this time leaving me with a financial outlay of possibly £6,000. I think Toyota has retailed a vehicle not fit for sale due to the legion of cylinder head failures and possible mis-selling of expensive vehicle warranties if they knew of engine failure due to cylinder head failure. Could a Class Action Suit be initiated for loss of value of and time spent in repair shops and possible litigation for warranty misselling.

EP, via email

I don’t think so. SoGA only gives a “reasonable” expectation of 6 years life. In your case your vehicle is 10 years old and has now done 110,000 miles which is a more than “reasonable” expectation.


NOxing at my door

I received a letter from the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency and Vauxhall telling me my 2017 Astra 1.6CDTi has been identified as requiring a reprogramming of the Engine Control Module as it may give faulty exhaust gas temperature readings resulting in blocked EGR and DPF. The work will be done free of charge and take about 4 hours. Is this the same as "diesel gate" with VW? As many owners of VWs report their car runs less well after reprogramming I wondered if you had any knowledge of the work being done to Vauxhalls and if owners had reported similar issues. Is the work compulsory?

BB, via email

Yes, same sort of thing. Renault and Mercedes have also been recalling some of their cars for the same reason because the Astra 1.6CDTI shares its engine with the Mercedes C200 and a number of Renaults and Nissans. No reports yet of performance being affected, but that doesn't mean there won't be any. You should be okay because these fixes always work best with relatively new engines. I drove one 20,000 miles over the last year with no trouble at all.

Mitsubishi _Shogun _(10)

Fuming with indignation

Periodically our new 2017 Mitsubishi Shogun emits smelly fumes into the passenger cabin. Nothing occurred in the first 5,000 miles but it has been problematic ever since. The fumes were so bad on one occasion that my wife called out the AA who could not find a fault but agreed the smell and fumes were not normal and they recovered the car to the dealer. The car was left at the garage for a week but they were unable to replicate the problem or find any fault. Subsequently the problem has recurred three more times (approximately every 300-400 miles) requiring the windows to be opened to clear the air - the smell then disappears after about 15 minutes. The garage says it is to do with the exhaust catalyst regenerating normally but why would this emit fumes into the cabin area? If it is the exhaust fumes are they potentially dangerous? Have you heard of similar problems? And how can we find evidence to prove to the garage that there is a problem even if it only occurs intermittently?

RM, via email

If you can smell something very hot or burning when this happens then it is indeed the Diesel Particulate Filter actively regenerating. You must not switch off while this is happening, otherwise diesel injected via the engine into the DPF to aid regeneration will sink into the engine sump. Another possibility is a problem with the car's Selective Catalytic Reduction AdBlue heater.


Diag straights

My daughter’s boyfriend has a 2011 Audi 1.4 TFSI. It has a so far undiagnosed fault (after at least 3-4 unfruitful trips to garage). The engine suddenly cuts out while driving and when he tries to re-start it, initially turns over but won't start properly. On 3 occasions it has shown brake failure. On the last trip to the garage they changed a relay, it ran ok but failed again recently. Any ideas or advice would be very welcome. It is costing a young man a lot of money and is now unreliable.

LM, via email

If it's 2011 that means it has a chain cam 1.4TFSI. The timing chains in these could be faulty. That would normally be seriously faulty when the chain snaps rather than cause a relatively minor fault. But it could have slipped and the timing might be slightly out or the camshaft or crankshaft position sensors are moving. The brakes are something else altogether. There was a fault with ATS Teves Mk 60 ASB/ESP modules, but that would show a continuous fault rather than an intermittent one. May be nothing more than dirt or rust on an ABS sensor reluctor ring.

MB C Spt Cpe 06 700

Guilty of More Door

I'm driving a supercharged petrol 1.8 litre 2004 Mercedes 'Sports Coupe' which has done only 43k miles. I could do with four doors and a little more space, so have been thinking about an Alfa Giulia or a Jaguar XE. I'm intrigued that there are very few of these two models  on the road and wonder if this reflects problems with them or overpricing for the UK market. Though my Merc is not glamorous, it drives amazingly well. Should I just hang on and stay with it for a few more years? Are the Alfa and Jag viable replacements? Or is there something else that I haven't considered?

AT, via email

Huge jump. A bit like starting again because the Mercedes has very little value. The ideal used XE is a 2.0 Ecoboost 240 petrol auto, but Jag didn't want to make them because they had to pay Ford a lot of money for the engines, so finding one isn't easy. Jaguar/LandRover reliability hasn't been brilliant. The Alfa Giulia is too recent for much feedback on it. All I can do is link you to our road tests of the XE and the Giulia. The Giulia video is useful, because it compares two completely different models. XE: /road-tests/jaguar/jaguar-xe-2015-range-road-test/ Giulia: /road-tests/alfa-romeo/alfa-romeo-giulia-22-multijet-2016-road-test/


The cost of cheap fuel

I have a friend who, despite years of explanation from me, still insists he can find no logical reason to avoid supermarket fuel. He says he has scoured the net and Honest John’s website and failed to find an explanation. He does run a petrol car, which I believe is less critical.
I have run diesels for around 30 years and have never touched a drop of supermarket fuel. A neighbour ran a Toyota diesel and his injectors went. The first question from Toyota was what fuel have you been using? Cost him £1,000 for a set of 4. Please will you publically shut my friend up once and for all.

TW, Nelson, Lancs

I seem to have to keep repeating this. Super petrol or diesel has higher RON or higher cetane that provides more torque at low rpm allowing the driver or the automatic transmission to change up earlier and thus save a bit of fuel. As well as that, it contains lubricity enhancers and detergents that keep the fuel system cleaner, so valves and injectors don't coke up or gunge up so quickly and it also helps to keep EGRs and DPFs clear. So tell your mate how clever it is to save a few pence on a litre of fuel, then have to fork out £1,000 for a new set of injectors, or £500 to get his engine Terracleaned, or £1,000 for a new EGR or £1,000 for a new DPF. 

Skoda Fabia 2015 Side Casa 

Roar nerve

I own and drive a 2015 Skoda Fabia 1.2TSI, bought new. Almost from new, I have complained about a rumbling that seems to come from the near side front. There is no rumbling on fine grade road surfaces, but it is very noticeable on repaired road surfaces. It is not from the tyre noise on road surfaces, which of course varies. When the nearside wheels are on a smooth surface and the offside wheels are on a repaired road surface I can hear the shock absorbers “thunk-thunk” as I would expect, but no rumble. The roads in the area where I live (Under Rother Council) have many repairs and rough surfaces,
the roads around the Skoda dealership (under a different Council), are pristine. They cannot find any fault. There is no leakage from the front shock absorbers. The warranty expires early in 2018. Have you any suggestions regarding the cause of the rumbling?

GA, via email

It's unlikely to be a wheel bearing, but you can check by jacking the car up and feeling for any movement in/out on the hub. So it must be the tyre. If they are multi-directional tyres, try swapping the front n/s with the o/s rear. If they are directional tyres, swap front to back same side.


Just the ticket

Two weeks after parking in a Weymouth car park I received a parking charge from Parking Eye for £100. Fortunately, the parking ticket was still in the door pocket of my car so I sent it as evidence of payment for my stay at the car park. After two further weeks, another letter came from Parking Eye rejecting my evidence. I appealed to POPLA, sending another copy of the ticket as evidence. A further two weeks on, I received an email from POPLA also rejecting my evidence. They stated that whilst the time, place and payment were correct, the full registration of my car had not been input into the machine. The ticket clearly shows the first four digits of my registration. I replied, stating that I was in agreement that I had parked on that date and time and input my registration into the machine. Why only the first four digits were printed was perhaps that the machine was not functioning correctly. This was again rejected and I have since contacted Parking Eye twice but they say the decision of POPLA is final and I have to pay the £100 parking penalty or they will start court proceedings. I have a valid parking ticket for the time and date; the only issue being that only the first four digits are printed on it. Any advice would be welcome, even if your advice is to pay the charge. I have checked the Weymouth Council website and noted there were over 200 complaints in August against Parking Eye issuing parking penalties unfairly. They state that after trying to contact Parking Eye they had failed to gat any comments or communication from them.

AJ, via email

Until a case like this (on the fact of incorrect input of a reg into the machine) goes to the Supreme Court and the judges rule in favour of the parker rather than the enforcer, this grossly unfair penalty is legal under Beavis v Parking Eye, Supreme Court 2015. I contend that input of registration is deliberately made difficult, often with no means of correcting a mistake, so these machines are deliberately designed to frustrate the process and exploit parkers.

VW T6 California Clifftop 700

California screaming

My daughter and son in law purchased their dream car a year ago: a VW California Campervan with 205HP diesel engine, DSG and 4WD, for over £50k. Two days after its first service at 13,000 miles, it failed to start. The main dealer has diagnosed a problem with the EGR valve which caused coolant to leak into the engine, which needs replacing, together with the valve and other parts, apparently £7k worth of work all under warranty. Is there anything they should ensure is done while the engine is replaced, and should they receive a full three-year warranty for the new engine?

NM, via email

Very common problem, well-known with the VAG 2.0BiTDI engine in T6s and Amarocks (and why the engine has been replaced by a V6TDI in the Amarock). It is caused by the appalling quality of the EGR. VAG lets itself down by cost-cutting vital components to improve its bottom line. It's almost as if some people in the organisation gain some kind of temporary kudos by saving money in one area to the detriment of the company as a whole. The same is happing with dampers (which are less serious), but cost-cutting on timing chains led to a colossal number of premature engine failures. Hopefully VAG will have learned its lesson and will fit your new engine with a redesigned, more robust EGR. But, unless they decide to be uncharacteristically generous, the warranty on it remains the balance of the original vehicle warranty.


Conned-track purchase?

My wife and I are in our 70s and I want to acquire a car in the range £15,000 to £20,000, used or maybe new. We have the money but are confused by Personal Contract Plans and the like and the incentives.  Presumably PCPs involve an intermediary who also wants to make a profit?  Which is the best way nowadays of acquiring a new/used car?

MP, Neston, Cheshire

There is no universal ‘best way'. You have to do the sums. A PCP gives you a 'guaranteed future value' for the car so you know what the car will be worth in 3 or 4 years time. You then need to add up the deposit, all of the monthly payments and the 'GFV' to work out what you will pay for the car. If you pay cash, you can probably get a substantial discount. Maybe even as much as 25%. So you can then compare what you will pay that way with the PCP. Value the car in 3 or 4 years time on the basis of the PCP 'GFV'. You could also opt for a personal lease. Add up the deposit and all of the monthly payments and compare that total with buying cash, or buying on PCP, adding the 'GFV' to make a fair comparison. A complication is that after 3 or 4 years time the car may actually be worth more or less than the 'GFV' (usually less). But don't let that get in the way of your basic sums, which are all about a hard cash comparison, ignoring interest rates, percentage discounts, incentives and anything else. Only make a straight cash comparison. Which is going to cost you the most and which the least.

Volvo V40 2016 Side (1)

Stonking along

I have a 2017 Volvo V40 D3 auto, which has stonking performance combined with frugality (60mpg easy). I really, really like it, but unfortunately the build quality ain’t great with a lot of vibration transferred from the road to the dash area making it a very “buzzy” environment to say the least. Can I reduce this somewhat by changing the Michelin Primacy 3 tyres? If so, what should I go for? Also, the service interval is 18,000 miles, which seems a tad high for me. Would you recommend an oil change at 10k, and would that affect the warranty given it’s supposed to be done at 18,000 miles? 

DM, via email

Switch to Michelin Cross Climates. They are more compliant, so give a better, quieter ride and also improve steering feel in addition to their cold weather advantages. Yes, 18,000 miles is far too long. Every engine needs an oil and filter change at least every year or every 10,000 miles whichever comes first. As long as this is done by a Volvo dealer it won’t affect the warranty.


Handicapped Golf

I have a VW Golf 1.4TSI petrol, first registered December 2012. About a month ago the ABS unit failed and this affected the speedo and petrol gauge, plus several warning lights illuminated. I have now had the unit repaired at a cost of £840. I am very disappointed that the unit failed in what is a relatively young car. It seems to me these types of units should not fail. I have an MX-5, which is nearly 20 years old and its electronics are fine. Should I take this matter up with Volkswagen?

PR, via email

This reads like the ATE/Teves Mk 60 ABS/ESP brake pressure sensor failure that was extremely common in Mk V Golfs (the Golf previous to yours). Before I intervened with a much cheaper solution via ecutesting.com, VW dealers were charging customers up to £2,000 for a new ABS/ESP module on a three and a half year old car. DVSA does not accept this as a "safety related fault" and would not issue a vehicle safety recall because the driver is warned of the malfunction. Some owners with a decent VW dealer have had the job done for nothing. You don't say who fixed yours but if it was the dealer he probably used the VW approved kit and the job should have been about half as much as you paid.

VW Golf VII Estate Action R34 

Seventies cars

I am in my seventies and am about to trade in my SAAB 9-5 diesel estate for a VW Golf estate. I am looking at the 1.4TSI petrol and the 1.5TSI. However, the sales executive has advised on the 1.4, as it will be along wait for the 1.5, into next year. The 1.4 looks ok but they do not have a car to test-drive other than a saloon. Are there any issues with the 1.4TSI 125PS, petrol?

PS, via email

No. As long as it’s manual it's all right. The new 1.5 130PS engine is much better, but if you can't wait, you can't wait. The estate will drive similarly to the Golf hatch and Jetta saloon. Perhaps slightly harder rear suspension, so make sure it comes on 16-inch wheels with 205/55 R16 tyres, not bigger wheels with lower profile tyres. Be careful about the deal and make sure you either get a good p/x for your SAAB or a big discount on the new car. Don't be hoodwinked into paying too much because you will never get it back. Any doubt about a good p/x for the SAAB see what webuyanycar.com and wantanycar.com will offer you for it.

Click to Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 02-12-2017 Part 2


Davidss    on 1 December 2017

Re the 2005 BMW Z4 2.0i.
"The washer pumps routinely fail if the correct BMW washer fluid is not used. "
That car is 12 years old. Does the comment about the washer fluid / pump failure cause and effect still hold true for BMWs manufactured during the last five years, or even 'today'?
Thankyou, David S

glidermania    on 1 December 2017

Oh no! Not the supermarket v branded fuel argument again!

I ran a BMW 3 Series diesel on supermarket fuel for just under 220,000 miles. Guess what? NO ISSUES! Oh and I didnt use BMW screenwash and never had a failed water pump. I had another BMW 3 Series ran over 20,000 miles on supermarket diesel. Guess what? NO ISSUES!

My wife ran a Vauxhall Zafira for 90,000 miles on supermarket petrol. Guess what? NO ISSUES!

The 'problem' is people not having their cars properly serviced and using diesels for around town, stop \ start driving which does the damage not SUPERMARKET fuel.

A franchise dealer will always ask 'what fuel do you use?' because they want to shift liability off themselves.

TTToommy    on 2 December 2017

Like you I can only tell you what's happened to me over the years,older 2nd hand petrol cars have been more economical with Shell super-v, the few new cars I'm not sure I can tell much difference - still think I get 1 or 2 mpg more, the one diesel car (new BMW) was quieter with the shell premium fuel

TTToommy    on 2 December 2017

I believe it does, there was a recently reported case where BMW refused to repair the washer pump under the 3 year warranty as the owner had used someoneelses washer fluid

Rodge1    on 2 December 2017

"If you pay cash, you can probably get a substantial discount. Maybe even as much as 25%" No you won't! Discounting for cash is illegal, enforced by the FCA & all sorts of regulations. Also, why would a dealer give a better deal for cash when they would then miss out on the finance commission?

Quite right to do it whichever way is cheaper for you but paying 'cash' does not equate to a better deal.

jchinuk    on 3 December 2017

"If you pay cash, you can probably get a substantial discount. Maybe even as much as 25%" No you won't! Discounting for cash is illegal, enforced by the FCA & all sorts of regulations. Also, why would a dealer give a better deal for cash when they would then miss out on the finance commission? Quite right to do it whichever way is cheaper for you but paying 'cash' does not equate to a better deal.

I think you are confused, in this context 'cash' means paying for the vehicle in full, up front, not arriving at the dealers with a Tesco bag full of tenners. A bank draft is probably the method of payment or creditcard.

Rodge1    on 4 December 2017

Not confused at all. I am well aware of the context in which the term 'cash' was used. Incidently, a bag of actual cash is also heavily regulated with money laundering laws. They don't want to wait for bankers drafts to clear either.

The point I was making is that paying outright to gain a discount is a myth. Dealers do not want your money, they earn commission on finance and although they cannot differentiate between a 'cash deal' & finance paying for the car out right does not always equate to the best deal.

For example, why would you forgo the 'Deposit Contribution' that many manufacturers were offering to pay out right? If you really are paying out right & not borrowing it elsewhere,why not borrow the minium they will lend, typically £2,500 over the minimum term (to attract the least interest) & then pay the finance off after you have collected the car. That way you get the deposit contibution minus negligible interest & the car has cost less than if you 'paid cash'. Hardly rocket science.

Edited by Rodge1 on 04/12/2017 at 16:28

John Whitaker    on 2 December 2017


Re: your views on supermarket fuel.

I've driven cars since 1974 averaging 12,000 mile per year on nothing other than supermarket petrol and diesel with absolutely no problems. My current car, which I've owned for six years is a 2001 Toyota Corolla, has 137,000 on the clock and performs with no issues with this fuel. My previous car, a Citroen BX diesel did 185,000 on cheaper fuel. I am a keen follower of your website and advice but from my experience, I think you are mistaken..


   on 2 December 2017

My Experience Of Premium Fuel

Never had issues with supermarket petrol in my 97 Primera, but decided to try v-power this year due to recommendations on this site and a friend commenting his BMW ran better on it. There is definitely more torque lower down the rev range so you can change up earlier and I have seen better fuel economy. Also the engine is a bit smoother. I think the benefits are greater for the newer diesels as they are more complex with the detergents keeping the injectors cleaner.


jchinuk    on 3 December 2017

I am amused by the comments on 'supermarket' fuel, people would think it was okay if Waitrose sold it, but really they don't want to be seen in Tesco or Morrisons.

Tesco actually do a premium brand of petrol, Momentum.

I am sure any supermarket brand of fuel is better than the cheap stuff we got in the 80s, that was the dregs from storage tanks bought on the 'spot market' for fuel, it was cheap, but of very variable quality.

Chris James    on 6 December 2017

So if it is so important not to switch off the engine on a diesel car which is regenerating its DPF, then why don't manufacturers fit regeneration indicator lights to show when this is happening? - i'm not talking about the warning lights which illuminate when the DPF becomes blocked, i'm talking about a light which comes on when the regeneration process begins and goes off when it has completed.

When a car gets older and has performed many regeneration's it may no longer give off a smell, and some don't smell even when new so what happens then? are we to just randomly add a few hundred extra miles to our 30 mile journey just in case a regeneration has begun? or toss a coin to see whether we should turn the engine off yet?, there seems no other way to tell, other than risk switching it off mid-regeneration and risk further blocking or worse still diluting and raising the sump oil levels.

This seems a huge risk for the sake of an extra 5p led indicator in the dash cluster, the more skeptical consumer may believe this is done because of the huge costs charged by dealers to replace the DPF, the dealer fee's charged to regenerate an existing one manually for you and the fact that most manufacturers don't cover the cost of these replacements under the manufacturers warranty, all of which I would think is quite lucrative and repeat service work.

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