Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 16-12-2017 Part 2

Published 15 December 2017

Click back to Honest John’s Motoring Agonies 16-12-2017 Part 1


Man with a Lamb

I purchased a second-hand 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo from a dealership in Enfield on 22 August 2017. I drove the car initially off the dealership on 1st September 2017. From driving off I noticed the convertible roof did not work properly. I took the car to Autoaudio who are car specialists (they and have a partnership with HR Owen). They had the roof looked at 3 times and still didn't fix it, I also had some upgrades done, namely a new stereo and PPF. In total I spent about £7k in upgrades. As soon as I drove it from Autoaudio I had some lights appearing on the dashboard, I took the car to my specialist mechanics: 911SBD in Staples Corner. They ran a diagnostic check on the engine and noticed that the number 10 cylinder was misfiring. They explained to me that there were some faulty sensors, however they have now informed me, on further investigation, that there is scoring on numerous cylinders and the engine needs to be stripped down and re-built and the job will take about 2 months to do and cost me about £20k I bought this car from the dealer for £114k and part exchanged my Porsche for £28k. To date I have not driven the car because it has been in the garage and I am looking at a very hefty bill and further delays. These problems clearly existed beforehand, the dealer has not given me the appropriate warranty for the car and he has not been honest about the condition of the car.

MF, via email

A bad experience. These are your rights: /faq/consumer-rights/ You will need to engage a solicitor to ask for a full refund because the car was supplied to you in a fundamentally faulty state. The relevant case law is Clegg v Olle Andersson (trading as Nordic Marine), House of Lords, 2003. Bear in mind that the dealer is in no way responsible for the additional work you voluntarily had done to the car. If you reject the car, you will have to swallow those costs. You might prefer to pursue the dealer for the cost of rectifying the engine, but I would not do that because of the amount of legal wrangling likely to be involved and the further likelihood that it might not get fixed properly first time round.

SEAT Alhambra II Red 2 Side 700 

Limp excuses

It's been a while since I wrote to you for advice and we still have the SEAT Alhambra we bought, now on 50,000 miles and still being looked after by the franchised dealer. On our way home last week, the car went into what I now know to be "limp mode". It cleared and then drove fine, but a warning light came up on the dashboard. I called the AA and the guy diagnosed a "faulty EGR valve.” He blanked it off and advised us to get it to the dealer asap. The dealer told me I could be looking at anything between £1,000 to £1,500 to fix it. The dealer did a diagnostic check today and the good news is that the problem was actually a faulty vacuum regulator solenoid valve. Cost £140, inclusive of parts, layout and VAT. Phew. However, my son, who thinks he knows everything, has told me I should stop buying supermarket diesel and start buying a superior brand to help keep the EGR valve and DPF clean. I think it's called Shell optimal, but I'm not sure. Has he got a point, or is it all smoke and mirrors?

CB, via email

If you are using basic supermarket diesel you are ignoring the advice I have perpetually been giving for more than 20 years and you are bringing fuel and emissions system problems onto yourself. I advise you to use branded superdiesel, whether it be Shell V-Power, BP Ultimate, Total Excellium, Esso Synergy Supreme Plus because all of these branded supers advertise their benefits and if they cannot be proven to work then the Advertising Standards Authority would ban the advertising and the companies would be prosecuted for fraud. 

Porsche Cayman 2013

Bit of a shocker

My Porsche Cayman is coming up to three years old and has done 18,000 miles. Today it had its first MoT, which it unfortunately failed because of a 'serious leak from the offside rear shock absorber'. The car is my prize possession and hasn't been subject to any undue treatment, so I am wondering what might have caused this, and whether it is the sort of life to be expected from a component on premium brand car? I am also informed that it is recommended to replace the shock absorber on the nearside as well, even though it is not showing any sign of wear, which will presumably double the price of the repair.  Is this advice correct? Unfortunately the Porsche warranty is only for two years, so I am expecting a repair bill of well over £1,000. Do you think there are any grounds for asking Porsche for a goodwill contribution towards this? Any advice you can give would be very much appreciated.

RT, Whitchurch, Shropshire

Yet further evidence of the poor quality components being fitted to VAG cars sold to buyers blinded by the illusion of quality imparted by the trim. This is also becoming common on A3s, Golfs and Octavias, and everyone is being told "tough luck; they are wearing parts only warranted for 6 months." Why do buyers put up with this?

Parking 2 Hour M Way Services Parking Notice

Swiss cheesed

I recently visited Warwick Services: the inappropriately named ‘Welcome Break’. I had hired a car from Avis, as I was visiting from Switzerland, and had a two and a half hour meeting in Starbucks. A few weeks later I received a £60 fine for apparently overstaying by 31 minutes. It’s apparently a 2 hour limit. If this was not bad enough, Avis has now charged me a whopping £30 on top of the £60 in administration costs. Apparently, it’s all in the terms and conditions of both Welcome Break and Avis, but I am left highly irritated and feeling ripped off by both companies. Clearly, if I had simply left the car there and not spent any money then fair enough, but I was using the facilities and the additional charge from Avis is a joke considering I could easily have paid the fine myself directly had I been asked

SW, Switzerland

Yes, it stinks and I have been campaigning against this for some time but unfortunately the vested interests are winning. The Government exhorts us that "Tiredness Can Kill. Take a Break" on motorway overhead dot matrix displays. The only motorway "rest" areas it provides are motorway service areas leased to private enterprises. And to control the parking on them they call in enforcement outfits that make their money by issuing penalties for failing to conform to their 2 hour free parking rule. They have even issued penalties to drivers who broke down at the motorway service areas. I think a more sensible limit would be 3 hours, But if they play fair and impose well noticed, easily paid charges for exceeding 2 hour stays (as those at Warwick Services in the photo), then fair enough.

Peugeot 2008 GT 2016 F34 

Higher car

I’m looking at changing my 2014 VW Golf 1.4 TSI auto 5-door for an SUV with similar performance, and under a year old. What do you suggest please?

PH, via email

Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet 4x4 6-speed torque converter auto or Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 110 EAT6 6-speed torque converter auto or Mazda CX-3 2.0 Skyactiv 6-speed torque converter auto.


Highly tuned

I am a middle-aged lady and have driven a 2003 Ford Focus Ghia TDCI for the past 9 years. It has only had a full service once in that time, has passed its MoT every time and, apart from new tyres and brake linings, has been brilliant. I feel now I should replace, it but with what? I fancy a Fiesta, but there is a bewildering choice of models.  What do you suggest? I am a musician, so travel late in the evening, and some motorway driving. I can spend up to £8,000.

RB, via email

Avoid diesel this time round. Your 2002 Focus was not fitted with the complicated emissions devices that cause enormous trouble on more recent diesels, especially those used for comparatively short journeys. Along with Golfs and Qashqais, recent Focuses have not been brilliantly reliable. Toyotas, KIAs and Hyundais have been much better. Consider a KIA cee'd or Rio, a Hyundai i30, or a Toyota Auris hybrid.

Citroen C4 Picasso Facelift F34 1


I recently asked you about the 1,199cc engine in a Citroen Grand Picasso and was somewhat pleased to see my question appear in last Saturday’s Motoring Section - thank you. I have a follow-up question and wonder if you could offer some more advice, please?
In your email, you mentioned that because of the turbo, I should idle
the engine prior to turning off and this got me thinking about what
would happen if the Stop/Start system kicked in after a long run and
prior to me being able to idle the engine. Is there a safety device to overcome potential problems?

JM, Gloucester

The stop/start will not stop the engine if the turbo is too hot, and in fact that's a good measure, because if you roll into a motorway service station for fuel and the engine does not automatically stop, leave it running for a minute or two because it did not switch off automatically because the turbo was too hot.

Hyu Coupe TSIII F34 700 

Chicken coupe? 

I own a 2004 2.0-litre Hyundai coupe. At 59,000 miles, this good-looking car, the body of which is in fine condition, has a clutch that I think may need replacing soon. I enjoy driving it and would like to keep it rather than invest in the expensive alternative of buying a new vehicle. Any thoughts on spending a few bob on it rather than a replacement? What else may go wrong? Is there, unlike an MoT, a service that offers a full vehicle check that is reliable and can assure an owner of potential problems or better still, an assurance that a car will be trouble free for a foreseeable future.

MC, via email

If you like it, carry on. It's worth "buttons", as they say in the trade, so, having replaced the clutch, you might as well soldier on getting value out of your new clutch. It is, however, a belt cam engine and if the belt has not been changed, that needs doing too. You could spend £200 - £300 on an independent vehicle check by the RAC or by DEKRA, or have a garage check it over, in which case they would either have to charge for the check-up or charge for a list of replacement parts.


Areas of low pressure

My Hyundai ix20 is a great car; very reliable as recommended by you. I am mystified that an alert pops up each year 3 weeks before its service is due stating tyre pressure is low, despite regular checks showing they’re accurate. On mentioning this to the Service manager, he says it’s due to temperature variation in November. Why is this happening when the pressures are correct? Is it actually a service reminder from the computer?

CS, via email

Tyre pressure is related to heat in the tyre and can vary by as much as 2 - 3 PSI in winter, so if you run your tyres at minimum cold summer pressure, the pressures will be a little lower in the winter.

Mercedes C-Class 2011 Steering Wheel 

Struggle steering 

I drive a Mercedes C180 registered September 2012, stop/start saloon car, that I bought from the local Mercedes dealer in 2014. In early autumn last year, the steering wheel started to stiffen up during the initial drive, but freed up after few minutes of driving. However, after a few weeks of this experience, I was driving round a round-about, a few seconds after start up, when the steering wheel completely locked for a few seconds before again releasing and performing normally for my short drive home. My garage identified the source to be the battery being very low on charge. It was recommended that I bought a new battery. The problem was rectified and the car performed normally until last month. As I was turning right on a green traffic light immediately on leaving the local Sainsbury's store, the steering again locked up, only to release itself on my straightening on to the main road. This time, I measured the battery potential (12.0 volt) and it showed that the charge was relatively low, but strong enough to start the engine. My garage identified again that the power was momentarily off, and it looks like the problem was identical to what had happened last year. For my own peace of mind, a new battery was bought and replaced the existing low charge battery. Again the problem was cured and the car is now driving smoothly. As this is, potentially, a serious issue that could lead to a major accident, I have reported it to Mercedes, but their response has been very negative. Your views on this issue would be very much appreciated, and also, from your experience in the trade, have you ever come across a similar occurrence with any modern car, especially the stop/start models. The service manual with my car does not refer to any test on the battery, and without the usual poor/non starting experience, I am not aware of any battery quality measuring meter on any car. I suggested to Mercedes that a battery potential meter should be used to measure the state of the battery prior to start up. I hope you can give me some advice on the way forward. I have now bought a Smart AGM battery charger to give the battery a boost every month. I drive less than 3000 miles annually and I know that this will have contributed to the problem. I shall look forward to your reply with interest, and I thank you in advance.

KJ, via email 

Not heard of the PAS in a W204 being affected by low battery voltage before. Logical if the PAS pump is electric rather than directly engine driven and the electrical system is favouring other components when the battery level is low on an infrequently driven car or a car driven short distances. But there have been a number of other PAS problems with W204s: /carbycar/mercedes-benz/c-class-w204-2007/?section=good /


Shopping therapy?

Recently I wished to change my car. What I wanted was a new one or a low mileage, recent registration. What I had thought would be a pleasant experience turned out to be a chore or, worse still, an unpleasant experience. Note all the comments below relate to main dealers: I booked in for a test drive and the salesman introduced me to a female colleague. He said she would be able to answer any questions as he had only just joined the firm. I asked what the tax was – she didn’t know. I asked the cost of servicing – her reply was “it varies depending on the type of service.” I pursued the matter and asked “what is the cost of an oil service and a major service?” She didn’t know’. The test drive was then conducted in silence. I was given a test drive in the salesman’s car, which was the current demonstrator and for sale. It was filthy inside with a used crisp packet on the floor and a chocolate stain of the front seat. All other cars on the forecourt were even filthier. I requested to look at a car and when it was opened, I almost fell back because of the utter stench. I was told it had been used by a dog owner. I can only assume the dogs relieved themselves in it. I told him he couldn’t sell a car in that state. I requested a test drive in a similar model. And when it was brought round, I was told it had 0 miles on the clock. I said it can’t have if it is a used car. To which the salesman replied, “Oh I mean it has no miles worth of petrol in it, but we could try and get it to a garage and hope it doesn’t stop.” This one really wound me up. I test drove two cars. When I noted the brand new smaller of the two had only 3 stars in the Euro NCAP crash test, I was told, “well what do you expect, it’s a small car. If it has a crash the whole thing explodes inwards with the airbags and the car is a write-off.” The second car was excellent. I knew exactly what my car was worth as one salesman had printed off a copy of the price to be paid by dealers for a trade-in. He gave me a price well below what I could reasonably expect. I was still interested in the car. He proceeded to tell me about a lot of insurance policies, even though I clearly stated I didn’t want them. (I think in total they would have cost £700). I then asked him what he would take off the new car. He said he couldn’t take anything off. Although I was really getting exasperated, I remained. He plonked down the card reader and asked for £500 deposit. I said I wanted to check the full amount. I easily worked it out, taking my trade-in off the cost of the new car. Using his calculator, he said, “no it’s more than that. You have to pay £10 for the petrol and £12 administration fee.” It was at this point I walked out. How he could lose a £12,000 sale for £22 beats me, especially as I later found out the car was overpriced by £600. What was totally unacceptable was that he wanted to take a deposit before advising of the extra costs. Please note, all of the above was at a franchised dealer. The only professional sales staff were at the Peugeot garage. The car wasn’t quite what I wanted and I felt quite sorry not to buy one from them. In the end I purchased in another town.

RW, Weston-super-Mare

The basic problem here is cultural. Salespeople should be employed as 'lifetime contacts' at a dealership. They should know everything about every car; about finance, about parts and accessories, about servicing, so, throughout the life of the car, they are your permanent contact at the dealership. They are always your first call and the chances are high they will sell you your next car, and your next. That's how it works in Thailand and it works beautifully. Instead, in the UK, salespeople are on minimal basic pay and they make their commission by selling extras such as insurances, warranties, paint coatings, etc. (which was your experience). Because they make almost nothing from selling the cars, they have very little interest in the cars.

Click back to Honest John’s Motoring Agonies 16-12-2017 Part 1


Chris C    on 15 December 2017

Hyundai ix20 - we have an i20 which occasionally reports low tyre pressure and then resets itself. It was bought as a pre-reg car which had stood for 6 months and it can advise that a service is due in around 6 months or X,000 miles which is a fairly useless piece of information and it will then eventually reset itself and the message disappear. Conclusion - some software bugs in the Hyundai system?

glidermania    on 15 December 2017

What, car sales people should be employed on lifetime contracts!? What is that then, some form of servitude where they can never move from dealer to dealer in their lives never mind change occupation should they wish to?

What if the dealer closes the garage, are they bound to move somewhere miles away because they are on a 'life time contract'? What utter pap.

I suspect the customer to which HJ's reply was directed was a utter nightmare to deal with. Sales people are not able to negotiate company applied admin charges. I very much doubt any dealership would present one car never mind the many they seem to suggest, in the state alleged. Let's have some objectivity, please.

Darryl_uk    on 15 December 2017

Take a chill pill and read all the words. Carefully. You’ll find HJ explained what he meant by ‘lifetime contact’.

Project C    on 16 December 2017

He said contacts, not contracts. Attention to detail is what half the salespeople are lacking.

Redcar01    on 16 December 2017

My Wifes Audi A1 was bought 3 years ago and the salesperson rings up every 6 months to see if all is well and can he help with anything . Obviously he wants to sell us our next car I really like the service they give and dont feel pressured by him.

Falkirk Bairn    on 16 December 2017

In total we bought 5 cars from the same salesman - @ 3 different garages.

The first 4 were great - the fifth was "not what it said on the tin" & was the last!

   on 16 December 2017

I recently went to a local VW garage in Portsmouth looking to buy a new Golf, salesman was talking about building relations having previously worked for Mercedes and even had won a Guinness record for car sales!. However having pre booked an appointment, instead of showing me round just started to work out finance deals, he was taken a back when I asked to test drive a car. He eventually got the demonstrator which only had 5 miles range and could only go round industrial site. Also I had previously said I was interested in 1.0 tsi DSG (I now know to avoid) so he got 1.4 manual After Reminded him of my request got a 3 year old 1.4 DSG but said it was no diff to new 2017 model. I did ask that I wanted to try a 1.0 tsi and said he would let me know when he got one in and can have longer drive. 6 weeks later still no call. The point is that the relationship is not just with the dealer but also the the brand they represent . If the sales persons are poor, it does not bode well for after sales or the philosophy of brand. I have found that far eastern and Korean dealershis seem to offer a differerent approach where customer experience is important.

Dag Hammar    on 16 December 2017

In response to the post by RW and “Shopping Therapy”
I have recently purchased a brand new Hyundai from a franchised main dealer and the whole experience was a delight. Test drives in the specific model(s) of cars that I was interested in were organised at a day and time to suit me and the test drives, although accompanied by the salesperson, were generous in terms of the miles covered and the time taken.
Perhaps Hyundai dealers try that little bit harder to engage with the potential customer ?

John Savill    on 16 December 2017

Interesting to see more damper issues on VAG vehicles coming up in your column , where they are ‘wear and tear’ items.
On my Honda CR-Z I thought the handling had gone off a bit when it was around 3 years old. I had it serviced 1 day before the 3 year warranty was up, but didn’t mention the handling to the dealer. When I returned to pick the car up they told me there was a leaking damper on the rear, a new one had been ordered and they would fit it under warranty as soon as it arrived.
That was the only fault with it in the 7 years I owned it.
Needless to say I replaced it with another Honda, my third. The first one a 2002 Civic is still on the road with over 220000 miles on the clock.

Doris & Boris    on 17 December 2017

Test drove a Mercedes CLS from a MB dealership. Ran out of diesel 200 yds from the petrol station. Had to push it with the salesman across a roundabout to get to the forecourt. Didn't by a Mercedes from them....

De Sisti    on 17 December 2017

@ Doris & Boris; surely you would have noticed how much fuel was in the vehicle just by looking at the fuel level indicator before you test drove the car?

jchinuk    on 18 December 2017

With regard to the 'Man with a Lamb', I wonder if the recent fashion for such exotic cars being hired out for 'prom' rides has resulted in outwardly pristine, but internally (at least the engine and gearbox) clapped out supercars floating around the second-hand market.

Renting such cars, at great cost, to different 18-25 year olds (more used Novas/Fiestas/Polos) every weekend is not going to help the longevity of the cars. There are enough YouTube videos of such cars being abused, that I'd wager a small sum that the rental companies divest themselves of these mechanically wrecked cars each autumn.

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