Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 17-02-2018 Part 1

Published 16 February 2018

This weekends piston-slappings concern drying out, a key question, size matters, fuelling discontent, and more to get your teeth into rather than venture outside and have them chatter.

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


Water, water everywhere

As I write, my 1-year old petrol engined Jaguar XE is still sitting on a ramp at the local Jaguar repair shop with its carpets and seats out after the flooding we had on November 22nd. It was delivered there on 24th November. After delays in following up phone calls by both the insurers, NFU, and the repairers, the insurance engineer said that it also needed the electric loom replacing and the work was agreed just before Christmas. With luck, the rest of the parts should be delivered today, but no promises. My concern is the length of time it has now been standing and the time it will take for all this work. Should I be concerned about anything else apart from their agreed flood damage and should I be requesting any other work/checks to be done? Will the tyres be ok? It will also be getting its first service before I get it back. I am about to go away for 4 weeks and it will be left standing again; that's if I get it back before I go. I have to add that there were several cars on our street that were written off because of contamination worries, including a similar aged BMW, the owner of which was driving a new replacement car 10 days after the event. United Utilities insist the water was 'clean' as it was all due to exceptionally heavy rain over a short period.

JN, via email

Lucky it wasn't a diesel. There are a lot of ifs and buts here. Difficult to say if there is any further damage. Simply don't know, but there could be. If you get the car back before you go away, try to find dry, heated storage for it for the 4 weeks you will be away rather than leave it standing outside. That may slowly dry out any residual moisture that is still sitting inside cavities and on electrics. Shouldn't be any problem with the tyres unless the TPMS valves have corroded. Presumably the brake fluid has been replaced?

Volvo S80 2007 F34 


Thanks for the Timpson's tip - standard key £60. Having bought my 10 year old Volvo S80 for a snip, 81k on the clock with a 9 year Volvo service history by the previous owner, do I let my local Volvo garage service it to keep the service history going? I've been quoted £388.11 for the "big" 10-year service, increasing to £839.19 to include the cambelt change, which is now overdue. They also quoted an extra £294 to have the cooling pump replaced at this time "as it's considered worthwhile..." I plan to run the car for 4/5 years, at 20,000 miles p.a. and am wondering is better to get all these jobs done now?

JW, via email

Needs the timing belt and waterpump change. No point in one without the other because if the waterpump fails it will take the timing belt off. No need to maintain Volvo service history, but you do want the job done by Volvo experts, so find a reasonably local Volvo independent to do it: https://good-garage-guide.honestjohn.co.uk/directory/search/

MB E Cabrio 2017 20 Inch Wheel Type 1 

Not entyrely true

I recently bought a used Mercedes Benz E350 from Stratstone in Leeds. Having hit a Wiltshire pothole, I needed two new tyres, but this became 4 because I was told that the wrong size tyres were fitted. On the front were 235/35/19 rather than 245/35/19 and worse on the back: 255/35/19 vs 275/30/19 – thus the rolling radius both back and front was way out, which has all kinds of repercussions with the CPU setting, I am told. Stratstone refuses to pay for the new, correct, tyres; saying “So what?  The car passed the MoT and was thus road legal.”  After an element of “discussion” the sales manager admitted that they knew the wrong tyres were fitted (but repeated the So what?) and offered to pay for the two undamaged tyres. I said all 4 or the courts. Am I right?

AHW, via email

According to the Michelin site, the correct 19-inch tyres for a 2009-2016 Mercedes E350CGI are 245/35 R19 93Y front and 275/30 R19 96Y rear. The different sizes may have been fitted by a previous owner to improve ride quality, which will have been pretty bad on the 30 profile rears. Your dilemma is that by forcing the issue you will suffer similarly. But if you leave the deeper profile tyres on you need to disclose the modification to your insurer. The size differences are unlikely to have upset the ESP, traction control or steering angle sensor. https://tiresize.com/comparison/ shows that 235/35 R19s rotate 816 times per mile compared to 245/35 R19s that rotate 807 times per mile. On the rear, 255/35 R19s rotate 799 times per mile compared to 275/30 R19s that rotate 815 times per mile.

Sko Superb Greenline Est Side 700


I have owned my Skoda Superb Greenline 1.6TDI Estate for a few years now. It has been an excellent car with great economy. In August last year, I took it in for the required emissions software upgrade. I believe that this may have also involved a change to the air intake (a swirl chamber). Since the upgrade, I have noticed a drop off in mpg, and following checks at the dealer showing no faults, I was advised to contact Customer Services at Skoda UK. I contacted Skoda and explained that I regularly drive from my home in West Wales, to my family and clients in Berkshire. As this involves a long cruise down the M4, it is a good test. Setting the cruise at 70mph, I have always achieved 60mpg, dropping to 55 when off on to the local roads, and the same on my return journey. Since the upgrade, I have not achieved 60mpg once. The figures are now 5mpg less at 55 and 50. To double check, I ensured that I always filled with Shell fuel, but this had no effect on the mpg. I would also point out that the regular 60mpg was achieved with the back of the car fully laden with tools, and the 55mpg with an empty car. When I phoned Customer Services, I may as well have been connected to a looped message. “Independent tests have confirmed that there is no negative impact on performance or fuel consumption.” This was repeated after every statement that I made. Is there any feedback from other Skoda or VW owners who are driving economy vehicles, following upgrades? Shame they cut down your space in the Telegraph.

RH, Lampeter

Quite a few complaints. The extra fuel will be being used to regenerate the DPF more frequently because reducing the NOx creates more soot. This is supposed to be countered by an additional injection cycle that gives the injectors 50% more work, but the older the injectors, the less capable they are of coping with this. VAG guarantees to correct any issues that are directly consequential of the fix for two years from the fix, but whether they will consider a drop from 60mpg to 55mpg as sufficiently significant is another matter.

Renault Captur F34 

Fogged light

I have a 2016 Renault Captur, 16,400 miles. Had 1st service on schedule; next one due June 2018 or 18,000 miles. Complained to Renault dealer of front offside headlight misting up and asked if this is covered by warranty. (No apparent chips, holes scratches etc on headlamp.) He refused to give an answer until he had examined the headlamp. Advised to bring vehicle in for him to check. This 'check' will cost me £99, which merely covers the cost to examine the headlight. Is this correct or should this misting up be covered without me having to pay £99?

RW, via email 

That is completely ridiculous. Ask them if they are blind? Tell them that if they do not fix this you will go to another Renault dealer, have the light unit replaced and take them to Small Claims for the bill


Gap years

I’ve just taken delivery of a 2018 Volvo XC90 on a lease. My dealer was running me through all the features and the service arrangement when he recommended taking out “Gap insurance” to cover any difference in my insurance company valuation and the lease company valuation in the event of a write off? I’ve not heard of this before. Is this the latest money-making scheme by insurance companies, or something I should take out? If so are there any specialist companies in this field

DW, via email 

It is a moneymaking scheme by the dealer because they rake in a huge commission on it. But it's not a bad idea to cover yourself with GAP insurance bought independently from someone like: https://www.ala.co.uk/ (A reader wrote that in Australia, comprehensive car insurance has to cover any outstanding debt on the car, so GAP insurance is illegal there.)

Speed Cushion Tyre Damage 2

Camber sands

The tyre fitters found wear on the inside tread of my front tyres to the extent that on one wheel the steel wires were showing through. This was not obvious until the tyres had been removed. They checked the tracking, which was perfect, but suggested the camber be checked (they were unable to do this). We have not yet had the camber checked, but I feel that because the tracking was perfect I would be very surprised if any other geometry could have been disturbed. Do you agree with me, or could the camber need to be checked too?  Much of the mileage is done in urban areas with frequent road humps. Could road humps have caused this damage to his tyres?

HH, via email

This is caused by straddling metre-wide speed humps. The pressure from the weight of the car when running along the chamfered edges of these humps rips the inner shoulders of the tyres to bits. Take them slowly, one wheel over the hump and one wheel on the flat.

Renault Koleos LT High Brough Moor Shell (1) 

Not mixing well

In your column of 23rd December. you advised against switching between superfuels, such as Shell V-Power diesel, and regular diesel. Does the same apply to petrol? I tend to use V-Power for longer journeys, using Regular day-to-day. What problems are likely to occur running on Regular? Bearing in mind that currently at my local Shell station V-Power is 11p per litre more than Regular.

JW, via email

Same applies. My advice is to use only superfuel, and to stick to the same superfuel. Following my own advice has resulted in no fuel system problems at all in more than 1,000 cars over the last 20 years. Running on Regular gives poorer performance, less power, less torque at low revs, poorer fuel economy and a greater likelihood of carbed valves and gummed up injectors, etc. If it's a company or a leased car you may not care about any of this, of course. If it’s your own car, best stick to Super: any that has advertised benefits because if the benefits are advertised they have to be capable of substantiation or the ASA bans the ads.

Aus Montego 86C F34 700 

Rover returns

In October 2017, 3 months ago, I bought a 1991 Rover Montego 1.6LX, with 48,000 miles on the clock. Cherished, cosseted, pristine condition, serviced all its life and immaculate. I live in Cumbria where the weather is challenging, so I have not used the car yet. It has sat under a carport with a full car-cover on and I have started it once a fortnight since purchase and let the engine run for 10 minutes each time. I have had the car on SORN and intend to tax the vehicle on 1st Feb. Apart from the usual battery and under bonnet checks, what advice would you give to me before using the car on a 10 mile (20 mile return journey to work) journey when the weather is better please, to prepare and check the car over? She is MoTd until June 2018 and the fuel tank is a quarter full. She is cleaner than a baby’s bottom underneath. I already own two other classics (1964 & 1970) hence not having garage space to fully protect the car. My plans are to exhibit her at shows in the spring and summer (only 5 left taxed on UK roads, apparently) and the occasional run to work.  

RO, Appleby, Cumbria

Only 5 left? Extraordinary. I remember when there were so many 'nearly new' Montegos they had to store them on the end of the runway at Blackbushe. Obviously the brake fluid will be contaminated so that needs to be changed. And the coolant. If the brake discs are rusted and grooved they need replacing. The exhaust might not last for long. And then there's the timing belt, waterpump, tensioner and aux belt (they are available on Google). Good luck. There is a special annual ‘Festival of the Unexceptional’ for cars like this. (Obviously the car in the photo is not your car.)


Committing Peugeotry

I am looking to buy a second-hand Peugeot 308SW 2.0L BlueHDi150 GT Line 6 Speed Man, registered in Jan 17. Are there any known problems with this engine or the car itself.

CD, via email

As far as I remember, adding AdBlue is awkward. And the a/c uses expensive R1234YF refrigerant instead of R134H. But, apart from that, on the basis of feedback received, the 308 has not exactly been beset with problems. Far more reliable than a Golf, Focus or Octavia. More here: /carbycar/peugeot/308-2014/?section=good /

Smart For Two 2001 For Sale F34 


My daughter is getting tired of her 2002 Smart ForTwo, which has given her brilliant service for the past 13 years and feels it’s time for a change. The trouble is, she is uncertain of what she wants. Her criteria are: Can be 2 or 4 seat; would like a convertible, preferably one with a folding steel roof; not something boring ( she likes my facelift R171 SLK 280). She wants new or nearly new and her budget is £30,000. Any chance of you providing a list of vehicles you would recommend please ?

KR, Bath

The only new tin-topped convertibles this side of an SLC are the BMW 3-Series and the Mazda MX-5 RF. The Mazda has poor over the shoulder vision, so better to go for the folding ragtop. All the other small convertible tin tops such as the Vauxhall Tigra, Peugeot 206CC and 207CC, Mitsubishi Colt CZC and Nissan Micra C+C have been out of production for a while. If she wants four seats, then ragtops include a MINI convertible, a BMW 2-Series and an Audi A3 cabrio, as well, of course, as the current Smart ForTwo convertible that is now available as a manual or with a much better EDC auto.


Leak prospects

I got the original coolant leak sorted in my Astra 1.4T. It was at the base of the thermostat. Now 6 months later have another. This seems to coming from expansion tank. My question is: are turbo engines under more pressure from cooling? I do not tow or load with passengers; it gets gentle regular use; some local some motoway. Glad I have Lifetime Warranty. Can see why Vauxhall dropped the idea!

DO, via email

There will be a 'degas' pipe from the water-cooled turbo to the expansion tank taking super heated steam from the extremely hot turbo back into the cooling system. So yes. (Ford had significant trouble with its 1.0 EcoBoost engine from a union in this pipe fracturing and the engines losing their coolant.)

Honda Jazz Lube Job (1)

Price of oil 

Subsequent to my recent email to you about VW servicing arrangements, I have been quoted £240 for a 'First Service' inspection and 'Long Life' oil change for my 2016 Golf R estate, at my supplying dealer. Given that 5 litres of Mobil 1 can be bought for £60, is this not somewhat over the top, or am I being naive? I rather feel that the private motorist is being 'taken for a ride'. I seem to remember that in the past, either The Motor or The Autocar used to publish servicing and specimen spare-part costs in their road tests. Might it not be a good idea if, in your reviews, you started to do the same?

MGS, Oxford

That's a bit steep. I pay £50 a time for 'fully' synthetic 10w/40, properly drained from the sump plug of our Jazz in Thailand, together with a fresh filter. High time someone in the UK set up a chain of lube centres as in the USA and that car manufacturers were forced to accept such lube jobs under their warranty terms. No point in including servicing costs in road tests because they depend on labour rates that are different in different parts of the country and parts and service costs change so frequently anything in a road test would be out of date in a matter of months. Glass's Guide does a service and repair cost guide, but for the trade, not the public, and the trade has to subscribe to it on an annual basis. I think it's about £300 a year.


Unendearing gearing

Very many thanks for your reply of 23 December about my Golf SV SE TSI DSG Auto and it's DQ200 7-speed dry clutch DSG auto. You suggest as the best alternative a BMW 2 Series Active Tourer with a 6-speed or 8-speed torque converter auto. I am awaiting receipt of the brochure, but meanwhile, could you please tell me what the difference is in these auto gearboxes under driving conditions and why you do not recommend DSGs? You also state that BMW has just switched MINIs over to dual clutch autos and that this might mean that the same switch will apply to Active Tourers as well. I am due to meet with VW on Monday morning for a test-drive of my car with their chief mechanic in response to my problems/complaints of jerky ride, difficult to smoothly pull off or reverse when on hills, even requesting me to put into park position when it refuses to move off smoothly from traffic lights. My wife, when a passenger, suffers back spasms due to sudden /rapid acceleration from stop, and a different car now becomes a necessity.

RK, Dorchester

A DSG is a dual clutch, dual shaft pre-selector gearbox with odd gears on one shaft and even gears on the other. They are supposed to be more fuel-efficient by absorbing less power. But VAG 'protects' them with a brake pedal switch that prevents power being transmitted if the brakes are applied and there is sometimes a delay from this switch, which is why the system bogs down occasionally when exiting side-roads and entering roundabouts when you have previously braked to a standstill. A torque converter instead has a fluid filled drum instead of a clutch. Recent developments with torque converter autos have made them as efficient as Dual Clutch Transmissions without the snags (unless in a VAG product where the brake pedal switch can still delay take off). More: /faq/automatic-transmissions / I worry about BMW's switch to DCTs that will be to save money whatever they say in their press releases.

VW T6 Transporter Panel Van (1)

Camper knowledgey

At nearly 70 it’s time to buy a new VW T6 LWB 150 Diesel High-line manual and turn it into a camper. No need to ever buy another vehicle. With the uproar on Diesel engines and the restrictions being introduced I wonder whether a petrol version would be a better option in the longer term, as I have always kept my cars a long time: 15 -20yrs +. I imagine the vehicle would do less than 8,000 miles a year on average as we have a second car. The conversion would be kept to a minimum, no pop-top and planned for two people, hence minimum weight. Please advise what size wheels? are the standard alloys suitable? Any other nuggets of advice would be appreciated.

JS, via email

I'd go for petrol. Obviously you won't get the economy of a diesel, but you won't get the problems either and diesel engines have been problematic in T5s and T6s. As long as you don't use a lot of oak and teak, the weight of your conversion will be less than the payload of the van, so no need to worry about uprated wheels and tyres. A friend recently fitted 225/60 R18 Michelin Cross Climate tyres to his Mercedes Vito and finds them excellent. We're actually long-term testing a T6 2.0TSI: https://vans.honestjohn.co.uk/our-vans/volkswagen-transporter-t6/meet-our-new-van-the-t6-transporter-20-tsi/ 


Indiesel exposure

I’ve been running Yaris diesels for last 15 years but the latest 2015 model is useless, unreliable, uneconomical, rear seats don’t fold flat, warranty not worth the paper it's printed on and several other gripes. I think Toyota has lost the plot. But it is comfortable. We do 17k miles per year, need something of a similar size, but petrol. Priorities are 5 star safety features, comfort for long journeys highest possible mpg and reliability. Price, within reason, is not a consideration. Any ideas most welcome.

JG, via email

Toyota isn't interested in diesel cars. Dropped the Yaris diesel last year and now uses BMW N47 diesel engines in its Auris and Avensis models. The company hasn't "lost the plot". It is actually the leading manufacturer of hybrids. A significant number of taxi drivers have learned the benefits and swapped from diesel to hybrid: /road-tests/toyota/toyota-yaris-2017-range-road-test / But you're right about Yaris loadspace. The latest Yaris has a 5 star NCAP rating. But if you want a small car with excellent, flat folding and versatile loadspace, get a Jazz. A new Jazz 1.5iVTEC Sport arrived at the end of last month.

Click to Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 17-02-2018 Part 2


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