Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 05-01-2019 Part 1

Published 02 January 2019

This weekend’s transportation traumas include idle moments, rusting in pieces, a ‘thirty-something’ and in Part 2 skid control, a classic dilemma, soft on top and more to keep you warm and snug inside while Jack Frost has other ideas. 

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

Amazed and confused 

I continue to be amazed at the drivers who continue to leave their engines running while parked. I mean for long periods, sometimes outside supermarkets while their partner completes a shop or when they have to make a phone call. I once parked over 20 minutes behind a driver in Dartmouth who was waiting for the Higher Ferry to leave and return across the Dart River. He left his engine running the whole time, even though there were signs saying to turn engine off when waiting for ferry. Manufacturers have introduced Stop/Start,  but this just doesn’t register with certain people. Diesel van and lorry drivers are often as bad while they offload their goods. Is it me or are these people just being selfish and inconsiderate and unaware of the cost?

JC, Droitwich Spa

It's because if they don't, and continue to use a/c, radio, mobile phone, computer plugged into the car electrics their batteries could be flat when they want to start their engines again. Even if they merely sit in the car and do nothing their paired phone will be taking a charge. Alternators and batteries these days are not designed to build up a significant charge. Truck drivers need to keep engines running to power such things as hydraulic lifts.

Alfasud 1.5 3-dr Side 700

Romeo, oh Romeo

In a recent email a correspondent was singing the praises of his new Alfa Romeo Giulia. Back in the 1970s I owned an Alfasud, which was brilliantly engineered with its flat 4 engine and fantastic to drive, but let down by its poor bodywork that corroded badly despite being undersealed. Has Alfa Romeo addressed this problem? I like the look of the Giulia and might consider buying one.

JM, Doncaster

Been there. Done that. I had a 105 Series coupe and two AlfaSuds. But the reason for the rusting was that when the Russians bought the FIAT 124 production line to build the Lada they paid for it in Russian steel that was of extremely poor quality with a high content of corroding scrap metal. That's why Alfas rusted on their roofs, never mind underneath. This was addressed in the late 1980s when FIAT started building Tipos with electro-galvanized panels so has not been the devastating problem it was in the 1970s. The Giulia and the Stelvio are truly outstanding. If you don't go for the top version, do go for the 2.0 litre 280PS 2.0T, which is a proper chain cam engine in the Alfa Romeo tradition and powers a stunning looking pair of cars.

BMW E30 325ix Touring Side 

Almost 30

I have owned an E30 BMW 318i Touring, since new, for 29 years. I was wondering if you could provide some advice about how to sell my car? It is no exhibition piece but wonderfully reliable. It has done 151,426 miles. How much is it worth? 

KH, via email

I'd have said £1,000, but some quite high prices are being asked: 





So you might be looking at £3k +, bearing in mind your description of the car, and if you advertise on those sites you should stand a chance of a bite.


Nipped and tucked up?

The police only have to “send” the NIP to the registered keeper within 14 days. They cannot be held to account for delays by the Post Office. Beckham’s super lawyer won his case on the fact the letter arrived late by 2 days to the registered keeper, as posted 2nd class.

RE, Budleigh Salterton

Wrong. That old rule was overruled in Gidden vs The Chief Constable of Humberside in 2009. Mr Gidden received a NIP on day 16, with the delay being attributable to a postal strike. The prosecution accepted the NIP was served late but argued that the strike meant their obligation to serve the notice within 14 days was eased. Mr Gidden was convicted in the Magistrates’ Court, appealed to the Crown Court and lost his appeal, but finally had his conviction was overturned in the High Court. The ruling is here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2009/2924.html This is the ruling that was used by Nick Freeman in Beckham's case. Bentley Motors (which was the registered keeper of the car) did not receive the NIP until 17 days after the 'offence'.

SEAT Alhambra II Red 7 Load 700


We have decided to purchase a VW Sharan with a 140HP 1.4 petrol engine to allow a small electric scooter with a hoist to be used with a one-piece lift in and out of the vehicle. This will allow more independence for the disabled member of our family. Any comments would be appreciated.

MH, via email

If it's the 1.4 petrol turbo without the supercharger as well (which a TSI 140 is) then it’s very spacious and very comfortable. One just brought me back from the airport. More: /carbycar/volkswagen/sharan-2010/


Shattering experience

I have been advised to contact you after a very distressing few days with my KIA Venga. On Sunday 21st October I was driving down a dual carriageway at 60mph when my sunroof imploded. Nothing hit it. It just went with a massive bang and glass was spread everywhere. KIA has said it’s damage and not covered under the 7-year warranty, so I have had to claim on my insurance, which will mean £700 excess and a loss of my no claims discount. Having researched the issue, there are numerous other cases in the media of this happening to other KIA vehicles dating right back to 2011, but none have been recalled or drivers compensated. I feel it is extremely unfair that, through no fault of mine, I am going to end up out of pocket. The scariest thing was that my children’s car seats were full of shards of glass. It is just lucky they weren’t in the car at the time. I’m wondering if you could offer any advice?

LC, Eastbourne

Glass sunroofs have always been vulnerable. Luckily the bolt from the blue (aircraft) that hit mine struck it at a section that was supported so it did not shatter, but still had to be replaced.

C33 Inflamborghini Gallardo Wrecked Exotics

Banger racing

Now I have reached 70 there are certain aspects of motoring that 
infuriate and confound me, namely males with too much testosterone that cause them to accelerate at warp speed towards a line of stationary traffic or a red traffic light ahead. I have no doubt they are getting quite a buzz from the horrendous scream of their engines, and probably an orgasm if they manage to change into second gear and cause their 'supercar' to pop and bang from its exhaust. Some of these cars have apparently been designed to provide a throaty exhaust, though of course the more laughable 'seen better days' Honda Civics, Ford Focus, etc. with lowered suspensions, personalised dents and baby on board stickers have an adapted exhaust system using old bean cans (it seems). Whatever happened to the Construction and Use Regs? Perhaps an introduction of a Police Traffic Department with officers dedicated to enforcing good traffic standards would at least halt the increasing mayhem. Perhaps that’s just going too far. Just pop them in Room 101.

RS, via email 

Unfortunately, unless we all pay heavier taxes, the number of police on the streets will continue to decline. Just let the idiots make fools of themselves. The consequence of hard acceleration then sudden lift off in a Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi R8 V10 or Ferrari 458 can be neat fuel hitting a red-hot exhaust system and the car then spontaneously combusting. (Thanks to wreckedexotics.com for the photo.)

Solar Towers Seville 4


It seems current buyers of mid-price compact and mid SUVs are either having to risk their hard-earned cash on petrol or diesel with uncertain prospects, or a very limited choice of electric or hybrid - with range capability set to transform for the better over the next few years. I have a tremendous opportunity to invest in a new car to last me for the next 10-20 years and would like to take the plunge into an electric, or hybrid at least, which offers me something to be proud of and a bit of kerb appeal for once without being too flash or extravagant. Even if running 10-20 years, with petrol/diesel likely attracting ever increasing unacceptability and environmental levies and taxes I would feel uneasy sinking my once only major chunk of change into a fossil-fuelled eventual outcast. I am also reluctant to buy time via a 2nd hand interim purchase due to increased depreciation, difficult re-sale and purchase and sale costs substantially reducing my available pot and prospects of a new car of a lifetime.  

JH, via email

Mazda is working with Toyota towards future generations of petrol hybrids the petrol element of which will be Mazda's compression ignition Skyactiv X petrol engine and the hybrid element of which will be Toyota’s. But these are some way off. Toyota’s next gen hybrids are the TNGA based new Corolla, New RAV-4 and Lexus UX. Honda's 55mpg CR-V petrol hybrid is tested here: /road-tests/honda/honda-cr-v-hybrid-2019-road-test/ KIA has launched its all electric e-Niro with a WLTP combined range of 282 miles and a much greater city range: /road-tests/kia/kia-e-niro-2019-road-test/  Peugeot is about to spring a very quick 200HP 3008 twin-engined petrol hybrid (next 'spring'). An awful lot of rubbish is being talked about electric cars. Half of the UK's electricity is still generated by fossil fuels, so the average electric care emits 50g/km CO2 in the generation of its electricity. The UK is a long way from the amazing solar generated electricity in Southern Spain (photo). The only complete answer is a hydrogen car such as the Hyundai Nexo: /carbycar/hyundai/nexo/

Bentley Arnage T 2004 F34 Historics

Toad hauler

My husband, aka Mr Toad, is really keen to buy a second-hand Bentley and the model he likes best is the Arnage. It will not be garaged, but will be parked off the private road we live on. I doubt if it will go out much as he is semi-retired and works from home anyway. So my question is, should this acquisition be encouraged? Personally, I think he’d be better off buying a really nice Jag as what he really likes are the plush leather and walnut interiors and the gadgets. Hence ‘Mr Toad’. He is not bothered about ‘performance’: he just wants a comfy luxurious sofa on wheels. I am assuming it will still depreciate but he says not as it will have done most of its depreciation already. He is thinking of spending up to £30k for the nicest example he can find, not that he will go far to see any. I would value your comments.

PJ, via email

There's the Arnage ‘Green Label’: /carbycar/bentley/arnage-1998/ with BMW's relatively small but powerful 350 bhp/420 lb. ft. twin-turbo 4,398cc V8 engine and 5-speed auto in a very British body 17' 8" long by 7' 1" wide. by 7' 1" wide. I saw one sell at auction in November for just £11,200. From September 1999 'Red Label' 6,750cc Cosworth V8 from Turbo RT offers 400 bhp and walloping 619 lb ft torque with tougher GM 4-speed autobox. BMW engine dropped in August 1999. Various other spec followed with handling packs, designated ‘Arnage T’, and ‘Arnage Le Mans’. And the Arnage T, which is the preferred choice: /carbycar/bentley/arnage-t-2002/history/ The 450bhp, 168mph Arnage T was, at the time, Bentley's most powerful car in history: the result of a three year project to re-engineer the Arnage saloon from bumper to bumper. Beneath its updated, but still familiar 17' 8" body lay what was in many respects a new car. The engine produces 457HP (336kW) and 875Nm torque. Top speed 168mph, 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds. Facelifted from May 2004 and made Euro IV compliant.

Honda Jazz 1.5i VTEC Sport Load 3 


We have a Nissan Note under the Motability scheme, and the contract is up next year. I (the driver) regard at as a Ronseal car: it does exactly what it says on the tin: unexciting, but practical. I miss the two Pandas that we had previously. One of the Note’s major selling points is the fact that it seems to be one of very few hatchbacks with a level-load deck. I have to heave a folded wheelchair in and out, and anything with a sill is a non-starter. While I’m aware that we could have a hoist fitted, that takes up precious space. I also have to be able to accommodate grandchildren in the back. Is there any alternative on the market, as I have heard that the Note is being withdrawn?

LA, via email

The Note was withdrawn from UK sales at least a year ago. A Honda Jazz in much better. Lower, flatter floor. More room inside. And the back-seat squabs also fold up so you could put the wheelchair in the centre of the car if you wanted to.

Ford Mon III 01 T F34 700

Changing circumstance

I have enjoyed reading your section in the Saturday Telegraph for more than 20 years. In 2005, based on your advice, I bought a December 2001 Ford Mondeo 2.0 litre petrol and it has been a marvellous car. It has annual oil changes regardless of the low annual mileage and I have only used Shell V-Power petrol. Based on 13 year’s experience I believe that V-Power does make a difference in keeping the engine in good condition (my Ford dealer agrees). Although the car continues to run well, I am looking to change it for a car with an automatic gearbox. My choice would be between a 2016 Mondeo 2.0 litre petrol with a Powershift gearbox or spend a little more on a 2016 BMW 320i estate (Touring). Which would you recommend for a reliable car for about 6 years? I have heard that the Ford Powershift gearbox can be problematic and would expect that the torque converter BMW gearbox is more robust. However is the petrol 3 Series generally reliable?

KF, via email

Go for the BMW with 8 speed ZF torque converter auto. The wet clutch Powershift with the Ford 2.0 Ecoboost is actually decently reliable as long as the fluid and filter are changed every 3-4 years or every 38k miles. But since this costs £200 - £350 a time, guess what happens? 


Dai-ing wish

My wife has a 2007 Daihatsu SE petrol automatic. This was serviced annually at the dealer who sold it to us as an ex-demonstrator. After the warranty ended we have taken it to a local garage for servicing and MoTs. The car is now 11 years old and we have done the massive total of 27,300 miles over that time. What extra work do you recommend? We will check with the garage what they have done to date, alongside any recommendation by you.

EC, Reading

The brake fluid needs replacing because it is hygroscopic (absorbs moisture) and that moisture can corrode the inner workings of the ABS system. Good idea to have the automatic transmission fluid changed by a member of http://www.feduato.co.uk using a Liqui Moly Geartronic machine, though the cost of this might put you off. Vital to get the brake pipes checked for rust.

Mercedes C Class 2014 16-inch Wheel 

Adopting a higher profile

I have a Mercedes C350 Sport CDI Estate, bought 5 years ago because it gave side support in the seats, which my wife found comfortable with her lower back injury. However, because of the poor state of our minor roads, the 18-inch wheels now make it a bumpy ride, particularly for my wife as passenger. Could I fit 16-inch wheels, which increase the tyre depth from 3.5” to 4.5” to improve the ride, or would 17” wheels suffice?

MH, Sturminster Marshall, Dorset

Yes, you can fit 16-inch wheels with 60 profile tyres and run them at the lowest recommended cold pressures. They are less likely to be damaged by potholes, but don't give as good a ride as Airmatic suspension even with 18-inch wheels. See: /road-tests/mercedes-benz/mercedes-benz-c200-cdi-16-2014-road-test/

Click to Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 05-01-2019 Part 2


GerryS    on 4 January 2019

Re: Future proof. Yes – it’s only fair to measure the equivalent CO2 created by the electricity generation needed to power electric cars. However, this is almost always quoted in isolation – where’s the like for like comparison for petrol/diesel cars? The oil for these has to be extracted from an oil well, transported to a refinery, petrol produced, shipped to a petrol station, etc. So, how much CO2 per gallon is produced just by getting the oil from under the ground to the petrol station? Best figures I can find are based on a Stanford University study which indicates that the most efficient petrol production produces something like an extra 30g/km (based on a 50mpg car and production emissions of 1500g CO2 per gallon). For some oil production it can actually be 3x as much as this! And this also doesn’t include the CO2 created by shipping the final fuel by lorry or the CO2 generated by operating the petrol station. Hence, you need to add this on to the official C02 figures for each car to get a fair comparison – which has the effect of making EVs even more attractive than you’re suggesting.

glidermania    on 4 January 2019

Oh dear, yes, there's a lot of rubbish spoken about electric cars. The question of tail pipe or power station generated CO2 is easily addressed, EV's produce less even when you include that at the power station. Less is less. Countries that embrace EVs, for example Norway, show everyone does NOT charge at the same time thereby bring down the grid. People charge mainly at existing fuel stations, shopping malls and at work where fast 70kwh chargers are installed. Most people do not charge at home because 70kwh chargers are not practicable. If they do charge at home, it is only small 'top up' charging. The accepted wisdom for EVs is to charge enough for the journey or around 75%. This is because using current fast chargers, the batteries can be charged to 75% capacity in about an hour with the last 25% (to 100%) taking almost as long again. In the US Tesla's are showing just a 2 or 3% battery degradation after 100,000 miles. Even older Nissan Leaf's in the UK are showing minimal battery degradation after 75,000 miles. Hydrogen cars are most certainly not going to happen, ever.

Basic rule of the site. Anything personally offensive just gets edited straight out.

Edited by Honestjohn on 05/01/2019 at 02:22

De Sisti    on 5 January 2019

One thing I don't understand is; if charging points are supposed to be included on,
say, lamposts, how does the driver get billed for the leccy? Is there some sort of 'smart technology' from the charging point that interrogates the car to find owner details?

jchinuk    on 6 January 2019

Car parks around here (East London) can identify the location, using the user's smartphone. I'm guessing something similar will work for charging points.

Vitesse6    on 6 January 2019

Amazed and confused.

I just don't accept that anyone could flatten their car battery by charging a mobile phone or listening to the radio. It has long been the case particularly for diesel drivers to sit for extended periods with the engine running, I have no idea why they do, nor why so many people turn off the stop start as soon as they start their engines.
Living as I do about 2 miles from the Higher ferry at Dartmouth I too am surprised by the number of people who ignore the notices to turn their engines off, even though they are parked in front of someones house. I expect these are the same people who moan about the high cost of fuel.

Jonathan Guy Rawson    on 8 January 2019

I sadly have experience of a battery being drained due to being parked but the conversation continuing through the bluetooth, with the engine off which did indeed kill the battery.

Our Ford focus recently drained the battery while hoovering for approx 40 mins due to interior light (plus the short trips my wife makes ) , so i think the battery i bought 18 months ago has started to fail.

Wados    on 13 January 2019

Our Ford focus recently drained the battery while hoovering for approx 40 mins due to interior light (plus the short trips my wife makes ) , so i think the battery i bought 18 months ago has started to fail.

I think the real reason is the "short trips my wife makes". They're not enough to keep the battery charged.

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