Honest John Motoring Agony Column 21-9-2019 Part 2

Published 19 September 2019

In Part 2 we cover appealing speeding NIPS, hybrid economy, carrying mobility kit, Vitara tyre wear and much more.

Click back to Honest John Motoring Agonies 21-9-2019 Part 1 

Signal failure

A recent article in the Telegraph suggested that 4 drivers are caught speeding every minute and that a quarter of drivers have attended a speed awareness course. I am not surprised. I am due to attend a "Driver Offender Retraining Scheme" course, yet have a written apology from the Highways Agency stating that the temporary limit I passed on the M25 had not been cleared due to operator error. As I passed under the M4 at 70mph, orange lights signs indicating an incident became visible with the overhead gantry indicating a limit of 50mph. I allowed the car to slow, not wishing to brake sharply. I see too many brake lights from unnecessary braking on our motorways, resulting in other drivers braking harder in a ripple effect. As I approached the limit, the next gantry which is only 400 meters away came into view, with the national speed limit posted. There was no incident visible (there had been a fire two junctions before). I was caught at 63 mph. It was 9pm, and the motorway was quiet. The Highways Agency admit that the signals should have been cleared at 19.49, yet were not cleared until 05.01 am. I wonder how many other unfortunate motorists were caught out? To be fair, the Highways Agency responded honestly to my email. However the apology is of little use as the Police view is that I should have complied with the erroneous limit. Expecting a car to brake rapidly from 70 to 50 mph is, I feel, unreasonable. Surely speed limits should be brought down gradually in 10mph increments particularly as gantries are so closely spaced on the M25?

GT, via email

You could probably take that all the way to the Court of Appeal and get a ruling in your favour if you really wanted to spend all the time and all the money it would cost you. A barrister once had a speeding conviction on the M42 overturned because she proved there was no reason for the 40mph limit to have been imposed.

70mph Speed Lmit Sign

No contest

I have received a Notice of Intended Prosecution from North Yorkshire Police for speeding. I was caught by a mobile speed camera on a stretch where no camera signs were displayed. According to the letter, I was travelling at 80mph in a 70 limit. I accept that I was travelling above the speed limit, but I believe I was actually closer to 75-76mph. Based on the letter that accompanied the NIP, North Yorkshire work to the '10% +2' rule - meaning that if I am right, I should be below the threshold for prosecution. I've done a Speed Awareness Course in the past 3 years, so if I accept, it's 3 points and £100 fine. Is it worth disputing the accuracy of the mobile speed camera (and therefore the validity of my fine) or would I be wasting my time? 

AW, West Yorkshire

Drive at 1 mph more than the limit and you commit the offence. Don’t fight it on grounds of the discretionary leeway or you could face 5-6 points instead of 3.

Skoda Octavia Estate 2017 F34 Red (1)

Eco worrier

I have a 1.0 litre Skoda Octavia estate that has returned 55mpg over 5,000 miles of mixed driving. 2 colleagues have hybrid Toyotas that are averaging much worse overall mpg and considerably less than the claimed figures. This begs the question: are hybrids a waste of time, especially when you take account of all the rare metals going into their huge batteries? In terms of carbon emissions, until all electric or hydrogen powered cars become a feasible proposition, are we not better off developing and using more efficient petrol engines?

AJL, via email

Hybrids have much smaller batteries than electric cars, so much less destructive mining is involved in making their batteries. The latest trend is 12v or 48v 'Mild Hybrids', some of which have 1.2 kWh batteries rather than the 65 kWh of an electric car with a decent range. If you are comparing like with like, the Real MPG average for a Toyota Auris hybrid (automatic) is 55.4mpg (/realmpg/toyota/auris-2013). And the Real MPG average for a Skoda Octavia 1.0TSI is 52.5mpg, or 45.7mpg for the DSG auto (/realmpg/skoda/octavia-2013) When comparing running costs, always account for the 10p/litre price disparity between diesel and petrol.

Peugeot Rifter 2018 Load 4 (2) 

Keeping mobile

Despite being disabled, I can still drive my car, and my wife and I like to go on holiday several times a year. The problem is that I would like to take all my mobility equipment with me (mobility scooter, wheelchair, quad-walker), but my Skoda Octavia Estate is just not big enough, despite having the highest capacity in its class. The Octavia is a great car in every respect: internal space, economy (40+ mpg), reliability (no faults in nearly 4 years), performance (8.3 secs 0-60) and comfort. It will be a sad day when I sell my Octavia, but I am desperate to provide the room for my equipment. I had thought of buying a van, but I am very reluctant to give up the performance and comfort of my car. Can you provide the ideal solution?

PC, Barnt Green

A Skoda Superb estate is bigger, and still a car: /road-tests/skoda/skoda-superb-2015-estate-road-test/ A Peugeot Rifter or Citroen Berlingo makes a lot of sense: /road-tests/peugeot/peugeot-rifter-2018-road-test/ Or you might consider a Skoda Kodiaq: /road-tests/skoda/skoda-kodiaq-20-tdi-150-2016-road-test/

Suzuki Vitara 2015 Side Blue 

Tyre worning

My wife and I own an automatic Suzuki Vitara SX5 AllGrip 1.6 litre petrol, which we bought second-hand from a retail dealer in July 2017. The car then had just 2,700 miles and was 7 months old. We are both in our seventies, both drive sedately and keep to speed limits. We were shocked when our trusted local garage warned us that, although our tyres were legal, they would soon need replacing  at 18,000 miles. All four tyres are Continental Conti EcoContact 215/55 R17 V. I check the tyres about every three weeks as they rarely lose much pressure: I keep them at 33.5 lbs, half a pound above Suzuki's recommended "comfort" setting. The roads in Shropshire are poorly maintained, so our car sometimes crashes into potholes and local councils love speed bumps. We very occasionally switch to four-wheel drive when necessary. We wondered if our tyres are wearing out faster due to our Vitara having 4-wheel drive or due to our appalling roads? Would you think it normal for tyres to last just over 18,000 miles? Our present tyres are not cheap: they cost over £143 each. Would we be better changing to even higher priced tyres such as Michelins? Or should we buy cheaper tyres such as Dunlops and live with them wearing out quicker?

DA, via email

Replace with Michelin Cross Climate or Continental AllSeason Contact. Lower the pressures to around 2 bar or around 30PSI cold pressures. It will ride the potholes and handle better.


Fluid situation

I note with interest your comments regarding brake fluid being hygroscopic. Having owned and driven around 80 cars in my 60+ years of driving, I recall that some years ago I used to have the brake fluid “tested” (when the car was serviced or had brake shoes or pads changed) and this test indicated the level of moisture present at the time of the test. This was a very quick test which took only a minute or two (I think it was done by Halfords) and when the moisture level was above a pre-determined level, the fluid  was changed. In the interests of not polluting the planet, would you not think this to be a better way of proceeding to reduce any unnecessary volumes of a chemical needing to be disposed of?

MB, via email

The trouble is they’ve been adding additives to brake fluid as well and the additive is starting to break down and contaminate the fluid. Also any moisture at all in the fluid can corrode delicate components of the ABS, which is why it’s best changed every 2 years.

Alfa Romeo Giulia 2015 F34

Romeo and Giulietta

I am enjoying an Alfa Giulietta Veloce with its very lively 1,750cc turbo petrol engine. I would like to buy a Giulia saloon, but the 3-litre turbo unit seems excessive and the smaller engine would be more than adequate, and much more practical. Do you know of any plans to expand the Guilia model range in this sensible way?

TJ, via email

The sensible engine to have in the Giulia and Stelvio is the 2.0 litre with 280HP.  Goes well and sounds wonderful without being too loud: /carbycar/alfa-romeo/giulia-2016/

BMW F34 3 Gran Turismo Side Open (1)

Three up

I currently own a 2009 BMW 320i SE with 57,000 miles. I only do about 5,000 - 6,000 miles a year. I will be 70 in three months and I am finding it a little low for getting in and out of. I am looking for a car that is less low to the ground. My requirements are:- Saloon or hatchback; Petrol engine; Five-seater; Equivalent performance to my current car so not slower than about 0-60 in 8.5 seconds; Reasonable mpg; Reliable; Preferably but not essentially with a key that turns in the ignition. My budget is up to about £20,000 plus what I might get for my existing car. I do not want to buy a brand-new car, but one that is not more than two years old and does not have more than 10,000 miles on the odometer. I hope that my requirements are not too numerous or difficult to enable you to make some recommendations!

MP, via email

Easy answer: A used 3-Series GT (not a new one because I don't think the 3 GT has been renewed yet): See: /carbycar/bmw/3-series-f34-gran-turismo-2013/ I actually found it better to drive than the F30 3-Series. A bit softer. And much roomier.

Citroen C4 Picasso 2013 R34 


My Citroen C4 Picasso was first registered 23/09/2014, but bought by me from a Citroen dealer on 11/11/2017. It has developed cracks at the top of the tailgate on both sides. Citroen UK agrees that this is a manufacturing defect and will supply a new tailgate free of charge but will not cover the labour cost of fitting the replacement. The dealership from whom I bought the car is not willing to pay the labour cost because the car is out of warranty. It is acknowledged by both Citroen UK and the Citroen dealership that the damage to the tailgate is a consequence of a defect in manufacture. Is it therefore reasonable to require that one or both of them should accept responsibility for the total cost.

MF, via email

It's just cracks. Whether that would sufficient of a defect to try to invoke the Sale of Goods Act 6-year rule is debatable. A case could go either way. The reason for the cracks could be that someone attempted to sling a bicycle rack on the plastic hatchback. You don't say if it needs to be painted as well as fitted, in which case you could be looking at about £500 labour.

KIA Venga Side 2 700 (1) 

Is this a wind up?

I am looking to get a second-hand car for £6k-£7k. I had an Astra 1.4 petrol, which was great, but I feel like a change. I do a few long motor trips a year, so need to feel steady on the road and not get wind tremors, etc. But overall my mileage is only 6,000 a year. I am told the KIA Venga can be a little wind-blown on the motorway. Is this correct? The Mazda 2 seems solid, and heavier, but not as high up which is what I like about the Venga. Any comment to assist or any other car suggestions would be welcome to solve this situation?   

MO, via email

I've never experienced being blown about in a Venga or ix20, nor have I received any complaints about this, but a Mazda 2 or a Mazda 3 is definitely a finer handling car to drive.

Jaguar S Type 1999 F34 

Light relief 

I have a 2001 Jaguar S-Type. A warning light has come on reading "DSC System Fault". How should I proceed? Would it pass the MoT with this warning showing?

ML, via email

Might be a problem with an ABS reluctor ring or ABS wheel sensor. Might be an internal fault in the ABS/ESP module. The car will not pass its MoT if this system does not function properly. If it's the ABS/ESP module there is a possibility it can be rebuilt by http://www.ecutesting.com

BMW X5 2014 White Side Road

Xcessive Xpense? 

I bought my BMW X5 3.0 diesel new in March 2014 to treat myself on my retirement, and I needed something gutsy as we had a 4-berth caravan to tow. The mileage is now 48k and it’s been fully serviced and I get good mpg too. The caravan has now gone, so no more towing. It’s in immaculate condition and I’ve no desire to change it unless I have to and I wouldn’t be able to afford such a luxury car again. As it’s now 5 years old, are there any major, expensive service/maintenance items that will needed in the next few years that may cause me to consider replacing it? Should I consider replacing it sooner and if so with what? There’s only my wife and me and apart from me being slightly claustrophobic, I don’t need such a big car. How long would it be sensible to keep it?

DB, via email

This is what we have on the X15 X5: /carbycar/bmw/x5-f15-2014/ Quite a good record of 'goods' and bads: /carbycar/bmw/x5-f15-2014/good/ The main thing is the EGR Cooler recall, which has probably been done on your car. Happily, though 2014, it meets EU6 for NOx so you don't face penalties for entering an increasing number of city centres from next year.

Speed Camera France 2 (1)

Flashing the cash

Like many others I managed to get flashed whilst on holiday in France, my first speeding offence in 60 years. I await the inevitable fine, but do I have to declare it to my insurance company? There seems to be a bit of confusion over this point. I think you have probably answered this question in the past but I cannot find the reference.

KF, via email

No. Just pay up. This is all because the French 'Departments' are starved of central government funding so have to get money anyway they can. Richard Madeley got done 40 Euros for 51kmh in a 50 zone. A Freedom of Information request revealed that between February and July 2019, 250,000 demands for driver details were received by the DVLA from the French: /news/legal-motoring-advice/2019-08/french-police-pursuing-thousands-of-uk-motorists-over-driving-offences/

Volvo XC40 T3 2018 Side WPG (1)


I purchased a new Volvo V40 T3 manual from my nearest Volvo dealer and it has been serviced by them according to the servicing schedule. This Spring, I booked the third-year service well in advance to make sure that everything was done before the warranty expired. Two weeks before the service appointment I took the car into the dealership saying that I was not happy about the clutch. I could not be specific but it did not "feel right" to me. The car was road-tested and I was assured that there was nothing to worry about. The car was serviced as previously arranged and given its first MoT. Some 20 days later, when the car was just two weeks out of warranty, the clutch failed during the first day of our five-week holiday in France. The car was taken by Volvo Assistance to a Volvo dealer of their choosing where it was repaired, replacing the clutch slave cylinder, not the clutch itself. I went to collect it two and a half weeks later and I was told that that the problem should have been identified by the British dealership either when I first brought my concerns to their attention or at the time of servicing. I was advised that I should write a "Stern and Firm" letter. On our return home I wrote to the dealership enclosing a copy of the invoice for the repair and suggested that they contacted Volvo to see if there was any way a contribution could be made towards the cost of the repairs. Volvo UK wanted nothing to do with this as the repair was carried out abroad. They and the dealer both ignore my contention that had the problem been spotted before I set out abroad, repair out of warranty would not have been necessary. If they say it was not the lack of attention during servicing or during the road testing then I would contend that the part must have been substandard before the car was assembled. The third and possibly unkind thought is that the dealer thought he would make more money repairing out of warranty than he would repairing for Volvo under warranty. I have had Volvos as my main car since 1973 and never had a breakdown before. I would be grateful for your thoughts on this matter.

KD, Broughton in Furness

We have to be careful here. I think the clutch slave cylinder for a 2016 Volvo V40 T3 is concentric. That is, it is fitted inside the bell-housing around the main driveshaft between the engine and the gearbox. In that location it might only have been possible to identify a leak if the fluid had seeped out of the bell-housing. Normally, any such leak would have put fluid onto the clutch plates and they would have needed replacing as well, resulting in a bill of something like £1,500 - £2,000. Had the leak been in the part of the clutch slave cylinder outside the bell-housing or had the whole clutch slave cylinder been outside the bell-housing (operating the clutch by means of an arm), then a leak from it would have been readily identifiable and you would have a case against the dealer for failing to identify the leak during the service and pre-warranty expiration inspection. You might still have a case for the clutch slave cylinder having been "not of satisfactory quality". You could send a letter expressing your disquiet to the dealer principal of the supplying dealership. Send it by Post Office Special Delivery, keep a copy, and staple the certificate of posting to the copy so it becomes a ‘matter of record’ should you ever need it in the future. 

Click back to Honest John Motoring Agonies 21-9-2019 Part 1 


   on 20 September 2019

Eco worrier.
There is only 1p/l difference between diesel and petrol here in our corner of sunny Scotland.

Engineer Andy    on 20 September 2019

RE: Tyre worning

I'm not sure exactly where DA gets their tyres from, but they are being royally ripped off. I wouldn't be surprised if it was via their car's main dealer, as most acorss all makes of car put a huge mark-up on tyres (or they don't pass on any bulk buy/contract reductions from going through a local wholesaler), rather like restaurants do the same for drinks.

I just looked up a similar (better) tyre from the same brand on Blackcircles (fitted price), the EcoContact 5, and they cost only £117 each. Even the PremiumContacts cost less at £132.

Even the Michellin Cross Climates (the Conti equivalents weren't offered - they appear to still be available to a lesser extent at tyre dealers than the CC+s and Goodyears) were 'only' £135, which will mean the OP gets much better abilities in winter weather without losing much performance at other times of the year.

Most decent brand summer tyres wre available for between £100 and £120 there, and I suspect looking on other quality tyre fitters/dealers website will find much the same result.

Moral of the story - don't buy tyres through your servicing dealer unless they can match the price of the dedicated fitter/wholesaler chains. Some main dealers (like mine) will fit them for about or sometimes less than the fitters and have no problem you bringing along tyres sourced elsewhere for less.

I had 4 CC+s fitted in this manner for £245 total (£40 fitting) - if I had sourced them via my dealer, it would've cost me £350. And that was for the very popular 195/65 R15 size (H rated) of tyre. If the OP just fitted like-for-like summer tyres, they could save £100 - £180.

Miniman777    on 20 September 2019

I'd also question the poor milage. On my company Nissan Juke, which has Eco Contact 5s, I got 28,000 from the fronts, 36,000 from the rears and I drive using Sport in a spirited mode - always. Second set of fronts also did around 28000, rears 32000, so very good really.

Similarly, the family car is an 2017 BMW X3 (G01) 3.0d, serviced last week at 18,000, original Pirelli tyres and dealer did the health check and each has 4mm plus remaining, so something serious amiss with the OP getting 18000 miles.

Maybe they need advice from a local indie garage/tyre dealer and not one of the 'chains' as I suspect a rip-off too.

The other factor is dont fall for buying budget tyres as many are Chinese and rubbish in the wet!

Engineer Andy    on 20 September 2019

Yep - Chinese makes of tyre aren't called 'ditchfinders' for nothing...

Captain-Cretin    on 21 September 2019

Actually, like in everything else, there are good and bad tyres.

I have been driving on Chinese made* tyres for the last 5-6 years, and they grip better than the Dunlops or Continentals I had, last about the same, and at the price of a Federal.

They grip SO well, I have only needed my auto socks once, on the worst icy snow day of the last few years, despite them being sold as a "Summer tyres".

Best of all, they were about £55 a corner, when the Dunlops had jumped from £75 to £150 a corner, in just over a year.

*In China for a Korean company

Engineer Andy    on 24 September 2019

Chinese-designed then. That being said, they will eventually get better.

jchinuk    on 22 September 2019

Their "local trusted garage" will not get a good price for tyres, a quick google gave prices around £106 to £122.

Palcouk    on 20 September 2019

Speeding/NIIPS peoples should take note of the BBC report that a driver contested apparently on a 'point of principle' it cast him £30k and he still had the penalty

Patrickbzh    on 20 September 2019

Re French speeding fines: there is a recorded speed and a retained speed, the difference between the two being what they refer to as a technical margin, to account for potential errors with the radar equipment. Below 100 kmh this is 5 kmh for a fixed radar; hence to be done for 51 kmh in a 50 zone, Mr Madeley would have been doing 56kmh, and his speedo would have probably been showing nearer 60.

   on 21 September 2019

I got fined 40€ too in France for 1KPH over the limit.

Another one to watch out for is on the AP7 from France into North east Spain. The police there have a traffic helicopter (soon to be 2 as they have just purchased another one) which hovers over the motorway going south between jct 10 and 11 and is invisible until you come up the brow of the hill and have it right in front of you. Obviously too late then as the photo has been taken.

gordonbennet    on 21 September 2019

Tyre worning. Like the person asking the question we have this size tyre on our Subaru Forester XT, not a cheap size by any means.

However a brief look at Camskill, a British based company selling tyres via the net, whom i have bought from many times, show some very fine reputable branded tyres can be bought from around £80 each, you can get cheaper but they will usually be budget makes, but by no means are the well priced Toyo a budget brand.

Camskill charge around £3 postage per tyre last time i bought, if you shop around you can get them fitted for £15 each or less, i pay £10 each at my local tyre bay for this service.

So good branded tyres, of your choice not what the bod behind the counter tries to sell you, for around £100 each fitted.

There are other sites too, i've dealt with Tyreleader Oponeo and some others which are usually free delivery if you check and compare prices, never had an issue yet.

Edited by gordonbennet on 21/09/2019 at 09:48

Peter Hobbs    on 21 September 2019

I had two Kingpin remoulds 195/65 15on the front of my Kangoo van, Summer tyres which managed 31000m before needing renewing. They provided good handling in wet and dry conditions, never lost pressure and cost £20 each Inc fitting.

Craig_    on 21 September 2019

Crying about needing tyres at 18,000 miles is a bit much. Isn't that about average use out of a set?

Marcus T.    on 23 September 2019

You can't compare tyre mileage unless they are the same tyre on the same type of vehicle, driven in the same manner on the same roads. Due to moving house and no longer commuting on dual carriageways to work, I now drive on very rural back roads. My tyre wear has easily increased by 50%.

Captain-Cretin    on 21 September 2019

Signal failure

My understanding of these new systems is that they are supposed to give you a warning of the impending speed change; as the HA are admitting only this set of signs were wrong, the warning set weren't lit, placing the legality of the limit in doubt.

Still, it comes down to fighting it in court - which has higher penalties if you lose, or muttering nasty words about the money grubbers as you hand the money over.

You could ask below for more help, or talk to a legal beagle.


Ian@TM    on 25 September 2019

Captain, there are no advanced warnings of an impending speed limit change, however, the speeds are supposed to drop in 10mph increments, ie if the is a 40mph limit posted, the gantry before should show 50mph and the one before that 60mph.

jm1    on 22 September 2019

RE Tyre worning:
Blackcircles are offering 15% off Michelin with code mich15. Two R17 crossclimate SUVs for my CRV cost £226 fully fitted.

jaraab67    on 22 September 2019

Re reporting the French conviction to insurers, I'm not sure HJ is correct. A conviction surely would be considered a "material fact" and as such must be disclosed to the insurer on renewal.

Also, I'm not sure these convictions of English drivers reflects a desire to make money---more likely that they are sick & tired of British drivers setting off from Calais at 150kph with that sense of entitlement known only to the British.

jchinuk    on 22 September 2019

Re : No contest, Without wishing to be callous, but as the writer had a 'speed awareness course' in the last three years, I suspect that they might have been given the benefit of the doubt if they had not been, in police terms, a persistent offender.

jchinuk    on 22 September 2019

Re Eco worrier. Unless the cars is a plug in hybrid, all the power for moving it comes from fossil fuels. It helps that some power recovered by regenerative braking, but ultimately all the power in the battery comes from the engine, which is petrol or diesel. That is (or was) O level physics.

Rob Whitmarsh    on 25 September 2019

On Alfa Giulias, my advice to anyone thinking of buying one, would be to try both the 200hp and 280hp engines before deciding which one, you'll probably decide for yourself that the performance difference is quite small. I've had many fast cars, and my 200hp Giulia is a lovely thing, and plenty fast enough for me. There's a possibility that Alfa understate their power outputs, an independent Dutch test found that a standard "200hp" car actually had about 230hp, and that's pretty much what it feels like to me, mine is significantly livelier than the 3.2 V6 Mercedes E Class that immediately preceded it. Sure, a 280hp Alfa Giulia is an even nicer car, better equipped and slightly faster, but I warn you that it's not as nice around town or on poor surfaces, low profile run-flats on larger rims are the reason for that. Also, a car with the 280hp engine is thousands more expensive than the 200hp one, they cost only very slightly less than £40,000, a single option would put one into the higher road tax bracket, which is something worth considering. My Giulia is one of the nicest cars I've owned, but do try both versions before you buy, I think you'll be surprised.

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