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Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 09-11-2019 Part 1

Published 07 November 2019

This week’s crankshaftings covers starship mileage, hard tyres, grumbling gearboxes, clapped out clutches and in Part 2, we look into hauling horses, curing hiccoughs, sitting comfortably, taxable mistakes and much, much more.

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

Ford S Max 2010 F34 Undating Plate

Super charged 

Having read several answers you have given regarding which fuel to use. My 2010 Ford S-Max 2.0TDI  had always had standard Shell diesel. Two years ago I started putting only Shell V-Power in. On a decent journey i.e. 80 to 400 miles I get an improvement of between 5-6 mpg. Also that old Diesel engine smell I used to get after parking has gone. It’s just had a 293k mile service, uses no oil between services and still has the original clutch. The only major work has been a new water pump at around 260k. Great car, will keep it until something stupidly expensive happens.

CB, Altrincham

Fantastic. Many thanks for the endorsement. Be sure to get the Shell Go + App for your Smartphone so you can benefit from significant discounts.

BMW I 3 Side Doors Closed

Tyre circumstances

My BMW i3 with Range Extender needs new rear tyres. The originals are Bridgestone 175/60 R19. I want all-season tyres, as I’m told the regenerative braking can cause stability issues in the winter. A tyre that would improve the car’s harsh ride and reduce road noise would also be good. What would you suggest?

JT, via email

This is a very specific low rolling resistance tyre in an odd size and, as far as I can tell, you're stuck with Bridgestone Ecopia: See Blackcircles Ecopia Anything else will detrimentally affect the electric range as well as the fuel economy of the car when range extended.

Ford Focus I 1.6LX 03 Side 700 

Trouble with Ghias

We have a 2002 Ford Focus 2.0 Ghia automatic that we bought in 2005 when it had 27,000 miles on the clock. It has now travelled 93,000 miles and has the original exhaust and alternator. It has recently developed a grinding noise that gets louder with acceleration. It has been very reliable with few repairs needed beyond the annual service and remains so, still delivering good performance at the legal motorway speed. However I am concerned about the grinding noise. Do you have any idea where the noise may be coming from and whether something needs fixing?

AT, via email

The 2000-2004 Focus came with a 2.0L 8-valve SOHC engine or 2.0L Zetec 16-valve DOHC. Both have a timing belt that needs to be replaced at 5 years or 60,000 miles whichever cpmes first. The grinding is possibly the transmission. Possibly the diff. Possibly the waterpump, though I don't think that would have lasted long once the grinding started. If you think it could be the transmission or final drive, try a member of http://www.fedauto.co.uk /

LR Freelander II Haldex -clutch -service

Difference of a pinion

Is it possible to change the oil in the Haldex unit of a Land Rover Freelander 2?

DB, via email

It’s not merely possible, it's essential. On 4WD Freelander IIs, it is necessary to service the Haldex centre clutch, replacing service filter, cleaning fixed filter and refilling with clean oil every 3 years or 36k miles.  Bell Engineering in Shropshire will do it for £130 + VAT. More at http://www.freel2.com / More:  /carbycar/land-rover/freelander-2-2006/good/

The Honest Truth

To read our press it would appear that German-made cars with Diesel engines are acceptable, but British-made cars with Diesel engines are not. The press as usual make news of our problems and tells us how much JLR is suffering. What is the truth of all of this? Or are European makers suffering as well?

JS, Solihull

Check the good/bad sections for every model in http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar and you will see that German makes and models generate the highest number of complaints. VW Golfs feature strongly, yet Brits still convince themselves that they are buying German quality.

KIA Picanto 2017 Red F34 Lead Copy

Sweet seventeen

My soon to be 18 grand-daughter has just past her test and she is taking a year out before university. She lives in a rural area and needs a car to travel to her job, meaning a 10 miles a day round-trip 3/4 days a week. We would welcome your suggestions as to a suitable small petrol engined car, i.e. KIA, Honda, Renault, Citroen,  say 2 years old. Are there any notable engine/transmission issues? Would a RAC inspection be of use? What octane rating of fuel should she use? And, from a dealer, what price bracket would it be in? (This is my part.)

IM, via email

KIA Picanto 1.0 3-cylinder with balance of 7-year warranty. By far her best bet: /road-tests/kia/kia-picanto-2017-road-test/ And /carbycar/kia/picanto-2017/ Buying from a franchised dealer you are well protected. Use 97-99RON Superunleaded. Pay from about £7,000.

Skoda Yeti Parked Follonica R34 2

Sealing facts

I have a Skoda Yeti Outdoor SE 1.2 TSI DSG first registered  October 2015, which I bought in August 2017. You are frequently less than complimentary about the 7-speed DSG gearbox, so at 36,000 miles when it was approaching its four-year major service I spoke to the Skoda dealer from whom I bought the car and raised the question of the gearbox oil change. The Service Desk said they would check and came back and advised that my vehicle had a “sealed unit” and therefore did not require an oil change. I accepted this and had the service completed but your further comments on the subject have made me concerned that I may be approaching the point when problems may arise. Should I be concerned?

BC, Pershore

The DQ200, introduced in 2007, was originally designed to be sealed for life and was filled with long-lasting synthetic oil. By 2012 this synthetic oil was found to become conductive when very hot, knocking out the mechatronics that control the gearchanges. Existing DQ200s were recalled and refilled with mineral oil instead of synthetic. New DQ200s were filled with mineral oil from the start. The trouble is, mineral oil might last maybe 4 or 5 years, but will not last the 7-year design life of the transmission. There's not a lot of oil in there and it can be changed using the drain plug and a syringe. Your Skoda dealer is merely sticking by the book. The stupid book.

Ren Espace II Side 700

Rack and ruin

I'm at my wits end and my last port of call is you. Maybe I should have contacted you first. The steering rack of my 1991J Renault Espace is leaking copious amounts of fluid after replacing it.

LT, via email

The rack might be u/s. Or the problem may merely be worn out end seals on a 2nd hand replacement rack. So it's either a matter of finding a power steering specialist who can recondition the rack, or one of finding another 2nd hand spare steering rack. If you Google <Power steering rack for J reg Renault Espace> quite a few come up.

Peugeot 205 GTI 1.6 White F34 

Suspension of disbelief

Your recent mention of the Peugeot 205 reminded me of one I had, and prompts me to ask you something I have always wondered about since. Mine was a very modest 1990 1.8 diesel but, even so, had excellent ride and handling (its party piece was to pass over speed cushions at 30mph - quite legally - almost as though they weren't there).  Furthermore the boot was capacious and straight-sided with no intrusive suspension parts taking up room. In short, its suspension was superior to many of the cars I read about nowadays. On the basis that every suspension problem (harsh ride, wallowing, lack of feel, etc.) has been solved by some manufacturer or another in the past, why haven't all car-makers by now adopted (or stolen) each other’s best ideas, and so why doesn't every present-day car ride and handle at least as well as my little Peugeot did 30 years ago? Many thanks for your valued advice over the years.

SK, Oldham

The 205, 309, 405 and Berlingo vans used a compact torsion bar and trailing arm independent rear suspension system. I agree. It was compact and brilliant. I had a few of them. But it was largely displaced by twist beam and coil spring rear suspension in cheaper cars, and multi-link properly independent rear suspension in better cars.

Jeep Renegade 2WD Red Side

Latitude over Longitude

I bought a second-hand 2,800mile Jeep Renegade 1.4 Longitude in July 2017 from a Jeep dealer, and have had constant problems with excessive oil usage. I have needed to check the oil about 5 times between regular annual services. Top-ups have always been required. The selling dealer tells me this is quite normal; the servicing garage says the opposite. The manufacturer Warranty expires very soon, but I have no idea how to make use of it.  Can you please advise?

MA, Haslemere 

You need to send a letter expressing your disquiet to the dealer principal of the supplying dealership. Ask him to bring the matter up with Jeep UK. State that you hold him responsible and if the engine requires replacement you will sue him in Small Claims for the cost of it. Send your letter by Post Office Special Delivery, keep a copy, and staple the certificate of posting and the certificate of delivery to the copy so it becomes a ‘matter of record’ should you ever need it to show to the court you tried to be reasonable prior to going to law.

Skoda Octavia 2017 Silver Rimmed Dials 2

Sun dials 

Having owned a Skoda Octavia for the last nine years I recently upgraded to a new version. However the instrument cluster on the new car has been modified to react to the ambient light in a very odd way. In bright daylight, when extra light is not needed, the instrument cluster lighting appears to be at full brightness. But as the ambient light in the cabin recedes and extra light in the display would be useful, then paradoxically the display is dimmed until a point is reached where it is switched off completely and it is then not possible to read the display at all. Turning on the sidelights makes no difference. Is a vehicle road legal in the UK when it is adapted in such a way at some point to deliberately prevent the driver from knowing vital information such as the road speed? Or if, for example, when driving during the day along a road that has a tree canopy at various points that causes the instrument road speed display to become unreadable, will I be breaking the law?

RV, Berkhamsted

I criticised this in my road test of the facelifted Octavia in April 2017: /road-tests/skoda/skoda-octavia-2017-range-road-test/ I guess you did not read my road test before you bought the car. If you were ever to be prosecuted for exceeding a speed limit because you could not read your speedometer, you might have a defence. But, as I pointed out, you do have the option of switching to a digital speed readout that is visible. You just lose the driver focused turn by turn satnav instructions and have to rely on the central satnav screen.

VW Caddy Life T Side 700 (1)

Life to the Maxi

I bought a 33,500-mile 2013/63 VW Caddy Maxi Life in March. It is my first automatic and I was perturbed to read your thoughts on the gearbox some weeks later. The dealer when contacted admitted there's been a problem but stated it had been rectified in 2010/11.  My friend has a 2011 model. What is the problem and can precautions be taken.

DJ, via email

Which engine does it have? And thereby which DSG transmission? If it's 6-speed it will be the old DQ250 wet clutch DSG that is fairly reliable as long as it gets a change of gearbox oil and filter every 3 years or 38,000 miles. If it's a 7-speed DQ381 or DQ500 wet clutch DSG then they are also okay as long as they get a change of gearbox oil and filter every 3 years or 38,000 miles. If it's a 7-speed dry clutch DQ200 (which I think unlikely) then if you regularly carry heavy loads you could be in trouble,

Honda Jazz 2019 Side Yellow

Flexible friend

I need to replace my manual Jazz with an flexible use automatic car. My original choice was a Jazz Sport auto but two-year olds are very rare, so I then focused on a two-year old Yeti but, having just read your response re the 1.2 TSI with a DSG, should I think again. Maybe a 1.3 Jazz auto and run it on 97RON petrol? Most of my usage is local and annual mileage is 6,000 per year.

PL, via email

Avoid the Yeti 1.2TSI with DQ200 7-speed DSG. See if you can find a Jazz 1.5iVTEC Sport CVT-7, either 'new', pre-reg or used. Failing that, a Jazz 1.3iVTEC CVT-7 is slow, but reliable and economical.

Audi A5 Coupe Side Against Lake (1) 

How does that grab you? 

I have owned my 80,000-mile 2007 Audi A5 3.0TDI quattro from new, always serviced by Audi every 10k miles or 12 months. For the past 3 - 4 months, after braking hard and slowing down, I notice the brakes grabbing; the harder the braking, the worse the grabbing as the car slows down. Front discs and pads were changed less than 10k miles ago, so I don’t think that’s the problem. However, if I turn the ESP off, the grabbing is significantly less. There are no warning lights on the dash, apart from when I turn the ESP off and get the orange skid marks illuminated, but as soon as I turn the ESP on they go out. Does this sound like the ABS pump unit on the engine or something else to you?

JD, via email

I think it's most likely to be ABS wheel sensors or wheel hub reluctor rings. Possibly the pressure compensator between the front and rear brakes. But it could be the brake pressure valve inside the ABS/SP module. If it's that, it can be reconditioned by sending the module to http://www.ecutesting.com which costs about £400. A new module is about £2,000.

MB C Class 2014 Side

Lights out 

Last June I bought a new Mercedes-Benz. I paid cash, so there was no financial agreement and, because of this, I have been told that I can have my car serviced by whoever I wish. For many years I have owned a Mercedes, and, as I live a  considerable distance from the Mercedes dealer, also to avoid paying the exorbitant price charged by Mercedes for a service, I have had my car serviced by a local garage without any problems. Recently, when my first service was due, I was  quoted the usual high price by Mercedes so went to my local mechanic who carried it out at a much-reduced price, but he was unable to cancel the light on my dashboard saying that ‘Service A’ was due. I contacted the Mercedes dealer, who  said that unless I had the same first service repeated by them, the warning would remain. I have contacted Customer Service at Mercedes, but they have given me the same reply. I feel that I am being bullied by Mercedes. It is my car, and I feel that Mercedes should not have any right to leave these warnings, which are annoying and dangerous as they are distracting me when driving. I feel I was mis-sold the car. I would like Mercedes to remove these notices from the computer in my car. 

MC, via email

You were not mis-sold a car. It is an EC requirement that cars can be serviced by garages other than franchised dealers without affecting the warranty. But these services have to be carried out precisely to the manufacturer standards, using manufacturer approved fluids and parts and manufacturer approved service tools. This all has to be fully documented for the warranty to remain in place. Obviously, your local man does not have the required Mercedes Benz diagnostic equipment to properly carry out the services. You might be able to find an independent Mercedes Benz specialist who does. But you have possibly already voided your warranty. Very simply because MB does not accept that the services have been carried out to their standards they are not going to electronically endorse them by removing the service warnings.

BMW 2 Series Tourer Side 2

Ins and outs

I wonder if you can help us with a possible change of car. We own a BMW 116D, which is about three and a half years old. We bought it from Motorpoint (who I would thoroughly recommend) about three years ago. We love it, especially the look and feel of a BMW. But now we think we need a new car partly due to the alienation of diesel; and partly the difficulty of entering the car as my wife has ‘dodgy’ knees and we have three very aged parents which we need to get into and out of the car occasionally. Also, getting my three-year-old grandson into a rear child seat is not doing my back any good. We have thought about the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and the 218i petrol version. This would seem to give us easier entry and egress, would move us away from diesel and still enable us to retain our love of the touch and feel of BMW. We do about 12k miles a year including a mix of motorway and urban driving. We can buy a ’68 plate from Motorpoint for about £16k. There seem to be many M Sport available, but these are on 18-inch alloys which I know would compromise the ride. Do you think we are going for a reasonable option and are we missing anything?

MH, Lichfield

I think you are making perfect sense, but a 218i Active Tourer M-Sport on 18-inch alloy wheels is as ridiculous as an 80-year old man wearing Adidas trainers and won't do your back any favours.

Click to Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 09-11-2019 Part 2

Comments

3.0S    on 7 November 2019

HJ,

Re "Ins and Outs" from MH, Lichfield, I recall recently, Renault offering a no cost switch to smaller wheels on the Kadjar model. Usually on the drivers side door jamb of most cars, there is a sticker showing the range of wheel sizes homologated to each model, so surely it would be worthwhile for OEM's to offer different wheel sizes, either as NCO's, or at an in lieu of price, to cater for the growing numbers of buyers who don't want to lose their fillings at the first twig they drive over?. What are your thoughts?.

Ridgmont61    on 8 November 2019

I do not this that this approach is fully valid : "Send your letter by Post Office Special Delivery, keep a copy, and staple the certificate of posting and the certificate of delivery to the copy so it becomes a ‘matter of record’ should you ever need it to show to the court you tried to be reasonable prior to going to law."

It is Royal Mail Special Delivery not Post Office - but more importantly after the item is delivered check on the Royal Mail website and obtain a proof of delivery. You can then demonstrate that the letter arrived at the dealer not just that you have posted a letter, these packages can and do go astray.

GingerTom    on 8 November 2019

The answer is "Signed For" or Recorded Delivery as it used to be known. "Signed For" means the person the other end signs to say they have received it. Merely proving you have posted it is not sufficient.

glidermania    on 8 November 2019

I do not this that this approach is fully valid : "Send your letter by Post Office Special Delivery, keep a copy, and staple the certificate of posting and the certificate of delivery to the copy so it becomes a ‘matter of record’ should you ever need it to show to the court you tried to be reasonable prior to going to law." It is Royal Mail Special Delivery not Post Office - but more importantly after the item is delivered check on the Royal Mail website and obtain a proof of delivery. You can then demonstrate that the letter arrived at the dealer not just that you have posted a letter, these packages can and do go astray.

Agree. Take a screenshot of the confirmation on the RM website of the receipt confirmation. If you dont know how to do this search the internet. Then, either print this out or save the screenshot on your pc in a dedicated folder.

DrTeeth    on 9 November 2019

Do not trust "signed for" post. I *regularly* have signed for items pushed through my letter box and items that I have sent via this method have similarly been delivered.

Jamesetyefirst    7 days ago

Use Special Delivery , because Signed For , are sorted with the rest of the Mail ,whereas Special Delivery items are handled separately from the rest of the mail.

glidermania    on 8 November 2019

Lights out - Wow, someone pays cash for a brand new Mercedes then, baulks at paying their service costs and simultaneously voids their warranty at a stroke by having the service done at a 'local' garage.

DrTeeth    on 9 November 2019

When I bought a nearly new merc from a merc dealer, I found the Merc service charges to be cheaper then those of my previous Mondeo serviced at a Ford dealer.

MP98    on 9 November 2019

When I bought a nearly new merc from a merc dealer, I found the Merc service charges to be cheaper then those of my previous Mondeo serviced at a Ford dealer.

Ditto. 20 years ago I moved from a sequence of V6 Mondeos to a 325 Coupe. The price scared the hell out of me but I soon learned it was far cheaper to run than the Fords, never went wrong and when I sold it the monthly depreciation was lower too. I know HJ has a thing about German and gets lots of letters (i’d love to know the statistical comparison against volume sold though), but I’ve only strayed from BMW once since then and regretted it. BM and Merc is only expensive if you’re paying a finance tariff to buy it on a higher purchase price. If you can avoid that though it’s no contest.

Captain-Cretin    6 days ago

My families experiences with German cars went from Excellent with 70's and 80's Audis and VWs, to OK with late 90's BMWs and Dire with late 00's Mercs.

The 5 series my parent had used to shear off the wiper arms if you tried to use them on full speed. And not just once, the whole damned assemblies were replaced four-five times.

To be fair, that was the only real issue with an otherwise lovely car.

Then they bought a 2007 Mercedes E320.

This car has cost over £10,000 in repair bills, both Xeons failed, engine issues, electrical issues.

The satnav is a joke much of the time; try to go around the M25 and it tells them to get off and then rejoin at EVERY junction.

I bought a 2008 Mitsubishi Grandis, to date it has cost me £9.65 in repairs.

Palcouk    on 9 November 2019

"Lights out" - never ceases to amaze me that some one is prepared to pay a premium price, for likely 'snob value', then complains or refuses to pay the premium price service costs

Bondson    on 9 November 2019

Hahaha yeah what a wally....cut your nose to spite your face

sammy1    on 9 November 2019

Appears to be experienced Merc owner and hopefully doesn't need the warranty and will be quids in! I personally hate the condescending way most dealerships treat their customers with their "free" coffee and WIFI which you are paying an arm and a leg for with the price of their cars and the service charge. It is often like stepping into a different universe with the "front of the house" staff. It is in the workshop that matters and often that leaves a lot to be desired.

3.0S    7 days ago

Appears to be experienced Merc owner and hopefully doesn't need the warranty and will be quids in! I personally hate the condescending way most dealerships treat their customers with their "free" coffee and WIFI which you are paying an arm and a leg for with the price of their cars and the service charge. It is often like stepping into a different universe with the "front of the house" staff. It is in the workshop that matters and often that leaves a lot to be desired.

Nonsense. Any car buying adult that thinks anything is "free", needs a full time carer supporting their daily activities. If you don't wish to deal with paying dealer prices for a new car and the subsequent post sale running costs, then you deserve all the fallout, once they refuse warranty claims, due to the owner breaking the terms of said warranty.

Marcus T.    6 days ago

Yes, like people who buy £30K or £40K vehicles and then fit ditchfinder tyres to them a year or two later.

twroyston    on 9 November 2019

On Honda vehicles the service reminder light may be cancelled by the owner.

MP98    on 9 November 2019

Must do wonders for confidence on the resale market.

Marcus T.    6 days ago

My current, and previous Hondas don't have service reminder lights.

Edited by Marcus T. on 11/11/2019 at 10:52

Glaikit Wee Scunner {P}    on 9 November 2019

I have a Skoda Octavia MkIII. The dashboard lighting is adjustable once you get into the correct menu. Brightness and sensitivity to ambient light can be adjusted. I set mine up 3 years ago, and it copes with all lighting conditions, day and night. The Skoda forum might be a source of more detailed information.

Happy Blue!    7 days ago

The Mercedes dealer I use for servicing has reasonable prices but repairs are expensive. So I maintain my warranty and Mobilo life stuff with annual services and get any repairs done at an independent nearby with the Mercedes diagnostic equipment.

His price for a service was over £100 less than Mercedes but did not include items which made up some of the difference.

jm1    7 days ago

"Ins and Outs". As a doctor specialising in musculoskeletal problems I see a lot of 80 year old patients with foot, lower limb and back problems not correctable by surgery. I frequently recommend trainers, Adidas or otherwise, for their cushioning shock absorber and foot support and stability properties to relieve the painful symptoms of degenerative change.

Scot5    5 days ago

"Ins and Outs". An 80 year old wearing trainers is no more ridiculous than a younger person wearing a trilby.


Union Jack    4 days ago

Now! Now, Scot5! That's honestly a bit cheeky......??

Jack

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