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Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 11-1-2020 Part 1

Published 08 January 2020

In a column that celebrates 25 years of Honest John, this week’s motoriety covers stop/start economy, ‘classic’ status, hybrid battery life and in Part 2, we take an IQ test, investigate cat-napping, block a drain check out Maseratis and get involved in considerably more.

As usual, emails to Honest John should be addressed to:  Please try to keep them as short as possible.

Audi A4 B7 Side Red 700 

Minimum charge

I have an Audi A4 B7 2.0TDI with 130,000 miles. The car has been diagnosed with an under-boost problem. As I understand it, the turbo is not holding a vacuum which means the engine can go into limp mode when the engine is under load, such as driving up a hill, and the revs are below 2,100-2,200 rpm. I am reluctant to put a new turbo in as that is c.70%  of what the car is worth and at that age and mileage it is bound to require more money in the near future. Is it possible to manipulate the software to stop it going into limp mode at low revs?

TS, Devon

I don't think so. But you may not necessarily need a new turbo. I would seek out a turbo specialist who might be able to refurb or repair it rather than simply replace it. The problem may be lack of oil to the turbo bearings because the oil feed and oil return pipes are choked with carbon. Or it may be the turbo actuator. Or something else. I found these people:  For more, Google <Car turbocharger specialists, Devon>

Peugeot 3008 LT Moorland Road 1

Where do I start?

I have run a 2017 Peugeot 3008 1.2 Allure Auto from new. I would appreciate your advice on an intermittent problem with it. The stop-start is normally instant but, just occasionally, for no obvious reason, it takes 2-3 seconds from taking my foot off the brake and pressing the accelerator before anything happens. That is a very long time when pulling out at a junction. In fact, it is so long that the hill assist has stopped assisting and the car will begin to roll if it is on a hill. It has been back to the dealer twice but they say they cannot find anything wrong with it and there are no diagnostic fault codes. I’m not sure how to proceed.

IR, Blackpool

"They all do that, sir." An annoying nuisance. Hardly saves any fuel at all. Just prevents the engine chuffing out oxides of Nitrogen at idle. Particularly infuriating when trying to manoeuvre into a tight parking spot when the thing keeps shutting the engine off with inches to go. Their only saving grace is that they will not automatically shut the engine off when the turbo is too hot when doing so might cause carbonising of the oil in the turbo bearing oil feed and oil return pipes. So if it doesn't shut off when you stop for fuel, for example on the motorway, leave it running for a minute or two before switching off.

Jaguar XJ6 4.0 X300 1997 Historics 


At what point will my 1998 Jaguar XJ8 become a ‘classic’ and start increasing in value. It's done 78,000 miles and is in very good condition, but not mint, and is quite a rare 4-litre one rather than 3.2. Many people think it was the pinnacle of the XJ design and I have to agree. I have seen a few of my age for sale at dealers with very low mileages and seemingly in mint condition for around £8,000, so perhaps they are already increasing in value. There seem to be far fewer for sale on Auto Trader; perhaps because many have died due to the plastic timing chain tensioners breaking. I had my upper tensioners replaced with the upgraded metal ones.

SCBS, via email

The specialists in auctioning these are and their past auction results will give you a very good idea of what your car is worth. Historics has sold some too in stunning condition. X300s exported to Japan seem to be returning.

Toy Auris 2009 Side 700


I have a 2010 Toyota Auris hybrid hatchback with 52,600 miles. I am very pleased with this car and want to keep it. But the hybrid drive is only guaranteed for 10 years. Toyota tell me that a new battery will be over £1,000. The car's value is only £3,000 - £4,000. Should I trade the car in now?

BP, via email

Replacement battery cost for the Auris hybrid is £1,140.54. If you are worried about this, yes. I sold one in 2017 for that sort of money. There is a used market for these batteries but, of course, if you have no means of testing one, you don't know how much life is left in it.

Honda HRV LT Front

Total wiper-out 

I purchased a new Honda HR-V in June 2018 and from new the windscreen wipers have slapped and scraped across the screen. I reported this to the dealer who looked at them and said they were OK. and normal. They are not normal as the noise is really bad and on a long drive in the rain it is really annoying. I have repeatedly complained to the dealer and was told once that the screen was too clean. They changed the blades, replacing them with those from a demonstrator, but to no avail. Honda suggested I talk to a different dealer, which I did and that dealer agreed with me. Honda says there is nothing they can do suggesting that it must be something which has affected the screen. This could only have happened during delivery, manufacturing or during the pre-delivery inspection.  The blades are not slapping on the bodywork at either extreme of the sweep. The noise is reminiscent of that when blades are very worn but of course these are not. I do not know what action I can take to cure the problem and hoped perhaps that you could offer some help.

KM, via email

I checked through the reports on my long-tern HR-V that I ran for 14,000 miles in 2016: and I found this: "I’m a bit disappointed with the auto wipers, so I followed a tip from a reader to carefully clean the section of screen over the camera lenses and sensors. Apparently, if ‘Rainex’ has been applied or any transportation coating remains on the screen, they won’t sense rain properly." That might be your problem. Your screen might be coated in Rainex. Another possibility is the angle of the blades against the screen. If too much of an angle you will get a flap-flap effect between the end of each sweep and the beginning of the next. They should be angles as close as possible to 90 degrees against the screen. Hope that helps.

Toyota Yaris 51 Reg Red Retouched

Top for the pops

Just curious: Which is the most popular old car that is still commonly seen on the road? I love our 2004 Picasso 2litre HDI: it ticks all the boxes: space, economy, easy access, driving position, visibility.

HS, Basingstoke

Lots of 2009-2005 Yaris and 2001-2008 Jazz still around and running strong, long after equivalent Fords and VWs have bitten the dust. But I went to find the Xsara Picasso in /carbycar a couple of days ago and found the entry had been moved to That pleased me because, like you, I have always been a big fan of the Xsara Picasso.


Terms of engagement 

I have a BMW that I acquired 2nd hand via a BMW PCP contract. The car is out of warranty and I would now like it serviced by a local independent BMW specialist garage. They are significantly cheaper than the local main dealership, probably because they are a garage and not a massive showroom with associated overheads. I have been told that the BMW PCP contract stipulates that I have to use a BMW dealer and apparently failure to do this could affect the guaranteed residual value. As far as I am aware, the contract states that I have to keep the car maintained in accordance with the service schedule. Can you comment, please?

RC, via email

This is different from EU 'block exemption' that allows the car to be serviced to BMW standards by anyone with the correct tools, fluids and parts without affecting the warranty. A full BMW service history maintains the car's used value, so the actual cost to you of servicing independently could work out far higher than the saving you make.

VW Passat Trendline 54 Reg 700

Smoker’s cough

Recently the EPC warning light of my 2001 VW Passat 1.8T. The car has 160,000 miles. On at least two occasions the engine has taken three attempts to start; on one of these a puff of black smoke was seen from the exhaust. When the EPC light has come on when driving, “ENGINE, WORKSHOP” is also displayed. Our garage says a diagnosis can only be made if the EPC light is on when testing. So far we have not been able to match the two events. The turbo was replaced about 50,000 miles ago  What are the likely causes and consequences?

DK, Isle of Man

The EPC warning light, also known as the Electronic Power Control warning light, indicates a problem with your VW's throttle system, such as with the throttle pedal potentiometer, throttle body, traction control, or cruise control. This car will have the 1.8 20v engine and pretty much any problem with the throttle body will flash up the warning. If the turbo responds when driving normally, then I doubt it's that. More likely the throttle body itself or the injectors or dirt or emulsified fuel in the tank/fuel system. A bottle of fuel system cleaner added to half a tank of fuel might clean it up. if it does, run the car on superunleaded from now on.


Tax on breathing? 

If cars all go electric the government will need to change taxation from fuel to finding another way of extracting the same amount of revenue from motorists. How will they do that? It would seem that governments are pretending this will not happen and motorists are generally too naive to realise that when motoring taxation hits electric cars that they will prove more expensive than petrol cars. 

JL, Portstewart

Well, yes. They will use GPS based systems to tax car movements.

Skoda Karoq F34 Red 

Bone idle

My Skoda Karoq 2.0 SEL 4x4 Is now back at Skoda for the last fortnight with the same problem of going into idle at unexpected moments. They have done 564 miles on a variety of roads which has provided no replication, despite having been told it has only happened during manoeuvring, which is usually coming out of somewhere like a shopping centre and joining a main road, or changing a parking place in a hotel car park. Once, on a motorway in stop start traffic when I needed to get in the left-hand lane to leave the motorway, went to idle, fortunately there was a hard shoulder. We are waiting for a decision that will resolve the situation, either from Skoda or from the dealership. I keep on being thanked for my patience. However, it is now getting a bit thin. Once stopped, it will restart and everything seems to be reset, until the next time. Looking at a few forums, I am not alone. One was even told by VW it was a characteristic of the vehicle. They must be joking. 

JM, via email

I still think this is connected to the brake light switch. If you accidentally touch the brake for too long, Peugeot/Citroens flash up a warning "do not brake and accelerate at the same time". VAG cars cut engine power whether the driver has his left foot on the brake or if the brake pedal switch spuriously tells the ECU that the brakes are on.

Peugeot 308S 10 Reg 700 (1)

Grandad’s ten grand 

I am in my mid-seventies and have owned a 2009 Peugeot 308 1.4 diesel which has now done over 90,000 miles and is starting to cost money for repairs. It has been a good solid workhorse up until now.  It has a cavernous boot and adequate legroom in the rear and is good for transporting family and the elderly. I would like to change to a similar car, but have only £10,000 to spend and feel that I would like it to last for the rest of my lifetime, given that I shall probably reduce my mileage.  I also want to change to a petrol car because of this. Please can you advise what make and model would be most suitable for my needs.

GB, Ashdon

You could consider a current shape Peugeot 308 SW (estate car) with 1.2 Puretech 130 engine and 6-speed manual transmission: / Here's one within budget: Peugeot 308 1.2 Puretech Arnold Clark  Or think a newer Dacia Logan MCV: / Or go more utilitarian with a Berlingo Multispace (though most of these are diesels and petrol models are harder to find): Or think Citroen C3 Picasso 1.2 Puretech:

Range Rover Velar F34 Red (1)

Velar land

I am contemplating buying a Range Rover Velar diesel, but have noticed that in one of your recent columns, you stated that JLR needs to sort their diesel engines out, or words to that effect. I would be grateful if you would give your opinion as to whether this affects the Velar and also what you think of this vehicle.

DM, via email

Some people love the styling of the Velar. Horses for courses. In the eye of the beholder. I've noticed that a lot of people are buying them on sensible wheels with reasonable profile tyres. Some problems with 2.0 litre Ingenium diesel engines and now also a few with the 3.0V6 diesel. Unless you need to tow or will be travelling very long distances, better to go for a petrol engine. More:


Leased of his troubles

I will probably lease my next BMW as it offers a neat package of ownership for me these days. You’ve said the monthly charge is basically paying for the depreciation of the vehicle over the length of the lease, which I understand. The monthly figures I’ve seen on quotes, including VAT, are within my budget. I believe, however, you can’t use the trade-in value of your existing vehicle as a deposit and that would be an issue for me as I want to avoid private sales via webuyanycar or private buyers as I’ve been stung in the past.
Can you help with any advice.

BG, via email

You can use you existing car as deposit for a PCP, but with either a PCP or a lease you are advised to take out independent GAP insurance to cover you in the event of a bad crash or a write off where your insurance payout does not meet the car's value at the time in the PCP or lease contract. Before you dismiss car buying services entirely, try

BMW 1-Series 2019 13 Side Studio (1)

Small torque

Which make/models, preferably 4-wheel drive, have the low-down torque equivalent of a Cooper S petrol auto. 

BB, Milford on Sea

The Cooper S puts down 280Nm at 1,350rpm, but is a rather scrabbly, torque-steering thing to drive. The BMW M2 puts down 465Nm (500Nm on overboost) at 1,400 - 5,560rpm. so knocks it for six. Downscale, a VW Golf TCR has 380Nm from 1,950 - 5,350rpm. I didn't look at the torque curve but it probably has more than the Cooper S at 1,350rpm and doesn't have trouble putting the torque down onto the tarmac. BMW's new M135i x-Drive has 450Nm and four-wheel drive so no trouble getting the torque down.

Neutradol Odour Destroyer Cropped

Absorbing subject

PW complained of the smell of stale cigarettes in his friend’s VW Polo. Many years ago I bought a motorhome from a chain smoker and tried all the propriety remedies to no avail. Someone’s granny told me to put a small bowl full of malt vinegar (fish & chips stuff) on the table and leave it for a week. I did and the smell of vinegar nearly knocked me over when I opened the door. After a few hours with everything open both the vinegar smell and the cigarettes had gone for ever. I have used this method many times since, even once after a minor house fire, and it has worked every time. Grannies are often wise,

JL, via email

Many thanks. We covered this before (years ago) so what I will now do now is compile a list of solutions. So far we have Neutradol Carpet Odour Destroyer Vac ‘n’ Clean, and your solution of a bowl of malt vinegar left in the vehicle for a week. We'll see what else comes in.

Audi A3 Sportback 2013 B Side


My granddaughter had her car stolen recently. Pre-planned by professionals, according to the police. They broke the lock on the back door and took the keys left near the front door. This at 04.00.
It was an Audi A3 Sportback and would have disappeared off the face of the earth later that day according to the police. I’d like to point out that, whilst her insurance would cover a courtesy car if it had broken down or crashed, it does not provide one if the car is stolen. So a month with no transport ensued. Subsequent checks suggest this is a common theme which most of us are not aware of. 

Name and address redacted

When will people ever learn not to leave their car keys in a convenient place near a door? This not only makes it easy to break in and steal the car, if the car has a proximity key it also make it a doddle for the thieves to capture and boost the signal from the key to the car without breaking and entering, so the car thinks the key is present and starts on the button. Keep your keys in your pocket or next to you on a bedside table; if downstairs, more then 10 feet from the outside wall of the house and, if proximity keys, inside a sealed metal container, a Faraday bag or in an unplugged microwave oven.

VW T-Cross Cara Delevigne 1

Height of fashion

I am a 79-year old woman who enjoys driving, although I no longer do long distances. I have a VW Polo automatic, which I love as its strong, nippy and very reliable. However, I should like to get a higher car, though no larger than a Polo. I have a bad shoulder, so would appreciate light steering. I am looking at a Skoda Kamiq (which also has the advantage of an electronic boot closure, which I would find very helpful) a VW T-Cross, a Ford EcoSport, etc. etc. I should want another automatic. All these cars have pluses and minuses and I should very much appreciate your advice. I love my Polo but would like it a foot higher up.

JR, via email

A VW T-Cross should prove ideal: Volkswagen T-Cross Road Test. Better looking, better trimmed and some nicer colours than the Arona and much better looking than the Kamiq. SEAT Arona Road Test. and Skoda Kamiq Road Test

KIA Rio 2015 Facelift F34

Great expectations

I have a 2015 KIA Rio 1.4GDI. Petrol consumption is abysmal, as is the pulling power when going uphill. Normal motoring, which is predominantly around town, produces figures in the region of 29-30mpg, which doesn't really tie in with the ECO badge on the back. I have just completed a fortnight in Yorkshire, which involved just over 400 miles of country driving and 560 motorway (at an average of between 60 - 65mph), which returned a figure of 42mpg for the whole trip. Is this a known problem with these cars or is there somewhere I should be looking for a miraculous cure?

PH, via email

You got exactly the same overall average mpg as I did:

Alfa Romeo 8C 1938 F34

Numbers game

Regarding the item on missing front number plates. Front number plates are considered by some to mess up the lines of their expensive cars. They are placed on the dashboard on the pretext that they fell off. It's quite popular with certain types of petrolhead. If we had any traffic police, the nonsense would be stopped.

WP, vie email

The Italian solution to front number plates spoiling the lines of a beautiful car was to make them much smaller for the front.

Click to Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 11-01-2020 Part 2


non-stop    on 8 January 2020

Re: Dis-courteous

I keep my car keys in the drawer right next to the back door. I used to keep them in the bedroom until a friend was woken in the middle of the night by an intruder looking for car keys in his bedside table.

A burglar will look around the house for valuables in their normal locations (jewellery in bedrooms etc), but usually while you're out. A car thief will usually come while you're at home and will search the house for the keys. The sooner they find them and leave, the better, from my point of view.

Fortunately I don't have proximity keys, but if I did I would keep them in a metal tin to prevent remote cloning. However, I'd still put them in the drawer next to the back door and clearly mark the tin with the words "car keys".

   on 8 January 2020

“Bone Idle”. Left foot braking causing a problem ? Surely HJ should be advising against this? Ho ho ??

Mino    on 15 January 2020

“Bone Idle”. Left foot braking causing a problem ? Surely HJ should be advising against this? Ho ho ??

p***ed my pants... :D

Ralf S.

hissingsid    on 9 January 2020

Re. Where do I start?

If the Peugeot 3008 has a means of deactivating the stop-start annoyance, use it.
This can be done on my Mazda CX-3 at the touch of a button, but it has to be done every time the car is used, as the default setting is for the wretched gimmick to operate.

I am old enough to remember "clunk click every trip" and now it is also "i-stop off every trip".

Wazza78    on 9 January 2020

100% agree. Why would anyone want to play "hide & seek" with a potentially dangerous lowlife that has broken into your home with the sole purpose of stealing your car?

He can have the car, its insured. The well being of my family is far more important. That's why i keep the keys on the bottom stair, right next to the door. Can't see them from outside but obvious as soon as you are in.

Mino    on 15 January 2020

Can't you tie the keys, Home Alone style, to the trigger of a shotgun or something...? Shame to let the tinkers have it away with your motor without pumping some lead at them too.. :D

JPW1946    on 9 January 2020

Toyota now warrants its Hybrid Batteries for 15 years, subject to an annual check.

MoDo613    on 10 January 2020

This is correct so renders the question irrelevant. But even without (say no service history), I cannot see a good reason to move on a car that 'may' require a new battery costing less than a new DPF or turbo on most diesels, especially when the car itself is amongst the most reliable around! I know a taxi firm with a Prius on its 2nd engine at over 300k miles - but original battery. This is what people just don't get about EV's lithium battery tech which is superior to NiMh used in Toyota hybrids, can usually exceed 300k miles in useful life.

DeadBat    on 10 January 2020

I don't think that BP knows what he/she wants. That battery won't suddenly die once the warranty time is up. And if the car is looked after and serviced regularly, then I would not be worried that at some point in future I would have to fork out just over a grand to get a new battery.

Plus like you say DPF or Turbo repair/replacement will cost more than a new battery.

Edited by DeadBat on 10/01/2020 at 10:59

MoDo613    on 10 January 2020

In fact, what component of ANY car is warrantied for 10 years let alone 15!? Absurd to worry about what is obviously considered to be the most reliable component fitted to a production vehicle (hence the warranty length).

Engineer Andy    on 10 January 2020

RE: Great expectations
If I recall correctly, the Venga/IX20 with the same engine also returns a woeful mpg, as does the larger 1.6 petrol mated to the TC auto box.

Sounds like that generation of engines weren't too good on the mpg or performance front - maybe they were built to last but not much else?

gordonbennet    on 10 January 2020

Agree with Modo and DeadBat.

If the Toyota hybrid battery died next week, for one thing the car doesn't stop dead because it still has the petrol engine, and as they say the cost of the hybrid battery is only what a new DPF or turbo or dual mass flywheel'd clutch might cost, for each fix not altogether.

You've taken the brunt of depreciation and have a good well maintained car, now enjoy the long term benefits.

gordonbennet    on 10 January 2020

Total wipeout.

There is nothing more annoying than squeaky juddering wipers, but often the answer is simple.

The rubber blades will lean one way all the time when they are 'parked', so every time you think of it after you've used them and are leaving the car lift them and lower them onto the screen leaning the other way, and during the summer if the car is safe from interference on your drive lift them upright away from the glass as often as possible.

Not only will the juddering stop, but your blades will last far longer too, i've managed to keep lorry blades (heavier gauge) going for hundreds of thousands of miles doing this, let alone my cars.

Obviously give the blades a good wipe down with a clean cloth now and again, lots of muck get stuck on those blades.

MoDo613    on 11 January 2020

This is a good tip about wipers, but many cars now do this automatically when you turn the wipers off. No idea if Honda's do though. I suspect due to the severity of the issue it might be the spring tensioner in the wiper arm has been set incorrectly in the factory. Fitting new wiper arms (not blades - the entire assembly) would prove this theory.

Mino    on 15 January 2020

It's more likely (being a new car) that the windscreen has some residual wax or transit protection coating on it.

Get some liquid paste window cleaner (Wicked Wheels do one.. or something like Windolene - i.e. the purple stuff your granny used to use, not the clear/coloured water "glass cleaner" sprays) or failing that, T-Cut... and give the windscreen a proper clean to remove all the residue on it.

Buff it all off (you can use a glass cleaner spray for this) and Robert is your mother's brother.

groaver    on 10 January 2020

Congratulations to HJ on your long lasting column. That's impressive!

Edited by groaver on 10/01/2020 at 18:44

nrm1969    on 11 January 2020

I don't think Honest John has got keeping keys by your bed right at all. Yes prevent proximity keys being boosted (why does anyone need them anyway) but having a thief intent on taking your car search the house while you're asleep?

gordonbennet    on 11 January 2020

Maybe HJ is allowed to defend himself and his family where he lives much of the time, unlike the UK where it appears you're supposed to supplicate to the criminal then ring the old bill when safe to do so for a crime number, and woe betide you if you do the other thing.

Mino    on 15 January 2020

I don't think Honest John has got keeping keys by your bed right at all. Yes prevent proximity keys being boosted (why does anyone need them anyway) but having a thief intent on taking your car search the house while you're asleep?

HJ has a big Rottweiler that he under-feeds.. he doesn't have "thieves searching his house at night" problems.. :D

MoDo613    on 11 January 2020

Re Tax on Breathing: "It would seem that governments are pretending this will not happen and motorists are generally too naive to realise that when motoring taxation hits electric cars that they will prove more expensive than petrol cars."

Whilst governments are giving nothing away as to future taxation plans (though the rapid expansion of monitored smart motorways are a good clue!) Its a bit presumptive to assume motorists are too naive to realise EV's will be more expensive. Assuming the writer refers to EV motorists - EV owners are perhaps aware that as EV's are now considered to have reached price parity (or very close depending on analyst) to manufacture, petrol cars will NEVER be cheaper to run. Even if purchase prices remain artificially high as they are now - running costs will remain but a fraction - mainly due to the the stupendously lower maintenance costs. Furthermore many will be able to produce their own electricity etc so obviously road pricing will be the only way to tax. Tax per mile will likely just be even higher for petrol. So lets not jump to conclusions about naive motorists...

gordonbennet    on 12 January 2020

Anyone's guess how they'll replace fuel duty taxes.

My guess is this is part of the reason for the push for voluntary, and no doubt for those of us not volunteering, will in due course be compulsory fitment of smart meters, they'll want to tax fuel of any sort as it goes into the vehicle so even those who don't get caught by road use monitoring still pay.

Road pricing i have no doubt will also come in as well, GPS linked maybe, and continually increasing VED for fossil fuel powered cars to force more to conform to the latest decision they've made for us.

Marcus T.    on 13 January 2020

The Government will get their revenue through Smart meters, thats why they are pushing them so hard. This will make charging your EV overnight expensive.

jchinuk    on 12 January 2020

There was a case locally (East London) where a Subaru Impreza owner was awoken by a gun pressed to his head, and a voice demanding the keys.

jchinuk    on 12 January 2020

Re :Tax on breathing?

Surely a 'drive as you go' taxation system would be fairer, those who do a few miles a week will get taxed less than someone who thinks commuting 100+ miles each is a good idea.

madf    on 13 January 2020

I have a smart meter which does not work as my new supplier cannot read it.

There are around 10 million other such meters in use. It's going to be decades till the shambles is sorted. By then I shall be dead or brain dead or in a wheelchair..

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