Honest John: is Audi fire risk a good reason to cancel my lease?

Our consumer guru explains whether you should get a courtesy car while your vehicle is recalled. Plus: how accurate is an EV range readout?

Audi A4
Recall frustration: Should a dealer provide a replacement car while safety-related recall work is carried out?

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]

Underground line

I have a leased Audi A4 TFSI and received a letter stating a recall is due, because of a problem with the starter/alternator. It warned against leaving the car in a garage or an underground car park, as in a worst-case scenario it could catch fire. I’d want to garage my car at home and also park it in my employer’s underground parking. Audi finance said my dealer should be able to provide another car in the meantime. My dealership said it would look at my car, but it would be at least two weeks and I wouldn't be issued with a courtesy car. Am I within my rights to cancel the lease with Audi Finance? Al

This will be safety recall R/2020/138 which affects 34,982 cars. The fix is that the starter/alternator must be replaced. I agree with you. If you are deprived of the use of your lease car for the reasons you give, then you can demand that the supplier provides a replacement until your car is satisfactorily repaired or suspends the lease payments on it and compensates you for the insurance and VED for that period. Send a letter to the dealer principal and to Volkswagen Financial Services stating this. Send it by Royal Mail Special Delivery, keep a copy and the certificate of posting, use the reference code to check it was delivered. Keep all documentation if you need to prove you attempted to resolve the matter reasonably without going to law.

Metal guru

Our two-year-old, 15,000-mile Range Rover Sport Autobiography was due a service before lockdown, but the garage cancelled our booking. The car recently received that service and we were told it needed new front brake discs at a cost of nearly £600 because of rust, accrued during lockdown. Despite attempts to get JLR to accept responsibility for the failure of the brake disc metals, it refuses to replace the discs under warranty. Surely a £100,000 4x4 should be able to sit without its brakes rusting to a point when they need replacing? RL

This would happen to any bare metal or iron alloy, due to surface corrosion caused by road salt and condensation in the atmosphere. Depending on how badly the corrosion has eaten into the discs, it might be possible to have them skimmed at moderate expense instead. To find a local operator, Google “car brake disc skimming in situ”.

Bill gates

Parking penalties are never enjoyable, but you need to prove that the fine wasn't legally justifiable to have one retracted. 

I received a letter from District Enforcement to pay £100 for parking behind my back gate. The road is a dead-end leading to an underground garage. I had parked briefly to collect my son ahead of a hospital appointment. I sent the parking enforcers a copy of the hospital letter, but they insisted I should pay the £100 penalty. I then asked why there was no ticket or picture, so they sent a photo of my car parked outside my back gate. After six months I received a letter from solicitors to say I needed to pay £160 or be taken to court. It is frustrating that for convenience we are not allowed to park for a few minutes on the quiet road behind our back gates. Any advice? AB

Unfortunately, the photo shows a car parked over double yellow lines and also partly on the footway. Your child’s appointment was not enough of an emergency to justify this. If you don’t pay the penalty, it will almost certainly escalate further.

Short circuit

The Mini Electric has a range of 

While my Mini Cooper was being serviced, I test-drove a new Mini Electric. Its range on a full charge is advertised as 147 miles, but I realise this is dependent on how it is used and the weather. The demonstrator I tried showed 98 per cent charge and a range of 87 miles. The dealer explained that the computer tries to “learn” your driving style and adjust the range accordingly and the read-out reflected the fact that this car normally stood for some time unused, prior to being taken for a fast run and then await the next demo. I really want an electric car, but am increasingly put off by the all-important range. Is the dealer correct? CM

The maximum quoted range of a Mini-e - in ideal conditions and without using many of the electrical ancillaries - is 145 miles. But you cannot rely on getting that far on a single charge. In any case it is not advisable to recharge an EV battery to more than 80 per cent of its capacity on a regular basis, so that takes 145 down to 116 miles (probably more like 100 miles). A Peugeot e-208, with a maximum range of 217 miles, makes more sense. Go to https://kaleistyleguide.com/electric-cars for reviews of the latest EVs.

Haul bar one

Does an aftermarket tow bar void a manufacturer warranty?

I bought a Range Rover Evoque R-Dynamic D180 SE in March. I did not get a dealer-fitted towbar because it’s much more expensive than getting it done locally. Would the fitting of a non-JLR hitch void the warranty? Is a fixed hitch ball likely to affect the crumple zone in an accident? KP

Do not fit a fixed towbar. I’ve had a £2,000 repair bill after my parked car was hit by a car fitted with one of those. It could also seriously damage any car that crashed into it. It is illegal to fit a towbar that is not EC Type Approved for the vehicle and a non-approved towbar would void the warranty. The answer is to pay the price for a JLR retractable towbar.

Three-pointed stayer

Personalised registration plates can be retained and applied to any car without risk of losing the plate.

Some years ago my husband sold his elderly Mercedes S-Class, which he'd owned from new. The registration number reflected the name of our business, so he kept it on a retention certificate and the car was re-registered by the new owner. Our son recently bought back the car and wants to put the cherished registration back on it. How should we go about this? We would also wish to avoid the possibility of the number being snapped up by another buyer between ending the retention and it being re-registered in our son's name, as we would all like it to remain in the family. SM

This is the official .gov website that tells you exactly what to do: www.gov.uk/personalised-vehicle-registration-numbers. This is also helpful: www.theplatemarket.com/how-to-transfer-number-plate-from-retention-certificate.

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