Honest John: My car broke down on the way back from the dealer – is it a 'lemon' and can I get a refund?

Woman sniffing lemons
If your car breaks down soon after you buy it, you could be due a refund under the so-called 'lemon law' Credit: Stone RF /Dimitri Otis 

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

Flaw flouts law

My daughter purchased a 12-year-old BMW that developed a fault on the way home from the dealer. She requested a full refund because, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, this car should be of satisfactory quality and as described. The dealer replied, requesting a fix quote from a local garage. On receipt of this, the dealer said, "The faults are in-maintenance items which are the consumers' responsibility.” Can you advise how to get her refund? JR

Any fault that occurred when driving the car home from the sale is the responsibility of the supplier. The law is Clegg v Olle Andersson (trading as Nordic Marine) House of Lords, 2003, which is a case precedent on the 1994 Sale and Supply of Goods Act and makes a supplier liable for any significant fault that could have been present or developing on date of sale for six months from date of sale.

Waste not, want not

I want to buy what will probably be my final car. It will be either a nine-year-old Bentley Continental GT convertible or a slightly newer Range Rover Vogue LWB Autobiography. Budget £45,000 to £50,000. I am told that both are very unreliable, so which would you suggest? TM

I'd choose reliability over status and go for a Lexus RX450h. It's also more environmentally friendly.

Nitrous injection

At 60,000 miles, my 2015 Audi A4 has a failed exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve. The Audi garage charged me £1,500 to replace it. Would you expect a four-year-old car to have this problem at this mileage? AS

I'm presuming this is a 2015 A4 B9 2.0 TDI. If so it's the first report I have received of this. Reducing NOx emissions in diesel engines increases the soot they produce. Alhough Audi tries to counter this with an additional injection cycle, the soot can eventually collect in the EGR and block it. 

Swerving the issue

I have a four-year-old BMW 220i with only 16,000 miles on the clock, but the brakes snatch to an increasing degree. It has already done this for a long time but recently seems worse. BMW just says I should book it in, but I am only too aware that this might be unnecessarily expensive. What do you think? JL

You could take it to a drive-in tyre, battery and brakes centre rather than to an expensive BMW dealer. It might be brake dust causing the calipers to stick on their pins. It could be rusted or damaged brake discs (but you can quickly judge them by looking through the wheels). It’s vital to get it fixed before the next icy spell, whenever that might be, because uneven braking could cause an accident.

Getting a grip

I have a Kia Sportage 1.6 GDI that will shortly require new rubber and am considering all-weather tyres. Are the potential benefits worthwhile for the extra cost? MC 

Yes. They offer a more compliant ride, better steering feel and tend to be quieter. What you can/can't fit will depend on your existing wheel and tyre sizes.

Planet of the ape

Please advise a replacement for my 2010 Skoda Yeti 1.8 TSI 4x4. I need a car into which I can comfortably fit two dogs. It must be fun to drive, can occasionally be driven off the beaten track (four-wheel drive is a must) and I want petrol or petrol/electric and modest dimensions. Is there anything out there that will tick all the boxes? AJ

It will probably have to be a Suzuki Vitara 1.4T Boosterjet AllGrip. These are now available with a 48v ‘Mild Hybrid’ package that improves economy and reduces emissions.

Short answer

My 4ft 9in daughter has obtained her provisional licence. We would appreciate your suggestions for a car in which she can reach the pedals and out of which she can see without being squashed against the steering wheel! FF 

Toyota Yaris and Honda Jazz are relatively good. She'll probably be better off in an automatic so she does not have to depress a clutch pedal all the time.

Weight rose

I am 86 and drive a 2001 Toyota Avensis GS automatic with 92,000 miles on the clock. I love the car for its comfort and reliability. As I do fewer than 3,000 miles a year, I think it will see me through my driving days. As I grow weaker, however, I find that the power steering has become heavy . Could you recommend anyone who could significantly improve this? RB

These people can probably do it: steeringdevelopments.co.uk.

Sodden nuisance

Our VW Tiguan had sodden carpets and our garage identified the reason as blocked sunroof drains. We no longer get damp carpets, but the windows and sunroof glass still suffer terrible condensation. I have put a dehumidifier in the car overnight, which helps, but otherwise the condensation returns. KC

Make sure the vent is switched to fresh air, not recirculate. There might be residual damp inside the car. Try to find somewhere warm and secure to park it for a week or so with the windows open. Fractured sunroof frames seem to be a common problem in Tiguans, Touaregs and Škoda Yetis.

Twist and shout

The wheels on my BMW 2-series needed alignment in September: Patchy wear was evident on two tyres. BMW said this was caused by potholes. I took my car to an independent garage to have the work done. I was told that BMWs frequently had wheel alignment problems, nothing to do with potholes and a check should be conducted every three months, which seems a little excessive to me. AB

The problem with BMWs is usually the wheel and tyre size. If the car is on 16-inch wheels with 55- or 60-profile rubber, there should be no issues. If it's on 19-inch wheels with 35-profile tyres (or perhaps even more extreme), you can expect damage due to the lack of tyre between the wheel rims and the road.

Out of tunes

I purchased a 2018 Škoda Superb SEL Executive from a main dealer two months ago. The car has been great except that the radio has lost its pre-set stations on two occasions. The battery is fine as I use the car every day. Is this a known issue? RC

Yes, I’ve heard a few prior reports. The same thing used to happen in previous Superbs.

Chewed the obscure

I have been told by Mercedes that my 2012 A-class has the recognised fault of leaking valves, resulting in litres of water collecting in the boot and rear passenger footwell. I am happy to pay the £110 "diagnostic fee" but am not prepared to pay £1,534 for the repair. In my view this is a design fault, acknowledged by MB. SAH

This is quite a common problem, caused by failure of the cabin pressure equalisation flaps situated between the lower load area sides and the bumper valance. The damage is usually caused by rodents chewing through them, for which Mercedes cannot be held responsible. Some negotiation on the price for the fix is in order. A £10 ultrasonic rodent repeller (find one via Google) keeps the mice and rats away.

C fairer

I have to dispose of a 1998 Mercedes W202 C240 Elegance. It is on a SORN certificate but the MoT has expired. The car is in generally good condition with very low mileage (60,000). The few examples for sale on the internet seem to vary from £800 to £1,500. Is it worth getting it MoTd before trying to sell? CS

Yes, if it will pass an MoT then that will make it more valuable. I think your best selling option is www.motorway.co.uk.

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