Honest John: how can I ensure my new Mercedes hasn't deteriorated after outdoor storage for a year?

Our consumer champion explains what to do if you buy a new car that's been standing idle for months, plus how to claim for damage to a hedge

baboons from Knowsley Safari Park giving Hyundai's i30 hatchback the ultimate wear and tear test
Monkey business: who knows what damage may have occurred to a car that's been stored for a long period in an outdoor compound? Credit: PA

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

Idle wise

I will be taking delivery of an unused Mercedes E220 2.0 AMG Line Edition on a personal hire contract. I am concerned that it has been standing in an open compound, so could there have been any deterioration while it has been idle? It will soon be one year old and I assume the onboard computer will call for an annual service (£500). Can I ask for it to be reprogrammed? BB

Presumably the basis of your hire contract is a knockdown price some £10,000-£15,000 lower than list? Yes there could have been some deterioration, particularly of the electrics and the batteries, so check that everything works. Other potential problems depend on how it was stored. We did not have a harsh winter, but if the tyres were not overpressured they could be flat-spotted. If the plastic protection had been removed prior to being left in the compound there could be atmospheric or bird dropping damage to the paint. There could be fuel system problems because the AdBlue urea solution that helps reduce nitrous oxide emissions can crystallise. In my view it needs to be serviced on the basis of its age, rather than its negligible mileage.

Hedge fund manager

Our property has an field running alongside an A-road for 200 yards. A car veered into our field, damaging 15 yards of mature mixed hedging. We discovered this the next morning, seeing the damage, the gap and various parts of a black Volvo strewn around, including a number plate. We have a police incident number, but have since discovered the driver was uninsured. The damage to our hedge will cost about £1,000 to fix. We have been advised we can involve a solicitor and sue the driver directly, but this seems unlikely to succeed. Is there another course of action? HM

There's not much you can do other than make a Moneyclaim against the driver of the car: gov.uk/make-money-claim. Keep hold of the number plate and other evidence. You have a "reasonable cause" to request the keeper details of the car from the DVLA: gov.uk/request-information-from-dvla. Take photos of the damage, the bits of car and the number plate. And submit a copy of the crime number given to you by the police. It isn't worth taking the matter to small claims, nor employing a solicitor at £300 per hour.

Centre park

The new Honda Jazz hybrid could be a more practical proposition than a small electric car

My wife uses a “walker” as an aid and struggles to lift it into the boot of our Ford Fiesta. We don’t do much mileage and were thus thinking of a small electric car. Is there such a thing with a very low boot sill? TB

The smallest electric cars at present are the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, but they cost at least £18,000 and are not particularly accommodating. It’s probably better to go for the new Honda Jazz self-charging hybrid, which has the most versatile interior of any small car and has lift-up back seats, allowing the walker to be stored easily in the centre. When I tried one I recorded an overall average of 57mpg, including 500 miles of motorway.

Car owner virus

How much? Why has car insurance gone up when claims have been lower during lockdown? Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Due to coronavirus restrictions, I have covered only 343 miles in six months. Presumably, with reduced traffic on the roads, insurance claims will have been much lower and I was expecting a renewal quotation similar to the previous year. Instead, the quotation received shows an increase of 22.5 per cent, which is surely extortionate. What do you think? PH

I agree. You will be able to find a much cheaper restricted mileage policy from someone, similar to those used for classic cars. For sensible suggestions, try [email protected]. One ray of sunshine came from Motability, which refunded its lessees £50 of their premiums for lack of use during the lockdown.

Cam all ye faithful

Oil's well that ends well?

My Fiat Panda TwinAir has developed starting problems and I was unable to get it sorted due to the lockdown. Eventually, the Fiat dealer diagnosed that the engine needed two litres of oil adding. The mechanic said this engine has no camshaft on the inlet side and that the valves are operated by solenoids that stop if there is no oil. There is no dashboard warning of this. I paid the £89 invoice, but should I claim it back under the warranty? CH

That's interesting, but why did you not check the oil? This is something you should do every week (even though hardly anyone does).And if not every week, you should do it reasonably regularly. Unless the car has an “electronic dipstick”, its instruments will not warn you of low oil. The warning light only comes on to warn you of low oil pressure, which might be due to a failed oil pump, lack of oil, failed bearing, failed piston rings or a blockage. When that comes on, you must switch off immediately and seek help. The TwinAir engine is extremely sensitive and only the correct Selenia oil should be used. The reason for this, as the mechanic explained, is the solenoid-operated inlet valves.

Hue and cry

Paint problems: the distinctive Toyota iQ

I bought my eight-year-old Toyota iQ five years ago, from a friend who rarely used it. For some reason the Pearl White paint on the roof has started to peel. I have never heard or seen of a car that has done this before. Do I have a case against Toyota? MO

After eight years Toyota has no case to answer, even though it is a common problem with the Pearl White paint on iQ models. Since the roof is a separate panel, you might consider having it repainted a different colour.

Boxster dogged

The second-generation (987-series) Porsche Boxster, produced from 2004 to 2012

I’ve owned my 2006 Porsche Boxster S 3.2 for 10 years. I am only the second keeper and it has covered 48,500 miles. It has a full Porsche service history (main dealer for first six years, then by an independent specialist). It is in exceptional condition, having been garaged throughout my ownership. How much is it worth? PT

Realistically, you’d get about £6,000-£7,500 for a really good one with no issues. I’d try using  www.collectingcars.com to sell it. 

Air necessities

My wife has a Mini convertible with 205/45 R17 run-flat tyres. To improve the ride we would like to convert to conventional rubber. What is the best make and type? DS

It’s best to sell the existing wheels and switch to 16-inch rims with 195/55 ZR16 tyres that will cushion sharp ruts much better. Then you have the option of 195/55 ZR16 run-flats, so you won't get stuck on a hard shoulder with a flat and can still limp to a place of safety. You can now get Pirelli Cinturato P7 all-season run-flat tyres. Or, for the most comfortable ride, fit Michelin Cross Climate or Continental AllSeason Contact all-weather tyres (not run-flats) that are more compliant than conventional summer tyres. But then you will be reliant on a repair kit (that in my experience doesn't work too well). 

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