If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]
Am I the only person to be thinking ‘What about my car during the next months’ while I will not be driving due to the restrictions that have been enforced? I want to make sure my two-year-old Volkswagen Polo remains in top condition for when restrictions are lifted. There will be millions of people in the same situation and without sound advice when we come back to use our cars there will be lots of flat batteries and tyres. Can you help? DT
At the moment it's "only" another three weeks of lockdown and cars should be fine for that period of time, although given the nature of the virus spread it's prudent to assume that restrictions may continue for longer. Although non-essential car use is discouraged, you can still drive to get food because, once inside, you are isolated from other people in accordance with guidelines.
However, that won't be sufficient to give your car the 20-mile run every two weeks that would benefit it most. But if restrictions are eased you should try to do that. It's not a good idea to leave your car idling to warm up, however, as that can do more harm than good. The sump oil can be diluted by fuel, while exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valves and exhaust filters may become clogged.
So if you're leaving your car standing for at least three weeks, overpressure the tyres by 15 PSI to prevent 'flat-spotting' (but remember to adjust the pressures to recommended once things are back to normal).
It is worth switching off fully the interior lighting to reduce the possibility of draining the battery. The ideal solution is a battery conditioning float charger to maintain the battery at optimal charge; you can order these online from Amazon and other suppliers. Obviously, for these to work you will need a mains electricity supply.
As you identified, batteries and tyres are most affected by a lengthy lay-off, but it is also a good idea to leave the handbrake off with the gearbox in first (or 'Park' in an automatic) to prevent the car rolling away.
You recently suggested a skid experience course for someone in Derbyshire. I would like to get a similar experience for a young driver in the family. Is there anywhere suitable near south-west London? IW
I recommend the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy at Mercedes-Benz World, Brooklands, Weybridge - although the centre is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. It is a wonderful place with skid pans, cornering track, wet-braking straight and an off-road course. Kids can learn to drive in a safe environment as soon as they can reach the pedals.
Gram theft auto
I received an email from Subaru saying that car prices could go up by as much as £5,000 this year as a result of “emissions premiums”. What does this mean? DP
A Europe-wide corporate average CO2 limit of 95g/km has been imposed on all manufacturers for cars sold during 2020. The fine per car for each gram in excess of 95g/km is €95 (currently £82). So if a manufacturer's corporate average CO2 is 150g/km, the fine will be €5,225 per car - and that will have to be passed on to buyers.
I have a rusty old car with private number plates that I am about to sell. It has just passed its MoT, but with 10 advisories. If I replace my private plates with age-related plates, will the terrible MoT history be transferred to the new number plate? RJ
That could be a problem, but it's easily solved by putting the car to which you transfer the cherished registration through a new MoT. There’s another quirk, too. If a car is put onto a cherished registration for say five years, then put back to a standard age-related plate, it will appear on the central MoT records as having had no MoT history for the years it was on the cherished number.
In the dark
I have a 2017 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer SRi automatic with standard lights, not the optional LEDs. They are the worst headlights I have used in nearly 60 years of motoring. What can I do to improve them? AR
Are you sure they're adjusted correctly? I don't encourage the fitting of different bulbs to existing systems because of the potential for dazzling oncoming drivers, failing an MoT and maybe even causing a wiring fire. Upgrading to Xenon, LED or Intellilux will cost a fortune because of the self-levelling systems required for such lights.
I drive a 2010 Honda Insight hybrid with 72,000 miles. It gets its annual recommended dealer services, including CVT gearbox fluid changes every 24 months. I gives 56-58mpg except on motorways when the engine works harder. The IMA battery is original. The CVT is very sluggish to engage when driven from cold for the first 200-300 yards and jerks when pulling away from steep uphill standing starts, however. How long can I expect it to last? MT
Honda CVTs are not normally a problem as long as the fluid is changed regularly. From the symptoms you describe, I think the electromagnetic CVT clutch is playing up. It's more likely to need a new clutch than replacement of the entire transmission.
Borough of barking
I want a car that will accommodate two medium-size dogs in the rear and wish to make it as easy as possible for them to get in or out. I have been looking at a pre-2014 Mini Clubman, which is close enough to the ground, with a view to keeping the back seats permanently flat. I have a budget of about £7,000. I haven’t really noticed anything more suitable, other than a small van. Any ideas? IC
Good idea. I like the Clubman. You should be able to get one up to 2012 and, after a shaky start, they are developing a following: Other low-floored possibilities are a van-based Citroën Berlingo or Peugeot Partner Tepee, but most of these are diesels.
The engine management warning light of my Alfa Romeo 159 2.2 Lusso is on constantly and the engine goes into limp mode, so I need a new car. Is the Peugeot 308 1.2 Puretech GT line any good? If so, is it roomy as I’m 6ft 2in tall? DD
I like the Peugeot 308 1.2 Puretech 130 manual because it's quick enough, handles well, has plenty of punch for hills and returned 49mpg overall on test. But it's best on 16-inch wheels with 205/60 R16 tyres. You will have no legroom problems, although anyone sitting behind you might.
A question of timing
I own a Skoda Roomster, purchased new in January 2014. During the warranty I had it serviced at the local main dealer and thereafter every year at a local garage. The car has now covered just under 40,000 miles and I am thinking of future maintenance costs. Does the 1,197cc petrol engine have a timing chain or belt? RJ
It probably has a timing chain. EA111 engines with timing chains were fitted up to 2012, but to be sure ask a mechanic to check.
Polo with holes
As I understand it, motor dealers must by law give a minimum three-month warranty on all second-hand cars sold. I just bought a nine-year-old VW Polo and the dealer is reluctant to tell me what his warranty covers. Is there an industry standard? RP
The dealer does not have to give any warranty at all. But case law means they remain liable for any serious defect that might have been present or developing for six months from date of sale. Obviously the extent of this liability depends on age of car, price paid, declared faults at time of sale and so on.
I've just replaced the Michelin Cross Climate tyres on my Skoda Octavia Scout. They had done more than 38,000 miles and still were 1mm above the tread wear marker. Unfortunately, one had pothole damage and a bulge, giving a wobbly ride. Notwithstanding the bulge, I'm sure they would have done 40,000 miles. Needless to say the new tyres are also Cross Climates – they were noticeably more expensive than last time, though. What do you think? PG
All-wheel-drive vehicles often give better tyre mileage than 2WDs, as long as the wheels are all properly aligned. My brother got 55,000 miles out of a set of tyres on a Mitsubishi L200 pick-up because of the careful way they are aligned at the end of the production line. At most car factories the alignment is fairly basic.
I would like to thank you for recommending Airbagman. While the firm does not cover my native Midlands, it made arrangements to meet me at a time and place of my convenience when I was visiting Hampshire. My BMW’s airbag warning light was diagnosed and fixed in minutes by a very knowledgeable and friendly chap named George. These guys really know what they are doing and charged me far less than a BMW dealer would have done. DT
Many thanks for the endorsement.
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