If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]
No fire without smoke
A friend bought a Volkswagen Polo whose previous owner smoked so it smells of stale cigarettes. Is there any way to get rid of the stink? PW
Professional valeters often use a “smoke bomb” that is let off inside the car with the doors shut, the fan on and the vents set to recirculate. That then penetrates the soft fabrics that retain the cigarette smell. Sometimes it is successful, sometimes only partially. You can buy something similar at Halfords. Fabric fresheners such as Febreze also work but may take many applications over quite a while to eliminate the odour.
Keep it ticking over
Are any new medium-sized cars still available without stop/start? I looked in vain to replace my 2008 Ford Focus auto hatchback so ended up spending £725 on MoT, service, discs/pads and front suspension rather than buy an abominable stop/start. Also, is the new Focus 1.5 petrol engine a four-cylinder turbo? DRG
The new Focus 1.5 petrol is a three-cylinder chain-cam turbo with 150 or 182bhp. The eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox works very well with it. Just about everything has start/stop these days, to meet emissions requirements, but you can always switch it off.
I put new tyres on the front of my Kia Sportage 4x4. The garage says I must also put new tyres on the rear wheels, despite the back tyres having more than 3mm of tread remaining. If I don’t, the car’s warranty will be void. Why is this? PS
Any disparity of more than 3mm between tyres is interpreted by the automatic four-wheel drive system as slippage, engaging it unnecessarily and causing wear.
Our seven-year-old VW Polo automatic has done 44,000 miles and was always serviced on schedule, but it became stuck between third and fourth gears and we are told it needs a new gearbox. Is this acceptable? What would you recommend as a replacement? ML
It’s a common problem with the DQ200 seven-speed dry clutch DSG. Get a Suzuki Swift 1.0T Boosterjet or a new Ford Fiesta, both with a six-speed torque converter auto, or a Peugeot/Citroën with the EAT6/EAT8 torque converter auto.
Do your recent comments on changing a Skoda 1.2 timing belt also apply to other petrol-engined models? I have a 2011 Yeti 1.4 (15,000 miles) and a 2011 Superb 1.8 (45,000 miles), both serviced by a Skoda dealer from new and timing belts have never been mentioned. I believe they have chain-driven cams, but can you confirm this? AR
Your 2011 1.4 TSI and 1.8 TSI engines will have chain cams. It’s vital to change the oil and filter at least every year or 10,000 miles, whichever comes first. If you hear any rattles, get the timing chain tensioner changed.
Nook hassle united
I have a 2015 Ford Mondeo saloon. Having got the vacuum out yesterday to clean the carpets, nooks and crannies, I noticed that the front nearside carpet and rear nearside carpet were quite wet. The car stands outside all the time and there has been a lot of rain in recent weeks. Could it be caused by blocked drain holes? AD
The bulkhead vent well could be flooding because the drains from it are partially (or wholly) blocked, leaving rainwater no way to drain except via the pollen filter into the car. Get a teapot spout brush and clear the drains either side of the vent well (under the grille at the base of the windscreen). Alternatively, the pollen filter seal may have failed, or its cover may be dislodged or cracked.
I have a 52,000-mile Ford C-Max that I am thinking of changing for a small SUV. I have about £24,000 to spend and a Skoda Karoq Edition has caught my eye. It has done 28,000 miles, has a petrol engine and is just under £23,000. How would you rate this model within the Karoq range and compared with other makes? MF
It's quite a good choice. Some had a bit of trouble with hesitation in first and second gear from the 1.5 TSI 150 engine. And it’s important to get one with optional removable rear seats. Whether this is useful to you or not, it's a strong selling feature when you come to move it on because it provides a van-like load deck. An alternative from January will be the smart new SsangYong Korando 1.5 turbo petrol with a seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty.
Life begins at WD40
I have a 17-year-old VW Polo, still in good condition, which I thought would serve me for as long as I could use a car. However, the front passenger door refuses to unlock. Any ideas? JR
Try using the extension nozzle of a can of WD40 to dribble it down between the external window rubber and the glass so it lands on the lock servo. That might free it up without causing any damage. (JR wrote back to report “normal operation restored”.)
I’m thinking of buying a friend’s 1994 MG RV8, which has done 76,000 miles, for £18,000. It is immaculate, with every invoice. I’ll only do 2,000 miles per year. I’m thinking of keeping it as an investment, so are these cars likely to rise in value? OL
Be careful. They aren't EU4 emissions-compliant, so will be restricted in terms of where they can be driven – and they aren't yet old enough to avoid annual VED. Values have been going down a bit lately, but at £18,000 it might be a safer place to put your money than it is to keep it in sterling....
The bill tolls...
I have been struck by the huge number of turbodiesels currently for sale. Isn't diesel now taboo for the environment and will be subject to city tolls? Used-car salesmen have said that post-2016 diesels are environmentally clean, however; I require a car with a bit more torque than my 2013 Honda Jazz 1.4 petrol, so could I save a lot of money buy going for a diesel? RB
The large number of used diesels is because people are getting rid of them and, of course, a dealer will buy anything at a price. But unless you will be doing a very significant mileage, I would not buy a diesel unless it was thousands of pounds cheaper than its petrol equivalent.
Refusing to budge
My Skoda Fabia SEL 1.0 TSI 110 DSG estate is four months and 2,500 miles old. It developed a problem with the auto gearbox, which failed to shift up correctly. It went in for repair and weeks later I’m still waiting for a replacement gearbox part. My confidence in Skoda has been dented but is there anything I can do? MC
This is the first report I have received of failure of the DQ200 seven-speed dry clutch gearbox with the 1.0 TSI motor in any Audi, Seat, Skoda or VW. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of reports of failure of this transmission with 1.2-, 1.4-, and 1.6-litre engines.
I tested a new Kia Proceed GT-Line 1.4 ISG on 17-inch wheels with Michelin 255/45 tyres and was concerned at the level of road noise. Would 16-inch wheels help? GHL
You can change to 16-inch wheels and 205/55 tyres, for which there is a wide choice including Michelin Cross Climate, Continental AllSeason contact, Goodyear Vector 4-Seasons and more.
- Read Honest John's latest column on telegraph.co.uk every Friday from 10am