Honest John: 'A lot of car salesmen don’t know what they are talking about'

Thames TV Archive...EDITORIAL USE ONLY / NO MERCHANDISING Manadatory Credit: Photo by FremantleMedia Ltd / Rex Features (826211cr) 'Minder' - George Cole and Dennis Waterman, opening titles. Thames TV Archive
They're not dodgy like Arthur Daley, but do modern car sales staff really know their stuff? And apologies for the quality of this picture - this is as good as it gets with stills from 1980s TV greats Credit: Fremantle Media Ltd / Rex Feature

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


I want to buy my wife a replacement car with a 1.3- to 1.6-litre petrol engine, but salesmen say I should go for a 1.0-litre unit that has been geared to give good horsepower. Is it really true that the power is a result of the gearing and not the engine capacity? GR

A lot of car salesmen don’t know what they are talking about. Most 1.0- and 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engines (most of them with only three cylinders) work better than 1.4- to 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated units because they give more torque at low rpm. The overall gearing of a small-capacity turbocharged engine should give between 25-30mph per 1,000rpm in top gear rather than the 20-25mph per 1,000rpm of a non-turbo 1.4-1.6, which might be what the salesman was struggling to tell you.

Bearing strait

My BMW 2-series is only two and a half years old but the nearside rear wheel bearing is making a noise to suggest that it is worn. The car has only done 18,000 miles. I am waiting for my BMW franchise to take it away to diagnose the problem. Although it is out of its two-year warranty, should I try to insist that it is renewed at no cost? SD

In the UK a BMW is covered by a three-year warranty. You can check for a failing wheel bearing by jacking the relevant wheel up half an inch and feeling for in and out movement of the wheel on the hub.

Harvest gold

As a farmer all my life, I have owned Land Rovers, Daihatsus and, more recently, pick-ups. Now semi-retired, I need a fairly cheap, rugged seven-seater 4WD to transport children and grandchildren and pull a cattle trailer. I will only do a few thousand miles a year. Do you consider a Toyota Colorado to be a reliable choice? CN

Toyota Colorados and Land Cruisers are rarely cheap because of their reputation. You could also consider a Mitsubishi Shogun or even a Shogun Sport. The Sport is effectively an L200 pick-up with an SUV body and they seem to last well. Alternatively, look at the SsangYong Rexton.

Relax, don’t do it

I am thinking about replacing my 11-year-old VW Golf diesel estate with a new or nearly new petrol hatchback. My initial thoughts are for either the Volvo V40 Momentum or another Golf. CV

The Volvo V40 with low-power 2.0-litre 120 engine is very relaxed. An equivalent Golf would be a 1.5 TSI 130. However, a Kia Ceed 1.4T GDI 140 comes with a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty and you have to question why the Volvo and the VW are covered only for three.

Urban warriors

What are the best city or small automatic cars? Funds will be found as necessary, but I’m interested in used as well as new. What should I consider? GE

Try the Kia Picanto with a seven-year warranty or Hyundai i10 with a five-year warranty. Definitely not a VW Up, Seat Mii or Skoda Citigo, because their auto is a cheapskate automated manual.

New modular army

All cars used for towing benefit from a transmission oil cooler

You recently commented that the Volvo XC90 auto benefits from a larger transmission oil cooler when towing, so does my XC70 need the same? NT

Towing with a torque converter transmission heats up the fluid from the constant slippage, so yes, for towing you need a bigger transmission oil cooler. On a Volvo they are modular so the existing oil cooling can be expanded.

Day tipper

I bought a Citroën Berlingo Multispace 1.8i new in 2000 and use it for transporting my three large dogs and to take garden waste to the tip on a frequent basis. I am struggling to find a suitable replacement; the latest Berlingo does not have a foldable bench seat or a flat floor space in the rear. I hesitate to buy a windowless van as I would then not be allowed to go to the local tip with my garden waste without paying. Any suggestions for a suitable replacement, up to about £12,000? RT

The 2008-2018 Berlingo Multispace and Peugeot Partner Tepee have tumble-folding rear seats that leave a flat space in the back. These seats are also removable. The latest Berlingo, Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo Life have proper flat-folding rear seats and the seven-seater versions have a huge amount of space inside.

Heavy thirst

I have owned a 2006 Volvo XC70 from new and it has done 104,000 miles. I am now driving less, but for the last few years have noticed that the oil consumption is very high: half a litre every 400 miles. The car had no problem passing its MoT and there is no oil visible on the drive, where it normally stands. Any thoughts? RS

It’s likely to be failing valve stem oil seals. On some engines, replacing them can be done without removing the cylinder head but, even assuming that, you'll be looking at about £600 for the job.

Inside information

Putting the boot in: the Peugeot 2008 

We have a 2005 Ford Focus that has covered more than 100,000 miles. I recently noticed rust behind the offside wheel arch and some bubbling on the sill. I presume that it is not worth getting this done as the timing belt needs replacing as well. We have been looking at a petrol-engined manual Peugeot 2008, but the boot space seems a little smaller than the Focus and we need reasonable room for camping trips and our dog. We have £10,000 to spend, so what should we consider? SB

I'd have another look at the 2008. The load area of your Focus with the rear seats in place is 385 litres and 1,245 litres with them folded. The load area of the 2008 is 360 litres seats up or 1,172 litres in total – and it has a flat load area.

Switching Rolls

As part of a probate I have been asked to advise on the valuation and disposal of a 1968 F- reg Vanden Plas Princess 4-litre R. It is in very good rust-free condition. PI

That’s an unusual car with a Rolls-Royce engine, probably worth £5,000-£10,000. The best thing to do is enter it into a classic car auction. If you contact historics.co.uk there is a chance you can get it into their November 24 sale at Mercedes-Benz World, Weybridge. They will advise on what price you are likely to get. This is best for probate because then, as an executor, you can never be accused of showing any favour to a buyer.

Bar tender

Our Honda HR-V is almost three years old and will shortly need new tyres. It’s currently running on Michelin Primacy 3s. Would Primacy 4s be suitable replacements? BC

I switched an HR-V to Michelin Cross Climates, which transformed the car. They improved the ride quality, were quieter, gave better steering feel, lasted just as well and I still got almost 60mpg (it was a 1.6i DTEC). You do need to lower the pressures to about 2bar all round.

Yorkshire mores

My daughter is looking at mid-price SUVs as she is moving to a hilly area of Yorkshire and has the requirements of a young family. Budget is £15,000 and they are considering, a Nissan Qashqai, Land Rover Freelander or Volvo XC60/90. What are the relative merits of each? BD

Qashqais are very popular but not brilliantly reliable with the 1.2 engine or the CVT auto transmission. Most are 2WD, so no help in a hilly area. Freelander IIs are mostly 4WD, but have a few quirks. For £15,000 a Volvo XC60 will be getting old and an XC90 will be a couple of years older. It would be better to seek out a Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet 4x4 and fit it with all-weather tyres.

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

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