Spark plugs, scrap and service lights
have run a Volvo V40 for 13 years and, although it is still performing well, I feel like a change. However, my garage door is 83 inches wide and the few cars I have reviewed are too big. Have all manufacturers increased the width of their cars? What make might I consider?
Load of rubbish
would love a van for short journeys carrying grotty loads to and from the allotment, but my husband doesn’t want one on the drive. Our mechanic has also advised us against diesel because the car’s main journeys will be less than two miles, which is not great for any engine, least of all one with a diesel particulate filter. He has also advised us against anything French. Which used vehicles have van-like boots?
DV, Monks Risborough ATry
a Dacia Logan MCV station wagon, at just £6,995 for the cheapest version. Moving up, look at the Citroën Nemo Multispace or Peugeot Bipper Tepee (both French, obviously), then the Ford Tourneo Connect 1.0 EcoBoost Studio at £14,250.
cars are almost universally wider. The new Skoda Rapid and Skoda Rapid Spaceback are 67in wide, with mirrors folded, and so is the Seat Toledo (on which good discounts have been available). The National Association of Garage Door Manufacturers is campaigning to persuade developers to widen garage doors to 90 inches.
would be most expensive to run, a Honda Civic 2.2 i-CTDI diesel or 1.8i VTEC petrol, assuming 20,000 miles per annum? Fuel economy is important, but not if servicing and repair costs get in the way. I’m looking at 2006/07 models.
CS, via email AThe
2.2 i-CTDI is pretty good, as diesels go. It has a chain cam, and no diesel particulate filter to worry about. It will probably be about 5mpg more economical than the 1.8i VTEC, but it’s a hard call because the petrol car handles better and is nicer to drive. The 1.8i should also be about £1,500 cheaper than the diesel, which would swing it for me.
driving on a motorway after 20 minutes or so, the temperature gauge of my 2005 Ford Mondeo 2.0 petrol automatic moved into the red. If I coasted downhill, however, the needle moved away from the danger zone. The car seems to run OK and didn’t boil over. The AA tested the system and found no leak. I am now scared to drive any distance. Will a garage know what to check without just replacing all the coolant parts?
RK, Kings Langley AIt’s
most likely that the radiator fan is not working because the sensor/sender switch has failed. It might be that the fan motor has failed (easily tested), ditto the water pump or, less likely, the engine thermostat.
have a 1983 Saab 99. Not having used the car for a month, I was driving with lower oil pressure than usual (40psi) when the engine cut out on a gentle downhill slope. There is fuel in the carburettor and a spark at the plugs. I cleaned the carburettor, replaced the diaphragm and contact breakers. It turns over well, but refuses to fire. I don’t want to scrap it if I have overlooked something obvious. You mentioned an organisation that scraps cars and gives the money to charity. I would be grateful if you would pass on its name.
MS, via email AIf
one of the spark plugs is covered in oil, the piston rings or valve stem oil seals have failed. If it’s covered in petrol, it’s not sparking. The charity is giveacar.co.uk.
am thinking of buying a 50,000-mile BMW (registered in 2000, full service history) from a dealer. Apart from ascertaining the regularity of servicing and use, what questions should I ask and what else should I check?
NMJ, Shrewsbury AAt
13 years old you can expect a number of problems, through wear and tear and ageing of components. You need to be reassured at least that the oil and oil filter have been replaced every year. You need to know when the coolant, brake fluid and automatic transmission fluid were last changed. You need to inspect the car for rust, damaged door and window seals and so on. Check the tyre sidewalls and assume they will be due for replacement. If the car is cheap you should judge it on gut feeling about both car and seller. If it’s expensive, walk away. There’s no sense paying strong money for an old car because it has low mileage.
own a 2004/54 MercedesBenz E220 CDI Classic with 130,000 miles. My Mercedes specialist diagnosed a fault with the Sensotronic brake control pump. There is not a physical fault with the unit – it has a preset life of a certain number of brake applications and then, regardless of whether or not it is damaged, it will indicate a fault. The specialist referred me to a main Mercedes dealer, because he was aware that Mercedes had been replacing these pumps as a goodwill gesture. Mercedes has agreed to pay 50 per cent of the cost, but I find it appalling that cars should be designed in this way.
LG, via email AWhile
engines and gearboxes last longer, there are so many complex parts in a modern car that the effective economic lifespan is no longer than seven years. If a car lasts longer, it’s by luck rather than design. This is why the value of older cars has plummeted.
Hot under the cooler
2007 Volvo V70 diesel automatic has done 54,000 miles. When towing a caravan, I get a warning saying “transmission service required” after 30-40 miles. The dealer recommended that the transmission oil should be changed, although cannot guarantee that this will solve the problem. There is also a solenoid which might be sticking.
SL, via email AWhen
you tow with an automatic that does not have additional transmission cooling, the oil is prone to overheat. I suspect that is what has happened to yours. The solenoid will be in the servo valve box that controls the gear changes. A specialist can recondition these, but a dealer will usually prescribe a new valve box for about £2,500.
Falling with style
bought a BMW F25 X3 xDrive 2.0d SE automatic 21 months ago. The price, including extras and a spare set of alloy wheels with winter tyres, was £41,000. We recently asked our dealer to value the car. He quoted £20,000. This seems a low price for a quality car. We thought X3s held their value better than most.
TC, Elgin AThe
simple answer is to keep the car. At a recent auction a 2012/61 BMW F25 X3 3.0 xDrive SE auto (10,000 miles) sold for £31,800, which was £1,000 above the trade book price at the time. The trade value for a 2011/11 X3 2.0d SE auto with 31,000 miles is £24,750, without all the extra equipment, but it assumes that the car is not in any way damaged and has not transported smokers or dogs.
À la carte
news for visitors to France: cash pay booths on southern autoroutes have been replaced by card-only machines and the queues are horrendous! AThanks
for the warning, although traditionally – when a péage has both options – queues tend to be smaller at card machines than those at cash booths. The best solution is to get a Liber-t Telepass before you go: visit saneftolling. co.uk. You drive straight through and payment is taken from your account by direct debit.
TP, via email
received a penalty after stopping in a pub car park while having Sunday lunch. My boyfriend and I didn’t notice any signs and didn’t think for a second there would be an issue. We have eaten there before and haven’t had a problem. Where do I stand with regard to the £100 fine? AThe
first thing to do is check with the pub. The parking charge is probably for people parking there but not using the pub. If the landlord is uncooperative (unlikely), then you have to go through an appeals process and, if both stages fail, challenge the enforcement agency to take you to court. In the extremely unlikely event of that happening, get some photos of the notices in the car park to prove that they were not big enough to see. Make sure that you have a receipt to prove you were in the pub. More at honestjohn.co.uk/ faq/private-parking-penalties.
Black to the future
about to change our Volvo XC90. In the past, I’ve stayed away from metallic paints for reasons of durability. Am I out of date with this thinking and should I go for metallic black on my next car?
DW, via email AGenerally,
a metallic hue is more durable than a waterbased solid colour because the lacquer clear coat over the metallic paint is usually thicker.
Wide load: garages haven’t caught up with the ever-expanding width of vehicles