Spark plugs, scrap and ser­vice lights

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Pil­lar talk


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?

WN, Bris­tol

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.

Civic ameni­ties


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.

Heated is­sue


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.

Scrap met­tle


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

Age con­cern


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.

Brak­ing apart


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. You drive straight through and pay­ment is taken from your ac­count by di­rect debit.

TP, via email

Lun­cheon vul­tures


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 hon­ faq/pri­vate-park­ing-penal­ties.

RD, Bris­tol

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

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