The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

Problem Solved

The dealer you can trust is on hand to answer your questions on car troubles and consumer issues

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WEIGHTING GAME

Q

I want to buy a caravan with a maximum weight of 1,600kg. What would be the best tow car with an automatic gearbox for under £40,000? − DS

A

Within your budget, the all-wheeldrive Toyota RAV4 self-charging hybrid has a towing capacity of 1,650kg and enough weight to control a 1,600kg caravan. The new Kia Sorento hybrid can pull 1,650kg. The Land Rover Discovery Sport P200 mild hybrid (MHEV) is rated to tow 2,000kg. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that can pull that weight tend to be over your budget.

RAISED EXPECTATIO­NS

Q

I need to replace my seven-yearold Audi A3 1.4 petrol with an automatic car that’s higher off the ground. Would it be time to switch a hybrid? − NC

A

Consider a Suzuki Vitara 48v or the pricier Audi Q3 Sportback, both in mild hybrid (MHEV) form.

KEEP ON RUNNIN’

Q

My 2015 Mercedes C-class with a 2.0-litre petrol engine is showing a diagram of a battery and the words “Start Engine – see Owner’s Manual” both before and after ignition. Is this telling me the battery is low on power? − LD

A

Yes. You need to put some charge back into the battery by taking the car on a 20-30 mile run. In addition, that will make sure everything else is up to optimum temperatur­e. If that works, you will have saved yourself the cost of a dealer diagnosis. See if you can find a mention of this in the owner’s manual. If there is no physical manual, access the online version; there should be a link in the warranty document.

LIVE STREAMING

My Volkswagen Golf Mk7 suffers from vast amounts of condensati­on. Sometimes it is so bad that water is running down the inside of the screen. Previous Golfs have had a similar problem, but nothing as bad as this. Any ideas? − AG

Q

A

Yes. It has a flooded bulkhead vent well due to blocked drains either side, so water is coming in through the cabin pollen filter. This will be sodden, so all incoming air is heavy with moisture. Clear the drains with a teapot spout brush or a trombone brush and replace the wet cabin pollen filter with a new, dry one. Other possibilit­ies are a perforated heater matrix, failed plastic damp proof membranes inside the doors, or blocked drains in the bottoms of the doors.

DIRTY WEEKEND

Q

As an ex-motorhomer and caravanner who is thinking of moving back to this type of holiday travel, I am struggling to see what eco-friendly vehicle would be appropriat­e. Historical­ly this has been the domain of the diesel, but nobody wants those nowadays. What would be the best alternativ­e?

− AM

A

There’s no answer to that yet, as manufactur­ers haven’t come up with an eco-friendly, non-diesel motorhome. A hydrogen fuel cell EV would probably make the most sense, because the fuel cell generates the electricit­y for a small, relatively inexpensiv­e battery from which the electric traction motors are powered. Toyota and Hyundai are so far the leaders in this field.

ESSENTIAL OILS

Q

My Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 Multi Air Turbo 170 developed a persistent misfire and the stop/start system kept switching off. I was told this was a common problem, usually caused by sticking actuator valves. Before embarking on a (very) expensive replacemen­t, my mechanic advised that it could be a lubricatio­n problem and recommende­d a complete oil change using the exact product specified in the handbook. This is an expensive oil; ordinary garages would probably fill with an alternativ­e product. The remedy worked – proving that it really is worth reading the handbook in detail, as well as the worth of a good mechanic. What do you think? − PS

A

An excellent diagnosis from your mechanic, who advised the precise fix and not the cheapest. The correct Selenia oil is essential in Fiat/Alfa TwinAir and MultiAir engines. The variable valve timing’s actuation system uses a high pressure oil chamber between the cam and the intake valve, managed by a solenoid valve connected to an electronic control unit. If the wrong oil is used or the level gets too low, the engine will not run properly.

LIFE BEGINS AT 40?

Q

I’ve bought a May 2019 Mercedes Vito Tourer 114 Bluetec Pro L3 and have been charged £475 road tax. The V5C registrati­on document states that the vehicle is subject to the Additional Rate of VED until 30 May 2025 as the original list price exceeded £40,000. I don’t believe the list price was anywhere near that. Is there anything that will help my case against the DVLA? − CC

A

You need to find the original invoice price in order to prove your case. The five-year “luxury tax” on vehicles costing more than £40,000 is based not just on the original list price, but on the delivered price including any extras and dealer charges, but not the first year VED. You might be right regarding an error: I found a brochure that lists a Vito Tourer 114 CDI Pro L3 at £31,130 – it would take a lot of optional extras to exceed the £40,000 threshold.

CURRENT AFFAIRS

Q

After four years and 80,000 miles in my Mercedes C350e plug-in hybrid (PHEV), I am concerned how long the main drive battery might last as I understand that replacemen­ts are very expensive. What is the expected lifespan of a hybrid battery and how can one best extend that?

− MK

A

The C350e has a 6.2kWh lithiumion battery and the cost will be roughly £200 per kWh, so circa £1,240, plus the battery cooling system. Compare that with about £16,400 for a replacemen­t 82kWh battery pack for a Tesla. That said, I receive hardly any reports of total battery failure, either with EVs, PHEVs or self-charging hybrids. As with a smartphone, the best way to maintain the life of a rechargeab­le lithium-ion battery is regular use but restrained recharging. Do not recharge beyond 80 per cent of battery capacity unless you are embarking on a long journey and need the full reserves.

ACCESS ALL AREAS

Q

My husband has difficulty getting in my 2012 Honda Jazz. We need to replace it with an automatic, up to two years old, but not an electric car as we are unable to charge one. Any ideas? − PR

A

I’d have recommende­d any Fiat 500, because they offer excellent access and supportive seats, but the Dualogic “automatic” isn’t good. Look at the Citroën C3 Aircross 1.2 130 Puretech EAT8, or perhaps a VW T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 with dry-clutch DSG. These VW transmissi­ons have been unreliable in the past but, as far as I know, have yet to cause trouble in the T-Cross in 1.0-litre form.

BOX OF TRICKS

My 2006 BMW E90 325i automatic (with 162,500 miles) has a full service history with one notable exception: the automatic transmissi­on fluid (ATF) has never been changed. A BMW dealer said the gearbox is sealed for life so there’s no need for a change. I find this hard to believe. Should I insist on new fluid or leave as is?

− IB

A

Normally I recommend a change of ATF and filter in a torque converter auto every six years or so; the more ratios it has, the more frequently the oil needs changing. I’d have it done, but go to an independen­t BMW or automatic transmissi­on specialist. The fluid can’t simply be drained from a torque converter; it needs to be transfused at a precise temperatur­e and pressure or damage will result.

Q

Write to us

For consumer and used car advice, or car faults, email Honest John: honestadvi­ce@telegraph.co.uk

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