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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SEE THE CLASS

My Mercedes C-class estate was serviced and MoT-tested at a cost of £651.89 by a main dealer. I picked it up in the dark, drove home and parked on my driveway behind electric gates. The next morning I noticed the front offside and the rear nearside valve caps were missing. The service manager insisted they must have been stolen, but said he would post a set of dust caps to me (not yet received). We have two Mercedes, both purchased and serviced without fail every year at the same dealership. Is this a customer relations failure? Or am I making a mountain out of a molehill? DR

A

The latter. Replacemen­ts can’t cost more than a few pence. My dealer lost an aerial while valeting my car free of charge after a service. I sourced a replacemen­t via Amazon for £1.85.

QGREASE IS THE WORD

Q

During the last cold snap, my Mini Cooper Clubman’s doors became frozen shut, particular­ly along the tops of the frames. I never had this issue with any previous cars. How can I prevent this from happening again and, also, how do I free the doors if they do freeze? I had a look online for preventati­ve tips, but was worried in case the door seals could be damaged (some people suggest smearing Vaseline along the door edges). What would you advise? RO

A

The problem is easily solved by smearing the flexible seals with a silicone grease, particular­ly around the areas where the problem is most acute.

BASS URGES

Q

My son drives a trusty old diesel Toyota Yaris, chosen because it could accommodat­e his double bass. Because of the impending extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London, he now needs to change to a petrol car. He wants to take the opportunit­y to upgrade to an estate with more load space to accommodat­e his instrument­s, plus amplifiers and other equipment. What do you recommend? VW Passat, Skoda Superb or Octavia, Toyota Avensis or Volvo V40, perhaps? JP

A

I would consider a 2008 or later Toyota Avensis estate with the 1.8i or 2.0i Valvematic engine. Also worth a look are the Toyota Auris Touring Sport, a Kia Ceed/Hyundai i30 SW, the ugly but reliable Honda Civic 1.8i VTEC estate, a Mazda5 2.0 or maybe a Mazda6 2.0 estate. I wouldn’t go for the others on your list − my postbag proves that if you want reliabilit­y it’s best to go for Japanese- or Korean-built cars.

BRAKING BAD

I was driving our VW Tiguan in a 30mph area when a lady at a request stop put out her hand to the bus behind me. My VW duly slammed on its brakes and sounded an alarm. Fortunatel­y the bus was not close enough to ram my car. It was a huge shock as this sort of thing had never happened before. My first thoughts were that it is an incredibly dangerous system if it can apply the brakes without warning, outside driver control and with no regard to actual road conditions. I checked the owner’s manual to discover whether it’s possible to turn off this function; you can, but it always comes on again whenever the engine is started. Is there a way of switching it off permanentl­y, perhaps by removing a fuse? CP

QA

Unfortunat­ely, this type of autonomous emergency braking system that is supposed to make cars safer can lead to situations such as you describe that are anything but safe. If you permanentl­y switched it off you would be deemed to have interfered with the car’s safety system and any accident might be regarded as your fault. You could even find yourself uninsured because you switched it off. It’s crazy.

CROSS AIR & CROSSER

Q

I am frustrated with Fiat’s customer care department. It’s also impossible to get any sense from the Motor Ombudsman, which has still not responded to my letter of September 2020. Is clutch and flywheel failure of my Fiat Panda Cross TwinAir the norm after less than 22,000 miles? I think not. How can I get a sensible response? CY A

Your Panda Cross TwinAir is a March-August 2015 model, so it is well out of any factory warranty that probably wouldn’t have covered wearing parts like a clutch. You could attempt to invoke your consumer rights under case law on the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 2004. The TwinAir engine drives through a six-speed transmissi­on that has an exceptiona­lly low first gear. If you routinely start in second gear, as some do, that will have contribute­d to premature clutch wear.

VW BATTLE

Q

My four-year-old Volkswagen Caravelle has done 50,000 miles. The dealer says the crankshaft pulley needs changing due to corrosion and will cost £395. Should it be in such bad condition after such a short time? Could I have done anything to cause it? LP

A

VW provides only a three-year mechanical warranty. This is a breakdown you could not have induced because it is due to a faulty component. Your remedy is probably under The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and precedSTAR­TER’S ing Sale of Goods Acts and case law on them. Tell the dealer that if it is not repaired free of charge, you will start a case through Moneyclaim. If you have already paid the bill for repairs, request a refund and use Moneyclaim if this is not forthcomin­g.

INSANE BOLT

Q

Not long ago I had new tyres fitted. More recently, the wheels had to be removed for a brake service, at which point it was discovered that three of the four locking wheel nuts had seized (I suspect due to the nuts being overtighte­ned with an air gun when the tyres were changed). Removing the seized locking wheel nuts damaged one of the alloy wheels and caused extra expense. Readers should ensure tyre fitters use a torque wrench rather than an air gun and that the locking wheel nuts are not seized, so they can be removed in an emergency. What do you think? MH A

Fair point. It has been made before, but worth making again to avoid anyone being stranded due to mangled wheel bolts. The answer is to replace the locking bolts on each wheel with plain ones before you take the car for new tyres to be fitted. Incidental­ly, it’s not necessary to jack up the car to replace just one bolt per wheel. ORDERS

Q

I’m concerned about keeping the 12-volt systems battery of my Toyota Corolla hybrid charged during lockdown. Which trickle charger do you recommend? MM

A

To avoid any misunderst­andings and potential damage, I have to refer you to your Toyota dealer. However, there are two alternativ­es; one is a solar charger that would need to be connected to the 12v battery via a hardwired accessory port. The other is a rechargeab­le jump-start battery which you can charge indoors. During driving, the 12v battery is recharged by the hybrid battery via a converter. You can “force” charge it by switching on the lights and other electrical items that then require the petrol engine to charge the hybrid battery.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Q

I retired in 2011 and had a fanciful idea that I might change our family car for something sporty and fun. I was quickly disillusio­ned when my wife volunteere­d our new-found free time to ferry grandchild­ren to and from school. I bought an excellent 2008 Mazda5 TS2 but need to replace it after 120,000 miles. I would happily buy another but production ended in 2015. Any suggestion­s for up to £15,000? MT A

A reliable choice is a Kia Carens, available up to 2018, so the newest should still have more than four years of warranty left. Also consider a Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot Rifter or Citroën C4 Picasso/Space Tourer, all with the 1.2 Puretech 130 petrol engine.

Write to us

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

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