Honest John's car advice – your motoring questions answered

CD compact discs
Music on the move: why do so few modern cars have a CD player? Credit: Claire Lim

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

Digital evolution

My Jaguar 2.2 X-type is now nine years old. I went to look at a newer Jaguar, which I liked apart from the absence of a CD player. I love my music while driving and, although there is a socket for an iPod, I find not having a CD player very unsatisfactory. Are all cars now being sold without CD players? PS

Mostly, yes, because the CD is old tech and has gone the way of compact cassettes. It’s not too difficult to load all of your favourites onto a smartphone, an iPod or even a USB stick and use that instead.

We are the robots

My much-loved 20-year-old Fiat Coupé is showing signs of age and will probably need to be replaced. I've read good reports about the Skoda Citigo and Toyota Aygo, but can't find much information on the performance of the automatic versions. I'd prefer to buy a used car and my annual mileage is about 4,000, mainly urban. I'd consider other makes. LM

Citigo and Aygo “automatics” are awful because they are not real automatics. They are robotised automated manuals, horrible to drive and not very reliable. The only small torque converter automatics are the Kia Picanto 1.25 four-speed (with a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty) and the Hyundai i10 1.25 (with a five-year unlimited warranty).

Torque of the town

I have a problem with the ball of my left foot and have to wear a medical insert in my shoe. Pressing the clutch pedal causes pain so I am thinking of buying an automatic. For many years I have driven Fords, but how do its automatics perform? DC

The reliability of Powershifts fitted to smaller Fords has been terrible, so much so that it is now switching back to torque converter autos. You will find six-speed torque converter autos already fitted to Mazdas, the Suzuki Swift and Baleno and most new Citroëns or Peugeots.

Electric barrier

Will petrol- and diesel-powered cars become more expensive as more and more electric cars come on to the market?  Credit: MARK BLINCH

In your estimate, how long will it be before the increasing number of electric cars reduces the sale of petrol to the point where the reduced quantity of petrol sold causes a noticeable rise in its cost? MD

I don't think petrol and diesel will go away completely and I don't think more than 30 per cent of cars will be electric by 2050, never mind 2040. To generate the electricity to make even 50 per cent of the UK car pool electric (that's 16,000,000 vehicles), we would need a completely upgraded electrical infrastructure and a nuclear power station in every MP's back yard...

It’s behind you...

When buying a new BMW 2-series Active Tourer, I was told the blind spot mirror warning was not available. Why is this? PH

It's a £160 option on the BMW X3, but high vehicles have more need because cars can creep below their blind spots.

Musical bucks

A friend with two teenage children needs a sound, reliable, petrol car. Budget £5,000. A Honda Jazz fits, but they get snapped up. PM

That’s because they are practical, fuel efficient and reliable. It’s worth persisting with a Jazz hunt, but avoid the 2008-2011 i-shift version.

Cash 4 questions

Solid investment: the BMW 4-Series Convertible has a folding steel roof

My wife has inherited some money. On her bucket list is a four-seater convertible with automatic transmission. What’s available for £30,000? MN

A BMW 4-series with an electric folding hard-top roof. 

Forester recommission

We have a 2016 Subaru Forester that came with a five-year warranty. Recommended oil changes are annual. We were considering changing the oil and filter ourselves instead of making a three-hour round trip to the dealer and paying £130 to have them do the work. Would we be infringing the terms of the warranty? AL

It’s not worth it if there is any chance of voiding the warranty. And for the UK £130 is cheap. The same job is £250 on an Audi and up to £300 on a BMW.

Missing Cat

I am trying to track a black Jaguar, and know the registration number. Can you help? TM

The official site is: www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla, though Data Protection means the information is limited. If the driver of this car caused you damage, you can use www.gov.uk/request-information-from-dvla.

Auf wiedersehen petrol?

A recent reply to SL implied that future emission regulations will make particulate filters necessary on petrol cars. What about the effect on drivers doing only short journeys? CH

We don't yet know, but we can safely anticipate that they will function best where the engine has an integrated exhaust manifold and the PPF can be close-coupled directly to get maximum heat.

Cat letter

Recently you wrote that the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel-engined Land Rover Discovery Sport had some design issues due to the particulate filter being mounted too far away from the engine. Would this also apply to the Jaguar F-Pace? DP

No, because in the F-Pace the engine is mounted longitudinally so the DPF can be close-coupled to the exhaust manifold and works more efficiently. Same goes for the XE and XF.

Orchestral manoeuvres

Logistical nightmare: what is the best used car in which to transport a harp? Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

My wife has a Skoda Yeti, which she likes, but now she requires a used car that will accommodate her harp. She would prefer a petrol engine and extra ground clearance is helpful to get up our farm track. What do you recommend? GP

A Honda HR-V. It is huge inside.

Clean break

I have a Volvo C30 1.6 TD that has run on supermarket fuel since new. It is nine years old and has done 45,000 trouble-free miles. Would it be a good idea to change over permanently to superdiesel at this stage of its life? I understand the benefits of the more expensive fuel, but have I left it too late to be of any use? RB

It’s never too late. Use a diesel injector cleaning additive with the first fill, then stick to the same brand of super. You may not notice an immediate improvement, but you will over the coming weeks.

Ring of steal

What type of security lock can I use on my Peugeot 108? AS

Get yourself a Disklok from Halfords. This is a big, beautifully made metal cover that envelops the entire steering wheel. They cost about £100. Highly inconvenient, especially to a thief.

Break pads

I have noticed over recent months that the number of vehicles with no front registration plates is growing. I thought it was a legal requirement to display the registration plate at both ends of a vehicle, so is there a reason for this? RW

It’s partly due to parking bumps and the fact that a lot of number plates are held on these days by double-sided sticky pads that eventually give way. Of course, if an owner removes the front plate then ANPR will not record them entering a car park. That could be a factor...

Opposite attracts

Is it worth purchasing a left-hand-drive car abroad for your holidays? Credit: wolfango.it

Would it be a good idea to purchase a left-hand-drive car here and take it to France, in view of the exchange rate? Also, are there many dealers in the UK? RB

No. A left-hand-drive car sold in the UK has to come from Europe so will not be any cheaper here than it is there. If you want to check, the best specialist is www.lhdplace.co.uk near Basingstoke. 

Leaking boot

My Honda Jazz has developed a boot leak and I found a large puddle in the spare wheel well. Any idea how it may have happened? ES

It was probably splashed in by the rear wheels via the low-level one-way cabin vent flaps that are situated between the lower sides of the load area and the rear bumper valance extensions. Rodents have been known to chew their way through these flaps to get at things in the car boot.

That’s the spirit...

Don't drink and drive, but it's ok to add vodka to your screenwash Credit: David Rose

I have read some tips about keeping your car looking its best using a number of everyday products. One is vodka in the screenwash – all it takes is three cups of vodka, four cups of water and two teaspoons of washing up liquid, shake well, then pour into the reservoir. This will easily remove all dirt collected on the windscreen, and ensure it doesn’t freeze if it gets colder. MM

I quite like that idea.

Art of glass

What is windscreen recalibration? PF

If the screen has a section with a light sensor, rain sensor and camera, and the car needs a new screen, those functions might need to be recalibrated.

Rough justice

What happens if your car is damaged and written off while it's parked in the street outside your house? Credit: Lauren Hurley/PA

My car has been written off by a third-party collision while parked outside my house. Am I correct in understanding that my insurance should reinstate me financially to where I was immediately before the collision? DR

The driver who crashed into your car is liable to restore you to the position you were in before they did the damage. Their insurer usually interprets this as giving you market value for your car before it was wrecked and county courts have upheld this as a "reasonable" settlement.

Obscured by clouds

With the decline of diesel and ultimately petrol cars, plus the introduction of hybrids and electric cars, are there any manufacturers that use solar roof panels to recharge batteries? TM

A solar roof panel is an option on the Toyota Prius PHEV. But in the UK the annual sunlight is only enough to power it for about 412 miles. It does better in Rome, where annual sunshine takes it 720 miles.

Firmly in favour

After 20 years of driving BMWs I decided to change and now have an Audi S5, which comes with normal tyres and a space-saver spare. I’m thinking of switching to run-flat tyres because I don’t intend changing wheels on the hard shoulder. What’s your view? GP

Eminently sensible. The car will already have a tyre pressure monitoring system, so no problem, but for the same tyre size the ride will be a bit harder.

Money for nothing?

My grandson has a Vauxhall Astra diesel van with a broken cambelt. Can we anticipate restoration or replacement? WW

If valves have hit pistons the engine is probably scrap. It might be a matter of sourcing an engine and having it rebuilt by a member of www.fer.co.uk, but this could cost more than the repaired van will be worth.

Failing, the pressure?

The oil light has come on in my Honda Civic 1.6 diesel. The level seems OK when checked. It was serviced by Honda only six weeks ago. Any ideas? RB

It might indicate a lack of oil pressure, in which case you’d better get it checked urgently and not drive the car. Get straight on to your Honda dealer. The oil pump might have failed.

Withering heights

To replace front brake pads on my 2013 Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCI I’ve been quoted almost £900. Seems steep to me. DR

Steep? That’s pretty much vertical. I suspect it needs new discs as well as pads, but £900 is still expensive.

Swift payment

I am about to start a job that will involve about 500 miles of motorway driving per week. I want a used petrol car, either a convertible or a fairly economical SUV, for about £15,000. What should I look at? AC

You could get a Fiat 500C TwinAir for £15,000 after a bit of bargaining. It does about 45mpg. You might get a used Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet for £15,000. Or a used Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 130. Both of these also do about 45mpg. For more fun and better economy go for a Suzuki Swift 1.0T Boosterjet mild hybrid, which can return 55mpg.

State of shock

If your car's suspension springs have broken, is it it necessary to replace the dampers at the same time?

I need to replace broken rear springs on my Vauxhall Astra estate (MoT fail).  Halfords "recommended" replacing the dampers as well, which seems excessive to me and unnecessarily expensive. The car has done 35,000 miles and does only about 3,000 miles a year. What do you reckon? RH

If the springs have broken then the dampers are probably in a state of shock, too, especially on an estate that carries loads. If you don't replace them now you will probably have to replace them within the next year, then pay for the dismantling and refitting all over again.

Balancing act

Could you clarify the damage caused by having a tread depth discrepancy of more than 3mm across the axle on a BMW 3-series xDrive? AH

A disparity in tread depth is detected by the system as slippage, so the electronics then try to compensate for it and work overtime, leading to wear in the system.

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