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Honest John: will my Range Rover's gearbox really last the life of the car without maintenance?

Range Rover (L322 series) - 2007
Automatic choice? L322-series Range Rovers can be troublesome yet this one's a gem - but is the transmission really 'sealed for life'?

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

Gear bucks

I bought a 2011 Range Rover Vogue 4.4 V8 diesel, the L322-series version, two years ago. Amazingly, it has been trouble-free, the only significant bills being for new tyres and servicing. Recently I have been told that the automatic gearbox is “sealed for life” and there should be no need to change the oil, but is this correct? PM

The L322-series Range Rover was produced from 2002 to 2012. Although yours is one of the later ones it’s still almost nine years old, so how long do you want the driveline to continue before its demise is hastened by old or burned transmission fluid? The fluid in “sealed for life” transmissions can always be changed by a member of the Federation of Automatic Transmission Engineers – www.fedauto.co.uk – preferably using a transfusion machine to ensure the correct temperatures and pressures.

Fear of the Cat

My Jaguar XF 3.0 diesel will be six years old in March but has done only 35,000 miles. I use it solely on long journeys. Jaguar says the timing belt should be replaced at 100,000 miles or 10 years, so should I be worried about doing the job soon? RM

I’d be worrying about that immediately. I have two reports of timing belt failures on this engine at 100,000 and 112,000 miles, but I make a general (very cautious) recommendation of five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first: change the timing belt, tensioner, water pump and auxiliary belt at the same time. You might want to leave it a bit longer, but I would not take it anywhere near 100,000 miles.

Reservoir dodge

The windscreen washer of our 2014 Nissan Micra Visio 1.2 has stopped working. Any ideas? AD

The reservoir might be gunked up with bacterial sludge that is blocking the filter to the pump. Try flushing it out with a hosepipe, then sterilise with Milton’s baby bottle steriliser, then refill with fresh, anti-bacterial washer fluid and make sure to replace it every three months. Alternatively, the pipes to the washer jets might be trapped and kinked in the bonnet hinge, preventing fluid from getting through. They may even be split or have become disconnected. Also check the electrical connections to the pump.

Young’s bitter?

My grandson recently passed his driving test, but is having a problem getting insurance. Do you know where he might find a sympathetic company that take on 18-year-olds? TW

The only feasible way is through black box telematics insurance that enables the policy provider to monitor his driving.

Berlingo wall

We are buying an electric wheelchair, a hoist and a car and are struggling. We do 8,000 miles a year, so petrol would be best. We like to keep it in a garage so are restricted to 4.6 metres in length. The best we have found is the Citroën Berlingo, but the petrol engine is only 1.2 litres and we would like more power. Any ideas? MB

The 130bhp 1.2 PureTech in the Berlingo is fine. Also consider a Ford Tourneo Connect conversion. Don't mess around with hoists; talk to brotherwood.com or alliedmobility.com about proper ramp systems.

Civic reception

A 2007-2010 Honda Civic is a spacious, dependable buy

My son’s 190,000-mile, 2001 VW Golf GTI is destined for recycling. He has £5,000 to buy a replacement with five doors and a petrol engine to use on a 20-mile round daily commute and few motorway miles. I suggested an older Ford Focus 1.6 but what do you think? NM

I’d go for a Honda Civic 1.8i VTEC produced between 2007 and 2010.

VW battle

I fancy the Volkswagen T-Roc with 1.5 TSI engine, 17-inch wheels and DSG auto. Is this a good choice? JD

It’s a nice-looking crossover, and I’m pleased to report that the hesitation problem from the 1.5 TSI engine has now been fixed with revised software. The seven-speed dry clutch DQ200 DSG gearbox had been troublesome, but VW is now fitting the much better DQ381. 

Three-pointed start

I have inherited my father’s 1996 Mercedes C200, which is in perfect condition. What’s  the best way to sell it? HR

Unfortunately, the W202 C-class and W210 E-cass were the first Mercedes built down to a price and do not have a good reputation. It’s probably best to ask one of the specialist clubs, such as mbclub.co.uk or mercedesclub.org.uk, to gauge interest

Patient’s patience

How can you best look after your car if your licence has been revoked temporarily? Credit: Realimage / Alamy

My driving licence has been revoked for six months because I passed out. I had just bought a new Mini. It is garaged, but is being sedentary for this period of time likely to cause problems? WCB

You need to buy a battery conditioning float charger by Ring, CTEK or Accumate (try Halfords or Amazon). Then hook up the car’s battery to the electricity supply in the garage. Follow the instructions. The car will then start when you need it to.

Super tsar

Further to your recommendation of super grade petrol, I have a 2010 Mazda6 1.8. It was using half a litre of oil every 1,000 miles and the engine was noisy. I started using the best Shell petrol and, over the last year, it has used no oil and the economy has gone from about 38mpg to more than 43mpg in mixed driving as well as being quieter. Taking the saving on oil and increased mpg, the extra expense is more than justified, to say nothing of a more refined driving experience. WM

That is extraordinary. The improvement in fuel economy is to be expected because 99RON superunleaded delivers more torque at low rpm, making the engine smoother at low revs and allowing earlier upshifts. I wonder if your car’s valve stems were suffering carbon build-up and that affected the valve stem oil seals, but the additives in Shell V-Power Nitro Plus cleaned them up.

Golden oldie

You have praised the Ford 2.0 EcoBoost engine (240bhp) a number of times. In a Jaguar XE, would you recommend it over the newer JLR Ingenium (250bhp)? I understand the JLR engine is cleaner and a bit more economical, but if you know the Ford unit to be more reliable, then that's more important for long-term ownership. Does JLR use a torque converter gearbox? FS

The Ford engine is extremely well proven, the Ingenium petrol less so. Both are mated to the excellent eight-speed ZF torque converter auto.

Professional Golfer

An old car is only fit for scrap if a timing belt fails and wrecks the engine Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

My 2001 VW Golf GTI has done 190,000 miles with no change of cambelt in the past 70,000. Is it worth renewing the water pump? If so, should the other two items be changed as well or is it not worth spending that sort of money on a car of this age and mileage? NM 

Definitely change everything: timing belt, tensioner, water pump and auxiliary belt, because if any of them fails the timing belt could still come off and cause valves to hit pistons, reducing the engine – effectively, the whole car – to scrap.

Bearing straits?

My 2013 Kia Sorento automatic has developed a rumble at the rear. It has been checked by the main dealer; the opinion of the engineer who accompanied me on the test run was worn wheel bearings, but the manager says it’s uneven wear on the inner tyre tread. I will have the the tracking checked at a tyre specialist, but might a wheel bearing check be conclusive? MW

The way to  check wheel bearings is to jack the wheel just half an inch off the ground (for safety) then try to pull the wheel in and out. Even the slightest movement means you need a new wheel bearing. Also, a disparity of more than 3mm between any of the tyres is likely to lead to wear in the 4WD system.

Hospital pass

I’m thinking of trading in my 125cc motorbike for something with four wheels that is more practical but also fun to drive. I’m 20 and a student nurse, so need value for money while still having a little performance. I have up to £3,500 to spend. Any advice? DL

Try to find a 2004/2005 Toyota Yaris Mk1 1.5 T Sport. The Yaris is best of the older small hatchbacks for staying together (chain-cam engines and not prone to a lot of rust, though the rear coil springs can fail). It was European Car of the Year in 2000.

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