Honest John: classic VW camper van legislation 'ludicrous'

Honest John
·9 min read
period brochure pic of VW Type 2 camper van - Magic Car Pics/REX
period brochure pic of VW Type 2 camper van - Magic Car Pics/REX

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing honestadvice@telegraph.co.uk

Conversion kick

I have a 45-year-old Volkswagen Type 2 Camper registered as a motor caravan, so for speed limits and tolls it is treated as a car. I have now bought a 2019 Renault Trafic, which has had a high-quality £42,000 conversion to a full camper. I was told, on purchase, that the vehicle would be registered as a motor caravan. But the DVLA changed its rules in July 2019 and will no longer re-register such vehicles as motor caravans; only as “vans with side windows”, which means I must adhere to van speed limits of 70mph on motorways, 60mph on derestricted dual carriageways and 50mph on a derestricted single carriageways. Ludicrously, my 2019 camper with new technology, airbags, powerful brakes and so on is restricted to speeds 10mph lower than my antique VW. What do you think? SC

This explains the situation: https://tinyurl.com/y78kdy84. Purpose-built camper vans, such as the Volkswagen California, Mercedes Marco Polo and others endorsed and sold by the manufacturer of the base van, still escape the regulation. There could be a question if their weight exceeds 2,040kg. I would guess that the real reason for excluding new conversions is automatic number plate recognition (ANPR). That checks the size of the vehicle before checking the limit it is subject to by its registration. The more vans there are converted to campers, the more problems there will be for the ANPR system, probably requiring tedious manual intervention. (I went through the conversion process in 1967. I bought a Thames 15cwt minibus that had been partly converted to a camper. To rid it of its 40mph restriction, I had to fit various facilities it didn’t have, such as a washbasin, then get it reclassified by Customs & Excise, in Newcastle upon Tyne.)

Sweden sour source

A Volvo main dealer has confirmed that the engine warning light of my V70 diesel is associated with a known exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve problem, but will only cover replacement of the EGR cooler and has said that I will have to cover 50 per cent of the EGR valve and pipe: approximately £700. I have refused to pay, as it would appear that the complete regeneration system is inadequate. Where can I get a copy of Volvo’s statement to the DVSA about its cure for the EGR cooler issue on its cars? NM

In January a reader reported the engine management light of 2014 Volvo XC60 D4 VEA coming on in August 2019. The car is driven 9,000 miles a year, some short urban journeys, but at least 60 miles a week at motorway speeds. Because the light is one of the indicators of a risk of engine fire, the owner booked it in at his dealer. He was told if it wasn’t the recall issue he would be charged £100 for diagnostics. Later, he received a call telling him that the engine needed a major top-end rebuild involving replacing the cylinders, valves and injectors due to them being “sooted up”, but not to worry as Volvo would carry 100 per cent of the costs as “goodwill”. The work took a week. There is a thread on the Volvo Owners Club Forum (https://tinyurl.com/yasezkjg) dating back to 2015, with more than 2,300 posts covering the issue of carbon build-up in these engines. It seems that the EGR is reintroducing engine soot, which then builds up into carbon in the combustion chambers. I wonder what fuel the owners were using. At the launch of the D4 VEA engine, Anders Orfus, the Volvo engineer who designed it, was very specific that the finely calibrated Denso injection system is optimised for high cetane superunleaded. 

Rim with a view

I’m thinking about buying an electric car before long. Various reviews mention the copious load area, but never the lack of provision for a spare wheel. Is this the price we have to pay because the batteries take up so much space? FC

Pretty much, yes. But the relatively limited range makes a spare wheel or even a spacesaver less of a necessity. Do not buy an aftermarket spacesaver unless there is a means of securing it in the load area. A loose spare wheel could kill a passenger in the event of an accident.

Repeat prescription

We will soon take delivery of a new Volvo XC40 T3. Our journeys vary from two to 25 miles, mostly on urban roads. Can you repeat your advice regarding the advantages of higher octane petrol with regard to mpg and performance? PL

Use superunleaded, preferably Shell V-Power (and get the Shell Go+ smartphone app to help mitigate the cost). Higher octane gives more torque at low rpm, so the engine runs cleaner at low revs and allows you to upchange earlier, saving fuel. That is in addition to the detergent and lubricating additives that keep engines clean.

100 best cars story embed
100 best cars story embed

Grid position

Does anyone calculate the cost of disposing of the millions of dead batteries that will result from hybrid or electric cars? I believe this electric car revolution is all smoke and mirrors. Am I right? JI

All electric car manufacturers have programmes to recycle former traction batteries from electric cars that have lost 40 per cent of their capacity. These are used to store electricity generated by solar cells and wind generators, off-grid, for domestic purposes.

Plug-in a way

My Audi A3 is 12 years old and due for replacement. I’d buy another, but they are a bit pricey. I do about 10,000 miles a year, with lots of short urban journeys. What would be an appropriate replacement? CH

For 10,000 miles a year and lots of short runs, don’t even consider a new diesel. I’ve yet to have any experience of the new VW Golf Mk8 or its Seat Leon or Skoda Octavia alternatives. Kia Ceeds come with a seven-year warranty, Toyotas, Hyundais and Renaults with five. I’d think seriously about a Toyota Corolla 2.0 hybrid or maybe the VW Golf Mk8 GTE plug-in hybrid with the same combined power as the new Golf GTI.

Grease is the word

range rover
range rover

I have a three-year-old Range Rover Vogue. The factory-supplied towbar is held in place with a spring-retained bolt and, having pulled a heavy load 40 miles every week, has become increasingly noisy The square bar rattles inside the housing and can only get worse as accelerated wear occurs with the movement. Land Rover says it is quite safe and that there is nothing they can do. Any ideas? JA

If the Land Rover dealer can’t help, then maybe an agricultural machinery repair and service specialist can. It could be that packing it with liberal amounts of grease will cushion the rattle.

Money pit the elder?

My son bought a 2007 Honda Jazz with 54,000 miles and a full service history As well as changing the oil and filter every 10,000 miles or 12 months, is there anything else that he should do? TL

If this is a 2007 Mk1 Jazz, then it will be a 1.4i DSI with eight spark plugs, not four, and all probably need to be changed. The brake fluid should also be replaced. And a change of coolant will ensure that it is not only safe down to minus 15degC, but that the corrosion inhibitors are not degraded.

Mokka sin

I’m looking to replace my Hyundai i10, with which I find access increasingly difficult, for a medium-size, petrol-engined SUV. I have narrowed it down to a Hyundai Tucson or Kona, Kia Sportage, Peugeot 2008 or Vauxhall Mokka. Your choice? CT

The Tucson and Sportage are quite a bit bigger. A Kona or a Kia Stonic might make more sense. Alternatively, a Citroën C3 Aircross, new-model Peugeot 2008 (best in class), Volkswagen T-Cross, Seat Arona or Renault Captur. There have been some Vauxhall Crossland X bargains around. The Mokka has a harsh ride.

Cat a pillar

Jaguar X-type estate 2.2 diesel (2006)
Jaguar X-type estate 2.2 diesel (2006)

We have a 2008 Jaguar X-type SE 2.0 diesel manual estate. At 162,000 miles the gears are stiff and occasionally we cannot find a ratio at all. The clutch was replaced a couple of years ago. The gearbox oil was changed recently to see if it would help, but this has not cured the problem. Is there anything else we can do? If we move on to a newer car, what would you suggest for a family of four with a dog? TN

It might be the dual mass flywheel, or else simply be a worn-out transmission. A rebuild will be expensive, but you could try reengineeredtransmissions.co.uk. For 8,000 miles a year, do not replace it with another diesel. It’s worth considering a Peugeot 308 1.2 Puretech 130 estate, or a Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 130 with Grip Control. For a long warranty, look at a Kia Ceed SW.

Pair necessities

My son-in-law fitted Michelin Cross Climate tyres to his 2007 Ford Mondeo estate. After a kerb strike ruined a front tyre, his garage fitted a cheap unbranded replacement. I told him this is could lead to loss of control in an emergency. What do you think? MC

Tell him to change it for another Cross Climate. But that will be more critical in winter, when the mismatch could have him off the road in the first snow.

Split decision

I drive a Mercedes-Benz SLK 280 R171, which I mainly use in summer. Usually, we take our holidays in the south of France or Italy, although we have driven as far afield as Turkey and Helsinki. This summer we had planned to drive to Croatia for a couple of weeks. I have driven in the Balkans a few times, but never in a UK-registered car. We will be passing through Switzerland, so are familiar with the need for a motorway vignette, but given that by then we will be out of the EU (and I will have turned 70), is there anything else I need to know? KR

Firstly,  get a medical and an eye test a couple of months before you reach 70, so you can keep your C2 and D1 licence groups. Then you will need specific insurance cover. You must carry the original vehicle V5C. You’ll probably need a GB plate. In addition, a pair of high-viz vests inside the car and the correct downwards or right-dipping headlights (possibly adjustable in the car). Be prepared for dogs and other animals on the streets of Croatia.

Cars Jargon buster | Essential information for car buyers
Cars Jargon buster | Essential information for car buyers

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