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Q & A: Ask Smithy

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Graham 'Smithy' Smith is an engineer, motorsport photographer and journalist, with 20 years of previous automotive experience in various engineering development and testing capacities - including assignments at Pontiac and Opel. Every week, he shares his knowledge in Ask Smithy - a column of tips and solutions for your car troubles.

New questions Smithy has answered

Mark

Q

We have a 2013 Ford Territory Titanium diesel RWD, which we have been told has a 2300 kg towing capacity, but it has a 1600 kg tow bar fitted. A tow bar dealer has told us it can be fitted with a Hayman-Reese 2700 kg bar with electric brakes and leveling kit. We want to get a Kokoda caravan with a weight of 2350-2550 kg. Can you please advise me if this is correct?

18 April 2014

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Robert Gielb

Q

We bought a new Nissan Navara D22 in February. Two days later I noticed that the tub and body were 25 mm out of alignment. It has now been at the dealer's since the end of February. They have obtained a report from a panel beater that they had inspect the car stating the chassis has a twist of 13 mm and the tub also has manufacturing defects. The twisted chassis is also affecting the alignment of the body panels and operation of the doors. A second report was requested on an electronic Car-O-Liner chassis machine and that also shows a twisted chassis. Nissan refuses to acknowledge these reports stating that the car just needs spacers to be fitted under the tub. I have asked the dealer for a refund and they have offered me $4000 less than I paid to buy the car back. I have lost all faith in the dealer and Nissan.

18 April 2014

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Peter Smith

Q

I have had several problems with the Amarok Trendline 4WD six-speed manual I have owned since April 2011, they are problems I have never experienced with any new car I've owned before this one. The day we brought it home the rear towing lights collapsed as we were preparing to leave on holidays. The roofline has a wind noise that VW head office doesn't recognise. They can't fix it and I have given up. When the noise happens, I lower the windows and it goes away. The clutch pedal went to the floor and they put a new seal in the gearbox. The fan belt started squealing? and they fitted a new timing wheel and belt. Two wheels popped the complete centre out of the tyre valves. The air conditioner failed and they fitted a new air conditioner. New front brake rotors were needed at 60,000 km. I've never changed rotors before 90,000 km on any car I've owned, including VWs. But I have to say that I have taken it everywhere and it has never let me down. I hope that I won't have any further problems, as I'm now out of warranty.

18 April 2014

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Mil

Q

It looks like Manfred Hansen (Carsguide, February 7, 2013) was right to be concerned about the burst oil line on his Toyota Aurion. Toyota and Lexus owners in the US with the same engine have had the replacement rubber hoses fail. It's hot oil in rubber, I'm sure you can work out what happens!

18 April 2014

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Damien Brown

Q

Can a VL Calais with the injected Nissan 3.0-litre six-cylinder have a battery maintainer connected to the battery while the car has the positive and negative cables still connected. Some say it is better to leave the battery connected as computers may lose memory and the car may not idle correctly for a while and the engine will have to re-learn things as well as having the inconvenience of clock and radio memory being lost. Others say if the voltage goes a bit high from the charger it can damage alternator diodes or the alternator regulator. I have a solar panel that has 10-watt output and a built-in regulator. I have always removed cables on cars to be safe, but I do remember my 2001 Mitsubishi Verada computer did not like the battery being disconnected, as it had to learn how to idle again.

18 April 2014

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Kevin Maycock

Q

Can you tell me if the price of LPG is likely to keep increasing at a higher percentage rate than petrol? For example, 15 years ago LPG was less than 30 percent of the cost of petrol and now it has risen to over 70 percent. I have had several LPG vehicles over the last 15 years and I was encouraged to shift to LPG with incentives and rebates. With relatively few service stations with LPG and even fewer that offer the same shopper docket discounts as petrol it is difficult to run a dedicated LPG car. Add the higher servicing costs of an LPG car, together with the danger of being stranded if you ever run out of LPG, the more than 10 percent premium the consumer pays when purchasing an LPG car, it's hard to justify running an LPG car. I need to replace my dedicated gas Falcon with a new ute and an LPG or LPI car is still about 10 percent more and with fewer options. If the price of LPG keeps catching up to the price of petrol, I will feel even more wronged. I understand that the tax component of LPG has been increasing over the last few years and will continue to do so over the next few years.

18 April 2014

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Lesley Clarkson

Q

I have a 2002 supercharged V6 Monaro. Pity Holden chose to get cheap Chinese "leather" for the upholstery. Mine is split everywhere necessitating very expensive repairs. Everyone I know who owns or has owned one has the same problem. Further, very few mechanics have a clue how to service one of these cars. They know nothing about the supercharger and can't even seem to do a simple decompression test. I have had my car serviced regularly and it started to make a bad noise in the motor, which I thought was probably a cylinder. I took it to Kmart and the manager told me it required new engine mountings, which they did. I drove the car straight after their repairs and i t blew up late at night in the rain on the freeway, necessitating a complete engine recondition. This cost me all up $8500. The crook cylinder had fallen into the motor, thereby causing major crankshaft damage. Despite of all my attempts to get reparation, Kmart doesn't want to know about it. The state supervisor kept telling my solicitor he would get back to him, but never did.

18 April 2014

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Dave Gatt

Q

My Jeep Grand Cherokee is only eight weeks old and it has already been back on a number of occasions for warranty work: exhaust rubbing against sub frame, dash went blank with no instrumentation at all, will not start and telling me low oil pressure and alarm going off once I got in the car and started it. Quite disappointing really. Is there such a thing as a Lemon Law in Australia?

11 April 2014

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Phil Hollingsworth

Q

I have a 2010 Holden Cruze that I purchased one-year-old at 20,000 km. Since that time I have had a range of problems as follows: engine just "cuts out" for no reason, engine "misses" whilst cruising, engine stalls when reversing from a park, engine will not start at all. It has been into Holden a number of times, but the "problems" could not be found. After a recent spike in the range of problems I have finally convinced Holden on a number of levels of their responsibility in this matter and they are going to replace a wiring loom, in the hope that it fixes all problems. If it doesn't, I will be taking the matter as far as I have to to get them to buy the car back. It is a dog, and I believe a genuine lemon. A three-year-old car should be running like a dream. I am not a happy camper.

11 April 2014

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Matt

Q

When I had to replace my old Mazda 121 Metro, I chose the Holden Trax because it was meant to be fuel-efficient. The manual is claimed to get 7.0 L/100 km, but in reality mine is getting 8.77 L/100 km. That's pathetic. I had more power, speed, and economy in my Metro.

11 April 2014

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