Advice for car problems: Motoring experts get answers

Car problems can be infuriating.

Issues surrounding new car warranty claims, unreliable cars or new car buying advice pose tricky questions for Australian motorists.

Motoring expert Iain Curry gets answers for troubled drivers every week.
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I own a 1999 Toyota Vienta Grande, serviced by Toyota since new. I was told it needed a new windscreen washer pump, window motor and regulator and a new seat belt. I was told to go to a wreckers as Toyota doesn’t supply new parts for a vehicle of this vintage. Can this possibly be correct?

Alan Reynolds, email

Ah, the Vienta Grande V6 – the poor man’s Lexus LS300 or the rich man’s Toyota Camry? Either way, this Aussie-made sedan is a rare beast worth keeping alive. The service manager’s right, new spares aren’t required to be produced forever, merely guaranteed to be available “for a reasonable time after goods are sold” according to Australian consumer law. It’s ambiguous, but ten years appears typical for car parts. Positively, many Vienta components are interchangeable with the ubiquitous Camry. Call or email specialist Toyota spare parts outlets or wreckers and I reckon they’ll swiftly get you sorted.


Mazda emailed me announcing the new CX-60 PHEV was “coming soon!” I phoned to ask what “soon” meant and they said next year. The dealer said I could test drive it this time next year, which would probably mean delivery in 2024. Hardly “soon”. I’m now looking for alternative mid-size plug-in SUVs. Suggestions?

John Yared, email

The CX-60 PHEV is due to arrive in the first half of 2023. With 241kW/500Nm from its four-cylinder petrol and 100kW electric motor it’s the most powerful Mazda road car ever. I’d test the Ford Escape ST-Line PHEV ($54,440, 69km electric range); Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed PHEV ($65,990, 84km range) and Cupra Formentor VZe ($60,990, 50km range) – all priced below the expected Mazda’s $75-80,000 price tag. I’d favour the striking Cupra.


Re: lost car keys, here’s my solution. Smart keys still have a metal blade inside to open doors. I’ve had the metal blade copied, waterproof wrapped it and cable tied it hidden under the vehicle. It would take a thief hours to locate it. Losing a key is a pain and doing so hundreds or thousands of kilometres from home is a disaster.

Ross Kroger, email

A decent idea in principle, even more so if the metal blade can start the ignition, too. To not lose your key when out and about, a lockbox – popular with surfers – padlocks to a car door or somewhere under the chassis. For smart/proximity keys, good lockboxes block the signal to ensure the car won’t open or start unless the key is back in your hand.


Re: Kia Seltos early tyre wear, I own one and after 21,000km its originals have plenty of tread. I have them rotated every 10,000km and use a tyre shop with the latest alignment equipment. As well as camber and castor they do a thrust alignment which ensures all four wheels are in sync. The tyre tech told me nearly all new cars are out of alignment in some way.

Kevin Larkin, email

Thrust alignment? Sounds like something from Top Gun. It makes sense to use the latest digital alignment tech and in your case it appears to be working. Let us know if your Seltos makes it to 50,000km on its original rubber.


Re: Seltos tyre wear, I’m not sure why Allan Barnes is complaining. His factory-fitted Kumhos went the longest distance, so why didn’t he stick with these rather than experiment with other brands?

Peter Penglis, email

The original Kumhos lasted only 25,000km – not terrible, but not great, either. It’s fair to try another brand to hope they last longer. Original fit tyres are sometimes no longer produced, out of stock or just too damn expensive.


How have authorities been blinded by the proliferation of searchlight-bright headlamps fitted to many modern vehicles? They appear a favourite on large SUVs and utes, which are right in the eyeline of approaching traffic, or your rear mirror. I’m regularly blinded by these Bobby Dazzlers. Surely I’m not alone in taking a dim view of this bright new phenomenon?

Phil Muskett, Gold Coast

Amen, Phil. I often return from night drives with holes burnt in my retinas. Ever more new cars have LED, HID and laser lights which appear far brighter than traditional halogens. They dazzle when misaligned or dirty. They’re especially annoying for people in “normal” sized passenger cars, which are far lower than utes, pick-ups and SUVs. Vehicle lighting is heavily regulated, but I agree it doesn’t appear regulation has kept pace with the new technology.


I recently read with increased energy prices in Europe it’s now cheaper to refuel a petrol car than an electric car there. That’ll silence the EV zealots.

Sam Pryce, email

Interesting one. It’s no secret energy prices have surged in Europe and Britain’s RAC found public rapid charging was only marginally cheaper than refuelling. But there are many variables: petrol prices fluctuate from day to day and people have different electricity tariffs, especially if they’re charging from home, where it is cheaper. The RAC found that the cost of charging an EV at a public rapid charger had increased 42 per cent in the past four months. That stings.


After Victoria’s heavy rains last week, I was on the Goulburn Valley Highway and there were numerous sedans on the roadside with flat tyres and damaged front bodywork due to giant potholes. There were two huge sets of wheel ruts along the inside lane, some 50 metres long, 300mm deep and up to 600mm wide. In my 55 years of driving I’ve never seen anything like it. No police, no barricades and no signs. A good Samaritan used a CB radio to warn truckies but cars had no chance.

Paul Foster, email

The weather was extreme. I drove from Melbourne to Ballarat last week and trying to avoid potholes was like pinball. VicRoads made a statement on October 14 saying crews had been mobilised across Victoria and had already repaired 20,000 potholes, however many remain. If your car is damaged by a poorly maintained road you can submit a compensation claim to VicRoads (or your state’s authority).

Originally published as Ask the experts: Your motoring questions answered

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