Ask the Mechanic: Which is a suitable family car?

My wife and I want to go from two cars to one as our needs reduce with increasing age. We have a Vauxhall Astra, which we like for its comfortable ride on longer journeys and a Nissan Note whose sliding rear seat has proven extremely useful. We want one car that is comfortable enough for long journeys yet small enough for easy parking. It must be an automatic. What would you suggest?


Hello AR, changing to a one car family as you approach retirement is a great way to improve savings and reduce the costs incurred due to car running and maintenance. A one-car family strategy is great for companionship as it gives you more husband/wife bonding time. If you have any mutual projects, travelling together helps you work as a team and also allows each one of you a break from driving as you both drive in turns.

As you retire, the key issues with your transportation include comfort (legroom, space, ergonomic cushions), convenience (easy parking, easy loading, easy access) as well as low running and maintenance cost for peace of mind.

The Vauxhall Astra is not a good retirement option because it can be costly and difficult to maintain as it ages. This is made worse by the lack of an authorised dealer of spare parts. Why don’t you consider buying a brand new 2.5 litre, eight-speed Kia Sportage or the 1.5 litre Suzuki Brezza? Both tick the above boxes and cost as much as a used 2015 Toyota RAV4.

However, they come with next to zero mileage, modern comfort features, five to 10-year trouble free motoring, free service for two years and three-year warranty. Also, their respective official dealers are here and established.


I ride a 2018 Honda NC750x and would like to know whether it is safe to use a car’s oil filter in my motorcycle.


Hello Quraish, many motorists and cyclists do not pay attention to the fact that different oil filters are designed for different engine performance and protection needs. There are many suppliers of so called universal oil filters that you can use on any engine as long as the threads and flange fit to your car or motorcycle engine.

The danger with these filters, however, is the fact that modern engines have specifications that take into consideration particular oil grades and oil flow rates. The car or motorcycle engine manufacturers partner with oil filter companies to test and design filter oil flow patterns, by pass and relief valves as well as back flow prevention.

These measures prevent oil filter failure as the oil ages and changes viscosity or thickness. Oil filter failure causes almost immediate engine damage. So, for your Honda motorcycle, it is important that you use a manufacturer recommended oil filter or a filter whose manufacturer indicates in writing that it meets the filtration needs of your motorcycle engine.


My car produces a lot of smoke when I start the engine, but after a few kilometres, it is okay. What could be the problem?


Hello Isaac, the colour of exhaust smoke and how long it lasts can mean different problems. If the exhaust smoke is whitish or light grey during cold starts and reduces to a stop as your car engine warms up, it is most likely unburnt fuel accumulated in the combustion chamber. This can happen due to the cold start higher engine revolutions. As the engine warms up and idling revs drop, this smoke will stop.

It can also mean that the spark plugs are aged and do not combust fuel optimally, leaving unburnt fuel residue when you switch off the engine. Excessive white smoke can be a result of coolant leaking in the engine due to a bad cylinder head gasket. Black smoke continuously visible is also due to poor fuel air ratios such as if you have a dirty or blocked air cleaner. Often, that kind of smoke is persistent. Blue smoke is a sign of the engine burning oil, this situation is continous especially when you accelerate.


How can I improve the ground clearance of my Toyota Allion 1.8 litre without compromising safety and voiding my insurance cover.


Hello John, you can safely alter the Toyota Allion ground clearance by switching tyre sizes. The most common Toyota Allion tyre size is 185/65 R15. Visit your nearest tyre dealer and suggest that they switch to 195/65 R15 or 195/55 R16. This will raise the car almost as much as it would be raised with the retrofitted wheel spacer plates.

Confirm that the recommended tyre size turns freely and does not touch the front shock absorbers. Suspension spacers can cause unstable driving, especially as it affects the vehicle suspension geometry and recovery when driving fast through sharp corners. Suspension spacers will also affect your suspension lifespan as it is left taut without relaxing.

Send sms: mycar (space) your comments and questions to 6933 Or email them to: [email protected]