Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Special Profile - Mike Turner of Cuff Miller

In a special edition of UKMotorTalk, as part of Littlehampton's Ford dealership, Cuff Miller's 70th Anniversary, Graham Benge talks to Mike Turner about the longevity of the business, and some of the characters involved throughout its history.

Mike also shares the ingredients of what has made the business successful, and his view of the current state of the car market in the UK.

Thanks to Cuff Miller

UKMotorTalk - Special Profile - Mike Turner of Cuff Miller, a Ford dealership in Littlehampton

Keep up with the NEW UKMT Podcast....

Friday, 25 August 2017

Ford Anglia Cosworth drag-racer and Focus RS

At the Cuff Miller 70th Anniversary event, UKMotorTalk's Graham Benge talks to Cuff Miller's Michael Gates about an extraordinary car... A 1950s Ford Anglia that is now adapted for drag-racing with a Cosworth engine...

They also talk Mountune Performance Parts and what they can do to a Focus RS...

Thursday, 24 August 2017

"Service Vehicle Soon" (SVS) - Fault finding in Vauxhall Astra - Part Two

Following on from the initial fault finding success, and changing a glow plug (SEE PART ONE), I continued to be alerted with Vauxhall/Opel’s catch-all dashboard message “Service Vehicle Soon” (SVS) on most journeys that were more than a few miles long.

I thought it was worth regular checking of the ODB error codes with my cheap handheld reader… just in case I could catch something that was resetting between uses… “No Fault Codes” was a reassuring if unhelpful result.

After a while I thought that I noticed that, on regular journeys, it became possible to predict which part of the journey the message would appear, depending on how the car was being driven… It took longer to appear when the engine was cold, and if being driven really gently… and, of course, sooner if engine already warm, and driven more, er, energetically….

The one common factor in all these occasions was that it was when the car was decelerating that the SVS message appeared… Stopping at traffic lights, slowing for roundabouts, etc… I didn’t know what this meant, but I thought it was useful information to note!

After a few weeks of thinking, cleaning of various sensors, and generally keeping my fingers crossed, I gave in and asked a local independent garage to plug the car into their much more expensive fault code reader. It does annoy/disappoint me that Vauxhall/Opel, and presumably all other manufacturers, hide error codes from commonly available readers. It seems counter-productive and unhelpful.

However, several tenners lighter, and one technician that I had to explain to that “Service Vehicle Soon” didn’t mean what it said, later, I now had a clue… Error code P2297 - Oxygen Sensor Out of Range During Deceleration Bank 1 Sensor 1… That sounded like it fitted perfectly…

Back to Google to see if it was something I could solve myself rather than paying for someone else’s time… I appreciate that, particularly at an independent garage, most technicians are unlikely to spend quite as much time looking into possible causes of problems before they just spend a fortune and change parts. It’s not their fault, they need to work on many different makes and ages of vehicles. I, on the other hand, can concentrate on the one or two vehicles I drive at a time… and then forget it all when the next one comes along!

Anyway, it would seem that this fault code is triggered by the sensor (which I found down the front of the engine on the exhaust manifold) giving unusual signals about the O2 (oxygen) levels in that part of the exhaust system. A quick visual inspection suggested that the plug was connected properly, and that the cable wasn’t damaged… Always a good start.

Before going any further, over a cup of coffee, I investigated the price of a new sensor? Here is where some more fun starts…..

Getting the correct part number was the first issue… The one mentioned by most sources was unavailable or over £240 from all normal sources…

It was at this point I took out the sensor, gave it a good clean, and refitted it, hoping that a layer of exhaust grime off might make it all come good…. It didn’t!

Whilst it was out, I noted the part number that I could almost read etched on the side. It was similar to the part number I thought I wanted, but not quite the same… Had the car had a previous problem and been fitted with the wrong part? That’d probably give the computer a few odd signals?? Or had I been looking for the wrong part?

So, the search continued… The independent garage I frequent couldn’t get hold of one, (they “knew what they were looking for”) and would have to order from the local Vauxhall dealer, again at over £240…

I ordered one from an Ebay seller, at a slightly more reasonable price, only to have them come back the next day saying that they couldn’t get one either…

This is where I did even more online research, wondering if anyone else was commenting on this… I wasn’t the only person driving an Astra… I’m sure I’d seen others on the roads…

There was nothing obvious, but I did stumble across a spreadsheet on Bosch’s (the sensor’s manufacturer) website about the different versions of their O2 sensor… It was all in technical German, but a short session with Google Translate later, I established what it was telling me… The part that was fitted to the Astra when it was built has now been superceded (“Ersatzartikelnummer” – Replacement Item Number should you need it!) by a different part number…

This part I found much better availability for, but prices still varied right up to the £200+ mark again. Almost as a last resort, I wondered about Amazon, they sell everything else, so why not car parts!! A mere £77 later, Amazon was whisking a “BOSCH 0 281 004 417 Lambda/ Oxygen Sensor” to my door…

(For info: Original part “0 281 004 175”, or 0281004175, replaced by “0 281 004 417“ or 0281004417.)

(It is also worth noting that the Amazon system didn't think this was the "correct" part for this Astra, presumably because it thought the older part number WAS correct...)

Once this had arrived and was swiftly fitted, for several days I drove “normally”, expecting to hear the ping and see the message appear…

Fingers-crossed, and touch wood, etc, so far, and I’ve driven a few thousand miles since, the SVS message has not reappeared. A victory? For the moment, yes….

Until the next vague message appears… Hopefully not too soon…

2012 Astra 1.7 cdti 131 s/s
Engine type: A17DTF

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

"Service Vehicle Soon" (SVS) - Fault finding in Vauxhall Astra - Part One

One of the curious things that modern vehicles insist on doing is alerting you to the many and various things that might be wrong, or about to go wrong, with your pride and joy.

This could be incredibly useful, save you money, keep you safe, and aid advanced fault-finding, you might think…..


In the case of this particular 2012 Astra, the message “Service Vehicle Soon” appears front and centre on the dashboard’s display.

“Ok then”, you think, “the car is telling me that it needs an oil and filters change” …. But, hang on a minute, it has just been serviced…. What is it trying to tell me??

It seems that Vauxhall/Opel are using this kind of message as a catch-all “Something isn’t 100% correct with the sensor readings the central computer is receiving. Please hand over some cash to your local dealer.”

This initially unconcerning message appeared on the Astra’s display right from my first drives of the car. As mentioned above, I assumed that the service indicator needed a reset and all would be well, after all, the car was running well!

The “Remaining Oil Life” display in the menu seemed like a good place to start… It sounded like the closest to a service indicator that I could easily get at! I followed the reset instruction (pressing the SET/CLR button on the end of the left hand steering wheel stalk) and sat back, reassured by the display that the new oil had 100% of its life remaining. Problem solved.

However, you’ve guessed it, the “Service Vehicle Soon” (SVS) message appeared as soon as I went to drive the car. Problem NOT solved!

Next was the OBD fault code reading using a cheap (under £20) code reader… Nothing very exciting there, minor fault codes cleared and didn’t reappear… but the SVS persisted…

A good bit of googling round the subject came up with quite a few suggestions for faults, many helpful and realistic, quite a few really not at all helpful, often pointing out the worst and most expensive issues that Vauxhall have to offer! I started to suspect that some owners use internet forums to vent their anger at car manufacturers!

My theory is usually to work on the simplest solution first… Don’t replace the whole engine if tightening one bolt will solve the problem.

After sifting through the suggestion, one idea struck home… The SVS message often (but not always) appeared soon after, or even at, the start of the engine, particularly when the engine was cold. It is obvious when you look back, but the suggestion was that it was a faulty glow plug that was causing the error.

At the next sensible opportunity, I tested the plugs with a multi-meter switched to a low resistance range and, connecting the black probe to a good clean earth point in the engine bay, and (having removed the plugs with no ease) the red probe to the centre pin of each glow plug, one at a time.

As it turned out, one of the plugs had a significantly higher reading than the others (good readings low, under 1 OHM, bad one much higher, over 5 OHMs) so this seemed like a good place to start to make changes, glow plugs being nice and cheap, and therefore well fitting into my “simplest and cheapest first” method.

Of course, this was not quite as cheap as I expected… 

ME: “Glow plugs are about £20 each, right?”

Moneypit: “Ah, not for that engine I’m afraid, £120”…. It has a sensor built in!

Shopping around I found Euro Car Parts on a good day and, using a generous discount code, got this price down to £80…. Still enough for a full set of glow plugs for any other engine choice!

Having read, and re-read the warnings about taking the old plugs out carefully (so as to not break the most delicate bit that’ll end up deep in the engine, far outside your reach) I slowly unscrewed the faulty plug… and it came out really easily… and the new one went in just as easily… All plugged in, battery re-connected, and car started happily first time… as it always had before… and NO SVS message…

Of course, the message not immediately showing didn’t mean all was well, but I was happy that I certainly hadn’t made a problem worse!

It didn’t take long to discover that the SVS warning wasn’t keen on being a stranger, and, it started to appear again, but at completely different times to before!

I was happy that, by changing the glow plug, I had sorted out one of the issues the car was trying to tell me about… but now it was telling me something else…

The hunt was on for the next fault….


2012 Astra 1.7 cdti 131 s/s
Engine type: A17DTF

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Ford Popular 100E @ Cuff Miller 70

Are Dash Cams really the future of road safety?

I have been on record for many years denigrating the use of speed cameras as a means of improving driving behaviour. I suggest that only the visual presence of marked police traffic cars really makes drivers adjust the manner of their driving.

Perhaps then it's time to modify my views as the development of dash cam technology seems to have overtaken my thinking...

Dash cams are everywhere! They are cheap, easy to install and use, and insurance companies seem to like their use.

Now four police areas in Wales are to pilot a scheme which will accept dash cam footage which shows bad driving and will use it in court as the basis of a prosecution.

One of the UK's most senior traffic cops, Jane Willets, says she broadly supports the initiative and is watching the pilot project with interest. Her view is that, after years of cuts, with only 4000 specially trained traffic cops across the entire UK, the technology may now allow them to use dash cam offerings to prosecute the worst cases and to educate others to drive more safely.

Think about the numbers and you can understand that view. 4000 traffic cops in the UK. That's just over 1300 per shift, and, given that they are normally rostered in pairs, that's just 650 cars on the road at any time. Those 650 traffic cars are effectively policing 30 million cars!!!

However, the trial organisers won't accept just any clips sent to them...

They are well aware of privacy issues so, no anonymous clips. No clips sent to social media or the internet. And anyone taking part must be prepared to be a witness in court.

Perhaps using this technology will help improve driving behaviour, but I would still rather see more police cars on the road. Perhaps then my daily journeys wouldn't make me witness so much crass, rude and downright dangerous driving.

Graham Benge

Monday, 21 August 2017

Ford Cortina Estate Mk1 1966 @ Cuff Miller 70

The 1966 Ford Cortina Mk1 Estate proved of great interest to many visitors to
Littlehampton's Cuff Miller 70th Anniversary event.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Britain's Drink Drive death and injury figures increase

Like many people I thought we had got on top of the drink driving problems of past years. Only last week, when writing about micro cars, I used the phrase "regained some control".

A combination of decades of horrifying tv ads, better education, and social pressures, seemed to have exercised controls over those who might have been tempted to drink drive. It was even hailed as a  government awareness success story by several transport ministers.

It comes as a shock therefore, to discover that, and featured in very small stories in weekend newspapers, deaths and injuries directly attributable to drink driving have in fact increased.

Department of Transport statistics for 2015 show 1370 deaths and serious injuries, up 4.5 percent on the previous year. Or, to put it another way, 60 more people killed or seriously injured in drink drive related accidents on Britain's roads.

The number of drink driver collisions resulting in slight (4570) or minor (5730) injuries was also an increase on the 2014 figures.

Will we never learn?

ANY alcohol will dangerously impair your ability to drive. Forget the "1 pint I'll be ok" mantra.

There is NO safe limit.

Graham Benge