One of the best things about buying a brand new car is that you can feel safe in the knowledge that it will be in perfect condition and very unlikely to experience issues. However, data from Which?’s car survey has shown that this may not be the case.
Real consumer feedback for over 50,000 cars in the UK made up the survey and found that new vehicles are experiencing problems that can make them unreliable, expensive to run, and possibly unsafe to drive too. These statistics are worrying as the Government were considering increasing the MOT for a new car from 3 years to 4 years, meaning that some faults could have gone unnoticed for a lot longer.
Here are the five most common faults, and also a few tips on how to spot them and what to do.
Exhaust or emission control system
Affected 5% of new cars
Preventing the discharge of toxic gasses, such as NOx or nitrogen oxides is the main job for the emissions control system. Five percent of all new cars had a problem with their exhaust or emission control system, an issue that has been pushed into the spotlight following the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015.
Most modern diesel cars are built with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), specifically designed to capture and store the soot in the exhaust emissions. If this DPF fails or becomes irreparably damaged, it can lead to a costly MOT failure. You can read up more on the importance of maintaining your DFP filter here.
Assuming the Engine Control Unit (ECU) works correctly in your vehicle, you will get a “check engine” warning light appear on the dashboard if your exhaust is not working properly. Alternatively, you may experience a loss of power or thick smoke coming from the exhaust.
Sat Nav failures
Affected 4% of new cars
One of the most popular add-ons for new vehicles is the sat-nav package. Surprisingly, it is one of the most common things to fail within three years. Although it is not detrimental to the vehicle running, it can be very frustrating for those who’ve paid to have it installed for it to not work after a short period of time. Some people find that their in-built SatNavs are not as good as a plug in one but some find it much more convenient to use the built-in one.
Affected 3% of new cars
Most modern cars come with start-stop technology, helping the car save on fuel when the car has stopped. This requires a more expensive, more advanced battery technology under the bonnet. This, amongst other factors, means that the battery can either falter or die.
It is often down to the driving habits of the motorist causing the fault, taking short journeys, leaving lights on or not unplugging devices when they are not in use. No matter how old the car is, you cannot fix stupid. It is worth noting, battery faults are usually more common in the winter (with Storm Emma battering the UK at the moment) and making sure you are driving responsibly in winter helps.
The “battery” warning light should alert you to a faulty car battery (assuming the ECU is working correctly). Difficulty getting the engine to turnover or the start-stop technology deactivating is usually the first symptoms of a failing battery.
Mechanical brake system
Affected 3% of new cars
Worryingly, 3% of new cars on the road were found to have a mechanical brake system fault. This obviously a major safety concern for everyone else on the road. It is important that you know how to identify faulty brakes, especially if your car is new and therefore does not require an MOT for the first three years.
Indications that your car brakes are on the verge of failing could include a grinding noise, the car veering to one side and vibrations when you apply the brakes. Another sign is acceleration if the car feels slow to accelerate it could be a sign of sticking brakes. If you do notice any of these signs, you should get your vehicle checked immediately. Do not wait until the first MOT is due.
A quick way to test your brakes is to sit stationary with the engine running (in a safe spot!) and push the brake pedal down once. If it is very loose, then there’s an issue. If you continue to push the brake pedal and it does not become stiff, that could also indicate a problem with the brake system.
Affected 2% of new cars
2% of new cars were reported to have faults with their suspension components, which include springs, shock absorbers, and struts. If any of these components are damaged, your car should not be driven, especially at motorway speeds, as it can affect steering and make the vehicle difficult to control.
Given how poor the UK road surfaces are, it is no surprise that 2% of new cars have reported having issues with their suspension components. If the car suspension components are damaged, you will notice the vehicle veering to one side, less responsive steering, clunking or banging noises and naturally, an uncomfortable drive.
No matter how new your car is, if you think there is a fault, it is always best to get it checked by a mechanic to make sure you are not putting yourself or other road users at risk.
Have you ever found a problem with a car when it was new? What do you think drivers can do to help? Let us know in the comments
It would be helpful if the actual fault statistics for car models with above problems are also published to make the article more useful.
15 plate Nissan Note DigS tekna, 2 months old creaking rear suspension replaced; 9 months – battery replaced (it’s all the electronics madam!); 10months all batteries replaced in keyless fobs; appalling 18.4mpg reported – no resolution; strange knocking in steering in left hard lock unresolved; 1yr all batteries replaced in fobs; “It needs 2 tyres and new wipers madam”- Lies it did not require either; 2yrs – one front tyre replaced, poor alignment; plastic on back of sunvisors perished, replaced; even worse mpg 14,4, unresolved; all batteries replaced in fobs; hopeless lack of power espec’ trying to accelerate from slow speed in 2nd gear, never resolved. Unresolvable I believe.
This is my wife’s car, I drove hundreds of cars during a few years in the motor trade. I consider this is one of worst if not THE worst I have ever driven.
Nssan suffered from cheapening when they were rescued by Renault. Renault took a couple of relatively good Nissan items (the six-speed gearbox was one – far more robust than Renault’s five speed boxes) and foisted their ultra-cheap ultra-low-quality component sourcing upon Nissan, most notably poor electronics. Even though Nissan is a significant contributor to the UK economy as an employer in the North East, I could not bring myself to buy one of their cars.
Also, am I the only person who’s noticed the tongue-in-cheek model naming policy at Nissan? What does Qashqai sound like with a Northern Ireland accent, for instance? Never mind the Note (just take off the ‘e’) and the Juke (just pronounce with a North East accent). Somebody at Nissan has a love of schadenfreude.
Funny that you mention the naming of those two models, I’ve always called them Cashcow and Joke. The first because of it’s pricing and the second because of the styling, it’s headlights are so bad that most drivers constantly use the front fog lights blinding oncoming vehicles and don’t even get me started on how they’re driven
Must agree about the joke, had one when my great Peugeot 2008 was in a body shop as a courtesy car, the most awful car I have driven in a long time.
dont understand what this has to do with the long overdue change to the MOT to 4 years. Wont effect new cars – if you want to keep the warranty you usually have to it serviced every year anyway. I buy cars a few years old, and it is over 20 years since one failed on its first MOT!!!!!
Hi Ian the problem is some people do1 – 2500 miles a month as a rep or service engineer while others do 8 – 10000 miles a year, so doing 30000 miles give or take a few the car should pass
Dead right – as long as a car is well serviced, MoT shouldn’t be a problem, but as for changing the MoT grace period from 3 to 4 years, I am constantly irritated by the number of cars less than 3 years old running with defective lights, tyres and who-know-what other faults. Increasing that period to 4 years would only mean even more of these menaces. I would advocate for mandatory annual inspection from the first year of registration, maybe less detailed in the first three years, but still catching obvious problems. Too many slack owners abuse the 3-year period.
The stop-start on my car has not worked for nearly 2 years, when it ceased working my local dealer told me it was because the battery was on it’s way out, but at over £100 for a replacement, I was not prepared to pay that much just to get the function working again. Needless to say 22 months later the battery still still starts the cat OK. Well it did this morning with the temperature at -5C!!
I had that exact problem on Mitsubishi Colt Cleartech a few years ago. The dealer diagnosed that it was caused by the battery and promptly fitted a new one under warranty, which solved the problem.
What does the cat think about it?
If the stop-start is deactivated it is because I have pressed the OFF button. Generally it is a pain in the preverbial in slow moving traffic and also simply prevents a quick getaway. Anyone know how to turn it off permanently?
I believe some brands like Jeep and Fiat can be re-programmed so the default setting is off. If you want stop-start you have to switch it on. It’s worth asking the dealer
Read the manual my friend, I can turn my stop/ start off. Its all to do with the computer, go in to settings.
It can only be disabled permanently by accessing the ECU through the OBD (On board diagnostics) plug socket usually situated under the drivers side. You would have to know someone that owns the kit to do this.
Never heard of an Electronic Component Unit before I always thought the ECU was electronic ( or engine) CONTROL unit !
Hi there, it should now read correctly
Many people think when they buy a ‘new’ car it has just come fresh from the production line. In reality it may well have been sat in a compound someplace for over a year and moved several times in that period, often by temporary staff on a tight timescale to move vehicles about. I have worked for two ‘prestige’ marques as a PDI inspector, technician and on vehicle logistics. The damage I have witnessed to some vehicles would beggar belief as would some of the hurried repair techniques and poor quality control. Finding the above faults on new vehicles does not surprise me in the slightest.
DPF’s on later design cars tend not to restrict so readily as on earlier cars – improved engine combustion technology and DPF location nearer exhaust ports. Frankly people buying diesel cars as well as the sales staffs ought to assess the viability of such a car being purchased. Frequent urban traffic use – stop start and throw in the engine rarely running at normal operating temperature then a buyer should stay well Away from diesel as DPF’s will restrict. Having to do active regen etc. And even make a workshop visit is a pain and the latter is expense (all else being equal it is NOT a warranty job). RTFH.
I have trouble with the DPF, I now run up my local motorway for an hour there and back just to blow it out once a month and had no trouble since but its not very green is it having to drive for no other reason than to blow this filter out.
Bought a 64 plate Leon, warranty for 3000 miles or 3 months.
Noticed a grinding from brakes, took it back they advised was rust build up? I showed them the discs were becoming ribbed, tech came on drive and agreed rear pads and discs should be changed. On collection there is still a grinding, definitely not rust as motorway mileage (120 miles per day) would not allow build up. I feel that they replaced the rear hoping it would solve the problem instead of replacing all at one as fronts are obviously more expensive to replace. Any thoughts or comments?
My 64 reg. Ford Focus occasionally went into limp mode which is scary! Especially if it happens on a motorway.
I have a 16 plate Lexus 200CT sport hybrid. From 2017 the low tyre pressure warning light is continuously on during the colder months. I do short journeys daily. Once I’ve driven for about 30 minutes on a faster road the light turns itself off. Tyre pressures checked and all ok. This is suppose to be a prestige car!
Tyre pressure drops during the colder months. Check your tyre pressure when cold, reset your tyre pressure at that point before driving off. Your tyre pressure will only increase when tyre warms up. This could fix your problem.
My Toyota C-HR Hybrid has been back to the garage 3 times now with a slow loss of pressure from one of the tyres. They are unable to find the cause and are now going to fit a new tyre & valve. Not what you need when you have just bought a new car.
Core packs on Vauxhall Corsa’s and Astra’s 2003 onwards, fail before 40k I’ve had 5! Yes 5 since then, all core pack issues
Might that be coil packs? Were the replacements genuine GM or other?
Technology is not advancing our cars it is just creating business for manufacturers dealers with vehicle specific issues that only they have the equipment to resolve, has the advance in testing and supposed improvements in components and quality control etc etc really brought us to this low level of reliability? Questionable, or are we working on the basis of manufacturing throw away vehicles after a short time of service like household electricals
I had an egr valve replaced in my 2014 Ibiza 2ltr sc in 2016 when still under warranty. No reason for the failure was given to me at the time of replacement. Mike G.
Why is it so expensive to update built in satnavs?
For the price of an update on my Vauxhall I could buy a TomTom and a Garmin both with lifetime updates. My son-in-law has an Audi and his would cost about £500 to update.
These prices are simply avaricious and Which ought to go after the manufacturers to reduce the costs to realistic levels.
Mercedes charged me £100 for a new dvd disc for my SLK
ECU stands for Electronic CONTROL Unit. Someone who does not know that should not be writing technical articles!
Hi Jim, thanks for pointing that out, should now read correctly
Two vehicles in our household, 11 year old Mazda MX-5 2.0i RC and a 14 year old Suzuki Alto 1.1GL. Both owned from new.
Neither of these has had a mechanical fault other than wear and tear.
Never let us down other than, as above, me leaving the lights on the Alto and flattening the battery!
Tip – keep a charged up jump start device in the garage such as my Streetwize 150a Powerbank/Jumpstarter https://www.screwfix.com/p/streetwize-150a-power-bank-jump-starter-12v/1830r
My Merc A180d sport. Flat battery within 1 year. Sat nav updated,changed and still as much use as a mole in fog. Electrical gremlins on modern cars. Cannot wait till we are forced to have a plug in car.
Why would a car driven primarily by electricity have fewer electrical gremlins than one not driven by electricity?
Peugeot 2008 130 pure tech, great car no problems in 2 1/2 year’s but fitted with an odd front indicator bulb that costs £30 to buy. Why? Cannot get an explanation.
Besides other cars I am now on the second term of ownership of the very same Seat Altea 1.6 Reference 54 plate. Totally reliable, and have changed the battery once since new. Still drives, handles, stops and starts perfectly fine, and is a total joy to drive. Driven it down to the south of Spain and back quite a few times and its always earge to go. I also have a brand new Skoda Octavia SE L 1.4 turbo with all the toys. Nice car, but oh so boring, far too many toys and too much technolgy to be totally reliable over the same length of time. The more there is, the more that can wrong, and no matter which driving mode you put it in it never rides the bumps and lumps in the road not does it ever corner like the Seat. Auto stop/start is fine if you can justify it, but its more to go wrong and with the efficient engines of today I think you would have to be a very busy taxi driver for it to be worthwhile on fuel savings.
It matters not what ECU stands for, but it has to be reliable, and the more info it has to process even before the engine starts is a hurdle in itself. The more you disable the better your chances of a long term reliable result. Best of luck to you all.
Had a new Ford Sierra from Fords of Horrogate The Throttle would only open three quarters of the way, the timing was set to be too far advanced which meant that it could only get to 40 MPH when joining motorways: a priority to them? No took them five weeks to get them to look at it. The rear window trim seal would come off the car every week. After three years the car had been fitted with 6 new gearboxes by Fords of Harrogate. The last one one at the first MOT that was hand re-built by Fords of Northallerton. It fixed the problem for an entire 6 weeks and then reverted to grinding at every gear change. It still sits on my driveway, rotting away. Lots more wrong with it in addition to these details. I now drive a 17 year old Mercedes C240 and it is complete bliss. Would I buy a Ford again? What do you think?
They stopped making Ford Sierras 25 years ago! Hardly relevant to the current discussion.
noisy engine in low gears sounds grumbling or racing car engine