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Clare Butler shows us around an old-style factor open evening in Cornwall

Open evening enjoyed by all

Open evening enjoyed by all

There’s something in the air on this warm, late spring evening in St Austell. And that something is the unmistakeable smell of a barbeque, which is welcome indeed as Mike Best Auto Components is a long drive from anywhere and we are all very hungry.

We’re not the only ones. Dozens of local technicians have turned up with the promise of a free feed and a raffle at this traditional open evening. However, the point of an open evening is to introduce customers to its products and this factor (which is part of the six-branch Barum Autoparts chain) has recently signed several new suppliers.

Firstly and most significantly, the team from Motaquip have turned out in force to introduce the brand’s wares. Readers might be familiar with the name: Motaquip was formed in the early 1980’s when Chrysler sold Rootes Group to Peugeot, but retained the rights to the Mopar brand. Peugeot renamed the operation Motaquip and aimed it at independent motor factors. The brand was sold in 2014 and has enjoyed a period of investment since, which has seen it introduce new products and references. On our visit Chairman Peter Cox was busy explaining the benefit of coated discs versus the regular type to a group of technicians.


Grasstrack car brought along for the event

Grasstrack car brought along for the event

Barum Operations Manager (and Branch Manager of Mike Best) Clare Butler was also keen to introduce attendees to products from the A1 buying group, which the group recently joined. “It’s probably one of the best things we’ve done” she said, explaining that joining the buying group had already opened a lot of doors for Barum and had let the branches take control of the amount of stock that they order.

As it was an open day, we were free to wander around the stock room as we pleased along with most of the vehicle repairers from the south Cornish coast. “It’s lovely to hold something in the branch and there were no areas out of bounds to customers” Butler said. “Already, customers that have looked around have said things like: ‘I didn’t know you did O-clips or bearings and seals’. It was beneficial for them to find all of the things that they didn’t think people kept any more”.

Wandering around the 6,000 sq. ft. store, we noticed that the stock of batteries included many of unfamiliar shapes and sizes. This is because the stock, all from local distributor West Country Batteries, includes a lot of marine and leisure references. “We’ve got deals with various harbour commissioners around here” explained Butler, adding that leisure batteries had a better margin than automotive. “Not everyone will think about stocking these, but if I think I can sell it I’ll ask to have it on the shelf and then prove the point” she said. “I think we have the highest battery turnover in the company here”.

The event is now in full swing and invited guests are swarming around some of the other stands at the event: Kilen Springs, BRT Bearings and the Draper Tools van are all attracting plenty of interest. There’s a raffle going on too – which might be of more interest to us if we had remembered to buy a ticket.

“I think it is fantastically useful” said Butler. “There are customers of Mike Best who have been dealing with the branch for years who have never physically been to the depot – so it killed two birds with one stone. We had visitors ranging from ‘Fred in the Shed’ right through to some of our busiest garages. Virtually all of my staff turned up to help and support and all we’ve had is positive feedback”.

She added that the open evening was both cost-effective and helped with the style of community engagement that has been a trademark of Mike Best since the branch was founded. “It only cost the suppliers a small amount of money for the refreshments” she said. “It’s the first major event that we’ve held here at St Austell and as Operations Manager, I think we could roll it out to other depots”. We’ll be sure to attend – and not only for the free barbeque.




Part of Barum Autoparts

Manager Clare Butler

Size 6,000 sq. ft.

Vans 5  Staff 12


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Renault_Laguna II (2001-2008)

Occasionally a vehicle model will turn out to be the gift that keeps on giving for the aftermarket. In last months magazine we mentioned the number of K-series head gasket sets that were sold when Rover 200s ruled the roads, but we could also have talked about R53 Mini PAS pumps, Vectra alternators or many other part numbers that for a time dominated the replacement market.

One car that was known as being problematic when it came out of warranty is the second-generation Renault Laguna. A few years ago it was famous for numerous small but significant electrical gremlins that would lead to odd instrument readings or limpy running, many of which were eventually traced to a poor design of sensor plug. As these cars range between eight and sixteen years old you might think that survivors would be few and far between, but in fact TecAlliance data suggests that more than 60,000 are still on UK roads. Families continue to hold this range in high regard thanks to the NCAP five-star rating and comfortable ride.

Rear axle bushes are prone to premature wear and require replacement in all instances. Wear is often identified by knocking from the rear suspension whilst driving over uneven surfaces or through cornering. The Renault Laguna II axle bushes are handed items and Motaquip recommend that they should always be replaced as a pair.

The Renault Laguna II can experience what might appear to be a failing crankshaft sensor but is actually poor or corroded terminals in the sensor plug. Elta Automotive explains that there are two versions, a black and a blue version. The original black version was prone to coming loose causing the usual symptoms of crankshaft sensor failure including difficulty starting, stalling, misfires and acceleration issues. The modified blue version was introduced to address these issues. Cambiare offers a kit to overcome this problem; this includes a new crankshaft sensor and multi-plug, since replacing just the sensor will not guarantee to fix the problem.

Cambiare also mentions that a fall of power below 2000rpm and failure of the temperature gauge to register variations correctly, possibly accompanied by fault code P0115- could be the result of a broken wire close to the temperature sensor rather than a failed part and advises technicians to bear this in mind as part of their diagnostic routine. Reader Steve Stokes says that rear electric handbrake wires chafing in the wheel arch often cause problems as do the fan switch and motor.

Laguna 1.9DCi engines can experience oil leaks from the oil pressure switch. Cambiare recommends technicians to check the oil pressure with an external gauge before replacing a leaking switch as it has been known that a sticking oil pressure relief valve can result in the generation of a higher than specified oil pressure. This increases the risk of leaks via the pressure switch and/or the turbo seals, leading to premature turbo failure.

When checking the non-illumination or permanent illumination of the brake lights, the problem could be the result of the brake light switch detaching from its mounting bracket. The switch is located under the dashboard on the passenger side and could simply be dislodged by a passenger stretching out and pressing on the carpet under the glovebox. The engine speed can vary for a variety of reasons, but one of the first places to check must be the accelerator pedal sensor.

The credit cards style chip ‘key’ for this range caused problems almost as soon as the model was launched. Notably, there is no way to get into the vehicle if the battery goes flat – and that the key can lose its code if left flat for too long. Hopefully your customer will have the spare key, which can be used to restart the car and will recode the main key.

Many aspects on the front suspension are known for failing prematurely, including the front coil springs says QH The Laguna II has relatively long springs so it is important to use quality replacements. The suspension arm bushes are also known for wearing rapidly. This wear can cause the control arm to be misaligned and affect camber.

There’s nothing particularly weird about the auxiliary and drive belts, according to Dayco and INA, though both companies point out that the idler and tensioner should be changed at the same time and the crankshaft pulley should be checked for operation. However, the specified replacement intervals on these vehicles is not a guideline – they will break if left on the vehicle for too long. Corteco say vehicles are likely to require a Torsional Vibration Damper (TVD) upgrade in the near future as these components are near the end of their operational life.

On Petrol 1.6 petrol models the alternator pulley rubber damper insert can fail due to tensioning issues, resulting in a noisy unit, and on Diesel 1.9DCi models fluid ingress can cause failure of the alternator according to Autoelectro.

The RMI-F say that all variants can have the ABS light on, but mysteriously have no fault codes stored. This is traced to water damage to the ABS module, which is situated behind the front bumper on the left hand side. The Federation also points out that models with the DCi engine can suffer intermittent loss of all instruments. This is usually traced to a poor earth connection bottom of the A-pillar from the instrument unit. The 2000-on Laguna was one of the first vehicles to have a TPMS system as standard, but the technology behind it is best regarded as ‘experimental’ – they rarely work.

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CO287-16 mini 2Two thieves who stole classic Minis to break for parts have been jailed.

Stephen Fiddimore and Sam Metten have been found guilty of stealing the cars, breaking them and hiding the parts across a number of lock-up garages. Spares were then offered for sale on websites including eBay.

A Met Police investigation into a spate of thefts of Minis led officers to a lock-up in Horton Kirby, Kent. Further investigations saw police raid two more garages and a unit on a farm where the remains of a number of vehicles were recovered. Police believe the pair stole 40 cars between August 2014 and May 2015.

In addition, two vehicles seized from the criminal’s home addresses were found to be stolen and cloned. The pair recived sentances of three and a half years and three years respectively, following a trial at Inner London Crown Court.

Detective Inspector Caroline Clooney, of the Met’s Organised Vehicle Crime Unit, said: “These men systematically targeted the owners of classic Minis across the south east. Many of the vehicles had been lovingly restored and were the owners’ pride and joy. Discovering that their cars had been stolen obviously caused them much distress and inconvenience”.

“I am pleased with the sentences handed down and hope it sends out a message that the Met is serious about tackling car crime and will always seek to destroy the activities of individuals involved in it.”

The classic car community has reported a spate of thefts of post-war classics in recent months. Apart from Minis, modern classics including rear-drive Escorts, Capris and Peugeot 205s have also been targeted.


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Neil Pattemore – The Spectre of type approval for many more aftermarket parts looms large but is it safety issues or the VMs lobbying politicians that drive this change?

Neil Battemore Business Analyst at XEN Consultancy and FIGEFA representative

Neil Battemore
Business Analyst at XEN Consultancy for the aftermarket

Let’s talk about Europe. Recently the aftermarket’s offer of replacement parts has come under threat from draft European vehicle type approval legislation in Brussels. This draft legislation contains proposals aimed at ensuring that vehicles continue to comply with their original type approval requirements throughout their life, by approving replacement parts to ensure that they function to the same standard as the original parts used when the car was originally manufactured.

You might argue that the MOT test is there to verify that a vehicle and its systems continue to work correctly, that it’s safe and secure, with acceptable emissions levels, but this is not how TA parts and components would be checked.


To be fair, there are some key replacement parts that already need to be type approved. You’ll know most of them: windscreens, tyres, headlamps, catalysts, DPF’s and brake parts. These are all marked with an ‘E’ mark to show that they meet type approved requirements (the number after the ‘E’ denotes the EU Member State where the type approval was conducted – e.g. 11 is the UK). However, the legitimacy of the ‘E’ marking is the responsibility of the workshop that fits the part – who if challenged, needs to be able to show an audit trail from their parts supplier back to the original manufacturer’s certificate to prove that the part is legitimately type approved.

For just about every other part or component of the vehicle, many of which are not so easy to inspect, there is no current requirement for ‘E’ marking or any form of direct assessment. If a part is replaced and the vehicle remains safe, secure and roadworthy, it is perfectly acceptable.

It is not that the aftermarket has stopped offering quality parts and components – in fact it is just the opposite – there is probably more competition and choice of quality parts than ever before, but that simply being able to offer various parts and components is now coming under threat, even when some parts or components are of a higher specification than the vehicle manufacturer’s original parts. OEM parts and components are made to a price, not necessarily the highest possible specification.

The background to this issue is partly coming from the vehicle manufacturers who consider that although they are subject to type approval, aftermarket parts are not and this is deemed unfair. It is also emanating from ‘L-Category’ legislation – which is motorbikes, where there is a wish to control the (unregulated) replacement performance parts but in doing so can also impact the emissions, noise or safety of the bikes.


Meanwhile, VMs conduct ‘whole vehicle type approval’ which includes all parts and components fitted to the original vehicle, for the aftermarket this is much more difficult and expensive – each replacement part would have to be tested for each of its applications, meaning not only finding examples of the actual vehicles, but also the test centres that can conduct the type approval testing.

This creates a real threat to the aftermarket parts suppliers, who at best will have to comply with significant and burdensome type approval test requirements, but there is also a significant cost attached to this process. The result will be fewer and more expensive parts.

Critically, there is a huge question over the ‘proportionality’ of this proposal – there is little evidence that aftermarket replacement parts and components create any significant safety or emission issues. Additionally, if they did not fit and work correctly, then the vehicle would not function or perform correctly and may fail an MOT.


The claim is that by type approving aftermarket replacement parts it creates a level playing field between the vehicle manufacturers and the aftermarket parts and components suppliers, but I don’t see it that way – the European legislators seem to have been swayed by arguments from the VMs that the type approval of replacement parts is necessary – but this seems to ignore the point that the vehicle manufacturers have the most to gain and that it will ultimately be the consumer who suffers through having a reduced choice of more expensive replacement parts.

To enforce this type approval requirement, there is a proposal to conduct ‘market surveillance’ on replacement parts and components, although it is not yet clear exactly how this may be conducted, there have already been ‘dawn raids’ on parts distributors in some European countries.

These proposals in the revised type approval legislation have been vigorously challenged by FIGIEFA (the European association of spare parts distributors), who have claimed that these proposals are both unnecessary and disproportionate. Additionally, they will create unfair competition, rather than resolve it and will raise costs with little proven benefit. At worst, it will increase costs for legitimate European manufacturers, whilst obliging repair workshops to buy original parts from their local dealer – undermining the competitive choice of the aftermarket and increasing consumer costs. Just remind me – who will benefit from all of this?

So supporting one of the aftermarket organisations that help FIGIEFA fight this challenge is more important than ever – your future choices are worth fighting for.

You can find more about Neil’s aftermarket consultancy at: xenconsultancy.com 

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DensoThe European Commission has imposed fines of € 137 789 000 on Melco (Mitsubishi Electric) and
Hitachi for participating in a cartel for alternators and starters in breach of European antitrust rules.

Denso was also involved in the cartel, but not fined as it revealed the existence of the price fixing to the Commission. All companies acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle the case.

For more than five years, the three Japanese car parts manufacturers coordinated prices and allocated customers or projects with regards to OE alternators and starters. Although contacts associated with forming and running the cartel took place outside the European Economic Area (EEA), it affected VMs in the UK and mainland Europe who brought directly from the companies.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in charge of competition policy said: “Breaking cartels remains a top priority for the Commission, in particular when they affect important consumer goods, such as cars. Today’s decision sanctions three car part producers whose collusion affected component costs for a number of car manufacturers selling cars in Europe, and ultimately European consumers buying them. If European consumers are affected by a cartel, the Commission will investigate it even if the cartel meetings took place outside Europe.”

The investigation revealed that between September 2004 and February 2010 the companies met at each other’s offices and in restaurants, and were in contact over the phone on a regular basis, in order to limit competition between them. In particular the three companies:

  • Coordinated their responses to certain calls for tenders issued by car manufacturers, in particular with respect to determining the price at which they would tender and who should win the specific business;
  • Shared out certain vehicle manufacturers and projects between themselves in terms of which of the three would supply alternators and starters;
  • Exchanged commercially sensitive information such as price elements and market strategies.

This is not the first time that the Commission has ruled on a cartel inside the automotive industry. In 2014 NTN, Schaeffler, NSK and JTEKT were found to be fixing the price of wheel bearings earning the companies a record fine. Prior to this, another group of companies were found to be fixing the price of wiring harnesses while a further cartel was exposed in among suppliers of seat materials.

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Porsche BoxsterThe Porsche Boxster is the latest car to get the once over on our ramp.

Originally launched in 1996 the 986 was styled on the 550 Spyder, before in 2005, the model was replaced by the 987 in 2005 and was in production until 2012. The second generation Boxster took the roadster concept and improved it both cosmetically and mechanically. It eventually became the basis on which the much-coveted Cayman was then spawned.

The Boxster was fitted with water-cooled engines – codenamed M96. This rear-wheel drive car was fitted with a range of engines throughout the 986’s and 987’s 16-year lifespan, with Porsche producing 2.5-, 2.7-, 2.9-, 3.2- and 3.4-litre petrol engines, with varying power outputs.

These Boxsters were fitted with a five- or six-speed manual or a PDK automatic and a complex folding roof, which will provide some extra challenges.

Reluctant Airbag

Forum 986forum.com says that the early Boxsters were known for their seatbelt buckles not being grounded properly and causing the airbag warning light to activate. Most have been replaced, but the problem is said to be a reoccuring one.

Smoking Boxer

iwantaporsche.net says that it is natural for the Boxster to produce a puff of smoke on start up, if the car has been sitting around for a few days or more. This is due to oil accumulating on the piston rings due to the construction of the boxer engine. As a result it advises technicians to tell customers to keep an eye on their oil level between services.

Flooding The Hood

Autofarm says that electric roofs on the Boxster are complex and very expensive to repair. So it advises to clear drain holes regularly, otherwise the excess water will run down the rear bulkhead and flood the electrics. This can cause minor operating niggles with the roof, windows and the central locking or cause more permanent damage to the ECUs which are located under the driver’s seat.

Rotating Rules

Rotating electrics remanufacturer Autoelectro advises technicians to be wary when replacing these parts on the Boxster. It explains that the 1999-2004 986 version uses a variation of starter motors for its manual and automatic, and 2.5-, 2.7- and 3.2-litre Boxsters. Although the units look similar the differences lie with the power output, with the manual starter motors rated at 1.1kW, while the automatics use 1.7kW or 1.8kW units.

While it adds that Boxsters made in 2006 came with two alternator variants. One operates on a warning light system, while the other was ECU-controlled. In both instances fitting the wrong type of rotating electric will cause the new unit to prematurely fail.

Watertight Block

Independent Porsche specialist Autofarm says that the early versions of the 2.5-litre Boxster suffered from a porous block. It adds that many have been rectified under warranty, but there may still be some out there.

Slipping Sleeves

986forum.com says that Boxsters built between mid-98 through to early-99 suffered slipped sleeves in the engine causing total failure. Again most vehicles built between these date ranges would of had their engine replaced under warranty, but there may be some still out there.

Bearing Blowout

Autofarm says that the a more serious problem that affects the water-cooled M96 engine found in the first generation Boxster is with its intermediate shaft bearing prematurely failing. It adds that there are no tell-tale signs of failure, but you may spot traces of oil in the bellhousing or metal flakes in the oil filter.

Forum 986forum.com says that this problem is indiscrimanate, with some engines over 100,000 miles still working with its original bearing. It adds that there may be a grinding noise prior to failure of the bearing, but in some cases it can happen unexpectedly.

Autofarm warns that failure of the bearing can be catastrophic, leaving many a Boxster facing the breaker’s yard. However, if the failure happens at low speed, then the valves are likely to be bent, leaving the Boxster’s engine repairable.

Depressing Breakage

986forums.com adds that the Boxster is also prone to a D-shape piece fracturing off when the sleeve slips in the cylinder. This damage is thought to be caused by not allowing the Porsche to warm up thoroughly before moving off.

Breaking The Seal

986forums.com mentions that the Boxster is susceptible to rear main seal failure, through the means of dripping oil. The problem is said to originate from the poorly designed seals on the crankshaft and supporting structure. The issue is said to affect manual Boxsters more than its automatic variants.

Mounting Problems

The rubber in the engine mounts on the Porsche Boxster are known to deterioate says 986forums.com The symptoms include hearing a clunk when changing gear or struggling to move the lever.

Worn Down By Suspense

The RMI says that the Porsche Boxster suffers from a couple of common suspension problems, such as worn suspension bushes, which can lead to excessive wear of the Porsche’s tyres. While it adds that the front suspension springs are known to break after being put on wheel free lift.

A Tear In My Porsche’s Boots

Both Porsche forums 986forum.com and iwantaporsche.net say that the CV boots on the Boxster are known to breakdown and fail on the six-speed versions. The boots are well known to rip frequently allowing dirt and water to penetrate the bearings, and causing it to prematurely fail. It advises to check the CV boots regularly on these Boxsters, although five-speed manuals and automatics don’t seem to be affected quite as much.

Battery Lockup

Forum 986forum.com says that the Boxster’s battery is locked in the trunk at the front, and warns that access can be tricky if the battery is flat. There is often not enough voltage to power the motor that releases the catch to get access to the battery. There are ways to jump the battery and releasing the boot mechanically.

Fuel System Japeries

The 3.2 litre engine in the Porsche Boxster 987S can suffer from catalytic converter problems, signified by a fault code being stored for catalyst efficiency below threshold say Forté. The firm produces a range of additives than can help clear the problems.

Serviced The Fluids?

Comma says that most 986 and 987 Boxsters will use 5W40 engine oil to lubricate its range of powerplants. It adds that with the Porsche’s service interval every 18,500 miles, it is advisable to mention to motorists to regularly check their vehicle’s oil to protect sensitive components and a good opportunity to sell top-up packs as well.

Next month we’ll be looking at the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, so wherever you work in the aftermarket if you have insight to share, we would be delighted to hear from you.

To get your advice included contact daniel.moore@haymarket.com

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