The most irksome kind of car fault is an intermittent one that manifests itself at the most awkward moments, then vanishes when a mechanic lifts the bonnet to check it out. That is what has happened this month with our 308
White van man was at his most impatient. Fat hairy fist hard on the horn button, he was loud in his disapproval, as his bonnet menacingly filled the rear-view mirror. My ‘crime’ was to be crawling along the slip-road towards the dual carriageway close to my home at a snail’s pace, as I tried vainly to get out of his way. As the road widened, I hit the hazard button and plunged left towards the verge. With a final cacophony of hooting and fist-waving, he was past me and gone. Now I could concentrate on what was up with the ailing car, and what to do about it. Should I call the AA? Limp to the nearest garage?
That was the moment when the Peugeot’s inexplicably absent power suddenly decided to come back on song. It abruptly responded normally to my foot on the accelerator, and surged forward with a spurt of energy in huge contrast to the spasmodic lethargy of moments before, when the car had barely seemed capable of exceeding 15mph. I reported last month about the 308 suffering a spate of feeling lumpy, down on power and hesitant through the gears, and of the warning message that suddenly appeared on the dashboard: “Water presence in diesel filter”.
The 308’s handbook lives under the front passenger seat, stowed in the handy slideout drawer, and I pulled it out to elicit more information. There wasn’t much, just a brief reference on page 26 telling me that the water-in-diesel message was a warning that “There is a risk of damage to the injector system.”
Not something to be ignored, then. So I consulted Peugeot’s tech bods, who told me that the diesel filter is located low down in the engine bay, and the job of draining out any water that has collected there should be a simple matter of undoing a small drain screw and emptying it. But they urged that it would be best done at a dealer because the car would also need to be put on diagnostics to check for any underlying problem. So I phoned the local Peugeot dealer to arrange to have the car checked out. They wanted me to leave it with them, which I was loath to do for a job I was assured would only take minutes. Instead they helpfully agreed that if I turned up early the next day, at 8.30am, they would take the car straight into the workshop.
It transpired that the diesel filter was dry, and diagnostics showed nothing amiss. “Bring it back if you have any more problems, and we’ll have another look” the cheery service receptionist told me. A few days later a message left on my voicemail enquired whether I’d been satisfied with the service I’d received and asked me to get in touch if I needed any more help.
In the interim, the 308 had behaved itself impeccably, with no repeat of the warning light nor any recurrence of the power loss. So hopefully that was the end of the problem. Except that it wasn’t. The gremlins briefly returned a week ago, when I was setting off somewhere from home with a cold engine, and the engine lethargy suddenly reappeared. It persisted for an irksome, worrying couple of miles, during which I decided a diversion back to the dealership was inevitable. Then just as quickly, the problem disappeared again, and – touch wood – hasn’t occurred since.
Intermittent car faults are notoriously the most difficult to diagnose, so I’m now driving about on tenterhooks, constantly alert for another bout of engine lethargy. It’s handy that our 308 is equipped with the optional satnav, with the retractable colour screen that rises up out of the top of the dash when you switch on the engine. Included in the menu is a vehicle diagnostics section, identified by its little symbol showing a spanner and a screwdriver.
Click on this, and up comes a page showing any current alerts that you need to be aware of. Happily, the list is empty, confirming that there are none to worry about. Long may it stay that way. I’ll keep you posted…
- Engine: 1997cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 136bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 240lb ft at 2,000rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,700kg
- Combined Consumption: 51.4mpg govt. figures (47.2mpg on test)
- CO2 Emissions (Taxband): 146g/km (C)
- Max Speed: 129mph
- 0-62mph: 10.1secs
- Insurance Group: 11
- Date arrived: April 2008
- Mileage on delivery: 257 miles
- Mileage to date: 5,290 miles
- Costs to date: None
- Faults to date: Dashboard warning & intermittent power loss