Help Desk


Smart car: Jonh Dowling from north Co Dublin is wondering if the two-seater Smart car will be introduced on the Irish market. He would like to own one "if the price was right." John and his wife visited friends near London who have a Smart and they are finding it extremely economical and a godsend for parking. Andrew Hamilton's Weekly Motoring Clinic

"What's the situation here? There are quite a few around Dublin and I understand they have been privately imported, as they are all left-hand-drive. I think I read about Smart going into right-hand-drive and it was stated that there were plans to launch it on the Irish market. Is this true?"

We wrote about the Smart's arrival early last year and, at that time, the plan was to get the sales up and running in Britain and then look at the Irish scene. Smart, of course, is part of DaimlerChrysler and Bill Duffy, sales manager of Mercedes-Benz here, says that discussions are still taking place about marketing the car in the Republic.

"At this time, I simply can't say when it will go on sale or give any intimation about Irish prices," he says. "We have had quite a few similar queries, especially since it went into right-hand-drive."

ABS debate

James Hutton in Dublin says he has had a friendly argument with a friend who prides himself on being a good driver and it's all about ABS. "I know that anti-lock brakes prevent the road wheels from locking, allowing the driver to steer while braking. The dispute is over using ABS in an emergency stop in a straight line. I say it's better to apply maximum braking pressure rather than applying just enough to activate the ABS."

Of course, you are right. In typical emergencies, most drivers are unable to brake and steer at the same time because they panic and freeze at the wheel.

The correct way to use ABS is to hit the brake as hard as possible (it's an emergency, remember) and keep the pedal planted hard to the floor until you stop or the danger has passed.

Applying less pressure will not activate the ABS at full capacity and, therefore, you will not reap the full benefit of its assistance. When stopping in a straight line, keep both hands firmly on the wheel.

Tax and the euro

Maurice O'KEEFE' "a private motorist" from Rahoon, Galway, accuses the Department of the Environment and Local Government of not being true to its word on the conversion to the euro relative to motor tax renewal. A department leaflet indicating that amounts and rates would be expressed in euro also stated "in no case will anybody be required to pay more as a result of conversion to euro" and that amounts would be "rounded down" to the nearest euro.

Mr O'Keeffe chose to pay for a six-month disc for his car which has an engine capacity between 1,801 and 1,900 cc. "From the leaflet, I expected to pay £189 in old money which translates to €239.98. However, the amount printed in the renewal notice is €241. This amounts to an increase of €1.02 when converting to the euro currency. Contrary to the information distributed by the department, I had to pay more for my motor tax disc."

We sent Mr O'Keeffe's letter to the department and ever-helpful press officer Ronnie Devlin assures us that the department is not on the make: "Your correspondent, who has also written to the Minister here, isn't comparing like with like. It's very complicated to explain. It's all to do with the fact that people who renewed in November 2001 got a once-off bonus." He is sending us a copy of the letter which was sent to Mr O'Keeffe for further elucidation. Meanwhile, it might be no harm to check what you were paying in road tax comparatively in the old punt and eurocurrencies.

Sonata snip


PAUL BYRNE from Dublin is being asked to pay €8,700 for a 1999 Hyundai Sonata. It's in good condition, there are 34,000 miles on the clock and the specification includes air conditioning. "Am I mad to pay this figure? It's my 'auld fella' who's selling and I think he's doing me."

Not so, son! It's a good deal. You seem to be blessed with a benevolent father. We wish you happy and tuneful motoring in the Sonata.

Old drawings


CAN anyone help Mike Silver at We've tried and failed. He is trying to find a source of line drawings illustrating the traffic signs of the 1950s and 1960s.

"I've tried the websites of Rennicks, the road sign manufacturers, the Department of the Environment and the Attorney General, all to no avail. An old Highway Code booklet from the period might help but where will I find one?"