Michael McAleer answers your queries.

From Steven O'Donovan:

I recently had a very bad experience with the NCT in Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick and I am trying to find out if they are regulated by anyone that I can complain to other than the organisation itself, which obviously makes no sense.

Briefly, I presented my 00-registered car for the NCT, which it failed due to an imbalance in the rear axle on the suspension test. That was fair enough. I was told to change the rear shocks and present it again within 30 days, when they would re-check the rear shocks only.

I duly did so, and was promptly failed on the front shocks and charged again for the privilege. Not only that, but their readings showed an imbalance of 6 per cent on the new rear shocks. It also showed an imbalance of 60 per cent on the front, which was a deterioration from 24 per cent, a 300 per cent difference in three weeks!

I queried this and was met by total indifference: "nothing we can do", "the system tests all the suspension", "once we test a car the results are on the computer in Dublin", "We would pass you if we could, we are not trying to fail you".

They told me I must have hit a bad pothole since the last test, and I was told to present it a third time. I told them I did not believe their figures and asked them to explain the discrepancies to me, but they were unable to do so. Going on their figures, the suspension would have completely failed and the car would have been undriveable.

I duly presented the car eight days later. Needless to say, the car passed, but lo and behold, the imbalance in the rear had improved from 6 per cent to 3 per cent!

Not only that, but the new front shocks were showing an imbalance of 6 per cent, identical to the rear shocks in the previous test. I immediately queried this but they could offer no explanation.

While the car was being tested I read their procedures for appeal in the event of dissatisfaction to discover it cost €48 to appeal which, coincidentally, is the cost of a test in the first place. Do I have any right of redress in this matter, or is it just another example of rip-off Ireland?

Unfortunately there's no independent complaints body in operation to which you can complain. You could try the Ombudsman or the Consumer Association of Ireland. The NCT tell us that they are piloting an independent investigation body at present. How you can pilot something like that internally remains to be seen.

You may, however, be happy to learn that the NCT's 10-year contract for testing will go under a mid-term review in the coming months through the Department of Transport. The report will be published early next year. We keenly await its findings.

From Brian Richardson, Foxrock, Dublin 18:

Recently on holidays, I rented a Renault Twingo - and was impressed by the quality of the seating. Returning home, I became acutely aware of the less than adequate support of my more up-market car. My physiotherapist claims it is a frequent problem irrespective of the model of car.

She recommended using an orthopaedic liner on my car seat - and since then my recurring sciatica has disappeared. As I contemplate changing my car, where can I get information on the orthopaedic qualities of seating in current and recent models?

Unfortunately there does not appear to be a comprehensive rating system for car seats. The only one we've heard of is the German organisation, Aktion Gesunder Rücken, which some time ago rated the seats in the Audi A4 very highly. Just from personal experience, we've found the new Peugeot 407 to be quite comfortable.

However, Colm Campbell of the Back Shop in Dublin, claims that there's no such thing as a decent car seat these days. He describes most car seats as "appalling": "Car seats are getting worse for people over 5 ft 11' or 6 ft."

However, it's not all bad news. The orthopaedic liners you currently use come highly recommended. Perhaps a visit to the Back Shop on Exchequer St, Dublin, may be worthwhile.

From Sean Walsh, Tullamore:

I'm preparing to buy an 05 car after Christmas, and I'm down to about six potential models I like the look of. Where can I do a comparison check between the various cars on offer?

You have several options if you go online. There's a wealth of car information on the Internet these days. On our own website,, you can research your potential purchase, looking up the standard specifications and making comparisons with other makes and models.

Similar technology is available on many of the car firm websites, though a quick trawl through these while checking an answer for you found that several of them were poorly laid out and in some instances the links did not work properly. Also, given that they want to portray their models in the best light, it's often hard to find comparable data on the various sites. That's why we suggest you try the information on our website first. Though we probably would say that, wouldn't we?

Send your queries to:

Motors Help Desk, The Irish Times, Fleet Street, Dublin 2 - or e-mail them to